Scholar Showcase: Alexander Kaps

By Courtney ZerrennerAlexander Kaps Passfoto

Alexander Kaps (Class of 2017) studied business at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany and completed a semester exchange program at Washington University of St. Louis before coming to Darden. He  spent this summer interning in Operations with Amazon in Texas.

Alexander knew from his semester in the United States several years ago that “American universities treat their students more like customers, not like livestock.” When Alexander graduated with his bachelors in Germany, he wanted to immediately pursue an MBA in the United States. He just did not know where he should go. Alexander explained that after his results from the GMAT were published, Darden contacted him directly and then put him in touch with a current student, who made all the difference.

“That student happened to be in my town in Germany for a small classical music festival. It was a magical moment for me that out of all the places in the world a Darden student was able to meet with me in my little city when I was trying to decide whether I should come. His name was Alvaro and within 30 minutes, he sold me completely on the Darden School.” Alexander moved to Charlottesville only a few months later.

During his first year at Darden, Alexander learned from his learning team. “My learning team mates were very diverse in character, in career goals, in learning styles, and in prior experience. Having us all on one team taught us so much, and we became invested in each other’s successes. We really helped each other with assignments, especially during recruiting season, and we built a group of friends – a community.”

While Alexander is “allergic to clichés and virtue signaling,” he asserted that “people really are the reason that I’m at Darden. Universities no longer have the corner on the market on knowledge or education. But with Darden, you get access to the greater Darden community. These people have incredible business connections, but they are interested in you, the human, not the student and not the future employee. I think that is very unique. Darden is unlike any other university I’ve been at before, and I’ve been at four . . . I cannot imagine a better support network both personally and professionally at any other business school.”

The experience Alexander had at Washington University was very different from his Darden experience. Alexander felt that “there was a clear line between international students and the American students when I did undergraduate exchange. Alexander was happy that “luckily, that is not the case at all at Darden. I feel very integrated; I don’t feel any different than any of the other students. I was promised that would be the case, and it was 100% correct.”

After Alexander graduates from Darden in May 2017, he wants to work for a large US cooperation for several years, gaining experience and expertise in business management. Following that time, Alexander hopes to start his own business. “I do not aspire to be the next Jeff Bezos, rather would I simply do something I am passionate about, but then again that’s how many big companies began. One way or the other, I would like to end up in the firearms or shooting sports industry, because that is what I truly am passionate about. I did not come here from Germany to become rich and famous, even though Darden certainly offers you that path if you’re interested. I came because I wanted the option to live and work in the United States, and there is no better way in my opinion than studying at a world class university like UVA and a top notch business school like Darden.”

Alexander has also considered returning to Europe and living in Czech Republic, where some of his family is from. Although he does not speak Czech at this point, he is sure he could pick it up in a year or so. “The Czech Republic is a beautiful country and like many European countries the society is very close knit, after being forged together through many decades of foreign imposed communism. People often spend their entire lives in their place of birth, which provides you with a close-knit community of people like Darden has provided me with. Czechs are also very freedom loving people. The 15% flat rate tax is another reason I want to move there (laughs).” Regardless of whether he will decide to stay in the United States, or return to Europe Alexander believes that “the support network of Darden, as well as the Darden brand will help me achieve those goals.”

Leave a comment

Darden Welcomes Fall 2016 Exchange Students

This fall semester, Darden is hosting exchange students from leading partner business schools. We are delighted to welcome students from the following schools/countries:

  • CEIBS in China
  • ESADE and IESE in Spain
  • HEC in France
  • HIT in Japan
  • HKUST in Hong Kong
  • IPADE in Mexico
  • MBS in Australia
  • University of St. Gallen in Switzerland

These exchange students will take various Second Year courses and be active participants Darden’s community and many co-curricular activities.  We are thrilled to have them at Darden!



Leave a comment

Darden Student Interns with Accenture on Clean Water Project in Ghana

Headshot_ Jocelyn RechtBy Courtney Zerrenner

Jocelyn Recht (Class of 2017) spent her summer in Accra, Ghana working as the Summer Strategy Consultant for Accenture Development Partnerships. Originally from California, Jocelyn attended Colgate University in upstate New York for Economics and Sociology, graduating in 2010. She spent the next five years living in Washington DC working first for Edelman Intelligence, the market research arm of Edelman public relations, and then for the Advisory Board Company, a best practices consulting firm focused on health care and higher education.

What inspired you to attend business school, specifically Darden?
During my time at the Advisory Board, I had a lot of exposure to the Corporate Strategy and New Product Development groups and was very interested in their work. I realized pretty quickly that a lot of the roles I was interested in required an MBA and strategy and management consulting experience. I began looking into business schools and was drawn to Darden because if its undeniable sense of community, which is critical when building your network at business school, and its use of the case method – after being out of school for several years, I felt the case method was a more engaging classroom experience and, as someone who is not always the first to speak up, I felt it would be helpful to force me to get into the conversation.

What are your future goals after Darden?
I plan to work in consulting after Darden. I am interested in the variety of work experience that consulting allows in terms of both industry and function. Already during my internship, I have been surprised by all the things I never thought I would be learning about i.e. Ghanaian cultural norms, water treatment infrastructure, microbiology and chemical treatments.

What prompted you to pursue working in Ghana for Accenture?
After I received my internship offer from Accenture Strategy, I was invited to apply to their international development program – Accenture Development Partnerships – which is available to two interns every year. I have always been interested in development work and am a big traveler, so this seemed like the perfect option for me to get experience working internationally, which I’m not sure when I’ll have the chance to do again, while still pursuing a career in consulting after graduation.

Once I received my offer for ADP, I was placed in Ghana on a clean water project. I am now on a small ADP team working with a German Life Sciences company who is partnering with a Ghanaian water utility company as well as other water experts. Together, the partnership aims to improve drinking water quality and, ultimately, contribute to improved health outcomes in a local community through analytical testing, enhanced equipment and testing kits, infrastructure improvements, and awareness programs.

What does a typical day at your internship look like?
My Accenture team is quite small – just myself and a Business Strategy Manager – which allows us to work very closely with our Life Sciences client from their office in Accra. A typical day involves project management duties and stakeholder management, facilitating meetings and check-ins with our local clients in Ghana, international clients in the US and Germany, as well as representatives from the local water utility company, and partners in Europe, to ensure that the project is on track.

How has Darden and your internship helped prepare you for your future professional goals?
Darden’s use of the case method and learning team has prepared me well for a career in consulting by teaching me to dive in – often without complete information – and to work well in team settings.

In what ways have you become involved in the Darden and Charlottesville community?
Darden is very much a student-driven environment and, during my first year, I benefited from the involvement of my classmates and the help of second year students.  I am excited to be able to pay that forward this coming year. I will be serving as a Second Year coach to first years going through the internship recruitment process, and will serve as the VP of Admissions for the Graduate Women in Business club and the VP of Human Resources for the Community Consultants of Darden.

Could you share about what you’ve learned from your classmates all around the world?
With nearly 40% international students at Darden, I have enjoyed getting to know classmates from all over the world. In an increasingly connected world, it is hard to view any decision in a vacuum. Having classmates with a variety of different perspectives enhances classroom discussions and our ability to make informed decisions. Beyond the classroom, I have enjoyed hearing about classmates’ experiences, trying food from their home countries, and hopefully I might even be able to visit some of them in the future.

Can you tell me a little bit about your favorite experience at Darden?
My favorite thing about Darden is the close relationships you are able to form with people. Due to the structure of the program with section and learning team as well as the schedule with many hours spent on grounds, Darden enables you to form extremely close relationships with classmates extremely quickly.

Why have you chosen to pursue global experiences as a part of your Darden education?
I have made a point to pursue global experiences at Darden first and foremost because I love to travel. Being on the ground enhances your understanding of whatever topic you are studying and shapes your worldview in ways that you cannot necessarily experience in a classroom. With business becoming increasingly global in nature, I think it is important to seek out experiences that are different than what you are used to open yourself up to other perspectives that you may not have imagined on your own.

Jocelyn presents during a workshop in Accra this summer.

Jocelyn presents during a workshop in Accra this summer.

Leave a comment

Darden Alumnus Launches Kyrgyz Leaders Academy

By Courtney ZerrennerSeyit

Seyitbek Usmanov (MBA ’15) has launched a new venture, the Kyrgyz Leaders Academy (KLA), in his home country of the Kyrgyz Republic. While he is currently working in the United States as an Associate in the Graduate Development Program at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Seyit is also focused on giving other students from Kyrgyz Republic a chance to attend university in the United States and become future leaders of the Kyrgyz Republic through KLA.

  • Before Darden, what was your background in terms of career and education?  Prior to Darden I had five years of work experience, three in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic and two in NYC. My career was centered mainly around economic and business research.
  • What brought you to business school, specifically to Darden?  I fell in love with Darden when I came here for an interview for its Georgetown-like campus, friendly students and delicious food (best bagels!). When I came for the admitted students weekend, I met my future roommate and professors and decided that I want to live here for two years!
  • Looking back, what was the most formative part of your two years in residence at Darden?  My best memory of Darden is meeting so many talented people (orators, wits, quick thinkers) and realizing that there is so much I don’t know and need to learn. Also, I loved going on a Global Consulting Project that took me and a group of students to Chengdu, China and then Tibet for two weeks.
  • You are the founder of the Central Asian Free Market Institute. Can you tell us about the Institute and what inspired you to form it?  While visiting the U.S. in 2005, I learned about the relationship between limited government and economic prosperity. The more I learned, the stronger my conviction was that BIG government was the reason Kyrgyz Republic has been poor since independence. I wanted more people – especially the politicians and decision makers – to understand the merits of limited government; therefore, I co-founded the think-tank. I am very thankful to Tom Palmer from the Cato Institute for the mentorship he provided, including advice and start-up funding.
  • What motivated you to start the Kyrgyz Leaders Academy?  What do many great leaders of developing countries have in common? For example, leaders like Lee Kuan Yew, Mikhail Saakashvili, Mahatma Gandhi. They were all educated in the U.S. or the U.K. at great universities. Kyrgyz Republic needs such a great leader to propel our country from third world to the first world. We have been mired in poverty and corruption for too long! Although we have many talented high school students in Kyrgyz Republic, very few of those students come to study in U.S. Why? It is not that they do not want to achieve or grow. It is that the whole college application process is simply too confusing. Even the smartest students are baffled by the likes of SATs and recommendation letters!  Kyrgyz Leaders Academy is the solution. Our short term goal is to prepare students to   top U.S. universities with full scholarship. We hope that our student’s potential blossoms in business, technology, or sciences. In the long term, we hope that our students become next generation of Kyrgyz Republic’s leaders.
  • What is your goal for Kyrgyz Leaders Academy in the next five years?  If we achieve our short term goals- our students getting admitted and winning full scholarships this year and next, within three years we will have the credibility and confidence to open a boarding high school. It will be a compact English language high school that will matriculate about 24 students to top US universities, hopefully at least 1 to UVA on a Jefferson Scholarship.
  • How did Darden prepare you for this endeavor?  My classmates have been playing a critical role for Kyrgyz Leaders Academy. Principally, Rafe Steinhauer (MBA ’15) has been advising me on strategic (i.e. motivating our staff) and tactical issues (i.e. beating SAT). Also, my affiliation with Darden has allowed me to build a relationship with Parke Muth, former Associate Dean of Admissions at UVA, who is now our students’ mentor-in-chief. In June Parke visited Kyrgyzstan to meet our students and held public presentations at five largest cities to a total 450 students. Finally, studying at Darden I met other Kyrgyz studying at UVA (Emily Bang and Ilgiz Saubanov) who are now core members of our mentorship team.

Kyrgyz Leaders Academy

Leave a comment

Recent Graduate Returns to Dominican Republic to Launch Private Equity Fund Focused on Family Businesses

By Courtney ZerrennerRoberto Arias - Bio Picture - 07.27.2016

Roberto Arias, recent Darden graduate from the Class of 2016, returned to his home country, the Dominican Republic, to start Plataforma Capital Group (“PCG”), a private equity firm focused on supporting and growing family businesses. PCG partners with founders, family members and strong management teams to add value to existing family-run businesses in the Dominican Republic.

After completing his undergraduate degree at Bentley University, Roberto worked at his family’s business in the Dominican Republic for five years. During his tenure as Portfolio Manager for his family’s investment office, he noticed that the “family business lacked the necessary tools to succeed a very decentralized and inefficient organizational structure. The prevailing structure resulted in complicated processes and limited the firm’s ability to utilize available resources well.” These observations and lessons gathered from his family’s own business inspired Roberto to form PCG.

After experiencing first-hand, the complexities of family-run businesses, Roberto decided he needed “to take his career to the next level, and the key to that was a proper finance education.” When surveying the top MBA programs and visiting the schools that he was accepted to, Darden stood out to Roberto immediately. He cited “the people, the faculty, and the brand of Darden” that drew him in. “A lot of it had to do with the case method and the opportunity to learn through practical application,” but ultimately he “just fell in love with the Darden community.”

Roberto explained although “coming into Darden, I knew starting my own private equity firm in the Dominican Republic was what I wanted to do, you get drawn into the busy-ness of first year.” Throughout the first year of Darden, his focus shifted to internships and future job placements, rather than planning for the firm he hoped to start. After a summer in investment banking in the United States and an internship with a U.S. private equity firm, Roberto realized that his earlier dream of returning to the Dominican Republic was still his post-graduation goal. He spent his second year at Darden planning PCG’s inception.

At Darden, “it’s hard to pinpoint who had the most impact on me, because everyone enhanced my experience.” The diversity of background of each Darden student also allows “you to learn from your peers and their perspectives. For example, I had a former consultant in my learning team, and he taught me so much about how to think about problems and solutions.” Professors prove to be a guiding force as “during the second year you design your own curriculum, and Professor Susan Chaplinksy helped me refine my thinking. I’m pursuing private equity as a career in part due to her passion and commitment to teaching Private Equity.”

Building the ability to listen well, a trait that one of Roberto’s learning team members exemplified, was one of the greatest lessons from Darden for Roberto. “Before Darden, I talked more than I needed to, trying to prove myself. Darden allowed me to build confidence in my abilities and become a better listener. Now, I research and listen to others before I draw conclusions.” While Roberto has only been out of Charlottesville for two months, he has found that “as a Darden MBA, I have all the tools to make a meaningful contribution to my community, not only in terms of business but in terms of social change. And it’s incredibly important to remember that.”




Leave a comment

Darden Faculty International Activity in Spring 2016

Presentations & Conferences

Yiorgos Allayannis delivered the keynote address “Corporate Risk Management: What do we know” at the 20th Annual International Conference on Macroeconomic Analysis and International Finance in Crete, Greece.

Ming-Jer Chen gave the keynote address “Competitive Dynamics: Eastern Roots, Western Growth,” at the 7th Competitive Dynamics Annual International Conference and the 4th Annual Chinese Management Scholars’ Workshop in Hangzhou, China.

Manel Baucells presented the paper “Where does satiation come from?” (joint work with Daniel Smith) at the Informs International Meeting, Hawaii; and the FUR conference, Warwick (UK).

Ed Freeman presented “The New Story of Business” at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa in April; at the FNEGE Annual Conference, University of Toulouse, Toulouse, France, June; and the CSR Conference, Nijmegen Business School, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands, June.

Ed Freeman presented “Industry Approaches to Sustainability” and New Directions for the Journal of Business Ethics” at the GRONEN conference, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany, May.

Ed Freeman presented “The Future of Stakeholder Theory” at the Conference on Freeman’s Stakeholder Theory, Berenschot Consulting, Utrecht, Netherlands, May.

Ed Freeman presented “The Role of Business Schools in Sustainability Education” at the Conference on Sustainability, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark, June.

Ed Freeman gave the keynote address “Business, Business Ethics, and Business Schools” at the European Business Ethics Network, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK, June.

Ed Freeman presented “Pragmatism and Management Theory” at the European Theory Forum, Hanken Business School, Helsinki, Finland, June.

Ed Freeman presented “Building a Career in the New Story of Business,” Nijmegen Business School, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands, June.

Ed Freeman presented “Introduction to Stakeholder Theory”, University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, Spain (delivered from Darden as a SKYPE lecture) June.

Pedro Matos presented “Asset Management within Commercial Banks Worldwide: International Evidence “at Georgia State University (April), FIRS conference in Lisbon, Portugal (June) and Hong Kong University (June)

Pedro Matos presented “Are Foreign Investors ‘Locusts’? The Long-term Effects of Foreign Institutional Ownership” at the American Finance Association meetings – San Francisco (January), York University, Toronto – Canada (February), Cambridge University – UK (March), Warwick University – UK (March) and Singapore Management University (June).

Kieran Walsh presented his paper “Spending Shocks and Interest Rates” (joint with Dan Murphy) at the 20th Annual International Conference on Macroeconomic Analysis and International Finance, at the University of Crete (May) and at the INFINITI international finance conference at Trinity College Dublin (June).

Veronica Cacdac Warnock and Frank Warnock presented “BPI Globe BanKo and Inclusive Banking in the Philippines” at the BIS/Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas central bankers’ conference on financial inclusion (Cebu Philippines).

Frank Warnock presented “Decomposing Capital Flows” at Seoul National University (Seoul), the Barcelona GSE Summer Institute (Barcelona) and the ECB (Frankfurt).

Andy Wicks, Bill Forester and Jill Brown’s paper “The Social Entrepreneur: The Importance of Moral Imagination, Microsocial Norms and Moral Legitimacy in Managing Stakeholder Perceptionswas presented at International Association of Business in Society (IABS)

Andy Wicks presented “Teaching Business Ethics: New Challenges and Opportunities” at the Bentley University Global Business Ethics forum.

Dennis Yang organized and moderated an economics panel on “Public Markets and Current Environment” in the Shanghai Investing Summit jointly sponsored by Darden and Pudong Institute of Finance.



Theorie des parties Prenantes:  Entretien avec R. Edward Freeman” La Revue Des Affaires, Numero 5, 2016, 121-123.

Pomeraniec, Jonathan, Robert Spekman and Neal Kassel, (Forthcoming) Focused Ultrasound and Metrics of Diffusion of Disruptive Medical Innovation. British Medical Journal of Innovations.



Chen, Ming-Jer. (2016, forthcoming), Competitive Dynamics: Eastern Roots, Western Growth, Cross Cultural and Strategic Management.

Chen, Ming-Jer. (2016, forthcoming), Academic Entrepreneurship: The Case of Competitive Dynamics. Quarterly Journal of Management (in Chinese).


Ideas to Action posts

“Scholars from three continents convened in Washington, D.C. at the United States Institute for Peace in May for the annual Entrepreneurship and Innovation Research Conference, hosted by the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and the University of Cambridge Judge Business School.”


“When VN Dalmia (MBA ’84), chair of Dalmia Continental in New Delhi, decided to sell olive oil in India, he started by importing it from the Mediterranean while the company built its new olive oil brand – Leonardo – rather than take the risky tactic of making a high investment in the masses of land it would take to plant olive trees and time it would for them to bear fruit.”


“Darden Professor Greg Fairchild researched how Emerson Process Management obtained a strong foothold in the Russian energy market despite the country’s almost Wild West economic and political conditions.”


“Later this year, Disney will open its sixth and largest global resort in Shanghai’s wealthy Pudong district. The project is rich in potential: A population of 330 million live within a three-hour drive of the theme park — compared to 19.6 million near Florida’s Walt Disney World, the company’s most profitable park.”

Leave a comment

Visiting Scholar Explores Connection between Artists and Entrepreneurs

By Courtney ZerrennerAntoni Olive Tomas

Antoni Olive Tomas, Ph.D., is a visiting scholar to Darden from the IQS School of Management at Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona, Spain. Before entering academia, Toni worked for twenty-five years as a manager and finance director for industrial firms in Spain. His career and background in business management became the experience that he drew from to teach future managers when he stepped down fifteen years ago.

Toni’s stint as a part-time professor was brief, as he was offered a full-time professorship at the EADA Business School in the Accounting, Finance, and Management Control department two years later, teaching both finance and non-finance students at a school “very similar to Darden with lots of graduate students from abroad.” As a full-time professor, Toni was required to obtain his Ph.D., so he began his studies in 2007 at the Unversitat Politecnica de Catalunya (UPC), receiving his doctorate in 2010. He is now the Senior Lecturer at IQS teaching strategic management and entrepreneurship.

While completing his thesis dissertation at UPC, Toni encountered Darden professor Saras D. Sarasvathy’s work on effectuation and included insights from Sarasvathy’s seminal article, “Causation and Effectuation: toward a Theoretical Shift from Economic Inevitability to Entrepreneurial Contingency” (2001) in his dissertation. Since his discovery of Sarasvathy in the late 2000s, “Sarasvathy has been my academic idol,” Toni explained. He now teaches the theory of effectuation in his strategic management and entrepreneurship courses in Spain, and Toni believes that “while I am not the only professor teaching effectuation in Spain, I was one of the first.”

Toni explained further that there are many ways to start a business, including the conventional method of following a prescribed set of steps. However, there is also the unconventional method of effectuation which encourages harnessing the power of one’s own current means to create an economic product. “Teaching effectuation is less shocking if taught from the angle of entrepreneurship,” Toni articulated. He hopes that by the end of his course in entrepreneurship, the students will be able to successfully outline a business plan, either through conventional methods or through effectuation, because while “[the students] are very clever – they know how to send a rocket to the moon – but not how to write a business plan.”

Because students occasionally express dissatisfaction with doing business for the sake of generating wealth, Toni tries to frame business and entrepreneurship as “not just a way to become rich; it can improve living conditions, address societal needs and wants, and create jobs. Business is not just dirty money.”

Teaching, “and good teaching at that” has become Toni’s priority, and he spends “more time teaching than researching.” He is constantly looking for new ways to introduce concepts to classrooms, and he participates in a research group on bringing gamification and effectuation to students through in-class activities. His participation in the research group prompted interest from his university, and Toni received an invitation to apply for a grant to work and research abroad from his institution and a bank in Spain. He applied, and Toni was shocked when he received the grant, saying that he “didn’t expect to receive the grant, because frankly, I haven’t done much research.”

Soon after obtaining the grant, Toni contacted Professor Sarasvathy, asking to conduct research at Darden this summer. Sarasvathy and Toni met briefly in Norway at a conference to discuss details of his possible fellowship and research goals. Following their meeting, Professor Sarasvathy welcomed him warmly, and Toni arrived at Darden June 17, 2016.

Toni’s goal this summer consists of three assignments dealing with simulation games in classroom settings, and he will be researching whether you “can apply effectuation to create artifacts other than economic artifacts, specifically whether Picasso participated in effectuation by creating the movement of Cubism.” Over the past month, Toni has been pouring over art history books and texts on Picasso, and he is starting “to make connections between the creation of movements and styles by artists and the creation that occurs when entrepreneurs start ventures.” His other assignment is to craft a game to instruct students on effectuation in entrepreneurship courses. He is hopeful that the time spent at Darden will “allow me to better explain the alternative way of business by examining your resources and the contingencies that may occur” in classroom settings.

Speaking of contingencies, or “small disasters” as Toni likes to call them, Toni has encountered his fair share of contingencies upon arrival in Charlottesville. Between learning “how to run an American washing machine, how to run appliances, and how to use the kitchen,” Toni has troubleshot his way through the past month, including identifying a Craigslist scam during his search for an apartment to sublet. He will return to his own university in Barcelona in mid-September, better equipped to both teach effectuation to his students and to run American appliances.

Leave a comment

Student Returns to China for Internship at Johnson & Johnson

By Courtney Zerrenner

Luda Cheng (Class of 2017) worked for five years in operations at Procter & Gamble China before deciding to pursue an MBA as the next step to his long-term professional goal: becoming a general manager. After five years working on the operations side of consumer goods, Luda wanted to see more of the commercial side of business. He met two Darden alumni in China, one of whom had worked with at Procter & Gamble in the past. “We had a lot in common, and he really explained to me how Darden could help me excel in the business world,” Luda added. As Luda met more Darden alumni, he found the network to be tight knit and supportive. Impressed by this alumni community, Luda researched and found that the general management education offered at Darden would perfectly prepare him for his future career goals. He laughed as he explained that he was so convinced Darden was the best fit that when he received an offer of admission, he accepted immediately without hesitation.

Before he arrived , students from the Darden Asia Business Club contacted Luda to relay essential information about finding housing in Charlottesville, traveling to Darden, and life as an MBA student. Luda arrived on Grounds, eager to join any organization from which he could learn and be challenged. His second year career mentor, another former Procter & Gamble employee, was indispensable during the intense first year class and recruiting schedule. Despite the seemingly never ending rounds of classes, case studies, and recruiting events, Luda explained that his favorite part of first year Darden was working on a project with other students from his section for attracting mid-level workers to LinkedIn. Through generating ideas, creating concept, and testing their results, they crafted a mock user interface to present to the LinkedIn sponsors. The sponsors were so impressed that Luda’s group won the competition!

Between Healthcare Club, General Management & Operations Club, and the Asia Business Club, Luda met other MBA students with different backgrounds, nationalities, and future goals. While working on more controversial cases concerning leadership and business ethics, students’ opinions varied depending on their nationality or upbringing. Luda emphasized that “In questions of math, there are right answers. But legality and morality are different across cultures. There are different standards.” In one particular case, students discussed the ethics of a company paying children to work at their factories in the mornings in exchange for free education in the afternoons. While Luda and many other students argued that child labor is always inexcusable, several students maintained that child labor in exchange for education might be the best situation available in the country or region.

This summer, Luda is back in China, interning for Johnson & Johnson in Shanghai as a part of their International Recruiting and Development Program, specifically in marketing. The country by country focus of Johnson & Johnson appealed to Luda, because it is allowing him to learn how to uniquely position a product within a national market. His prior work at Procter & Gamble was business to consumer, but at Johnson & Johnson, the model is business to business. As a result, Luda must completely understand the complex products that Johnson & Johnson are marketing. The medical devices, specifically ultrasonic devices in Luda’s internship, are used in cancer procedures. Luda must be familiar with cancer treatment and the product when speaking with the doctors that purchase from Johnson & Johnson. Because of the nature of the business model, Luda’s work is much more relationally and technically driven. While having conversations with leaders at Johnson & Johnson, Luda realized that “by the end of this internship, I will have a very holistic picture of the world of business.” Luda believes that his five years at Procter & Gamble focused on consumer goods operations, his general management education at Darden, and his internship at Johnson & Johnson focused on marketing technical medical devices to medical teams “will have completed his exposure to all sides of business, from production to operations and management to commercial.”

Luda will return to Charlottesville to complete his second year in August, and he is looking forward to more time exploring Virginia, specifically Shenandoah National Park to indulge in his newly discovered love of hiking. He will go on exchange to Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Management and Commerce in his third quarter of second year, before returning for his final quarter at Darden. After Darden, Luda envisions returning to China with his experience in the country’s market, operations, and general management education to work for a globally focused company.

Luda (fourth from the left) and other leaders of the Asia Business Club at Darden

Luda (fourth from the left) and other student leaders of the Asia Business Club at Darden.


Leave a comment

“We Will Leave This Place Better Than We Found It”

By Courtney Zerrenner

Stanley Kovak (Class of 2017), a rising second year at Darden, is currently completing his summer internship at ExxonMobil in Qatar.

Before Darden, Stan studied electrical engineering at the University of Michigan. Following graduation, he worked at Lockheed Martin, focusing on production support of Counter IED systems, testing prototype designs, and creating demonstrations for customer sell-offs. The breadth of his responsibilities grew the longer he worked, and his newly assigned tasks within his team sparked an interest in finance. Transitioning from day-to-day operations to lead engineer on his project, he began to interface frequently with the finance team at Lockheed Martin and pitching products to customers himself. Outside of work, he read books to educate himself on finance: its concepts, strategies, and buzzwords. When Stan realized that he was more interested by finance than by his work in engineering, he decided that the next step for him would be to return to school for his MBA.

Familiar with the DC area and Darden’s reputation within in it, Stan looked at several programs, including Darden. The small, tight knit alumni base appealed to Stan’s desire for a more community-based MBA experience. Stan cites, “Alumni base was forefront in my mind” as the reason he chose Darden, in addition to “Darden’s strong program in finance.”

For Stan, Darden is “one of the best MBA programs in the world in terms of diversity and preparing students to deal with diverse environments.” From the international makeup of each Darden class, to the globally focused courses and case studies, to the world renowned and traveled faculty, Stan believes that “having an eye on international affairs and diversity gives you an advantage in the globally focused business world and Darden has that edge.”

When Stan arrived on Grounds, he commented that Darden did “a great job of connecting students with the Charlottesville area.” One of the more memorable events for Stan at Darden was the Building Goodness in April (BGIA) event, when Stan and his section rebuilt a home in the Charlottesville area. He remarked that it is “really fulfilling to see the reactions of the homeowners” after their homes have been demoed and rebuilt. He has found Charlottesville and the UVA community to complement each other, rather than some college cities which embody the town vs. gown mentality. Stan says that “very few people” he knows “have walked away saying that they don’t love Charlottesville,” and has found it hard not to love the city and its community.

As a first year on Grounds, “being at Darden has helped to solidify my interest in finance. It’s a two-year program but the start of a lifelong process of learning,” he further explained. Unwilling to narrow down his future to just one career track, Stan hopes that this summer at ExxonMobil will help him identify his strengths and areas of opportunity, rather than confine him to a specific industry after graduation. Darden, in Stan’s opinion, “opens millions of doors” and rather than close any of them, Stan plans to “take the opportunity that Darden offers [me]. To not do so would be foolish.” One of several opportunities that Stan took advantage of this year was the Sweden Global Business Experience (GBE), which focused on Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Sustainability.

Sweden has experienced a recent spike in startups, including that of globally recognized

Stan and his peers on the Sweden Global Business Experience.

Stan and his peers on the Sweden Global Business Experience.

music provider, Spotify. “Capitalism dominates the Western Business mindset, but socialism and startups are not mutually exclusive,” Stan observed. On the GBE, we wanted to answer the question “why are startups and companies being created in Sweden if it’s a socialist business environment?” Stan explained. Witnessing the complexity of the Swedish economic policies and industries first hand was “interesting . . . specifically to see a different model work despite the capitalism only mindset many of us have been taught.” Only a few days after the end of his GBE, Stan headed to Qatar for his summer internship with ExxonMobil.

Stan originally pursued interning at ExxonMobil for its finance opportunities, but he has found a new passion: the blending of finance with “engineering in an industry that is crucial to world affairs.” The Darden alumni base at Exxon reached out to Stan when his application was received, and soon, the intern class was chosen. A month later, Exxon offered two possible international placements to the intern class: Budapest and Qatar. Realizing that “this is a rare opportunity, and Qatar is wildly important to Exxon,” Stan pursued the international placement opening. He has been stunned by the diversity and depth of knowledge amongst the staff in Qatar and credits Darden for preparing him to be successful working with the team saying “Exxon is a confirmation for [me] that [my] first year at Darden did a great job at preparing me for this environment.”

Stan cites welcoming the incoming class of 2018 by the classes of 2016 and 2017 as one of his favorite experiences at Darden, and he is ready to come back for another year of Darden. “This is where we begin the tight knit alumni network” that brought Stan to Darden, “it’s the person you sit next to in class, that you talk to, you form a bond with, you become friends.” Stan adds that “it’s not Kool-Aid, I promise . . . it’s a belief, an atmosphere that is unmistakably Darden.” As a second year, Stan will welcome the incoming class, passing along wisdom earlier Darden students imparted to him: “we’re a part of a bigger whole striving for something better than ourselves. We will leave this place better than we found it.”

Stan and Sachin Misra (MBA '09)  connect in Exxon Mobil's Doha office.

Stan and Sachin Misra (MBA ’09) connect in ExxonMobil’s Doha office.

Leave a comment

Student Leader Sets Vision for Second Year

By Courtney ZerrennerSachin-Dixit-portrait_750x750

Sachin Dixit (Class of 2017) has spent the majority of his life in India, and he is now entering his second year at Darden. Before Darden, Sachin completed his undergraduate degree in Engineering Physics at the Indian Institute for Technology, where he studied nuclear physics and quantum physics, specifically their implementation in medical diagnosis. Following the completion of his engineering degree, he worked for seven years at Futures First in Gurgaon, India, as a trader specializing in interest rate markets.

Sachin was drawn to Darden after making connections with several alumni. They sparked his interest in the Darden MBA program, which he then researched further. His undergraduate courses were taught using the lecture style method, and while researching Darden, he realized that the Darden uses the case study method. A strong supporter of the case study method, Sachin felt that Darden would be a good fit for his future goals and former work experience, in addition to his learning style preferences. Having completed his first year, he is currently interning at Jeffries in New York City as a Summer Associate, gaining valuable exposure to investment banking.

Although most parts of his first year at Darden were enjoyable, Sachin acknowledged that “it was like drinking from a fire hose” for the first six or seven months on Grounds. He explained that the intensity of the classes and the extracurricular activities forces Darden students to identify priorities, and by the middle of fall semester, Sachin learned to balance the activities that he had chosen. During the rush of first year at Darden, he chose to become involved in the Darden Photography Club and the Darden South Asia Society (DSAS). His involvement in the two clubs merged in the “Best of Darden Talent” event in April 2016. Next year, Sachin will serve as the president of the Darden Photography Club and hopes to continue several successful events and partnerships, including the relationship with Darden South Asia Society.

The Darden South Asia Society fosters relationships amongst Darden students of South Asian descent, students who are interested in the region, and showcases the culture of South Asia and its many variations to the greater Darden community. Sachin explained that the club is extremely diverse in representation, with students from Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other countries participating in events and programs. This past year, DSAS participated in the International Food Festival, put on an event for Holi in Flagler Court, and provided food for all of Darden at the “Diwali Cold Call” event.

For the coming year, Sachin will be serving as the Vice President for Marketing and Communications of DSAS, and he is looking forward to increasing involvement of current members, spreading the reach of DSAS events, and reaching other stakeholders, such as alumni and professors, who have formerly been uninvolved with DSAS. He acknowledged that his first year in DSAS, several events were under marketed yet were attended by a surprising number of students. Sachin hopes that effective planning and marketing with greatly expand the reach of DSAS, and he hopes to share the richness of experiences and cultures of the students in DSAS with more students, professors, and alumni of Darden.

Additionally, while at Darden, Sachin had the opportunity to attend the Cannes Film Festival through the American Pavilion Cannes Film and Business Program in May 2016. The program is associated with an elective at Darden, “The Business of Film,” and ten Darden students participated in the group of around 130 students in the American Pavilion program. While in Cannes, Sachin worked for a production house for the entirety of the two-week festival, and he also managed to fit in over fifteen movie screenings over the two-week period. Most of the movies are not released yet to the general public, and Sachin loved the chance to see films ahead of their distribution date. He said that this two-week global program, overseen by Professor Yael Grushka – Cockayne, was his favorite experience thus far at Darden. He laughed as he explained that “it’s fun to be able to talk about a movie that hasn’t come out yet with your friends.”

While he enjoyed the bustle of first year, Sachin is looking forward to returning to his second year at Darden in August, with hopes for more time to devote to life outside of class. He plans to take advantage of the lighter work load by contributing more the clubs that he is already involved in and in events with his Darden classmates. Whether participating with his section at the Darden Cup, choosing photos for the Darden Art Project (DART), or planning for the next DSAS event, Sachin is excited for the opportunities that second year at Darden brings!

Sachin and his peers in Cannes.

Sachin Dixit (Class of 2017) and his peers in Cannes.



Leave a comment