Reflections on Darden – EMBA ’17

As graduation approaches, we asked members of the EMBA and GEMBA Classes of 2017 to share their thoughts on the Darden experience. Below you will find reflections from two EMBA students. We will post GEMBA reflections in the coming days.


Pulling away from the Darden Inn gatehouse a few weeks ago, it was hard to believe this was my last Saturday afternoon drive from Charlottesville to Norfolk after an on grounds residency. The monthly pilgrimage to C-ville has become so ingrained into my schedule it’s difficult to imagine life without it. While I will be glad to reallocate hours from case prep and learning teams back to family, friends, and hobbies, I also lament that I will be losing my official role as a student. Learning is certainly a life-long pursuit but the privilege of learning as a member of Thomas Jefferson’s academical village is time bound.

Professor Lynn Isabella, our Leading Organizations professor, taught us the importance of “firehouse time” for firefighters. While the main work of fire fighters happens on the fire grounds, their time back in the fire house to debrief, recharge, and train is vital to their success when actually it is time to combat a fire. For many of us in the EMBA 2017 cohort, our monthly residencies in Charlottesville have become our fire house time. For some, these trips represent an opportunity to fully embrace the experience of being a student at the University of Virginia. For those that live in Charlottesville, residencies are a mini “staycation” – a few nights away at the Darden Inn. Many of us enjoy trying the plethora of restaurants, taking advantage of the nearby wineries and breweries, or incorporating outdoor activities like hiking or skiing to the weekend. But apart from all this, perhaps what I’ve enjoyed the most is the opportunity to develop friendships with the 60 amazing individuals who are my classmates.

The Darden network is often touted as a major strength of the program. I’ve certainly developed a network through the alumni, faculty & staff, and other contacts I’ve had the opportunity to meet through various Darden activities. At the end of my 21-months in the program, I’ve also gained a 60-person family. Congratulations to the entire Darden Class of 2017, and to the EMBAs, thank you.

-Meredith Donegan


This is the first thing I’ve typed into Word since completing my final assignment at Darden yesterday. Though I promised myself it would be a long time before I wrote anything again, when given the opportunity to write to students considering Darden, I opened my laptop.

I am just a few weeks from graduating, and I would not trade my experience for the world. I came to Darden to break into a finance role at an investment bank, and I have realized that opportunity. But, the job prospect is not the only thing I will take away from my Darden experience.

The relationships I’ve developed with my classmates, the faculty, and the Darden alumni network will long outlast my understanding of Accounting. Honestly, they already have. And when I remember my time in Charlottesville, it won’t just be the finance classes. It will be football games in the fall and baseball in the spring. It will be seeing Dave Matthews play at the John Paul Jones arena and spending time on the historic Lawn after eating a Gus Burger on the Corner. I’ll remember missing the school bus in China and taking an exam in a New York City hotel room. I’ll remember the businesses my classmates created in the lecture hall, and the professors who encouraged them to grow the idea. Ultimately, I’ll remember the people, and how Darden prioritized relationships over spreadsheets. And, if you take nothing else away from my reflection and want some academic advice, take Michael Ho’s Mergers and Acquisitions class, and don’t leave when he tries to get you to drop it on the first day.

-Ryan Burke

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