Today on the blog, we catch up with Professor Elena Loutskina. Elena teaches in the Finance area, and her research focuses on the management of financial intermediaries. Check out Elena’s answers below, and be sure to also read our earlier interview with Professor Lalin Anik.
What is your background? What did you do before coming to Darden?
I completed my bachelor’s in mathematics at Belarus State University. I then spent a couple of years as a business analyst with the Central Bank of Belarus, where I discovered I had a real passion for economics. Like math, it offered me eloquence, logic and style, but it had a soul and a story. I decided to go back to school, which led me to the United States. I pursued a master’s in economics, then attended Boston College for my PhD in finance, and eventually found my way to Darden.
What led you to Darden?
I would be lying if I said that the quality of the institution didn’t play a role in my decision. I was lucky. I had job offers from two amazing US-based schools, but Darden just felt like home. When I visited Charlottesville, I immediately connected with the people and the place. It felt right for me. I am partial to the classic look of the Grounds and buildings. I deeply respect traditions. But most importantly, I find myself happier and more productive when I am surrounded by great people who genuinely care about each other.
What do you enjoy about teaching at Darden?
The ability to connect to a lot of very interesting people in a meaningful way. Darden’s classroom is a two-way street: I share knowledge with my students, and they also teach me something. Our students are extremely smart and come from so many different backgrounds. Their insights and wisdom open up so many possibilities both in and out of the classroom. I have learned so much from students in my classes.
Darden is unique, as the responsibility to help students grow does not solely lie on my shoulders as an instructor. It is a true joy to come to class and engage in a deep, meaningful discussion with my students, hear fresh arguments, subject my long-standing beliefs to new ideas and criticism, see the lights go on, make a difference. I know it sounds cheesy, but I would not trade it for anything.
What would you want a prospective student to know about Darden?
A lot! Where do I start…? First and foremost, you should know that if you are here, you are a member of a family. We will celebrate your accomplishments, support you when you need it, and pick you up if you stumble. A sense of responsibility for the people around us is at the very core of this institution. At Darden, you are not alone in your quest to be a better student, better professional and better person.
Second, the learning experience here is about more than developing expertise in a particular subject matter. Case-style learning goes well beyond class material. It teaches you so many things—how to form concise arguments in a convincing fashion, how to capture and hold a group’s attention, how to weather criticism and questions, how to question your colleagues respectfully and how to change your point of view without losing your credibility. These are critical skills for anyone looking to build a career in business.
Darden offers a safe environment for you to develop your professional approach and grow as a leader. It is a place where you can experiment and learn from your own trial and error as well as from observing others working through the same problems and challenges. The whole program (sections, learning teams, etc.) is designed to foster learning and camaraderie, in ways that are perhaps not immediately obvious but are very well thought out and structured.
Any advice you would share with prospective students?
Think carefully about what you want out of an MBA program. Whatever program you choose, make sure it can deliver on those dimensions. This is a major investment, and business school should absolutely help achieve your goals. What do you think you need to accomplish those goals? Is it a network? Technical skills? Soft skills? In my opinion, Darden is unique because here you will find all the traditional components of a top business program, but also abundant opportunities to develop your leadership abilities.