Today, we continue to spotlight women in our Executive MBA program with a post about Ashley Keating (Class of 2020). Join us next Friday, 15 November in the Washington, D.C. area for a Women’s Networking Breakfast to meet some of these purpose-driven leaders. The event is a great opportunity to experience the Darden community firsthand and learn more about our Executive MBA program. Attendees will also have the opportunity to tour Sands Family Grounds, the UVA Darden DC Metro location.

Ashley Keating is an EMBA format student and is also launching a nutrition and fitness startup. Ashley recently joined The ExecMBA Podcast to talk about her entrepreneurial venture, how she manages her busy schedule and her advice for women who are considering Darden’s Executive MBA.

We caught up with Ashley to ask her a couple questions about her Darden experience. New to the series? Be sure to check out our earlier entry highlighting Tiffany Pillifant (Class of 2020).

Q: How do you juggle the demands of school, work and being a mom?  

A: Becoming a working mom several years ago helped me learn the ropes of juggling obligations! Being at Darden takes it to a new level.

For me, it has helped to get hyper-scheduled. At the beginning of a quarter, I look at my school schedule, my family commitments and my work deadlines (as much as possible). Then I block off chunks of time for all the school obligations. Even though things may need to shift around as life intervenes, I can be confident going into a quarter that I have enough time to complete everything. This has been huge for decreasing my mental load.

In addition to scheduling, I’ve focused exclusively on what’s most important and nonnegotiable, and then put the rest on the back burner. I used to love Sunday afternoon football, but I’ve decided that it’s not something I’m willing to prioritize now that I’m at Darden. The program is only 21 months, after all. I can binge watch all the shows I’ve missed once we graduate in May!

I am also prioritizing quality over quantity. When I am with my family or my husband, I try to be there 100 percent. I’ve found this to be better than trying to play with my kids while reading school cases simultaneously. My kids really seem to thrive with concentrated, individual attention, even in smaller increments.

Lastly, I rely heavily on my learning team. Going into a weekend residency, we divide up the work and help each other prepare. I’ve found the other students at Darden to be incredibly collaborative and giving — someone is always happy to share a spreadsheet or case notes with you. We are in this together.

Q: Why Darden?  

A: Darden is an amazing place! I looked at a number of other schools, and there were four top reasons that I chose Darden.

  1. The case method. I thought this style of learning would help me learn the material much more completely than a traditional lecture style. I also thought that it would hone my ability to speak professionally on the fly, in a large group, and get comfortable with being a little out of my comfort zone. I believe that it’s done both of these things!
  2. The international travel. I loved studying abroad in college and then living in Germany after school, so I knew that this type of international experience would be meaningful for me, especially as the business world is becoming increasingly more global. I was really impressed by my Darden experience in China earlier this year, and I am tacking on another international trip to Japan in a few months. I’m super excited. I don’t know of many other Executive MBA programs with such a global focus.
  3. The reputation. Darden is a top-notch program. An MBA is a significant investment, and I wanted to make sure I got my money’s worth.
  4. The location. I live in Northern Virginia, so Darden was incredibly convenient. I really liked that Darden had a substantial (but not overwhelming) in-person component, and the easy proximity made this do-able for me.

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