This weekend, Darden will celebrate its Class of 2020, virtually recognizing the culmination of two years of academic dedication and personal development. We have had the distinct honor of highlighting just a few of the incredible student stories from the graduating class here on the blog, and it’s safe to say their journey is just beginning!

We are thrilled to feature one of these amazing members of the Class of 2020 on the blog today.

Saule Kassengaliyeva (Class of 2020) graduated from college in Maryland in 2008, at the onset of the financial crisis that would lead to the Great Recession. Job prospects were scarce, but a fellow Kazakh woman helped her to secure a monthlong internship in the international development field for someone with Russian-language skills. The short-term opportunity turned into a decade-long career in international development and foreign policy, first, in Washington, D.C., and later in Ukraine.

After returning to D.C., Kassengaliyeva knew she wanted to apply to a case method business school, to “experience and learn in the moment” and embrace her entrepreneurial passion.

Although she came to business school with an international development background and an undergraduate degree in women’s studies, at Darden, Kassengaliyeva pursued an entrepreneurial goal informed by, of all things, her love of craft beer.

Breweries with excellent beer had exploded across the landscape over the course of the past decade, but too often their food options were limited or just plain crummy — an afterthought at best. Encouraged by Darden Professors Saras Sarasvathy and Damon DeVito, Kassengaliyeva launched Piaz LLC, making and selling dumplings intended to pair perfectly with beer and tell the story of the culture from which they emerged.

Kassengaliyeva interned with AB-InBev during her first and second years at Darden.

“I love dumplings, and the great thing about them is there is some form of dough wrapped around some meat in every culture. I’m not going to call a burrito a dumpling, but there are so many different versions, and there are so many different beers, and I thought it would be fun to pair the two.”

Kassengaliyeva sold her handmade dumplings at the Charlottesville City Market during the 2019 season, was an award-winner in UVA’s Entrepreneurship Cup and participated in the Batten Institute’s Venture Lab, utilizing these experiences and resources to develop a long-term vision for Piaz — to work with craft breweries to pair the variety of dumplings she offers with telling a story of the women and culture behind the snack whenever possible.

Read the full story on UVA Today to find out what’s next for Kassengaliyeva.

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