First Year Olivia Pavco Giaccia (Class of 2022) was recently profiled in a UVAToday article, which called her a ‘Darden Dynamo’ and was highlighted as Darden’s #MBAoftheweek on Instagram.

Olivia Pavco-Giaccia is a recipient of a Jefferson Fellowship, who wants to inspire a new generation of young girls through science. Since she was a teenager, Pavco-Giaccia has sought and found innovative ways to help women through her affinity for science.

She was also a cellist in the Yale University Symphony Orchestra, spent time in the White House working under then Vice President Joe Biden, and has been a successful producer and host in Hollywood.

Pavco Giaccia recently shared more on her journey to business school, and why despite initial reservations about pursuing an MBA, Darden has become a bit of a haven!

By Olivia Pavco Giaccia:

Three years ago, MBA school wasn’t on my radar. I was an entrepreneur and a creative – in my mind, roles that weren’t compatible with business school. Also, if I’m being honest with myself, I had reservations about the MBA route because it had been years since I took an in-depth math class. I wondered what contributions I could make in an academic environment filled with former investment bankers and private equity analysts who had built their careers on numbers.

Olivia Pavco-Giaccia (Class of 2022)

After having spent a semester at Darden, I can tell you that my reservations were wrong. My stereotype about MBAs as ‘just’ investment bankers or private equity analysts was hilariously outdated – especially at Darden, where the case-method experience is predicated on a diversity of student backgrounds and opinions. Non-traditional backgrounds are welcomed here, and my fabulous section (Section C is the best) includes everyone from former opera singers to special education teachers to stand-up comedians.

That’s not to say that transitioning into business school as a non-traditional candidate was perfectly seamless. I went from having never taken a finance class to being expected to build my first discounted cash flow analysis within the first three weeks of school. It felt a bit like drinking from a fire hose — but along with that academic intensity and rigor comes a bevy of resources designed to ease that transition. First and foremost, the people at Darden are wonderful. Our professors are phenomenal (shout out to Ting!) and they are incredibly generous with their time outside of class. If I finished a class with questions remaining about the case, I always had the opportunity to jump into my professors’ personal Zoom rooms and work through the problems. Darden also offers a non-evaluative summer course called Darden Before Darden, which helps you catch up on some of the fundamental concepts from Darden’s quant heavy classes. Lastly, the strong bonds that develop among members of our First Year learning teams foster both academic supports and personal friendships. I’ve really enjoyed working and growing with the members of my team – they have brought not only great insights to our case prep but also a healthy dose of fun into the process.

Pavco Giaccia tries to make time each week to visit The Barracks Farm and ride a horse. “The facility is beautiful and they have an awesome community of folks from across UVA.”

What I’ve found here at Darden is a supportive community of students and faculty who value a diversity of experiences. The program does a great job of bringing us together to ask big questions and participate in active discourse. If that’s a next step that you’re interested in taking, don’t let fear or outdated stereotypes stand in your way.

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