Douglas Gabbert (Class of 2022) is working to take full advantage of his final year at the UVA Darden School of Business, embracing the Second Year responsibility of setting the tone and culture of the School and community. He recently shared insights on why he chose Darden, what he’s hoping to get out of his experience and how prospective students can find their best fit.
Gabbert is also on the Board of the Field School of Charlottesville, an all-boys 5th-8th grade independent school, where he puts his well-earned credentials to use. Gabbert shared, “My business school training has massively informed my ability to digest budget materials, make structured decisions and interpret complex, institutional challenges. I feel confident providing an informed opinion based on the fact that I understand financial statements more intimately and have a baseline management toolkit that I developed during core.”
Q&A With Douglas Gabbert
Current location: Charlottesville, VA
Darden graduation year: 2022
Q: What’s something that surprised you about Darden that you didn’t expect?
A: It’s a big place that feels small. Quickly the community begins to feel familiar, warm and like home. Especially in my second year, you recognize that you’re here to learn, grow and become a better version of yourself — you don’t have the traditional feeling of school as a place where you’re being evaluated and checking boxes you need to move through to graduation. Extraordinary people are around you everyday and it begins to positively impact the way you think.
Q: Favorite experience from Darden so far?
A: Respect for the classroom is a major cultural element of Darden. Elena Loutskina, Shane Dikolli, Kim Whitler, Mary Margaret Frank and so many others animate this experience by making learning fascinating, engaging and rewarding — they’re pros who show you what being at the top of your game looks like. They’re born to teach and they’ve reminded me that we should all aspire to pursue ideas and careers that allow us to utilize our abilities in ways that are genuinely fulfilling, so we can be at our highest and best. Also, I love my classmates. I’ve met people at Darden that I consider some of my very best friends — it’s an intense program, but I can’t remember laughing as hard or having as much fun as I have since I started here.
Q: How did you land on Darden as your best fit?
A: The balance between excellence and community was appealing. Ambitious, driven and accomplished people who also understand the importance of relationships. Excellence and community can be mutually exclusive, but they don’t have to be and Darden gets that right.
Q: What skills/gaps were you hoping to fill by pursuing your MBA?
A: I wanted to transition my career into investment banking and a premium MBA was virtually the only path to reach that goal. I had a lot of fundraising and leadership experience, but very little formal training in accounting, finance and strategy. Although I perhaps didn’t fully appreciate my growth during the heat of core, I look back now and am astonished at how much I know now that I didn’t before.
Q: What advice do you have for prospective students considering Darden?
A: There are so many ways and places to get an MBA. If you’re a worker, someone who enjoys being on a team and has a willingness to serve community, come to Darden. In your first year, you’ll be more focused on yourself professionally, but in your second year you’ll give more to others. Second years are expected to set the tone for our culture and our community — it’s a rewarding responsibility.
Q: Lasting lessons from Darden that you use in your current job/company/life?
A: Learn from others, constantly. Being the smartest person in the room is overrated – listen deeply, ask questions and set your ego aside. Strive to be present in every interaction and be someone people can depend on.