Darden’s annual Diversity Conference kicks off later this week, bringing together prospective students from across MBA degree formats for a two-day summit of student panels, case discussions, alumni speakers and faculty insights.

We continue our blog coverage of the Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Recruiting team today with a Q&A from Kristian Robinson (he/him/his). Robinson is the Associate Director of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Recruiting. He has had a serendipitous journey to Darden, receiving a Biology and Environmental Science degree at the University of Virginia, earning his master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, serving as a mental health counselor, spending several years at the University of Virginia Career Center, and now pursuing his Ph.D. Throughout this winding path, Robinson has been consistent in his passion for working with others and managing complex relationships.

Kristian Robinson (he/him/his), Associate Director of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Recruiting

View the recent Q&A with Senior Director of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Recruiting Christian West. To attend an Admissions Diversity Recruiting 1:1 conversation or virtual coffee chat, sign up here.

Q: Can you share a little more about your background/personal story?

A: It’s important to start with aspects of my identity that are most salient to me as they have most informed my background — I am a gay man (he/him pronouns) and a biracial adoptee into an all-white family. I went to the University of Virginia (CLAS ‘15), where I bounced around many majors before landing on Biology and Environmental Science with an accidental physics minor. I didn’t know what I wanted to do upon graduation, but I enjoyed all of my student affairs related extracurricular involvements I partook in at UVA (Orientation Leader, University Guide, First Year Seminar Facilitator, Days on the Lawn Team Leader, etc.), so I decided to pursue that path professionally while I spent time figuring out what I wanted to do for graduate school. I took a role at the UVA Career Center working on their employer relations team and ended up working there for two years, planning career fairs, employer information sessions, and other employer events.

I enjoyed working in higher education, but more so than that, I enjoyed working with people, managing complex relationships, and navigating complicated human interactions. It was this curiosity that would lead me to pursue my master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro — but not before meeting my partner, Tyler, a UVA Nursing School alum. Being thrown into the world of providing mental health counseling has altered the way I view the world, think about people, and engage in relationships, both professionally and personally — it was like seeing the world through the lenses of a pair of sunglasses that I couldn’t take off, but I loved it. I worked in a few mental health settings, both at universities and in the community, providing group and individual therapy to a diverse caseload of clients.

Kristian and his partner, Tyler

Through my clinical work, I was moving full speed towards pursuing my Ph.D. in Counseling, Counselor Education, and Counselor Supervision, which led my partner and me to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. Currently, I am curretnly in the final stages of my doctoral journey, the dissertation.

My research explores the intersection of higher education, counseling, and diversity-related research to better understand masculinity on college campuses. More specifically, my dissertation focuses on exploring how cis-gender, heterosexual, white, male college student construct and engage in their masculinity in a way that enables them to engage in maladaptive behaviors such as contributing to rape, sexual assault, violence, hazing, and bigotry cultures on college campuses. While I’m excited to be back on Grounds at UVA, I am currently residing in Richmond with my partner and dog as I complete my dissertation and my partner continues his work as a pediatric ICU nurse.

Q: What is your current role? In what ways will prospective students interact with you?

A: Currently, I serve as the Associate Director of Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within the Admissions Office at Darden. In addition to sitting on the  admissions committee, reading Full-Time MBA applications, and interviewing students, I work closely with Christian West, Senior Director of Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, to manage our diversity-related pipelines. Though I have a hand in all of our diversity-related endeavors, I have taken the lead on the following initiatives: Diversity Conference, ROMBA (Reaching Out MBA; LGBTQ+ Community Support), and MLT (Management Leadership for Tomorrow; Underrepresented Minority Community Support). That being said, I will engage prospective students across the application process, from coffee chats, workshops, and MBA conversations to application reviews, interviews, and post-admission decision events.

Q: What led you to Darden?

A: Truly, landing this role at Darden was a perfect storm. First and foremost, I found this role to be perfectly aligned with my professional goals — a perfect amalgamation of my backgrounds in higher education and counseling, all while focusing my efforts on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. After graduating from UVA and working here professionally for two years, I knew that a return to Grounds was in the cards for me; I was just waiting for the right opportunity and am so thankful this worked out for me. It would not have been possible without some of my favorite individuals helping me get connected to the Darden community; Taylor Fisher & Marc Paulo Guzman (both former Admissions Committee members), Christie Julien (Assistant Dean for Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), and Kristie Wood (Director of Academic Operations) all were fundamental in introducing me to the Darden community, the Admissions Committee, and this role.

Q: Why are you passionate about Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

Kristian with pup, Kingsley

A: As a queer person of color, my lived experience constantly fuels my passion for engaging in this work. That being said, my background in providing therapy has been highly additive to this passion. Most specifically, I worked for a year as a counselor at Side by Side Virginia, a queer youth center, where I worked specifically with their youth, age 14-21, who identify as transgender or non-binary/gender non-conforming. This role was one of the most eye-opening and rewarding experiences I have had to date. I feel as though cis, gay men (myself included) often come to the false conclusion that they understand the LGBTQ+ community simply because they are a part of it when in actuality, there is such a broad spectrum of lived experiences that are all complex and specific to the subpopulations of the LGBTQ+ community that they apply to. In working with and learning from my trans and non-binary youth, I further developed my understanding of the LGBTQ+ experience outside of my own while also developing the knowledge and abilities to advocate for those who live in the most vulnerable intersections of marginalized identities, such a trans youth of color.

Q: Favorite eatery/place to hang out in the Charlottesville area?

A: There are too many places to choose from, but I will keep this brief. Currently, I love hanging out downtown at Common House, right off the downtown mall, to get my work done during the week. In terms of food, Lampo, Thai Cuisine and Noodle House, Mas Tapas, and Ten are my go-to restaurants.

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