We continue our Executive MBA student spotlight series with a post featuring Manuela Monsalve (Class of 2023). Monsalve is currently based in the Washington, D.C. area, where she works as a Director of Talent for an education startup.

Read on to learn more about Manuela’s story, and if you’re new to the series, be sure to catch up on on our recent Executive MBA student profile posts – Daniel Wilcox (Class of 2023), Rachel Smolkin (Class of 2023)Slavomir Zapata (Class of 2023)Matthew Vann (Class of 2023) and Matthew Boyd (Class of 2023).

Q: What is your current role? What is your professional/academic background?

UVA Darden Executive MBA Student Profile
Manuela Monsalve, Class of 2023

A: I am the Director of Talent for Transcend, a rapidly growing education startup that partners with communities to create and spread extraordinary, equitable learning environments for young people. In this role, I lead Transcend’s charge to grow and develop a diverse team of top talent. My background is predominantly in all things talent within the non-profit and education spaces. Additionally, I began my career of impact as an elementary school teacher with Teach For America. I joined Teach For America because I grew up as an immigrant and first-generation college student, and public education was how I was able to break the cycle of poverty in my family.

Q: How did you decide to pursue an MBA?

A: I love all things talent and wholeheartedly believe that the biggest lever for transforming the education system is the people working in and out of classrooms. I chose to pursue an MBA so that I can lead education systems, like nonprofits and public districts, to develop the talent recruitment, professional development, and retention practices required to ensure that the highest-need kids are getting access to the best leaders possible. I realized that to become the transformative leader I aspire to be, I needed the quantitative and financial rigor, out-of-the-box thinking, and entrepreneurial community provided by an MBA.

Q: What led you to Darden?

A: I know a couple of incredible women from the Teach For America network who attended Darden and I was intrigued by the potential of the program. When I decided to pursue an MBA program, I knew I needed to further get to know Darden. I got to know Darden better by conducting extensive research, attending many webinars, speaking to alumni, and found that Darden was a community filled with an incredible academic program of world-renowned professors, experiential learning through the case method experience, and a curriculum of real-life cases. For me, the case method was truly the separating factor between Darden and other MBA programs.

Q: What has been the impact of your Darden experience so far?

A: Darden has pushed my personal and professional development in ways I could not have even imagined. The curriculum has been immersive, relevant, and engaging. I have already learned so many different things….I am proud to say I can now read an income statement! In addition to the learning that happens in the classroom, there are multiple opportunities for learning outside of the classroom as well. In particular, Darden creates a culture of collaboration through learning teams. My learning team is comprised of a physician, journalist, banker, healthcare consultant, and former Navy Officer. They have been my support system, thought-partners, and we have become great friends. My learning team is the best and has greatly contributed to my learning and personal development!

Q: What is your best piece of advice for prospective students?

A: When I first started the application journey I was so afraid that I was not a “traditional” student given my background in teaching and nonprofits. At Darden, I realized that there is truly no archetype of student and that the unique set of skills and experiences we each bring is what makes the program so strong. My biggest piece of advice is to be confident in who you are, know your why, and fully communicate your true self throughout the admissions process.