Darden is home to numerous student-run clubs and organizations, including Pride at Darden (PAD), a student club dedicated to promoting an inclusive, open and welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students and allies. 2022-23 Pride at Darden president Lewis Salas (Class of 2023) recently shared his experience with PAD and how he plans to support current and future Darden students.
Q: How did you first get involved in Pride at Darden (PAD)?
A: PAD’s bi-weekly happy hour, affectionately called “Cheers Queers”, was my first entry point into the organization. I fondly remember meeting with PAD members at Firefly, a lively tavern in Charlottesville, on a crisp Friday afternoon. The sense of belonging and connection I felt as we bonded over our shared experiences, left a lasting impression on me. It was at that moment that I started to form a second family at Darden.
Q: What has the club offered to you as a student?
A: PAD has provided me with professional, academic, and social support throughout my time at Darden.
Professionally, PAD ensured that I was set up for success when networking and interviewing during the Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Conference, an event that connects business school students to corporate partners recruiting LGBTQ+ talent. Socially, I was offered opportunities to meet with other LGBTQ+ identifying students both at Darden and the greater UVA community through initiatives such as Queers Giving, an annual event to celebrate Thanksgiving. Academically, my PAD “buddy” mentored me throughout my First Year and helped me navigate the demanding course load.
Q: What made you want to be the club president?
A: I decided to be PAD President because I wanted to take an active role in shaping the LGBTQ+ experience at Darden for current and future students. From landing that big job to finding love (and everything in between!), I wanted PAD to be the source of strength and support for all LGBTQ+ identifying students and allies.
Q: What are you hoping to pass along to future students?
A: One of the most defining moments in my Darden experience so far has been coming out to my Section during class in Quarter 1. As my voice trembled and my knees shook, I was comforted by the warm applause from my classmates. At Darden, I’ve finally been able to find my voice and be surrounded by people that truly accept me for who I am. My hope is that future students will also get to experience the warm, tight-knit community that is so central to the Darden experience.
Q: Tell us more about your summer internship and career plans.
A: I am currently a product manager intern on the Outlook Accelerator team at Microsoft. I work with a team of engineers, designers and data scientists on disruptive incubation initiatives intended to drive growth. I look forward to continuing to amplify my impact as a product manager by building products that affect users at scale.
Q: What has been your favorite moment from PAD so far?
A: Every year PAD puts on a Drag Show, our biggest annual event where students dress in drag and professors judge the winners. It was a real honor to have the chance to attend the rehearsals leading up to the drag show and watch the performers put their own personal twist to their choreography and stage personas. Their hard work and dedication culminated in a packed auditorium filled with students, faculty and staff cheering them on.