Since 2019, Darden has been a partner school of the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund’s McGowan Fellows Program. Every year each of the ten partner schools, which include other elite MBA programs, select a rising Second Year Full-Time MBA student as their McGowan Fellow. The Fellow receives a full-tuition scholarship and engages in a year of experiential leadership development opportunities with the nine other Fellows in their cross-MBA cohort. These opportunities include individual coaching sessions with McGowan Fellow alumni, training from the Center for Creative Leadership, participation in a student-led social impact project, as well as a series of development and networking-focused gatherings.
2021-22 Darden McGowan Fellow Jessica Kim-Schmid (MBA ’22) shared some of her experiences with the fellowship program below.
Q: How did you first find out about the McGowan Fellows Program opportunity at Darden?
A: When I was applying for MBA programs, a former colleague who had already finished her MBA advised that I look into Second Year fellowships and scholarships that different schools offered. I happened to find information about Darden’s participation in the McGowan Fellows Program and it added on to the enthusiasm that I was already feeling about applying to Darden. On top of all the other opportunities to develop as an ethical and responsible leader at Darden, the chance to engage as part of this cross-MBA Fellows cohort during my Second Year was incredibly exciting. I’m also really glad I found out about the McGowan Fellows Program before I matriculated because First Year students have to meet a very high academic bar to be eligible to apply. This knowledge helped give me an extra boost of motivation to do well in my Core classes when times got tough!
Q: What were the most valuable aspects of the McGowan Fellows Program for you?
A: I can honestly say that all the different elements of this experience were valuable. My favorite part, though, was working with the amazing Fellows from the nine other partner MBA programs on a meaningful social impact project throughout my Second Year. For the past few years, the McGowan Charitable Fund has asked the Fellows to focus their project on youth homelessness in Chicago, but each year’s cohort gets to decide exactly how they want to make an impact by scoping and proposing their own project. After our Winter Retreat in January, where we spent a weekend learning intensively about the issue of youth homelessness, my cohort decided to create a storytelling website (Youth Stories for Change) that combats misconceptions about youth homelessness and raises awareness of this issue that impacts millions of youth in America every year. Through this website, we share some of the incredible stories of resilience and hope that we heard directly from youth experiencing homelessness and also highlight systemic solutions that organizations such as our incredible nonprofit partners – Ignite and The Night Ministry – work to bring about every day.
It is easy to forget our collective privilege from inside the MBA bubble, so this opportunity to have my understanding of an important social issue challenged and deepened was truly humbling and inspiring. After all the hard work we poured into the project, it was also incredibly rewarding to see how positively our nonprofit partners reacted to our final product. Ignite has now officially taken over management of the website and will be hiring and training a youth who has experienced homelessness to continue developing the site and building an advocacy campaign around it. I am so grateful for this experience and look forward to checking in to see how the seed planted by our project develops in the future!
Q: How has this McGowan Fellows experience influenced your development as an ethical leader?
A: Throughout the year, each of us had to develop a Leadership Philosophy Statement where we described our personal definition of leadership and the concrete behaviors that we commit to living out in our future roles as leaders. We refined our statements throughout the year with our McGowan alumni coaches and in various training sessions with the Center for Creative Leadership, but the statement really came to life for me when we spent a portion of our cohort’s Spring Retreat in April sharing our statements with each other and getting questions and feedback from the group. The value I took away from the heartfelt and honest conversation we had made me realize that a group of peers you can discuss your leadership aspirations and challenges with is one of the most valuable assets you can have in your ethical leadership journey. This realization has motivated me to continue engaging with my cohort and the McGowan alumni community in the future as a key source of inspiration and support throughout my career.
Q: What advice would you give to future Darden students who are interested in this opportunity?
A: Definitely reach out to former Fellows to learn more about the experience. The program requires a significant time investment so I think it’s important to weigh the value of this experience against other ways you might want to spend your time in Second Year. I talked to the two prior Fellows from Darden (Kelly Connors, MBA ’20 and Alex Goot, MBA ’21) before applying and found their thoughts and advice extremely helpful. I am always happy to answer questions that future students might have!
After all the hard work we poured into the project, it was also incredibly rewarding to see how positively our nonprofit partners reacted to our final product. Ignite has now officially taken over management of the website and will be hiring and training a youth who has experienced homelessness to continue developing the site and building an advocacy campaign around it.