For the second part of our Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Fellows feature, we are highlighting First Year Aidan Connell (Class of 2024). Check out Javin Dana’s Q&A from earlier this week here to meet another incredible Darden ROMBA Fellow.
Darden is a proud partner of Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA), awarding these distinguished fellowships each year as a signal of Darden’s commitment to improving the LGBTQ+ communities at Darden and in business.
Connell is originally from New Hampshire, and spent several years working in Boston in higher education at Northeastern University. He is a self-proclaimed foodie, proud dog dad and improv performer – among many other interests!
In a recent Q&A, Connell highlighted his support from the LGBTQ+ community, journey to Darden and how he plans to promote progress in education environments through his MBA/MEd dual degree.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself!
A: My name is Aidan Connell (he/him/his), and I am originally from Manchester, New Hampshire. I am a big foodie – my mother’s side of my family is Armenian, so one of my favorite dishes is lahmajoun. I am proud dog dad to my beagle Flapjack, and regularly performed improv comedy around Boston before Darden.
Q: What was your background before coming to Darden?
A: Before Darden, I spent five years in Boston working in higher education at Northeastern University. My work spanned from building partnerships with tech companies, to creating and managing the university’s product development process.
Q: How has being a member of the LGBTQ+ community impacted your professional, academic and personal journey?
A: My personal journey has been guided by support from the LGBTQ+ community. I came out as bisexual some years ago and discovered rather quickly that this community actively works to support its members! I received mentorship and support professionally in my work in higher education, academically during college and when applying to graduate school, and personally from my friends and loved ones. This support came early and often as I navigated coming into my own in all the different spheres of my life! I am immensely thankful for how loving and fun this community is, and it is my imperative to spend time passing on the support that has been given to me.
Q: How did you end up at Darden?
A: When working on the Darden application, I was struck by how much Darden wanted to know about me; the “me” beyond the test scores, the professional background and the career goals. By the end of the process, I thought, “Wow, this place really wants me to be my full, authentic self.” Pair that with some excellent conversations with current students (particularly from Pride at Darden), and I was certain this was the place for me!
I ultimately chose to attend Darden because I wanted to continue to build upon my experiences in the education field while also getting a formal business education. To that end, I was drawn to Darden’s strong dual MBA/M.Ed program, where it felt I could take the learnings of core (strategy, finance, people management) and apply those to educational environments to promote progress.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: I am passionate about innovating in education to address historical inequities in our workforce and society. I’m aiming for a career in consulting in the near term so I can explore a variety of sectors, understand their needs and learn the different ways they have solved common problems shared across industries. Ultimately, I hope to return to the education field with these lessons, either to work in education policy or public primary education.
Q: How would you like to impact Darden as a ROMBA fellow?
A: ROMBA is an incredible professional platform for LGBTQ+ students to gain access to employers and join the community’s increasingly powerful presence in the business world. I applied to ROMBA because I wanted my LGBTQ+ identity to be a part of my professional life so that I can promote my values in my career and increase access and outcomes for people like us.
I plan to use my time at Darden to help LGBTQ+ students meaningfully engage with employers and position themselves well to access the careers, lifestyles and platforms they aspire to. I also want to help students figure out how they can be their authentic selves in their professional lives – it is a journey I am still on, and I appreciate how the stress of the MBA makes it even more complex!
Q: What advice do you have for prospective students about to embark on the application process?
A: It is all going to work out! At the height of the application process, you will have many moments where you ask yourself, “What is going to happen? What if it doesn’t work out?,” and you are going to stress yourself out beyond belief.
That’s when you need to take a break, do something you love, and remember that it is all going to work out. And if you have a hard time convincing yourself of that, then I am happy to jump on the phone with you and convince you it will be great!
Q: What has been the highlight of your Darden experience so far?
A: Most definitely co-directing Section E’s first-place talent show performance as part of the Darden Cup! I had an incredible amount of fun learning about my section mates’ talents and weaving them together into an intense ten-minute set. We had Bollywood dancing, singing, back flips, comedy, a violin and viola player, it was awesome! Performing up on that stage with such talented people gave me an immense sense of connection to this community.