Each step of Eboni Brown’s (Class of 2024) professional career has given her new opportunities to expand her reach. Realizing she had more to give, she began her search to find a place that would help advance her career and take her to the next level. From her time as an analog astronaut to her current role as senior consultant at Ernst & Young, Brown is using her Darden Executive MBA experience to solidify her seat at the table.
Q: Tell me a bit about you and your background.
A: I’m currently a senior consultant at Ernst & Young, where I focus on initiatives like data security and modernizing technology for our government and private sector.
Q: How did you get interested in pursuing an MBA?
A: Back in 2021, I took some time to pause and reflect on the work I had done, and I wanted to spend more time volunteering. I felt like I had more to give, so, I became a solar system ambassador and analog astronaut. Through the application process, you provide NASA with potential research ideas. If they find interest in it and think it could be something to send to space to help astronauts, or humanity, as they think about expanding our life beyond Earth, you are selected to work with them. My research focused on repurposing hair for other uses (for example, fertilizer) as well as how we cope with being away from friends and family.
This experience was truly amazing, and with all these ideas wandering around in my head, I knew I wanted more and felt an MBA would help me achieve that.
Q: What led you to Darden and the Executive MBA Program?
A: For me, Darden stood out, for a couple of reasons. One was the case methodology. I was used to lectures where the professor was at the front of the classroom, and you kind of just took a lot of notes. I was curious on how you have an organic conversation, which is what a case discussion really is, and still learn valuable information that you can use in your day to day.
And then through my research, a lot of people talked about this UVA community, this Darden community, and I couldn’t understand what made this community so interesting. My family and I took a couple of trips down to Charlottesville to just walk around and be on grounds. I talked to some students who didn’t know me, but I wanted to get a feel for what it’s like to live the UVA Darden life, and what the community was like right outside of the university. And it was in that moment, I said, this is it, it feels right, this is where I need to be. And I immediately threw myself in a thousand percent to my UVA Darden application.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory thus far?
A: I feel like good memories are created every single time we have an on-grounds residency, but if I had to pick a favorite memory, it would be our first leadership residency in Charlottesville. There I was, sitting in the auditorium in Charlottesville. I didn’t know anyone next to me, and everybody talked about how much fun it’s going to be, but also how challenging it will be. And I was nervous, hands sweating. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, but I think I can choose that as my favorite memory because that is now my new baseline of who I was, and who I was to become.
Q: What’s your best piece of advice for prospective students?
A: If I could give any advice to prospective students, after you’ve decided that UVA Darden is for you, and as you’re going through the application process, remain authentic to who you are in the interviews.
There is a piece of this like “Darden magic” that happens when creating this cohort, and it is full of people who not only relate to you, but also challenge your thoughts. So, if you’re authentic to who you are, you can bundle up this experience of applying to MBA school with a bow and have no regrets.
Q: Final thoughts?
A: I never could have imagined that this experience would be what it is today. Those strangers that I mentioned in Charlottesville are now my friends, and we talk all the time. I understand what the community is now. It’s the real thing, and you really start to miss these individuals. Has it been the best decision ever? Absolutely.
Hear more from Brown and fellow Executive MBA Class of 2024 students Tessa Grubb and Salah Al-Chanati about their experience learning through the case method on The ExecMBA Podcast.