Zoe Chan rediscovered her love of learning as a student in the Part-Time MBA class of 2025. She is a Data Analyst at LMI, a government consulting agency. As a healthcare consultant, she works with the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMA) and HealthCare.gov to make sure plans follow federal regulations and naming conventions are nondiscriminatory. Chan found her way to healthcare consulting after her time at Cornell University where she studied Operations Research and Engineering. 

How did you become interested in Darden?  

I actually applied for the Executive MBA Program back in 2019. I was only a year out of college, clearly not the right fit, but it was the only program where I could keep my job while completing the degree. Plus, I couldn’t afford to quit my job. In my interview, it was clear I didn’t have enough experience, but I knew that I really liked the Darden program. I wasn’t in a rush to get my MBA, so I figured I would wait five or six years, develop myself get to know the DC area better before applying again.  

One of the things I did to get to know the DC area was dragon boating by the Wharf. After practice one night, I took the metro back home and noticed one of the advertisement boards was for Darden’s new Part-Time MBA program. Because I knew I liked Darden so much, I went home and looked it up and it was a much better fit for me than the Executive MBA program. So, I applied the very next week.  

What led you to pursuing an MBA? 

In all honesty, I didn’t do well in undergrad and had a hard time adjusting. I had gone to Cornell, which was a reach school for me, so I ended up struggling all four years to keep up. After I graduated, I knew that time was not reflective of who I am. I started thinking about ways I could find my love of academics again, and getting an MBA or a master’s degree could be a way of doing just that. By combining my experience working with engineers and coders with my experience with policyholders, an MBA would make me a great asset in my current role.  

What has been the biggest impact of the program for you so far? 

The cohort itself jumps out at me. It’s special meeting people that I would normally not meet or bump into because even in working circles, your co-workers do the same thing, and in your personal life you vibe with certain personalities. But the cohort has a variety of people in different aspects of life, some people are single, married or have kids, people who are working in the nonprofit sector or as consultants, like me. Getting to talk to those different kinds of people, and going through classes and residency together is a great opportunity for me to meet new people. It’s really impacted me. Having people to look forward to seeing after work, instead of just working during the weekdays, and fun during the weekends, I get to look forward to class. 

How has the case method impacted how you learn?  

In my undergrad experience, I found the professors were focused on their research while teaching felt more like a side gig. But, throughout my time Darden, I appreciate that the professors make teaching their primary focus. I think it’s a combination of the case method and my stage of life, but I feel that I am learning a lot more. 

With my engineering background, I didn’t have any experience learning through case studies. It was a lot of theory, crunching numbers and making sure to understand the theory behind it, but having cases with different corporations or different companies, they solidify the theories too. 

How do you work with your Learning Team? 

It is a great group of people. No one is putting their ego in front. We have learned a lot about each other and understand that we all have lives outside of class. So far, we have found a good balance of getting the work done while encouraging each other, but also hanging out outside of academics. We have dinner together or catch-up during class breaks. I really enjoyed that.  

What is one of your favorite memories from the program? 

One of my favorites was during the first Leadership Residency in Charlottesville. I had just met my Learning Team and we were doing the Lego team building exercise. The goal was to build a Lego structure that could withstand different stress tests, and you want it to be the tallest structure while using the least amount of materials. Because of my engineering background, I thought it was interesting that the first activity we would do in business school would be engineering related. Our Team finished in third place.  

During that exercise, there was a balance between trying to present yourself as a productive member of the team, while also learning how everyone else works in a group. Looking back on it, it’s interesting to see how everyone’s personalities were reflected in the activity now that I know them more.  

What’s your best piece of advice for prospective students? 

You get what you put into it.  It’s easy to go into class and zone out and just get the work done. But there’s a reason why Darden has the dual format of zoom and in person. Enjoy the moments when you see each other in person, listen to their experiences and maybe share your own. Find the balance between your work life, your social life, and then your school life. You’re going to feel tired or have days when you don’t want to go to class but that’s how life is, and that’s part of being in a Part-Time MBA program. But when you do have the energy, put your all into it. Really read the cases, prep for class, and be in class with some zeal. You’re only in the program for 33 months, so you might as well try to make an impact.