Originally from Philadelphia, Mike Ship, Global Executive MBA Class of 2024, came to Darden with a diverse personal and professional background.

Shipp served in the Navy for eight years, four active duty and four reserve, as a Personnel Specialist working in an HR and administrative role supporting payroll, orders, benefits and families. He then worked at Bank of America as an executive assistant, focusing on employee engagement and community development. This introduced him to working in the DEI space, leading him to start the Military Support and Assistance group for Bank of America in the state of New Jersey.  

After moving to Washington D.C., he worked in the nonprofit space helping children with disabilities before moving into a role as DEI and Impact Manager for Athletic Brewing Company. He is the founder of Perfect Timing Multisport, a platform created to help people navigate to the start line, excel through the finish line, and a space where their experiences are shared, and he hosts the Perfect Timing Multisport podcast 

During his time at Darden, Shipp served as President of Darden’s Black Professional MBA Assocation (BPMBA). As President, Shipp helped develop a wide range of programming focused on fostering community. Including an All Cohorts Spring Virtual Gathering, networking dinners, activities during UVA Black Alumni Weekend, and the recent Black Alumni Trailblazers panel. This featured some of Darden’s first Black alumni reflecting on their MBA journeys and how they stay connected to Darden.  

He also volunteered with the Prison Re-Entry Education Program (PREP). In this program, MBA students teach incarcerated learners about entrepreneurship, financial literacy and the foundations of business using the case method. The goal of this program is two-fold – To empower incarcerated individuals with valuable skills and knowledge that may open to new opportunities upon their release. And, to transform volunteer MBA students into future business leaders with a fundamentally altered perspective on individuals with prior incarceration experiences and their integration into employment processes.    

“I’m a community builder. I love people. I love building connections and building community. Being a child to a teenage mother and realizing how important it was for me to have community saved my life, and it continues to do so to this day.”  

How did you become interested in pursuing an MBA?  

When I graduated high school, I didn’t apply to any colleges. That just wasn’t a conversation my family had with me. I graduated high school at 17, and my uncle, who was in the Navy, made sure I didn’t stay in Philly without a plan. So, he gained custody of me, and I moved down to Norfolk with him and figured it out.  

I earned my associate degree and then graduated with my undergraduate degree from the University of the District of Columbia. Through that time, I was lucky to have great professional opportunities. I knew from day one, I wanted to continue my education. The MBA has been the glue that has brought together my nontraditional education and professional backgrounds and set me forward. 

What led you to Darden? 

Pre-pandemic, I was looking at a number of schools and going on lots of visits. As things started opening back up, I went to some Darden events, including a virtual diversity chat. The host of that chat really encouraged me to think about Darden. After that conversation, I knew Darden was where I wanted to be.

You have been involved with the Black Professional MBA Assocation (BPMBA). Why was it important for you to take on a leadership role during your time at Darden?  

Finding ways to show up as a leader has always been important to me. Growing up, I was a point guard on my basketball team. At work, I always looked for ways to grow and expand beyond my formal role.  

When I started at Darden, I initially decided to take a step back and just focus on school. However, after a few quarters, I realized I needed to get back to what I enjoy most – showing up as a leader, helping people, and supporting people – for me to make the most of my time at Darden. I considered other leadership roles, but I decided I could have the most significant impact through the Black Professional MBA Association.  

What were some highlights from this year’s BPMBA programming?  

This year, we’ve worked to put structure around both what the club is and what it can be. We’ve also focused on building connections across programs.  

Our connection efforts started with a couple events for Executive and Part-Time MBA students, but the success of those events led to us including Full-Time MBA as well. The best example of this work is the All Cohort Virtual Gathering we hosted in the spring. We had 50 people online for the meet-up, including alumni, current students and incoming students.  

I also attended the National Black MBA Conference, which was in Philadelphia this year. Being in the area allowed me to take on more of a leadership role prior to the event. I enjoyed finding ways to support the Darden Career Center team members and the students participating in the conference. It will be in Washington, D.C. next year, and I’m looking forward to seeing a strong Darden presence at the event.

One of my mentors is a UVA graduate, and he talked with me about UVA’s Black Alumni Weekend. I was curious about the event, and realized there was an opportunity for Darden to be more involved, so, I joined the Planning Committee. Several other Darden students also joined, and we helped add a golf outing and the Black Trailblazers panel discussion to the schedule of events. Darden also hosted a reception at Dean Beardsley’s Pavilion that Saturday, which I think may have been spurred by all the Darden engagement in the weekend.  

I feel like we’ve created a playbook for future BPMBA leaders, and I’m excited to see what the group accomplishes in the future.

Another activity you’ve been involved with is the Prison Re-Entry Education Program (PREP). How did you get involved?  

I was on the Community engagement team with the Executive Student Association (ESA), and I had an opportunity to participate in a call about bringing PREP to DC. Based on that conversation, I thought it might be a while before anything formal materialized, so I reached out Resilience Education, the group co-founded by Greg and Tierney Fairchild that runs PREP.  

Through these conversations, I learned there was a PREP offering at Wharton, and this would be the first year they would be going into the prison system to teach. Fortunately, Wharton let me join the class, and I went through the training. 

What has the PREP experience been like? 

It was very rewarding and an incredible way to apply what I’ve learned and have a real impact. These are our neighbors – I wanted to help them be as prepared as possible for life after prison.

During my time at Darden, one of my goals has been to expand my network, and through my PREP experience I was able to meet people from another business school. I also facilitated discussions using the Socratic method, which was extremely powerful for me. My time with PREP has given me the confidence to apply to be an adjunct professor at a community college.  

What has been the Executive MBA program’s impact on you? 

I know many people say this, but it has truly been a transformational experience. Darden has exposed me to so many people. It has given me the confidence to try things and experiment. It has helped me understand and remember the importance of leaving a mark and having a legacy. It wasn’t always easy, but I’m proud I stuck with it. I participated in four global residencies, made great friends and played a leadership role in my class. I’m very thankful for the people who allowed me to make mistakes, who helped me learn, who supported me along the way.

What’s a piece of advice you would share with prospective students? 

Have fun with the experience. While two years may seem like a lot, it’s not. It goes by much quicker than you think. Take advantage of leadership opportunities and build your network. So much that is possible, you have to be willing to believe in yourself and try.