Darden School of Business students and alumni are go-getters — those in Future Year Scholars Program (FYSP) take this up a notch.

FYSP alumna Brooke DeMaio (Class of 2023) shared her experience and mindset before applying to the program, and a look into her deferral period. Plus, she just celebrated her one-year anniversary of graduating from Darden.

We hope sharing this story inspires you to consider applying to Darden’s Future Year Scholars Program! Learn more here.

Brooke DeMaio (Class of 2023)

Brooke DeMaio (Class of 2023)

Deferral period: 3 years

Current city: St. Louis, MO

Current company: AB InBev

Current role: Global Manager of Agronomy Sustainability

Fun fact: Agronomy is the science of agriculture!

Tell us about your FYSP journey.

I went to the University of Virginia for undergrad, and that’s really where I got exposure to the [MBA] program. I knew I always wanted to get an MBA, but as an undergrad I wanted to focus on sustainability and Spanish, because I was really passionate about international business and getting that experience.

After graduating, I went straight into a sustainability role for a big dining company. I gained a lot of great on-the-ground experience, but there weren’t a lot of opportunities to reach my goals without an MBA. I stayed in that experience, and was then promoted to a regional role.

Knowing I was going to come back to Darden helped me take a little more risk with my career. During the pandemic, an opportunity came up to work for a small start up. The role supported procurement and gave me the operational experience I was interested in. I eaglery seized the opportunity to dive in, learn more about the specialty foods world and work directly with farmers for a year. 

When did you know it was the right time to come back to Darden?

After I had been in the startup for about a year, I didn’t see a clear next step. I knew Darden would give me a network and exposure to the types of companies I wanted to be in, versus trying to get there on my own.

I definitely had a big learning curve when I began the program because I didn’t study business in undergrad. Unless I had gone into a more traditional role — which I didn’t, I went into sustainability — I don’t think it would have made a difference if I had waited a year or not.

What was helpful for you as you were navigating your deferral period?

I was matched up with an alumni, and that was really valuable to me. I reached out when I wanted to have a conversation with Katherine Alford about coming [back to Darden]. I attended Darden before Darden and those connections that summer before made me feel like I knew what was going on.

What skills did you have before applying to Darden, and how did they grow during your time at business school?

I had a lot of experience trying to manage diverse stakeholders and influence people without authority. Those leadership skills, plus being in an operation and understanding the local reality, allowed me to bring a lot of pieces together to get the sustainability agenda done.

Darden helped give me the confidence to be more bold. The case method definitely makes you more bold. Now, in my career, I am more confident sharing my opinion no matter who’s in the room. From a hard skill perspective, things like project management courses and finance have also been integral.

All of those [skills] help me be a better candidate and employee. Because my background isn’t in business, all of those skills were new to me coming into Darden.

What advice do you have for potential Future Year Scholars?

Run your own race and go into the experience knowing what you want to get out of it. Be clear on your “why” and stick to it. Take time to focus during the program because there’s a lot of competing priorities and different reasons people get an MBA.

I came in with a nontraditional background and I was open to a lot of different things. These niche skills made me unique, and that is what helped me get my current role. If you have something unique, don’t feel like you have to conform and fit this very specific mold. Stay true to who you are and build where you have gaps.

How has being a Future Year Scholar affected your career?

[The FYSP] opened a lot of doors for me that maybe would not have been opened without it. I expanded my network and got comfortable and confident with my expertise. It gave me the skills I needed to elevate my career to the next level.

Ready to take the next step?

Schedule a 1-on-1 conversation with a member of the Admission's Committee to dicern whether Darden't Future Year Scholar's Progam is right for you.