Surprise Party!

Yiwen (Jennifer) Zhang (Class of 2018) recalled that one of the most touching moments during her first year at Darden was being part of Professor Phillip Pfeifer’s last class before his retirement after 37 years at the School. “We threw a surprise party for him on the last day of class and it was just incredible- Section C!,” Jennifer shared. “I had the honor to be in this professor’s last Decision Analysis class at Darden and it was amazing to realize that the first case he wrote at Darden was done before I was even born. It speaks to the community we have that people dedicate their life’s work to this place.”

Jennifer always knew that she wanted to pursue an MBA in the United States and, through word of mouth, learned about Darden and its reputation. “The Darden admissions team hosted a session in a hotel across the street from where I was working in consulting.” Jennifer attended the session, applied to several business schools in the U.S. and eventually selected Darden because of the case method and unique environment.

“Personally, I recognized that it was challenging for me to talk and share opinions in public and I saw the case method as a good chance to get more practice speaking up, especially in another language. Plus, recruiting is about the same no matter which program you go through, but the student experience offered at different schools really differentiates them. I also knew I’d like the weather in Virginia and was looking for a more authentic U.S. college town experience. I can stay in big cities for work, but Charlottesville provides a great environment for studying.”

Jennifer found connections and common interests across clubs within the Darden community. From mingling with people from a similar background to enjoying a soju tasting and Korean barbeque to going on a tech trek to visit companies in the Silicon Valley, Jennifer has both found and given support to the Darden community through clubs. As a first year, she was appointed a mentor in the second year class who helped her navigate the MBA experience and recruiting though Darden’s Graduate Women in Business Club. As a second year, she has taken on a leadership role in the Asian Business Club at Darden, serving as VP of Careers and working to get first year students more information about how to recruit internationally.

Over the summer, Jennifer interned in Tencent’s strategy development department, based in Shenzhen, China.  Jennifer worked on several projects over the summer with Tencent social ads business, mainly focusing on doing strategy and operation analysis of social advertisements business, . “It was a good experience. I saw everything from strategy to implementation, which gave me a good overall picture of the business. The Tencent community is strong and taught me a lot, as well as cemented my desire to work in a tech firm after graduation.”

Jennifer suggests that anyone considering an MBA degree think carefully about their motivates and how the degree aligns with their greater purpose. “It is intense. I think that compared to some work, like consulting, it is even more intense. Be ready to rise to the challenge and understand that there is no balance- there are opportunities to do it all here and in order get the most out of it, you need to engage fully in academics, recruiting, and social events. Sometimes during the process, you will feel bad and overwhelmed, but if you keep at it, you will improve and all of your hard work will pay off.”

Jennifer (second from right) and Darden Learning Team colleagues enjoy an evening on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.