By Abigail Quinn

Rongwu Liang, originally from China, is a member of Darden’s Class of 2021. Before deciding to pursue his MBA, Rongwu took a less traditional route to Charlottesville, working as a civil engineer and contract manager in Colombo, Sri Lanka before coming to the United States. “I was really intrigued to work for this Chinese engineering firm because almost all of their projects are outside of China,” he said. His role allowed him to work with people from different cultures and travel throughout the region. Although Rongwu enjoyed his work in Sri Lanka, civil engineering is a stable and mature industry and he wanted to work in a more innovative field, given his passion for technological potential and applying tech developments to the business world. “I was not sure how much innovation I would have seen if I had stayed in the field,” he said, “and I knew I wanted to pivot into a more innovative function or industry.” With his background in engineering, Rongwu did not feel as though he had the tools necessary to move forward successfully in the business world; so, he came to Darden to develop his sense of business and sharpen his professional skillset.

His experiences in South Asia and other travels around the world provided him a unique perspective that enriches his classroom experience and case discussions with Darden peers. “I have seen the poorest of the poor in developing countries like Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, and I’ve also traveled to developed economies like the U.S., Singapore and the UAE. The lives that people live in these communities are vastly different, but there are always underlying human connections in and between every place,” he said. As a civil engineer, Rongwu built physical bridges in developing countries; “now”, he says, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and heightened political tensions around the world, “it is more important for us to build metaphorical bridges.”

Rongwu always felt welcome by the communities in which he worked, and at Darden he met “some of the most amazing and supportive people I’ve ever known.” In his first year at Darden, he bonded with his fellow students, served as Section C’s technology representative and even mixed the music for the section’s performance during the Darden Talent Show in the Darden Cup. Now, as a second year student, he is giving back through serving as the vice president of technology and communications for the Global Business and Culture Club (GBCC), helping people from across the diverse Darden community feel welcome and remain connected in this new virtual environment.

Rongwu was one of the masterminds behind turning GBCC’s flagship event, the Global Food Festival, into a virtual event this year, and he made sure that the event and all of its cultural richness shone through the technology, just as it would in person. “We set up the event so that it would be a fun experience for the cooking teams as well as a learning experience for those in each breakout room during the event. The teams not only had to cook a cuisine from a different culture than their own, but had to teach the participants in their breakout room more about the background and history of the cuisine, as well,” Rongwu said. “We are quite proud of the creative solution we came up with for the Global Food Festival as a virtual student event. It was a lot of fun for us!”

Rongwu hopes to go into an innovative sector following graduation, where he could push for innovations by bridging technology and industrial services. In all of his future endeavors, he will undoubtedly continue to foster relationships and bring a fresh perspective to the world around him, building bridges in any way that he can.

Rongwu (second from left on top row) and fellow GBCC board members and Darden classmates during the 2020 virtual Global Food Festival