Originally from China, first year student Sharon Zhou (Class of 2022) moved to the U.S. to pursue higher education in human resources at Michigan State University (MSU). After working in the U.S. for several years, she joined the residential MBA Class of 2022 and is now the president of the Global Business and Culture Club (GBCC) at Darden. Sharon took time to share her first year experience with the Center for Global Initiatives

By Abigail Quinn

Before coming to Charlottesville, Sharon Zhou (Class of 2022) worked in human resources providing others with the tools they need to develop professionally; now, as an MBA student and president of the Global Business and Culture Club (GBCC), she focuses on developing her personal growth as well as facilitating others’. “I am originally from China, and I studied business administration and English before coming to the United States for higher education at Michigan State,” she says. At MSU, Sharon studied human resources where her goal was “to be a facilitator of other people’s success.” She worked for a manufacturing company’s HR branch in Tennessee and Indiana before deciding to try a different path. “I wanted to branch out into strategy-related roles, so I looked into MBA programs and Darden landed at the top of my list.”

Sharon’s application process was not typical due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was in China visiting family and ended up not allowed to leave the country during lockdown. My Darden interview was completely virtual and took place late at night given the time zone difference, but thankfully, that did not stop me from getting in.” While she was in China, Sharon left her full-time job and took an internship for a startup in Shenzhen for two months before beginning her MBA journey. “I knew that the pandemic would not end anytime soon, so I decided to branch out and take a risk while I had the time,” she says.

When Sharon arrived on Grounds, she joined Darden Capital Management through which she helps manage the Monticello Fund. She is also a Darden Innovation Fellow, helping Darden leadership to come up with new advancement projects and creative ways to improve the community. “My inbox is always jammed with club emails on Sunday nights before the week begins,” she says, “but I value all of these extracurricular experiences.”

Sharon now leads the Global Business and Culture Club as president. “I knew that I wanted to join an international affinity club and I believed that GBCC would be the best use of my skills. Even before coming to Darden, I heard about the legendary Global Food Festival that the club coordinates!” To Sharon, a global element is key to an MBA experience as business students are future global business leaders. “Our board wants to increase the global exposure of Darden students and to create new programs that will allow them to interact with even more cultures, especially since our class did not have the opportunity to participate in first-year Darden Worldwide Courses due to the pandemic.”

During her first year at Darden, Sharon learned the power of her own voice. “The courage of my classmates who present in Darden Stories events inspires me to speak up for myself and to share my story,” she says. In the classroom, she also appreciates seeing her fellow students share their opinions during case discussions. “These experiences made me reflect on how I use my voice to speak up for what I believe and how I can use it going forward,” and motivated her to speak up in the wake of spiking anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. over the past year. “I began to use my social media platform to facilitate discussions, speak my mind and raise awareness. Additionally, I am a board member at a non-profit, Patchwork Indy, and I encouraged the group to issue a statement condemning anti-Asian hate crimes and violence.”

Encouraged by other students leveraging their voices in the classroom and beyond, Sharon realized the importance of her own voice at Darden and will continue to advocate for herself and others in her second year.