Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I remember speaking to several students when I first came to Darden for my admissions interview.  They were so confident, so eloquent, brimming with potential and promise.  They seemed at ease, genuinely happy, and excited about their present and their future.  Their conversations and their answers to questions were so perfect and fluid it left me in awe.  At every opportunity, they jumped at the chance to offer their assistance and support, even though we'd met just minutes ago.  Even the way they walked was different.  It was as if they glided through the halls of the school, so sure of their way around, so sure of themselves.

I wondered if and when that would ever happen to me- a transformation.  Things felt so uncertain.  I felt like such a novice, an outsider.  I was stuck in a routine, concerned about my future and desperate for a change.  I thought about the transformatoin as I drove home to Nashville after the interview.  I thought about it as I waited eagerly for word from admissions, distracting myself with long hours at the TV station.  I even thought about it after being accepted, and after being enrolled.  Would I ever possess that ease and confidence I saw in those Darden students months ago?

The transformation was gradual.  There were moments when I thought it wouldn't happen at all.  Accounting was a foreign language I thought I'd never understand.  Classwork took up the whole day, from 8 am to 10 pm on countless nights.  Final interview after final interview came and went, and I began to wonder if I'd be left without a summer internship.  Did a former TV reporter with zero business experience really belong in marketing?

After making it through first quarter exams, I started to realize that maybe I was good enough.  My grades got progressively better through the year.  Then, I landed an incredible internship that gave me invaluable experience in marketing, innovation, and strategy.  All of a sudden, the clubs and groups that held events for me and other FYs to attend were now providing me with leadership opportunities.

I returned to Darden in August 2012 to finish the transformation.  They say Second Year is just as busy as the first, but your days are filled in completely different ways.  It's true.  There are First Years who are looking for advice, reassurance, and support.  There are events to be planned, projects to lead, friends to spend time with.  And yes, there is golf to be played.


Maybe it's a little bit funny.  Maybe it's nostalgic.  Maybe it's an accomplishment.  But with graduation just a month away, I have to admit: I am genuinely happy about today and excited for the future.  Conversations about all things Darden and business come so much more fluidly than ever before.  It is an honor and a privilege to help those whose life searching and career aspirations lead them here.

And, the ground beneath me feels light and airy as I walk through Flagler Courtyard on a beautiful spring day in Charlottesville.  Maybe I am floating through Darden in these last days, my stride accelerating and my footprints lightening as I prepare to fly away from this amazing place.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Moments from 2013

Hi Friends-

So there's no good excuse for the radio silence on this blog.  I had all these wonderful ideas, all these noble goals of reaching out to prospective new students, dishing out sage wisdom to First Years, and recounting the adventures of Second Year.

But here's the thing- I've been fortunate enough to reach out to prospective students through Admissions events, guiding tours of Darden, and my MBA.com video blogs.  I've been able to work with First Years as a SY coach, a Co-Director of Education and Career with the Marketing Club, and as a general buddy to countless Class of '14 members for whom I'm totally pulling for to do well in the internship search.

Lastly, the adventures of Second Year have apparently been so darn good that they've kept me from posting blogs.  Fortunately, my cousin Mikko started a website where participants write short entry each day about a moment in their lives.  A few have been about Darden and Charlottesville life so I'll share them here:

January 7th

It never ceases to amaze me when I notice the ease of the conversations we have at Family Dinner. We’ve tried to do one every week or so for the past year and a half with great success. Sister-in-law Liz was out of town (her presence, caring, and high pitch giggle are always missed) so it was just Jeff, Beth, Aaron and I. Still, you’d have to strain your ears to catch any lull in the conversation. Talk flows effortlessly between the Denver Broncos, school, Beth’s job, the delicious shrimp cakes, crazy college stories, the upcoming bachelor party, and countless other first rate topics.

The National Championship game was a dud, but it didn’t matter. There was a great episode of 60 Minutes on DVR, Trader Joe’s desserts, red wine, and more laughter than anyone could hope to count on. We simply have a great time being together.

“…I think this will likely be the two best years of our lives,” I remember my bestest friend Jeff telling me before we started grad school together. With nights like this, how could you argue to the contrary?

January 12th (about a hike some SYs and I took in Shenendoah)

I couldn’t stand getting dirty as a kid. My socks had to be perfectly white, I hated walking barefoot, and mud was an abomination.

Maybe I’m subconsciously trying to make up for all those things as an adult. Some friends and I are out for a hike in the Shenendoah Valley, and I wear my Vibram Fivefingers. Ever since Mikko and I’s trip to Yosemite, they’re the only footwear I’ll use for hikes.

The hyperthin soles connect you to the ground like nature intended. Your toes, arch, and heel, normally sandwiched in a conventional shoe, all work in beautiful symphony to keep you moving, balanced, fluid. So I jump from stone to stone like a little kid, yelling “hah!” when the pace quickens. The mud squishes up between my toes, the water in the streams we cross is frigid and numbs my feet.

I love every second of it.

Sadie and Fender stride along in front of me, and I know they feel the same way.

January 14th (Okay this isn't about Darden but it's about a show I saw with a classmate a couple weeks ago)

Jon Spencer flings sweat off his mangy black locks, as he strafes across the stage, wailing on his beat-up guitar. Every once in awhile, he drops into rock star pose, his left knee hitting the stage, his leather pants stretched to their limit.

Spencer eats the microphone more than he sings into it. He literally envelopes it, spit flying every where as he yells “Blues Explosion!” and other somewhat recognizable words.

Next to him, Judah Bauer is shredding away on his guitar. He is absolutely killing it, but you’d never know by just looking at his face. Judah is the most oddly calm performer I have ever seen, and his expression resembles that of a man walking down the cereal aisle of the grocery store. In the meanwhile, his fingers flicker and dance across the frets and strings as he unleashes a torrent of lead licks, rhythm chords, and even a base line.

Behind Judah, Russell Simins sits on the drumkit, destroying his snare and cymbals. He looks like a drunken trucker or a lazy mechanic, but in reality he is a killer drummer. Simins isn’t fancy, isn’t particularly intricate, but he is always. in. the. pocket.

The auditorium swims with angry notes, power chords, reverb, dark stage lights, and Spencer’s bombastic voice. Our heads bob, we throw our hands in the air, and we shout out words of adulation and praise to the band.

Long live rock and roll music.

January 17th:

I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed being a student again. There’s something beautiful, satisfying, and overwhelming about realizing how much there is left to be learned, even at 30.

Today was the best day of classes in my entire second year of business school. I can’t point to one class, one professor, or one moment to prove why it is so. Instead, it was a combination of many things- the joy of a professor getting to teach a beloved pricing elective for the first time, the excitement of a young guest speaker walking us through his most recent consulting project about getting a bowling alley company back on its feet, the sheer enthusiasm surrounding a discussion about The Great Gatsby in our ethics class.

For a moment, I wish I could be a student forever.

Then I realize that in many ways I can, and will, be.

January 23rd:

I’d like to think that by the time we’re in grad school, “cliques” should be a thing of the past. The sad truth is, we usually segment ourselves and form little groups just as if we were in middle school all over again.

Tonight was an exercise in the opposite. Part of my Business Ethics Through Literature class is a weekly dinner with a randomly assigned group of classmates. The idea is that we’ll get together to talk about the books and short stories over a home cooked meal and some good wine.

I hosted our inaugural meeting tonight, and served shrimp stirfry- a go to dish. The food and the books were just a starting point, though. For an hour and a half, seven classmates (two guys I was friends with, two girls I vaguely know before today, an international student, a foreign exchange student, and me) talked about careers, school, literature, and life.

Push your comfort zone boundaries, and welcome new people into your home and your life with an open heart and a big smile. This tactic has seldom led me astray.