Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oh Really, What Frat Are You In?

God I used to hate that question in undergrad (Well, unless I was talking to a co-ed who thought my fraternity was cool). The point is, though, that at Darden you really don’t have to worry about cliques and that is pretty great. Sure, everyone is in groups (your learning team, section, career focus) but in the end, we are all Darden students and that counts more than anything. I don’t think I realized that until the 100 Case Party this past weekend.
Let’s think about that for a second. Everyone in my first-year class has read, evaluated, and discussed 100 different business cases, 100 different companies, 100 different industries, 100 different unique problems in just over two months. And the cases weren’t different for anyone in our 300+ person class; we all looked at the same problems and thought about the same issues. That’s really different from almost any other type of school experience, and all you needed to do to understand the impact of that was attend Darden’s 100 Case Party this past Sunday night.
Let’s ignore the fact that it was an amazing 80’s party. Let’s ignore the fact that my Learning Team decided to dress at the original Breakfast Club + the Principal (Xinlei, you are the man). Let’s ignore the sheer amount of alcohol consumed in the name of being awesome. I’d rather focus on the fact that it was a class-wide party of over 300 people celebrating a single (and only initial) feat: completing the first test of one of the world’s most demanding business schools.
I had no idea how many people I knew or how close I had grown with them until Sunday night. Everyone I ran into either threw me a high-five (the wannabe entrepreneurs and marketers) or a celebratory hand-shake (the wannabe bankers and consultants). It didn’t matter if it was section mate who I had spent the past 2 months discussing business five hours a day with or a random classmate who I had sat through a career conference talking about where I see the job market going in the next five years. We all just partied like it was 2007 (when the economy was good). I can’t tell you what a fun and revealing night it was, although I admit I didn’t realize it until my mind finally cleared the next morning (ok more like 3pm).
Ok, that’s a lot of random thoughts, but seriously it’s amazing how much my outlook has changed since August. To summarize, business school (or at the very least Darden) is incredible in its ability to unite people of a common thread, those that like to work hard and play even harder. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to be here. It’s not the easiest thing, but the challenge is well worth the reward. And I don’t mean the work is worth the sick job/career you get when you leave. It’s worth it for the late nights (both studying, networking, and neither), the people, and the experience. College is the best.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why the Fall is Awesome

Probably the greatest thing about being back in school for me is the chance to be in the Shenandoah Valley for this time of year. From late September to early November I can safely say there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be than rural Virginia. The weather is perfect for me: warm during the day, cool at night, always with a nice breeze. I'm not really one for nature (I hate, repeat, hate hiking) but I love to drive out of C'ville to the nearby country side and take in some of the views, which are absolutely amazing once the leaves change color.

This is what it's all about this time of year

But really, it's more than that. College football and the NFL are in full-swing which make the weekend days both busy (with tailgates, going out, watching your friends cry when their undergrad school loses) and relaxing (when you are a tired from said activities the day before). Everyone pretty much knows what is coming soon (winter) and is maximizing their activities. There are all sorts of festivals, weekends and events taking place. In fact, let’s just take a look at my schedule so far and upcoming this Fall:

Last weekend was the International Food Festival (which was a show; seriously check out the pictures on Darden’s flickr page: I am still full from last weekend and was shocked to learn that Ireland actually has good food. This weekend is UVA’s homecoming, which I intend to treat no differently than I did my homecoming in undergrad (to summarize Andy Bernard-style: Bars, Beers, Buzzed, Wings, Shots, Drunk, Football: UVA-UNC, Slaughter, then back to my place for a quick nap before we hit the town). Then the next weekend we have exams before the 100 Case party. That’s 100 class cases, not 100 cases of beer. I’m sure the actual number of cases consumed will be much more than that. And then the next weekend is Darden’s Halloween party. Feel free to comment below on suggested costumes, as I’m having a hard time thinking of ways to top last year (I’ve included that picture as well).  

Wow, writing this just made me realize how awesome the next few weeks are going to be. Besides all that class, exam, and career stuff of course. Maybe it’s because the fall here also reminds me of being back in college, or because I am actually back in school, but I haven’t been this happy in a long time despite being busier than ever. Speak of which, I need to go; I’ve got another briefing in 10 minutes.

I'm the Tiger

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Winning the Cup

To say that I like competition is like saying that nerds like math. I am so competitive that if I can't win or be the best at something, then I pretty much don't want to do it at all (see golf, a.k.a. the worst game ever invented). Luckily for me, it seems that I was placed with the one group of students at Darden that pretty much feels exactly the same way I do. That would be, of course, Section E. We have a simple mission: to be the smartest, coolest, most amazing group of 65 students this school has ever seen. It doesn't matter if its a forecasting exercise in our Decision Analysis class, having the most students at TNDC, or even a basic simulations to learn operations. We want to be awesome at everything, and to be honest, so far we are.

Enter Darden Cup, the single best way for a section to demonstrate its awesomeness. Darden Cup tests a section's talent, teamwork, and dedication through a series of events between each of the five first-year sections. The events range from Trivia Night last week (we really dominated this one) to a charity 5k in April with pretty much every sport in between. Sections get points both for winning an event and having their members & faculty come out to watch. Did I mention Section E has won two years in a row and we are attempting to establish a dynasty with our third in a row?

Which brings me to softball.  As a former Division III baseball player with no chance of playing competitively again, Darden Cup softball somewhere between passing my classes and actually getting a job in terms of importance. This was my time to shine and I went all out. Eye black, cleats, new glove, bandana - all check. Insane desire to win: check mate.

I made some solid contact right here

There was only one problem, and their name was Section B. After cruising to the championship, we were pretty sure we had the event in hand until they decided to hit a couple of home runs and take a 6-0 lead in the top of the first. We tried our best to come back but fell just short, 9-8. It was a great game. Special shout out to S, our athletic rep and team captain, and D (guy), J (girl), and S (girl) for awesome performances. Also I would especially like to congratulate my buddy B on section B's team for letting a ground ball go right between his legs despite having played professional baseball prior to b-school. Stellar job man, stellar.

We also have crushed B in all events since Softball and are currently enjoying a comfortable lead in the overall Darden Cup standings. Many, many events still to come but I have no doubt that we will prevail. And yes, just to be petty, I'm going to tell you my stats from Darden Cup Softball: 6-8, 3 doubles, 5 runs, 5 RBI. Insane need for competition: fulfilled.

If you would like to contact the author, he can be reached at