Posts Tagged ‘charlottesville’

Typical Day at Darden – Video

This is a video from one of my typical days as a Second Year Darden student. I filmed this video on December 9th and it includes clips from first coffee, classes, and the halls of Darden.

Fall Colors

Charlottesville’s fall colors are exceptionally vibrant this year.  Kristy and I hiked up Old Rag (trail details) with another Darden couple two weekends ago and captured the following photos.

Old Rag is a 10 mile circuit hike located about 30 miles northwest of Charlottesville.  We left for the hike at 9:30am and arrived just in time to grab the last parking space at the trail head.  Apparently we weren’t the only people thinking this was a good weekend to enjoy the colors.  It took us about three hours to hike the four miles leading up to the summit and another two hours to hike the six miles back to our car.  The summit approach was fairly slow going  as the last mile is a rock scramble and we frequently had to wait for other people at points where hand-over-hand climbing was required.

Our weather was perfect and the hike provided some much needed exercise.  We all returned to Charlottesville physically tired and mentally refreshed.

Bear Sighting

There are many outdoor activities in the Charlottesville area including backpacking, whitewater rafting, caving, skiing, and many more [1].  My wife and I have taken advantage of this by planning a hike just about every weekend.  Sometimes our plans fall through (there is lots to do at Darden), but we probably hit the trail about twice a month during my first year.

Last weekend we hiked part of the Riprap trail off Skyline Drive.  After driving 45 minutes from Charlottesville, we parked and started our hike around 9:30am.  About one mile into the hike we passed a group of four that were running along the trail, which made us feel a little athletically inferior.  Thirty minutes further into our hike we heard lots of rustling and thought there was another group coming along the trail.  After pausing to look, we found ourselves staring at a big black bear about 30-40 yards away.  Maybe it’s because the bear didn’t look right at us, but for whatever reason neither of us were scared.  We just took a couple seconds, slowly turned around, and started walking back to our car while making quite a bit of noise along the way.

The picture of me above was taken about 5 minutes after seeing the bear.  We didn’t think to get a photo of the bear, which was probably the right decision anyway.  The photo on the right was taken along Skyline Drive.


1. If you are interested in seeing a full list of outdoor activities in Charlottesville, the UVA Outdoor Club is a good place to start. There is also an Outdoor Club at Darden.

Darden vs. XYZ

Last year around this time I was looking for opinions on Darden vs. Duke and Darden vs. Ross.  I applied to these schools in the first round and now had to decide between multiple offers of admission.  Although I had already ranked the schools (my rankings), now that I was accepted I wanted to directly compare my options.  This process was long and agonizing.  I solicited input from dozens of people and scoured the internet for articles on “Darden vs. Michigan” and “Darden vs. Fuqua”.  Here is a summary of the feedback I received:

Close friends and family – This group focused on the towns and communities rather than the MBA programs.  Basically, my friends and family thought I should attend the school where my wife and I would be happiest over the next two years.  Important considerations were my wife’s employment opportunities, the city’s attractiveness, and the community within the MBA program.  Darden was favored here as the employment opportunities in Michigan were bleak and Durham (Duke) is not a very desirable city compared to Charlottesville (see City of Charlottesville Awards).

Coworkers – While applying to business school I was working for a management consulting firm and 90% of my coworkers already had an MBA.  When I solicited opinions of coworkers, each would start by asking me several questions regarding my goals and then focus on helping me identify the programs that fit best with my development needs.  I was a little surprised that none of my coworkers felt one program was any better than the other, and the rankings were never mentioned.

Web search – My search of blog posts and internet forums did not provide much insight.  Many of the suggestions I found focused on one or two data points from the class profile and job placement data.  For example, last week I found a post that recommended school X to an Indian student because it had 35% international students compared to 30% at school Y.  However, in this case I happen to know that the international students at school Y are fairly diverse, whereas most international students at school X are from Asia.  While the data in these online posts is generally accurate, it’s not always relevant.  Also, employment data is biased towards the short term and generally provides very little insight on the long term career benefits of different MBA programs.

In hindsight, I had subconsciously picked my school months in advance and was only trying to reconcile my instinct with all the facts, logic, and opinions of others.  Going through this reconciliation process was valuable as I was able to identify my logical rational for attending Darden such that I could easily explain my decisions to others.  Based on my experience, here are some tips for deciding between business schools.

Trust your instinct– Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink discusses how our subconscious brain is more effective in making complicated multi-objective decisions then our conscious brain.  The argument is that we can consciously identify the differences between options but do a terrible job of assessing the importance of each difference.  The notion of “fit” is just another way of saying trust your instinct.

Visit the campus – this is the best way to assess how well you “fit” with the school.  When on campus, don’t spend time gathering information that’s available through other sources.  Instead, try to immerse yourself in the culture and gauge how well it “fits” with your own personality.

Don’t put too much weight in others’ opinions – these perspectives are the result of someone else’s goals, development needs, and values.  When asking the opinions of others, try to follow up with questions that identify the underlying rationale of the position.

Forget about the rankings – they do not take individual preferences into account.  Furthermore, they change every year.  For example, Darden’s BusinessWeek ranking has fluctuated between 5 and 14 over the past ten years.

Think both short and long term – don’t make decisions based only on short term considerations such as if your target company recruits at the school.  Getting a job is just the first use of an MBA; make sure to consider the 10-30 year time horizon.