Real Humans of UVA Darden’s MBA Class of 2021
Alexander Jones, Darden’s MBA Class of 2021
Hometown: Annapolis, MD
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Brown University, Political Philosophy & Ethics
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 3.5 Legislative Aide for Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA); 2 years as a Community Health Volunteer in Peace Corps Rwanda
Why business school? Why now?
In my work both on Capitol Hill and in Rwanda, I saw firsthand how the financial sector can be an incredible force in improving people’s lives. With access to a healthy financial market, the pharmaceutical industry can afford to take on the huge risk of developing new drugs. With access to global capital, the Rwandan government is able to build roads, distribute food, and provide innovative technology to the communities that need them the most.
Business school will provide me the hard skills and I need so I can be a leader in the world of finance, and work with the companies and governments that need capital to get positive things done.
Why Darden? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
My primary goal in business school is to learn the material and the skills that will make me a better and more knowledgeable leader. There is no better place to do that than at Darden. I’m making a huge investment in myself and my career, so I want to be pushed hard and challenged academically, and Darden is a world-renowned school for precisely that reason.
What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2021?
While I spent a few years a bit self-conscious about my liberal arts Philosophy degree, I think there has been no more positive influence on post-college career than my undergraduate concentration. In our increasingly noisy world, the ability to write concisely, define terms clearly, and dissect arguments is a crucial skill that I’m grateful to be able to bring to the Class of 2021.
Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
In Rwanda I hiked to the top of Bisoke Volcano with a group of my best friends. But I wore flat-bottomed sneakers on a trail covered in fresh mud from rainy season. Going down the volcano, I slipped and fell into the mud no less than once every five minutes on a 3-hour descent, which beat up my body and almost broke my spirit. After a cold Mutzig beer that night, my friends all felt comfortable enough to have a good laugh at my expense.
Post-MBA career interests?
Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I knew my objective numbers were a little weak for the schools I applied to, so I poured everything I had into the essays. I think writing with clarity and authenticity is what stood out to the admissions committee at Darden and prompted them to give me a chance with an interview. My advice is don’t underestimate the essays and tell the truth when you write.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
I wish I could have visited Darden earlier, before I had left for Peace Corps. Visiting schools is a huge part of the application process that I wasn’t able to do because I was serving abroad. If I could change anything, I would have launched my business school search far before I left and made sure to meet students and faculty so I could compare cultures and asses fit. I got lucky though; Darden was the only school I was able to visit, which I did over the Christmas break of 2018. I knew right away that this was the place I wanted to be.
–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Waiting around to hear back from schools was a nightmare! Deliberately putting my phone away and closing my computer was the only thing that kept me sane. My foolproof anxiety reliever was to leave my house, take a few tennis balls and a broom handle and play home run derby with the kids in my village. You have to put down your email and go live your life. I guarantee you’ll forget (at least for a little while) that you’re anxious about hearing back from schools.
What is your initial impression of Darden’s students/culture/community?
I’m baffled every day by how interesting my classmates are. The first few weeks have been a whirlwind with constantly meeting all 335 of my fellow First-Years – I don’t think I’ve had a single slow conversation yet. I’m lucky to get to hang out with people who come from all over the world and who have all had really cool jobs and responsibilities. It’s a constant opportunity to learn new things and hear new diverse opinions.
One thing you have learned about Darden that has surprised you?
The professors here live up to the hype. They are a collection of brilliant and accomplished adults and their ability to steer class discussions while also making jokes and keeping things light is fun to watch. They remember names and tidbits of information with amazing speed, which allows them to involve every single person in the room. It makes the classroom a really engaging place.
Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
As far as business school students go, I’m just about as non-traditional as it gets. Naturally I’m a little nervous about staying on top of the quantitative and accounting material. Luckily, I have my Learning Team, a collection of 5 other First-Years from diverse work backgrounds, who I can talk things through with and who are forced to tolerate my silly questions!
Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m an athlete at heart, so to be down here in beautiful Charlottesville with open fields everywhere and a class full of eager participants is a dream come true. The other day I played a full round of golf in the morning with one group of buddies, then played soccer in the afternoon with another.
There’s pickup basketball happening all the time. There’s a full gym essentially right next to the classroom building. Being on a team and playing sports are incredibly powerful ways to connect with people, and I’m lucky to be in a place that gives me that opportunity again.