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Real Humans of UVA Darden’s MBA Class of 2021

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Jeremy Rosenthal, Darden’s MBA Class of 2021

Jeremy Rosenthal, Darden’s MBA Class of 2021

Age: 30
Hometown: Miami, FL
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Bachelor’s Degree in History and Journalism from the University of Miami; Master’s Degree in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): I spent eight years working in education in a variety of functions, including as a teacher and as a program manager at an education nonprofit.

Why business school? Why now?
Ultimately, I plan to return to the education space. Leaders within this space are tasked with making a big impact with often limited resources. In today’s climate, more than ever, there is an expectation that the decisions they make be grounded in data. Given the complex and high-stakes nature of this work, the MBA has emerged as a popular credential for education leaders. Especially coming from a non-business background, I felt that I needed to bolster my management skills if I want to eventually lead meaningfully within this space.

In terms of my timeline, it was important for me to have had some experience managing teams before I started business school, both to further develop as a leader, but also to confirm that I wanted to be in a leadership role in the first place. In my last two jobs, I had a chance to lead some amazing teams, after which I felt ready to take on business school.

Why Darden? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
A love for learning has been a continuity across my life. It is what first got me interested in pursuing a career in education. It is also what brought me to Darden, a school rightfully renowned for its teaching faculty and their expert use of the case method to deliver instruction.

I always aspired to make my classroom one in which there was an open dialogue, in which students grappled together with tough concepts on their way to mastering those concepts, and in which mistakes were seen as opportunities for deeper learning.

The same is true of the Darden classroom. Watching Darden professors at work is truly #teachergoals as another former teacher and current Darden student put it. As someone coming to business school without a ton of content knowledge, attending a school where genuine learning is top-priority was even more important.

Attending a school that shares my values around diversity and inclusion was also important to me as the son of a Cuban immigrant, and as someone who has worked at schools at either end of an achievement gap that is deep and wide.

As a member of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Darden has demonstrated a commitment to increasing the representation of minority students in business school and in management. This commitment doesn’t stop at the Consortium, either; the Darden community as a whole is one that values diversity in all of its dimensions.

Perhaps the biggest Darden differentiator hit me at a gut level: I was blown away by how kind and accommodating everyone I encountered during the admissions process was, from admissions staff, to current students, to alumni. Most of this came down to them just being genuinely nice people, but they also effused a love for this place and a desire to share it with others that sealed the deal for me.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2021?
As will be true for each and every one of my classmates, I’ll bring the sum of my unique experiences with me to the classroom each day. For me personally, as someone who has worked with marginalized populations, I hope that I can be a reminder to my peers to think about how business decisions might disproportionately and negatively impact certain populations.

And, though it is as yet untested, I hope that my teaching experience can come in handy when it comes to preparing for cases with my learning team. Not to mention, I make really good chocolate chip cookies and I’m always happy to share!

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I was on an episode of Trading Spaces Family, a home redecorating show for those that don’t know the reference. They painted my family’s living room orange and black, which we then called the “Halloween Room” for the ensuing year or so until we re-painted it.

Post-MBA career interests?
Although I do hope to return to education, I am planning to pursue a career in management consulting post-MBA.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I am glad that I applied using the Consortium application (check it out if you are a Black, Hispanic, or Native American prospective student, or if you are otherwise dedicated to increasing their representation in business).

Applying via Consortium streamlines the admissions process through a common application in which you can apply to up to 6 of 20 top business schools at once for a reduced fee (though each school also includes a supplement).

If you are accepted to one of the Consortium schools, you have a chance at a scholarship, and you are inducted into an awesome network of people also dedicated to diversity and inclusion in business. Another perk is that you get to meet your fellow Consortium members during the summer, ahead of starting classes, at a weeklong Orientation Program in which you can begin the networking and recruiting process.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I was entirely too geographically focused during the business school application process, to the point that Darden didn’t land on my radar until just a few days before applications were due. In hindsight, business school is just 21 months, less your summer internship, and Darden has national and international reach in terms of recruiting. Not to mention, Charlottesville and the broader University of Virginia communities are both absolutely wonderful. I have been so impressed by this town and I regret not considering it sooner – it would have saved me a few half-hearted applications to other schools.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Interviews! I really tend to buckle under the pressure of interviews. What helped at Darden, though, was that it was completely conversational and open-ended, which lent itself to a more pleasant and (I’d like to think) stronger interview overall.

What is your initial impression of Darden’s students/culture/community?
My initial impression has honestly been, “Wow, these people know their stuff.” I think I’m a bit hyper-aware of the considerable business acumen that many of my peers are bringing with them to the classroom, for the very reason that I do not YET have that particular skill set.

There are definitely a number of students who, like me, are coming to Darden without a broad business knowledge base, but we have been assured that we will catch up soon enough.

I am eagerly awaiting the day when I can fluently speak to “NPV” and “IRR” and “tax shields.” But until that day, this community is one that is incredibly supportive, which has really been the biggest takeaway for me in terms of Darden’s culture: collaboration is baked into the educational framework here. From learning teams, to sections, the emphasis is on collective rather than on individual success.

One thing you have learned about Darden that has surprised you?
My first and only visit to Darden before enrolling at Darden was during spring break due to scheduling conflicts, so I had no idea what all the hype was about when it came to the immense school and – especially – section spirit that exists here. I am in section E, the mascot for which is a banana. On day 1, everyone started coordinating bulk orders for banana-printed shirts and various yellow-hued accessories. Go Section E!

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
As I mentioned above, I am eagerly (and anxiously) awaiting the day when I will be more fluent with business terminology and content. It is sometimes daunting to think of all that I have to learn, but there are few places better to learn about business than here at Darden.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
It’s such a teacher answer, but the thing I’m most excited about is the flip side of what I’m most anxious about: I’m excited to one day master the very concepts which are currently anxiety-inducing.

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.