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Real Humans of UVA Darden’s MBA Class of 2021

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Joan Cannon, Darden’s MBA Class of 2021

Joan Cannon, Darden’s MBA Class of 2021

Age: 25
Hometown: Kington, Ontario, Canada
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Princeton University, Geosciences major with a certificate in Environmental Studies
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 4.5 years, environmental nonprofit & renewable energy industries

Why business school? Why now?
I chose business school now for a few distinct reasons. I see a need to strengthen my leadership and fundamental business skills. I want to expand and challenge my understanding of, and perspectives on, global issues and business practices by immersing myself in a collaborative learning environment for future world leaders, where I can learn from peers and educators with diverse backgrounds. I want to build my cross-cultural business and market knowledge in the classroom and through hands-on experiences like the Darden Worldwide courses.

Why Darden? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
The 3 most important factors that I considered when picking Darden as my MBA school were: 1) the community culture, (2) the quality of education, and (3) the school’s mission.

The Darden community is family, and you feel that support, warmth, and closeness from every single Darden student, faculty, staff, and alumni. Darden is consistently ranked as one of the top MBA schools for the quality of its professors and it is true. Not only are Darden faculty stellar teachers and researchers, they are also great mentors who always have their doors open to students looking for help or advice & even dedicate their time to off-campus activities with students like hikes and dinner parties.

Finally, Darden’s mission is to “improve the world by inspiring responsible leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences.” From top to bottom, the school is dedicated to creating responsible business leaders, and I am inspired to learn and grow everyday with this mission in mind.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2021?
Everyone brings something unique to Darden that adds value to the classroom and the community as a whole. I believe my most valuable contribution to my Darden class year is my commitment to social impact in all facets of my life.

I’m committed to building supportive, diverse communities by investing my time and resources to support the success of others around me. I’m committed to being an environmental changemaker by choosing a career path where I can address critical global environmental issues for the betterment of society.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I can hit a 127 mph tennis serve!

Post-MBA career interests?
After graduation, I plan to accept a management position with a leading national or international non-profit, intergovernmental agency or company in the environmental, sustainability and/or renewable energy industries. Eventually, I aspire to lead my own organization in one of these fields.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I would absolutely visit Darden’s campus during the application process again. I did my campus visit during one of the Darden Days admitted student weekends and this campus visit sealed the deal for me to attend the school. You get to experience a real case class discussion, get a feel for the Darden community bonds, and meet your potential future classmates.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I did not speak to many Darden alumni about their experience at Darden, but I think these conversations would have been extremely helpful in my application and decision processes.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Studying for the GRE while working a full-time job was time-consuming. The last thing I wanted to do after a long day at work was more studying/work. To help me get through this study period, I enlisted the help of a friend of mine who was also applying to MBA programs. We became accountability partners for each other, where we would check in with each other after work to motivate ourselves to keep studying.

What is your initial impression of Darden’s students/culture/community?
Down-to-earth, friendly, supportive, fun, and open-minded are just some of the words that come to mind when describing the Darden community. Everyone wants to help everyone else in the Darden family. No one is backing stabbing someone else to get better grades in the classroom or trying to take an internship from someone else … everyone’s focus is on raising each other up so we all succeed together.

One thing you have learned about Darden that has surprised you?
Everyone wants to meet and get to know you! I met Dean Scott Beardsley in my second week on campus, and he makes time to stop and chat every time we see each other in the hallways now.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
So many cases. We work through ~500 cases during our 2-year program. It truly is a transformational learning process, but you need to put in the work to get there.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
So many new friends! Darden students are a truly inspirational and friendly group of people, and I’m excited to be on this journey to life-long friendships with all of them.

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.