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Real Humans of MBA Students: UVA Darden MBA Class of 2023

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uva mba class of 2023Myles Stroud, UVA Darden MBA Class of 2023

Age: 28
Hometown: Derby, KS
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Harvard, Government
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Almost 5 years as an Infantry Officer in the United States Marine Corps

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
When I made the decision to leave the Marine Corps, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I was fortunate enough to be deployed with a mentor that had transitioned from Active Duty to the Reserves and completed his MBA (at Darden nonetheless). Hearing his story about combining his Marine Corps experience with a business education and applying those skills to whatever problems got thrown at him really resounded with me. I always want to add value to whatever team I’m on and I thought that earning an MBA before jumping into the business world would help me accomplish that.

Why did you choose UVA Darden? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I felt like I needed a place that is truly academically rigorous (and Darden is). Given my professional and educational background, I wanted to go somewhere that was going to give me the opportunity to soak up the most information as quickly as possible. Some people roll their eyes when you mention the case method, but I was not looking forward to 2 years of lecture-based classes. Darden has world class faculty, but most of the learning has been from my peers.

Also, Charlottesville, VA, is an absolutely awesome place. If you like the outdoors, UVA Darden should be on your short list. My partner Jenn, dog Cooper, and I get out to Shenandoah National Park at least once a week.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
This can be a stressful time in a lot of people’s lives. I think I do a good job of keeping things in perspective for myself and anyone in my orbit. There are a lot of really important decisions to be made and things to accomplish in two short years. It’s easy to get bogged down with the day-to-day. I do my best to make sure people aren’t missing the forest for the trees. It’s a stress-inducing time, but we will all make it out alive with great career opportunities.

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I really enjoy woodworking. Woodshop was my favorite class in high school. It’s really meditative for me. There’s a high degree of problem solving involved, and I really enjoy the challenge and sense of accomplishment, even if my work isn’t “show room” quality.

Post-MBA career interests:
I’m really focused on consulting right now. My #1 priority is being in a strong team environment. I really like the idea of being a generalist for a few years and experiencing all the business world has to offer.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Reach out and talk to a ton of current students and alumni. Don’t just ask about the upsides of each program. Ask about the downsides as well. Sometimes that’s more impactful on the decision-making process.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I think I would attack the essays differently. I don’t think you need to start writing them super early, but it definitely helps if you keep track of important experiences that could be useful once you really start brainstorming. Don’t just have your best friend read them once you write them. Maybe ask your best friend’s spouse or someone that doesn’t know your story as well. It will really help when getting feedback.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I would have loved to skip the standardized testing portion. It is just such a grind, especially if you haven’t seen that kind of material in several years. The great thing is that it really is a learnable skill. You practice, strategize, and assess. Rinse repeat. I just reminded myself that it was only one part of my application, and I only needed a score that would give me a fighting chance.

What is your initial impression of the UVA Darden students/culture/community?
This is a work hard, play hard environment. The academic work is grueling, so we love to unwind together. The faculty and administration get in on the fun as well. It’s been great to get to know the Darden community outside the halls of school.

What is one thing you have learned about UVA Darden that has surprised you?
The amount of support that is available from the faculty, administration, professional/affinity clubs, second years, and peers. Paradoxically, it’s almost overwhelming how many people are willing to lend their time to make sure that your Darden experience is everything that you want it to be. Everyone wants success for everyone else and we all are willing to do whatever we can to help achieve that.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
COVID-19 has really impacted the way that business schools operate from admissions to classes and recruiting. One of the huge benefits was the ability to be in multiple places at one time. Instead of trekking around the country for a 30-minute interview at each school, I was able to knock them all out virtually. For applicants where travel might pose a financial barrier or those who can’t get away from work, I think it’s a huge positive. I hope that schools leave that option open in the coming years.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Finding the right balance. It can be tough to prioritize and sometimes your priorities shift daily. It might be class one day and recruiting for the next two. I have a ton of support though. From Darden’s Second year coaches to the Darden Military Association, there has been an endless supply of folks willing to help me forge my path.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
UVA athletics! There is a great sports culture here. I have really enjoyed all the sports so far, but I’m super excited for basketball season and March Madness.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.