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Local High-Schoolers Taste MBA Student Life at Darden’s Black Business Student Forum

The organizers of the Black Business Student Forum at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business chose a distinct approach for the 25th anniversary of the annual gathering earlier this month: They invited students from the greater Charlottesville community to live “A Day in the Life of an MBA.”  

The seminar engaged dozens of area teens from Albemarle, Charlottesville, Monticello and Western Albemarle high schools with the goal of positively influencing the trajectory of young lives.

There is no better way to experience a day in the life of a Darden MBA than to participate in a case discussion, the hallmark of the Darden curriculum. Through case studies, professors interact with students in a search for answers to resolve business challenges posed. The infamous “cold call” is the method by which professors call on specific students to answer questions. Students have no idea who will be chosen. 

Darden professors Greg Fairchild and Erika James led the high school students in case discussions about risks and potential rewards for a venture capital firm considering investing in a tutoring services provider. The high schoolers’ case method experience mirrored that of Darden MBA students.  

“What is Ascend Ventures, Mr. Best?” Fairchild asked. 

While Western Albemarle student Brian Best was preparing his answer, Fairchild told him he should cold call another student.    

One of Best’s classmates, Kai Millner, wowed the class when he accurately explained one way venture capital firms earn money.

“They receive shares, which are sort of like stocks, from the companies they invest in,” he said. Western Albemarle student Vince Brookins went on to explain the role venture capital companies play in funding startups.    

After analyzing the proposed challenges and the opportunities, Fairchild asked the students if they would make the leap and invest in the tutoring company. Most said yes; some said no, explaining that they would not want to take such a risk.

 “The level of your desire to take risks is something that you should know about yourself,” Fairchild said. “With entrepreneurship, there are second acts. If you fail, you can start over again.”

As for the real-life venture capital firm, it did invest in the tutoring company. The company performed well for two years before going bankrupt. However, the company’s leaders regrouped. Today, they successfully operate in another educational sphere.

Following the case discussions, students attended a career panel moderated by Darden professor Martin Davidson. The alumni panelists included 2010 Darden graduate Teri Alexander, manager in the Program Management Office of Marriott International’s global operations services; 2009 alumnus Andre Fowlkes , senior business intelligence analyst at Surescripts LLC; 1987 alumnus Raymond C. Lambert, who works in the fields of entertainment, investment banking and consumer products; 2009 grad Chinesom Ejiasa, director at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation within its Department of Investment Funds; 1991 grad Ray Griffin, commercial finance industry executive; 1991 alumna Carol Muleta, co-founder and managing partner at Gardener Parenting Consultants LLC; and 2001 graduate Khary Scott, senior director of business development for Capital One.  

The group discussed career paths and academic and personal growth.

Keynote speaker Stacie Scott, executive director of workforce development at the United Way of the National Capital Area, spoke with teens about her life as a first-generation college graduate.

She recalled taking advantage of multiple opportunities that led her to her ultimate mission-driven purpose. She founded a nonprofit organization to connect girls in foster care with positive opportunities.

“Don’t be afraid to take a winding road,” Scott told the students.

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