Time Magazine Journalist Dives Into Darden First Year

By Dave Hendrick

Long before he came to the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, Yongqiang “Anson” Gu (Class of 2018) grew up in a rural village in central China.

As a child, the streets were dirt and there was no electricity. Then, as now, most of its residents were illiterate, and yet Gu said his parents instilled into him the value of education, presenting it as the ticket to the wider world.

Diligent study helped him secure a coveted spot at Peking University in Beijing, and Gu eventually became the first person in his family — and his village — to attend a university.

Although his worldview widened with a university education, Gu said he still felt he didn’t have a true sense of how the world worked.

“I wanted to travel to different places, meet people from different backgrounds and talk to them,” said Gu. “Journalism was appealing to me.”

Gu pursued a career as a journalist, which gave him a front-row seat to a time of enormous economic and cultural change in China. He covered issues such as the international expansion of Chinese companies, unprecedented M&A activity and the boom in high-speed rail construction.

His work for Caixin Weekly took Gu around the world and drew the attention of New Yorker writer Evan Osnos, who hired Gu to help him investigate and interview key players in China’s rail industry.

After about two years at the New Yorker, Gu took a job with Time, where his investigative skills came to the fore. Gu wrote exposes on the lavish lifestyles of certain party officials, covered crackdowns on civil dissidents and looked into the high cost of polluted air, among myriad other topics.

It was a rich time to be a chronicler of change in the country, Gu said.

“Gradually, people realized that they have their rights,” Gu said. “Before 2008, most Chinese did not care about civil rights, but people were increasingly fighting for their rights.”

As Gu watched China’s transformation, he also watched the flourishing of private companies and a rise in “world-class” technology companies such as Alibaba and Baidu. Gu believes such companies represent the future of the Chinese economy — and will be in a unique position to effect social change — as other sectors show signs of stagnation.

Gu decided he could make the greatest positive impact from within the Chinese business world, and decided to seek out graduate business school. For a naturally curious thinker who wanted to know more about how all of the parts of the business world fit together, Darden and the case method seemed like a top choice.

“The case method is helpful for international students because you’re forced to speak frequently,” Gu said. “And Darden is famous for general management, and I knew that after graduation I wanted to go back to China to join a business consulting firm.”

Gu said the first few months at Darden have brought both stress and enjoyment as he grows increasingly comfortable with class discussions, despite a lack of formal business training, and develops a network of supportive peers.

Gu said he’s been particularly taken with a strategy class, with its implications for understanding how some companies thrive while others fade.

“In the past, I had not considered why some companies are successful and why others are not,” Gu said. “Strategy will give you some theories to better understand the businesses of the world.”

East Asia, Fortune 500
About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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