Two UVA Darden Students Named to Poets & Quants’ Best and Brightest MBAs List

By Dave Hendrick

Two members of the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Class of 2019, Allison Shimamoto and Franklyn Darnis, have been named to Poets & Quants’ Best and Brightest MBAs list.

The pair, both set to enter consulting careers after graduation, were selected from a pool of nominees that spanned nearly 90 top business schools around the world. The selections were judged on the categories of extracurricular activities, academic and professional achievements, and the insightfulness of responses to questions.

Shimamoto, who will work as a consultant with The Boston Consulting Group, was a standout contributor at the Darden School, helping to lead a host of extracurricular activities. Among her roles outside of the classroom, Shimamoto served as chair of the Darden Resilience Initiative, as vice president of corporate sponsorship for the Black Business Student Association and as vice president of communications for Pride at Darden, among other activities.

Why did you choose this business school? 

My Forte mentor and Darden alum, Mariel Furlong, really encouraged me to apply to Darden. She raved about Darden’s collaborative culture, strong core curriculum and abundance of extracurricular activities. Upon visiting, I found all of these to be true. I knew that I wanted to go to a program where I’d get the academic rigor I needed to build my business acumen. Additionally, I enrolled with a dream career in consulting, and the case method is uniquely suited to prepare students for that environment.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? 

Don’t try to change yourself to fit into a mold of a person that you think the admissions committee wants to see in an applicant. It’s much better to be your authentic self both in your application and in the interview.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program?

I wish I knew more about the recruiting process and the types of stressors that come along with it. As MBAs, we’re expected to balance course work, volunteer activities and interview prep, all while keeping an optimistic outlook. The Resilience Initiative provided a great deal of support and tools like mindfulness and meditation to improve my focus and rebound skills and help me weather the storm.

MBA alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you?

Coming into Darden, I was timid, and speaking my mind in front of new people was challenging. Now it’s these conversations that bring me the most joy. I’m not hesitant to voice my needs and opinions and find that it strengthens my relationships with others. I’ve also met a lot of amazing people in classmates, administrators and professors whose stories are inspirational and have taught me a lot about being a grounded business leader.

Read more about Shimamoto.

A Connecticut native, Darnis worked at United Technologies as a financial leadership program associate before Darden and will head to EY-Parthenon as a consultant after graduation.

Like Shimamoto, Darnis built robust experiences in and out of the classroom, serving as the School’s tutoring program chair, as a Second Year coach and as a Building Goodness in April house captain, helping to fix up Charlottesville-area homes in need of repair.

Darnis cites his experience helping tutor 25 international First Year students through the interviewing and recruiting process as the Darden experience for which he was most proud, saying he was “humbled and beyond grateful” to have played a role in their development.

Why did you choose this business school?

My goals for business school were to continue developing my leadership skills, close knowledge gaps with certain functional disciplines, learn enough to ask the right questions and find a strong community that was consistent with my values.

Darden’s structure and principles are extremely aligned with my goals. The business school prides itself on having incredible professors and prioritizing the learning of its students. On the leadership front, the case method and tight-knit culture allow students to make decisions, take risks and defend their stances. In terms of subject matter breadth, the core curriculum incorporates the central overarching topics relevant to running and leading a business. From a culture perspective, events such as Darden Cup (an intraschool, Hogwarts-esque competition), mantras such as “always assume positive intent,” and UVA’s long-standing Honor Code all contribute to Darden’s strong community. Overall, Darden’s value proposition was exactly what I sought, and I could not be happier with my decision.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?

If you have determined through research, talking to students and perhaps visiting Grounds (Darden’s version of campus) that Darden’s value proposition aligns with your goals and values, then I would recommend just being yourself throughout the process. The nuance I’ll add to this age-old advice is one of my takeaways from business school, which is that perception is often the reality for all intents and purposes. Use a friend or family member to gauge how you come across in your application, and make sure that this reflects who you truly are and how that aligns you to Darden’s mission and values.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you?

Darden has shaped my perspective, grown my confidence and improved my business acumen. On the professional side, I have aimed to grow my knowledge across new facets of business by taking a variety of classes, attending guest lectures and asking a lot of questions to members of the Darden community. The other significant professional change has been to my problem-solving approach. Darden’s case method and general manager mindset have taught me to take a step back and consider the big picture, make decisions that factor in all stakeholders, and defend my stances while being open-minded.

On the personal side, Darden has shaped how I form relationships through increased self-awareness, confidence and desire to meet new people. Classes, feedback and Darden-inspired mindfulness practices have improved my self-awareness. An example was discovering my subconscious assumption that listening is unequivocally good, which I have determined to hinder my relationships. As a result of over-listening, I under-share and do not make myself vulnerable to others. By striving to balance my listening and sharing, I am now creating better first impressions and forming deeper relationships. My eagerness to meet and learn from others has also increased through events such as Darden Stories and Darden Globetrotters, which emphasize that everyone has a unique story. Overall, I am very different from August 2017 Franklyn, and I have Darden to thank!

Read the more about Darnis.

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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