Class of 2019: UVA Darden Student Gets Real About Launching Property Investing Venture
By Emma D'Arpino
As Lingyi Sun (Class of 2019) prepares to walk across Flagler Court for graduation at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, she’s also propelling herself toward her professional dream by launching a real estate investment business.
Before arriving at Darden, Sun was in New York City working in corporate treasury for Bank of America, while also doing some real estate investment on the side. Aiming to round-out her education and take her career to the next level, Sun decided to pursue an MBA. Attracted to the rigor and alumni network of Darden, Sun landed on Charlottesville as the next stop in her career path.
“When I came here, I was open-minded about what I wanted to do because getting your MBA is really a time to reset what you want to do and build a foundation,” Sun said.
With that perspective, Sun took advantage of all the opportunities she had in front her to home in on her future interests and goals.
“I went to every possible company briefing from all different industries and learned a lot about different business models,” Sun said. “I found out I really like general management, but I also wanted to try investment banking.”
While building her foundational knowledge and broadening her experiences, Sun also excelled in the classroom. As a result, at the end of her First Year at Darden, she was awarded the Frank E. Genovese Second Year Fellowship, a scholarship award given to students who are interested in pursuing a career as a general manager or owner-operator of a business. Outside the classroom, she served as a volunteer student teacher in the Prisoner Education Program founded by Darden Professor Greg Fairchild (MBA ’92) and Tierney Fairchild (MBA ’93).
Through the scholarship, Sun met Frank Genovese (MBA ’74) and Bill Sroka (MBA ’66), who challenged her to take a chance on starting her own business now.
“They asked me, ‘Why don’t you start now?’” Sun said. “I didn’t have the confidence until they asked that question. So, the summer while I was interning in investment banking [at Bank of America], I was also doing a lot of self-reflection. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to do my own business in real estate investing after graduation.”
Before business school, Sun had thought she would do investment banking for a few years before trying to start her own business. However, after reflecting on Genovese’s challenge, she decided that she had the skills and the experience to make her career goals become a reality right away following graduation from Darden.
“Before Darden, I was buying small, single-family and smaller multi-family homes,” Sun said. “But after Darden, I’m starting my own real estate investment company. I’m buying apartment buildings, starting at 20 to 30 units. That’s my goal for the next 12 months, to buy an apartment building and close on it.”
As she gets ready to take on this challenge, Sun has thought about how her two years in business school have changed her.
“Darden inspired me to figure out what I really wanted to learn,” Sun said. “I think it’s not just the classroom content, but the way Darden has stimulated my thinking and inspired me to do a lot of self-study and reflection. It’s helped me form a habit of always thinking and learning about things I don’t know, which is a habit that is really important.”
As she plans an entrepreneurial next step for her career, Sun says she’ll always be appreciative of the role Darden has played in helping her set herself up for success.
“I’ve been very fortunate to meet a lot of successful alums and people who are supportive of Darden,” Sun said. “They’ve been very beholden to the School because the School has contributed a lot to their success, and I think I am beholden to Darden for the same reasons.”
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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