Black Business Experience Week at UVA Darden Explores Leadership, Career Opportunities
By Dave Hendrick
The recent Black Business Experience Week at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business brought together MBA students, prominent alumni, faculty and community members for a multifaceted exploration of life at Darden, career advancement and community involvement.
Highlights of the week, which is sponsored by the Black Business Student Association, included a session on pursuing passion and purpose featuring fintech entrepreneur Christian Duffus (MBA ’00) and former UVA football star turned sports commentator, author and mentor Tony Covington, both of whom eventually pursued entrepreneurial passions throughout their careers.
Duffus, who founded a number of successful ventures after graduating from Darden, began his professional career as a Goldman Sachs analyst in the mid-1990s, watching as the dot-com boom exploded across the trading landscape. Duffus said he was fascinated by the space, but wanted to be one of the creatives behind the company, building the systems that would positively impact people’s lives.
While his professional history and Darden experience propelled his path to success, Duffus, who was born in Jamaica, said his “outsider” status played a key role in helping him think differently and blaze less traveled paths.
Duffus currently serves as CEO and founder of Fonbnk, which seeks to be a banking solution to the billions of “unbanked” global citizens, with an emphasis on refugee communities.
He, like Covington, encouraged Darden students to be open to mentorship, reminding students of the support networks they had built at places like Darden.
“Recognize that you don’t know everything,” said Duffus. “At every step in your career, there is someone who has done that before.”
Black Business Experience Week also featured a discussion on creativity in business and life between Darden Professor Ed Freeman and UVA Professor A.D. Carson, who teaches hip-hop and records and performs music.
Carson described the unique tensions and considerations that arise when an art form is brought into the context of the University. While Carson teaches a class called “Writing Rap,” for instance, it would be “ridiculous” if one had to attend a university in order to participate in the hip-hop ecosystem, he said.
Asked what Freeman termed the “mandatory Darden leadership question” of what he had learned in his journey, Carson said he was “very mindful to talk about my collaborators and about the collaboration process as one that’s incredibly valuable.”
“Collaboration is an essential component of the way that I want to try to lead,” said Carson, be it as a performer or professor.
The week kicked off with a “stroll show” at First Coffee led by UVA undergraduates in the Lambda Zeta chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, who explored aspects of black academic and professional life.
Other sessions during the week included a presentation by Darden Professor Laura Morgan Roberts on thriving in the workplace and a session called “Brewing Up Entrepreneurship” at Three Notch’d Brewery with Mike Potter of Black Brew Culture.
The week’s activities concluded with a multi-generational gathering of students, prospective students and alumni at a reception in Washington, D.C.
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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