After Defending US Capital, UVA Darden Student Balancing Classes, Recruiting, National Guard Duties
By Dave Hendrick
The winter months can be particularly demanding for University of Virginia Darden School of Business First Year students, with days often described as a blur of cases, classes and recruiting events for students considering internship opportunities.
The reputation rang true for Paolo Pahm (MBA ‘22) with an added commitment: Pahm spent the bulk of January in Washington, D.C., as an operations officer with the U.S. Army National Guard as part of a deployment related to the potential for civil unrest following the riot at the U.S. Capitol.
While Pahm always knew he would need to miss the first week of third quarter classes as part of a preexisting deployment related to the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the emergency orders following the events of 6 January meant his deployment was extended to three weeks.
“I wasn’t expecting to miss the extra weeks, but these were unprecedented and unexpected times,” said Pahm, shortly after returning to Charlottesville. “What made things particularly challenging is we were always all-hands on deck, because we were all on high-alert ready for things to take off. But, thankfully, things never did.”
Pahm served as a battle captain while deployed, helping to plan security points and sourcing soldiers, equipment and vehicles for varying missions and ensuring the logistics of operations ranging from fueling vehicles to ensuring soldiers were being fed.
Pahm was able to draw on his military and professional experience in balancing obligations. A Wisconsin native, Pahm enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after graduating from Michigan State. After basic training and infantry school, he returned to Michigan State for a master’s degree and accepted a full scholarship with the school’s ROTC program.
Pahm emerged from the program with a commission as an infantry officer with the Michigan Army National Guard and a human resources rotational leadership position with Dow Chemical, balancing the two jobs for nearly five years.
Pahm said he decided to pursue an MBA out of a desire to round out his skillset and learn the technical side of business following his experience training to be a human resources partner with Dow. The Darden MBA program seemed to promise what he sought.
“People come to Darden for the academic experience, and I’m no exception,” said Pahm. “I’m a person who believes that the true way to grow is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, and I knew that Darden would give me that challenging academic experience.”
Pahm said his initial touchpoint at Darden came through the Darden Military Association, which he said helped him learn more about the culture and likely tipped the scale toward Darden when he was deciding where to attend.
Although his First Year has so far been in a hybrid instructional format, with both in-person and virtual experiences — tough for an extrovert, Pahm said — he credited the School with trying to foster as much face-to-face time as possible and making the best of an unfortunate situation.
Learning to ‘Operate Beyond Your Known Capacity’
Pahm said his rotations in Washington would typically start early in the evening and end the next morning, but sometimes it was the opposite. He was able to keep up with schoolwork by listening to class recordings and Zooming into learning team meetings when he could. Any additional time typically involved recruiting.
“You really learn to operate past your known capacity at Darden,” said Pahm. “If you had asked me last year if I could balance all these obligations and operate like I am now, absorbing information, thinking on my feet, being able to speak to so many different people — it’s just mind-blowing how much you grow in short period of time.”
Pahm also credited his peers and teachers with making sure he was able to balance the obligations, smoothing the path to make sure his National Guard duties could take place without a hitch. Grateful that no incidents took place during his service in the nation’s capital, Pahm said he suspects he will look back on his small role in a historic time period with pride.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. 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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