UVA Darden Student, Alumnae Offer Tips for MBA Moms

12 October 2021

By Dave Hendrick


Raising a child under ideal circumstances can be a challenge. Raising one while simultaneously earning an MBA adds a new layer of complexity. The Discover Darden admissions blog recently interviewed three so-called “MomBAs” from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Full-Time MBA Class of 2021 and 2022 to learn about balancing motherhood and an MBA.

While all three — Sarah Costa (MBA ’21), Kat Jorgensen (MBA ’21) and Jungae “Jess” Kim-Schmid (Class of 2022) — have had unique experiences, they each note the degree to which the Darden community, including faculty members and peers, supported them when they needed the help.

Excerpts from the interviews are included below:

Q: What led you to pursue an MBA?

Costa: In part, it was being a mother that made me think an MBA might be right for me. I’d always been very impact-focused, which led me to my first career in non-profit leadership. Having children widened my lens beyond my immediate community and made me think more about the world my generation would be leaving for the next. I realized that my scope for impact would be far greater if I honed my leadership skills more intentionally and pivoted to the private sector, and an MBA was a natural fit to accomplish that.

Q: What was it about Darden that made you realize it would be a good fit for your academic experience and career goals, as well as a good fit for your family?

Jorgensen: I think the community feel of the Darden student body is what ultimately drew us in. I knew as a parent, my feet were already planted in two worlds, firmly at home with my family and firmly at school. The fact that the majority of Darden students choose to live in close proximity to one another and to campus seemed like a great thing for me. Not only would we go to school together, but we would be neighbors. That additional interaction gave me the space to do bedtime with my son, and then invite friends to our yard for a bonfire once he was sleeping. Or to watch him ride his bike while chatting with our friends out for a walk. The village feel of Darden is truly special, and I can’t imagine many other schools match the living and learning environment that Darden provides.

Q: What were you most worried about when it came to being a parent and getting your MBA?

Costa: I was worried about time management, and whether I would be able to “do it all”. I knew the first few months during recruiting would be the most challenging, and I tried to prepare my kids and partner for that. This would not be a year for elaborate homemade Halloween costumes or lots of homecooked meals, but I also knew those weren’t the things that would make me a good mom. I strived to just be fully present and focused in each moment, so that the time I spent with my kids I was fully there for them and not trying to answer emails or do anything else, while the time I spent in class or networking I was fully focused on that. It was still seriously challenging, yet we all rose to the challenge. It did teach me a lot about the raw algebra of how many hours you have in a day or a week, and that in turn helped me make the right choices for me and my family on what sort of balance I wanted to strike with those hours in my post-MBA work.

Jorgensen: I was most worried about failing at both things, not being enough of a student and not being enough of a parent. I was also worried about being the only one. I won’t lie and say it was easy or that there weren’t tears shed at the beginning. But I think one thing I learned is that everyone has something going on behind the scenes. Sure, mine happens to call me mom, and is very physically present, but everyone is struggling with that same imposter syndrome their first year. Some people are in long distance relationships, some have sick parents, some are very far from home for the first time. But you are never truly alone, and there are some really incredible people here that will help you through the hard days.

My peers at Darden were always happy to see Ivan, and incredibly considerate when my family needed me. My son and husband were honorary members of my learning team from day one. We brought Ivan to picnics and happy hours, and Darden Cup events. He became a mascot for my section. My peers accepted and appreciated my experience as a working mom. I think I also learned that if you can survive your First Year at Darden, you can survive anything else your career throws at you. Being given more than you think you can bear is part of the growth of the program, and once you make it to the other side and realize how much learned in such a short time, on such little sleep, while still being there for your kids and your partner, you have learned your limits, but also seen how strong you are.

Kim-Schmid: I was worried that I would be stretched too thin and that I would fail at everything: academics, recruiting, and parenting, as a result. The year was definitely busy, but I received some great advice to be really strict with my priorities and try to get my summer internship offer as early as possible. I was fortunate to get an internship offer from Danaher during the Consortium’s pre-matriculation recruiting conference, and this really enabled me to dedicate a lot of time to my son (Teddy) and my classes during the school year. Not everyone comes in to Darden with the same priorities, but being clear on what they are before you show up in August is critical for everyone, but especially parents!

Q: For moms or moms-to-be who are thinking about business school, what is your top advice for them?

Costa: Talk a LOT with your partner beforehand about time management and expectations.  You know how busy you’ve heard first year will be? It really is that busy, but more so. It will get stressful for everyone, and you will reach your limits and push beyond them. Nothing can really prepare you for how hard it will be, but setting expectations and having those conversations ahead of time makes you much more resilient in the midst of those challenging months. Also, line up great childcare!

Jorgensen: If you’ve decided that an MBA is the right next step, don’t wait. Life with kids is a beautiful chaos. It doesn’t slow down. If I had put it on hold for another year or two, I think it would have only been more difficult to make the change. Diving in and moving to Charlottesville is one of the best decisions our family has made. I would also say that childcare in Charlottesville is really great. There are great school options, and an excellent daycare (UVA Child Development Center Kindercare) associated with the university. If you are considering Darden, make sure to contact them early to get on the list for fall enrollment.

Kim-Schmid: First, do not automatically write off an MBA as an option just because you are a mom! The ratio of dads to moms here at Darden (and most other business schools) is 15:1, at least. If there are so many dads here, you should realize that parenthood is not the limiting factor! It is, for many systemic reasons, the combination of parenthood and being a woman that is limiting. This status quo needs to change, and it can’t change without women who go for the opportunities they deserve! Do your homework and make sure you set yourself up for success in an MBA, but don’t say no to yourself before you even start.

Second, Reach out to Parents at Darden (PoD)! PoD was created by student parents in the class of 2021 to help parents connect and to advocate for policies and programs that will make Darden a top-choice for parents. In the next year, PoD will continue to connect with prospective students, provide a supportive community for parents, and sponsor events that bring the joy and energy of children into the Darden Community. If you are interested in getting matched with a Darden parent buddy, fill out this form and you can also feel free to reach out to parents@darden.virginia.edu with any questions. We are here for you and would love to welcome you to Darden!

Read more answers and the full post at the Discover Darden blog.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

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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