Love of Arts Distinguishes First Recipients of UVA Darden Women’s Scholarship Created Through Estate Gift
By Sally Parker
Two First Year students with a love for the arts have received the Nina Abdun- Nabi Women’s Scholarship at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
Elizabeth Owen (Class of 2023) and Jessica Arenas (Class of 2023) are the first recipients of the scholarship, which was established through an estate gift from Nina Abdun-Nabi (MBA ’82), who passed away last year. Through a distribution from her IRA, Abdun-Nabi sought to advance opportunities for accomplished women working toward challenging professional careers who also enjoy and participate in the arts.
Owen, a Washington, D.C., area native, majored in psychology and music as a UVA undergraduate. She has sung as a second alto in choral groups her whole life, including with the University Singers at UVA and the prestigious Washington Chorus. Owen enjoys the camaraderie and shared purpose of choral singing and says that she’s already found the same welcoming sense of community among students and faculty at Darden.
She recently joined Darden’s Cold Call Chorus. “I think it’s a little less intense,” she said, laughing. “We just had our first rehearsal, and we sounded great and had fun.”
Before coming to Darden, Owen worked for Booz Allen Hamilton and then Deloitte as a consultant for national security clients, including the Department of Defense and Department of Justice.
At Deloitte, she managed several teams. In consulting, where most of her peers were men, Owen saw a need to open doors for other women, nonbinary individuals and people of color. She decided to earn an MBA to become a better leader. At Darden she knew she would be learning with people of backgrounds, industries and cultures different from her own.
“Being a music major, I’ve always valued creativity in whatever project I’m working on, and I think here that’s valued as well, which is a really good experience.”
Owen plans to pivot to a strategic planning or corporate operations role in the technology sector after graduation.
Stepping on to a New Stage
Arenas grew up in Peru in a family of engineers, though her parents encouraged her interest in literature and music from an early age. She studied piano, read voraciously and painted.
After earning an undergraduate degree and license as a social psychologist at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, Arenas worked for eight years in HR in the banking industry. Her focus was on employee development and she enjoyed opportunities to promote diversity, gender equity and inclusivity in the workplace.
In acting lessons after college, Arenas gained the confidence and joy of projecting her voice. It led her to stretch what she thought possible for her career: She wanted to have a broader impact on people’s lives as a consultant in a wider range of industries, working first in the U.S. and then back in Peru. Darden is Arenas’ first experience living abroad, and studying new concepts in a foreign language has proved challenging. What she learned in acting has helped.
“On the stage you have just one chance, and if something goes wrong you have to keep going,” she said. “I don’t have a quant background, and I really feel challenged to raise my voice in the Darden classroom. It’s a way to face the things that might seem scary or challenging.”
Inspired by the Arts
A similar curiosity and joy for living marked Abdun-Nabi’s life, say classmates who remember her as a sharp professional and compassionate person.
After graduating from Darden, she had a distinguished career in finance at the Bank of Boston, where she rose to senior vice president. Her work included leading loan syndicate financing to the entertainment industry to fund films with major studios, as well as financing in transportation, commercial lending, capital markets, risk management and career training.
But it was Abdun-Nabi’s lifelong passion for music and fine art that defined her. She had natural gifts as a classical pianist and artist, producing dozens of multimedia collages and drawings later in life. And she loved to read, with a collection of more than 2,000 books spanning scores of topics and genres.
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.
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia