UVA Darden Mayo Scholar Follows Her Curiosity to Asset Management
By Dave Hendrick
June Sun (Class of 2023) grew up in Laramie, Wyoming, where the daughter of two neuroscientists became an accomplished violinist and winter sports enthusiast. As she charted her path through school and the professional world, economics and finance were the subjects that drew Sun’s interest, however.
At Michigan State University, Sun pursued study in the School’s Financial Markets Institute, a group dedicated to forging connection between Spartans and financial services firms and opportunities in the sector. That led to a first post-college position at Wells Fargo working in leveraged finance investment banking, after which Sun continued to follow her interests to new and different positions.
“I was working a lot in the energy and the infrastructure industry, and there were a lot of interesting things going on because there was a downturn at the time,” said Sun. “I started looking more into energy infrastructure investing, which led me to joining a private equity firm.”
After two years at Basalt Infrastructure in New York, Sun said the interest in deals and investing was still strong, but she wanted a broader view of more industries
I was really looking for a role where I could be more of a generalist and not so focused, because I had a lot of curiosity about other sectors, in general,” said Sun, who found her next stop on the other side of the country, at Sequoia Heritage in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“That was a very generalist role,” said Sun. “The investment mandate is you can invest in anything in the world. So I went from one end of the spectrum to the other.”
Then, like millions across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic offered an opportunity for personal and professional assessment, and Sun decided — on a bit of whim, she admits — that an MBA was the next best step before settling into a long-term career.
Sun applied to the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, to which she was drawn in part by the possibility of a waived GMAT, as the decision to apply to an MBA program was sudden enough that she didn’t have recent standardized test scores. But if the test flexibility helped, the community, case method and location solidified her interest, and news that she would be offered the Richard A. Mayo Center for Asset Management Scholarship sealed the deal.
“The scholarship was a huge factor in my decision,” said Sun.
In addition to the Mayo Center scholarship, which seeks to help attract students interested in a career in asset management and investing, Sun was awarded a Breakthrough Scholars award from the Darden School Foundation. The latter, which is new for the 2021-22 academic year, is intended to foster a new generation of diverse leadership in venture capital, hedge funds, and other area of asset management.
The lack of diversity is a “huge issue” in asset management and private equity, said Sun, recalling frequently being the only woman and only person of color in professional rooms over the course of her career. While some companies and sectors of the industry have made strong progress recruiting diverse analysts and associates, the industry as a whole needs better pathways to leadership roles for diverse talent, Sun said,
At Darden, Sun is enjoying the community and coursework, and has joined Darden Capital Management and the Private Equity Club, and is especially excited about the hands-on experience afforded by DCM, particularly as she considers a future that involves public equity investments as a component of a diversified portfolio such as an endowment or family office.
“It’s good to have a well-rounded investing experience and I think that’s where Darden Capital Management comes in for me, to learn how to really understand what goes into a stock pitch, for instance,” said Sun. “And I’m still interested in private investing, and learning more about the new trends that COVID has propagated. I’m interested to see what industries or areas might be interesting to focus on in the next couple of years.”
Sun plans to pursue asset management in some form after Darden. The variety and autonomy are appealing, and it’s fun to generate returns, she said.
“I think it’s just really interesting to work with highly intellectually curious people,” said Sun. “I think if you’re not curious about what’s going on in the world, you’ll never be a good investor.”
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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