Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Appreciating Darden's Staff

One of the things that has always stood out for me at Darden is the strongly supportive attitude of the faculty, staff, and administration here.  I’ve heard it said that in many ways Darden is no different from any other business functioning in the marketplace, and good businesses should have good customer service.  It would be easy to say that there’s just a strong can-do “customer service” attitude here from which I, as a student customer, benefit.  But I think that over-simplifies what’s actually going on at Darden.  I don’t think that Darden’s staff members are simply good at or focused on customer service.  I think – and their actions confirm – that Darden staff members really care about Darden’s students, both with respect to our lives at Darden and the experiences that we brought with us to grounds or that we head off to explore after graduation.  They want us to enjoy our time at Darden, to succeed both here and in life, to relieve the burdens that they can so that we can focus instead on case prep/recruiting/family/etc.  Yes, they’ve been tremendously helpful in keeping our facilities beautiful, resolving my occasional woes with the university’s central financial aid office, registering for classes (particularly when the law school basically just throws up its metaphorical hands with respect to that issue), putting together a brochure for a conference at break-neck speed, helping me navigate the minefields of recruiting, fixing my sandwich order with a smile even when I clearly filled out the form incorrectly, and constantly convincing my computer that it still has the will to live.  And the list of ways in which I’ve benefitted from our amazing staff could go on and on.  However, in my time at Darden, I’ve been truly astounded by the ways in which members of Darden’s staff have gone above and beyond even that which could be called giving their jobs 110%.  The extent to which faculty open up their homes for various social functions with students (and to benefit various charitable causes) is often mentioned when students and alumni talk about their Darden experiences, but equally important to note is the willingness of staff members to stop you in the hall or to grab coffee or lunch (or sometimes even a glass of wine) to commiserate or celebrate or catch up or just to say “hello”.    

The Darden student body does regularly award Outstanding Faculty and Friend of the Student Awards to recognize outstanding faculty and staff members.  But yesterday, for the first time in virtually anyone’s memory, the Darden Student Association organized a Staff Appreciation Day through which students could show their appreciation on a more individual basis.  Students made baked goods and set up a table in CafĂ© 67 where staff members could pick up a treat and receive a personal thank you.  Students were also encouraged to stop and say thank you to staff members.  [Big props to the DSA Exec Board for organizing this event!]

I know I didn’t say thank you enough yesterday (and I certainly didn’t get to see everyone who deserves my thanks), but I am definitely thankful.  So “THANK YOU!” to any Darden staff members who may read this blog.  You’ve been integral to making my Darden experience as wonderful as it’s been so far, and I’m sure you will continue to make my next 18 months wonderful, too.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Last Cupcakes

It’s been a while, so here’s a brief summary of what’s going on with this “cupcake” business: one of my Class of 2011 classmates at Darden has a husband who did his 1L year at the law school at the same time she and I were doing our FY at Darden.  Said husband always referred to Darden as “Camp Cupcake” and insisted that the FY at Darden was much easier than the 1L year at the Law School.  So I decided to do a week-by-week comparison of the two programs, awarding a cupcake each week to the school that was easier/fluffier/more sugar-coated.  You can see the posts covering the first semester here, here, here, here, and here.  By the end of the semester, the final cupcake tally was Darden: 5, UVa Law: 13 (meaning that I found the first semester at Darden harder than the first semester at the Law School). 

And now, since I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with baited breath for the second semester cupcakes, here they are (I did actually keep a written list last semester, which I just uncovered in a heap of papers/outlines/notes/bills that I apparently just stuck on a shelf in my office…whoops):

The Week 19 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: We were technically on winter break at both schools, and since my family had started driving me absolutely insane, I was back in Cville both years.  In my FY at Darden, I generally chilled out at home, did some interview prep, and spent several hours sitting in the Admissions lobby talking to prospective students who were visiting for interviews.  On the whole, it was pretty fun.  During my 1L winter break, I drove back and forth to DE to interview with several law firms.  Since I hate driving around DC and since interviews themselves are more stressful than prepping for interviews (and since 1Ls are engaged in cutthroat competition for a tiny, tiny number of firm jobs), it was a lot less fun being a law student.

The Week 20 Cupcake goes to: UVa Law
Rationale: While this week was also theoretically still “winter break,” at Darden, interview prep kicked up to warp speed.  I spent hours doing consulting case interview prep.  During my 1L year at the Law School, I managed to convince the administration to let me take a J-Week class (a one-week course that gives you a quarter’s worth of credit) at Darden.  So, I spent a week taking a course on Crisis Leadership, which involved a visit to the Darden Media Lab, complete with a one-on-one on-camera interview, and a mock press conference (again videotaped) and crisis plan development exercise.  I felt a little bit like Eli Gold from The Good Wife, so it was super fun.  Also, all my classmates at the law school were still chillaxing. 

The Week 21 Cupcake goes to: UVa Law
Rationale: At Darden, we started Q3 classes AND were doing hours of on-grounds interviews (and learning team).  At the law school, we were still on winter break.  I did fly up to Boston for a law firm interview (for the summer job I ended up taking), but I also got to see friends M & D and paid a visit to my former co-workers at The Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named, so that was much more fun than class.

The Week 22 Cupcake goes to: UVa Law
Rationale:  The things that kept me fairly busy and stressed out at the law school were all non-law-school activities: the Wine & Cuisine Club Conference/Industry Day (complete will tripping over the carpeting in the PepsiCo Forum and falling flat on my face in front of Dean Bruner), alumni interviews for local applicants to Brown, a trip to Indianapolis in connection with the advising I do for the local chapter of my sorority, and a stress fracture in my foot.  Awesome.  During my first year at Darden, we were also doing interviews, dealing with snow storms, putting together presentations for the Management Communications course, and doing a bunch of other stuff.  At the law school, we were still shopping for classes for the second semester.

The Week 23 Cupcake goes to: UVa Law
Rationale: Plain old class at the law school; class plus learning team plus recruiting at Darden.

The Week 24 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: Yes, Darden was busy, but it was the routine kind of busy to which I had become accustomed at that point.  On the other hand, at the law school, I was prepping for a trial advocacy tournament, attending info sessions for tryouts for journals and to be a Dillard Fellow, and I think this was the week that a bunch of 1Ls were doing on-grounds recruiting for summer positions.

The Week 25 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: I, too, am surprised that during the month of Feb Club (there are theme parties every night of the month at the law school), Darden is earning more cupcakes.  But while interviews were still underway at Darden, the stress was broken up by the SHE Auction and Gala.  At the law school, typical stress was compounded by continuing trial advocacy prep and a full weekend spent on my Dillard Fellow tryout.

The Week 26 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: This week was a close call.  During my first year at Darden, I spent this week in a bunch of interviews, including a trip to DC for a series of second-round interviews with a consulting firm and a branch of the federal government.  However, at the law school, I was still in trial advocacy hell, and I lost the second weekend in a row to a tryout, this time for journals.

The Week 27 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: It was exam week (always my favorite week of the quarter!) at Darden, and even though that meant it was almost Spring Break at the law school, I spent the first part of the week exhausted from two weekends of tryouts and then spent the first weekend of spring break  at the most mismanaged trial advocacy tournament I’ve ever attended (and this was my ninth year of mock trial competition).

The Week 28 Cupcake goes to: UVa Law
Rationale: Spring Break at both schools.  At the law school, this meant total rest and relaxation.  At Darden, this meant a trip to Barcelona.  Barcelona was great (duh.) but it was a week of “class,” therefore making it less cupcake-y than a week spent vegging out. 

The Week 29 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: Darden finished up spring break and then started a quarter of mostly elective classes (3 electives plus LO and Ethics, so no learning team any more).  At the law school, our LRW (legal research and writing) briefs were due, and we held our first of two admitted student weekends (which means a lot of running around, especially when one of your closest friends at the law school is one of the ASW chairs). 

The Week 30 Cupcake goes to: UVa Law
Rationale: My law school friends and I had time to go grab breakfast before class and to go on a Friday shooting trip (no animals, only clays, were harmed during this outing).  At Darden, I was still recruiting and attending a bazillion and a half group meetings for deliverables for various classes.

The Week 31 Cupcake goes to: UVa Law
Rationale: Finals panicking hadn’t started yet at the law school (and I had plenty of time to attend various Darden social functions), but during my FY at Darden, I had several more interviews, which meant travel, and I also took on a club leadership role, which meant transition and strategy meetings out the wazoo. 

The Week 32 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: At Darden, I still had 3-4 interviews and my classmates were trying to pick their classes for the whole next year, but at the law school, I was prepping for my oral argument for LRW, doing my oral argument (on a Saturday morning), and outlining season had started. 

The Week 33 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: Outlining stinks. 

The Week 34 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: Outlining really, really, really stinks, even more than group meetings for LO, marketing intelligence, and data analysis and optimization.

The Week 35 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: The Landels' (my awesome operations professor and his awesome wife) annual Southern Dessert Buffet will make any week great.  Darden Days, including the annual BBQ at King Family Vineyards, was just icing on the cake.  Even though I also got to participate in these activities while I was doing my 1L year, outlining really does take all the joy out of everything.

The Week 36 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: Exams at Darden are so much more pleasant than at the law school.

The Week 37 Cupcake goes to: Darden
Rationale: Darden was done, so I got to go to my cousin’s wedding in CT and then fly to Cannes for the Cannes Film Festival (another GBE).  While Cannes drove me nuts in many respects, it was definitely better than a second week of exams at the law school.

Darden, 12; UVa Law, 7

Darden, 17; UVa Law 20
Final Thoughts: Darden is definitely not Camp Cupcake.  While the final scores were actually pretty close, the FY at Darden is generally much more consistently demanding than the 1L year at the law school.  However, the month leading up to exams and the two weeks of exams themselves each semester at the law school are pretty darn miserable (and accounted for most of the cupcakes Darden earned). 


Yes, I know, I have been completely, 100% delinquent as a blogger for the last six (Seven? Maybe eight?  Who’s counting?) months.  However, now that it’s just about exam time at the law school (and at Darden, but that’s not nearly as unpleasant an experience, as noted here), I’m looking for ways to procrastinate.  And blogging is an excellent way to procrastinate.  And, you know, to do that which I should have been doing for the last six several months.  So stay tuned, because I’ve got a few other things tee’d up for posting…