Term 2 and “doing things”

This past Friday marked the end of the first week of Term 2. Term 1 exams led into a week of company briefings – surprisingly keeping many of us as busy as a normal class week. Recruiting is now moving into full swing, and the frequency of briefings and networking events is increasing. It can be tiring, but it is a great chance to learn about new opportunities, and the variety of companies visiting Darden is astonishing. We have also started Global Economics and Markets (GEM in Darden-speak), and will begin Financial Management and Policies this week.

This means more work in Learning Team. Not a bad thing, depending on how you view it, and if you can take time to celebrate the beginning of October with…Oktoberfest beer. A noteworthy discovery this week was Crystal Ball, in all of its predictive and smooth-running glory. Crystal Ball is an Excel add-in that runs simulations to aid decision-making. We use it for our Decision Analysis (DA) class.  On Monday we were tasked with deciding whether or not to invest in some natural gas wells in West Virginia (hypothetically). Using Crystal Ball, I won’t say that we came to a conclusion per se in Learning Team, but we had an idea about what we could say in class regarding a potential investment strategy.

As with most class sessions, there are much broader lessons to be gained than just the answers to what is asked of in a specific case. Section A’s DA professor, Phil Pfeifer, spends a lot of time on the analysis we do and the broader implications of decisions. He also spends a lot of time dancing around class – not so much in the classic dance sense, but more in the dance/skip/hop sense – a means of movement other than plain walking. One might think that a class focused on quantitative modeling could be boring – not so with that energy.

One thing that Phil said during class that day was particularly striking. When describing the complex model we were using to decide whether to invest in the wells or not, he paused and went on what seemed like a tangent, exclaiming in that end (not a direct quote): “we spend all this time doing things! Making models, trying to account for all these uncertainties and running simulations. All these things, that in the end, who knows if the model is going to account for it all? There could be an uncertainty we don’t even know, but we just like to do these things!” I am paraphrasing a bit, but I believe his point was to not be deceived into thinking that our representations of reality were in fact reality. After modeling, it’s important to use intuition in making a decision. The point, if I can take it a step further to a context beyond DA, is to keep in mind what matters.

Darden and Charlottesville encourage you to do that. Last weekend the International Foods Festival took place at Darden: classmates from around the world teamed together to prepare abundant amounts of food. Everything from mango marinated pork chops (from a southern state, potentially Georgia?) to Bulgarian minced meat (a surprise). There were some vegetables, too. Passion Pit also came to Charlottesville and played at the Pavilion downtown, putting on a great show. Amidst the many high-schoolers, there was a solid Darden contingent in attendance, despite 8AM classes the next day.

Those events are things, to be sure, not quite like a DA model, but they are good things. Getting to know your classmates, exploring the wealth of cultures at Darden and seeing what Charlottesville has to offer are all things that matter and contribute to a meaningful Darden experience. As Term 2 continues, in class and outside of it, I’ll be remembering that lesson from DA.


Passion Pit!


At the IFF with star LT member Akansha  – she is a pro Bollywood dancer.


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