Congrats to the students and partners of the Class of 2014!


As I watched the Class of 2014 graduates walk across the stage while their partners snapped photos, I felt more emotion than anticipated yesterday.

On Saturday, when I volunteered at Darden’s 29th Annual Pig Roast in honor of the graduates, I briefly chatted with a few SY partners in the midst of running around and refilling trays and bowls of food. But on Sunday, I could actually take in what was being said as an onlooker in the audience of the Final Exercises in Flagler Court at Darden.

I soaked up every detail, and in the course of a couple of hours, I felt emotions ranging from excitement and pride to sentimentality and nervousness. These emotions stood out the most to me:

    1. Anxiety – while getting advice about reserving hotel rooms and restaurant dinners as early as possible for out-of-town guests (some saying to even start now – one year away from when my husband will graduate!)
    2. Admiration – while seeing proud parents carry their infant children, born during the years at Darden, across the stage and knowing how much those students and their partners had to juggle with an already hectic schedule
    3. Awe – while listening to special recognition from faculty of students who contributed in a myriad of  ways to Darden, such as mentoring FYs and running different organizations
    4. Nostalgia – while taking a photo of the entire crowd of graduates in caps and gowns because the moment transported me back in time to when I used to work at the graduation ceremonies in my past profession as a high school teacher
    5. Mixture of sadness and gratitude – while watching students sing the Irish blessing “Until We Meet Again” and then while realizing that we are only one year away from this moment…
    • I grew tearful because not only was I finding it hard to say goodbye to certain SYs I’ve gotten to know, but I was finding it much harder to recognize that half of my time in Cville is now done.
    • Yet, I am grateful because this past year has truly made me a better person and because I at least still have one more year left in this place that has become my home.

Part 2 of Family in Cville: What’s ‘Fun’ in Undergrad vs. Grad School

My cousin April and her husband Jake drove from Metro Detroit to Charlottesville the weekend after my in-laws visited. This family weekend had a different twist: April, Jake, Michal and I went through undergrad together at Michigan State University, so Michal and I were excited for them to experience another sort of college town.

The infamous Foxfield horse races could not have been better timed. We each anticipated this event as if we were preparing for Halloween by scouring for outfits we’d never normally wear, classified as “country club prep.” It was a total cultural experience for us to transform our usual, casual T-shirt and jeans combos to pastels and floppy hats.

All photos are courtesy of my cousin April (except for the group photo on the top left that a friend's husband took on my phone).  My husband Michal and April's husband Jake had actually bought the same shirt. Michal found a new pink one to match my searsucker dress.

All photos are courtesy of April (except for the group shot on the top left that a friend’s husband took on my iphone). Fun fact #1: My husband Michal and April’s husband Jake actually bought the same shirt in different stores. Michal later found a pink shirt to match my searsucker dress!

While we embraced the wardrobe change, we were a bit more wary of the actual event as we heard it would be similar to all-day tailgating. In the end, we were grateful to experience the races from the more civilized grad student area tents where Darden and the Law School were side by side in front of the tracks. The backdrop was breathtaking in the sun, the food was classic Southern BBQ, the bartenders made drinks to our liking, the music started with a live band, there were no lines to the bathrooms, and the tables had fresh, floral centerpieces.

Needless to say, the atmosphere was a lot different on the undergrad side.

Again: All photos are courtesy of April. Fun Fact: Michal worked with Three Notch'd this school year as a member of the Community Consultants of Darden.

All photos are courtesy of April. Fun Fact #2: Michal worked with Three Notch’d this year as a part of the Community Consultants of Darden. Jake enjoyed the beer there so much that he bought a growler!

Michal and I also spent some time showing Jake and April the differences between undergrad nightlife at the dive bars on The Corner vs. the local breweries in the more upscale Downtown Mall area. Although it was fun to be outside at the picnic tables at The Biltmore on a warm night, we decided relaxing in lounge settings with board games and higher quality craft brews at Three Notch’d, Champion and South Street was overall more enjoyable. We’ve each definitely grown more discerning with two home-brewers, Michal and Jake, at our side.

Ultimately, what we discovered is that we still like to have good time just like in the glory days … but now we just have higher standards.

All photos courtesy of April. We managed to include a hike to Elliott Knob and a walk around Grounds. Fun Fact #3: We purposefully picked out one of the highest peaks in Virginia to tackle with April and Jake because they're so adventurous!

All photos courtesy of April. We managed to include a hike to Elliott Knob and a walk around Grounds. Fun Fact #3: We purposefully picked out one of the highest peaks in Virginia to tackle with April and Jake because they’re so adventurous! At the top, Michal and Jake started a fire right before the rain hit.

Spring Break – Part 2: Staycation in Cville

For five days of our Spring Break, we were so happy to host two of our close friends from undergrad who are married and live in our home state of Michigan. We met them through the same church where Michal and I met on the campus of Michigan State University, have stood up in each other’s weddings and have kept in touch with each other for almost decade. It was fun to take them around our new stomping grounds! Below are highlights of our time with them:

Tourist in our own town

Michal and I have been saving our visits to the area’s historic landmarks, such as presidential homes, for when our friends and family visit. Best takeaway tip that we discovered through our experience: Show your student ID at Monticello for a discount on tour tickets!


It’s a good thing one of our visiting friends is a poli-sci professor because we did a very thorough tour of Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, and of Central and North Grounds at the University of Virginia. A 60-and-sunny day in Cville = summer in Detroit, so our friends were also extremely happy to be able to walk around without a coat. My favorite moment from our touristy times was our picnic dinner on the Lawn in the heart of the “Academical Village” in front of the Rotunda.

Snow day survival 

Ironically enough, our Michiganders didn’t escape the cold too long as we dropped down to 40s on Sunday and had a Snow Day on the Monday after Spring Break. It was a blessing in a way as Michal and I did not have to worry about school and work so we could focus on our friends.


We kept entertained because the sudden change in cold weather had just the right timing with Selection Sunday for March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day on Monday. We spent a considerable amount of time cheering on our alma mater in the Big 10 tourney, as well as watching UVA in the ACCs with a fellow Darden couple, and then consequently filling in our brackets. And we kept it low-key for St. Patty’s, creating a spiked hot cocoa bar and playing board games like Cranium and Imaginiff.

Michal and I cherish when our friends and family visit us, as we often hosted them when we lived in the Chicago-area for five years. We look forward to hosting more visitors in Cville!

What are your favorite ways to enjoy a Staycation in your area?

Call Me a Cavalier


Top (left to right) – With a co-worker on the Lawn after touring the Rotunda and Academical Village. / Headshot for Darden Bloggers in Flagler Court. / Cavman at Alumni Hall during Homecoming. Bottom (left to right) – At a Darden Student Association tailgate. / First game at Scott Stadium.

We’re already half-way through the first year of B-school and the first round of Darden applicants for next school year get notified of admissions decisions today: It’s the perfect time to reflect and pass on some wisdom…

As the wife of a Darden student and an employee of the University, I have fully embraced my new identity as a Cavalier. (Although, let’s make it clear: I will never forget my Spartan roots from Michigan State University. Go Green!) While Michal was doing case interview prep for consulting jobs this month, I have worked on transitioning from my time in secondary education as an English and journalism teacher to working in the communication field within higher education.

My journey originally began with temp’ing in the University of Virginia’s central HR office when I first arrived in Charlottesville in August and will continue with a contract position in writing and editing online content for the Women’s Center website starting in January until the end of our time here. (By the way, if had I begun the job search in earnest before I moved here, my career transition would have most likely been quicker, but I was too busy traveling!) Although Michal and I have a lot on our minds regarding next-steps in our respective careers, we have managed to take the time to get to know more about our current culture and community at UVA, as seen in the above photos.

Parts of our experience here really remind us of our times together when we first met in undergrad at MSU. To the recently admitted Darden students and partners: Welcome to the next stage of your life. Michal and I are so grateful to be here, and we can’t wait to meet all of you!

Some of the UVA / Darden lingo and traditions I’ve discovered –

For a more comprehensive list, check out this link:

  • Get the grade right: Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University, didn’t use the terms freshman, sophomore, junior and senior to describe students because he believed in life-long learning. Therefore, students are First Years (FYs), Second Years (SYs) and so on.
  • Hit the ground running: Jefferson didn’t call UVA a “campus” but instead “Grounds.” When Darden students interview for jobs, they often talk about them happening either “on or off Grounds.”
  • Multiple mascots: Although the official mascot is the Cavalier, the Wahoo is an accepted alternative. Shortened forms of both, such as the Cavs and the Hoos, are common too.
  • Guys in ties and girls in pearls: Coming from the Midwest, I wasn’t used to this Southern tradition. Many of the undergrad students dress up for football games, as well as Darden students who are also recruiting at the sponsored tailgates. Mostly everyone else, like alumni, wear the usual jeans and T-shirt.
  • Partner up: Significant others (boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses) of Darden students are known as “partners.” The official organization, which provides resources and events to partners and families of students, is the Darden Partners Association (DPA).
  • Bird is the word: Darden FY students are organized by section (A through E) for their classes, and my husband and I are proud to be a part of Section B! Our section mascot is a small stuffed animal, Big Bird. Each week, the section votes on which student had the most “interesting” comment in class discussion, and the winner must take the bird wherever he or she goes the following week.
  • Game on: The Darden Cup events are much like Quidditch matches in the Harry Potter series. In a school year-long competition between sections, students and partners compete in varied activities from traditional sports like softball and soccer to games like poker and trivia as they pursue the coveted Darden cup trophy. (Section B won last year!)
  • Study session: Learning Teams (LTs) are small groups made up of students from different sections. They meet every night to discuss cases from class. While Michal is at LT, I’ve run into him a lot at Darden because of my involvement with organizations like the Darden Bloggers, the Cold Call Chronicle (Darden’s student newspaper) and, of course, the DPA.
  • Watch out for the Cold Call: The dreaded “cold call” in class is when professors call on students to speak without warning. The phrase is commonly used in other contexts like in the names of organizations (e.g. Cold Call Chronicle, Cold Call Chorus) or as the title of get-togethers for food and drinks on Thursdays after class in Darden’s Flagler Court or PepsiCo Forum.

Any questions or concerns, especially regarding life as a Darden partner? Want to share your excitement? Feel free to comment here.