May 31, 2018

Parks Daniel, Dual Batten-Darden Graduate, Looks Ahead to High-Impact Career With Mastercard

Editor’s note: This story appears on the Darden Business School website and is posted with permission.

“It’s the combination of Batten and Darden that has brought me to this place.”

Parks Daniel once thought she had landed her dream job at a Richmond-based advertising firm after completing her undergraduate career at Vanderbilt University.

But soon Daniel realized that ther dreams were bigger: she wanted the responsibility to make strategic decisions and do so in an arena with tangible social impact.

So the Richmond native followed a path taken by two generations of family members, enrolling at  the University of Virginia for a demanding dual degree program: Master of Public Policy through Batten and Master  of Business Administration at the Darden School of Business.

(The dual degree) is everything I wanted. The Batten degree and the Darden degree overlap really nicely in terms of the skills I have learned. They also very much helped me to get to where I am going, which is to Mastercard. I’m really interested in the high-impact career that Darden can offer you, but want to have that high-impact career at a company dedicated to social good. Mastercard does work in financial inclusion, and that’s why I’m excited about it.

(Two other dual MPP/MBA students graduated with Daniel: Ali C. (Amaral) Barta and Ramsay Stewart.)

Daniel has become the first-ever, third-generation Darden alumnus, joining her father and grandfather.

And with her on the Lawn for graduation was her brother, who earned his degree from the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science and also helped to keep the family’s UVA tradition going.

Darden interviewed Daniel shortly before graduation.

Did Darden loom large in your life, considering that your dad and grandfather went here?

Yes, my whole life. Whenever I wanted to learn something or connect with someone about career opportunities or for general guidance, my dad would say, ‘I have this friend I went to Darden with, let me connect you with him.’

That really was an influence. Darden was always on my mind. I always wanted to come back here and experience the same thing my dad had.

I also felt a pull to come back to Charlottesville, as if there was a hole that I needed to fill.

When your grandfather and father were at Darden, most students were men. Now, the first third-generation Darden graduate is a woman.

I think it’s great! I have a lot of opinions on it. I think my grandfather is still surprised by it, but I think that’s a good thing.

For me, a business degree made a lot of sense. I think it’s cool that I’m the first third-generation graduate here and a woman. I’ve been looking through my family’s historical records, and it’s all men. You never see the women appear in anything. I really hope that going forward people start to see my name and it’s a big part of the story.

For my dad, he is so thrilled to have me here. He’s really excited to have someone who wants to do what he did — who sees it and respects it and wants to have that same experience.

Was Darden a large influence for your dad and grandfather?

Yes, always.

It’s where their best connections came from. What’s interesting is, as these connections have loomed large in their life, they have all been so central to Richmond.

My dad’s goal was to come to Charlottesville, get a great job, and move back to Richmond. That seemed to be true of a lot of his friends.

I’m going to New York after this. My connections and my network will be all over the country, and the world. I think my story is going to demonstrate how Darden has changed. The network is moving and growing outward.

Has the dual degree been a complementary experience?

Yes. It is everything I wanted. The Batten degree and the Darden degree overlap really nicely in terms of the skills I have learned. They also very much helped me to get to where I am going, which is to Mastercard.

I’m really interested in the high-impact career that Darden can offer you, but want to have that high-impact career at a company dedicated to social good. Mastercard does work in financial inclusion, and that’s why I’m excited about it.

You were president of the Net Impact club at Darden. How do you think about the role of business, and the professional role you’ll play?

At the beginning of my career, it’s going to be about doing whatever social good I can at Mastercard, while also learning about the industry and using the skills I’ve gained as a student to contribute to the company overall.

I do believe all business can play a really important role in terms of social good, whether it’s on a local, a national, or an international level. I want to be a thought leader in the space. I have no idea what format that will take.

I hope to influence other business leaders to take that step toward having a triple bottom line or expanding their mission to consider all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Contributing to that shift in mindset is important to me.

Is that in the water at Darden as well?

I think there is a lot of consideration for the other here. Especially in the Second Year, the curriculum demonstrates that people are very considerate of their peers and are thinking about the impact, both positive and negative, of what they are trying to do.

There’s a core group here at Darden that is really excited about social impact. For us, it’s about how much can we influence our friends here to take what’s hiding in the back of their mind when they make decisions and put it out there?

How do you imagine looking back on your Darden experience?

My biggest takeaway is that I am a better decision-maker now. I see problems so much more clearly. I’m seeing all angles to every business and policy challenge. That’s the skill from this experience that is going to help me most in my career.

I’ve also made amazing friends. I have great experiences from an academic and social perspective every day. That’s been awesome, and I’m very excited about where that’s going to take me later in life. I’m eager to meet up with my friends in the future in the boardroom somewhere.

But it’s my decision-making that’s totally different now. And it’s the combination of Batten and Darden that has brought me to this place.