How does Q3 feel? Something fantastic is happening in the classroom…I look around and see friends EVERYWHERE. I could be considered the excitable type, but it’s wonderful to go to class and see people I can’t wait to catch up with. I may be a sentimental softy, or possibly the fact that it’s cold and everyone’s wearing fuzzy sweaters, but some classes seem positively cozy.

We’re a pretty small community of 300 or so, but it’s still my first time being in a classroom with a some people. Some of us are known quantities in terms of what we’ll say, predictably funny or serious or intense. An added layer of familiarity is a general awareness about our classmates’ future jobs – roughly 65% of us have job offers and/or know where we’ll be going to work post-Darden. It used to be that we knew each other in the context of what we’d done prior to Darden – now there’s a rich layer of our cumulative 1.5 year experience being silly, serious, stretched and smushed together plus our future jobs. There’s the Southern gentleman/former consultant who’s going to a technology company in Korea, the ex-Marine operations whiz going to strategy consulting, the past journalist going into brand management. I find my examples in class are less financial services oriented and more beer-related. Classmates send me articles on the latest interesting beer marketing, or suggest new beer flavors in passing. I give tips on moving to Charlotte or Seattle, and look for tips on living in St. Louis. It’s a great sense of community and yet another reason being here is so wonderful.

And speaking of beer, we had our 2nd annual Wine, Beer & Spirits conference last Friday, and it was terrific! The definite highlight was the keynote speech by Lyons Brown, a Darden grad and founder of Altamar Brands, a luxury spirits company. As he and the various presenters talked about industry dynamics and challenges, it hit me again: I’m so lucky to have a dream job in the alcohol industry, a fascinating gig I never would have had a chance at without an MBA. I’m grateful and still amazed when i think about the sheer fabulousity ahead of me.

Bucket list update: checked off BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville, VA (try the Hog Fire sauce) and a visit to Keswick Hall for delicious mimosas. Also dressed as a ninja (a first) for our Pirates vs. Ninjas Winter Doldrums party. Coming up this weekend is the Darden Shelter for Help in Emergency benefit auction, black tie (swoon! my favorite, and for such a good cause) and the Super Bowl (go Packers!). Life continues to be grand…