2018 Best EMBAs: Corbin Norman, University of Virginia (Darden)

Corbin Norman

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

I am serial value creator who transforms inspiration into new opportunities for disruption.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Jackson, Mississippi

Family Members: Patricia Norman (Mother), LaMark Norman (Father – Deceased)

Fun fact about yourself: I am musician of 12 years, composing and performing. I used to do a lot of puzzles as a child while listening to my own compositions.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Jackson State University BS in Computer Science and Music, The University of Virginia ME in System Engineering

Where are you currently working? Entrepreneur

Currently Chief Strategy Officer for Riteband. Most recently Chief Marketing Officer of kweliTV, Inc.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Darden Black Executive MBA Association (BEMBA) – Co-Founder and Executive Vice President

  • Partnered with Black Business Student Association and Darden Student Association in engaging Dean on issues of diversity and inclusion following white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia

Organizing for Action – Virginia Fellowship Program Director

  • Implemented strategic issue campaigns around Affordable Care Act (ACA), Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Gun Violence Prevention and Climate Change which aided passage of Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744) in U.S. Senate on 27 June 2013
  • Made approximately 2,300 phone calls, attended and hosted over 30 events, conducted 20 one-on-ones with community leaders, and organized two grassroots fundraisers grossing over $1,000

Darden Executive Entrepreneurship Club – Co-Founder and Advisor

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Co-founding the Darden Black Executive MBA Association with a fellow classmate. I wanted to play a key role in Darden’s increased focus on diversity and inclusion and believe a student-led organization was the best avenue to make meaningful contributions to the school, business, and society.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of starting kweliTV, Inc. back in 2015. The way people of color are portrayed in the media has a negative effect on the way these communities are perceived. For minorities, the lack of quality content is startling, as many shows present characters based on outlandish stereotypes from depicting Latinas as housekeepers to showing Black men as criminals– the list is truly endless. Over the past three years, kweliTV has focused on changing that narrative.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? James (Jim) Detert – His perspective on ethical decision making and how best to approach difficult conversations challenged me display courage in the workplace and look for opportunities in messy problems.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course came from Sankaran Venkataraman’s Entrepreneurial Thinking. The course focus more on the entrepreneurship mindset rather than how to start a venture. No matter the lifestyle stage the organization find itself, this course allowed me to learn the art and science of “creating something new from little.”

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I find the convenient format, location, and curriculum Darden’s most desirable feature. The core curriculum in the executive formats really provided a strong business foundation in a global context. The program employs the same case method approach as the residential MBA program, allowing me to get the best education experience with a format that reduces time away from my startup, only expending 15 minutes to commute to Rosslyn, Virginia for on-ground classes.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general?The diversity of my classmates. The differences not just in race, gender, color, nationality, but each classmates’ experiences, interests and attitudes towards business and society issues is enlightening. These interactions through a shared experience brought new life-long friendships.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Last November, startup life, family and education were challenging my health and well-being. Engaged in parallel activities had become overwhelming for myself and family and friends. So, I made an adjustment. I took a step back from day-to-day for my startup. This was hard but necessary. By establishing priorities and work boundaries, I was able to succeed during this time. The long nights were worth it!

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Your career, and ultimately your life, is a marathon, not a sprint. Map out your needs professionally and personally. Where do you see yourself pre-MBA and post-MBA, at a high level? Once you’ve identified this roadmap, how well does an MBA align to those needs and help you extract the most value during that journey?

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The myth students should know what they want before attending business school. Career purpose is not a prerequisite for admissions, but Darden has pushed me to seek the “why,” always questioning the purpose of my career and even broader, life.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I don’t have many regrets, but I wish I had applied my learnings to current situations rather than thinking of its application for future use.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many extraordinary students in my class! I admire Frank Sherrill and his passion for companies to be socially-responsible with their investments and influence. Frank recently sold his social enterprise in Guatemala, focused on reducing CO₂ using repurposed plastics to build ecological classrooms. Frank plans to join the private equity industry, focusing on impact investing. Frank’s willingess to change investors’ mindset to focus more on measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside financial returns is admirable and inspirational.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I visited Darden’s new DC location, met current EMBA students and staff and participated in a case discussion.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…continuing to build kweliTV and searching for other exploitive industries to disrupt.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My goal is to start another venture in the creative industry and launch my own non-profit focus on enhancing the arts (music, culture, film, literature) in the African American community.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as one who remained positive, encouraged others to explore the possibilities, and was passionate about advancing African Americans in industries that exploit them most.

Favorite book: Invisible Man

Favorite movie or television show: The Godfather

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Visit all 195 countries
  2. Launch a non-profit dedicated to the arts (music, culture, film, literature, etc.)

What made Corbin such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“I first met Corbin in person while we were traveling together in China for a GEMBA residency.  With a background in engineering and consulting, he was certainly better prepared than most students to tackle the rigors of my course, the second half of the Accounting core curriculum.  While Corbin handled the sometimes-challenging material with apparent ease, this was hardly what distinguished him the most amongst the many EMBAs that I have taught over the years.

Corbin has an incredible amount positivity about him, as well as an unbridled enthusiasm for learning, discovery, and really just for life in general. He clearly delights in the diversity of his classmates, and in the experiences that we all shared while abroad. He is one of those rare students who seems to grow before your eyes, taking everything in with an insatiable appetite, and transforming this into positive energy and excitement that is contagious. Not surprisingly, he is very well-respected and appreciated by his peers, one of those exceptional student leaders who truly makes a difference to the cohort’s two-year collective experience.

Most impressively, for years Corbin has put his high energy levels, creative talents, strong formal training, and well-honed leadership skills into use business and volunteering efforts that have an important social mission.  urrently one of the co-founders and senior executives of kweliTV, he and his team are using an innovative business model to globally source and share “the African Diaspora experience through undiscovered documentaries, films, web shows, children’s programming, news and more,” all while allowing the creative content creators to retain their rights and earn royalties on their work. Recently, he took part in a Global Consulting Project in Latvia with a couple of his classmates, seeking to understand the role of the student business incubator and to find ways to encourage entrepreneurship for sustainable value creation amongst the next generation of risk-averse students.

All of this is all classic Corbin: visionary, ambitious, mission-driven, and collaborative work performed at high levels, and always with the fullest amount integrity and enthusiasm, making him truly one of the “brightest and best” EMBAs that I have known.”

Professor Elizabeth Demers
Associate Professor of Accounting
University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBA GRADS OF 2018