By Emma D'Arpino

For University of Virginia Darden School of Business student Quinton Clemm (Class of 2020), an emphasis and appreciation for education has always been a part of who he is.

“Education is very central to who I am and my upbringing,” Clemm said. “I knew I would come back for some manner of schooling at some point. Did I know it would be now? Or an MBA? Or at Virginia? No, not necessarily.”

As it turns out, the path that led Clemm, a University of Virginia graduate with a liberal arts degree, to Darden was a winding and varied one.

Beginning with a job at a member-based advising firm in Washington, D.C., Clemm’s work focused on high-level strategic research writing. However, after about a year and a half, Clemm started to wonder what else was out there. So, in early 2014, Clemm left behind a corporate role to take a chance in an industry that had always interested him: menswear. Along with Antonio Ciongoli, he helped found Eidos Napoli, a full-lifestyle luxury Italian menswear brand. With just a logo, a label and the first set of creative designs, Clemm entered the project with the responsibility of all account management and sales.

“A lot of the work was the constant fire drill of a startup, where there’s no one else to figure it out,” Clemm said. “The mantra is, ‘You figure it out. If it needs to get done, you get it done.’ So, it was a great experience and an incredible breadth of experience.”

That experience included the opportunity to travel to Italy for work, give fashion week presentations, and train floor staff at department stores across the U.S. and around the world. However, with time, the turbulences of a startup and a dynamic industry gave rise to some differences in opinion regarding the best way to grow the brand and the business. So, after four years, Clemm started to again think about what other opportunities were out there. This time, Clemm landed on business school as his next step.

“Business school, for me, was an opportunity to solidify hard skills,” Clemm said. “As an English and psychology major in undergrad, I never took an accounting course, never took a finance course, stopped taking econ second year, so there was a lot of benefit to a real, rigorous education in these skills for me.”

Clemm felt himself pick up those hard skills as a First Year at Darden. Through courses in marketing to ones in finance, he’s building the foundational business knowledge he had hoped to improve. However, it’s not just the acquisition of concrete information where Clemm has seen a change in himself. He’s also noticing a difference in how he approaches his work.

“I think what Darden has really challenged me to do, academically and with the way the curriculum is set up, is to really lean into problems,” Clemm said. “That push for understanding, which is both internally motivated but also coming from the environment around me at Darden, is something that has really improved me during my time here.”

Clemm will take what he’s learned so far at Darden with him this summer, when he’ll work at Bridgewater Associates. The firm’s focus is to translate its understanding of the global economy and financial markets into great portfolios and strategic partnerships with institutional clients.

“One of the main things that attracted me to Bridgewater is that I’ve heard that it is a great place to learn about yourself and how you work,” Clemm said. “It forces you to ask, are you a freshwater fish that can breathe salt water? Because you’re going to be put in salt water. If you can’t, that’s fine. You float to the top and wash out to sea. But if you can, and find that you have the capacity for it, there’s a whole ocean of possibilities at this organization.”

Clemm is looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about himself and how that new information can shape his future.

“I’m going to try to use this experience to say, ‘OK, is this industry right for me? Is this particular culture a right fit for me? Do I like working in and around Connecticut?’” Clemm said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to test something and be able to take those data points and bring them back next year with, hopefully, exponentially more information about myself — what I want to do, who I want to be — and use that to assess my opportunities going forward.”

Testing himself is something Clemm has never shied away from. He knows there’s no guide book and no one set path to take, so he embraces the chance to try new things, make the most of the opportunities in front of him and see where that takes him.

“I want to test the bounds and see where my comfort zones are and where my limits are,” Clemm said. “Bridgewater is definitely going to be a limit-pusher and a comfort-zone stretcher, and I think that’s a good thing.”

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.