Class of 2021: Abigail Darko finds fulfillment in public relations and campus experiences
When she was 12 years old, Abigail Darko started watching "Scandal," a television program whose protagonist owned her own crisis management and public relations firm.
While the show had its fair share of inaccuracies about the field, Darko was intrigued by the main character, Olivia Pope, and her ability to navigate tricky issues of image management.
This initial spark from "Scandal" began to create a curiosity in Darko about a profession she could one day see herself pursuing.
“I would go to the library and find books on communication careers and PR careers,” Darko said. “I read a lot about these careers because they seemed fun. It all fascinated me.”
After exploring some other paths at Virginia Tech as a freshman, Darko returned to her true passion and majored in public relations in the School of Communication, a decision she called “the best choice I made since coming to Tech.”
Now, Darko will graduate this month, after which she’ll launch her career as a global recruiting associate at Bain & Company in Washington, D.C.
Darko said her first postgraduate job merges all of her passions into one role. While majoring in public relations, she also minored in national security and foreign affairs as well as business leadership. Much of her job will focus on recruiting MBA students from the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, and the University of Virginia, helping them access Bain & Company branches around the world.
“It’s very, very exciting,” Darko said. “I get to bring all my coursework over the past four years together. I’m looking forward to bringing everything to the real world.”
Darko got to this point in her professional development through an internship with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation last summer. The internship gave her a glimpse into the responsibilities found in a full-time job. Instead of performing entry-level internship tasks, Darko worked on real projects with real weight to them. She managed events and assisted students and families from difficult backgrounds into the academic realm.
Furthermore, Darko has made lifelong connections with friends and professors in the School of Communication. In particular, Darko cites the genuineness of Professor Carlos Evia, with whom she worked on undergraduate research projects looking at diversity in communication.
“Abby Darko represents the ideal graduate from the School of Communication,” Evia said. “She is an excellent communicator with technological curiosity and a passionate focus on improving the human condition. She worked with me on an undergraduate research project on the topic of developing web content strategies for diversity. Her work was always impressive and I learned from her unique perspective.”
Darko also noted the generosity of Stephanie Smith, an associate professor, in sitting down with her students to go over their resumes and LinkedIn profiles in detail.
“The biggest thing that is going to make Abby a huge success in PR is her ability to connect with people,” Smith said. “She always has a positive attitude and she’s a great listener, which will help her earn the trust of her clients. She’s also incredibly smart and a hard worker, so there’s no doubt these skills will serve her well in her career.”
Darko’s ability to connect with people was evident outside the classroom, too. She has served as a Hokie Ambassador for the university, a recruitment ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and a Yates Ambassador to cap off her outreach, engagement, and recruitment efforts. She has also served on the Student Communication Advisory Board, the Black Girl Mentorship Advisory Council, the Virginia Tech chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, Dance Marathon at VT, and the African Student Alliance.
In addition, Darko said that three experiences outside the classroom have shaped her the most over the past four years: Virginia Tech’s Homecoming Board, Student Engagement and Campus Life employee, and the New Life Christian Fellowship campus ministry.
“Working on the Homecoming Board this past year was challenging in the pandemic, but I got to work with really awesome people. I had a lot of autonomy,” Darko said. “It helped me learn, ‘OK, here’s this challenge. Let’s build on it. Let’s create something fluid.’
“Also, working at Student Engagement and Campus Life at Squires Student Center has been transforming because it’s taught me discipline. It also taught me a lot about student life because every day I would meet people I might not have interacted with otherwise. It’s just a joy to come to work.
“New Life Christian Fellowship has also helped me form a community,” Darko added. “I’ve met great friends there.”
In all her activities, Darko said, it’s the university’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), that ignites her.
“I want to give back to the community that is constantly serving me,” Darko said. “That’s what caused me to volunteer and to join all these clubs. This community has given me so much, so I thought, I’m here at Virginia Tech. I have all these resources. How can I give back?”
Darko’s time in Blacksburg is coming to a close, and her favorite walks around campus are bittersweet. She’ll miss her time at Virginia Tech, but she’s also grateful for all the opportunities over the past four years to become such a well-rounded individual.
“Looking back, even with the disruptions of the pandemic, I’m grateful for the experiences I had,” Darko said. “I love being here. It’s ending all too soon, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.”
— Written by Cory Van Dyke