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“My husband and I had four weeks to move 2 dogs, 2 kids, and a swing set from Harrisonburg to Richmond.”

From the moment I visited the VCU Brandcenter I felt an immediate connection.

After receiving my acceptance, things moved quickly. My husband and I had four weeks to move 2 dogs, 2 kids, and a swing set from Harrisonburg to Richmond. It was nightmarish. On top of that, the average age of the Brandcenter student body (25) made me nervous. As a mother, raising kids since I was 22, I was used to being thrown into a wide variety of experiences.

But was I going to stick out like a sore thumb?

First semester, my peers and I were thrown into Navy Seal style training- breaking down and building up new thought processes. After going through that together, you walk away with an intense loyalty to those that are in the learning process with you. The culture here is that you stick together and you learn to trust those around you. There is no way to make it through this curriculum without leaning on each other, which is a very practical application because no one in business can drive success as a one-man ship.

Some of my friends are 10 years younger, some are my age, but it doesn’t matter. We are all here to be the best versions of ourselves.

Beyond the walls of the school, the Brandcenter network is tremendous. It isn’t a pretentious network; it’s an open network. Never before had anyone been so willing to give advice or encourage me to learn about a company. I came into this program thinking I was on a linear path, but new doors keep opening all around me every day. Potential employers contact me all the time even though I’m a year away from graduating.

Sure, working 60-80 hours a week (many don’t believe it’s that intense, but it is) isn’t always easy to balance with a family. But from the perspective of a mother, my children are embraced by my peers and get to see amazing talent on a daily basis. It’s a constant inspiration for them to see a group of people that care so much about their futures.

It’s a ball of inspiration. That’s what the school is. Every part of me is nourished- socially, intellectually, and professionally.

-Rian Chandler-Dovis, creative brand management track, class of 2017