MBA ’90, Founder, iThrive Games
Courage to Confront the New and Unknown
Dorothy Batten (MBA ’90) is a philanthropist, conservationist, designer, mother and nonprofit founder. With so many hats to wear, she experiences the value of her Darden MBA and the courage it gives her to confront new and unknown experiences every day.
That courage has become particularly relevant since she founded iThrive Games, which works to benefit teens at the intersection of game development, education and mental health. It’s an area Batten identified as a new purpose in her life after going through a series of life crises, including the loss of her father and a shattered leg that left her unable to walk for nearly two years.
But it’s a purpose she knew little about when she first conceived of launching the nonprofit.
Today, the daughter of legendary Landmark Communications Founder and UVA philanthropist Frank Batten Sr. says iThrive Games is the thing she is second most proud of (behind her children). And while the nonprofit and her other roles ensure she is never standing still, her ability to take on all challenges drives her passion for advancing human thriving through emotional and social support.
1. What was your first job?
Insurance broker in Lloyds of London
2. What’s the best advice you have ever received?
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
3. Do you prefer numbers or words?
Actually, I prefer images — I am a visual person — and then numbers.
4. What motivates you?
Travelling to new places and cultures, especially places where there are animals, natural beauty and interesting architecture
5. When and where do you do your best thinking?
Outside in nature
6. What’s your current state of mind?
I am grateful for all the abundance and opportunity that this life has offered me.
7. What are you reading these days?
Becoming by Michelle Obama and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
8. What technology can you not live without?
My coffee maker and microwave; I’m not much of a cook.
9. What’s your motto?
Keep Calm and Carry On
10. How do you deal with conflict?
I have had a lot of experience with conflict, and although I was slow to learn how to deal with it, conflict has been a great teacher. I think it is very important when someone presents you with a crisis that you simply listen, make them feel safe in confiding in (or venting to) you, allow them to express their full emotions, and don’t try to solve the problem for them. Most people just want you to be a sounding board, or for you to validate that they have been heard correctly and that you understand. Conflict usually arises when there is bias, misunderstanding and a lack of empathy.
11. What characteristics do you look for in people?
Honesty, humility and kindness
12. How do you unwind?
Walking on my farm, being with animals, listening to books on tape and designing buildings (I also went to design school at UCLA after Darden).
13. What is your favorite cause?
It’s a tie between saving African elephants and helping teenagers through the nonprofit I started, iThrive Games.
14. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
My fantasy island retreat would look like New Zealand and have elephants, gorillas, African large cats and wild dogs.
15. What do you lose sleep over?
My children and sleeping past my alarm.
16. Who’s your favorite action hero?
Wonder Woman, of course! Once, when I was skiing with my dad in Colorado when I was young, Lynda Carter sat down next to us at lunch, and I almost fainted.
17. Which class at Darden impacted you the most?
Paul Farris’ First Year marketing class.
18. Describe a moment when you realized the true value of your Darden education.
When I decided to launch iThrive Games and venture into an industry that I knew nothing about and had no experience, Darden gave me the courage to trust in myself.
19. Why is it so important for today’s Darden students to see the world as part of their academic experience?
I had the opportunity to study and travel abroad during college and work in London after I graduated, and those were transformative years. The ability to step out of one’s box and visualize things from an outsider’s, or unbiased, perspective is an essential skill for life and a catalyst for creativity.
20. You have shared that pursuit of purpose was critical in your father’s life, which inspired you to find your own meaningful path. What advice would you offer others seeking to pursue their purpose?
1. Don’t allow others to prescribe what your purpose should be.
2. Your purpose may change its course unexpectedly after some sort of adversity, so learn to expect change. My purpose materialized after a fluke accident, which shattered my leg and left me with limited mobility for two years. During that time, I went back to school for a degree in counseling, and then my father (and my dog) died, and I got a divorce. Soon after, I conceived the idea for iThrive Games, which would never have happened if I did not have those experiences.
3. Be patient, be open-minded, and allow the toughest moments in your life to be your greatest source of growth and inspiration