Meet Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class Of 2018

MBA students in the Class of 2018 at Kenan-Flagler Business School

MBA students in the Class of 2018 at Kenan-Flagler Business School

Business often acts as a force for change. As a young woman, Amela Dybeli had a front row seat to this dynamic, watching her native Albania embrace the free market after four decades of smothering communist rule.

“There is no better way to understand the fundamentals of a market economy than to witness one being created in front of your eyes,” she explains, “with the influx of the western brands into the Albanian market in the mid-to-late 90s with products like Coca-Cola, Ariel, Gorenje ovens and Samsung color TVs.” In the process, she experienced how such products enriched the lives OF her country’s people and fostered a sense of community.

These events left quite an impression. After majoring in finance at Manhattan College, the 29-year-old worked first at Deloitte and then Ernst & Young in Albania and quit to follow in her family’s footsteps to launch a startup of her own. Now, she is returning to the states to switch careers to marketing — with her formative years echoing in her long-term ambitions. “My dream job would enable me to continuously study consumer behavior and manage a multinational brand that is focused on innovation, sustainability and in enriching everyday lives.”


Dybeli’s journey is just one of the distinctive stories coming out of the Class of 2018 at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Some 299 members strong, this year’s incoming class features a wide range of experiences, from teachers and tax consultants to market analysts and software engineers. While it takes time for a class to establish its identity, you can be certain that this one will undoubtedly be upbeat, entertaining, and insightful.

MBA students participating in Kenan-Flagler's Business Cares initiative

MBA students participating in Kenan-Flagler’s Business Cares initiative

Already, humor seems to be the glue of the class. Matthew Lyde-Cajuste considers himself “a focused, multi-faceted and tenacious supplier of laughs.” He’ll be joined in the peanut gallery by Rajat Gupta, who considers his “witty, sarcastic and frequent use New Delhi slang” to be “a recipe for a laughter riot.” Paula Gomes describes herself as a “citizen of the world, music aficionado, goof-ball, passionate about using business to affect social change.” In contrast, Ayisha Swann labels herself as a “multipotentialite” – interested in everything, expert in nothing!” On a more serious note, Chi Nwogu channels his inner Dark Knight: “I am whoever the world needs me to be at this moment.”

Their personal lives are equally colorful. Swann carries three passports and loves to travel, but adds that she has “a completely irrational fear of flying.” Gomes can “shamelessly recite various Disney movie monologues.” Lyde-Cajuste played men’s basketball for the Syracuse Orangemen under legendary coach Jim Boeheim. Sticking to the basketball theme, Nwogu, as part of his job, watched every NBA game during the 2013-14 season: 1,230 games in all!


Like many students, Gupta can relate his brush with greatness, only his experience comes with an embarrassing twist. “I once bumped into Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a park in Montreal while hanging out with my friends,” he shares. “I didn’t realize that he was a famous political figure and asked him to take a picture of the group while he thought we wanted a picture with him. Talk about awkward moments in life!”

Professionally, Lyde-Cajuste earned the highest performance rating in JP Morgan Chase’s Corporate Development program. Nwogu helped launch two sports ventures since graduating from Brown University in 2010. Swann coordinated with the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., to manage a public art project. Gomes turned an established team at a health insurance operation into a revenue center by developing a sales culture and mentoring team members who ultimately moved into firm leadership.

On the other hand, Daniel Fraser Johnson, a former Teach for America recruiter who once taught in China, found his greatest satisfaction in pursuing a larger mission. “My biggest accomplishment has been having the privilege to mold the minds of underserved youth in the U.S. by teaching at a KIPP charter school in Houston, and by recruiting some of the most talented college students in the U.S. to join the fight for educational equality – one of the most pressing issues related to social justice of my generation.”

Kenan-Flagler MBA admissions director Sherry Wallace

Kenan-Flagler MBA admissions director Sherry Wallace


While the Class of 2018 is thrilled to finally arrive in Chapel Hill, the faculty and administration are equally bullish on their prospects. “We are very excited about this year’s class, which matches the high quality of the prior year’s class and is even more diverse,” says Sherry Wallace, director of MBA admissions (full-time program) at the school. “Underrepresented U.S. minorities (Black, Hispanic and American Indian) comprise 12% of the class, up from 9%.  Women are 30% of the class, same as last year. Our students come from 30 different countries. They tell us they selected UNC Kenan-Flagler for the exceptional learning experiences, core values and collegial culture for which we are known.”

By the numbers, the class features 23 more members than the previous year. Applications slipped from 2,357 last year (an all-time high) to 2,237, with the school accepting 36% of applicants, up slightly from 34% for the Class of 2017. The incoming students bring a 700 average GMAT to class, just a tiny bit below the 701 record last year. Average GPAs dipped slightly from 3.41 to 3.37 as well. In terms of the class’ academic background, the humanities and social sciences led the field at 23%, followed by engineering and computer science (19%), and economics (13%). Like most business schools, nearly a quarter of the class has previously worked in financial services, though manufacturing (15%), consulting (10%), arts, education and public service (7%), and the military (5%) are also heavily represented.

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