Meet UNC’s MBA Class Of 2019

Some of the MBA students in the Class of 2019 at Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill

When ‘career changer’ comes to mind, most picture history majors inspecting balance sheets or engineers tapping into their softer side. It’s hard to imagine leaving investment management for teaching. Then again, Christine Hu isn’t like most MBA candidates.

The child of immigrants, Hu grew up speaking a mishmash of four languages in her blue collar home. It wasn’t always easy, especially when the financial crisis hit home as a high school senior. Her parent lost half of their savings – and anguished over what the future held. This event sparked Hu’s curiosity, inspiring her to study financial markets at Harvard and become a successful analyst. Eventually, she found a new calling after volunteering to tutor low income students. She had a knack for it. Even more, she found teaching to be the true extension of her purpose. “I had a unique opportunity to transform the financial trajectory of our nation’s poorest through teaching,” she writes.


In 2015, Hu took a unique step. While many were leaving Teach For America to enter business, she left Pacific Investment Management Company to become a corps member. And she never looked back. After her two year commitment, she was nominated to be her district’s “Inspirational Leader” and was chosen to deliver remarks at Teach for America’s year-end celebration. In the process, she discovered how relevant her business background would be to her teaching passion. “After my first year of teaching, I recognized the amount of processes that could be improved through the incorporation of business principles.” This epiphany led her to the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School – and its mission, Hu says, of graduating “leaders invested in making a positive impact in the world through business.”

Kenan-Flagler MAC Students. Courtesy photo

Hu wasn’t the lone member of Kenan-Flagler’s Class of 2019 to make a major transition. After majoring in social anthropology at Harvard, Kathryn Hennigan became a marketing and partnerships manager at Houzz. Patrick Gomez Menzies collected a history degree at Harvard…before moving into biological sciences as a consultant and researcher. Patrick Kurunwune transitioned from eluding defenders as a Blue Devil running back to becoming a pharmacy student with their most hated rival. Jen Stutsman parlayed her summa cum laude credentials at Penn into gigs as a deputy press secretary for Obama for America 2008 and press secretary and speechwriter at the U.S. Department of Energy for three years after that. What did she do then? She headed off to Africa to become managing director of Maisha Meds, a global health supply chain startup. When Hu wasn’t buried in economics data, she was unraveling the meanings behind ancient folklore and mythology.

Impressed? Colleen Parra comes to Chapel Hill by way of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Her passions? I’m an adrenaline junkie – sky diving, zip lining, bungee jumping. You name it.” Counting the days to the opening of the new International Spy Museum in DC? Be sure to thank Alyssa Sheinbaum; she helped procure the façade and build the building. Looking for excitement? Hennigan was part of a Peruvian archaeological dig that was featured in National Geographic. Not to be outdone, Stutsman has already visited all seven continents.

Then again, Mariana Thomas is more like the rest of us. “I know way too much about what is happening in Elmo’s life on Sesame Street thanks to my 2-year old daughter,” she jokes. Maybe Thomas could report on Elmo. A TV news reporter, she won an Emmy in 2013 – and was nominated for a second last year. Gomez Menzies also nabbed an award of his own. He received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study, which is given to scholars based on their scientific leadership and potential.


It was a down year for applications in Chapel Hill. During the 2016-2017 cycle, the numbers slipped from 2,237 applications to 2,151. In turn, the acceptance rate dipped slightly to 37% as the school reeled in a 302 member class. Despite this setback, average GMAT rose a point to 701, just a point below in-state rival Duke Fuqua.

Demographically, the class’ percentage of women held steady at 30%, with the percentage of underrepresented minority students and international students skidding by two points and one point respectively. Financial services professionals again comprised the largest bloc of incoming first years at 21%. Technology and health care took up another quarter of the class. Manufacturing, consulting, and arts and government each represented a 7% share of the class.

The Class of 2019 can certainly look forward to a pretty bright future, after graduation. Among the 2015 and 2016 classes some of the bigger consumers of Kenan-Flagler talent have included Amazon, McKinsey, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Bain, and JP Morgan. Last year, graduates averaged $129,797 in starting pay. Over the past five years, Kenan-Flagler MBA alums have seen their pay surge $66,200 to $157,000 according to Forbes.

Sridhar Balasubramanian, senior associate dean at Kenan-Flagler


That’s not the only positive happening at the school, says Sridhar Balasubramanian, the Senior Associate Dean for MBA Programs. For one, the school has placed its five American-based MBA programs (Full-time, Evening, Weekend, Global OneMBA and online MBA@UNC) under one leadership team. While the programs will each retain their unique character, they will also better share their resources. As a result, students will enjoy more classes, as well as tap into a larger pool of students, staff, and professional development opportunities.

While the program remains a leader in graduate management, marketing, and accounting programming, Balasubramanian adds that future students can expect technology to be better deployed to free up classroom time. “With our top-ranked online MBA@UNC program, we have led in implementing technology-intensive learning that is perfectly aligned with the natural learning styles of the millennial generation,” he explains. “Building on these competencies, we are now introducing technology-intensive learning across our different MBA formats. This often involves “flipping the classroom” where the conceptual material is covered online ahead of the class, and the in-class discussion is then focused on learning to apply the theories, frameworks and toolkits in managerially relevant contexts. We will be able to accelerate, expand and enrich learning using this approach.”’’

It doesn’t stop there, he adds. “We are also moving rapidly to introduce other technology-infused learning platforms too. For example, we expect to launch our first virtual-reality learning simulation within the next few months.”

Go to page 2 to see in-depth profiles of incoming Kenan-Flagler MBA students.

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