Greg Dougherty calls it, “The nice MBA.” A 2018 graduate of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, Dougherty characterizes it as a place of collaboration and community, where “We want to see each other succeed, and we help each other to be successful in any way that we can.”
Dougherty’s classmate, Matthew Lyde-Cajuste , paints his experience at Kenan-Flagler in a similar light. “The term “community” has been used so often that it has become somewhat of a cliché. However, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School takes this term to heart and seeks to embody all that it is intended to mean.”
STUDENTS BUY INTO THE “CAROLINA WAY”
The Class of 2020 knows it as “The Carolina Way” – and it was a major part of their decision to re-locate to Chapel Hill. What exactly is The Carolina Way? Angelica Ly, a Berkeley-trained engineer, considers it to be “obnoxiously friendly and open.” For Khalid Syed, an Indian transplant still navigating his way through the United States, the Carolina Way is embodied by people who are “down-to-earth” and “accommodating.” Thus far, says musician Galen Parrish Green, his classmates have “create(d) an atmosphere that’s as welcoming as it is inspiring and motivating.”
In essence, the Carolina Way is the intersection of community and collaboration, a spirit where talented and competitive students place a premium on looking out for each other. As a recruit, Jermyn Davis considered such sentiments to be part of the “script.” As a student, the script has more than lived up to its billing.
“I have been shocked by how supportive students are of each other,” he admits. “My classmates have taken on a shared responsibility to make sure everyone succeeds. For example, students with a commanding knowledge of a certain academic area go out of their way and volunteer to help classmates that seem to be struggling. Socially, I have witnessed my peers engage each other to make sure the transition, outside of the classroom, is going well.”
“KIND, OPEN INDIVIDUALS WILLING TO LEND A HAND”
Emily Hoffarth, who became a Tar Heel MBA after working in research for Edelman, replaces “The Carolina Way” with a different term: “Humble ambition.” Admittedly contradictory, the term represents the dual forces that work in tandem to make Kenan-Flagler MBAs so unique.
“Every one of my classmates has a unique story full of incredible accomplishments — service in the military or Peace Corps, jobs at the big banks or top consulting companies, and experience running a restaurant,” she explains. “They are ambitious and have their own career goals and post-business school plans. Nevertheless, my classmates are kind, open individuals willing to lend a hand during the move-in process or share advice to those prepping for early interviews. They are excited to learn, contribute, and enhance the classroom experience for everyone in a collaborative effort.”
What makes the Class of 2020 so upbeat and outgoing? Chances are, it stems from their backgrounds, which often involved painful rites of passage that preceded their soaring successes. As a result, it is a class that hold an appreciation for what they have –one that has inspired their missions to make the world around them better.
LEAVING JULLIARD BEHIND
Take Lauren Carberry. The oldest of three children, Carberry shouldered big responsibilities at a young age. While her mother was sick, she cared for her siblings by cooking their food, helping them with homework, and putting them to bed. She held her first job when she was 12 and her schooling was driven by a desire to help her family.
“I like to think that little pieces of my past sneak into my present,” she shares. “I was inspired to become an EMT to help others on the scariest day of their lives as the EMTs who frequented our house helped us. I foster animals to give abandoned dogs a second chance at life and, in a way, pay forward the kindness our family received gave us a second chance as well. Who I am today is because of who I was, who I had to be, then and while it certainly wasn’t my chosen path, it defined me as a human and I know I’m stronger for it.”
Jermyn Davis also faced a tough choice. As a teenager, he was such a talented musician that he was accepted into Julliard. Despite playing alongside “world-renowned musicians,” Davis’ heart was elsewhere. He loathed the thought of following the path of a classically-trained musician. At the same time, he was terrified to express his feelings and likely “disappointing my parents, bass teachers, and so many others who had given up so much for me to be at that point in my life.” Eventually, Davis took the leap of faith, studying Chinese and Political Science at Wake Forest before becoming a Deloitte Consultant. Turns out, his Julliard experience wasn’t for naught.
“I now have the confidence to commit to new, scary ventures even when others may not understand why I am doing it. Additionally, although I curtailed my time at Juilliard, I am still grateful for attending. I learned a lot about the creative process, which has been incredibly beneficial in my career working with colleagues and clients that may be different than me.”
PLAYING IN A BAND: FROM ART TO BUSINESS
Davis isn’t the only decorated musician in the 2020 Class. Meet Galen Parrish Green. This Colorado College grad has already lived the dream as a founding musician and managing partner of The Wooks, a progressive bluegrass band. During their run, The Wooks recorded a Top 10 debut album with a Grammy-winning producer. Soon enough, they were performing at major festivals, winning awards, becoming fixtures on Sirius XM, and playing alongside musical forces like Peter Rowan and Tyler Childers. Soon enough, the dream, Green says, became a business. More than that, it is inspired him to give business school a shot.
“My professional interests evolved beyond the music industry to include finance, general management, and energy because I had recognized how integral these fields were to every kind of business—from huge corporations down to small businesses like our own. The MBA was just a natural progression from there.”
The same was true for Angelica Ly. She planned to start her masters in engineering right after earning her undergraduate degree. Instead, she climbed the ranks in project management at SMA Solar Technology – a decision that provided the perspective she needed to excel just the technical realm.
“As I experienced engineer in the real world, I learned that business was the most important aspect. Every engineering decision is a business decision. While the technical portion is important, it is the business situation that drives strategy and major decisions. This motivated me to develop personally towards being a problem solver from both the engineering and the business angles.”
BUSINESS OPENS A PATH TO PUSH FOR CHANGE
Others endured defining moments that veered their path towards business. That was true for Sam Polino, whose passion for environmentalism was lit after studying abroad in Ecuador. “While in a remote rainforest,” he recalls, “I and eight other ecology students drove through several oil extraction sites and witnessed the complete destruction of pristine environments. I thought to myself, “There has to be another way to meet our global energy needs.” Upon returning to Boston University, I enrolled in a renewable energy minor and have focused my career in that direction since.”
In contrast, Andrew Slaughter’s moment of truth came in 2016, when he was diagnosed with an internal carotid artery aneurysm. “That mortal experience forced me to confront who I want to be with the time I have – and what kind of impact I want to make on the world and the people around me before it’s my time to go. In that series on months of treatment and recovery, I reaffirmed my commitments to passions, environmentalism, and civic duty. Now, I always have a compass and experience that points me to and centers me on my moral code.”
The biggest surprise may be that Maya Anderson ever ended up in business at all. Growing up, she associated business and money with everything wrong in the world. It was, in her words, “a source of stress, something that made people do bad things, or made people unequal.” At Harvard University, she majored in English, purposely avoiding majors that were “just about the money.” Eventually, Anderson found her way into real estate, drawn in by her innate interest in fixing things. Soon enough, she was introduced to her true passion: strategy.
“I couldn’t get enough of the big picture stuff: reading business research to improve our team’s functions; playing around with numbers to see how we could hit goals; finding the best way to invest our money; working with clients to discover how we could best fulfill their needs; discovering how to create a strong referral network; and getting the power to make some of my own business decisions and see what I could do with a little bit of money,” she says. “Business is the opportunity to study it all, apply it, and help people. That was what I wanted to devote my life to. With business, I finally understand how I can help and inspire others to see outside of their own economic barriers and create something great for themselves.”
MEDIAN GMAT JUMPS 10 POINTS
The Class of 2020 brings Impressive credentials and great stories to the table. At the first glance, the class’ stats are down a bit. The 2017-2018 cycle yielded 1,758 applications, down 19% from 2019 Class. At the same time, the school’s class size fell from 302 to 280 students, as the acceptance rate rose nine points to 46%.