Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class Of 2020

Jermyn Davis

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

Cool and confident with a good dose of humor and sass.”

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Fun Fact About Yourself: I began my collegiate career at The Juilliard School.

Undergraduate School and Major: Wake Forest University, Chinese and Political Science

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Deloitte Consulting (Strategy and Operations) – Senior Consultant

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: At age 22 I was asked to be chief of staff to the president of Colorado College. This was my biggest career accomplishment because the role epitomized jumping into the deep end, as I had no idea what to expect, and initially I had no idea what I was doing. In addition to helping the president, cabinet and board of trustees think and act strategically regarding institutional goals, much of my job was ensuring that the college adequately responded to crises. I also had the responsibility of managing my office’s staff, most of whom had been at the college longer than I had been alive. After a rocky start, primarily due to my stubbornness and my attempt to lead using positional authority, I am extremely proud of all that I accomplished individually and as part of leadership team.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Collegial. Presenters would often celebrate the community among students during Kenan-Flagler’s recruitment events. Everyone talked about the student community so much that I thought it was part of the “script.” However, I have been shocked by how supportive students are of each other. 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.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I really wanted a school that had a small MBA program, yet the resources and reach of a larger institution. My undergraduate experience was amazing, primarily because of the small class size and cohort. Having another academic experience that felt intimate and personal was extremely important to me. However, I also wanted a school that was a part of a larger and much more robust institution. Having the larger institution was important for several reasons—the possibility to explore classes in other areas, attend large sporting events, and have an institution that is well regarded nationally and internationally.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am most excited to participate in a Global Immersion Elective (GIE). In fact, this opportunity was a significant reason in my choosing to attend UNC Kenan-Flagler. One of my most valued experiences during my undergraduate studies was studying abroad in Beijing. I loved being able to practice my language skills in a native speaking environment and learn about the Chinese culture. Knowing how great my abroad experience was in college, I am extremely eager to take what I have learned in my MBA classroom and apply those skills in a different, international setting. If the Kenan-Flagler GIE options remain similar to last year, I am torn between participating in the GIEs based in Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Singapore) and South Africa.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have always known I wanted to pursue an MBA as I lacked skills—particularly the quantitative skills—I knew the MBA would provide. However, pursuing an MBA became urgent about a year ago. I distinctly remember working with a colleague before he went to business school and working with him soon after he finished school and returned to Deloitte. I was astounded by his growth as a professional. I was also embarrassed because he was running circles around me. That experience was a catalyst in my pursuit of an MBA as I realized: (1) I didn’t have a spouse or children so there were no real family considerations; (2) my company offered a sponsorship program; and (3) I was getting older so if I didn’t do it now I would never do it.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I looked at quantitative data that showed the earning potential of MBA graduates as well as comparative studies of professionals with MBAs and those without. I also did an informal qualitative assessment of those that I knew with MBA. I looked at what fields they were in and my perception of their happiness. Overall, I decided pursuing an MBA was well worth the investment.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Carnegie Mellon (Tepper), Emory (Goizueta), Northwestern (Kellogg) and Rice (Jones)

How did you determine your fit at various schools? My method for evaluating schools was simple in theory. I spoke to as many current students and recent graduates, no more than two years removed from the program, as I could. While the school visits were helpful in imagining could I physically live in the place, I wanted to hear the student perspective regarding their in-and-out of classroom experiences. I wanted to know what were the professors are like. Was the environment competitive in class and for internships and jobs? Overall, I had a list of about 20 questions I asked each person. It was important for me to speak to a cross-sector of people to form my own opinion about each school and understand each program’s strength and weakness.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment occurred when I decided to leave the Juilliard School and pursue a liberal arts education. My teenage years were marked by academic pursuit, civic service and orchestral double bass playing. Despite my full range of interests, I managed to unwittingly get stuck on a path destined for a future as a classically trained musician. I eventually matriculated at the Juilliard School, despite my unhappiness with being musician. While the opportunity to play with world-renowned musicians is one of the highlights of my life, the most transformative aspect of my time there was my unwavering inability to shake the sense that being a musician wasn’t the life for me.

Now, weighing the many positives and negatives of my decision to leave Julliard and explore a world beyond my musical studies, I have realized that experience shaped me immensely. Leaving Juilliard was scary because I thought I was 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. However, 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.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? After obtaining my MBA, I plan to return to Deloitte with an exclusive focus on higher education. There is an aggressive competitive landscape shaping up in higher education that will require universities to differentiate themselves, and refine their approach to marketing and pricing. As a minority who received significant financial aid in my undergraduate career, I want to help institutions understand how their brand and pricing affect their ability to recruit, retain and graduate historically marginalized groups.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Wow! Five years from now is hard to imagine. However, my long-term goals build off my work as a consultant in understanding the transformational effects of technology. Emerging technologies are presented routinely to higher education leaders as opportunities to enhance operations and further enhance student success. However, technology leaders sometimes miss the mark on building and investing in the right technology as well as conveying how the technology can be optimally used. During my MBA education, I want to gain more skills in understanding finance as well as improve my acumen around technology as a business so I can help schools and students make the most of their technology.

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