2019 Best Online MBAs: Chris Venditti, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Chris Venditti

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“I am a fortunate man – I’m blessed to be surrounded by great people.”

Age: 34

Hometown: Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Fun fact about yourself: In a former life, I was a classical musician. I’ve played all over the world, including Carnegie Hall.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The Juilliard School: Bachelor of Music, Master of Music

Where are you currently working? For nearly eight years, I’ve been serving in the Army as a Bugler in the West Point Band. In addition to my musical responsibilities, I am the Chief of Plans and Operations for the Field Music Group. Beginning later this summer, I will be transitioning from the military to financial services. I will be joining Partners Group, the global private markets investment manager, as an Investment Professional in their Associate Program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? A significant part of my job is performing “Taps” for veterans’ funerals. I’ve performed this honor hundreds of times. There is, however, one funeral that I will never forget. I arrived at the cemetery and discovered the deceased had no family. The honor guard team and I performed honors for this veteran with the same dignity and respect that would be given to a general. I was incredibly proud of this moment because we fulfilled and honored a sacred promise even though no one would ever see or know.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? When looking at programs, I considered full-time, part-time, and online programs. I had to rule out full and part-time programs because they were not flexible enough with my military commitments. MBA@UNC allowed me the flexibility and balance to continue my career while pursuing an MBA.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? I enjoyed having the ability to work on coursework anytime and anywhere. This is a double-edged sword as I twice had class on the 4th of July. This flexibility meant that you could be in class with faculty and students who were not only in other time zones but in other countries. One of my favorite professors lives in Spain and teaches accounting in the middle of the night!

In general, the ability to build structured learning into and around your work and personal life is a huge selling point for the online education format. The online format also is attractive to non-traditional MBA students. I met and worked alongside many interesting and talented people in this program. The online flexibility opened up an MBA education to folks like me who might not have otherwise pursued a full-time program. This is a strength as it cultivates a richness in diversity.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? Relationships and network are key attributes when choosing an MBA program. When I chose to pursue the online format, I assumed (wrongly) that I would be getting a great education, but would be forgoing a rich and robust network. Not so! I developed many close friendships with classmates – we’ve even vacationed together!

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? MBA@UNC and Juilliard both have small class sizes. I’m fortunate that I’ve never experienced the impersonal large lecture hall. It’s hard to really compare programs as I’m in a different season in life. At this point, I would not want to go back to school and have the in-classroom experience. I did, however, love that experience when I was in undergrad.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Dive in and give the degree your best effort. Is it hard? Yes. Will it take a lot of time and energy? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes! The saying “You get out what you put in” definitely applies to an MBA. Additionally, learn to rely on your “teammates.” In the MBA@UNC program, there is a great diversity of talent. I learned as much from my fellow students as I did from the actual coursework.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? If a program is completely online, networking across the cohort might prove challenging. MBA@UNC approaches this challenge by including quarterly “summits” where students get to learn together in the same physical space. Having structured in-person training is, in my opinion, an integral part of the curriculum.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? The best part about going to school while working is that concepts learned in the evening can be applied the next morning. Certain technical skills such as accounting or statistics are not relevant to my current role, but development in management, leadership, and team building was immediately applicable.

If you had to do it all over again, would you? Why? Absolutely! The past two years were challenging, but the rewards are worth it. I am about to embark on an exciting new career and I’ve met some incredible people in this program. The best things in life are not things, but experiences. The experiences that are the most valuable to me are the ones that challenged me to think, grow, and achieve. MBA@UNC is one of those experiences, and I would absolutely do it all over again.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My career has taken many unexpected twists and turns. I’ve learned that today’s career outlook is something I could have never imagined yesterday. Ultimately, I hope to leave a legacy of growing strong and healthy teams and organizations.



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