Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class of 2021

Kenan-Flagler case competition with Ramses


In the past two years, MBA applications have fallen at nearly all top business schools. The Kenan-Flagler Business School has not been immune to this trend. During the 2018-2019 cycle, the school received 1,323 applications. That’s down from 1,758 and 2,151 apps during the two previous years. Over the same period, the number of students has fallen from 302 to 252 in the full-time program. One silver lining for potential applicants: the acceptance rate has risen from 37% to 51% over the past two years, making it easier – theoretically – to get into the program.

The numbers are still pretty daunting, however. This year, the class averaged 697 on their GMATs, higher than similar Top 20 programs like Emory Goizueta and Washington Olin. In addition, the program’s average 3.38 GPA represents an improvement over the previous year. While applications are down, the percentage of underrepresented minorities climbed by 5%. That increased diversity also applies to women, who account for 29% of 2021 Class – up a point over the previous year. While the percentage of international students skidded from 24% to 17%, the class still hailed from 25 countries, no different than the year before.

Like previous year, undergraduate business majors make up the largest segment of the incoming class. This year’s 35%, however, is down four points. That drop hardly compares to engineering, which fell nine points to 10%. A new category – economics – made up the difference at 11%. Aside from the introduction of economics, the Class of 2021 resembled its predecessors, with humanities and social sciences (26%) and math and science (13%) rounding out the class.

In terms of professional backgrounds, the class composition suggests a departure from its predecessors. Namely, the percentage of consultants plummeted from 33% to 8% according to data supplied by Kenan-Flagler. This year, financial services comprises the largest bloc of incoming full-time MBAs at 18%. A new category – students who previously worked in the military, government, and non-profits – take up 17% of the class seats. Healthcare (12%), real estate (10%), and technology (10%) also represent sizable portions of the class.

Overall, Kenan-Flagler consistently ranks as a Top 20 MBA program, with its world-class leadership programming and real estate, healthcare, and accounting concentrations considered its biggest strengths. The program also notched one of the highest scores among employers for “Innovative MBAs” in the 2018 Bloomberg Business recruiter survey. Such respect translated into the Class of 2018 nabbing $139,627 pay packages to start, with recent alumni seeing their pay jump by $70,100 within five years of graduation. The program also boasts a prime location in Chapel Hill, a 30-minute drive from Research Triangle Park (RTP), a tech and life science hub whose 300 tenants range from plucky startups to established firms like GlaxoSmithKline and Cisco.

Gathering of the impact investing team


This summer, Poets&Quants submitted questions to Brad Staats, the associate dean of the MBA program who also heads the Center for the Business of Health. Along with asking him to share new developments and underrated aspects of Kenan-Flagler’s MBA program, we also inquired about the opportunities available through RTP and the unique features of its renowned leadership programming. Here are the answers that he shared with us.

1) What are the most exciting new developments in your program?

“The most wide-reaching developments at UNC Kenan-Flagler that benefit our students are the initiatives led by our relatively new Center for the Business of Health. We have long had a strong MBA curriculum in healthcare, but now the Center is the catalyst for tapping the expertise across our campus, engaging more deeply with industry, and capitalizing on our location in the Triangle, known for innovation in both healthcare and technology.

UNC Kenan-Flagler is becoming a hub for providing business perspectives in healthcare. We are excited about being part of the solution through our work and preparing MBA students to address the 21st century’s greatest challenges in healthcare the U.S. and, indeed, the world.

What that means for our MBA students is new course offerings, more interaction across campus with healthcare units and even stronger relationships with healthcare companies where they want to work.

The MBA Healthcare Club, our most active student organization, is stronger than ever. The School and the Center work with them to provide industry-specific career preparation, organize events (healthcare conference, career treks and case competitions) and connect with alumni mentors.”

2) What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish prospective students knew more about? 

Brad Staats. Photography by Steve Exum

“We were an early mover in the area of entrepreneurship. We founded our Entrepreneurship Center in 1997 and built a rich foundation for preparing entrepreneurs. That includes curriculum, co-curricular programs (too many co-to mention here), resources, and a passionate network – not just of UNC alumni entrepreneurs across the U.S. but others in the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem across UNC, the Town of Chapel Hill, and deep engagement with the entrepreneurial community in the broader Triangle area (including the major financial center, Charlotte).

Unlike some programs, our focus is not only on producing startups. Of course, we have many opportunities for students to launch businesses and provide extensive support for them, but our approach is also long-term and broader – to prepare MBA students to launch, lead, or invest in entrepreneurial enterprises at any point in their career. Even for MBA students who don’t plan on following an entrepreneurial path, they still can benefit from our entrepreneurship offerings so they could manage a growth-oriented private venture or be an intrapreneur in an established organization.

Our curriculum and approach develop the entrepreneurial mindset students need whether they go the route of founder, funder or what we call “growth executive.” Students evaluate the critical issues that entrepreneurs face in their journey and understand the characteristics of success as an entrepreneurial leader.

We teach key skills required to succeed in entrepreneurship: resilience (how to fail, learn, and reset/restart), how to work in interdisciplinary teams, entrepreneurial leadership and creating followership, determination, persistence, discovering passions and a personal definition of “success,” and how to take intelligent risks.

Our students learn in experiential ways – through classes and co-curriculars – that include building a startup (ideation, validation, prototyping, testing, launch planning, pitching), meeting with experts and entrepreneurs who discuss and share what it is like to start and build a business and the challenges associated with that (more than just the business side, but also the personal trials and tribulations); working on carefully designed interdisciplinary teams (that leverage connections across the UNC campus); and teaching what an investable startup looks like (both objective and subjective measures). Our entrepreneurship programs enable and promote interdisciplinary teams and give them the support and teaching needed to create and validate ideas that lead to more successful startups.

Designed interdisciplinary teams at UNC Kenan-Flagler means tapping into the College of Arts & Sciences and graduate programs across campus (e.g., Law School, Pharmacy School and at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment). At the University, we have a lot of strength across campus in our graduate and undergraduate programs as well as our medical programs and research centers.

We offer many other entrepreneurship-focused programs through our Entrepreneurship Center for students to incubate and accelerate their ideas. These include our Carolina Challenge Pitch Party and Makeathon to our Launch Chapel Hill Accelerator. Finally, our Adams Apprentice program is a deep learning program that spans a 12-month period in which our most promising entrepreneurs receive specific programming in classes and co-curriculars designed to develop them as entrepreneurial leaders.

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