As Economy Grinds Down, UNC Launches Undergrad-To-MBA Pipeline

Kenan-Flagler School MBA students leaving the McColl Building on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. UNC photo

In a recession, enticements to go to business school sprout up like springtime flowers. They can be monetary, they can involve second (and third) chances, or they can be programmatic. UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School is the most recent to try to boost interest in its full-time MBA with the latter, a new program aimed at recent college graduates in North Carolina.

The pilot program, called NC Business Next, is designed for a small group of graduates of the UNC system, which includes 16 campuses besides Chapel Hill, as well as state residents from other universities. The initiative allows the recent graduates to earn their MBAs now, “when the job market suddenly turned from hot to cold” — in other  words, a recession, which is traditionally when many turn their thoughts to academia as a way to ride out the economic storm.

“Recognizing the difficult and uncertain career opportunities for new college graduates in North Carolina, we decided to launch an initiative that provides a route to career success for new college graduates in North Carolina,” says Doug Shackelford, UNC Kenan-Flagler dean. “We view this as part of our school’s service to the state: educating our best and brightest in a field that fuels the state’s economic engine and innovation. It is right thing for the people of North Carolina and embodies UNC Kenan-Flagler’s core values.”


NC Business Next is open to graduates from all undergraduate majors, the school announced today (April 27). Applicants from other states are also welcome. Admits will be judged on academic performance, quantitative strength, letters of recommendation, demonstrated impact through leadership activities and internship and part-time work experience, motivation, interviews, GPA, and standardized test scores. Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the school will allow applicants who cannot schedule the at-home versions of the GMAT or GRE to request a waiver.

All applicants will be considered for fellowships as part of the admissions process.

“Students who graduate from college during an economic downturn struggle not just to get jobs, but also build the capabilities they need for long-term career success,” says Brad Staats, associate dean of MBA programs and an operations professor. “Our MBA program — with its focus on applied knowledge, experiential learning, and career skills — will help them address this gap.

“In the unusual circumstances caused by the COVID-19 crisis, we have the ability to offer this opportunity to a select group this fall and help develop a new generation of talented leaders for North Carolina.”


Students in the new program will participate in an “Analytical Skills Workshop” to bolster their knowledge of critical business topics before starting classes. They also will partner with MBA Dean’s Fellows and receive peer mentorship and guidance. The new program’s priority application deadline is June 15, with admissions decisions made on a rolling basis. The final application deadline is July 13.

“Our stellar undergraduate business students are a model for the type of students we are seeking,” Staats says. “For many years our MBA students have learned with them through STAR consulting projects, elective courses, student-managed funds, and mentorship programs. One of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s strengths is having MBA and Undergraduate Business students taught by one faculty in the same building, so we are uniquely prepared to serve this new group of talented individuals who will bring diverse experiences and perspectives to our community.”

Working with career and leadership coaches, students will receive strong support, says Melissa Hlavac, associate dean of MBA programs.

“While accepting students with limited work experience is not common for the MBA programs at UNC Kenan-Flagler, we have done so occasionally in the past, generally from our dual-degree programs,” Hlavac says, “and these students do very well, both in initial placement and in long-term career achievement.”

Learn more about NC Business Next here.


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