2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Owen Waits, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Owen Waits

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

Army Veteran. Career switcher. Focused on family, community, and preparing for a career in finance.

Hometown: Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but I have lived in eight states throughout my military and professional career. Currently a resident of Durham, North Carolina.

Fun fact about yourself:  I am red/green color deficient, which can make choosing coordinated outfits difficult. Glad I have my wife to help with that!

Undergraduate School and Degree: United States Military Academy at West Point, B.S. in American Politics, Policies, and Strategies

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? United States Army, Company Commander

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? J.P. Morgan Private Bank, Atlanta, Georgia

Where will you be working after graduation? J.P. Morgan Private Bank, Associate Banker

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, Private Wealth Management Career Club
  • Vice President of Finance, Kenan-Flagler Veteran’s Association
  • MBA Student Ambassador
  • Way Point Society of West Point, Elected Member

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the work we did with the Private Wealth Management Club and our ongoing efforts to grow the wealth management career path as a major point of attraction for students considering Kenan-Flagler. The primary goals for me and the staff of vice presidents who run the club were to facilitate the PWM recruitment process and help candidates successfully secure offers for summer internships. During the 2019-20 school year we grew club membership by 400%, increased our year-over-year summer intern offers by 75%, added a major firm to the on-campus recruitment cycle, and overall strengthened this career option for future generations of Kenan-Flagler students.

I also am proud of the pivot I made from a military background into the financial services industry to prepare myself for a career in private banking. I earned a Bloomberg Market Concepts certification, completed a Fundamental Equity Analysis workshop, and am graduating with a concentration in Capital Markets and Investments.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my leadership of two organizations on separate overseas tours. When I was 24 years-old, I completed a nine-month combat deployment to the eastern part of Afghanistan as a Platoon Leader. Later in my career, I deployed with my Company of 180 people to Kuwait and other parts of the Middle East as part of our strategic partnership in the region. Throughout these deployments and career, my primary focus was the well-being of people under my command while we achieved our assigned missions. Through a combination of difficult preparatory training and luck, we were all able to return from these deployments and I am incredibly grateful for that.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor was Professor Ric Colacito, my teacher for a semester-long investments class. Not only did he do a fantastic job of making complex financial assets and concepts approachable, but he also came to every class with a contagious level of energy. His passion for teaching and desire to ensure that all students left his class with full understanding was admirable.

Why did you choose this business school? One word: Community. From my first time visiting the school during a prospective student visit for veterans to showing up and meeting my class the first time, I found in Kenan-Flagler a community that drew me there and was an incredible fit. With a class size of 276, I got to know everyone’s name quickly and found a feeling of camaraderie that reminded me of that same feeling that was present in the military. There was no inter-class competition or judgment. Instead, I found a network of supportive peers who genuinely were interested in what I was passionate about and were more than willing to help in any way they could. In November of my first year, a close friend and classmate in the program passed away. The Kenan-Flagler community was incredible during this trying time. From fellow students reaching out to the response of the school administration, it was exactly what was needed and truly showed the genuine nature and goodness of people in the Kenan-Flagler community.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?  Be humble, be genuine and have something to offer the school. Consider the impact you want to have if chosen to earn an MBA at Kenan-Flagler. Do you want to make a scholarly contribution, lead a club, or maybe start something new? Whatever it is, know what your value add is and outline that in your essays and interview.   

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth is that the Carolina-Duke basketball rivalry is not the greatest rivalry in basketball. I can absolutely say after having been to a UNC vs. Duke game in person and watching all the others during my time here, this is the greatest rivalry in basketball, if not all American athletics. The deep roots of the competition go back 100+ years and the dedication of the fans and the commitment of the athletes is simply unmatched.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?That is hard to say. I went all-in on this MBA experience, not wanting to have any regrets. I led a Career Club, traveled to two continents with classmates, successfully converted my summer internship into to a full-time offer, developed new academic knowledge, and made lifelong friends along the way. If I had to do it again, I would try to spend even more time with my classmates knowing now that after graduation we are spreading all over the world.  The 22-month full-time MBA experience goes fast and having the opportunity to spend time with these incredible people who are my classmates while they are all still in Chapel Hill is a special opportunity.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I really admire my classmate Lauren Carberry and her leadership of the Consulting Club at Kenan-Flagler. Having an engineering background lends a unique perspective and problem-solving process which, combined with an inclusive, encouraging personality, makes her a bright light in the class and a joy to be around.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My decision to attend business school was most influenced by my friends and fellow veterans who were successfully able to pivot into fulfilling new careers upon completion of the top 20 MBA programs. I saw the professional skills and education they developed when combined with the leadership abilities gained in the military created candidates who were highly sought after in today’s competitive employment market.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Consistently meet or exceed organizational metrics while ensuring continuous client satisfaction
  • Build on my MBA education to ensure I maintain timely knowledge of the profession and share this with my peers

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Owen is a genuine friend who goes out of his way to help people and consistently works to leave any organization better than how he found it.


  • Scuba Diving (I just completed a bucket list item of scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia while there over winter break)
  • Exercising with my dogs (I have a yellow lab and a black lab)
  • Woodworking (I build furniture for around the house like nightstands, benches, etc)
  • Golf
  • Fishing (Regular reel fishing and fly fishing)

What made Owen such an invaluable member of the Class of 2020?

“As Private Wealth Management Club president, Owen Waits truly elevated UNC Kenan-Flagler’s brand in the private wealth management (PWM) space. Evidence of the impact of his work: We have a record number of students recruited to top-tier Wall Street firms such as J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

Owen marshaled his executive board and together they developed comprehensive career resources in the PWM sector for the first-year MBA class. They put together an internship recruiting handbook from scratch, including information about the networking process and building relationships, technical aspects of the role, and a brand-new series of presentations they used to facilitate their club meetings (including links to many financial market resources such as research reports, podcasts, and articles). They also organized the PWM club trek, when students to visit firms such as Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and Bank of America in New York.

Owen and his board conducted thoughtful, engaging club meetings sequenced and paced appropriately for first-year students. He was very accessible to them, and provided valuable peer mentoring. During the process, he enhanced relationships with alumni and recruiters, particularly in the PWM sector.

The Private Wealth Management Club is a relatively new club and under Owen’s leadership, it has a very solid foundation for future generations to build upon.

As club adviser, working with Owen was a true pleasure for me! He was very collaborative and reliable. He earned my trust very early on and exceeded my expectations as club president. He was always open to hearing others’ viewpoints and incorporated them into his vision for the club, creating open and collaborative working relationships.

I am not alone in my views of Owen. I heard glowing praise from recruiters, alumni, and his classmates.

UNC Kenan-Flagler had a record number of students interested in and recruited to top private wealth firms. We all are impressed with how Owen conducted himself throughout the entire process. He never got flustered during stressful times, respected all stakeholders and was a wonderful role model. I feel fortunate that we have Owen as an invaluable part of our community and his significant impact on it.”

Pramita Saha
Senior Associate Director, Coaching, Career & Leadership for MBA & Alumni,
UNC Kenan-Flagler


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