2020 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Morissa Wagner Szmyt, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Morissa Wagner Szmyt

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“I’m a marketing geek who loves the outdoors, family, and animals.”

Age: 38

Hometown:  Atlanta, Georgia

Fun fact about yourself: Growing up, my grandparents owned a strawberry farm in Maine. During the summers, my cousins and I would help with the harvest and sell quarts of strawberries at our roadside farm-stand.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Connecticut at Storrs, B.S. in Business Administration, Marketing

Where are you currently working? Brand manager at KIK Custom Products, a private consumer products company that manufactures and markets packaged goods in the household, pool care, automotive, and personal care industries.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have worked on several award-winning marketing campaigns, but I am most proud of the successes of those around me — especially the young women I have had the opportunity to coach and mentor. I strongly believe in the power of mentorship and am incredibly proud when I am able to witness an individual’s growth and development.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? Having the flexibility to balance family and professional commitments while enrolled in an MBA program was important to me. I researched full-time, evening, and weekend programs as well as top online programs. Ultimately, I chose the MBA@UNC program for its strong academic reputation, flexibility, and distinct culture. People talk about the “Carolina Way.” UNC’s academic culture balances rigor with a supportive atmosphere, unlike other programs.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? My favorite part of the MBA@UNC program was the people. I was continually impressed by the faculty’s vitae. The professors were highly-accomplished, approachable, and as eager to hear from us as we were of them. I also really enjoyed experiencing the professional and geographical diversity among my classmates. I was able to learn from so many different perspectives, meet people from a variety of industries, and now have a network of classmates around the world. I do not believe I would have had this depth and breadth with a traditional program.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? The online learning environment is very rigorous and demands accountability. You cannot hide behind your webcam or skip your classes and just show up to take the final exam. The curriculum is just as interactive and dynamic as an in-person program, and the online format does not lighten the amount of work effort or commitment required.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I found the online experience very similar to my third and fourth-year undergraduate business school classes. Even though the classes and group meetings were virtual, I never felt the “distance” part of distance learning. With a full-time job and family, the best part of an online program vs. an in-the-classroom experience was not having to waste precious time commuting to campus. I could eat dinner with my family, then walk downstairs to my home office for class. Or attend class from a hotel room while traveling for work.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? My advice to applicants for thriving in an online MBA program is to take every opportunity to connect with your peers, faculty, and alumni community. In addition to what you will learn in the classroom, the people that you will meet will become a large part of your success during the program and for years to come.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would stop calling them online programs. I believe an MBA program can be fluid and meet students where they are at any given point in time. Full-time, evening, weekend and online programs should all be viewed as one MBA program for that institution. The more diversity of thought and experience, the stronger the program and stronger the graduates.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? My goal upon entering the MBA@UNC program was to transition into the field of brand management within the consumer packaged goods industry. The program’s online format, career, and leadership resources, and academic reputation allowed me to accept my current position in brand management while concurrently finishing my degree.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Every day, I go to work incredibly grateful to have transitioned into a career that I love and to be among such talented people. My long-term professional goal is to continue to pursue opportunities in brand management.

Don’t Miss: The Entire Honor Roll of the Best & Brightest Online MBA Grads of 2020

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