Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class Of 2022

MBA student meeting

P&Q: Kenan-Flagler is associated with the “Carolina Way” or “Carolina Nice.” How is this manifested in how you recruit and teach – and the expectations you hold for students?

Staats: “The Carolina Way is typically attributed to Dean Smith, the legendary men’s basketball coach. His philosophy – “Play hard. Play smart. Play together” – was about achieving excellence through team work and a commitment to others. A notion of service is grounded in the founding of UNC-Chapel Hill over 225 years ago and our business school over 100 years ago.

I mention this history because our collegial culture dates back to our earliest days. That culture is reflected in our core values today: excellence, leadership, integrity, inclusion, community and teamwork. It shapes how we educate and prepare future business leaders.

When we recruit students and faculty, we make sure they understand our culture. We expect our faculty to be both excellent teachers and researchers. They are known for being accessible to students, in and outside of class, and supporting them as mentors long after graduation. They constantly focus on how can they improve themselves on the most important issues at hand.

Our students are competitive – just not with each other. They are ambitious, but not at the expense of classmates. They realize that teamwork and inclusivity make them more successful in the short and long term. Recruiters tell us our students can tackle any job working with any group anywhere – no sharp elbows and no drama – and be highly successful. They’re ambitious in the pursuit of excellence.”

MBA student meeting

P&Q: What is the two most unique or differentiating features of your full-time program? How do they enrich the MBA experience?

Staats: “Experiential learning is woven throughout our students’ time at UNC Kenan-Flagler. They learn by doing in consulting (STAR), real estate (development and investment), entrepreneurship (starting, scaling and leading ventures), healthcare (improvement projects in the field), investing (managing millions of dollars), leading non-profits (Nonprofit Board Consultants Program), and other areas.

Increasingly companies expect their new hires to hit the ground running. Our emphasis on the experiential learning component is a way for students take cutting-edge knowledge from the classroom and apply it immediately to build the skills they need for career success.

STAR, which stands for Students Teams Achieving Results, is a real competitive strength for our school. During this for-credit course, student teams work as consultants to solve complex business issues for companies. We have offered it since 2006 and it’s safe to say no other school does anything like it:  strong infrastructure, teaching consulting framework and skills, MBA and Undergraduate Business students working together on projects, and a faculty advisor for every team. Students develop skills they will use in their careers, whether or not they chose consulting: leadership, problem-solving, teamwork, gathering and analyzing data. The projects and companies vary, but we are doing more projects in healthcare.

Healthcare is another differentiating factor at UNC Kenan-Flagler. We have a long track record with our MBA healthcare concentration, and interest in it – and the recognition of the importance of preparing graduates for the field – continues to grow.

We offer dual-degree programs with UNC’s schools of medicine, public health, pharmacy and dentistry, and continue to develop new courses, such as a new elective this year called “Managing Covid-19’s Unintended Healthcare Challenges in Kenya and the U.S.” Markus Saba, professor of the practice of marketing and executive in residence for our Center for the Business of Health, developed the course on healthcare management about the unintended healthcare challenges from Covid-19. He will offer it in partnership with Professor Ben Ngoye of Strathmore University Business School in Nairobi, Kenya. Students from both schools will work on collaborative assignments that expose them to new cultural contexts, knowledge and perspectives; develop and enhance cross-cultural communication skills; and get experience working in multicultural teams.

Our Center for the Business of Health brings together the best of the University, the Research Triangle, and practitioners around the U.S. and world. We tapped those resources and our own alumni network to develop a new online course “COVID-19 Exploration.” We developed it very quickly in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis in March for our online MBA students. It was so successful that we offered again in April for all MBA students; over 250 students enrolled.”

UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA students take part in an Analytical Skills Workshop (ASW) over the summer. Students receive academic preparation in microeconomics, finance, statistics and financial accounting.


Those aren’t the only draws for the Kenan-Flagler MBA program. Here is what MBA and alumni have cited as reasons to come to Chapel Hill:

1) Unique Concentrations: “UNC Kenan-Flagler’s energy program, which has a renewable energy track, was the critical factor in my decision! I felt the MBA Energy concentration would provide me with the foundational energy industry knowledge, quantitative skillset, and networking opportunities necessary to facilitate my career.”
Jonathan Nichols (’22)

“It was important for me to pursue a program that would allow me to pivot in a direction that turned my environmental passion into my career. I was specifically looking for MBA programs that had a sustainability concentration or the possibility to pursue environmental coursework outside of the business school. The deciding factor to pursue my MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler was the possibility to marry strong environmental course work through the MEM at Duke with additional sustainability coursework at UNC Kenan-Flagler.”
Amanda Braun (’22)

2) STAR: “UNC Kenan-Flagler’s STAR program offers the unique opportunity to get my hands dirty with consulting (the industry I plan to pursue). When I was applying to schools, I didn’t see any experiential learning platform of such scale and power, so I knew UNC Kenan-Flagler was the ultimate right choice for me. Through STAR, I can gain the multidisciplinary skills needed for consulting as well as receive early exposure to companies as a practicum.

STAR also offers access to a magnitude of reputable companies – past companies have included Delta Airlines, my favorite company (as mentioned). I would love to work on a project for the airline on ways to address ongoing coronavirus strategic initiatives or to incentivize ways to make flyers feel more comfortable flying again once a vaccine is in place.”
Ryan Fleer (’22)

3) Board Experience: “I am looking forward to participating in the Nonprofit Board Consultants Program. Students work with a nonprofit board on a specific project while gaining exposure to strategic decision-making and leadership experiences. I take pride in my community involvement over the years, but I have never engaged with a nonprofit on a strategic level. I hope to gain insight and skills that will enable me to become a board member of a nonprofit in the future.”
Jonathan Nichols (’22)

4) Fun Traditions: “My favorite business school tradition is the annual Blue Cup Tournament that takes place each spring between Kenan-Flagler and our archrival, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. In parallel to the long-standing interschool rivalry that plays out on the NCAA basketball courts each year, business school students are pitted against each other in highly competitive matches of nearly every kind imaginable including football, golf, tennis, and, of course, basketball. It is an incredibly fun series of events that allows us to show our competitive sides while building on the community of MBA students in the Triangle area.”
Owen Waits (’20)

MBA students leaving McColl Hall


What does it take to land a spot at Kenan-Flagler in 2021? Here is some advice from two members of the Class of 2020.

“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.”
Owen Waits (’20)

“To the best of my knowledge, no students and alumni from UNC Kenan-Flagler have denied my request for a conversation regardless of the means. I strongly advise applicants to speak with our community and learn more about the resources and opportunities that UNC Kenan-Flagler presents – everyone will be super welcoming. After building a substantial understanding of the resources available, applicants should make sure to communicate with the admissions team how they would strategically leverage these resources to achieve their professional goals. Once the applicants can convince the school about their employability and cultural fit with the school, I think they would have already communicated how their collaborative nature and self-starter attitude would take them a long way once they start school, making the admission team’s decision much easier.”
Nishant Motwani (’20)

How did the Class of 2022 determine the best school fit for themselves? What was the toughest question they were asked during the application process? What are these MBA candidates seeking in an employer? Find these answers — and many more — in the MBA student profile links below. 

MBA Student Hometown Undergrad Alma Mater Last Employer
Amanda Braun Minneapolis, MN Colorado State University Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University
Derek Espinosa Charlotte, NC University of North Carolina at Wilmington Belk, Inc.
Ryan Fleer East Brunswick, NJ Tufts University Emigrant Partners
Di He Shanghai, China Shanghai Normal University Eli Lilly
Jackson Keyes Chesapeake, VA Old Dominion University Deloitte Consulting
Antoine Kouao Adou Abidjan, Ivory Coast City University of New York Scholastic, Inc.
Dan LaSorte Binghamton, NY Penn State University Wells Fargo
Daisy Nguyen-Le Bel Air, MD Johns Hopkins University U.S. Army
Jonathan Nichols Chesapeake, VA James Madison University Lilker Energy Solutions
Shawn Reid Post Falls, ID Seattle Pacific University Red Hat Inc.
Evanne Timberlake Winston-Salem, NC University of North Carolina Bob Timberlake, Inc.
Xibei Zhang Harbin, China Southwestern University of Finance and Economics Thermo Fisher Scientific

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