2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Aditi Paul, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Aditi Paul

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“A businesswoman who surrounds herself with creative minds to complement and challenge her inner engineer.”

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

Fun fact about yourself: I have traveled to over 20 countries on six continents (and hope to make it to Antarctica in the future).

Undergraduate School and Degree: Georgia Institute of Technology, B.S. industrial and systems engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?  Accenture, Management Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020?  UnitedHealthcare – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Where will you be working after graduation? UnitedHealthcare, Director of Strategic Initiatives – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Vice-President of Alumni Relations, MBA Healthcare Club
  • Co-Representative, Curriculum Advisory Board (CAB)
  • MBA Student Ambassador
  • 2020-2021 Career Mentor
  • Forte Fellow and Ambassador
  • Recipient of the MBA Leadership Award (Core Values)
  • Recipient of the Jack Behrman and Dick Levin Award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My greatest achievement during business school is when I received the MBA Leadership Award as a first-year student. Each semester, UNC Kenan-Flagler recognizes members of the community who embody the School’s core values of excellence, leadership, integrity, community, and teamwork. The Leadership Award is peer-nominated and honors students who exemplify leadership attributes to improve the educational experience of their classmates.

As an introvert who came to business school to refine my leadership and interpersonal skills, this award was a proud moment on the transformative impact this MBA program was having on my development and growth.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest professional achievement is when I stepped into a leadership role in a large initiative that was transforming a statewide Medicaid program. This was the first time I had sole responsibility of owning a client relationship, managing a diverse team, and driving the project to completion. My management and delivery of the project, though at times stressful, was met by praise and gratitude of my team’s hard work. This project was a career-changing moment in that it not only gave me the confidence and trust in my abilities, but also cemented my desire to purse a long-term career in the healthcare industry. Even more so, witnessing this interplay of healthcare, technology, business, and public policy was a key contributor in accelerating my decision to pursue an MBA.

Why did you choose this business school? UNC Kenan-Flagler had all the attributes and aspects I was looking for in an MBA program: strong healthcare program, rigorous academics, great job placement rates, and a large and involved alumni network. But what attracted me to the school was the strong culture of collaboration and community. Every program highlights its tight-knit community and network, but I felt a distinct sense of belonging and cultural fit as I went through the application process.

One interaction that stood out to me was when I visited the school and had an opportunity to attend a class session. Instead of sitting in the back, the student liaison introduced me to the professor, created a name plate for me, and asked me to join her in the front of the class. Throughout the whole session, the other students welcomed my involvement in group discussions and in-class assignments (despite my limited business background). That level of inclusion, encouragement, and authenticity are common themes I continue to experience as a student. Being halfway across the country from my family, I wanted a school that felt “like a home away from home,” and I am glad to have found that here at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? The faculty at UNC Kenan-Flagler are remarkable, but my favorite professor is Professor Judy Tisdale. I first met Professor Tisdale through my role on the Curriculum Advisory Board, and it was clear from our first interaction that she was compassionate, thoughtful and attentive. I had the pleasure of taking two courses with Professor Tisdale: Management Communications and Communication for Developing Leaders. Professor Tisdale has a unique approach of providing an individualized experience in a classroom setting through active listening, continuous engagement, and detailed feedback that highlight distinct areas of improvement. Through Professor Tisdale’s coaching and teaching, my confidence to communicate in a business setting improved, and I find myself to now be an engaging leader and effective contributor in a team environment.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back over my MBA experience, I would have spent more time, in my first year, interacting with my classmates in person and contributed to more on-campus events. While I thought I had a full two years to socialize and network, this did not materialize due to COVID. Instead, I had to learn how to build, develop, network and foster meaningful relationships in a virtual environment and still achieve similar outcomes to stay aligned with my goals.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me the most was how much learning and growth occurs outside of the classroom walls. I expected to grow from an intellectual perspective, but I am proud of the tremendous professional and personal growth I’ve experienced during my time in the program. My classmates at UNC Kenan-Flagler come from incredibly diverse backgrounds and are some of the hardest-working people I’ve met. As I immersed myself in leadership positions and extracurricular activities, my classmates helped me strengthen my purpose, values and behaviors through feedback, inspiration, mentoring and recognition to bring out the best in me.

More specifically, through the actions and words of my peers, I learned the true meaning of resilience and allyship. 2020 was a monumental year that challenged each of us in new and unexpected ways. It was inspiring to see the Carolina community come together, support each other’s experiences, and become advocates for change both on and off campus. Students worked closely with the administration to create a Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion core course, clubs hosted continuous discussions with underrepresented groups on social justice/reform within our country, and classmates (and their families) provided rides to voting locations during election season. Overall, the passion the Carolina community demonstrated in affecting not just their own lives but the world around them has been an overwhelming inspiration.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Prior to the application process, I invested time in examining how the value of an MBA would elevate my professional and personal brand. I followed this up by developing my big-picture goals on what I needed to accomplish during and immediately after my time at business school. Armed with this framework, I leveraged the resources that UNC made available to me – from students and staff to faculty and alumni – to validate that UNC was the right choice and formulate my roadmap for the duration of my MBA experience. This preparation has been a significant contribution to my success in this program.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s difficult to name just one classmate because I am lucky to have been surrounded by such a wonderful cohort of peers. But one person I have come to admire is John Gauthier, who is my fellow co-representative in the Curriculum Advisory Board (CAB). John is a highly accomplished individual – he’s a lawyer and passionate about leveraging his legal background to combat social and economic barriers for underrepresented minority communities. He has been a compassionate listener and staunch advocate for our peers both inside and outside of the classroom, especially during the COVID pandemic. He has constantly inspired me to challenge myself and “think outside the box” to become a better student and leader. John is the epitome of living the “Carolina Way,” and I am fortunate to call him my classmate and friend.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? As unexpected and sudden as the COVID pandemic was, the transformation from in-person to virtual learning was well-executed at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Though our curriculum was developed to include the usual mix of high-quality courses, its delivery underwent significant changes. The MBA program administration quickly made available the technology, staff, processes and real-time curriculum shifts to incorporate current pandemic challenges into our education in the areas of risk management, health care delivery, and global change management.

For example, a COVID elective was added last spring which focused on how the pandemic would impact and shape business, healthcare and policy for decades to come. While the student body missed physically being in the classroom, the entire Carolina community virtually came together to continuously adapt and innovate to provide a valuable learning experience in this new “normal.”

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents were my biggest influence to pursue an MBA. They have always inspired me to put in the hard work and pursue my dreams. As accomplished business professionals themselves, they encouraged me to explore the foundational value of an MBA in the workplace and evaluate the various pathways it would create in my career. Both my parents have been huge supporters throughout this entire process, and I am so grateful for their mentorship and guidance.

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

  1. Join a non-profit board
  2. Lead a global project/initiative

What made Aditi such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021? 

“Aditi was a star inside and outside of the classroom. The Class of 2021 is full of talented and smart leaders, but Aditi rose above them.

In her role as a leader in the healthcare club she created new programs – such as our Center for the Business of Health (CBOH) Career Networks that connect students to alumni across the healthcare industry, and she radically and beneficially reshaped existing programs, such as our healthcare boot camp for incoming students, our national healthcare case competition, and numerous other convening events.

At a school-level she served as the student representative in our effort to reimagine our first year MBA core and over both years she has served as a Curriculum Advisory Board member helping to identify gaps in the curriculum, supporting students with challenges, and serving as a key go-between students, staff, and faculty. She has done so much on the curriculum front that I asked her to join our effort to reshape our career concentrations at the School and she has provided immense value on that effort.

Aditi is kind, smart and talented. She is an inclusive leader who can work with individuals from all backgrounds and all roles at the school (student, administrative, faculty). She has an ambidextrous approach where she creates the strategy and points things in the right direction, but also can manage the tactical side. Her impact on UNC Kenan-Flagler has been substantial and she truly leaves the school better than she found it.

Brad Staats
Associate Dean of MBA Programs
Faculty Director of the Center for the Business of Health
Professor of Operations




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