2021 MBAs To Watch: Je’nique Whitney Harewood, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Je’nique Whitney Harewood

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Determined to have an impact on the world through intentional and empathetic leadership.”

Hometown: Trinidad and Tobago

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve never been to Disney World!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Howard University, BBA Finance

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, Operations Director

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Verizon Communications, Verizon Business Group, Marketing Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Verizon Communications, Verizon Business Group, Marketing Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Fellow, Consortium Graduate Study in Management (CGSM)
  • VP of Communications and Technology, Consortium
  • Co-President and Co-Founder, Black Business Student Association (BBSA)
  • Kenan Scholar
  • Leslie Adkins Endowed Scholarship Winner from the Consortium (2020)
  • Kenan-Flagler Behrman Levin Award Winner (2020)
  • MBA Consultant, Business Communications Center
  • Teaching Assistant, Marketing and Business Strategy (Undergraduate Business and MBA)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of founding and serving as the co-president of the Black Business Student Association at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Within a few months of entering business school in the Fall of 2019, I began having conversations with fellow Black peers about the unique challenges Black students face in business school and the importance of having a support system to help us navigate.  We found it necessary to build a community that would serve as a source of support both through the difficult and rewarding moments we would all experience. A Black student organization did not exist at UNC Kenan-Flagler at the time and naturally as MBAs, we decided to create one to fill that void.

We formally launched in the spring of the following year and little did we know, it would be a pivotal moment for our organization. Shortly after, we were faced with COVID-19, a rapid conversion to online learning, and the racial reckoning facing our country. We had to lead in a pandemic and ensure that our members and community felt safe and supported during this very difficult period in our lives. The confluence of those events gave me the ultimate crash course in crisis leadership and navigating through turbulent times. With steadfast leadership and a tenacity to serve, we continued to grow our organization through corporate partnerships and building our membership. We officially turned a year old in February of this year and have been able to see the impact we made in the lives of our classmates. I am proud of the legacy that we created for each other but most important, the impact it will have for all Black students entering the halls of UNC Kenan-Flagler in the future.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m proud of being able to successfully pivot from a career in finance to marketing. I developed an interest in marketing while in my finance career working on projects that incorporated product marketing. At that time, I was not quite aware of careers within product marketing and began doing some research. I quickly realized that many of these roles still incorporated the quantitative analysis such as data analytics and P&L management, which I wanted to maintain in any new role where I moved. The first year of business school, I had to work really hard, memorizing marketing frameworks and did several interviews until I found a company that had the right role for me. Luckily, I was successful in landing an amazing role with Verizon that incorporated the quantitative proficiency I desired, but also has a robust marketing division where I would be able to build my marketing acumen.

Why did you choose this business school? Culture fit and classroom dynamic were important factors for me when researching and deciding on the right business school. If I would be committing to two years at an institution, I wanted to be in an environment where I would thrive personally and professionally. Leadership cultivation begins in the classroom and the ability to have constructive and respectful dialogue about differences in opinion and challenging each other’s thought process was important to my educational experience. I sought an environment where I was not afraid to ask questions and be inquisitive about teachings or concepts I was unfamiliar with. As a career switcher, I had to ensure the institution I chose supported those needs, made me feel comfortable, and nurtured me while developing my new skillset. UNC Kenan-Flagler checked those boxes immediately. The faculty created an environment where I was challenged to grow academically and learn from my peers. I developed a sense of fearlessness and confidence outside of the classroom as I know I’m prepared to represent myself and UNC Kenan-Flagler because of the support I’ve received in the classroom.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This question was very difficult for me to answer because UNC Kenan-Flagler has an amazing faculty that I’ve formed so many great professional relationships with. However, the class that stands out to me the most is Resisting Corporate Corruption taught by Stephen V. Arbogast. He is a professor of the Practice of Finance and Director of the Energy Center at UNC Kenan-Flagler and has spent numerous years in the energy industry and major corporations. His expertise was obvious during this class and he shared many anecdotes about navigating the corporate environment.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about this class is the less glamorous side of management that is not often discussed. One of the major questions I always have when entering a company is how do you navigate a firm or organization that may have elements of unethical practices and how do you defend yourself against it? He ensured that I studied cases of how employees, both at senior and lower levels, dealt with instances of clear unethical practices and protecting themselves from becoming exposed in companies. His class discussions and engagement of the material pushed my thought process much further than surface level thinking, which I greatly appreciated. Most important, Professor Arbogast provided me with a tactical toolkit of how to resist corporate pressures if I were ever in a scenario and being forced to act immorally. This was such an invaluable class and thankful that I had the opportunity to take this class while at business school.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Karaoke Night! It happens at the end of the first semester when you’re exhausted and thankful to have survived the rigor of the program thus far. Even through the exhaustion, you find the strength to belt out your favorite songs, showcase elaborate choreography, and dress up in sometimes questionable outfits. Personalities come out on karaoke night and people strip their business school personas for a fun night out. What makes this special is that we have faculty members judging the performances and their reactions are priceless! It is an amazing way to wrap up the semester, celebrate with friends and an absolute must participate event while at UNC Kenan-Flagler. We work really hard, but we also know how to have fun and celebrate each other.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you would do differently and why? It would be forming relationships with other professional graduate students outside of our MBA program. Being in a full-time, immersive MBA program, you operate in the “business school bubble” and naturally only socialize with people in your orbit. However, I believe in the power of extended networks and developing connections with other professional students. UNC has an amazing student and alumni network and I wish I had the opportunity to attend more events and build those relationships.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I don’t believe UNC Kenan-Flagler has a general myth, but most applicants think that we may not be as competitive within our program compared to other MBA programs. Even though our core values emphasize the importance of teamwork and community, people perceive this as being a more relaxed, low-stakes environment. However, we are MBAs and have a natural tendency to compete and be the best at what we do. At UNC Kenan-Flagler, we exhibit a healthy amount of competition amongst each other that keeps us sharp and competitive outside of the classroom but not destructive to our academic pursuits and friendships that we’ve formed.

What surprised you the most about business school? Business school focuses on width of knowledge, not depth. The experience ensures that we are exposed and learn about a variety of different topics. As a student, you need to be intentional about a particular topic or industry you are interested in and build expertise through your own exploration. Class discussions are obviously limited due to time constraints and not always able to cover every aspect of a topic. Entering business school, I naturally assumed I would be taught very granular details about topics but quickly realized I would be equipped with the general knowledge and concepts to help further explore on my own.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? What gave me the edge during the application process, particularly in my admissions interview, was clearly articulating my journey and thought process for applying to business school. I was careful to be very specific about how UNC Kenan-Flagler would assist me on that path and what I can bring to the community from my personal and professional experience. I conveyed a mutually beneficial partnership through my story and why UNC Kenan-Flagler was the right place for me. I strongly believe that apart from your academic and professional accomplishments, storytelling is an important part of the MBA journey. You must be able to connect your past experiences with how this journey will enrich you and help you realize or create your new future. It is something I thought about a lot through this process and was able to bring it to life through my admissions interview.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I most admire is Rebecca Jordan Wright. Becca, as she is fondly known, has truly immersed herself in this MBA program and has taken such an unconventional path. For many coming out of MBA programs, the goal is either to pivot into banking or consulting. For Becca, I noticed how disciplined she was in pursing her own path. She chose the less conventional route of entrepreneurship and turned it into a fulfilling venture that she loves and enjoys. Entrepreneurship is never easy, but watching her tenacity was inspiring. She focused on what she wanted out of her experience, utilized the resources available, and designed her own career path. Even with the numerous leadership positions Becca held across the program, you can always find her with a smile, never complaining and always cheerful. She is determined to have an impact in whatever she does and I’ve seen that firsthand working alongside her as student leaders over the last year.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? It certainly was a long adjustment shifting so rapidly to a fully remote environment. A major part of the academic experience is being in person and engaging in class discussion. However, once we shifted to the online format, we lost that natural engagement and had to work really hard to rebuild in an online environment. From a social aspect, I no longer ran into my friends in class or the hallways. It felt isolating at times not being able to hang out with your friends that you built such close relationships with over the last few months. However, we found ways to socialize online through zoom happy hours to recapture some of the lost time.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Without a doubt, it was my mom. She was influenced by my grandfather who always encouraged her to seek knowledge, dream big, and never stop learning. He was the architect behind our entire family obtaining multiple degrees and having successful and rewarding careers.

My mom decided to pursue her business degree at Howard University when I was 8 years old because she wanted to be a role model and inspiration for me when it became time to attend college. She later went on to pursue her MBA at John’s Hopkins University not only for herself but to encourage me that getting a bachelor’s degree was only the beginning and the opportunities are endless.

There is a picture my mom took of me sitting in Howard University’s School of Business classroom as a tiny tot and is still one of my favorite pictures. It was self-fulfilling prophecy as I sat in that very seat several years later as a freshman.

I saw my mom use her business degree to pivot into numerous exciting roles over the years and I wanted to have a career where I could do the same. Business acumen came very naturally for me and I enjoyed learning about the nuances of business operations and leadership. I am looking forward to continuing my career with the tools I’ve learned in business school and living out the dreams my mom and grandfather had for me.

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

  • Becoming a marketing director for a global brand
  • Obtaining an esthetician license to pivot into the beauty and wellness space in the future

What made Je’nique such an invaluable member of the Class of 2021?

“Je’nique’s day has to have 48 hours – otherwise, I cannot explain how she can be an empathetic leader in the classroom, leading impactful extracurricular community work, performing at the highest quality, and serving as a role model for her peers.

I have come to know Je’nique very well: I first met her as an outstanding student in my marketing core class and then worked closely with her as she served as a TA in the following year.

Je’nique has many exceptional qualities, but I want to highlight three. First, she is not only a great leader, but she is hands-down the most empathetic leader I have met so far. I have seen these qualities at play both in the classroom and in small-group meetings. I first noticed her ability to lead empathetically when we discussed a controversial topic in the classroom: The discussion was about to get heated when Je’nique both verbally and non-verbally achieved three things: she moved the discussion forward, stood her ground, and pushed other members to take a more objective, less feisty stance. How did she do that? Je’nique not only argues intellectually but she also “feels the room” and understands where others are coming from. The more diverse our teams, the more varied our backgrounds, the more we need truly empathetic leaders that bring the best out of everyone and push us forward – she does precisely that!

Second, her ability to overcome challenges and emerge all the stronger came out more than once. In the spring of 2020, UNC Kenan-Flagler moved to a remote program, which hit everyone hard. Je’nique was no exception. Yet, in the way she handled it, she proved just how to make the best of an unfortunate situation. She openly vented, communicated, and then did what has proven to be so successful for her: She made a plan. And she stuck to it. Within a few weeks, she overcame the initial blow of being confined to her own four walls and was back as an inspiring, energetic fountain of optimism. Her positive energy was felt not only by her peers but also by fellow teaching assistants, first-year students, and faculty.

Third, she stands out through her genuine altruism that drives her to have an impact beyond the task (e.g., business school or a job) at hand. Je’nique very openly cares about a lot more than just the next step in her career. In fact, she chooses her next step not only to fit with her professional ability and ambitions but also where she can have a broader impact. At UNC Kenan-Flagler, she was the co-founder and co-president of the now striving Black Business Student Association. Through her steadfast commitment, she managed to impact both current students at UNC Kenan-Flagler (first- and second-years) and future generations, which will find the groundwork she has laid out to promote diversity invaluable!

Je’nique is incredibly modest and unassuming, so I believe I only know a fraction of what she has done both before joining UNC Kenan-Flagler and during her time here. With students like Je’nique, I am sad our program is only two years. We, as UNC Kenan-Flagler, would continue to become better if we would keep Je’nique for a longer time. At the same time, I feel fortunate to have met her, knowing she will leave for her dream job at Verizon Communications where she undoubtedly will make an impact both on the job and in her community!”

Kristopher Keller
Assistant Professor of Marketing
UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School



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