2022 MBA To Watch: Kristen Koepsell, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Kristen Koepsell

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Combining my science background with my business acumen, I am dedicated to improving patient lives.”

Hometown: Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

Fun fact about yourself: I have shown and trained dogs for many years and have competed multiple times at The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and The National Dog Show.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

BA Magna Cum Laude (Biology), Mount Holyoke College

MS (Biomedical Sciences), Tufts University School of Medicine

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? b.well Connected Health, Project Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), Princeton, New Jersey

Where will you be working after graduation? Bristol Myers Squibb, Commercial Leadership Development Program Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, Healthcare Club
  • Curriculum Advisory Board Representative
  • MBA Student Ambassador
  • Forté Fellow
  • Taylor Rankin Memorial Fund Fellowship Global Immersion Elective 2021 & 2022

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Serving as the President of the Healthcare Club was very rewarding for me. I led an Executive Board of 14 VPs, who are all talented second-year classmates. We transitioned from working together virtually during first year to navigating an in-person setting during our second year while getting to know each other and the first-year class.

In my role as president, I also worked very closely with the UNC Center for the Business of Health.  The center is a tremendous advocate of the club and offers students a multitude of resources to learn about healthcare and to connect with industry experts.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my time in clinical research, I worked on a national, NIH-funded, multi-center randomized controlled trial for pediatric and adult patients with nephrolithiasis. Collaborating with a group of principal investigators, I created the role and responsibilities for the novel health coaching component of the intervention arm of the study. Through my role, I led a team of health coaches from across the U.S. and trained each coach to work with research participants regarding behavior change and modification. Working on this project allowed me to build my leadership skills and to mentor teammates.  I was also fortunate to work closely with research participants to help them achieve their health goals.

Why did you choose this business school? From the start of the application process, UNC Kenan-Flagler exhibited many attributes that I was looking for in an MBA program. Culture was particularly important because I wanted to be in an academic environment that was collaborative, not competitive, and where I would be valued as a both a student and a person. Each student with whom I connected during the application process described the warm and welcoming UNC Kenan-Flagler community, and I have witnessed the core values come to life during my time as a student. The faculty and administration are dedicated to students and genuinely want to see each student succeed. The pay-it-forward mentality resonates through second-year to first-year students and the wonderful UNC Kenan-Flagler alums who enjoy connecting with students. I am very fortunate to be a member of the UNC Kenan-Flagler community and look forward to continuing the legacy.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Michael Christian is a fantastic professor!  I took his course, Leading Groups & Teams, which was instrumental in helping me learn concrete steps and actions for being an effective leader. Because Professor Christian excels at presenting course content in an approachable and systematic way, I was able to apply what I was learning in class to my role as Healthcare Club president. Professor Christian skillfully stimulates class discussions and incorporates his own professional experiences to emphasize key learning points.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The annual UNC Business of Healthcare Conference is a wonderful event! Every year, the Healthcare Club works with the UNC Center for the Business of Health to organize and host the Conference, which is open to anyone within and outside of UNC Kenan-Flagler. This year’s conference theme was “Leading the Next Generation of Health”, and an amazing group of speakers and panelists focused on how as leaders and consumers, we can navigate through dynamic and uncertain circumstances. Despite being fully virtual, the conference had excellent attendance and engagement. Also at the conference, I had the honor of announcing the winning team, which represented UNC, of the 2021 UNC Healthcare Case Competition!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Two years go by quickly!  I wish there was more time to explore resources at UNC in addition to those at UNC Kenan-Flagler.  Specifically, I would have liked to take a course at another school, such as the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Before I joined UNC Kenan-Flagler, I heard the term “The Carolina Way” from several students. I was not quite sure what that meant, but I now know how important “The Carolina Way” is to the UNC Kenan-Flagler and greater UNC communities.  Students, faculty and staff are dedicated to embodying the core values and fostering a supportive, inclusive community. There is immense pride for the institution and loyalty to help one another succeed. Go Heels!

What surprised you the most about business school? I knew that by coming to UNC Kenan-Flagler, I would meet students from all different backgrounds and experiences. My classmates are multi-talented and have enriched my experiences both in and out of the classroom!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Throughout the application process, I spoke with several students. I started with students who were concentrating in healthcare and marketing, and then connected with students from other industries. Every single student who I reached out to responded (often within minutes) and was more than willing to speak with me. In addition to inquiring about academics and recruiting, I explored their experiences interfacing with classmates and faculty. Those conversations were essential in helping me get to know UNC Kenan-Flagler and understand what being an MBA student was like on a day-to-day basis. They also solidified my decision to apply and to attend UNC Kenan-Flagler. As an MBA Student Ambassador, I speak with many prospective students and highly recommend that they continue engaging with current students.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Herman Bhupal and I met as teammates for the 2020 UNC Healthcare Case Competition. Even though we were fully virtual for our first year, we quickly became friends, especially after spending several hours on Zoom preparing for the competition. Herman brings great energy and expertise to the classroom. (She is also earning her MSPH from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.)  Her knowledge of health policy is extensive, and she is always willing to answer questions and to share insights. I am fortunate to have worked with Herman in several other group settings, including on the Healthcare Club executive board, and I am excited to see what amazing things she accomplishes!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? One of my college professors has always been a significant inspiration for me and continued to be as I made the decision to pursue an MBA. Her own career journey has consisted of different twists and turns, and she approaches each one with a positive attitude and determination to succeed. Initially, I was unsure how I could best merge my science background with business, my professor helped me to refine my goals based on my past experiences and vision for the future.  From there, I have been able to communicate and to lead with my most authentic self.

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

  1. Serve on the Board of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – My sister, who is a leukemia survivor, inspired me to pursue a career in healthcare.
  2. Work internationally – I would like to learn to develop and execute brand strategies in markets outside of the U.S.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has made me even more committed to a business career in healthcare. There is a multitude of unsolved challenges that require collaboration across many different stakeholders, and virtual work necessitates flexibility and creativity to develop innovative solutions. I am excited to embark on the next chapter of my career at BMS!

What made Kristen such an invaluable member of the Class of 2023?

“Kristen Koepsell has left a profound impact on UNC Kenan-Flagler both in the classroom and with respect to our healthcare efforts. I have had the privilege to teach her in the classroom and work with her as a student leader of the Curriculum Advisory Board, as well as the Healthcare Club, and her impact will be seen at UNC Kenan-Flagler for many years. We were lucky to have her as a student in the Class of 2022.

She is a smart, positive leader who works well with others. She is organized, determined and hard working. She has shown an ability to thrive in uncertain and ambiguous environments.

I first came to know Kristen as she stepped up as a leader of our Curriculum Advisory Board (CAB). The CAB represents students’ views in the classroom and helps faculty and staff continuously improve the academic experience. Kristen took the role in an incredibly challenging time as COVID meant that the situation was constantly changing. She advocated for students, helped the administration make decisions and then worked to communicate those decisions. I can’t imagine navigating that difficult time without her calm, collected, thoughtful presence. She continued that role throughout the program and she will be sorely missed.

By itself that would be a significant enough contribution to warrant this recognition, in my opinion. However, CAB was not her most significant impact on UNC Kenan-Flagler. Kristen also served as Healthcare Club president. Taking on this role over the past year was quite difficult as we were starting up primarily in-person learning again. That meant she needed to bring together students who mostly had not interacted face-to-face. She has shown herself to be a strong leader who has impacted our healthcare efforts in a way that will be seen for years. It began as she very intentionally assembled a diverse leadership team. This team represented the many views of students and helped to integrate the class.

She has been clear about her goals. One was to further advance our Healthcare Conference. 2021-2022 is a critical time for the business of health, given the myriad of issues we face, and she assembled a phenomenal lineup of speakers and then helped the club to engage with them in ways that led to the biggest and best healthcare conference the school has ever seen. She found the right mix of encouragement and support to guide her leadership team in their efforts to improve the preparation of our students and also helped lead an innovative, interdisciplinary case competition that brought together students from across the country.

Kristen is a unique and talented student. The Class of 2022 would have been lacking without her presence. She has been a pleasure to partner with given her phenomenal talent, high energy, and empathy. She has improved UNC Kenan-Flagler in fundamental ways with her academic and healthcare work. Her impact will be seen for years to come.”

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



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