2022 MBA To Watch: Omar Howard, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Omar Howard

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Energetic and enthusiastic leader who gives his best effort regardless of circumstance.”

Hometown: Midlothian, Virginia

Fun fact about yourself: I have been named captain of every varsity sport I’ve played on. (High school football, wrestling, track and field; college football)

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Richmond, BA in leadership studies, minor in business administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Chick-Fil-A Carraway Village – Director of HR

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? NextEra Energy, a clean-energy company and wholesale generator of electric power

Where will you be working after graduation? NextEra Energy – Leadership Development Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Analytics Club – VP of Learning and Development
  • Vetter Dean’s Fellow, Co-Chair of Connections
  • Project Destined Mentor
  • MBA Tutor

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?

I’m most proud of being a Project Destined mentor. Project Destined (PD) is an organization that provides a unique internship experience for students from diverse backgrounds. It exposes them to the real estate industry, develops their business acumen and gives them the opportunity to connect with professionals in the field. I’m so proud of my involvement because the industry has long been a laggard in fostering diversity. Through PD, I’ve seen the students I’ve mentored develop new found confidence, gain industry knowledge, and grow their financial and analytical acumen, blossoming into up-and-coming real estate pros.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of leading my Chick-Fil-A location through its grand opening into $5 million/year store. I’m most proud of this because it took teamwork, patience and perseverance to train and grow the team members who were mostly high school aged kids.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose UNC Kenan-Flagler because of the Carolina Way. The Carolina Way encapsulates all that it means to be a Tar Heel, specifically community, teamwork and a commitment to excellence. When deciding where to go for an MBA these values were well aligned with my own. Also, my then-girlfriend (now wife) lived in the area which didn’t hurt.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I’m split between eight or so really great professors. If I must choose one, I’d say that Jesse Davis has been my favorite MBA professor. He teaches our Microeconomics Core class and what makes him such a great professor is his ability to translate complicated mathematics and economic theory into terms that are accessible to even the least initiated students (myself included). Thanks to Jesse, I feel comfortable discussing and applying things like derivatives even though I practically failed calculus in undergrad.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite event during my time at UNC Kenan-Flagler has been a virtual cooking class we had during our less-than-ideal virtual first year. Even though I almost burned my apartment down from using olive oil instead of vegetable oil, the cooking class exemplifies the perseverance of our community to come together to have shared experiences in the face of adversity. Also, despite the small fire I made in the process, the end result was actually quite delicious.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? The one thing I would change looking back is my approach to selecting classes to take. I put too much emphasis on taking classes that fit into the concentrations and not enough emphasis on classes that would have been interesting and enriching. I say this because the program has so many world-class professors across the disciplines that I haven’t been exposed to because they teach courses outside of the concentrations I pursued.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think many people inside and outside of Carolina think of UNC Kenan-Flagler as a regional school. That could not be further from the truth because from what I’ve seen my classmates come from all corners of the world and end up making careers in just as varied locations.

What surprised you the most about business school? The most surprising thing about business school has been how much it has holistically changed me. I was under the impression that I would gain most from the academic knowledge and a well-compensated job offer. However, what I’ve experience during my time at UNC Kenan-Flagler has brought me much greater value through a deeper understand of myself, relationships, leadership, and my place in the world. Business school has completely transformed my perspective of how to interact with people, deal with risk/ambiguity, and solve problems both in business and in life.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I think being a former Division 1 athlete was the biggest differentiator in my profile. I was a three-year starting linebacker and team captain for two years at the University of Richmond. I believe that there’s an understanding that former college athletes have an inherent drive to improve themselves and an ability to perform when the pressure is on.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Olivia Koizol – I believe UNC Kenan-Flagler also nominated her and deservedly so. She has one of the most remarkable backgrounds growing up as a first-generation American, being the first of her family to go to college much less get her MBA, and being a professional dancer! Besides her background, she has done so many great things to enhance UNC Kenan-Flagler, through her revamp of the Consulting Club, and contributions as the Vetter Dean’s Fellows Chair of Communications. But what’s most admirable about Olivia is her incredible intellect, her borderline insane work ethic, and her ability to deeply connect with people.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mom was the one person who influenced my decision to pursue my MBA. She was herself an MBA at Simon and I felt that getting an MBA would help me truly reach my full potential.

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

1) Develop a net-zero mixed-use community

2) Be on the board of a non-profit focused on addressing homelessness or education

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? I think the pandemic has made me realize there is opportunity to advance my career regardless of circumstance.

What made Omar such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“I lead the Real Estate Program and the Wood Center for Real Estate Studies at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. In my 34 years of teaching here I have seen thousands of students, and Omar is one of the most respected and hard-working of them all.

Omar’s first year here was fully virtual, which was less than optimal for everyone. Even through the screen, though, I could tell that Omar was a leader and that his classmates had a great deal of respect for him.

Omar has been an athlete for most of his life and had a successful collegiate football career at the University of Richmond. These experiences and related skills have served him very well in his MBA journey. Omar’s leadership skills prepared him to provide service to the school and his fellow students that go well beyond other students.

Omar was a pleasure to have in my Real Estate Process course in spring 2021. He embodies the characteristics of students that every faculty member loves to have in their classes. He was always in my virtual office hours, looking to gain additional knowledge. He also was always the first student to engage in class with a comment or question. His questions were incredibly insightful, showing that he had fully prepared the assigned materials, and researched beyond the assignments on the topic at hand for the lecture or case that day. His participation greatly enhanced the quality of the course given the thoughtfulness of his comments.

He is one of those students that every other student can learn from, and his classmates were grateful to him for making their MBA experience more meaningful. After most class sessions, he stayed online with me to talk about specific aspects covered in class, and to make sure that he fully understood why what we were discussing was useful for his career interests and goals. As the course went on, more and more students joined the after-class sessions, which soon became a seminar where students freely provided opinions and ideas to further their education. Without Omar, none of this would have happened.

When UNC Kenan-Flagler went back to live class sessions in the fall 2021, Omar was the first student I wanted to spend some time with in person. I wanted to learn more about what makes him tick, and get to know him better. I was not surprised to learn that Omar’s quest for knowledge is accompanied by humility and passion for life. He is a joy to be around, and he has taken several leadership roles within our Real Estate Program in ways that go beyond the norm.

For example, he serves as a mentor for our first years, helping them with the first-year curriculum and their internship services. Although not officially a teaching assistant, he holds office hours on Fridays so that he can share his knowledge of real estate with our first-year students for more specific course-related help. He has both become a friend and somewhat of a big brother to the first years, enhancing their educational experiences.

All in all, Omar’s contributions to our Real Estate and MBA Programs stand out as exceptional. He has made all of us better, and I will look forward to his friendship as he moves through his career.”

David J. Hartzell
Bell/Wood Distinguished Professor
Director of the Wood Center for Real Estate Studies


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