Here you are. You’ve left your job, signed your loans, and moved away. The slate is clean. You can do what want and be who you are. Ideas are popping and confidence is swelling.
You can’t wait to dive into business school!
First impressions matter. And orientation sets the tone and lays the foundation. It’s one thing to quiz second-years during the application process or chat with future classmates over Slack. It’s another to meet face-to-face, to see how peers act when they drop their guard and face real tests. Thus far, Alexis Flen hasn’t been disappointed with her classmates from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. She would know. After all, Flen us a “Triple Tar Heel.” Already holding a BA (Biology) and MA (Physiology) from the university, she enters the fourth year of her MD. During MBA orientation, Flen witnessed the “innovative thinking” and “leadership qualities” that have been the hallmark of her UNC experience.
“The best UNC Kenan-Flagler story so far has been during Team Dynamics exercise with our legacy groups. The 12 of us in a group were tasked with transporting ping pong balls into PVC tubes using only our wits and pencils. The overall exercise was illuminating in that I was able to witness the resilience of our team when faced with obstacles and evolution of thinking and strategy as we ultimately mastered the task.”
“THE CAROLINA WAY”
Aidan McConnell jokes that his introduction to Kenan-Flagler involved “hanging by a thread – quite literally.” At a retreat for Vetter Dean’s Fellows, he participated in the “Flying Squirrel” – a team-building exercise on a high-ropes course. Here, classmates work together to propel each other 50 feet in the air, holding ropes so peers can experience what it is like to soar like Superman. That said, McConnell’s classmates were equally supportive when his feet were planted on the ground.
“During orientation, peers I’d only known for a few hours were already coordinating study groups, offering their cars to help others carpool to the McColl Building and helping newly arrived international students acclimate to life in Chapel Hill. I’m proud to be a part of this encouraging, collaborative community.”
Call it “Southern Hospitality” elsewhere, but in Chapel Hill they have a term for it: “The Carolina Way.” In sports, the term is defined by a “Play hard, play smart, play together” ethos. In the classroom and community, the Carolina Way means being supportive and inclusive community, ever committed to individual and team excellence. At Kenan-Flagler, “The Carolina Way” is more than a fluffy slogan. It is the expectation that students carry for themselves – and their peers.
“They really embrace the spirit of the Carolina Way,” writes Mary Paul Msemwa, who last worked in the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania. “Everyone I have met has shown genuine interest in me and offered to assist me, whether by giving their time out of their busy schedule or connecting me to someone who can assist or a resource I can use. I already feel like I belong here. UNC MBA students are highly motivated high achievers but also know how to have a great time.”
INFLUENTIAL AND IMPACTFUL
Aside from its collegial culture, the Kenan-Flagler Business School also boasts two of the top MBA programs in Healthcare and Real Estate. Not to mention, the program is resource-rich. It is back by one of the country’s research universities, while also maintaining two of the highest-ranked undergraduate business and online MBA programs. The program is experiencing an impressive growth spurt. At the graduate level, enrollment has doubled over the past decade. In two years, the school will be cutting the ribbon on a 140,000 square foot building that will enable it to double its undergraduate populate. That doesn’t count Kenan-Flagler expanding its Executive MBA program to Charlotte’s Legacy Tower!
Momentum draws talent. The Class of 2024 is packed with high potentials and seasoned practitioners alike. Just look at Abdur Rahman. He led a gas and oil drilling project that produced one of Pakistan’s largest gas reserves, starting with feasibility and planning before moving onto drilling.
“I headed a 14-member team to safely drill part of the gas well that led to the gas discovery in Northern Pakistan,” Rahman notes. The discovery was celebrated throughout the country since Pakistan is facing a serious energy crisis and thus was the perfect farewell I could have asked for before starting my MBA.”
Numbers also reflect a storyline about the Class of 2024: They are influential and impactful. Mary Paul Msemwa served as a liaison between the American and Tanzanian government, resulting in $8.7 million dollars in tax refunds being repaid. At Imperial PFS, Raquel Argenal Matheu managed a $143 million dollar book of insurance loans – one of the largest for its West Coast operations. Ridwan Abdulsalam even made history. He worked on a $280 million-dollar corporate bond issuance – the largest in the history of Nigeria, a nation with the largest GDP and population on the African continent. As a Deloitte consultant, Lindsay Buchler spearheaded the re-organization of a shared services center that resulted in $3 million dollar savings in labor costs.
“We provided client executives with recommendations through quantitative analysis that aligned the desired shared services future state with the overall corporate strategy, which ultimately resulted in a successful launch of the shared services center. The success of this project and others was recognized by leadership, which allowed me to achieve my promotion to senior consultant and the trust to lead several other impactful projects.”
FROM FIGHTING COVID TO BALLROOM DANCING
Hemadri Singh Kuntal also made her name at Deloitte as a healthcare IT consultant. During the pandemic, her sister battled COVID-19 as a physician-in-charge at a frontline hospital. And Singh Kuntal soon joined the fight on a different front. “I led a team of three executive clients and two consultants to proactively implement logic-based flags for potential COVID-19 patients in the electronic health record (EHR). This feature ensured that all healthcare workers operating in 800+ hospitals/clinics across the United States were alerted of potential COVID-19 patient around or near them.”
Alexis Flen notes that she wears a “variety of hats” at the UNC School of Medicine – including class president. Hilda Kristjansdottir, a native of Iceland, was promoted to being an assistant vice president at Barclays, where she served as a strategic finance partner in the London office. At Amazon, Irasema González-Gutiérrez head up its “Women in Operations” efforts.
“It focused on mentoring women across Amazon’s North America South Central (NASC) region and launching inclusion events such as the first NASC “Women @ Amazon” virtual conference during the pandemic. In a short period of time, Amazon recognized the importance of the “Women in Operations” initiative due to the exponential improvement of women in the warehouse, transforming our team to be 65% female-led in the sort-center network.”
The Class is equally eclectic outside the office. For many years, Aidan McConnell worked as a ballroom dancing instructor. His favorite dance? The Carolina Shag, of course. Hemadri Singh Kuntal’s passion is jump rope: In 2 minutes, she can switch between eight styles of jumping rope. Carlos L. Pérez-De La Rosa, who holds master’s degrees in special education and educational leadership, wore leg braces as a child, ala Forrest Gump. At the same time, Abdur Rahman can speak four languages – which he uses with different audiences.
“I talk in Pashto with my family, Urdu and English with my friends, and Arabic with God.”
A CLASS PROFILE
The 2021-2022 application cycle represented a high-water mark for the Kenan-Flagler MBA. During the cycle, the school received 1,975 applications, a 32% jump over the previous year (though more in line with the 1,903 applications it received for a spot in the Class of 2022). This year’s class also represents a return to normal after COVID wreaked havoc on admissions. After class size peaked at 344 students two years ago, it has shrunk to 243 students in the Class of 2024. This is more in line with the 250 MBAs who traditionally populate the full-time class. The smaller class size has also yielded another change: Kenan-Flagler has grown more selective. After accepting nearly 53% of applicants in 2019, the rate has fallen to 36%.
Hence, you’ll find MBAs who bring higher GMAT scores to Chapel Hill. The Class of 2024 averaged a 706 GMAT – a full 10 points higher than the previous year (with scores ranging from 680-730 in the 85% range). GRE scores hit 319, as scores ran from 312-327 in the same range. In addition, average GPA averages held steady at 3.43. In terms of demographics, the percentage of women continues to climb, rising from 34% to 38% with the current class. International students account for 35% of the class, a nine-point improvement from the previous year. Overall, the Class of 2024 hails from 27 countries.
Another difference between the Class of 2024 and its predecessor. This class is more STEM-oriented. This year, STEM majors make up 44% of the class, up 16 points over the Class of 2023. The difference was made up by Business and Economics majors, whose representation plunged from 49% to 31%. Arts and Humanities majors compose the remaining 25% of the class. Professionally, the largest percentage of the class – 19% – last worked in Healthcare. Financial Services professionals hold 17% of class seats, followed by Technology at 10%. The remainder of the class, which hold 5% or lower shares of the class, includes professionals from Consulting, Energy, Government, Manufacturing, Military Real Estate, Consumer Products, Media and Entertainment, Transportation, Hospitality, and Legal Services.
Chances are, the Class of 2024 won’t be staying in these fields, observes Olivia Koziol, a 2022 grad and P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. “Our MBA program is full of career switchers of every industry, every work experience, every demographic, and every personal journey. The reason UNC Kenan-Flagler is so collaborative is because many of us have a background different than the subjects we are learning about, so we aren’t afraid to ask questions and push our boundaries. In the end, this helps us grow from each other’s experiences.”
Next Page: Interview with Kenan-Flagler Leadership
Page 3: Profiles of 12 Members of the Class of 2024
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