2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Nicholas Heyward, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Nicholas Heyward

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

Hometown: Bowie, Maryland

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a huge car enthusiast! I enjoy going to car meets/shows to see unique builds.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Morehouse College, Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? PepsiCo, Finance Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? This summer I interned at Northwestern Mutual Real Estate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Where will you be working after graduation? After graduation I will be joining NextEra Energy as a business manager.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Co-President, Black Business Student Association

VP of Community Engagement, The Consortium

Member, Vetter Dean’s Fellow

Richard H. Jenrette Fellow

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Co-leading the Black Business Student Association (BBSA) at UNC Kenan-Flagler has been one of the best experiences I’ve had during my time as a student. During my time in this role, I’ve been able to get involved in many aspects of the school from helping prospective students with applications to creating social events for students to connect with alumni. One event I am particularly proud of was the National Black MBA Conference prep session we organized this fall. I received great feedback from students saying our event really helped them prepare for the conference and receive interviews while in Atlanta. Knowing the work we put into organizing the event was making a difference for students made me very proud to be leading the organization. We’ve also been able to bring several Black alumni back on campus to speak as well. Representation is something we are always mindful of which makes these speakers so important to students. Leading club has also pushed me to continue to advocate for black students to consider graduate programs post-graduation.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My biggest accomplishment so far was the successful creation, launch and implementation of a model I developed to track potential and closed national new business accounts within Frito Lay’s Foodservice Sales organization. Prior to the model, I developed, each region had a siloed file to track over $500 million of potential accounts, which was hard for leadership to aggregate and develop new business insights. Through cross-functional partnership with the sales organization, I developed a standardized way to measure and evaluate sales across the U.S. Implementing these standards into a functional tool. It was challenging, but through research I created a user-friendly tool with reports that can be leveraged cross functionally during sales and finance reviews.

This was the first large projects I had since graduation with high visibility in the organization. Completing the project and ultimately winning an award for it confirmed I was capable of doing more than I previously imagined.

Why did you choose this business school? I previously worked in corporate finance but was looking to explore opportunities in a new industry. My first attraction to UNC Kenan-Flagler’s program was the cooperative environment it fosters for students. Collaboration is strongly encouraged, bringing people with a wide variety of prior work and education experiences together. Now in my second year, I’m grateful to have the support of my classmates, teachers and faculty in many aspects of my life, not just in the classroom.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor has been Stephen Arbogast who teaches several courses in addition to leading the Energy Center at UNC Kenan-Flagler. He is my favorite professor because of the wealth of knowledge he brings to the classroom each day. With over 30 years of experience before teaching, he brings a lot of insights on the energy transition, how public policy can support it, and what technology could be developed to address climate change. As a newcomer to the industry, having the space to ask questions in a welcoming environment has been very helpful in my learning experience.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course was Leading Diverse and Inclusive Organizations taught by professors James Johnson and Allison Schlobohm. In this class, we unpacked how companies can have effective diversity and inclusion strategies that go beyond the surface. In order to do so, we had many tough conversations as we grappled with the nuances related to the struggles of marginalized groups in corporate environments. The professors intentionally made the classroom a safe space for us to share personal experiences which I appreciate as well.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Since its founding, the Black Business Student Association (BBSA) hosts the Annual BBSA Fishbowl where Black students can share their stories and experiences in school and while working with others. Giving students a platform to speak candidly with others gives us an opportunity to provide a prospective that some of our colleagues may not be exposed. It is also my favorite because of the students, faculty and staff who show up to support speakers. Being vulnerable in a space that largely doesn’t look like you is hard, but this event allows us to push through and create change within UNC Kenan-Flagler and the organizations we will join after.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I could go back, I would be more intentional about connecting with second-year students when I was starting in the program. In the beginning of my first year, I spent a lot of time focusing on classes and recruiting. While I was able to meet several great second years, I think I would have been able to build better relationships if I started earlier. One thing I underestimated was how fast the school year goes by which means second years are graduating before you know it.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Going into UNC, I thought the rivalry between us and Duke was going to so strong we would never set foot on Duke’s campus and vice versa. However, there are actually a lot of students who attend both universities. In fact, several of my friends in the MBA program at UNC Kenan-Flagler will also be graduating with their Master’s of Environmental Management from Duke.

What did you love most about your business school’s town?  One thing I love most about Chapel Hill is the widespread support for the school on game day. Whenever there is a home game, it is easy to see all of the Carolina blue t shirts and hoodies flocking to the stadium to cheer on the Tar Heels.

What surprised you the most about business school? One thing that surprised me is the many travel opportunities given to students and how encouraged we are to participate in them. Going into business school, I knew it would be a great social networking experience. However, I didn’t expect that experience to become global. I previously spent little time abroad and felt like I was missing out when other students would describe stories of places they’d been. Since I started at UNC, many of my friends have been able to study in amazing places like Switzerland and Thailand and share the connections they have made. This year, I’ll be going on a trip to Rwanda with the Vetter Dean’s Fellows program, which I am looking forward to attending. After being exposed to these experiences, I hope to continue traveling and learning about different cultures after graduation.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose?

During the application process, I was very honest in my essay questions. In my essay, I reflected on my reaction to the murder of George Floyd and the social pressure I felt afterwards. The person who conducted my interview empathized with me and we spent a good part of the interview talking about various movements that gained traction over COVID. Being authentic was one of the key parts of my application process as UNC wants to know who you are as person outside of your accomplishments. Olivia Koziol put it best, “Of course, show your best self, but show your best real self.”

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Kevin Ortiz is someone I am very grateful to have met at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Aside from his personal story, I have always admired his ability to bring the best out of others (myself included). while maintaining a positive outlook on what can be possible tomorrow. Kevin is very passionate about leadership development with a focus on promoting Latinx voices. While at UNC, he had been instrumental in creating opportunities for undergraduate students through the Carolina Latinx Center’s LÍDER program. He has also brought MBA students to Truist Leadership Institute, where MBA students take the day to leverage principles of neuropsychology to gain deeper self-awareness. Both programs became possible simply because of his passion and initiative to bring these opportunities to students. As club leaders, we’ve been able to collaborate on several events to bring LATAM and BBSA together as well.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I would also like to join the board of a non-profit affordable housing developer. Although I am not going into commercial real estate full-time, I would like to remain active in the industry. Affordable housing is something I remain passionate about which ties into sustainable development as well.

Second on my list is to work on an international assignment where I can live abroad. I think traveling to a new place is a great experience, but I would love to immerse myself in a new culture over an extended period of time.

What made Nick such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Nick and I were placed together in our study group when we began at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Though Nick and I are the same race we have opposite backgrounds. First, Nick played a vital role ensuring my voice was heard. As a queer Black student entering an unfamiliar territory it was great to have an ally I could rely on for support. Secondly, Nick possesses a quantitative aptitude unmatched by our peers. I recall one time our study group was working on a strategy case for Domino’s Pizza. I was so excited to give my high-level qualitative recommendations. Nick, in his calm, collected persona, said to me, “Okay, that’s great walk me through the numbers on these ideas. Let the numbers talk with your charisma.” Thereafter, he helped me and the team quantify many of my recommendations. This conversation happened in August and his words have echoed through the remainder of my business school journey. His words were particular helpful during my internship at Ernst and Young-Parthenon.

Nick’s contribution to me have been invaluable because he helped me mature as a business professional, which is the reason I came to UNC Kenan-Flagler. I wanted to meet people like Nick and learn to grow through collaborations in a safe, supportive environment. He exemplifies what it means to be an intellectual and an ally.”

Bryant M. Adams
Class of 2023
UNC Kenan-Flagler Pride Club Co-President
Vetter Dean’s Fellow


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