2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Taylor Jackson, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Taylor Jackson

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“An energetic and hardworking overachiever who puts their energy towards caring deeply for others.”

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Fun fact about yourself: I got pulled up on stage at Oktoberfest in Munich to lead a dance. The only English song the polka band knew was “YMCA.” Now I can say I have led the YMCA for a group of over 10,000 people from all over the world!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Texas A&M University, BS in human resource development with minors in business and psychology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Deloitte Consulting, Human Capital Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Anheuser-Busch InBev, Corporate Strategy, New York City

Where will you be working after graduation? Deloitte Consulting, Senior Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • MBA Student Association, President
  • MBA Board of Directors, Member
  • UNC Kenan-Flagler Dean Search Committee, Member
  • MBA Student Ambassador
  • Business Communication Center, Consultant
  • Career Mentor
  • Blue Cup Competition, Executive Council
  • MBA Student Association, Social Liaison
  • Carolina Women in Business, Undergraduate Outreach Liaison
  • Student Ambassadors, Big Events Liaison
  • Beer Society, Executive Council
  • NC Growth Consultant
  • 100 Women, Undergraduate Mentor
  • Member:
    • Carolina Women in Business
    • Marketing Club
    • 100 Women
    • BBQ Club
    • Wine Society
    • Ski Club
    • Endurance Club
  • Awards: Forte Fellow, Rankin Memorial GIE Award, Merit Scholarship

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud to serve my class as MBA Student Association (MBASA) president. Coming into business school, I knew I wanted to pursue as many opportunities as possible to grow as a leader. However, soon after arriving on campus and getting to know my classmates, my goal shifted to wanting to make the biggest positive impact possible to those around me and create a culture that would persist for future classes.

When approached about running for president I was flattered and ran with the goal of creating a place at UNC Kenan-Flagler that everyone could call home. As the first class fully in person since COVID, I faced many challenges as president around reinvigorating the collaborative culture that UNC Kenan-Flagler is known for. I created a leadership retreat for my MBSA council, which focused on creating actionable goals around bringing back traditions, reengaging our classmates, and creating an inclusive environment aligned to the goal of creating deeper connections. As president, I have led our council in bringing back traditions like weekly on-campus happy hours. I also reintroduced the concepts of student cohorts who not only take classes together, but also compete against each other across social activities to facilitate deeper connections outside of the classroom. We created new traditions like monthly cohort supper clubs, MBASA Town-Halls, and listening sessions to provide continuous feedback loops and collect feedback from peers in real-time. We assisted in developing new technology that, in the future, will track attendance across events to gain valuable insights into how to better meet the needs of various student groups.

Personally, the role gave me opportunities like interviewing Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Company, at the groundbreaking ceremony of our new building, Steven D. Bell Hall. It also provided me with the chance to lead and learn from multiple panels at prospective student weekends. Being president allowed me to make an impact to every part of the student experience outside of the classroom. The chance to know I truly made an impact to just one individual through serving as the president is my greatest achievement. Through this, I have seen the power I have to make an impact which has allowed me to develop the skills necessary to be a positive force for change in my future career and the world around me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Working in HR in retail stores prepared me to be a unique value driver during my time in human capital at Deloitte. By combining my previous experience working in stores with my consulting role in organization transformation for retail clients, I was equipped to provide the necessary insights to successfully transform the roles over 1 million associates in one of my final projects at Deloitte. I count this as one of my greatest achievements because while serving in the HR role in my early career I dreamed of creating programs that would transform an entire organization. Seeing that dream come true and result in employees finding meaning in their work and falling in love with their jobs was incredibly rewarding. Hearing those testimonials from across the organization will forever be one of my favorite memories.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose UNC Kenan-Flagler for several reasons. The people is one of the biggest reasons. Coming to business school, I was very cognizant of the people I would be surrounding myself with. With the goal of growing as a leader, I knew I wanted to surround myself with high-achieving people who, at their core, wanted to help others, knowing this would push me achieve while never losing sight of the ultimate goal of helping others along the way. During multiple conversations with MBA Ambassadors, I got the sense that UNC Kenan-Flagler was a place filled with those people. In almost every conversation I had, the ambassadors were always willing to go out of their way to help, whether it be through showing me the latest assignment they were working on or offering to look at my essays. Everyone I spoke to was brilliant and driven, but their willingness to go out of their way to help me convinced me this was where I wanted to be and who I wanted to surround myself with for two years. Since being here, I have experienced that firsthand. I have been challenged to constantly think about my impact on others, push myself beyond what I thought I could achieve, and approach every situation with empathy.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Hard to pick just one, but I would say “Business Law” with Patrick Vrable. I chose to take the course because it was so different from the others I was taking. Professor Vrable did an amazing job encouraging spirited debate. During each class, he assigned a group to role play as the plaintiff or defendant a case. It helped us understand the nuances of the concepts we were studying, and I walked away with an understanding of new concepts. What really stood out was how he also cleverly found a way to teach us to disagree while also listening to people who believe differently than you. By having us put ourselves in the shoes of others, I believe everyone in the class walked away as a more empathetic person, better able to relate and communicate with others. “Business Law” pushed me both in the classroom and personally. I might never need to recall the nuances of global copywrite infringement, but as a future leader I always will need to have the skillset of being able to debate ideas from a place of empathy.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition is Blue Cup, our MBA competition with Duke. As a member of the Blue Cup Executive council both years, I have loved having a hand bringing back the tradition of friendly competition between the two schools. During the week-long competition, we go back-and-forth between Durham and Chapel Hill competing in Battle of the Bands, Ping-Pong, Football and Cricket. People came together to not only compete, but also support their classmates. Overall, I believe Blue Cup is representative of the larger culture at UNC Kenan-Flagler. During Blue Cup, I truly saw the UNC Kenan-Flagler way shine through. I saw people drop everything at the last minute to fill teams in need, welcome people who had never played onto teams, cheer on their teammates even when losing, and come together for a cause. This week-long event truly highlights and clarifies the ways that my peers behave every day: truly welcoming and supporting those around them, even when the going gets tough. I love Blue Cup for the unique and fun competition that it is, but also for how clearly it highlights the selfless and friendly culture of UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I wish I would have taken more time for myself, especially around getting to know my professors. By volunteering for so many positions, I was always inevitably moving a million miles an hour. I wouldn’t change a thing about what I was involved in, but I wish I had scheduled time to focus more on the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with more of my professors. Looking back, I would have scheduled just 30 minutes a week to ask a professor to coffee and learn from them. I got so caught up in doing as much as I could that I missed the chance to build as many relationships as I could have with my professors. It seems like a simple thing in hindsight but is something I regret not thinking of in the moment.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? I thought the town where I went to undergrad was a college town, but I was wrong after comparing it to Chapel Hill. Despite its size and the unexplainable fact most restaurants seem to close at 8 p.m., I have loved the chance to attend my MBA program here in Chapel Hill. Coming from Texas, I have never lived in a place with seasons. And walking through campus with the leaves changing will have a permanent place in my heart. Most important, it was the ability to be constantly surrounded by your classmates. Unlike going to school in a big city where people have friends from other parts of their life, your main community is your classmates in Chapel Hill. This bonded us very quickly and created a community I don’t think I would have gotten had we been in a big city. There is also an undeniable charm of being able to walk in somewhere and know you will see a classmate and be welcomed to sit down and join them.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? What gave me the biggest edge was taking the time to truly understand the schools I applied to. I didn’t focus on the rankings, awards, or location. I wanted to look at the heart of each of the schools and find a place where I knew I would thrive. I took careful steps to understand why people currently there had picked UNC Kenan-Flagler, what they would change if they could, and how they interacted with their classmates. I built robust profiles around the cultures of the school and then went to alumni to understand how those cultures had prepared them for their careers. Their perspective allowed me to see how the cultures persisted over time and the type of person the school produced. From this, I felt confident that I understood what the school stood for and what it valued and how that aligned with me and my goals. This deep understanding allowed me to passionately share my reasons for why I felt I would be an asset to the class in a very genuine way.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire my classmate, Avery Portland. Avery is one of those peers who people come to business school to learn from. On top of being smart and ambitious Avery is incredibly passionate about sustainability. This year, I had the chance to see her lead our Net Impact Club and witness her passion firsthand. This passion equipped her to grow the club significantly and make a huge, long-term impact on those interested in sustainability at UNC Kenan-Flagler. In addition to her inspiring passion, I admire Avery’s confidence and ability to assert herself in conversations and eloquently argue her point. She never shies away from the chance to educate others on sustainability or any other topic which she is passionate about. Her passion and confidence with which she conducts herself forces people to listen and respect her as a natural leader. I have no doubt that Avery will make a dramatic impact on the world in the future driven by her passion, confidence, and willingness to stand up for what she believes in.

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

1. In the short-term I want to create stronger pipeline of women leaders into business schools. Specifically, at Deloitte, I plan to use both the established ERGs and GSAP connections to create a network for women interest in exploring business school. I hope that by tapping into this network, we can create a formal mentorship program in the firm that matches women in the early stages of considering business school with former GSAPers and campus hires.

2. Be known in the retail space as a leader and subject-matter expert responsible for helping several retail start-ups become prominent household names and transform the landscape. Through this, I would love to publish research in the area and serve as a guest lecturer in undergraduate classrooms one day.

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

“I have worked closely with Taylor since last March when I arrived at UNC Kenan-Flagler. I first came to know her in her newly elected role as the president of the MBA Student Association (MBASA). Since then, Taylor and I have worked closely together to support the student experience, to be transparent in communications and actions, to improve relationships between students and the MBA program office and to address problems, concerns, and issues before they become widespread or cause division in the community.

Taylor is one of the best examples of the energetic, hardworking student our program tends to draw. While that might not sound particularly unique for a program like ours, in Taylor’s case she embodies those things while also carrying an ethos of making things better for those who will follow in future classes. She possesses all the “tools” – high energy, passion, commitment, curiosity, strong analytical skills – that make her both an exceptional student and future business leader, while also being intelligent, passionate, personable and realistic about the pace of change in higher education. By itself, this would be a significant enough contribution to warrant Poets & Quants’ recognition, in my opinion. However, her role also coincided with the return to in-person events last March for the first time since the campus went completely virtual in March 2020. That meant she needed to bring students together who mostly had not interacted face to face since arriving at UNC Kenan-Flagler to start the program. This has proved to be a challenge for our community, but Taylor has shown herself to be the type of person who has the ability to thrive in uncertain and ambiguous environments. She continues to work hard to find the right mix of encouragement and support to guide her leadership team in their efforts to improve the preparation of our students and helped lead an innovative, action-oriented MBASA team.

What makes Taylor so invaluable to me and to her classmates can be summed up in one word: empathy. Empathy, in leadership especially, should be a core value and certainly is one that makes elected leaders in our MBA program more successful. It is also a core value for the staff in the MBA program office. In every situation and role over the year I have worked with her, Taylor has done everything in her power to coach and mentor her second-year peers and first-year students be the best they can be. She has had to have hard conversations with fellow leaders about their missteps and the effect their actions had on the community and articulate the consequences of budget deficits. She has done all this and engaged classmates with a desire to understand their lived experience, to really listen to their voices and, when possible, lift them up for support or change in the larger program.

Equally importantly, she has served as a positive brand ambassador for UNC Kenan-Flagler. She brought back traditions that were important to the student body in the pre-Covid era, and led efforts to dispel myths about UNC Kenan-Flagler not being a place where women can succeed and thrive.

I have worked closely with a lot of high-performing students at UNC Kenan-Flagler.  Many of them have made significant contributions during their time in the program.  What makes Taylor absolutely invaluable to her class is that her north star is a commitment to make the program better for years to come.  She listens, she responds, she takes ownership for the successes and the failures, and tries to convey to students what is really happening. She is not afraid to listen and acknowledge how a student or students are feeling. For me, that is the very definition of empathy.

For Taylor, involvement wasn’t a badge to be earned or a project to complete, it was a passion. She has worked closely with me and my team to push the recommendations forward for how we rethink orientation, how we support international students, how we choose a graduation speaker, and so much more – all in an effort to improve the student experience. We have made significant progress across a number of ideas this year, and she is working to hand off the execution of the remaining ideas to next year’s leadership team. Her efforts have been invaluable to the current class of students – resulting in the most transparency in budgeting, the hosting of multiple town halls to discuss how things are going, providing student feedback as data points along the way, and striving to push the school to improve the student experience for those students she is helping to recruit right now. The efforts she initiated will be transformative to the next generation of students.

Taylor is a unique and talented student. The Class of 2023 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 extracurricular work. She will leave a profound impact on UNC Kenan-Flagler and her impact will be seen for years to come. In all of my interactions with Taylor, I have been struck by the fact that if I were hiring in business, she would be exactly the kind of candidate I would be looking for in a new MBA hire. Not only does she have all the of qualities previously articulated, but she has approached business school with an open mind of what success means for her and the ways she needs to go about achieving it both here and in her future career.”

Anne Bryan
Director, Full-Time MBA Program


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