Sekou Bermiss, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, was hired away from Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business, where he had taught management since 2018 and where had been an assistant professor for nine years before that. His interview was in January, and then things got interesting.
“It all came together right as the world was collapsing,” Bermiss says. “I went out and did my job interview stuff in late January. Then I got busy with other things. And so there really wasn’t a decision until early March. I didn’t get the official word until like March 11th. And then SXSW (the premier music and tech festival in Austin) got canceled. And then all the stuff at UT started getting canceled, and I was like ‘Oh, I’ve got to make this decision in the midst of all this.’ So it’s been surreal.”
Bermiss, a New York native, has family on the East Coast, including his wife’s family in North Carolina. But it was the school that really made him want to relocate.
“I think for me it was definitely a work-life balance kind of thing,” he says. “McCombs is great. It’s a great place. You know, I’ve been here 10 years. North Carolina is also a great place — big public school, top-notch faculty doing interesting work. You know, we’ve been without family close by for our whole time in Texas. We have two kids. I didn’t want to move just for that, but when I realized, ‘Wow, UNC is a great place,’ that was the final straw.”
Bermiss is accustomed to teaching virtually after pivoting at UT McCombs in March, when he was teaching six sections of MBA courses. After that “nightmare of logistics,” he’s ready to teach virtually at UNC in the spring — his class, called People Analytics, is a version of what he taught at McCombs.
“I didn’t love the switch, but it did definitely force me to rethink the structure of some of the classes,” Bermiss says of remote instruction. “And so now I have at least two classes that I’m pretty happy with, that I can do virtually, which I didn’t have before, right? And I think when this is all said and done, a couple of years from now, I think there’s still going to be a huge virtual component to business education more so than we’ve seen in the past. And so I needed to do this anyway. I wouldn’t have planned to do it this way, but it kind of forced a lot of folks to think about what that virtual class looks like.”