I-40 is as American as you can get. Stretching from North Carolina to California, the road runs through forests and deserts, old west ghost towns and 50’s-style diners. In North Carolina, I-40 is sometimes referred to as Tobacco Road, weaving through college towns and antebellum landmarks alike. In many ways, Tobacco Road is more of a state of mind, a mythical pathway that connects four of the state’s major educational institutions: Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina State, and the University of North Carolina.
Like Tobacco Road, the University of North Carolina is an equal blend of innovation and custom. America’s oldest public university, North Carolina is the alma mater of Hulu Co-Founder Jason Kilar and Wall Street pioneer Sallie Krawcheck – not to mention Michael Jordan and Andy Griffith. The school can boast nine Nobel Prize laureates…plus the inventor of Pepsi. Now, according to P&Q’s 2020 Undergraduate Business School Ranking, the Tar Heels can add a Top 10 business school to its accolades.
This year, the Kenan-Flagler Business School jumped from 14th to 9th in the P&Q ranking released in December. Make no mistake: landing a spot in the business school can be as difficult as earning a win at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Just 10.57% of all applicants get accepted into the program. It’s all worth it according to graduates. In P&Q’s alumni survey, 98.15% of Kenan-Flagler graduates reported that they landed the job they wanted.
So much for the Carolina blues!
Over the next eight years, the business school intends to boost enrollment in the undergraduate program by 50%. In doing so, Kenan-Flagler is responding to student demand to join a program that develops well-rounded students and achieves real results.
“They are dedicated to ensuring students have the academic foundation necessary to succeed in the business world, but also ensure that students have the necessary communication and leadership skills to effectively implement the great ideas that they’ll develop,” explains Dylan Brooks, a 2019 grad and P&Q Best & Brightest Business Major. “I received high-quality in-class academic training, learned how to give great presentations, worked in teams, and became a better leader.”
His peers would agree with him. In the alumni survey, Kenan-Flagler notched the 2nd-best score for being worth the cost and 3rd for extracurricular activities. At the same time, it finished in the Top 10 for teaching quality and faculty availability. Most impressive, the school earned the top score for improving student skills.
Anna Millar, Assistant Dean for the Undergraduate Business Program, attributes some of this success to the program’s “high-touch experience” and small class sizes that range from 10-50 students. At the same time, she credits the faculty for both their teaching prowess and accessibility to students…in and out of the classroom.
“We approach skill development with our students holistically, offering a range of skill-building electives that will help students in their first jobs post-UNC and throughout their careers,” Millar points out. “Some of these courses cover topics such as advanced spreadsheet modeling, negotiations, consulting skills and frameworks, and financial modeling. We also offer workshops and boot camps outside of the formal curriculum: investment banking, digital marketing, and SQL and Tableau software. In addition, we have an extensive online resource library that students can access 24/7 for skill development, such as networking, interviewing, case preparation and time management.”
Another program difference, Millar notes, is Kenan-Flagler’s reliance on experiential learning. The best-known example is STAR, which stands for Student Teams Achieving Results. Here, students act as consultants to leading companies. In 2018, for example, a STAR team headed to China to help Procter & Gamble boost their market sales. The team traveled to three cities, meeting with owners, suppliers, and consumers to better understand their needs and expectations. The project culminated with the Kenan-Flagler team making recommendations to P&G China’s leadership group. The presentation struck a chord, as the STAR team was quickly dispatched to P&G’s Cincinnati headquarters to meet with its global leadership team.
Sometimes, undergrads join the MBAs on STAR teams or help them manage the school’s real estate funds. Others even reach out to companies at the nearby Research Triangle Park, a tech and life sciences hub whose 300 tenants range from startups to Fortune 500 royalty like Cisco. That’s just the tip of the iceberg with hands-on activities that can provide students with experience in their areas of interest.
“Students have many opportunities to put into practice the skills they learn in class,” Anna Millar maintains. “In addition to a wide range of case competitions, students serve as consultants to address real issues for companies in the STAR program and the undergraduate Venture Capital Investment Competition. For 35 years, students have organized the Undergraduate Business Symposium. Now part of a course, students practice project management, communication, sales, and leadership to organize and deliver this campus-wide event held in the Dean E. Smith Center.”
That’s not the only difference at Kenan-Flagler. The program is well-known for its deep portfolio of international excursions, projects, and exchanges. In fact, 3 out of every 4 business majors spend some time abroad. This past year, the school added more partner schools in Asia, South America, and Europe according to Millar. This year, she adds, the school will award over $600,000 in scholarships so every student can afford to study overseas.
Business majors can also personalize their degrees with AOEs – or Areas of Emphasis. Basically, AOEs are deep dives into specialized areas like investing, sales, or real estate that make graduates more job-ready for employers. Such diverse offerings, Millar explains, enables graduates to pursue careers in industries like non-profits, healthcare, sports, and family business as well as traditional fare like investment banking, consulting, marketing, and operations. Looking ahead, the school has begun investing heavily in a phygital” (merged physical and digital) experience to better cater to Gen-Z students who operate in these worlds.
“We are working toward using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to make customized recommendations to students based on their past behaviors,” Millar explains. “For example, if a student attended a sustainability workshop and later goes to register for classes, new and existing sustainability electives would be showcased. We have also “blended” several of our classes so that lectures and theory are delivered online allowing students to learn at their own pace and re-watch content before an exam or an internship. Face-to-face sessions, with the same faculty member who delivered the online content, are taught in smaller sections and are more interactive and problem-solving focused.”
Along with expanding support, Kenan-Flagler has also added eight new electives covering urgent topics like Blockchain, Social Advocacy, Sustainable Business, Personal Branding, and Storytelling. At the same time, it has built courses in Environmental Science and Customer Analytics through its cross-campus partners. Beyond taking an inventory of its programming, the school has looked closely at its core values. Using student input, Millar says, Kenan-Flagler has “rearticulated” its culture to better define where to focus and how to act.
“We call them guiding principles:
- Be curious.
- Be agile.
- Be purposeful.
- Be kind.
- Be humble.
- Be true.
Our newest class will assess themselves on these principles and will use them as a guide to help them decide to spend how to spend their time here at UNC Kenan-Flagler.”