2021 Best & Brightest Business Major: Gino Esposito, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Gino Esposito

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Son, brother, man of faith, friend, learner, teammate, wrestler, disciplined, businessman, writer, photographer and dreamer.”

Fun fact about yourself: Writing fiction is one of my passions and I am currently working on a collection of short stories. I am in the midst of taking my second fiction writing course at UNC this semester.

Hometown: Milford, Connecticut

High School: Joseph A. Foran High School

Major: Business Administration, Consulting Area of Emphasis

Minor: N/A

Favorite Business Course: BUSI 206: South Africa Global Immersion Elective focused on inclusive leadership and social entrepreneurship

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • NCAA Division I Student-Athlete
  • UNC Varsity Wrestling Team, Captain (2017 to present)
  • Wrestling “Newcomer of the Year” award (2017-18)
  • Wrestling “Iron Ram” award for “the best overall performance during the year” in the weight room (2018-19)
  • Carolina Outreach, UNC Wrestling Liaison (2017 to present)
  • Athletes in Action, student-athlete leadership team (July 2017–July 2020)
  • Kenan Scholar, Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise
  • Dean’s List (All Semesters); 3.91 GPA
  • Marion Dixon BSBA Scholarship
  • Newman Catholic Center, small faith group leader (August 2019 to present)
  • Business strategy and operations leader at CappuGino’s Coffee & Shakes, family-owned and operated community-centric coffee shop and shake café in Milford, Connecticut (February 2020 to present)

Where have you interned during your college career? I interned at NCGrowth, which helps business and communities create sustainable and equitable opportunities. (It is part of the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise.) I was exposed to a range of economic development and entrepreneurship projects. I hoped to do another internship my junior year but, due to COVID, I decided to stay home in Connecticut and work on my Kenan Scholars senior research project on applying Aristotle’s ethics to business.

Where will you be working after graduation? I have applied to UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Masters of Accounting Program and will have another year of NCAA eligibility to wrestle.

What company do you admire most? Pixar! From a business level, I am absolutely fascinated by their consistency in creating movies that not only receive the highest honors, but also simultaneously capture the imagination of children and the hearts of adults. I read the book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull to understand what Pixar does to ensure this consistency, and learned a lot from their strategies to foster creativity (ex. The “Brain Trust”). From a personal level, I admire Pixar because it is a company that does one of the most important things in the world: communicate meaning through stories.

Who is your favorite professor? I was fortunate enough to have Professor Mike Beeler for both Operations (BUSI 403) and Supply Chain Management (BUSI 533H). His passion for what he teaches is evident and he demonstrates a strong commitment to making unique and special connections with his students. His classes engaged and challenged me, and I always enjoyed speaking with him before/after class.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? This quote from George Bernard Shaw captures it: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Companies like Apple, Pixar, Tesla, Google and Microsoft illustrate this in that they are creating products and services that fundamentally change the way people live. In studying business, I now have the skillset required to be innovative. 

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? I would encourage a student looking to major in a business-related field because of the versatility of a business degree. Studying business is studying how people can work together as a team to create value. These are central skills for life, and can help you in whatever you aspire to do.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? The classes that have challenged and shaped me. For example, I am currently taking Improv and, for me, it is harder than corporate finance! One thing I have learned from the class is how to be a better listener. I believe listening is perhaps the greatest life skill and the best definition I have ever heard of listening is “allowing oneself to be changed by another.”

In addition to Improv, my GIE to South Africa was a life altering experience for me. After classes at UNC Kenan-Flagler, we spent two weeks in Johannesburg and Cape Town engaging with corporate executives and small-scale, local entrepreneurs with a focus on inclusive leadership and social entrepreneurship. In addition, we participated in case competitions, and a self-reflective leadership development session. The depth of the experience changed who I am and how I see the world; it has changed the trajectory of my life and is just another example of the unexpected journeys I have experienced in studying business.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? One thing I would do differently in business school is try to get to know my professors better outside of class. The true challenge in my college experience has been time. However, some of my greatest learning experiences have sprung from relationships with professors that transcend the classroom, and I hope that in my remaining time at UNC I can make this a priority.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? Being a UNC Kenan-Flagler student-athlete is a dream come true. Every day, I get to train with my teammates to be national champions and then study with classmates who aspire to change the world. I have been given so much and I am deeply humbled to have the opportunity to be a part of two world-class teams, whether it’s on the mat with my teammates or in class with the next generation of business leaders.

Which classmate do you most admire? Cliff McMahon is a non-traditional undergraduate student. He is older than most of the student body because by a decade due to his time with the U.S. Marine Corps. I have enjoyed being in three classes with him, and he epitomizes what UNC Kenan-Flagler is all about: diversity of background, diversity of thought, and diversity of life experience. His time with the U.S. Marine Corps, still serving as active-duty military member with two young daughters, truly inspires me. Moreover, his humility, curiosity, and thoughtfulness have inspired me to be a better student and a better person, and I consider myself lucky to call him my friend.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My mom and dad have given me the greatest gift that I have ever received: they believed in me. Never did they tell me my goals were too big (or too numerous). They helped me to accomplish everything that I have by instilling in me a sense of empowerment. Their unconditional love and unwavering belief in me have allowed me to pave my own way.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Through my Kenan Scholars internship at NCGrowth, my interest in creating a financially self-sustainable education model for lower-income communities began. I want to re-think the foundations of education and create the best school system in the world. Additionally, I am interested in becoming a Catholic priest and would like to see these two goals come together.

What are your hobbies? I love to read several books of different genres at the same time. In 2020, the quarantine fed my insatiable hunger for books outside of coursework and I ended up reading 65 books for fun last year.

Photography is another one of my hobbies that has now become a passion.

What made Gino such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Gino epitomizes our School’s core values and the Undergraduate Business Program’s six guiding principles. Simply put, he represents the best of us.

He has perfectly balanced his time between athletics, his business studies, and the Carolina experience.

Gino has sought out and fully embraced so many aspects of what makes UNC such a special place. He has excelled as a student and as an athlete, and still made time for service to others. Education can change lives and Gino committed to making every moment count to grow and learn, challenging himself and supporting others.

Gino is a brilliant, kind, humble and inclusive leader. He makes us proud every day.”

Jackie Fritsch
Assistant Director, Admissions & Scholarships
UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


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