2024 Best & Brightest Business Major: Zainab Maniya, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Zainab Maniya

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Someone who loves organization and order but welcomes chaos.”

Fun fact about yourself: I have visited 21 countries so far!

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

High School: Harper Middle College High School

Major: Business Administration and Public Policy

Minor: Spanish Minor for the Business Professions

Favorite Business Course: Business Improvisation- This class has taught me how to think on my feet and be more comfortable with being uncomfortable!

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • Volunteer with the Refugee Community Partnership and serve on their Executive Board
  • Member of Club Boxing
  • UNC Undergraduate Student Government (multiple roles throughout the years)
    • Chief of Staff in the Office of the Treasurer
    • Co-Director of Department of Academic Affairs and Professional Development
    • Chief of Staff to the Student Body Vice President
    • Affordability Committee Member
  • International Student Coordinator – Global Programs Specialist at UNC Kenan-Flagler
  • Dean’s List
  • Honors Carolina

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Department of Transportation; Washington, D.C.; Policy Intern in the Office of the Senior Procurement Executive
  • Jones Group International; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Consulting Intern
  • International Trade Administration; Remote; U.S. Commercial Service Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Jones Group International as a Management Consultant

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? Studying business taught me the importance of developing strong soft skills. Going into the business program, I thought that learning hard skills like how to operate Excel or PowerPoint was key to being successful in a career in the future. While proficiency in these tools remains valuable, I’ve come to recognize that qualities such as effective communication, leadership, and active listening are equally, if not more, important. These soft skills are often the deciding factors in landing a job in the first place. Fortunately, my business coursework has provided me the opportunities to hone these essential skills.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? If you have the opportunity and the means, then definitely study abroad!!!! My exchange experience, through UNC Kenan-Flagler at ICADE in Madrid, Spain for a semester, was truly transformative. Studying abroad offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in a different classroom environment, potentially learn a new language (I took two of my business classes in Spanish), and gain insights into business etiquette and norms that differ from the U.S. For example, the emphasis on punctuality in the U.S. versus the more relaxed approach in Spain in a business environment, provided invaluable cultural context. I didn’t think studying abroad would be possible for me, but there are many scholarships and resources in place to help, all it takes is a bit of research!

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? I would join more clubs or extracurriculars associated with the business school. While I’ve been involved in various clubs related to my Public Policy double major, I haven’t explored many opportunities within the business school itself. In hindsight, I wish I had taken advantage of more opportunities to immerse myself in my business major beyond just attending classes and working within the business school.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I’m most proud of having joined Club Boxing at UNC! Joining was very out of my comfort zone, as I entered with no prior boxing experience but a strong desire to learn self-defense. Since my sophomore year, being part of the club has not only strengthened me physically but also fostered resilience and pushed me beyond my limits.

Which classmate do you most admire? Erin Singleton, a classmate I met during my sophomore year in Introduction to Financial Accounting, embodies qualities that I deeply admire. Not only is she a cherished friend, but she also demonstrates exceptional traits that make her an outstanding classmate. Erin’s attentive listening skills and genuine interest in others make every interaction feel meaningful; she often recalls details shared in conversation, making one feel heard. She is dedicated and disciplined, waking up early most mornings to get a workout in before class or work. She’s one of the most hardworking people I know and gives her all to any assignment or project that she puts her mind to. I am grateful to have Erin as a source of motivation and learning in my life, continuously pushing me to reach my full potential.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my mom for my success! Her encouragement to embrace risks and give my best effort to everything I put my mind to has been instrumental in shaping my mindset. She instilled in me the belief that perseverance pays off, urging me never to accept “no” as an answer—a philosophy that I live by. Without her continued support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

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

  • After working for a couple of years, my goal is to earn my MBA at Columbia!
  • I really enjoy watching Ted Talks on a variety of different topics and would love to give one myself one day!

What made Zainab such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?

“Upon her return to campus from her semester abroad at Comillas Pontifical University (ICADE) and her summer internship in Saudi Arabia, she jumped headfirst into sharing the benefits of these experiences with the UNC Kenan-Flagler community. That includes her work as the International Student Coordinator on our team of Global Programs Specialists. From day one, Zainab has demonstrated a remarkably collaborative spirit and positive attitude. While she might not always be the first in a group to speak, I can count on her response to any question to be deeply thoughtful and to bring a fresh perspective to any discussion.

Over the last year, she has played a pivotal role in welcoming our visiting exchange students from our partner universities all over the world, and ensuring that they integrate into the UNC Kenan-Flagler and UNC communities and make the most of their time in the U.S. From developing a list of tips to how to navigate finals season to hosting a Friendsgiving dinner at her house, she is a model of kindness and support for these new members of our community.

Zainab’s combination of independence and curiosity sets her apart – she is not afraid to pursue a passion or interest because it doesn’t fit the mold of what is expected. To get more immersed in the local community while studying abroad, she enrolled in Spanish dance classes at a local studio.

We’ve had lengthy conversations about the myriad of places she wants to explore across the world, and how excited she is to return to the community she built while in Riyadh last summer.

Zainab has left an indelible mark on the Class of 2024 – I cannot wait to see all that she accomplishes in the future.”

Madeline Allen
Assistant Director, Global Student Services
Undergraduate Business Program


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