The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School has achieved a remarkable reputation for ingraining a strong sense of teamwork within its graduates. The fact that incoming students are assigned to teams of 4 to 5 people as soon as they arrive on campus and these teams do not disband until after the first year likely plays a part in this teambuilding reputation. (This no-excuses-accepted approach to teamwork mimics the teams employed in the workforce where one does not get the opportunity to specifically choose his or her team members.)

Additionally, the school is bucking a recent trend by requiring its applicants to have a minimum 2 years of post undergrad full-time work experience. The faculty is lauded for belonging to a wide variety of corporate advisory boards to ensure their current knowledge base is extremely current and relevant. UNC Kenan-Flagler faculty also consult, have started and run their own companies and teach executives in Exec Ed and EMBA Programs.  All these things also contribute to the relevance and currency of their business knowledge.

Below is our 4-page interview with Sherry Wallace, MBA admissions director.

Describe how the MBA program at Kenan-Flagler is evolving?

Our MBA program is more than 50 years old and we have always been driven by a commitment to work in teams as well as being individually accountable.  We have a lock-step curriculum wherein the first year everyone will take the same classes. This year we are departing a little from that, by keeping the best of it, but adding some flexibility.  The class of 2006 will be the first to enroll at a time when the second half of the first year is more flexible than it has ever been.  In the first year, students will be able to choose a subset of courses.  All of these are part of the core, but instead of having to take each and every one of them, the students can pick and choose and customize that subset of courses so that they can sooner pair their course work to the career of their choice.  We are not going to erode the solid general management base that this program has been built upon.  We believe that we have answered the feedback to allow students to customize their careers sooner.

What general advice would you like applicants considering UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA to know?

Each year we create a class of people who are very different from each other.  While there are some things that are culturally specific to UNC, people are coming into our program from very diverse backgrounds.  This contributes to a strong sense of community and learning from each other and also a sense of responsibility to be available to each other.

How would you describe the general culture at Kenan-Flagler?

People choose UNC because they find a fit here.  That fit is described to us in terms of the strong sense of community, and the way things are done here, not just what is done.  There is a huge premium placed on leading, motivating, and communicating.  It is not enough to be just individually accomplished.  If you can’t sell yourself to others, if you can’t earn trust from them as well, then you are not going to be an effective leader ten years out.  We concentrate on finding people with raw material in leadership potential as well as those who value working and succeeding as a team.

We encourage our students to get continuous feedback.  UNC MBA students participate in a 360-degree feedback survey that they initiate prior to the start of school, and they use this feedback gained from their former co-workers, peers, supervisors and themselves as a baseline measure of their management and leadership skills coming in to b-school.  Throughout the MBA Program, they will get feedback from faculty and their teammates on their skills such as team building, motivational, trust building and communication.  This feedback and benchmarking helps guide them to activities and classes that will maximize their skill development during their two years at UNC.

When do you encourage applicants to apply?

We generally have four deadlines.  Our first deadline this year is October 28, which is our Early Action deadline, December 2, is our first regular decision deadline, the third is January 13, and the final decision is March 5.  Applicants should submit their packages as soon as they are ready.  Nothing is worse than receiving an application from someone with an incomplete or rushed package, so we like to encourage applicants to apply when everything is in place for them.  It is better to be in the last deadline and have your package be good than to have an incomplete or rushed package submitted for an earlier deadline.  For the early action deadline of October 28, one can expect a decision on December 13, for the December 2 deadline decisions will be released on February 7, for the January 13 deadline one can expect a decision on March 23, and for the last deadline of March 5, a student can expect a decision by May 16.  We will continue to evaluate applicants after the final deadline if there is space available in the class.

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