Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Shaping Student Leaders

Kenan Institute Leadership Fellows build communities for impact

They are high achievers, taking on numerous and far-reaching volunteer leadership roles even while earning their MBA and undergraduate business degrees.

They are visionaries, conceiving new approaches and programs to meet needs they identify.

They are concerned citizens of the world, launching nonprofits, helping fellow students connect with opportunity and focusing their talents on building a sustainable world.

They are Kenan Institute Leadership Fellows, UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA and undergraduate business students selected each year to hone their leadership skills while building bridges that extend the reach and impact of the UNC Kenan-Flagler/Kenan Institute community.

“The creativity, passion and initiative demonstrated by these Kenan Institute Leadership Fellows exemplifies the type of globally connected, locally committed leadership that I am confident will shape a better, more sustainable and more competitive world in the future,” says Kenan Institute Director John D. Kasarda.

Building Bridges to Leadership

The Leadership Fellows program includes MBA and undergraduate business students selected through a competitive application process each year. Fellows manage a range of programs that bring together local and global thought leaders to share knowledge that can drive business and economic growth and shape community solutions.

Most visible among them is the Business Across Borders Summit, an annual event that exposes students to experts and knowledge about doing business in markets around the world.

Leadership Fellow Katherine O’Herron (MBA ’12) led the team that conceived and hosted the most recent summit, “Africa: The New Business Frontier.” The November event brought Africa experts from around the world for two days of keynote addresses, panel discussions and workshops.

“Katherine did a phenomenal job creating a vision for the Business Across Borders Summit this past fall,” says Leadership Fellow Genny King (MBA ’13). “Her ability to execute an event that brought together over 130 stakeholders from around the world to engage in a dialogue about business opportunities in Africa was remarkable.”

Leadership Fellows coordinate Food for Thought luncheons throughout the year. These intimate gatherings introduce Kenan-Flagler students to high-profile business, academic and civic leaders to discuss issues of global competitiveness.

Fellows also host receptions for incoming and prospective students each year to introduce them to institute opportunities. They publicize activities and results through briefings to the institute’s board of trustees, publishing MBA Corner newsletter and writing the Student Opportunities Blog.

Undergraduate fellows expanded the program’s reach with their classmates in 2011-2012 by attending orientation events, club fairs and other activities that engaged more than 100 students.    

They also launched a new initiative to promote research among undergraduate business students.

“We were able to find six different research projects from center directors who would appreciate input and assistance from undergraduate students,” says Leadership Fellow Dexter Blackwell (BSBA ’12), who coordinated the project. “We designed and uploaded an application for the projects and received over 35 applications in under a week.”

The opportunity to develop such programs, participate in the range of fellows’ activities and network with the institute’s broad community of business and academic leaders were the most valuable parts of his experience at UNC, Blackwell says.

“I have met more people, developed more skills and had a bigger impact than I could have ever imagined,” he says.

Leading by Example

Leadership Fellows lead not only through their activities but by their example, says Lingmei Howell, the institute’s director of outreach, who coordinates the fellows program.

“These students are the best of the best, and they are having an extraordinary impact on the world around them, even while they are still in school,” she says. “It is exciting to think about all they will accomplish when they get out.”

Two MBA fellows, both U.S. military veterans, run nonprofit organizations for veterans. Both were honored with recent Armed Forces Salute specials produced by local ABC News affiliate WTVD ABC 11 (View Nick Black’s Salute. Greg Fontaine’s Salute airs June 29).

Leadership Fellow Nick Black (MBA ’13) co-founded Stop Soldier Suicide, a nonprofit that works to raise awareness of solder suicide and connect military men, women and veterans to services to prevent it. The group hosts Reveille, a monthly event in Chapel Hill that introduces veterans to services available to them and raises money to support those programs.

“Communities send their sons and daughters to war,” Black says. “We think it’s the community’s responsibility, as well as the government’s and all of our responsibilities, to welcome these veterans back home.”

Greg Fontaine (MBA ’12), a West Point graduate and veteran of three combat deployments, heads the N.C. chapter of Team Red, White and Blue. The nonprofit helps veterans transition successfully from military to civilian life by pairing them with a local support person and using physical fitness to engage veterans in being part of a team.

“It provides a lot of physical but also psychological and social benefits to help them work through the experiences they've had in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Fontaine says.

Black says Fontaine embodies the best of what it means to be a leader: “He enabled and supported all the fellows with a humble confidence that brought the best of everyone to light.”

Program leaders and students echoed Black’s sentiment by selecting Fontaine for the 2012 Rollie Tillman Jr. Outstanding Leadership Award, the Leadership Fellows program’s highest honor.

For more information on the Kenan Institute Leadership Fellows program, contact:

Lingmei Howell
Director of Outreach
Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise
Campus Box 3440, Kenan Center
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3440
(919) 962-2686
lingmei_howell@unc.edu