Coming to UNC Kenan-Flagler, Luisa Benzaquen (MBA ’14) was no stranger to the business world. However, after studying business administration in her hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and working for two years with Capri Sun to develop the company’s marketing strategy and implementation in Brazil, Benzaquen knew it would take years to get promoted to a leadership position if she stayed. Pursuing an MBA would allow her to develop the leadership skills she needed to move her career forward, and so Benzaquen looked to the United States for business school.
“The U.S. is one step ahead regarding business, and I always wanted to come here to pursue my MBA,” she says. “School ranking was important to me, and UNC has remarkable marketing professors and a focus on leadership that caught my attention.” Benzaquen, a first-year student with UNC Kenan-Flagler’s program, is focusing on a double concentration in marketing and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, Benzaquen says the collaborative environment and sense of community at UNC Kenan-Flagler made the decision to move from Sao Paulo to Chapel Hill an easy one. And with her first year almost complete, Benzaquen couldn’t be happier with her choice.
“Everyone here is really helpful, including the second years and anyone outside the school,” she says. “Whenever you find someone from Kenan-Flagler, they are just so supportive and really go out of their way to help you.” Even when interviewing for many of the same internship positions, Benzaquen says the spirit among her classmates is much more collaborative than competitive. “We help each other out by doing mock interviews and sharing interview tips, and there’s support from the faculty and career mentors. It really made a difference and helped me get the internship I wanted.”
Benzaquen recently accepted an internship with Colgate Palmolive for the summer where she’ll work in a management capacity, an accomplishment she credits at least in part to the leadership skills she has developed so far at UNC Kenan-Flagler. “They give you all of the tools to develop yourself as a professional and as a person,” she says. “I feel much more confident even going to recruiting events because I can tell them exactly why I’m the best person for the company.”
Working on the operations side to help organize a casino night to raise money for Habitat for Humanity and participating in a Global Business Project in her native Brazil, Benzaquen has capitalized on the opportunities available outside the classroom at UNC Kenan-Flagler. “I got to go to Brazil and work as a consultant for Pepsi while interacting with students from other business schools,” she says. “The faculty advisors were really hands on in helping us, and it was a great opportunity as a business student because we got to apply our knowledge to a real life situation.”
In her first year at UNC Kenan-Flagler, Benzaquen also co-founded the Emerging Markets Club, which works to help companies break into emerging markets and offers roundtable and panel discussions to students, and has been working to expand the base of Latin American students applying and enrolling at UNC Kenan-Flagler. “It’s really tough, but I’m so happy with UNC and I know I made the right choice in coming here,” she says. Outside academics, Benzaquen serves as the president of the school’s tennis club as well.
Yet as if Benzaquen wasn’t already busy enough juggling responsibilities, classwork and experiential learning projects, she has also spent the past year planning her wedding, which will take place next spring after she graduates. “My fiancée is also in my class in the finance concentration and is from Brazil, so the timing of coming to Kenan-Flagler was perfect,” Benzaquen says. “But it can be pretty stressful trying to deal with wedding planning and business school at the same time!”
Looking to the future, Benzaquen hopes to work for several years in the United States in a brand management position after earning her MBA. “One day I plan to go back to Brazil because my family owns a business, and I want to get involved with that,” she says. “But I want to develop myself as a professional here in the U.S. before I move back to help my parents.”