When Chantel Adams (MBA ’14) arrived at UNC Kenan-Flagler’s orientation, the last of her skills she expected to put to use was cheerleading. But Adams, who had volunteered as a cheerleading coach and choreographer since the age of 15, found all those years of cartwheels and jumps had prepared her well for the first-year retreat’s team-building exercises. After handling entire cheer squads, coaching and boosting a team of new MBA students through a net obstacle course was a synch.
“You never know which skills you’ll put into use at business school,” she said. “Whoever thought my cheerleading would come in handy?”
Before coming to Kenan-Flagler, she worked in finance as an associate analyst at Moody’s Investors Service and an accountant at Geller & Company. Adams credits her experience as an eight-year-old cheerleader competing alongside high school students with teaching her the art of communicating, socializing and networking with her more senior colleagues.
“At the age of 22 I was sitting across the table from CEOs of global companies and being taken seriously,” she said. “The ability to confidently present myself as a mature, professional woman in a male-dominated industry dominated is something that definitely came from cheerleading.”
While her supervisors were impressed with her quantitative abilities, they encouraged Adams to consider a career that would take advantage of her strong interpersonal communication skills as well. For Adams, an MBA was the perfect opportunity to change the course of her career and find a more fulfilling path.
“Business school was a way for me to figure out how best to package myself, leverage all of my skills and assets, and find a career that I really enjoyed.”
During her business school search, Adams was drawn to UNC Kenan-Flagler because the students seemed much more like teammates than competitors. The small classes and intimate environment foster not only the engaging class discussions that Adams loves but also strong social bonds between students. Even when they’re vying for the same positions, she and her classmates prep for interviews together and always cheer each other on.
“Going into business school I thought it was going to be much more of a shark tank,” she said. “The collaborative culture is something that is very unique to Kenan-Flagler.”
Hoping to build upon the passion for encouraging youth she discovered as a cheerleading coach, Adams would like to one day serve as executive director of a global nonprofit that benefits children. To gain experience and learn from mentors in this area, Adams served as a Nonprofit Board Fellow for the Yes I Can Youth Enrichment Series, a local faith-based, pre-college enrichment program for students in grades 3-12 and their families. She spent six months as a non-voting member of the organization’s board, during which she used her skills to help increase Yes I Can’s revenue and implement more efficient ways to use funds. Adams is also completing the Nonprofit Leadership Certificate Program, which prepares students for leadership positions in the nonprofit world through coursework in fundraising, media relations and nonprofit performance metrics.
“Kenan-Flagler definitely lives its mission of creating leaders for the greater good,” she said. “We have a number of opportunities to put not only our business knowledge and skills to work but also give back to the community around us.”
In addition to her nonprofit work, Adams is committed to encouraging other women to pursue careers in business. In order to help increase the number of female students at Kenan-Flagler, she leads the school’s Women’s Initiative. Her latest achievement in this role was to establish alumnae class representatives that will help recruit new female students, as well as keep graduates engaged with the school. She is also the newly elected president of Carolina Women in Business, a student club dedicated to promoting the advancement of women in the business world.
“Everyone’s so receptive to the diversity that you bring to the table -- be it gender, ability, interests, age, sexual orientation or race -- people are so open to that,” said Adams. “Kenan-Flagler is about tolerance and inclusion.”