UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

UNC celebrates graduation of first MBA@UNC class


MBAatUNC GraduationThe first class of MBA@UNC, the innovative online MBA program, graduated July 13, 2013, in Chapel Hill. Among the first graduating class of 18 students, 17 began their studies in the inaugural class in July 2011, and one began his studies in October 2011. 

UNC Kenan-Flagler created MBA@UNC to provide the flexibility and access working professionals need to earn their MBA from wherever they are in the world. 

Former dean James W. Dean Jr. returned in his role as executive vice chancellor and provost to speak and confer the degrees on what he called a watershed day for the Business School and the University.

“Today we celebrate the graduation of the people who took a risk on something that had never been seen before, a reinvention of graduate business education that demonstrates that with the right combination of faculty, students and courses, technology can be used to create educational attainments unimaginable only a few years ago,” said Dean. “Let me be among the first to congratulate you, the MBA@UNC class of 2013. On behalf of Kenan-Flagler Business School, and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we are all so proud of you for what you have accomplished, and for what you will continue to accomplish. For you are now part of the Chapel Hill family, and we will rejoice always in your successes.”

These students were both pioneers and our partners in shaping the future of global business education,” said Doug Shackelford, MBA@UNC associate dean and the Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation. “Your graduation and the fact that there are nearly 500 other students currently enrolled in the program and soon to follow you as MBA@UNC graduates are testimonials to the fact that all of us have been part of something really special that will make our world a better place for years to come.”

The graduates are an impressive group and the very best evidence of MBA@UNC’s strength, said Shackelford, who recognized those who earned UNC Kenan-Flagler Leadership Initiative designation and entry into the Beta Gamma Sigma, the “Phi Beta Kappa of b-schools,” as well as valedictorian Jim Omartian, who is continuing his studies in the PhD Program at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Over two-thirds of the graduating class earned promotions and/or made career changes while enrolled in MBA@UNC, including moving from line management to corporate in a Fortune 100 company, from the military to the private sector, launching a start-up venture, and branching out to form a new company.

They have been through personal changes during their studies: moves, engagements and marriages, babies born and deaths in their families, said Susan Cates (MBA ’98), MBA@UNC executive director. “And yet they managed to stay fully committed as students and working professionals. They share an incredibly strong connection, which shows that deep, rich relationships can be built in an online program.”

“We truly could not have asked for a better group of pioneers to represent UNC Kenan-Flagler, to be our partners in starting this program off on the path of being the best MBA program in the world,” said Cates. “We’re so proud to have all of you as alumni of UNC Kenan-Flagler.”

MBA@UNC students feel proud of and connected to our School, said Cates. “Our first graduating class, with 100 percent participation, contributed $25,050 to UNC Kenan-Flagler, and we appreciate their support and the message that their class gift sends.”

Brian McGrath (MBA@UNC ’13) spoke on behalf of his class. He told his young daughters to “look at the fantastic women graduating with me, celebrate their collective individualism, and see how they created their own definitions of success. They are great role models for you – and for me.” McGrath is “proud to be a Tar Heel, proud to be part of this Carolina community,” he said. “Where we go next – that’s to be determined –– the MBA@UNC helped us all rewrite our life plans. I have no doubt this group will do exceptional things in career, in family, and in life. I can’t wait to see what happens.”

Graduates and faculty walked in their cap and gowns, while classmates and others watched the ceremony, shown on the MBA@UNC platform. Professor Nathan Furr, who received the students’ teaching award, was in France so he joined graduation via the platform. "Great students make a great professor,” he said. He congratulated them for taking an intellectual risk, their engagement and being some of the best students I have ever had in my life." Kenan Institute director Joseph DeSimone gave the keynote address.

Click here to watch a video about graduation, see a timeline of MBA@UNC’s journey from launch to graduation, and meet the graduates. A new class enters every quarter and today over 450 students are enrolled in MBA@UNC. They represent 39 states and 35 countries in terms of citizenship and where they live. Current students live in Afghanistan, Bermuda, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, Poland, Singapore and the United States. Their average age is 31; they average almost eight years of work experience; 23 percent already have advanced degrees before starting their MBA studies.