When Chantel Adams (MBA ’14) arrived at UNC Kenan-Flagler to begin her studies, the last skill she expected to put to use was cheerleading.
But Adams – who had volunteered as a cheerleading coach and choreographer from the age of 15 – found that years of cartwheels and jumps prepared her for the team-building exercises during orientation. Coaching a team of new MBA students through a net obstacle course was a cinch after handling entire cheer squads.
“You never know which skills you’ll put to use,” she said. “Who ever thought my cheerleading would come in handy?”
It also taught her the art of communicating, socializing and networking with senior colleagues. As an 8-year-old cheerleader, she competed alongside high school students. She called on those experiences when she worked in finance as an associate analyst at Moody’s Investors Service and an accountant at Geller & Company.
“At age 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 is something that definitely came from cheerleading.”
While her quantitative abilities impressed her supervisors, they encouraged Adams to consider a career that used her strong interpersonal communication skills, too. An MBA was the perfect opportunity for Adams to change her career course 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,” she says.
And that’s just what has happened. After graduation, she will work at Nestlé USA as a marketing associate in Los Angeles. She also received a job offer for an extremely selective leadership development program with another major corporation, but the opportunity to work on the West Coast and expand her experiences appealed to her – as did working for the world’s leading food and beverage company.
When Adams was choosing where to pursue her MBA, the culture at UNC Kenan-Flagler attracted her. Students act like teammates instead of competitors. Small classes and the close-knit environment foster engaging class discussions and forge strong social bonds between students. Even when vying for the same positions, she and her classmates prep for interviews together and 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 UNC Kenan-Flagler.”
And that collaboration extends to tapping into the talents and perspectives of the diverse student body. “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. “UNC Kenan-Flagler is about tolerance and inclusion.”
Building on her passion for encouraging youth, which she discovered as a cheerleading coach, Adams hopes to one day serve as executive director of a global nonprofit that benefits children. To gain experience and learn from mentors in this arena, she served as a Nonprofit Board Fellow for the Youth Enrichment Series, Inc. (YesICan), 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 its board and helped increase its revenue and implement more efficient ways to use funds.
She also will complete the Nonprofit Leadership Certificate Program at UNC Kenan-Flagler, which prepares MBA students for leadership positions in the nonprofit world through coursework in fundraising, media relations and nonprofit financial management.
Adams is eager to encourage women to pursue careers in business. To help increase the number of female students at UNC Kenan-Flagler, she led the School’s Women’s Initiative in 2013. She also served as president of Carolina Women in Business (CWIB) and changed the timing of its annual conference so that prospective students could attend before they applied to UNC Kenan-Flagler. Under her leadership, attendance of the November 2013 conference increased more than 60 percent and over 40 prospective students attended and learned how to turn their business skills into success.
To continue her advocacy, Adams will stay aligned with organizations that promote women in business, such the Forté Foundation and 85 Broads.
“UNC 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.”