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A way with words

When Michael Meredith was an undergraduate student, his professor pulled him aside after a class presentation and asked how he thought it went.

Meredith said he felt just OK about it. “You should feel great about it,” his professor said. “But I think you could give a better presentation than the one you just did.”

Then she gave advice that he now gives to his students at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School: When up in front of people think of it as a conversation to share thoughts and expertise. Relate to people. Engage. Have a dialogue.

“It was simple advice, but it really changed things for me,” says Meredith. “I began to work on being a better communicator. I worked harder to gain confidence when presenting to a client and then kept working it. I realized that I had to move outside of my comfort zone. I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines.”

The value of communication

No one is a perfect communicator. Meredith readily admits he isn’t one.

But he’s a great communicator, and through his management and corporate communication courses at UNC Kenan-Flagler, every student has the potential to be a great communicator, too.

Michael Meredith“I typically do an exercise with all of my students,” Meredith says. “I ask them to think of the best leader they can imagine or one they’ve worked for and describe them. We come up with a very long list: They are compelling, engaging and they make complex concepts simple. Then I ask what on the list doesn’t involve communication in some way. It’s rare that we can find anything.”

Since joining UNC Kenan-Flagler in 2010, legions of Undergraduate, MBA and Master of Accounting students have learned just how essential good communication is to success across a wide swath of business fields. Communication classes like Meredith’s are a jumping-off point for a lifelong endeavor.

In many of his classes, including his core Management and Corporation Communication course, students explore efficient and effective communication through practicing presentations, writing assignments, working in teams, crafting emails and tailoring resumes. They analyze examples of good communication and poor writing.

“There are many reasons to love UNC Kenan-Flagler, but a big part of it for me is that we pride ourselves on building leaders and these are students who are committed to becoming the best leaders they can be and in their own distinctive way,” says Meredith. “They are passionate about that, and that makes working in academia such a joy for me.”

Meredith’s own deftly honed communication skills are on display when speaking with him, even casually. He’s down to earth and immediately easy to feel comfortable around. He speaks to you, not at you, genuinely curious about who you are and what you have to say.

Meredith has taught everything from an MBA course on social media to communication for established business leaders through UNC Executive Development programs.

“Quantitative thought, understanding numbers and using analytics are very important to a business message, but without good communication it’s an incomplete message,” he says. “I think of communication as the humanities side of doing business. If I’m trying to persuade someone, I’m going to hit them with data, but I’m also going to hit them with a story. I want them to have a logical response but an emotional response as well.”


What Meredith asks of his students is to examine themselves, thinking about the ways they communicate well and where there is room for improvement. They experiment with business communication best practices, how to adapt them to fit with their own abilities and apply them to a career. The communicators who walk into Meredith’s class on the first day are not the same communicators who walk out on the last day.

“What I want to help students realize is that effective communication, especially in business, is a differentiator,” says Meredith. “What we want them to do is understand and try different communication practices that ultimately lead them to find what works best for them. My hope is they can leverage these skills to be more effective leaders and citizens.”

Growing up in rural Ohio, Meredith looked around and saw his future. The “good” jobs in town were doctors and nurses. His father worked at a chemical factory, and his mother worked as an aide to a student with disabilities. His parents instilled the importance of education, hard work, serving others well and with integrity. Meredith, a first-generation college student, thought he was destined to return to his hometown and follow one of those paths.

College changes many people, but it opened up the world to Meredith in a way that felt palpable. Originally on a pre-med track at Ohio University, he found himself more interested in the business and communication side of healthcare than the science. He took more communication classes, ultimately graduating with two degrees, one in health and one in communication in human services.

The world opened further when Meredith stayed at the university to pursue an MBA in general business and health services administration. For the first time, he practiced his growing communication skills on a global scale, heading to Hungary with classmates to work with a client.

Meredith didn’t make it back to his hometown. Instead, he moved to the Washington, D.C., area and worked in consulting. After prompting from a mentor, he decided to pursue a PhD in communication at Bowling Green State University. Today, in addition to his faculty role, he continues to do consulting and executive coaching.

Michael Meredith GIE

Michael Meredith (far right) and students visited a small town outside of Budapest during a recent GIE.

When he applied for a job at UNC Kenan-Flagler, he talked about the transformative experience of doing consulting work in Hungary during his MBA program. Since the spring of 2018, Meredith has led Undergraduate Business Program students on a GIobal Immersion Elective to Hungary, where they have toured companies focused on developing innovative technology such as artificial intelligence, acted as consultants for European companies, competed in case competitions and worked with students from Corvinus University in Budapest.

In spring 2022, Meredith taught Business in Europe as a GIE COIL Plus course, a partnership with Corvinus University where UNC Kenan-Flagler students work with Corvinus students to co-present business projects.

“My personal experience abroad made a profound impact on me in terms of my education and career, especially in developing my leadership and business communication skills,” says Meredith. “I know not everyone’s experience is going to be the one that I had, but I like to think that maybe somebody else’s will be.”

At UNC Kenan-Flagler, he found his calling. The School has long stressed the value and importance of communication in business education and the Management and Corporate Communication Area boasts over a dozen faculty members who teach in all of the School’s programs.

“When the opportunity to teach opened up here, it was a slam-dunk easy decision for me to come to Carolina,” Meredith says. “There was a well-established communication focus at the Business School, and it meant a lot to me to have the chance to be a part of that.”

He found mentors everywhere he looked. Professor Heidi Schultz invited him to sit in on her class and introduced him to other communication professors like Patricia Harms, whom he peppered with questions. He felt like he was being set up to succeed in ways he hadn’t felt before.

“I had this unconventional, multidisciplinary background and not everyone saw that as potential,” says Meredith. “After the first semester here, Heidi asked me how I felt it went and I told her that I enjoyed every second of it. The experience I’ve had here is not like any experience I’ve ever had at any university — period. There’s a sense of collaboration and collegiality and a genuine caring about students and their education, success and wellness. Everything just felt right. It still does.”