As I look back at 100 years of business education at Carolina, I am humbled by our founders’ vision. They saw a role for business at a liberal arts university in one of the poorest states in a country still recovering from World War I.
The School of Commerce began in the College of Arts & Sciences when the UNC Board of Trustees approved its formation on Jan. 14, 1919. That intersection between business and the liberal arts became the foundation for our approach to preparing students with the kind of enduring knowledge and skills they need to navigate a complex future.
What makes us special 100 years later is ingrained in our very roots and so remains constant. Our core values – excellence, leadership, integrity, community and teamwork – shape our extraordinarily collaborative and innovative culture. Expected to excel at both teaching and research, our faculty pioneer new ways of learning and create knowledge that matters in the classroom and the boardroom. And by fulfilling our mission to provide world-class teaching, research and service to business and society, we seek to achieve our aim of being the best business school of the 21st century.
We have deliberately taken on a complex mission to offer programs for a wide range and number of students, and to deliver excellence in every program. Today we have approximately 900 Undergraduate Business, 1,800 MBA, 400 Master of Accounting and 70 PhD students, and annually serve 5,000 executives in our UNC Executive Development programs.
Pioneering new ways of educating future business leaders is part of our DNA. So that more people can benefit from a Carolina education even if they can’t come to Chapel Hill, we launched online formats of our MBA and Master of Accounting Programs in recent years. And while our students have long applied what they learn in class – from leadership and teamwork to investing and consulting – before they graduate, they now use technology – virtual reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning – for greater engaged and more efficient learning.
We “transport” MBA students to Cameroon, for example, using virtual reality. Assigned to set up a new healthcare outpost, they test their decision-making and intercultural skills during these immersive experiences. The result is a deeper type of learning, so that when they encounter ethical dilemmas and leadership challenges during their careers, they will have practiced and will be ready to respond.
To address the pressing issues of healthcare, we established the Center for the Business of Health. This multidisciplinary initiative brings together UNC’s leading health sciences divisions – including the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Gillings School of Global Public Health, School of Nursing, School of Dentistry and School of Medicine — with the School of Social Work, School of Information and Library Science, School of Law and College of Arts & Sciences departments. We are building bridges and collaborating in ways I’ve not seen any other business school do with its healthcare departments. Together our collective powerhouse of talent will distinguish UNC as leading national voices in the business of healthcare.
As a graduate and a dean, I’m proud to be part of an institution that for 100 years has transformed students’ lives and equipped them to contribute to the organizations where they work and the communities in which they live. And I am extremely excited about what’s next for UNC Kenan-Flagler. Business is central to solving problems of the 21st century, and we are preparing our graduates to be extraordinary leaders and managers who – guided by insights from our faculty and their research – grapple with critical issues with wisdom and courage.
Douglas A. Shackelford (BSBA ’80)
Dean and Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation