For more than 25 years, Wendell Gilland has had a tremendous role in shaping the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School student experience.
He has led a core business analytics course for Undergraduate Business students and those in the executive MBA programs. He has created fascinating operations management courses, including one using Kenan Stadium for MBA@UNC and an operations simulation experience, where student teams managed a virtual production facility.
In the rare case students don’t know him from the classroom, they know him outside of it. Gilland has led Undergraduate Business students on a Global Immersion Elective to Abu Dhabi and Dubai and traveled to Brazil five years in a row as the faculty advisor for students working on STAR global projects.
The next chapter in Gilland’s influential career is unlike everything he’s done before: helping launch the UNC Kenan-Flagler Charlotte Executive MBA Program in September 2022.
It’s the third executive MBA and fifth MBA program offered by UNC Kenan-Flagler, joining the Evening and Weekend Executive MBA Programs, the Full-Time MBA Program and the online MBA@UNC.
Since being named assistant dean of the Evening, Weekend and Charlotte Executive MBA Programs in 2021, Gilland has been busy with MBA team members developing the Charlotte program’s curriculum. At the same time, the team re-envisioned the Evening and Weekend Executive MBA Programs.
“UNC Kenan-Flagler students expect a world-class MBA education from a leader in working professional education” says Gilland, associate professor of operations. “In Charlotte, they’re expecting the same quality and the same academic rigor as all of our MBA programs.”
They’ll get it. The 24-month program employs blended coursework — live class sessions combined with asynchronous content — held evenings, Friday afternoons and occasional weekends. The Charlotte Executive MBA Program requires the same number of credit hours and the same core classes as the Evening and Weekend Executive MBA Programs. Graduates of the three programs earn the same MBA degree.
The executive MBA students in Charlotte, home to nearly 4,500 UNC Kenan-Flagler alumni, will learn from the same faculty members leading UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Chapel Hill-based MBA programs. Gilland will be there from the beginning, bridging his business analytics course to the School’s first group of executive MBA students in Charlotte.
“Our guiding principle was that we wanted to make sure that the Charlotte program provided the same experience as the Chapel Hill program,” says Gilland. “Students in our evening and weekend programs have really felt like they’ve received an incredibly valuable educational experience. We want to make sure that we are delivering that in Charlotte.”
Launching Charlotte inspired an invigorated curriculum for the two other executive MBA programs. Students have more flexibility with elective choices since the academic calendars for the three programs now align.
There will be a wider range of networking and experiential learning opportunities. The innovative curriculum incorporates such elements as Impact Weekends: two themed courses held over a three-day weekend where students visit local companies, meet business leaders and participate in leadership activities.
Students from all three executive programs will experience the Impact Weekends together. Each year there will be two Impact Weekends offered, one in Charlotte and one in Chapel Hill. The new program will include executive lunch sessions every few weeks, led by Charlotte business leaders.
“A big part of what we want to do is create a community within the programs,” says Gilland. “There’s a shared purpose and shared opportunity. The Charlotte Executive MBA Program strengthens UNC Kenan-Flagler’s entire MBA community.”
It’s that sense of community that drew Gilland to UNC Kenan-Flagler in the first place. The Oregon native had never lived in the South before he moved to North Carolina with his family in 1997 after completing his PhD at Stanford.
He had a choice to make: A job at UNC or Duke University.
“I absolutely made the right choice,” he says. “I’ve never once regretted it. The thing that sticks out to me over the past 25 years is the pride that people have in UNC. That’s the pride of the staff, the pride of the faculty, the pride of the students. But the great thing is that UNC is the pride of the entire state. Being part of that has just really been a beautiful piece of my life.”
His career could have easily gone differently.
In between earning his degrees, a bachelor’s from Harvard University and an MBA from Stanford in addition to his PhD, Gilland worked for consulting firm Monitor Company testing business strategy frameworks for Fortune 500 clients. He also worked for consulting firm CSC Index, which launched business process engineering, and consulted for Apple, Sony and Intel.
Gilland saw a future for himself in operations management or business administration. Instead, those experiences shaped his academic career.
Gilland’s research has focused on how organizations can take advantage of flexibility, including studying leveraging flexibility with staffing models such as employing part-time or flex workers in retail. He is also interested in cross-training, seen in how hospitals find ways to help nurses flow from one floor to another efficiently, and product flexibility, such as how to determine what to stock based on the likelihood a customer looking for one product will settle on a similar product if the first choice isn’t available.
He has also won numerous awards, including Weatherspoon Awards for Teaching Excellence in the Undergraduate Business Program and Full-Time MBA Program. He previously served as the associate dean of the Undergraduate Business Program before taking on the Executive MBA role.
“What I really try to do is put myself in the shoes of students,” says Gilland. “It took me time to realize I wanted to be a professor. I have had exposure to different fields in business, and I understand connections between the subjects we cover and the real world. But I also know the mindset of students.”
Now, he’s bringing that skill to Charlotte.
“We have a group of students in Charlotte who know that being in our MBA program is exactly where they want to be,” says Gilland. “There’s a perfect alignment between what we want to do as educators and what students are seeking from an executive MBA program. What I’m most excited about is delivering that vision.”