Kevin Clark’s (BSBA ’99) first job after graduating from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School was a consulting position with Ernst & Young. He lost it just nine months later, the result of a merger.
As he navigated that period of uncertainty – and throughout his successful career – he has found support from the UNC Kenan-Flagler community.
There is magic in a place that believes in you, Clark said during his inspirational commencement address to the 412 graduates of Undergraduate Business Program (UBP) on May 7 at the Dean E. Smith Center.
And there is magic in a place that never hesitates to invest in you.
“Tar Heels are family. We are family. We care for each other. We celebrate each other. We mentor each other,” said Clark, director of strategic growth initiatives for marketing, communications and strategic partnerships at Intuit. “You are part of a community unlike any on the planet, so don’t take it for granted.
“The magic of Carolina doesn’t reside among its buildings, books, papers and exams — it resides in our community of people. We are Carolina. We are UNC Kenan-Flagler. Our duty, therefore, is to each other.”
UBP, PhD and MS graduates also participated in the University commencement on May 8, where former New York Times columnist Frank Bruni (BA ’86) gave the keynote address. While graduates might feel cheated by how COVID affected their time at Carolina, they can choose to find the experience empowering, he said. “In crucial ways, you got a better education because of it. You learned things about yourself — and about life — that you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Chip Paucek (MBA ’17), co-founder and CEO of 2U, gave the keynote address at the MBA graduation on May 14 to 337 Full-Time MBA Program graduates and 196 online MBA@UNC graduates and their families and friends at the Dean E. Smith Center.
Paucek urged them to believe in themselves and fight against skepticism, and he shared the importance of drive and focus in his career journey.
Still to come: the celebration of 74 graduates of the on-campus Master of Accounting Program (MAC) on June 25. John Roberts (BSBA ’95, MAC ’96), chief integration officer of FORVIS, will give their commencement address.
“I am very emotional thinking about the fact that I will no longer be a Carolina student come June, but I am so incredibly proud to be a graduate of the business school undergrad program and a future MAC graduate and join such an incredible network of alumni,” said Anna Concepcion (BSBA ’20, MAC ’22), who will be an audit and assurance associate at GreerWalker in Charlotte.
In addition, UNC Kenan-Flagler will celebrate about 124 graduates who earned their MAC in the online format, as well as graduates of the Evening Executive MBA, Weekend Executive MBA and MBA@UNC programs. UBP students also can participate in the University’s December commencement ceremony.
The new graduates had an experience at the Business School unlike any other. Virtual learning was sandwiched between traditional in-person learning, and students not only adapted but thrived. They studied abroad, competed in case competitions, and developed unique business ideas. In other words, they continued to have the UNC Kenan-Flagler experience.
It has been an especially interesting few years for UNC Kenan-Flagler’s GLOBE program, which brings together students from UNC Kenan-Flagler, Copenhagen Business School (CBS) and Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) to spend three semesters studying and living together on three different continents.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CUHK and CBS students in the cohort could not travel to UNC Kenan-Flagler, so the UBP program invited them to spend their final collegiate semester at Carolina this spring. Much to their surprise, all of the CUHK and CBS students accepted and finished their university experience at UNC. They caught the Carolina spirit and even though they were not officially graduating from UNC, they bought Carolina caps and gowns and received special recognition at the UBP graduation.
The UBP Class of 2022 included first-generation college students like Kathrine Soliman (BSBA ’22) who also won the Excellence in Management Communication award. She accepted an associate project manager position at The Link Group.
“My parents immigrated from the Philippines around 30 years ago. Now all three of their children have graduated from American universities,” Soliman shared on LinkedIn. “In my 21 years of life, my greatest accomplishment and motivation is making my parents proud.”
Nicolas Palacios (PharmD/MBA ’22), another first-generation college student, graduated from both UNC Kenan-Flagler and the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. He is heading to California to take part in Amgen’s Commercial Leadership Program. “Dr. Nicolas Palacios, PharmD/MBA! Say it louder for the people in the back,” Palacios wrote on LinkedIn. “5 years in this beautiful state taught me just as much about NC as it taught me about myself.”
While at Carolina, Will Douthit (BSBA ’22) and classmates launched the Carolina Homelessness Prevention Initiative, which works closely with partners in the community to provide diversion funding in need of emergency funds. UNC honored him with the 2022 Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award for his efforts.
Anna Manocha (BSBA ’22) started her own business, Arte con Impact, supporting Guatemalan artists. She studied in South Africa, Puerto Rico and Sevilla, and worked with the Business School’s Allison Mentorship Program. She was honored with the UNC Kenan Scholars’ Robbie Tillman Outstanding Leadership Award recognizing students dedicated to building better communities, as well as the Class of 1938 International Leadership Award and the UNC Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship Award.
“I am so grateful to my friends, family, and others who have helped me succeed at UNC,” Manocha wrote on LinkedIn. “After graduation, I’m moving to Philadelphia to work as a first-year analyst at Boston Consulting Group. I am so excited to see what comes next.”
Siblings Manshi Naik (MBA ’22), senior aerospace systems engineer at Blue Origin, and Vatsal Naik (MBA ’22), air vehicle IPT leader at Boeing, graduated from the MBA@UNC program at the same time. Rohit Jain (MBA ’22), a senior manager at Oracle, reflected on the challenges and rewards of his studies, and shared a photo on LinkedIn of the Old Well and a UNC-Chapel Hill logo both shaved into the back of his head. He thanked his professors, classmates and his barber.
RJ Niewoehner (PhD ’22), who received the Latané Outstanding Student Award, is joining the faculty of Indiana University. Even before he graduated, his operations research was making an impact, including a study on how to motivate busy physicians to give more flu shots published in Harvard Business Review.
Ralf Etienne (MBA ’22) decided to earn his degree so he could have greater impact on his home country of Haiti. And after losing a leg in a 2010 earthquake there, he didn’t linger on his misfortune and, instead collected 40,000 eyeglasses for Haitians, helped install new roofs on over 700 homes damaged by Hurricane Matthew, and built a new children’s center for the town of Coteaux.
His MBA studies and an internship in Bank of America’s investment banking program inspired him to move from working on the ground in Haiti to providing financial support for those working to improve communities in Haiti and advocate for those efforts in the financial world.
He’s headed to New York to work as an investment banker with Bank of America. “I can be very successful, and then I can give back. I can influence,” said Etienne. “That’s how I can make a bigger impact. I’m going to be a force for good.”
There’s that magic.
School leaders shared their admiration for the graduates’ resilience and achievements.
Shimul Melwani, associate dean of UBP, wished the mothers in the audience an early “happy Mother’s Day” and praised the strength of the graduates and their parents.
“We don’t say this enough to parents, but I salute your resilience and mettle,” she said. “Thank you for raising these wonderful humans and trusting us to take care of them. We take that responsibility very, very seriously.
This year’s UBP graduation was the first UBP ceremony held in person since the global pandemic began.
Dean Doug Shackelford (BSBA ’80) had missed seeing the pride of family and friends, as well as the mixed emotions of graduates, eager to begin a new phase in their lives but uncertain about their new responsibilities.
But there was one thing Shackelford was sure of: The Class of 2022 will succeed in whatever they choose to do.
“Not only have you come through a challenging academic program, you have come through one of the most challenging times in history, especially in higher education,” said Shackelford. “You should be so proud of yourselves that you are sitting here today.”
Brad Staats, associate dean of MBA programs, celebrated students’ perseverance and dedication to excellence.
“You are part of a remarkable community: our faculty who provide unparalleled learning opportunities; our staff who run our programs and provide enriching student experiences; and in particular, you, our students,” said Staats. “Your enthusiasm, your commitment and your high aspirations raise the bar. You help us to be extraordinary, to be the very best business school possible.”