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Life in the time of COVID-19

Dr. Dickinson In Office With A Congrats Graduates Sign To Celebrate Students On Zoom Call

The spring semester ended like no other. There were no hugs, just tears about how it ended. But there was pride, too, as students demonstrated resilience, flexibility, kindness and a commitment to keep learning.

Until UNC can safely host commencement in-person, celebrations for the achievements of the Class of 2020 were online, complete with traditions of singing “Hark the Sound” with Harmonyx and the Clef Hangers singing “Carolina in My Mind.” New graduates were welcomed to the alumni community in a video that features messages from business graduates Bernard Bell (MBA ’92), Jason Kilar (BSBA/AB ’93) and Luke Maye (BSBA ’19).

Screenshot Of CSE Graduation Celebration On Zoom

The Center for Sustainable Energy celebrates Class of 2020 graduates, while Professor Elizabeth Dickinson (at top of story) surprises her students.

UNC Kenan-Flagler celebrated the Class of 2020 virtually – for now – in classes and ceremonies on Zoom. The Undergraduate Business Program created a video and a virtual yearbook for seniors.

In messages to students, Dean Doug Shackelford (BSBA ’80) reflected on Ann Goodno (BSCOM ’45), who attended UNC during World War II. When asked her experience, she said, “Well, it was a little different back then.” Goodno took as many courses as she could so that she could graduate as quickly as possible while serving as the dean’s administrative assistant (the only other member of the staff), and worrying about her fiancée who was fighting in Europe.

In many ways, she missed out on all of the wonderful reasons to come to Chapel Hill, but she recalls how her education and experience at Kenan-Flagler provided a foundation for everything that came afterwards. And then she asks, “How is my school doing?”

Anna Goodno Smiles With Dean Doug Shackelford

Anna Goodno (BSCOM ’45) with Dean Doug Shackelford

More than any students in the last 75 years, the Class of 2020 can identify with Goodno, says Shackelford. “In the years to come, I hope they will be able to point to how their experiences and the education provided a great foundation for everything that came afterwards.”

“There are tough times still to come, but the future is bright for our graduates,” he says. “We’re counting on them to make the world a better place.”

Career support

With the cancellation of some summer internships, rescinded job offers and job cuts, career support is critical for our community. Our talented students, new graduates and alumni are highly qualified, have shown incredible tenacity in recent months, and are open to a wide range of industries and job functions.

Here’s how you can help:

  • If you are hiring full-time, taking on interns or are open to creating short-term projects, please fill out this form and share it with others in your organization.
  • Spread the word about MBA Career & Leadership team’s digital resume books for first-year students seeking summer internships and projects, second-year students seeking broader opportunities, and working-professionals and alumni seeking new opportunities. No sign-up or sign-in is necessary; close or ignore pop-ups about signing in.
  • Students, the Class of 2020 and alumni are connecting on LinkedIn. Alumni who are working from home and seeking breaks from long Zoom meetings are asked to take time to help a student or new graduate explore their career. They can comment on this LinkedIn post to connect with students.

If you know someone who ready to investing in attending graduate school, please refer prospective students our way. Graduating college seniors and recent graduates can apply to our NC Business of Next program for the opportunity to earn their MBA from a top business school.

Connecting with classmates to find solutions

One of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has been finding critically needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for UNC Health. The UNC Kenan-Flagler community has been helping meet that need.

Alumni of the UNC-Tsinghua Dual Degree EMBA Program in China secured and sent 14,000 surgical masks for UNC Hospitals.

And members of the Evening MBA Program Class of 2021 uncovered solutions right here in the Triangle.

Dr. Jason Akulian (MBA ’21), director of the interventional pulmonology service and faculty member of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at UNC Hospitals, knew he would build a great network while he learned about business to better deliver healthcare to people when he enrolled in the Evening MBA Program.

Little did he know how powerful those connections could be. On March 20, he sent out a simple query to his classmates working in wide variety of industries via their WhatsApp group: “There’s a shortage of PPE equipment at UNC Hospitals even before our first COVID-19 case is diagnosed. Is there anything you can do to help, whether it’s donating PPE equipment or suggesting creative solutions?”

A wonderful cascade of events followed, with life-saving results.

Classmate Dr. Elizabeth Krewson (MBA ’21) quickly offered a possible solution. “She told me that her company makes a machine that sterilizes face masks,” says Akulian. “And she told me that UNC already had one on campus!”

Krewson is west coast operations manager of Andersen Sterilizers, a medical device manufacturer of ethylene oxide sterilizers in Haw River, North Carolina. “I applied to UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Evening MBA Program because I wanted to network with professionals in this area and mesh my scientific aptitude with business opportunities. I had no idea in the wake of a pandemic, my UNC connections would lead to life-saving measures,” she says.

UNC Health was not widely aware of the machine’s existence because the UNC Adams School of Dentistry professor who used the machine for his research – studying whether facemasks could be sterilized without degradation – had retired recently so it wasn’t on the School of Medicine’s radar.

“We connected our two leadership groups, which resulted in the purchase of two additional units for UNC Hospitals,” says Akulian. “We have started sterilizing used masks for reuse, which will be incredibly helpful.” Currently, UNC Health along with its partners at UNC Dental School can decontaminate approximately 1,900 N95 mask per day.

“Without the UNC Kenan-Flagler connection, that machine might have remained undiscovered. We have an amazing network” says Akulian. He advised Krewson that her firm might want to get busy manufacturing more of the machines since they could help in the battle against COVID-19.

Andersen Sterilizers is now working with the Food and Drug Administration to decontaminate personal protective equipment during the crisis.

“I’ve since passed this information to my colleagues around the U.S. who have been very grateful, Akulian says. “Hopefully, it will make a difference and have us better prepared for the next crisis.”