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Ready for the world

UBP global experiences

Desireé Lockhart (BSBA ’23) had long considered herself to be open-minded and culturally aware. She speaks Japanese, studied several languages in high school and college, and traveled outside of the U.S.

Then she traveled to the Netherlands for an altogether different experience on a Global Immersion Elective (GIE) through the Undergraduate Business Program (UBP) at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

The GIE focused on leadership innovation and sustainability. Lockhart and her classmates got to know Rotterdam School of Management students and learned about entrepreneurship hubs and startups. They spent time at a sustainable farm and a bicycle company that creates tiles to charge electronic bikes.

Lockhart met with local entrepreneurs starting their own businesses to get feedback on her career. She observed that Dutch business leaders’ conversational style was more direct than Americans, and saw different opinions valued equally, whether voiced by a young employee or the CEO.

“It shattered my foundation and perspective,” says Lockhart, who also participated in a GIE to Singapore in December 2022. “I saw myself as small but in the best way possible.”

Desiree Lockhart GIE Singapore

Desireé Lockhart (third from left, second row) and fellow GIE students met with Foreward Coffee Roasters in Singapore in December 2022.

When she returned to UNC Kenan-Flagler, she took an entrepreneurial consulting class in which she created a growth strategy for a startup of her choice. She emailed the Dutch e-bike charging company and worked closely with them on the semester-long project.

“The work I did in-country, the experiences that I had were not just for that short period of time,” says Lockhart, now a student engagement coordinator for the UBP. “The connections I made and the knowledge I gained created something that just continues to grow. What students get out of these programs can’t be replicated.”

Eye-opening experiences

At UNC Kenan-Flagler, global experiences are ingrained in the fabric of the UBP.

Each year, over 300 UBP students participate in at least one of the 40 global programs offered in over 20 countries. By the time they graduate, around 75% have had a global learning experience. The goal is 100%.

“We want every student to graduate having had a global opportunity with meaningful and transformative experiences,” says Ben Hershey (MBA ’22), associate director of global programs. “Our global team continues to innovate to offer an ever-evolving range of experiences and develop new programs.”

This is far from study abroad “as usual.” Students can select from highly curated, intensive global programs, starting with first years with assured admission. The global programs portfolio includes:

About 40% of the UBP students who go abroad while at the Business School do so through a GIE. Created in partnership with and led by faculty members, GIEs feature highly structured experiences and one-to-two weeks of travel with 20 to 25 students. Each GIE has a specific focus on important business issues and reflect faculty expertise and student interests.

UNC Kenan-Flagler is one of the few U.S. business schools to offer experiential learning in South Africa. In March 2023, UNC partnered with TSIBA Business School for a GIE focused on social enterprise and inclusive leadership. UNC Kenan-Flagler and TSIBA students used design thinking to problem-solve for a recycling center, a farm-to-table restaurant and for South Africans hoping to open an art gallery.

May 2023 GIE Australia/New Zealand

A May 2023 GIE took UNC Kenan-Flagler undergraduates to Australia and New Zealand.

Aware of barriers to global studies – costs, time commitment, demanding schedules – the UBP global team works closely with students to find the best program for them – collaborating with the UBP’s academic, financial, career and wellness advisers. A winter 2022 GIE to Singapore, for instance, attracted student-athletes whose schedules prevented them from participating in fall and spring programs.

UBP students known as “global program specialists” also provide significant assistance and advice to fellow students, informed by their own global experiences, in the study abroad selection process and when traveling.

Students also have access to several scholarships for study abroad programs offered exclusively through UNC Kenan-Flagler. UBP students who study abroad through certain programs in Asia are eligible for the prestigious Phillips Ambassador Scholarship award.

Building global leaders

When Professor Michael Meredith was an MBA student, an academic journey changed his life.

Meredith – a first-generation college student from a small town in Ohio – had never been outside of the U.S. when he went to Hungary to work with a client.

“It was endlessly rewarding and changed my entire worldview,” says Meredith.

When Meredith applied for a faculty position at UNC Kenan-Flagler, he talked about how important that experience was to him. When he was hired into the Management and Corporate Communication Area, Meredith began developing a UBP course that reflected the benefits of his experience working with an international client. During the process, students told him that they were looking for a deeper experience working with a company abroad.

In 2018, Meredith began leading a program in partnership with Corvinus University in Budapest that continues today. UNC Kenan-Flagler and Corvinus students work together in a case competition, make client presentations and meet with companies while learning about Hungary’s growing technology industry and its complex history on the world’s business stage.

They’ve helped a real estate company develop a mobile app, provided strategic direction for a luxury dessert company and worked on projects for companies trying to reduce cup and food waste throughout Europe. The course is a pioneering example of “blended mobility” education, with students from the two institutions collaborating via virtual conference before working together in person.

“At UNC Kenan-Flagler, we’re building global leaders,” says Meredith. “We must equip students with tools to be successful on the business stage of the world so they can address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. That means going out and learning from other people and cultures. Students appreciate that and employers appreciate it, too.”

No two students go global for the same reason. Lockhart, who started her own handcrafted kombucha company in 2021, is interested in environmental sustainability and working globally.

Andrew Lavine GIE

Andrew Lavine (BSBA ’23, far right) participated in a visit to Amazon while studying at WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany. “My business education wouldn’t have been complete without these experiences,” he says.

Andrew Lavine (BSBA ’23) based his choice on location and program length. The pandemic shut down the campus in the spring of his first year at UNC. He didn’t want to spend a semester or summer away from Chapel Hill so he went on two shorter GIEs to Montreal and London, and completed a three-week course at the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany, studying the business, political and cultural environment in Europe.

“Each experience broadened my interests and exposed me to things I hadn’t ever considered as options,” says Lavine, who served as a global programs specialist co-manager his senior year. “My business education wouldn’t have been complete without these experiences.”

The Montreal GIE, with its focus on sustainability and indigenous populations, was reflected in his first career move. He joined Teach for America, working with underserved native populations in Hawaii, and now teaches 6th grade math and science on Oahu.


Jordan Cabrol (BSBA ’23) has long known that she has an entrepreneurial spirit. She just didn’t know where she belonged in business school.

“I wanted to fully understand what it meant to make a global impact as an entrepreneur,” she says. “I wanted my footprint to be global.”

Cabrol began a semester in Hong Kong as a GLOBE Scholar right before the pandemic shut down everything and then participated in an innovation program on sustainability at Copenhagen Business School. Her team won a competition by designing algae panels installed on farming infrastructure to absorb carbon dioxide to help a European dairy cooperative, Arla, reach net zero carbon emission by 2050. The algae is repurposed into cow feed.

“It’s just an amazing thing to see how different cultures do business, work together and have different mindsets,” says Cabrol. “You have these deep conversations with them. That’s something I know I’ll be able to carry forward in my professional life.”

Cabrol’s experiences provided additional lessons that are the hallmarks of an effective study abroad experience: embracing self-sufficiency and developing resilience, discovering the power of empathy and becoming a more effective collaborator. Students, she says, learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable while abroad.

Her time in Copenhagen also provided a clearer path for Cabrol back at Carolina.

“The experience was the affirmation I needed to know that I was in the right place and made the right decision to be at UNC Kenan-Flagler,” she says. “I felt validated in a way. It says a lot about us that we encourage students to go out and see things for themselves. We’re told to experience this for ourselves to be the business leader capable of making a positive impact on the world.”