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Becoming an expert

Alex Cooper

The best advice I got before business school was to become “the expert” on something so my classmates would come to me for anything related to that topic. The advice giver was a recent MBA graduate whose expertise was in real estate development, and he said that
former classmates still came to him when thinking about buying a home.

I trust him, and the advice made sense, so I tried to think on the singular thing that excited me most for my MBA. The conclusion I came to: everything. I wanted to be “the expert” on everything.

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Many might call me cocky (and many already do), but there was logic behind this decision. I didn’t actually think that I would be the expert in any one thing – there are too many brilliant and hard-working people here for that. Instead I would be an expert on UNC Kenan-Flagler and all it has to offer. I figured that no student could truly experience every opportunity within the School. I am not arrogant enough to think that I could come close – but I was arrogant enough to try.

Joining clubs? Sign me up. Volunteer organizations? Of course. Different concentrations? Makes sense. You name it, I was there.

Most people claim to want to get the most of their two years here, and I was no different. As I’ve said to the prospective students on the countless tours I’ve given, I believe there are five areas into which an MBA can really dive while at school: academics,
recruiting, the Triangle, extracurriculars and social.

Typically I end that list by saying I dove into extracurriculars, but that’s not a complete answer.

I also have focused on academics more than I needed, spent too much time obsessing over recruiting, visited the local spots, and still made time to sing karaoke with my classmates most Wednesdays. Not everyone can do it, and many don’t want to, but I’m evidence that some people can come close to having it all.

After attempting to fill my plate as much as I could during my first year, this year’s crop of first-year MBA students have asked me how I did it all and, unfortunately, I still don’t have a great answer. I simply tried to do everything I could.

I did not live a particularly exceptional life before coming to UNC Kenan-Flagler. I did not save the lives of countless others, I did not work at a Fortune 500 company, and I did not have a driving passion that shaped my life, all of which various classmates have done or had.

Instead, I bounced around companies, working in three different industries in my five years since graduating from college, where my GPA was good but not great. My college time was filled with diving deep into two activities, so why should business school be any different?

There honestly isn’t a great answer to it beyond that I wanted to live my best life while here. And if that’s all I had to say about my time here, it’d be exactly that: I lived my best life while here.

By Alex Cooper (MBA ’19)

Editor’s note: So what has Alex Cooper been doing – aside from taking a more-than-full course load – since he arrived at UNC Kenan-Flagler in August 2017? You’ll find a sampling below. After graduation he will work as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group in Atlanta.

  • Kenan Scholar at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise
  • Concentrations in marketing and operations; Enrichment concentration in entrepreneurship
  • MBA Student Association: VP of Finance
  • Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club
  • Executive VP and Liaison for New Venture Creation
  • Adam Smith Society: President
  • Blockchain Club: Co-founder and VP of University Relations
  • Consensys Blockchain Venture Competition: Semi-Finalist
  • Career Mentor for the Undergraduate Business Program
  • Teaching assistant for Financial Tools, Marketing and Sales courses; tutor
  • Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC):Fellow
  • Nonprofit Board Program: Consultant
  • VC/Angel Program
  • IBM Mentorship Program
  • MBA Ambassador
  • Legacy Cup: Tillman Legacy Captain
  • Volunteer: YES Consortium UNC Darkside assistant coach and blood drive
  • Career clubs: Technology Club liaison for recruiting and member of the Consulting, Marketing, General Management and Operations Management Clubs 
  • Activity clubs: Beer Society, Golf Club and Wine Club
  • UNC Intramural Street Hockey: Champion

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