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From the ballroom to the classroom: Pivoting to an MBA and making a difference

Olivia Koziol

Olivia Koziol (MBA ’22) traveled a unique path to UNC Kenan-Flagler, pursuing ballroom dancing before switching careers and ultimately enrolling as a Full-Time MBA student and Vetter Dean’s Fellow.

When I finished my undergraduate degree, I chose to pursue my dream as a professional ballroom dancer. It’s something I’m proud to have done, but I knew I wanted a career that required me to use my mind and challenge me in a different way.

I went from sharp choreography in the ballroom to working at MIT. I knew nothing about the world of business or technology, but I did know I was eager to learn. I watched coaches handle ambiguous business problems with ease. They showcased their expertise bringing together international teams around a set of common goals and values.

I wanted to be like them, and so many were former consultants. I sought advice from my coworkers, supervisor, and mentors, and chose to take the first step towards becoming a consultant – pursuing an MBA.

At UNC Kenan-Flagler, there’s no emphasis on competition in the classroom. We’re all driven to succeed, but not at the expense of members of our cohort.

UNC Kenan-Flagler was recommended to me by a trusted vice president at MIT. I quickly learned about the school’s reputation for being a place of collaboration and community where MBA candidates are encouraged to try something new.

My first visit to UNC Kenan-Flagler was the Inclusive Blue Leadership Weekend, an event for prospective and admitted students. I hadn’t yet been admitted or met anyone from the school, but I wanted to attend the event because I was seeking a sense of community and belonging.

During the weekend, a facilitator ran an event that asked each of us to identify the aspects of our identity we felt most impacted a certain scenario. It started with simple situations and progressed to more and more complex ones. The group of attendees began opening up to each other, expressing ourselves, and connecting on a much deeper level than any of us had expected in the short hour the exercise ran. At a time when I felt my most vulnerable, I found a community where vulnerability was being fostered and encouraged. That is what makes a community great, and that was when I knew I wanted to be a UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA.

I was thrilled to be accepted to the Full-Time MBA program, but even more excited about receiving an offer to join the Vetter Dean’s Fellows Program. As I was making my final enrollment decision, this prestigious program made me excited to commit to UNC Kenan-Flagler.


Making a difference and giving back

The Vetter Dean’s Fellows Program gives the top MBA candidates at UNC Kenan-Flagler an opportunity to network in additional ways throughout the program, but more importantly, to give back to the School that’s dedicated to our success and those who’ll come after us.

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Vetter Fellows design projects to better UNC Kenan-Flagler for current and future students alike. It has been so meaningful to be able to participate in these projects – most recently revamping the consulting recruitment process with close advisement from faculty and staff, and with the full support of Dean Shackelford.

Throughout my MBA experience, bonding with the Vetter Fellows cohort has been a highlight of my MBA. I was able to partner with three Vetter Dean’s Fellows and enter Deloitte’s National Case Competition in January 2021. I was nervous because the first round occurred only two months into business school, so I joined a team with completely different skillsets and backgrounds than my own. I assumed a team as diverse as ours would lead to a great learning experience, regardless of the competition outcome. We worked well together thanks to our shared networking experiences, and – an added bonus – won the competition! Ever since, we’ve developed our own small study and support group in common classes and meeting for weekend brunches. I am excited to maintain these friendships well beyond my MBA, and proud that all four of us have accepted a role at a top consulting firm after graduating.

I know the lessons I’ve learned as an MBA student at UNC Kenan-Flagler will forever impact my career, and the Vetter Dean’s Fellows program will do the same. It has offered me an incredible opportunity to build true connections with the top MBA candidates in my class while participating in projects that let me leave my mark on UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Olivia Koziol was selected as a Poets & Quants’ Best and Brightest MBA for 2022.
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