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Working while earning your MBA

Team writing on whiteboard during UNC Kenan-Flagler weekend MBA class

Camilo Lopez (MBA ’17) is president and CFO at Lokai, a business that helps you find balance in your life. Little did he know, that balance would become a very important part of his own journey. Only four months into his new job as CFO, he took on another big responsibility: He enrolled in the Weekend Executive MBA program at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School to advance his career.

Besides simultaneously working and earning his MBA, Lopez and his wife had a baby. Balancing family, career and academics wasn’t easy. Not to mention, he worked and lived in New York and flew to North Carolina for classes every third weekend.

“It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done,” Lopez says. “But it was very rewarding.”

The MBA has given him new skills to push the company in new directions and expand the business. Shortly after completing the program, he was appointed president.

Lopez’s story isn’t unique. He is one of many graduates of the Weekend Executive MBA program at UNC Kenan-Flagler who’s benefited from attending courses on weekends to pursue an MBA without putting their careers on hold. There’s not only a wide range of flexibility with classes and elective options, but the immediate student-teacher and peer-to-peer feedback also accelerates understanding of complex concepts.

The program is structured to fulfill the needs of ambitious professionals who seek business education to advance in their careers, shift roles or industries, or even launch their own business. Here are five reasons why an executive MBA is worth the investment.

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Unique, innovative format

Students smile during UNC Kenan-Flagler Weekend MBA class

Professor Adam Reed leads an MBA class in corporate recapitalization at UNC’s Kenan Flagler Business School’s Rizzo Center campus in Laudermilk.Photography by Steve Exum of

A classroom filled with working professionals who are passionate about business, leadership development and growth creates a unique experience. Hugh O’Neill, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler, says students can tailor their courses to their specific career goals in a variety of ways.

“The concentrations offered are more career-based than most executive MBA programs,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity to go further in depth into a specific part of their career.”

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Instant benefits

Students see instant benefits. When you were in school, how many times did you wonder: “Am I ever going to use this in real life?” With this executive MBA, you do.

Working professionals in the program often apply what they learn in the classroom to their jobs the next day. Courses are hands-on and immersive, so students apply methodologies and strategies to real work challenges, and benefit from live discussions with faculty and peers to develop solutions.

“I loved the immersive learning environment. I was able to engage with people of diverse backgrounds, levels and skill sets.”

The pricing course was a clear example of direct implementation for Lopez. “I was able to apply on Monday what I had learned over the weekend,” he says.

Amy Manning (MBA  ’17), who also studied in the Weekend Executive MBA program, was instantly able to drive conversations with leaders who were four or five levels above her. “I was able to assess data and provide information and solutions to help with decision making,” she says.

High amount of flexibility

The program provides a high-level of flexibility for professionals who are juggling demanding careers and personal commitments.

Manning is a mother of two, so finding balance was key for her. “It was important to me to be able to provide for my family, continue excelling in my job and directly apply what I was learning for maximum learning,” she says. “In addition, the approach of attending class every third weekend allowed me to be more present for my children and maintain a better balance.”

Besides the core courses, many elective options provide a more in-depth understanding and customize your academic experience to suit your career objectives.

Build a professional network

Students writing on whiteboard during UNC Kenan-Flagler weekend MBA class

MBA students Sean Kelly, Aleasha Vuncannon, Oscar Prat, Cameron Meyer, Shellon Blanchar-Clarke & Joanna Ashe participate in a break-out small group session at UNC’s Kenan Flagler Business School’s Rizzo Center campus in Laudermilk.Photography by Steve Exum of

The MBA program attracts students from a wide range of industry, functional and cultural backgrounds, which creates a distinctive opportunity to build your network and share your expertise.

“I loved the immersive learning environment,” Manning says. “I was able to engage with people of diverse backgrounds, levels and skill sets.”

Lopez, likewise, found it very valuable to share a classroom with individuals from various backgrounds and see different ways of overcoming obstacles.

“The MBA program was challenging and competitive in a healthy way that created a great learning environment,” he says.

More and more careers are becoming non-linear. Knowing how problems are solved in industries other than your own could be relevant to your life even if you’re not working in the that space at the moment.

Ambitious goals

Achieving meaningful professional and leadership growth doesn’t have to come with the sacrifice of leaving the professional world. Students enter the Weekend Executive MBA program with an average of 12 years of experience, and take the skills they gain in the program to change how they do business.

Manning was promoted once while in the program and then promoted twice since she graduated just two years ago. Now based in Switzerland, she leads business planning, alignment and integration for global manufacturing operations for a major biotechnology company.

“I owe much of my confidence and success to this program and look forward continuing to use the skills gained as I move forward,” she says.

This article was originally published in The Independent.