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While our Weekend Executive MBA students enter the program with a variety of academic backgrounds, professional experiences, and career aspirations, they graduate with one common trait: the skills, knowledge, acumen, and desire to make an impact on the organizations they lead and the communities they serve.

Read Stories of Student Success.

Joanne Neighbors

Joanne Neighbors

Senior Military Law Attorney for Intelligence & Investigations, U.S. Army Forces Command
Pinehurst, N.C.

Joanne Neighbors

Joanne Neighbors

Senior Military Law Attorney for Intelligence & Investigations, U.S. Army Forces Command
Pinehurst, N.C.

A decorated officer and lawyer, Joanne has served her country in impressive military and civilian roles, earning a Bronze Star and multiple medals for Meritorious Service as well as admission to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. She’s also a Carolina alumnus, earning her MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Weekend Executive MBA Program. “I realized that transitioning from military to civil service limited my leadership opportunities,” explained Joanne. “Kenan-Flagler offered a degree program that would not only continue my leadership development, but also would make my experience more applicable to the private sector.”

Joanne made the most of her educational experience, serving as a project leader for an Executive MBA STAR (Student Teams Achieving Results) team that provided policy implementation recommendations to Duke Energy. “To be an effective leader, you have to earn the trust and confidence of your peers, and this project gave me a unique opportunity to work with an extraordinary corporate partner, talented teammates, and an experienced faculty advisor – each of whom had a hand in helping me grow,” said Joanne. She also highlights the program’s Global Context of Business course, noting that it taught her to evaluate tactical decision-making through a strategic lens and to consider decisions based on long-term impact and strategy.

Joanne’s determination to succeed extends to her advocacy of women in business. “Ultimately, my goal is to leave the workforce better off than when I started, by demonstrating that women (and, specifically, female veterans) are strong, capable leaders. To me, there’s no better way to honor the trailblazing women who came before me than to continue their work and demonstrate the value of women in the workforce.”

Arnulf Penker

Arnulf Penker

Managing Director/CEO, FunderMax Group
Vienna, Austria

Arnulf Penker

Arnulf Penker

Managing Director/CEO, FunderMax Group
Vienna, Austria

In 2015, Arnulf moved from Austria to Charlotte, N.C. to establish the U.S. subsidiary of FunderMax, a manufacturer of engineered wood products and building materials. Three years later, Arnulf entered the Weekend Executive MBA program at UNC Kenan-Flagler to further develop his leadership skills and to build his professional network.

He found success on both fronts. “Building and developing interpersonal relationships is a valued part of the program and my class is an extremely talented and diverse group,” remarked Arnulf. “During the team projects I realized how strong teams, comprised of diverse individuals with different backgrounds, can be. I apply this insight now in hiring decisions and when I put together project teams at work.”

Arnulf also expanded his leadership skills in the program and, in particular, through the Management and Leadership course, which leans heavily on case studies and engaging class discussions. “The course put an emphasis on leadership and management in a global context, which is important in an increasingly global, interconnected, multicultural, and dynamic business environment,” noted Arnulf.

Ted Zoller, one of Arnulf’s professors, described him as “a model entrepreneurial leader who used the foundation and frameworks of the MBA coursework to realize his full potential.” Not only did he find success in the MBA program, Arnulf also was promoted to CEO of FunderMax in 2020. “The team has built a sizable and profitable business, which continues to grow rapidly,” said Arnulf. “I am especially proud that the organization I built is like a family caring for each other, our partners, and the community.”

Catherine Sartin

Senior Director Business Relationships,
Surgical Care Affiliates
Birmingham, Alabama

Catherine Sartin

Cat Sartin

Senior Director Business Relationships, Surgical Care Affiliates
Birmingham, Alabama

Maximizing her contribution and the impact she has on others, Cat Sartin puts her MBA to work on a daily basis. What started as a journey to fill gaps in her knowledge, bolster her financial acumen, and prepare herself for leadership roles has become a life-changing experience.

Before she even started her undergraduate degree, Cat ran a small business and worked with a healthcare diagnostics company. Even with her early career success, she recognized that she’d need more education to remain as competitive as she wanted to be. “I was a rising star in my organization,” commented Cat, “but I knew that an advanced degree would help me grow within my profession or take my career in a new direction.”

Cat chose UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA for its strong finance curriculum and for its emphasis on building a student’s global mindset. And, with its every-third-weekend schedule, the Weekend Executive program was ideal because it allowed her to network and learn with her peers in an immersive setting in Chapel Hill, while also managing work commitments and raise her two young children at home in Birmingham, Alabama.

The program’s robust and relevant curriculum allowed Cat to immediately leverage what she learned in her work. “I could learn something on Saturday and directly apply it to my work on Monday,” she noted. More than that, she also learned how to apply enhanced skills in patience and persistence and work with an “increased capacity to synthesize complex information.”

Cat also discovered how to be a more compassionate leader and how to find greater purpose and meaning in her work. “In our capstone course, we learned about strategy in high-velocity markets, about different growth areas, different industries, and the different life stages of a business,” she recalled. “But, it also helped me in much broader ways: how to identify rationale in decision-making, how to lean into my personal space, and how to remain patient while becoming more self-aware.”

While she was in the program, Cat also participated in an independent study project that addressed the impacts of mental health on business, working with peers who, like her, had experience in the healthcare industry. “This was an impactful course for me and one that directly related to my career,” she explained. “I helped create an advocacy group in my organization to provide resources on mental health and wellness, so being able to parlay learnings from my MBA experience was really beneficial.”

Not only has Cat used her MBA to give back to her organization, she also gave back to the MBA program itself, providing the foundation for a new course tackling the topic of racial equity in the workplace. “This may be my proudest achievement coming out of the program. Our work with mental health raised numerous questions related to inclusion, injustice, and employee performance,” explained Cat. “Plus, I’m an Asian-American woman from Alabama working in the healthcare technology industry, so I have personal experiences that have fueled my passion and desire to help in any way I can.”

In pursuing her MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler, Cat realized how her strengths, knowledge, and passion are well suited to her career in health policy. “The highlight of my MBA was how many forces came together,” said Cat. “Knowing what you want to do, why you want to do it, how to make a plan to get there, and having the confidence to go after it…those are really powerful tools.”

Martyn Knowles and Ben Wood

Martyn Knowles and Ben Wood

Chief Medical Officer and President, Operative Flow Technologies
Raleigh, N.C.

Martyn Knowles and Ben Wood

Chief Medical Officer and President, Operative Flow Technologies
Raleigh, N.C.

Martyn and Ben, friends since starting medical school together in 2003, entered the entrepreneurship track of the Weekend Executive MBA program already fixed on a specific outcome — launching a company that applies business principles to the healthcare profession and addresses problems surgeons face in the operating room.

The entrepreneurs’ initial product, OpFlow, is a cloud-based software platform that increases communication and cuts costs in the operating room. “The program served as an incubator and accelerator for our product,” says Martyn. “We utilized our company as the basis for our class projects and were able to receive feedback from world-class faculty. Those relationships enabled us get to the point where we were able to successfully launch our company before the end of our MBA program.”

While in the program, the duo won the SoftLaunch Coaches’ Choice Award, presenting their venture pitch to coach-judges from marketing, strategy, finance, and legal disciplines. But, the judges weren’t the only ones to see the value of OpFlow. After a successful pilot project, leadership team members at UNC Rex Hospital engaged in contract negotiations with the OpFlow team to expand the use of the product.

“The pilot was an opportunity for our proof of concept,” says Wood. “Alongside the technological expertise of our CEO, David Rowe, the MBA program catalyzed the development of our idea to a commercially viable product.”

“If you have an idea, the best way to determine its viability is to enroll in UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA program and put your idea to work,” says Knowles. “Between the network, the classes, the professors, and the content, you come out well-versed in how to make your company a success.”

Craston Artis

President, Artis Consulting, Inc.
Raleigh, N.C.

Craston Artis

President/Lead Consultant, Artis Consulting, Inc.
Raleigh, N.C.

Craston Artis is making a difference in his community. And, his MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler is helping him do it.

Craston recently launched EngageWIT, an education technology platform focused on virtual student teaching. He has also expanded his consulting practice, taking on a variety of projects that support economic development within the Black community.

One of those projects was with Corning, who engaged Craston to help expand their philanthropic footprint in North Carolina. Craston worked on a team that evaluated opportunities for the company to invest in community-based organizations in the Black community.

“We identified the needs of the community in different areas — healthcare, education, and economic development,” Craston explained. “But I also brought my organizational efficiency lens to the table to evaluate how filling those needs could bring Corning the return on investment they were after.”

Next, through connections he made with the Kenan Institute, the school’s thought leadership think tank, Craston has been working as a consultant for NCGrowth to explore ways to support the southeast Raleigh community, a predominantly black area of the city.

“We’re looking at how to ensure that construction projects in the Black community as a result of the affordable housing bond can provide more work for Black contractors and subcontractors,” said Craston. “It’s been a great example of how I can apply my business mindset to address a community issue.”

After earning his undergraduate degree in history and education, Craston taught social studies at a Chicago high school before moving on to administrative and consulting roles for schools, districts, and government agencies. He built a strong personal network in the industry, which helped him find numerous opportunities to provide coaching, curriculum development, and leadership training.

For his next career move, Craston considered two options — charter-school management or an entrepreneurial venture to deliver virtual coaching. Each pursuit was exciting and each would challenge him in a different way. School leadership would require strong organizational management skills, while the entrepreneurial path would require a solid understanding of marketing, operations, strategy, and finance.

To bolster his knowledge and confidence in these areas, Craston turned his attention to pursuing an MBA. He chose UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Weekend Executive MBA program for its reputation, flexibility, and immersive format, which would allow him to build strong, personal connections with his peers and professors.

It also felt like “his kind of program.”

“From the classroom visit to the interview, it felt right,” shared Craston. “It felt more like a family, and more personal, than what I experienced at other schools with similar reputations.”

In the program, Craston built critical skills across numerous dimensions, in operations, strategic planning, product development, and emerging uses for technology. In a marketing course, he learned how to think through processes within a team environment, a skill he had previously only tackled alone. Coursework in entrepreneurship exposed him to new ways to launch a business — franchising, acquisitions, search funds, and private equity. This course also helped Craston bring his vision for a virtual coaching service to fruition by providing him with new tools that he was able to apply immediately to his growing enterprise.

While the skills he learned in the classroom were important, Craston deeply valued the connections he was able to make with his classmates. “Whether it was at the social events set up by the program or just us hanging out in the lounge after class, I made some really strong connections,” he explained. “I learned a lot about other industries that really intrigued me.”

Craston’s MBA experience increased his confidence and helped him recognize the impact he could make within the Black community. “A lot of conversations in business are not considerate of communities of color,” he said. “In the program, I figured out how to have these conversations in a way that was fruitful for me and that I think was fruitful for my classmates as well.”

With his new skills, connections, and confidence, Craston plans to bridge further into economic development to support his community. He’s looking into microprivate equity opportunities that could help small businesses find the growth capital they need to scale up and take on larger contracts. Ultimately, he believes this focus could help him build a firm specializing in this work.

To those considering an MBA, Craston suggested, “If you think of your MBA as part of a professional journey that extends for years beyond your time in the program, you’ll better appreciate its gems. This is one of those times where you want to step back and see the bigger picture.”

Lisa Fahl

Lisa Fahl

Director of Nacelle Engineering, Boeing

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Lisa Fahl

Lisa Fahl

Director of Nacelle Engineering, Boeing
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

With degrees in aeronautical and mechanical engineering, a love of science fiction, and experience working at Boeing, Lisa brought a unique background to UNC Kenan-Flagler. A respected mentor to other engineers, Strategy and Entrepreneurship Professor Hugh O’Neill noted that she “represents the model of an effective executive for the 21st century, one who builds confidence in those who work with her.”

Seeking the business acumen she needed to lead at an executive level and the flexibility to continue working full-time, Lisa chose the Weekend Executive MBA program for its immersive experience and every-third-weekend schedule. The program’s immersive nature provided her with the opportunity to learn from her peers. “Through our classroom interactions, I learned how other companies approached issues and operated,” commented Lisa. I brought back innovative ideas to my company and I am optimistic it will propel us forward.” 

She also credits the program’s curriculum — macroeconomics, in particular — for providing her important insight. “Macroeconomics gave me a valuable understanding of how global business is growing through the advancement in technology and how we can leverage it to stay ahead,” shared Lisa. “This insight is critical to my success as a leader in the global market.”

With long-term goals to “lead with courage, compassion and inspiration at the highest levels” and “make Boeing an even greater place to work”, Lisa also drew inspiration from her Leadership Initiative course. “I learned how important communication is: the message, the frequency, the buy-in,” she said. “It is critical to bring people along on the way to implementing major change rather than simply dropping it on them when you start to execute.” 

Michael Zak Barber

Michael Zak Barber

Security Sales Specialist, VMware

Charlotte, N.C.

Michael Zak Barber

Michael Zak Barber

Security Sales Specialist, VMware
Charlotte, N.C.

After 20 years in sales, Michael decided that it was time to add new skills and knowledge to help advance his career and, eventually, run his own company to stimulate his business acumen and passion. Drawn to the school’s supportive culture and strong entrepreneurial and business strategy track, he enrolled in UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Weekend Executive MBA program. 

Michael saw the impact immediately. The Marketing Management course helped him develop a marketing strategy that he presented to company leadership. “My presentation helped me gain clout and credibility within my organization and prepared me for more executive responsibilities,” explained Michael. “My recommended direction from the paper is the direction we chose for this start-up business within the organization.” In addition, the Emotional Intelligence framework helped Michael become more self-aware, a characteristic that he deemed critical to his success in the corporate world and essential for persuasive and respected business leaders.

“The lessons learned from my Kenan-Flagler education have had a direct effect on my performance, business acumen, and success,” said Michael. “It’s already showing a positive return on investment.” Operations professor Adam Mersereau echoed Michael’s sentiment, “With his dedication and positive attitude, Mike is truly making the most of his MBA experience, reaping the benefits of skills and network development. And, with his investment in his own success and his natural leadership style, I have no doubt that he’s going to continue to be an impactful business leader.”

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