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Real Humans of the UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Class of 2022

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Brady Powell, UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Class of 2022

Age: 34
Hometown: Dayton, Ohio
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Montana, BA History, 2009
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Nine years as a U.S. Army Infantry officer

Why business school? Why now?
From my very first day in uniform, I always told myself that when my Army career inevitably came to a close I would seize the opportunity to travel the world and then go to graduate school on the GI Bill. Thankfully, when that time came in 2018 I was in a position to do just that and spent 18 months driving from Texas to Argentina with my partner, living out of a ’95 Ford Econoline van which she and I converted ourselves. It was on that incredible sabbatical from real life when I recognized that an MBA offered the most direct path to meaningful leadership opportunities in both the private and public sectors. Business school offers me the opportunity to build upon the training, skills, and experiences of my military career to make myself into an equally capable and competent leader in a world driven by dollars and cents.

Why UNC Kenan-Flagler? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Truthfully, the decision on which B-schools to consider was a joint effort between my partner and I. One aspect of a military life that is both a blessing and curse is that the organization tells you where you’ll live and for how long, and it weighs the needs of the Army well above the wishes of the family. I wanted a top-tier program, she wanted great year-round weather, and we both wanted to be closer to family while maximizing the financial value of my GI Bill benefits. UNC Kenan-Flagler ticked every one of those boxes, making it an easy winner in the end.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
It is becoming clear to me that the veteran cohort – which is strong at UNC, by the way – brings a significant amount of direct and organizational leadership experience which many of our peers haven’t yet had opportunities to take on. In my case that has manifest itself as a willingness to speak up and ask more pointed questions during class and company presentations, as well as to inject some structure and direction into our group work. More personally, I have the unique perspective of someone who already took an-all-too-short-can’t-wait-to-do-it-again mini-retirement. That experience converted a former workaholic into a zealous advocate of working to live versus living to work, which I feel some B-school students would do well to reflect upon.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I was flown to LA as a final-round applicant for College JEOPARDY! but I didn’t make it through the last mock tournament. I did not know nearly enough about Beyoncé.

Post-MBA career interests?
I’m currently recruiting into tech, venture capital, sustainable travel, and outdoor retail, all while focused on finding meaningful work in a firm that prioritizes more than just bottom-line profits.

Advice to current applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I cold-called/emailed current students at every opportunity and those conversations were invaluable to tailor my applications for each program I applied to. As a matter of fact, UNC Kenan-Flagler is the school where I had the fewest personal connections going into the process, but the open and thoughtful responsiveness from the Tar Heel community was exceptional.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I didn’t make the final decision on B-school vs. a different graduate program until just as Round 1 applications were coming due across the country. I wish I had given the decision more attention earlier to avoid the pressure of trying to put my best foot forward on a time crunch.

–Part you would have skipped if you could?
Studying for the GRE while traveling and trying to live my best life was a buzz kill. Those test scores are good for multiple years and I wish I had knocked it out well before I even started thinking about specific programs.

What is your initial impression of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s students/culture/community?
Just as advertised, UNC in general and Kenan-Flagler in particular are very team-centric communities. There hasn’t been a hint of one-upmanship or of folks being out to just get theirs. Coming from a strongly values-based organization like the Army, it was imperative that any program I join be similarly committed to teamwork and excellence and the UNC Kenan-Flagler student body has delivered in spades.

One thing you have learned about UNC KF that has surprised you?
I know it shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it has, but UNC Kenan-Flagler is a full-service public business school with constituencies to consider well beyond just the full-time MBA population. It’s a big organization that includes hundreds of undergrads, executive students, Ph.D. candidates, and online learners in addition to the on-campus MBA program.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
The 100% virtual nature of the program due to COVID has obviously been sub-optimal, but it is what it is and we’re all fighting to make the most of the situation. It’s a privileged problem to have in the first place and everyone is actively keeping our inconveniences in context with the genuine tragedies many around the world are facing.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
In general, getting to know and learn from folks with such diverse backgrounds and perspectives. In particular, I am especially excited for the Venture Capital Investment Competition later in the fall. I can’t wait to channel my inner Mark Cuban and Daymond John!

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.