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

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Eliza Quanbeck, UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Class of 2022

Age: 33
Hometown: Charlottesville, Virginia
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Virginia, International Affairs
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 8 years; Hospitality, Sustainable Food Systems. Most recently, I spent the past 6.5 years in New York working in hospitality and the food systems. My work for Natoora introduced me to the potential impact that sustainable agriculture can have upon our food system, and it was this experience that spurred me to think about an MBA.

Why business school? Why now? 
Seeing the impact of my work in sustainable foods was invigorating, but I realized that an MBA could really help me take my career to the next level. I kept facing business challenges that were just beyond my quantitative and qualitative capabilities. My coworker at the time was in business school and seeing the tools she was able to bring into the workplace from her education helped me understand just how powerful an MBA can be in any industry, especially a non-traditional industry such as sustainable food systems.

Why UNC Kenan-Flagler? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I attended an event for prospective UNC Kenan-Flagler applicants and ended up in a circle of women, all prospective students, talking about sustainable energy and investing. Each person was energized and excited to learn from one another’s different backgrounds. We were so immersed in conversation we forgot we were at a recruiting event!. This is what I wanted from an MBA experience, and I saw that UNC Kenan-Flagler goes above and beyond to cultivate a culture where students are excited to learn one another’s experiences.

Every UNC Kenan-Flagler student I have met is kind, humble, and eager to learn. This unique constellation of traits was something I had not seen at other schools and made me feel like this was a place where I could learn and grow.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
My non-traditional background in sustainable food systems is one of the contributions I bring to the Class of 2022 at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Sharing my knowledge and experiences with my classmates has been illuminating and their questions and insights have expanded how I view this space.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? 
I am a certified scuba diving guide so I know 30+ hand signals for various fish species. Yes, I love fish.

Post-MBA career interests? 
My post-MBA goal is to combine my experience managing logistics with my passion for food, hospitality, and social impact. I hope to work for a sustainability-focused food brand designing supply chain systems that provide small and medium-sized sustainable farmers access to wider markets.

Advice to current prospective applicants: 
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I love that I took the time to reflect upon my career goals. Two years will go by quickly and recruiting starts before you even step foot on campus. Walking in with a strong sense of my post-MBA objectives has helped me know how to allocate my time to different clubs and networking events.

View the MBA application as a time to reflect upon yourself. In filling out your MBA application, think ‘Where would I like to see myself grow personally and professionally?’ You will be overwhelmed by resources and support here at UNC Kenan-Flagler and having a clear vision will allow you to take advantage of everything that business school has to offer. And almost more importantly, to know what opportunities to say ‘no’ to.

–One thing you would change or do differently?     
I wish I had visited more schools and spoken to more current students. I thought I knew what I wanted from business school, but I initially limited myself to schools within a given geographic area, and only late in my process did I consider UNC Kenan-Flagler. Think bigger! Moving outside of my familiar territory to go to business school has been hugely beneficial and allowed me to focus on this experience.

I recommend taking online prep courses in finance, economics, and statistics. The online course I completed in accounting over the summer made my first semester much easier. It’s overwhelming to learn 5 new subjects if you’ve never been exposed to them before.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Studying for standardized tests, although all those quantitative skills are really paying dividends now! What helped me through those painful hours of practice tests was the encouragement of my family and friends and rewarding myself for accomplishments along the way. Setting and celebrating interim goals helped keep me motivated.

What is your initial impression of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s students/culture/community?
UNC Kenan-Flagler is rising to the challenge of online learning in remarkable ways. Faculty have gone out of their way to incorporate our feedback in the format of online material. Students have been meeting the challenge of virtual learning by taking a more proactive stance in organizing study groups and extracurricular opportunities.

The Class of 2022 is proving itself nimble and ready to adapt to this new virtual world. It’s exciting to be studying in an ever-changing environment. We get to write the rules of our MBA and that means bringing folks into the circle who may have been left out in the past. We are aware of the challenges faced by our international classmates and are working to create a more inclusive learning environment for everyone.

One thing you have learned about UNC Kenan-Flagler that has surprised you? 
Faculty members really get to know us on a personal level. This is even more impressive in a virtual format.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? 
Staying connected with my classmates in a virtual learning environment. The hallway meetups and overheard conversations are a thing of the past. My classmates have proven humble and eager to make connections with one another. We always have time for another Zoom coffee chat with our classmates or prospective students.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m excited to be a student again and look forward to finding a summer internship.

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.