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

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Gabriella Ferrari, UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Class of 2022

Age: 29
Hometown: Gallup, New Mexico
Undergraduate Institution and Major: New Mexico State University; double major in Journalism and Government
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 6 years, Public Relations/Strategic Communications

Why business school? Why now? 
Prior to business school, my work focused on corporate social responsibility where I helped clients communicate their initiatives in environmental sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion. As I looked to the next phase of my career, I realized I wanted to be on the other side of the equation: setting the strategy and finding business solutions for today’s most pressing social and environmental sustainability challenges. I saw the MBA as a perfect opportunity to gain the essential business skills I needed to make that pivot. And, with the rise of ESG investing and consumer activism, it felt like now was the perfect time.

Why UNC Kenan-Flagler? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
My biggest consideration when deciding on a business school was an inclusive culture. All the top MBA programs would provide me with the hard-skills I needed for the next step in my career, so I focused on finding the environment that allowed me to be my authentic self, where I felt safe enough to ask questions and take risks.

In addition to offering a dedicated enrichment in Sustainable Enterprise, UNC Kenan-Flagler includes a course on Inclusive Leadership in its core curriculum, and that spoke volumes to me on the school’s values. When I visited campus, I saw it wasn’t just a value written on a wall. Everyone I met – from admissions to students to faculty – was incredibly warm and friendly. They took a genuine interest in my passions and helped me imagine how I could use them to leave my “Heelprint” on the school.

I would also be lying if I didn’t say COVID played a role in where I ultimately decided to attend. UNC Kenan-Flagler has the number one online MBA program, so I knew they were equipped to provide quality education in the online environment. And North Carolina offers ample opportunities for hiking and exploring the outdoors.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
As a Hispanic-Italian that grew up on the edge of the Navajo Nation, my worldview is rooted in the power of multiculturalism, and I bring a passion for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. In my pre-MBA work experience in DEI, I enjoyed helping people increase their understanding of issues related to race and identity and helping them better engage and advocate for traditionally marginalized communities.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? 
I make award-winning salsa! My mom, sister, and I used to compete in regional homemade salsa competitions with our “Mamma’s Sassy Mango Salsa,” named – of course – after my own sassy mamma.

Post-MBA career interests? 
I plan to use my MBA to pursue a career in marketing/brand management for a major consumer goods company.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Before I applied, I looked at my profile as if I was an admissions officer. I asked, “Does this person’s background show they’re prepared for the rigor of an MBA?” “How will this MBA program help them achieve career goals?” and “Does this person provide a unique perspective that would add value to their class?” By taking an objective look through the eyes of my target audience, I understood where I could adjust and strengthen my application.

–One thing you would change or do differently?        
I wish I looked beyond the rankings earlier in the process. Too many of the MBA discussion boards prioritize rankings, and I wasted time getting caught up in someone else’s values. Ultimately, I focused on the information behind the rankings and examined the programs that were best suited for my career goals.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I wish I could have skipped the GRE/GMAT, but I knew I needed it to demonstrate my quantitative aptitude since I came from a non-traditional background. I got through it by identifying study resources that adapted to my schedule (Target Test Prep), studying during every moment of downtime I had (morning subway rides), and remembering to practice some self-care along the way (lots of yoga).

What is your initial impression of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s students/culture/community?
The “Carolina Way” rings true. UNC Kenan-Flagler is truly a supportive, collaborative community. It feels like everyone wants you to succeed and is willing to make the time to help you.

Before I applied, multiple students were willing to hop on the phone during holiday breaks to share their UNC Kenan-Flagler experience. Now that I’m here, second-year students have continued to share their best practices for managing classes and approaching recruiting.

One thing you have learned about UNC Kenan-Flagler that has surprised you? 
I heard great things about the faculty, but seeing them in action was a different story. They have adapted to the online environment and have been incredibly intentional about leveraging the online platform in ways that enhance the learning experience and ensure that no student falls behind in their understanding of the material.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? 
While Mod 1 (our Core) is already pretty intensive, I’m a bit anxious about managing it all in the online environment. It’s going to require me to be intentional about meeting more of my classmates, combatting Zoom fatigue, and remembering to give myself a bit of grace.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m most excited about getting to know my classmates. We all come from such different industries and careers, but there’s solidarity knowing we were all courageous enough to decide to pursue an MBA during a global pandemic.

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.