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Feb 14, 2020

Exploring Business Research with Kenan Scholars

By Phil Hardy, Kenan Scholars Advisor

“Be very proactive… ask for feedback… be relentless.” This was one of many insights provided during the first Kenan Scholars research workshop of the Spring 2020 semester.

This workshop, hosted on Friday, Feb. 7, provided students the opportunity to learn from a panel of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School faculty and students who are currently engaged in business research. The panel included Brad Hendricks, Paige Ouimet, Sreedhari Desai, Angelica Leigh, Ian Kenny and was moderated by Sarah Kenyon, research associate at the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise. Those in attendance included faculty, staff, Kenan Scholars pursuing an honors thesis and students exploring the process and impact of business research.

Panelists discussed what motivated them to pursue research and how their experience has shaped their careers. Hendricks, assistant professor of accounting, discussed how he enjoys the freedom that comes with research. He appreciates having the ability to choose the topics he wants to focus on. Desai, associate professor of organizational behavior, agreed with

Hendricks’ praise of a profession in research stating that, “the day to day grind of a researcher is pretty darn good.” While freedom and flexibility were seen as great benefits, the panelists highlighted a common challenge in academia: attaining tenure. They said the process and pressure can be intense.

Leigh, a Ph.D. candidate in organizational behavior at Kenan-Flagler, discussed her experience transitioning from the corporate world to academia. She explained her desire to impact students through researching the questions that she formed through her professional experience. Desai clarified that one could always leave academia and go back into industry, but that it is harder going from industry to academia.

The conversation then transitioned to the benefits of research in the undergraduate experience. Kenny, a senior Kenan Scholar, said that his research efforts have helped clarify some ambiguity in his summer internship. He also explained that working on his honors thesis for the Kenan Scholars program has provided him with new skills, such as working with Python and other software languages. Ouimet, associate professor of finance, explained that developing research skills set students apart in the job market, as many employers have difficulty interpreting the data they acquire.

The panel concluded with discussion around the process and impact of seeking faculty support in student research. Kenny explained that the process of securing a faculty advisor for his honors thesis was more difficult than he expected and recommended seeking out those that have experience in your areas of interest. When asked what she looks for in a student researcher, Desai indicated she looks for someone passionate about changing the world for the better. Leigh added that it is difficult for a faculty member to say no if you show up well prepared and have studied the faculty member’s research beforehand.

The workshop was met with praise from both students and staff. Jessie LaMasse, a junior Kenan Scholar, enjoyed the opportunity to take a look  behind the scenes of the research process. This event displayed the Kenan Scholars program’s commitment to deepen and broaden the research experience for its students.

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