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News & Media
Jan 27, 2020

MBA Kenan Scholars: A Unique Experience

By Vladimir Plotkin, MBA Kenan Scholars Class of 2020

Where can a UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA student supplement classroom training with hands-on leadership and a year-long research project on a critical, real-world business issue with the guidance of the school’s distinguished faculty?

Whether the subject of study is infrastructure investing, nuclear energy generation, socioeconomic disparities or venture capital funding, the Kenan Scholars program is the best venue for such an experience.

My introduction to the Kenan Scholars program was by way of a campus visit as a prospective MBA student. A Class of 2019 Kenan Scholar and I connected, and after a few conversations, he introduced me to Lingmei Howell, MBA Kenan Scholars program manager. As they say, the rest is history. Lingmei would become a mentor for me throughout my MBA career. Thanks to her, I connected with several Kenan Scholars who were researching fields from AI to private credit. The conversations I had with these scholars affirmed that the program was the opportunity I had been looking for to delve deeper into a business subject than my MBA studies would otherwise allow.

My interest was – and is – in hedge funds, and I have worked with Prof. Greg Brown to study the volatility trading strategies employed by these funds. The subject area had caught our attention as short volatility investors suffered massive losses in periods of amplified turbulence, often at the drop of a dime. We thought it would be interesting to see what type of data we could acquire and publish a white paper on our findings. With additional help from Prof. Philip Howard, we were able to glean insights from the data through factor modeling and other empirical methods.

At first glance, adding research to the already busy schedule of a student with a rigorous academic curriculum, extracurricular activities and recruiting may seem intimidating. Fortunately, the MBA Kenan Scholars program is not a sprint but a marathon.

I believe that the success of an MBA student is, in part, a function of how well one stays organized and manages time when faced with competing priorities. As such, I scheduled meetings with my faculty advisor around my assignment deadlines and exams, so I could focus my undivided attention on the research one bit at a time. I also took advantage of the monthly touchpoints with program management, which were invaluable in ensuring that my project stayed on schedule from start to finish.

As a Kenan Scholar, I also have had the privilege of taking part in exclusive Dean’s Speaker Luncheons with accomplished individuals from a diverse set of backgrounds. These have included thought-provoking discussions with a long-time Silicon Valley insider and venture capitalist, as well as with the former CEO of the Cato Institute and Truist Financial Corp. (formerly BB&T). The Kenan Scholars program also offers direct engagement with the Triangle business community, with several local events on the docket for the spring semester. In January and February, we will visit significant financial institutions in Raleigh and Durham. And in March, we will take part in a half-day symposium convening national and North Carolina-based C-suite executives, government officials and nonprofit leaders to examine how labor trafficking manifests in global and local North Carolina supply chains.

This is all to say that the Kenan Scholars program is both intensive and invigorating. While a student can be certain that there will be a multitude of clubs and activities competing for his or her attention, the Kenan Scholars program is truly unique in the breadth and depth of experience it offers.

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