Q&A with Kenan-Flagler’s Senior Associate Dean of MBA Programs

Q&A with Kenan-Flagler’s Senior Associate Dean of MBA Programs

sarah Perez, associate dean of MBA programS, Kenan-Flagler Business School


What’s the single most exciting development, change, or event happening at your MBA program this coming year?

We have a lot of exciting developments at UNC Kenan-Flagler to share!

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Dean Mary Margaret Frank. Dr. Frank assumed the role of dean of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in August 2023. A proud triple Tar Heel, she holds a PhD, Master of Accounting, and BSBA, all from UNC Kenan-Flagler. Dr. Frank returned home to UNC Kenan-Flagler from her previous position as senior associate dean for faculty development and John Tyler Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.

Another noteworthy update is the introduction of our latest concentration, Managing People and Organizations, which complements the 12 other functional and industry-focused concentrations available to Full-Time MBA students. This concentration empowers students to nurture their leadership and interpersonal skills, channeling the same commitment and focus on mastering the technical aspects of business. The concentration covers key topics in:

  • Corporate strategy
  • People analytics
  • Negotiating and influencing others
  • Inspiring people
  • Building high-performing teams and other leadership skills that drive organizational success

As the business landscape continues to evolve, our program is growing to offer a diverse range of electives for students. Some of the new elective courses being taught this year include:

  • AIpreneurship: Building a Generative AI “Startup” Business Unit
  • Leadership and Management in Hospitals and Health Systems
  • Inequity, Bias and Creating Belonging


What 2-3 qualities, skill sets, experiences do your program value most in applicants?

Every applicant should understand that there is no such thing as a perfect candidate. We value ambitious students who are enthusiastic about learning, adept at collaboration, and have high emotional intelligence. Rather than overthinking, applicants should concentrate on sharing what genuinely holds significance for them, not what you think we want to hear. For the admissions committee, assessing applicants who openly share their personal narratives is a truly gratifying experience.

How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically?

Essays offer the admission committee a valuable opportunity to connect with applicants on a more personal level, serving as a channel to establish a relationship with them. Through essays, we gain insights into an applicant’s writing style, career aspirations and specific interests in pursuing an MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Applicants assume the role of storytellers, leading readers along different paths based on what they choose to share. Emphasizing the importance of authenticity, we encourage applicants to convey their own thoughts rather than attempting to tailor responses to perceived committee expectations.

Do you have any application tips (for essays & recommendations) for MBA applicants? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid?

During the evaluation process, the admissions committee initially examines whether candidates have a clear understanding of their career goals. Ensuring that we possess the necessary resources for an applicant’s success in both the program and subsequent job search is paramount. It’s crucial for candidates to recognize that not all paths lead to consulting, for instance, and that’s perfectly fine. An MBA program equips individuals for a wide array of careers across diverse functional areas and industries.

Subsequently, we turn our attention to the candidate’s writing style. Are there any grammatical errors, word misuse or the occasional slip-up with the school’s name? Such oversights are more common than people might think. We encourage applicants to adhere to essay prompts and maintain factual accuracy. It is essential to express their ideas and information using their own words and personal experiences.

The same goes for recommendation letters.

Recommendation letters for MBA applications offer valuable insights to admissions committees, providing a knowledgeable perspective on an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses from a third-party. Letters from colleagues and supervisors should convey how the applicant will integrate into the classroom with their peers.

How important is standardized testing for an MBA application to UNC, and is there a preference for GMAT, GRE, EA for your full-time program?

GMAT/GRE waivers are available for new applicants to the UNC Kenan-Flagler Full-Time MBA Program. Our holistic application process is built to ensure that you’re prepared for our rigorous program. While scores from standardized tests such as the GMAT or GRE are a beneficial way for our admissions committee to evaluate the likelihood of academic success at UNC Kenan-Flagler, we recognize that some candidates can build a strong case for admission based on but not limited to the following criteria:

  • Applicants who graduated within the past 10 years (2014-2024) with a 3.2 GPA or above and coursework in STEM, business, economics or analytical fields from a U.S. institution
  • Earned an advanced or terminal degree from a U.S. institution in JD, MD or a Ph.D. or MS degree within a STEM, business or economics academic field
  • 5-plus years of professional experience in a quantitative or analytical field
  • Hold a U.S. CPA or CFA professional certificate
  • Strong test results from the Executive Assessment, LSAT, PCAT or MCAT

Candidates can visit our FAQ page or email us at for more information about the GMAT/GRE waiver process.

If a candidate decides to take a standardized test, we accept GMAT Focus, GMAT Traditional and GRE (old and new formats.) The admissions committee does not have a preference on which score applicants report.

What resources are available at your MBA program to assist with internship and full-time job opportunities)?

One of the primary motivations for pursuing an MBA is the emphasis on career support and, ultimately, career progression. Through skilled coaching and career guidance, our Career & Leadership team assists MBA students in mapping out their professional trajectories. Students have the opportunity to engage in industry workshops and communications training to cultivate essential skills, empowering them to effectively present themselves to potential employers. They can participate in on-campus interviews, off-campus career treks and networking forums, connecting with recruiters from diverse companies and organizations actively seeking UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA talent. Employers are attracted to our students because of their ability to seize new opportunities, without drama or attitude, and with plenty of resiliency.

More details on the services we offer can be found on our school website.

What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

Our program isn’t confined to a specific geographical area.

Renowned for research and technology, and each boasting its own university, Raleigh, Durhamand Chapel Hill are characterized by both their academic rivalries and collaborative achievements. This tri-city region, commonly referred to as the Triangle, continues to attract new residents steadily, thanks to robust job opportunities, substantial economic growth and an exceptional quality of life.

The nearby Research Triangle Park (RTP) continues to be a dynamic hub for business innovation, and this area attracts major corporations including Apple, Bank of America and Lenovo. With over 7,000 companies in the Triangle Area alone, students have the unique advantage of connecting into these organizations through alumni and recruiting relationships and experiential learning projects.

Chapel Hill, where students will be immersed in their MBA journey, is a great location for learning and living. Known for its welcoming small-town atmosphere with an eclectic vibe, Chapel Hill consistently earns recognition as one of the best college towns and desirable places to reside in the U.S. The city boasts award-winning restaurants, top-notch public schools, excellent healthcare systems, a thriving economy and a dynamic music and performing arts scene. Affordability is another significant advantage, catering to the needs of budget-conscious MBA students while ensuring a high quality of life.

Fun Fact about UNC — such as where is a favorite hangout for UNC’s MBA students?

There are a variety of ways students immerse themselves into the Carolina community. Franklin Street stands as the bustling social center of Chapel Hill, drawing our MBA students to its various offerings, including coffee shops, museums, pubs, shopping boutiques and restaurants. Throughout the academic year, students have a favorite weekly tradition called Carolina Casual, which takes place on the front lawn of the Business School and gives them the chance to take a break and socialize with their peers and families. Additionally, our students partake in annual events like Beach Week in Wilmington, North Carolina, held the week preceding graduation, and Blue Cup, a friendly two-week competition that puts MBA students against another blue-themed school nearby.

While UNC stands for University of North Carolina, we also affectionately refer to UNC as the “University of National Champions” and our students actively seize the opportunity to attend a variety of sporting events throughout the year.

Past Interview Questions:

Walk us through the life of an application in your office. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)?

There are multiple touchpoints throughout the application review process. Essentially, each candidate will have at least 3 if not 4 committee members reviewing their application. Once an applicant hits submit, it will go through a first read. The evaluation is based upon their essays, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and resume. The test scores are purposely left out of the first assessment so we can get to know a candidate. On average, I see that our reviewers will take about 30 to 45 minutes for each file. Once the first evaluation is complete, it is then sent to a second member of the committee. During this time, the candidate potentially will receive an invite to interview. Not all candidates will be invited at the same time. Due to COVID, we are currently conducting all interviews virtually.

A second review is done with all applicant information, including test scores, interview notes, and the first read evaluation. This assessment can take about 30 minutes on average to review. At this point in the process, the reader will offer a decision recommendation that is then sent to the admissions committee for discussion. We have an experienced team part of the final review that includes the Director of the full-time MBA program, a member from the Career & Leadership team, the Managing Director as well as the Admissions Director. It is not a process that we take lightly and our goal is to make sure we admit candidates who have high IQ and EQ that are also the right fit for Kenan-Flagler.

Could you tell us about your interview process? Approximately how many applicants do you interview?  Do you have any Interview tips for a Zoom call?

We interviewed over 1,000 candidates per year using the video platform through Slate which makes for a great user experience. There are a few recommendations that candidates can take into consideration prior to the interview:

  • Dress professionally as if you were interviewing in person.
  • Research and practice before the interview.
  • Test your technology (audio and video) before the session starts.
    • Make sure you are comfortable being on camera.
    • Be aware of your surroundings and make sure your background is appropriate for an interview. Essentially you are inviting the interviewer into your home, workspace, etc.
  • Life happens. Do not panic if your dog barks, child interrupts, or doorbell rings.


Anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?

There’s so much more to our MBA program than what students learn in the classroom – the friends they meet, the clubs they join, the extracurricular activities they enjoy, the leadership skills they develop, and the professional contacts they make. At UNC Kenan-Flagler, these “extras” aren’t extra; they’re part of what our community is in addition to our rigorous curriculum.

When we recruit students to Kenan-Flagler, we make sure they understand our culture, “The Carolina Way.” Students, faculty, and staff are the type of people who push others to succeed. We are collaborative by nature and understand the importance of diversity – different genders, ethnic backgrounds, and thought.

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