MBA@UNC Graduate: Fiona McFarland

“If I had asked the people at UNC to design an MBA program just for me,” says Fiona McFarland, “they couldn’t have done a better job. MBA@UNC was exactly what I needed, and I didn’t even know it before learning about the program.” A surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy, McFarland completed her undergraduate degree at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. After graduating, she realized that to make a positive impact in any field, she needed to gain a stronger understanding of the business world.

“I found out about MBA@UNC a month before the application was due,” she says. “I applied, was accepted and haven’t looked back since!”

The ability to participate in live classes from anywhere in the world is one of her favorite aspects of the program. Like many of her classmates, she traveled extensively and appreciated that flexibility. “It was fun to see where people were attending class from — what country they were in, what airport terminal,” she says.

“Everyone has really interesting backgrounds — and they’re all going to school and doing their jobs. It was cool to learn about a concept or strategy and be able to learn how different people employ it in different sectors at different times. That was a big benefit for me."

“The program is really appealing for anyone in the military because it’s so portable. The professors are great about making the information accessible to a host of different people.” While McFarland didn’t doubt the program would help her achieve her personal goal of strengthening her business acumen, what she didn’t plan was being able to use what she’s learned in class to become a stronger, more rounded Naval officer.

“When I look at things like how our budgets are laid out, I’m able to take a more critical eye at our plans,” she explains.

“My performance rankings have gone up and I’ve become a more thoughtful leader. The program really made me think a lot about how I lead my department.”

After graduation, McFarland will continue working for the U.S. Navy, but she also will keep an eye on what sort of prospects lie ahead for her as a civilian. “MBA@UNC really pulled off my blinders — it opened my eyes to what all is out there. I’m looking forward to exploring it.”