Dual Perspectives: Kate Schaefer’s Journey as a Teacher and an MBA@UNC Student

Working as a high school teacher while pursuing an MBA certainly is not an easy feat, but Kate Schaefer has found the experience to be deeply rewarding. Experiencing the level of engagement that UNC professors bring to their students, for example, has motivated her to generate the same enthusiasm in her own classroom. She also has been inspired to think about new ways to push the envelope in classroom instruction.

“The diversity of interests and experiences is such a positive of this program...And I think that comes from the fact that we are all working professionals and students at the same time. No one is afraid to share their own experiences, and that creates a class dynamic that is meaningful and unique.”

“From a teaching perspective, the feedback, the one-on-one help and the instructional capacity of the professors that we’ve had through MBA@UNC have been helpful in my day-to-day teaching and instruction with my students,” Schaefer said. “The professors’ enthusiasm and passion reinforced how I should act and respond to good ideas when my own students voice their opinions in my classroom. Classrooms are a safe place to take risks and to fail, and my UNC professors remind me of that important aspect of education, which helps me be a better educator.”

The Benefits of an Interactive Classroom

MBA@UNC’s approach to education, Schaefer explained, encourages both independence and collaboration. Students are allowed the freedom and flexibility to study on their own and determine how to best fit schoolwork into their schedules. Yet, at the same time, the group projects, live sessions and global immersions enable students to leverage the expertise of their peers and benefit from working with their classmates.

Schaefer said the main quality that differentiates MBA@UNC is the wide range of perspectives her fellow students bring to the classroom. “The diversity of interests and experiences is such a positive of this program...And I think that comes from the fact that we are all working professionals and students at the same time. No one is afraid to share their own experiences, and that creates a class dynamic that is meaningful and unique.”

A Green Goal

Schaefer’s goal upon graduating from MBA@UNC is to attain a leadership role in the environmental advocacy field to address problems locally and nationally. UNC Kenan-Flagler, ranked No. 7 for sustainability by Bloomberg Businessweek, offers a concentration in Sustainable Enterprise—making it an ideal fit for Schaefer’s career goals. By increasing her economic and financial literacy, as well as her leadership skills, and developing a strong understanding of fundraising and environmental policy, an MBA is a crucial step to empower her professionally.

Schaefer has taken several classes that have been directly applicable to the field. The economics course she took last fall gave her greater confidence in her ability to analyze current policies and respond insightfully to financial trends. Additionally, a sustainable enterprise class helped her to see how sustainability is woven into different areas of business—which she said will be a key consideration in the corporate world going forward.

“Resources are becoming more scarce, and the world is essentially becoming smaller and more connected,” Schaefer said. “If we are going to solve the environmental problems of the 21st century, there needs to be an economic component and an understanding of the way markets work. The sustainable enterprise class was interesting because it looks at the way some companies, nonprofits and individuals are solving those challenges.”

Schaefer added that the global immersion weekends have also supplemented the curriculum. While attending these weekend-long events in Chicago, Chapel Hill and Johannesburg, South Africa, she was able to connect what she was learning in the classroom to real-life economic, social and environmental issues. Though each immersion weekend had its uniquely inspiring elements, the Johannesburg immersion stands out in Schaefer’s mind, and more specifically, a session on South Africa’s potential for sustainable growth through innovation. The session was led by Raldu Nel, founder and managing director of Blank Canvas International, a South African management consultancy firm. Nel explored how a shift toward visionary leadership could help shape a more sustainable South Africa. It was a powerful discussion that reinforced Schaefer’s desire to pursue a career in sustainable enterprise.

Finding the Right Educational Fit

With global immersions, live face-to-face classes and collaborative group projects, MBA@UNC provides a vibrant learning environment that offers an unparalleled level of engagement for busy working professionals like Schaefer.

As a teacher in a brick-and-mortar setting, Schaefer is finely attuned to the quality of an educational experience. Not only does she speak highly of her learning experience at MBA@UNC, she also has found the online classes to be a source of inspiration for her own teaching style as an educator. The level of passion and engagement Schaefer has experienced at MBA@UNC shows how effective the online experience can be.

“For students who think they may not get that level of interaction in an online setting, they are wrong,” Schaefer said. “The more familiar faces you see in the classroom, the more dynamic the class experience becomes.”