A Professional Edge: Using MBA@UNC to Stand Out

For Joshua Brown, it was never a question of whether to go back to school for an MBA. It was a matter of figuring out how he could do that while balancing his career and his family. Having been in the winemaking industry for nearly seven years, Brown was ready to transition out of wine production and move into a more strategic role, and it was clear that an MBA would be an essential asset. However, as a winemaker at O’Neill Vintners & Distillers, his schedule was demanding and often hectic during crush season. Still, Brown was determined to get his degree without having to make a compromise in his career or his family life.

The Turning Point

Between children at home and his full-time job, there were few schools that would seamlessly fit into Brown’s life without requiring him to make a major change. Brown narrowed his decision down to a local program in California, an online program in the Midwest, and MBA@UNC. The problem with the local California MBA offering was that classes met on a weekend night. Ultimately, he realized that being tied up one more night of the week rather than being at home with his family simply wasn’t worth it—so he didn’t apply.

Not long after Brown chose the alternate online school over MBA@UNC, he was already having second thoughts. In fact, it was just after he finished a self-paced accounting course and was halfway through another class on statistics when it became clear that the program didn’t fit his style of learning. Brown explained that he requires a certain level of interaction to truly absorb information. When he realized that he hadn't had any kind of verbal communication or personal exchange with anyone at the school, it dawned on him that he might need to reconsider his decision.

Just as he began to feel somewhat in despair, Brown received a phone call from MBA@UNC Program Director Dan Bursch who had recently returned from paternity leave and was surprised to learn that Brown had not enrolled in MBA@UNC. Brown said he told Bursch with no hesitation, "I don't know what I've done to myself. I will gladly accept UNC's offer if it still stands."

Overnight, Brown says he dropped out of the program he was in and matriculated with MBA@UNC. In just two days, he was registered for classes. "I think it's very safe to say that MBA@UNC is much more engaging than the experience I would be getting had I gone through a more traditional executive in-person MBA program," Brown said. Brown added that the curriculum is both highly engaging and demanding. Between live classes, outside reading material and real-time group interactions, MBA@UNC is a more dynamic learning experience than he expected to get anywhere else.

Changing Professional Directions

Ultimately, Brown chose an MBA program because he knew that it would have a significant impact on his professional career. Not wanting to limit himself to bulk wine production, Brown hoped an MBA from a prestigious program would open up a world of possibilities among high-caliber companies. He knew that he needed something more on his resume—and he was confident that having a degree from MBA@UNC would allow him to shine. Moreover, Brown knew that the courses he would take while in MBA@UNC would prepare him to take that next step in his career.

His first class, Developing Management and Leadership Skills, featured lively class discussions that were highly applicable to his career. "The instructor for the class was extremely engaging—in terms of just getting people to talk, but also because he showed a very genuine level of curiosity in wanting to know what our stories were and how the lecture material was applying to our current everyday lives," Brown said. The timing of the course couldn't have been more perfect.

Brown was promoted to a new role as director of cellar operations, and he used many of the skills he acquired in that class. Now, as he looks forward to his future with MBA@UNC, Brown is excited to delve into supply chain courses, which are directly related to the segment of the wine industry in which he's hoping to advance. He also feels as if being in the program has given his boss a different perspective on his aspirations—thus unlocking new professional opportunities. "By being in this program, my employer I think has a different eye on me now than he had before," Brown noted.