Student Ambassador Q&A with Louis Chen

(Editor's Note: To help you get to know our students better, we are starting a new student ambassador Q&A series. In the first of the series, we caught up with Louis Chen (MBA ’14). Louis is a senior research and design engineer at Space Systems Loral and lives in San Jose, Calif. Prior to attending UNC Kenan-Flagler, he received his MS in Engineering Management from Santa Clara University and his BS in Electrical Engineering and a second degree in Biomedical Engineering from University of Rhode Island. Feel free to find him on LinkedIn.)

UNC: Where did you attend college for your undergraduate degree? How does the online classroom compare to your in-class experiences?

LC: I went to the University of Rhode Island for my undergraduate degree and Santa Clara University for my master’s degree. The MBA@UNC online experience is more like my experience at Santa Clara University — small classroom settings, front row seats and individualized attention. I actually enjoy the asynchronous materials because I can take it at my own pace and truly absorb all the material, something that doesn't happen when you take the long evening or weekend courses as a working individual.  

UNC: What are some of the key reasons you decided to pursue your MBA?

LC: I am pursuing my MBA so I can understand business in a holistic manner. It is important to understand the interactions between various organizations, from finance to engineering, in order to make decisions that are beneficial for the company and its stakeholders. Engineering is a great challenge — the thrill of creating something out of nothing will always be a part of me — but leading my company to rise above the competition is where I see myself in the next few years.  

UNC: How have you been able to apply the coursework from MBA@UNC to your job?

LC: Because I have only been in the program for two quarters, I have been slowly testing the waters on applying my coursework to my current job. The first thing I did once I started taking financial accounting was to order a 10-K financial statement from my publicly held company. I feel like a nerd saying this, but I sat down one weekend and read through the package and looked at the numbers. I actually started to understand why we invested in certain areas and not others and how that changed as we went through the acquisition process (we were bought).  

UNC: Even though you're in San Jose, have you felt that you're part of the UNC community? 

LC: Well, I bought my Tar Heel sweatshirt and basketball shorts — I hope that counts! Yes, the professors are engaging, and all the alumni I reached out to welcome me with open arms. Because of the intimate classroom experience, my classmates and I have gotten to know each other well. Group projects provided a more engaging experience, and I truly felt the type of friendship that I found during my master’s study at a private college. Over the course of two quarters, I’ve even met up with a few fellow students in the Bay Area.  

UNC: What has surprised you the most about the MBA@UNC program?

LC: I was one of the skeptical individuals when I first heard about an online program from a top-20 school. How is the professor supposed to be engaging? How am I going to network with my classmates online? Am I even going to learn something? First of all, the technology is great. On the screen, you have a live presentation area for materials, a live video stream of every student (and the professor) via webcam, and an interactive chat screen. I find it hard to hide behind a laptop with the MBA@UNC classroom's structure and small settings, unlike my undergrad experiences. Students notice when you are not paying attention in our platform. I am glad to have trusted in the great faculty of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. The technology is revolutionary, the course layout is engaging, and all my expectations for a great MBA program (and more!) have been met.  

Do you have a question for Louis? Leave it in the comments below.