Student Voices: Facing "Skeptical Optimism"

I walked into the program with “skeptical optimism,” if that is even a phrase. 
I wanted a top-tier program, but needed something that fit into my family life and allowed me to stay at my job.  Speaking with the MBA admissions counselors, the MBA@UNC felt like a good fit, but I had a lot of unanswered questions:  Will I make substantial relationships with my classmates?  Will an on-line classroom engage me intellectually?  Should I just wait a year and let UNC work out the kinks?
Even with all these questions, I was intrigued.  I thought, “This will be like a start-up, I’ve always wanted to work at a start-up.”   So that pushed me over the edge – and I entered the program with “skeptical optimism." Well, the MBA@UNC is energizing, but, other than that, nothing like a start-up.  If I did not know better, I would think the UNC faculty has been teaching in this format for years. 
The asynchronous classes are completely engaging.  My synchronous section professors have gone out of their way to ensure the material is relevant to me – from referencing my company’s return on assets in class to reviewing marketing strategy for my family’s business. The online classroom experience is real and sacrifices nothing in comparison to an in-person program.
What surprised me most are the substantive relationships created with my classmates.  In just two short months, we developed a community.  When you look at my text message history, you see my classmates at UNC.  We e-mailed each other the night before the Financial Accounting final just to make sure we were all ready.  We met as a group to critique our individual marketing projects.  I even got a postcard in the mail today from my new MBA@UNC friend who went to Disney World!  None of this is required interaction – it’s all based on the strong personal relationships we have already developed.
The program enables these relationships.  We all have access to our own web-room where we  hold group meetings.  Every group meeting starts up just like an in-person meeting.  You spend a few minutes chatting about your week, sharing the story about how your kid dropped your new iPhone in the toilet, and hearing how a classmate has already applied a newly learned business concept.  Everyone here is wonderfully dynamic and interesting; each person is someone I want to know.
In the end, I’m glad my optimism outweighed my skepticism: in two months time, I made significant relationships, I have been challenged intellectually, and perhaps most of all, I am confident UNC is delivering a world-class business education.  Ask any of us here; I am certain we all have the same reaction.
About Brian McGrath: After 12 years working in management and technology consulting, Brian went through a major career transition in 2011. While he loved consulting, Brian needed a career that better aligned to raising his two daughters. Now Brian works in-house at a major global apparel company, running a small technology team supporting areas of the business such as brand licensing, global social responsibilitiy and marketing. Along with his wife, Brian also owns a small business called Tiny Giraffe where the  ake wooden children's blocks that are sold globally online. Brian lives in central New Jersey, and splits the work week between New Jersey and New York City. His undergraduate degree is in math and economics from Northwestern University.