Student Voices: My First 6 Months as an MBA@UNC Student

One of my admissions essays to MBA@UNC heralded 2011 as my “banner year for novelty and transition.” Wordy and pompous? Undoubtedly. Yet also surprisingly true.

From the start, I knew my enrollment in  MBA@UNC  would bring a unique set of challenges, but I hoped that the opportunities available would assuage any lingering doubts I harbored. Let’s take a look back at the first six months of the program, and see how they stack up against my high bar for “novelty and transition.”

June: Training predominates. Figuring out how to access classes, submit assignments, set up email and profiles – the month was a whirlwind of getting reacquainted with being a student. There was, however, the added advantage of doing it all from home. No long registration lines!

July: The moment I’d been waiting for since acceptance into the program – class! With our small inaugural cohort (19 students), we had classes of five students, which allowed for a high level of interaction with each other and our professors. And not a moment too soon; after approximately 12 years of not taking any math, Financial Accounting was an almost-insurmountable challenge for me.

August: Getting to know my fellow students. At the start of the quarter, I wondered how the group projects would work and how easy it would be to collaborate without being in the same room. I quickly found out that the chat rooms provided a great forum in which to launch discussions, and, much like being at a brick-and-mortar institution, our group chats were filled with joking and constantly having to remind ourselves to stay on task.

September: My first taste of how truly convenient MBA@UNC makes learning. With several trips both far and near planned, I could enjoy myself without worrying about missing class. I knew I’d take my laptop and be able to stay on task, despite late nights, unusual sign-in locations, and delayed flights.

October: The start of the second quarter. By this point, our cohort is fairly close-knit and we’ve almost all been in at least one class together. What this means is that my trip to Chapel Hill mid-month sparks a flurry of texts to friends from the program who have not yet visited. Pictures of the Old Well, the Bell Tower and Rameses on game day fly through cyberspace to my MBA@UNC classmates.

November: The holidays approach and the usual excitement is only augmented by the imminence of the first immersion weekend. A quick class poll instantly makes me regret not signing up to go, as it seems that I’m one of only four from our cohort that will not attend.

December: Though I didn’t attend the immersion weekend (still kicking myself about it), I hear stories from friends about how everyone really enjoyed meeting each other. I promptly signed up for our next immersion weekend: St. Patrick’s Day in San Francisco!. Novelty and transition permeate MBA@UNC’s culture.

A look back at the first six months of the program confirms to me that distance learning (especially in an innovative format that encourages group work) parallels traditional learning. I’ve been able to make lasting relationships and even learn daunting subjects from home, and I know that – when I see my classmates in San Francisco – I won’t feel like I’m meeting them for the first time.  Rather, it’ll be a reunion!

About Ana-Laura: Ana-Laura Diaz is currently a practicing attorney living in the South Florida area. After attending UNC-Chapel Hill as an undergraduate, she received her J.D. from the University of Miami. Her love for all things Carolina and the desire to expand her horizons led her to the new MBA@UNC program, where she looks forward to continuing to be “Tar Heel bred.”