Student Voices: The Carolina Way

Legendary UNC-Chapel Hill basketball coach Dean Smith first coined the words “The Carolina Way” to reflect the spirit of the university. The Carolina Way means something slightly different to every Carolina student and alum, but underpinning every definition is a belief in excellence. This excellence drew me to Carolina as both an undergrad and graduate student, and it’s what attracts so many students from around the world.

My MBA@UNC experience continues to embody the Carolina Way. From world-class instructors giving lectures on an innovative platform to retired U.S. General George W. Casey Jr. speaking about leading in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, the Carolina Way is synonymous with forward-thinking vision and strategy.

Throughout the MBA@UNC program, I find myself impressed time and time again by how much my classmates have been able to accomplish and how much they have yet to accomplish. The MBA@UNC program is, at its heart, a distance program. In fact, a student could go through the program without ever setting foot in Chapel Hill. But this is not the Carolina Way, as many of my fellow MBA@UNCers learned at the December immersion weekend.

The December immersion weekend felt like a homecoming. I could see how much the campus had grown since my undergraduate graduation in 2003. But what was most gratifying was witnessing the reaction of my classmates who were visiting the campus for the first time. I was proud to hear one fellow MBA@UNC student describe the campus as “what college should feel like.” As we walked by the Bell Tower, through Polk Place and stopped in front of the Old Well, I could feel the other students falling in love with Carolina (and the Carolina Way) like I did more than 12 years ago.

But the University of North Carolina is more than just a pretty campus. It is even more than one of the United States’ premier educational institutions. Being a Tar Heel is something intangible that you carry with you. When you’re a Tar Heel, your friends and loved ones know it. Which is why, on the night before the immersion started, my boyfriend proposed to me in front of the Old Well. (I said yes!!)

To me, the Carolina Way also evokes my most treasured memories: late night laughs with a roommate, playing in the UNC Symphony Orchestra, meeting new friends in a virtual environment, and cementing those relationships in locales like Brazil and Chapel Hill. And now — true love. I can only hope that the December immersion helped my MBA@UNC classmates to embrace the Carolina Way — I’m confident that they did.  

About the Author: 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 MBA@UNC program, where she continues to be “Tar Heel bred.”