Susan Lawrence Hedglin (Kenan-Flagler, ’17) might be the busiest MBA student at UNC Kenan-Flagler. In addition to having a busy MBA student schedule she also was elected and is serving as the President of the UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Student Association (MBASA) Admidst her busy schedule, Susan chatted with us about her experience at UNC and leading the MBASA along with the importance of “The Carolina Way” in how UNC students collaborate and lead one another.
MBASchooled: Last February you were elected as the President of the MBA Student Association (MBASA) at UNC Kenan-Flagler. What motivated you to run for this position?
Susan: I’m a finance person; during my first year I volunteered to run the finance budget as one of the assistant treasurers for the MBASA. And beyond the MBASA, I was heavily involved in several career and diversity clubs. I got really close to many of my classmates through those activities, and they saw the skills that I brought to the table as well.
When it came time to start thinking about second year leadership positions, several classmates encouraged me to run for something. I thought about what legacy I wanted to leave at Kenan-Flagler, and realized that it ran beyond one particular club or group–I had goals to improve the whole experience for students and club leaders. So I decided to run for president, and was elected early into my third quarter as an MBA student. My team and I transitioned into our roles in our last quarter, in March.
MBASchooled: As President of the MBASA, what are your primary responsibilities and duties?
Susan: The MBA Student Association at Kenan-Flagler is the umbrella organization which runs most MBA career, activity, social, and diversity clubs. My primary responsibilities are setting overall goals and vision for the academic year, managing a team of 10 vice presidents and 30+ student club leaders, and ensuring we’re following through with our vision to create the strongest student experience possible at Kenan-Flagler. I do everything from meeting with student leaders and school administrators to set goals, to serving on our budget committee, to handling problems as they pop up.
MBASchooled: What’s it like to serve in this type of leadership role on behalf of your classmates?
Susan: I appreciate the trust my classmates put in me when they chose me to lead the MBASA. I was nervous about campaigning and running in an election. But the elections, while competitive, were an overwhelmingly positive and supportive experience. This is the first management role I’ve ever had. I’ve had to learn when to step in and get involved in something, and when to hold back and let a team member figure things out on their own. It’s exciting to put forward my own ideas for improving the student experience, but it’s challenging to find the balance: spending time making sure things are running as they should, and carving out time to plan new initiatives.
MBASchooled: What’s been the most exciting part of the experience so far? What about the most challenging?
Susan: The most exciting thing is seeing other students develop into awesome leaders! I got to know so many classmates in my first year as friends. Seeing how they’ve stepped up in second year to manage, to lead, to set goals and to implement innovative ideas is so inspiring to me. It’s great to see a student come into a role, take responsibility, and blossom into a real leader. I’ve seen my classmates grow so much as managers in a short period of time.
The hardest part is delegating. Like many MBAs, I was often the overachiever who stepped in and picked up the slack in a group–I would drag us over the finish line even if it wasn’t my responsibility. Now I just don’t have enough time to do that! I have to depend on my leadership team and classmates to help me get the job done. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to divide work and getting feedback on how I do it. I’m getting better at it, but it doesn’t come naturally to me.
MBASchooled: It’s only been a few months, but what’s an important lesson you’ve learned from your MBASA experience?
Susan: Be judicious with your time. Spend time on things you care about. Don’t get bogged down in things you don’t like just to build a resume bullet. Your enthusiasm (or lack of) will show. I think I was elected in part because my classmates knew that if I promised something, I would deliver it. I’m busy, but I’m spending time on things I care about. In that sense, it doesn’t feel like work.
MBASchooled: What initiatives or opportunities are you most passionate about working on while MBASA President?
Susan: I’m excited about two initiatives: an increased focus on inclusion of students from underrepresented backgrounds, and efforts to develop an entirely student-run Kenan-Flagler student store. As a classmate noted to me: “Diversity is making sure someone gets invited to the party. Inclusion is making sure they’re actually invited to dance.” The entire school has renewed its focus on inclusion. We as the MBASA have pledged to ensure that every club, not just diversity clubs, becomes a part of that conversation. We’ve also launched an entirely student-run Kenan-Flagler store. We sell Kenan-Flagler merchandise, and profits are redirected back to the MBASA to further improve the student experience. Right now we’re brick-and-mortar only, but we’re working to expand the offerings and bring orders online. Entrepreneurship in action!
MBASchooled: As one of the leaders on behalf of UNC Kenan-Flagler, what makes you proudest of the school you represent?
Susan: When you join Kenan-Flagler, you become a part of the whole University of North Carolina along with 200,000 other Tarheel students and alumni. Almost everyone at UNC knows The Carolina Way that was made popular by late men’s basketball coach Dean Smith. His strategy was “Play Hard, Play Together, Play Smart.” I think that spirit absolutely shows at Kenan-Flagler, too. My classmates are motivated and driven people, and I’ve learned so much from them both in and out of the classroom. But I see evidence every day that we’re playing together instead of against each other–whether it’s two classmates helping each other case for the same McKinsey interview, or a classmate who takes time out of her own busy schedule to organize a special practice session for networking prep. I’m proud that we keep up that culture and continue to attract students who believe in it.
MBASchooled: What aspects of your role as President do you see as being transferable to the working world?
Susan: I came back for my MBA to build my technical skills and to learn how to be a better leader. This role has done more than anything else to help me evolve as a manager. Whether I’m delivering speeches, setting goals and targets, working through conflicts or helping someone envision a solution, every day I’m improving on skills I’ll use in the working world. I can’t wait until I’m getting a real paycheck for it, though!