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Stitching Ahead: Meredith Culler’s Road to an MBA

Written by Molly Forman on Jan 13, 2020

Related content: Outcomes, Digital Education

A handful of years ago, Meredith Culler found herself at a career crossroads: while employed at Pottery Barn’s corporate offices, she was tapped for a director-level promotion that would require an international move. Despite the distinguished title, Meredith wasn’t ready to uproot her life. She had just earned a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School Kenan-Flagler Business School—a degree program that inspired her to think vertically rather than laterally. After carefully considering all she strived for, Meredith declined the international opportunity to search for a different kind of career.

What inspired Meredith to join the MBA@UNC program at UNC Kenan-Flagler—and why online? For her, the answer was simple: “From day one, the UNC program just felt natural,” she said. The program offered strong networking opportunities, a top-tier and current curriculum, seasoned professors, and more from one of the nation’s leading business schools—and she didn’t have to move cross-country to reap the benefits.

Networking for the future While Meredith didn’t want to sacrifice two years of valuable work experience or a salary—she also didn’t want to miss out on a world-class education and the relationships that could form along the way. “I loved that the UNC curriculum was the same as a full-time program,” Meredith said. “And what really pushed it over the edge for me was the ability to be part of the strong UNC Kenan-Flagler network while in San Francisco.” This network was a sounding board throughout rigorous studies and the trials and tribulations of navigating her career calling.

MBA@UNC brings together professionals from all walks of life—and in Meredith’s case, being surrounded by such internally motivated people helped her form lasting connections. She became fast friends with three fellow students before they ever had the chance to meet in person. “We text all day every day about work stuff, non-work stuff—where we’re going to meet up next,” she said. “We traveled for the Summits, and went everywhere from Istanbul to Prague and Greece.” These close connections were unexpected, but became an integral part of Meredith’s experience.

Learning online

In addition to ample in-person opportunities to build a strong rolodex, the program’s unique online format–small, live class sessions with classmates and professors on the screen–proved to be a learning opportunity.

Working on a screen was an advantageous tool to learn how to do business in the digital era when so many conversations take place through a monitor.

Especially when working with global companies, Meredith recognized the value of learning in this format. “In business, we are always on telecom. Learning from this perspective helped me master how to work with others on a screen,” she said.

Finding unparalleled support

“For so long, I had been siloed in my industry,” Meredith said. “Everything I learned opened my eyes to the benefits of taking a risk and making a move to accelerate my career vs. wait for a promotion.”

Just like the world of business, the MBA@UNC program is competitive. Meredith’s professors and advisors had years of business acumen and were overwhelmingly supportive—helping her unlock her sense of ambition. This backing was what she needed to take a leap in a new direction—something her previous educational environments hadn’t necessarily given her.

Meredith cultivated personal and professional relationships with some incredibly bright—and highly driven—people. “You knew everyone chose to be in the program, because we were all investing our free time, money, and more to go back to school,” she said. The program’s small student-to-faculty ratio in live class sessions also provided a high level of personal attention from leadership in a one-on-one setting. “One example of the faculty’s personal investment in my success came when I was exploring an international move. I chatted with both my career counselor and the business school’s dean to weigh my options,” she said. “This advice proved so valuable. The commitment from the professors and quality of education exceeded all of my expectations.”

Tapping the opportunities an online MBA brings

After graduation, Meredith began searching for other jobs in the Bay Area—and a contact in her new alumni network connected her with fashion-tech company StitchFix for a supply chain role.

“The StitchFix role required an MBA degree—and I had just graduated from the online MBA@UNC program,” Meredith said. Her demonstrated track record at Pottery Barn made her an ideal candidate, and her degree wove her experiences together—helping her stand out to the company’s leadership team. She landed the role and has since been at StitchFix for nearly five years. For Meredith, the program and alumni network have been “inspirational” and integral to her growth.

Looking back, Meredith realizes that the greatest benefit she gained through the pursuit of her MBA was confidence. “The opportunities, career growth, and experiences UNC Kenan-Flagler gave me were the push I needed to take the next step,” she said.