Jane McIntyre already had a demanding full-time job and was serving as vice chair of the local school board when she decided to take on another challenge: pursuing her executive MBA at Queens University of Charlotte.
Her choice meant a commitment of time and money. But looking back, McIntyre says she wouldn’t change a thing.
“It makes you more confident, and more fearless,” said McIntyre, who enrolled in the program while working as an administrator with Carolinas HealthCare System.
She received her degree in 1996, and went on to lead the YWCA and United Way of Central Carolinas.
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“I think it separates you from others,” she said. “It can be a life changer.”
McIntyre is among nearly 600 graduates of Queens’ executive MBA program, which marks 25 years this fall of training some of the area’s most successful executives and managers. It’s part of the university's McColl School of Business, and founders say it is Charlotte’s first and only program of its kind.
To recognize the anniversary, Queens is sponsoring a celebration event for alumni at the Duke Mansion on Friday.
What makes the degree different from a traditional master’s of business administration is the program’s emphasis on leadership, according to Bill Berry, a founding professor.
Much of the classroom experience hinges on discussions within study teams so that students network and learn from each other, Berry said. Hot topics over the years reflected contemporary ideas in the marketplace. So catching the dot-com wave in the 1990s, staying steps ahead of possible Y2K implications and crafting plan B’s during the recession were all in the mix of talks.
There’s no emphasis on grades. “Grades are not great motivators for mature people,” said Berry, noting that the program typically draws seasoned working professionals.
“The real gain is about developing yourself in ways you want to be developed.”
Here, some graduates share stories about a key moment in their careers when they say their executive MBA training helped them in their workplace. Comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Jeffrey Brown, 2003 graduate, president and CEO, dealer financial services for Ally Financial Corp.
In 2008, I was named corporate treasurer of Bank of America. That year, obviously the credit environment had everyone on pins and needles. You had a number of banks beginning to fail, and everyone was nervous about the state of the economy. When you’re a leader, people are watching how you react to a situation.
Be honest with your people. This is when you need to be a visible, engaging leader. Recognizing this is when leadership matters the most. That was incredible training that Queens afforded me.
Jane McIntyre, 1996 graduate, executive director of United Way of Central Carolinas
I had only an undergraduate degree. I had worked in business my entire life. I realized that if I was going to plan to have a career and be competitive, I needed a second degree.
I had to work hard at this. I had never had accounting. This was my weakest area.
After I had been through (the Queens program), one of my bosses asked me to deliver the budget, which I had developed for the whole department. He said, Why don’t you just deliver the budget to so-and-so? And so-and-so happened to come from one of the big accounting firms. I go over there thinking I'm dropping it off. He says just come on in and go over it with me. I knew the budget, it was not a problem, but I remember thinking ‘I'm glad I know what I'm doing.’
Luis Fernandez, 2014 graduate, senior vice president, operational risk, First Citizens Bank
One situation was when I had to present to the senior leadership of the bank. I knew from interviewing a lot of individuals early on that there were concerns, things that I knew had to be done. I had to convey that message and educate my audience in what the objective was, and present in layman’s terms. The Queens training gave me an opportunity to say, ‘For me to be able to accomplish this objective, these are the specific phases I need to implement.’ That (school) environment challenged me to think as an executive.
Former Superior Court Judge Shirley Fulton, 1998 graduate, owner of the Wadsworth Estate in Wesley Heights
I had always wanted to get my MBA. When I went to law school, I wanted to do the joint degree, but I was a single parent and couldn’t commit to another year of school. In 1993 and 1995, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The second time around I was really sick. I committed to myself to do all of the things I had put off and wanted to do in my lifetime.
I felt (the executive MBA degree) would assist me in my role as a senior resident judge for the Mecklenburg County courts, since I would be responsible for managing and directing and making decisions with what was going to happen and what was not going to happen. I did take on that role shortly after I finished my studies, but I did it with an eye toward being able to better manage what I call an unmanageable system.
Christopher Dennis, 2014 graduate, founder of the company E-Fix Housing Solutions and the nonprofit Community Dream Builders
At Bank of America, I was vice president over trading floor operations. When I got laid off, I had more time to focus on my MBA. Queens gave me the confidence to look on the inside. I’d gained so many skills from corporate America, but my passion was ‘How can I make an impact?’ I started my own company, and I’m a community developer. We buy houses going through foreclosure (to fix them up, and find owners or renters). We stabilize communities and build stakeholders.
What is the cost of me doing something? Or nothing? That’s how you make a decision. That was something that I took away from Queens.
Kim Henderson, 2012 graduate, vice president of corporate social responsibility for the Charlotte Hornets
At the time I was in the program, I was with Novant Health as senior director of corporate relations. Novant is the official health care provider for the Hornets. (Hornets president and chief operating officer) Fred Whitfield would say he saw me finish my MBA; he saw I was hungry for a new challenge. This was a great opportunity for me to really spread my wings and use some of what I learned while going through the program.
I oversee all our corporate partnerships and philanthropic giving. The program shaped my daily interactions at work. And Queens is very committed to developing leaders willing to give back to the community. Embracing community is important to Hugh McColl, the school’s namesake. That knowledge base helps me when I go out in the community.
Jesse Cureton, 2002 graduate, executive vice president and chief consumer officer for Novant Health
Bill Berry taught a (business management) operational model course. I was amazed at what becomes real clear to you when you create a map for something you are trying to accomplish. I (applied) that basic model and principle. What I found is it allows you to take on professional changes in your life. My willingness to take risks and my willingness to try things became stronger. I became much more aggressive to take on much stronger roles.