2018 Best EMBAs: Matthew Conard, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Matthew Conard

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

I am a U.S. Army Special Operations veteran, husband, and father to three little girls.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Roswell, Georgia

Family Members: Jessica (wife, consultant) and daughters Emilie (6), Heidi (4) and Cora (1)

Fun fact about yourself: I speak Mandarin Chinese and Italian. I lived in Italy for nearly four years, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The American University, Washington, D.C., B.A., Justice

Where are you currently working? I recently joined SAS Institute in Cary, North Carolinaas an Implementation Project Manager, delivering analytics solutions to state and local governments. I recently separated from the U.S. Army, where I served as a civil affairs officer. A highlight of my military career was managing medical training and civil-military programs at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I spend the majority of my free time with my family – parks, playgrounds, hiking, baking. I play on a recreational soccer league at SAS Institute, and I have coached youth soccer.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am extremely proud of my winning core team in the Evening MBA program. Core teams are an integral part of the UNC cohort experience, and we have been together since the first year of the program – we’re driven and effective. We have won nearly every intra-program simulation or competition we’ve participated in.

 What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2012, I led a large cross-functional team in closing a combat outpost in Afghanistan that had recently been victim to a massive vehicle-borne explosive attack. With a short deadline, and while supervising over 120 soldiers as second-in-command, I managed inventory and demolition projects before I transferred responsibility of the outpost to the local Afghan police forces. This project was the most stressful experience of my professional career, yet it was a huge accomplishment.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Hugh O’Neill was my Strategy professor and facilitated my introduction to several critical business concepts and strategies. He captivates his audience and his enthusiasm is contagious.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? General Management and Strategy—Great companies excel in their abilities to craft the right messages, navigate the organization through their environments, and mitigate risk.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose UNC Kenan-Flagler’s EMBA for its proximity to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, great reputation, and its strong alumni network – which I plan to leverage as I transitioned from military to civilian employment.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Forming personal and professional relationships with my EMBA classmates and learning about the various industries they work in.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Executive communication – I applied these communication strategies to reports that reached upper echelons of the U.S. Army Special Operations command.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? In the months preceding my military discharge, my already-frenzied juggle of work, family, and education was intensified by the additional demands of a job search. Thankfully, with good time management, perseverance, and the support of my family, I made it through.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The EMBA program is demanding, so as best you can, don’t overextend yourself in other areas.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth: That an EMBA program and active duty military are incompatible. On the contrary, my leadership was incredibly supportive and interested in the applicability of my coursework to the military.

What was your biggest regret in business school? That I did not have the time to delve deeper into certain topics of interest due to the demands of work and family.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Bryan Perry, a member of my core team and a marketing executive at a large chemical company. I admire his natural leadership and ability to facilitate genuine, effective collaboration within our team.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…my wife rolled her eyes at me when I told her I was going to “open a business” after leaving the military.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…struggling in ‘the business’ I tried to start without adequate preparation.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I’d like to be a senior executive of an organization and an entrepreneur.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a reliable partner and good team player.

Favorite book: The Mission, the Men, and Me by Pete Blaber

Favorite movie or television show: Indiana Jones Trilogy

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Work abroad and start my own venture.

What made Matt such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Matt Conard brings a rarely-seen level of passion and professionalism to the learning environment. He has a depth of experience that blends military comportment with diplomatic sensitivities, and the result is a discipline in attention and effective participation in classroom activities. He provides relevant information and discourse in a way that all hear effectively. He leads conversation without dominating the interaction and listens with the same level of interest and respect to those who agree and those who may not agree. He is equally comfortable with both the analytical and behavioral challenges of management and strategy. When Matt speaks, we all benefit from hearing what he says and studying how he says it. Best put, with Matt in class, we all learn.”

Hugh O’Neill
Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Edwin O’Herron Distinguished Scholar
UNC Kenan-Flagler

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBA GRADS OF 2018