2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Christina Shenvi, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Christina Shenvi

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

Age: 41

Passionate physician and educator who leads through service and has a lifelong love of learning.”

Hometown: Born in Kijabe, Kenya; grew up in Kenya, Sudan, Cyprus. No hometown per se.

Family Members: Spouse, Neil, and four kids: Evan 6, Eleanor 8, Alia 10, Adrian 12. 

Fun fact about yourself:  I enjoy doing many things that I am very bad at doing: painting, crafting, baking, running and making small talk at large social functions.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

AB, Princeton University, chemistry, graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi

PhD, University of California-Berkeley, chemical biology

MD, Yale Medical School

Where are you currently working? UNC School of Medicine, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Chapel Hill North Carolina

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Current Leadership Roles

  • President, UNC Association for Professional Women in the Medical Sciences
  • Director, Office of Academic Excellence, UNC School of Medicine
  • Leadership Council Member, UNC Academy of Educators
  • Associate Residency Program Director, UNC Emergency Medicine
  • Director of EM portion of Community-Based Longitudinal Curriculum, UNC School of Medicine

Previous Leadership Roles

  • Advisory College Medical Student Advisor, UNC School of Medicine, 2019-2020
  • Medical Director of Geriatric ED operations, UNC Hillsborough Hospital ED, UNC, Department of Emergency Medicine, 2018-2019
  • Foundation Phase Academic Coach, UNC School of Medicine , 2018-2019
  • Assistant Residency Program Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, UNC School of Medicine, 2014-2018
  • Academic Chief Resident, Emergency Medicine residency, UNC School of Medicine

Honors (National Or Institution-Wide Awards)

  • UNC Academy of Educators Faculty Teaching Award for Graduate Medical Education, awarded annually to one faculty member in the UNC School of Medicine for significant contributions to graduate medical education, 2020
  • Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, UNC chapter; nominated by medical students and was one of 10 faculty members accepted from the UNC School of Medicine, 2020
  • UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Executive MBA program merit-based scholarship, 2019
  • National Emergency Medicine Junior Faculty Teaching Award from the American College of Emergency Physicians, awarded annually to five individuals nationally, 2019
  • Council of Residency Directors Faculty Teaching Award for outstanding contributions and commitment to the education of emergency medicine residents; annual award to two individuals, 2017
  • Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, 2016
  • John A. Hartford Foundation Center of Excellence Scholar, 2015
  • Junior Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, awarded annually to one UNC School of Medicine faculty, University of North Carolina Academy of Educators, 2015
  • Parker Prize, awarded to graduating Yale medical students with the best qualifications to be successful physicians, Yale School of Medicine, 2010
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship, pre-doctoral research fellowship in the biological sciences awarded for three years of funding, 2002-2005
  • Everett S. Wallis prize, awarded to one senior for the best score on an organic chemistry and biochemistry exam administered, Department of Chemistry, Princeton University, 2001
  • William Foster Memorial Prize in Chemistry, awarded to the top student in the junior class, Department of Chemistry, Princeton University, 2000
  • President’s Award for Underclassmen Academic Achievement, awarded to the top students (approx. top 5%) in the second-year class, Princeton University, 1999
  • President’s Award for Underclassmen Academic Achievement, awarded to the top students (approx. top 5%) in the first-year class, Princeton University, 1998

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Beyond my “day” job as an emergency physician and educator in the UNC School of Medicine, I launched a business teaching and coaching on time management during the MBA program. I created it because I had been speaking to various audiences about time management from the perspective that to manage your time well you first have to manage your mind. The content always resonated deeply with many in the audience. I was invited to create a four-week course for the faculty affairs office at McMasters University in Canada. After creating, prototyping and iteratively improving the course, I have since taught it at several other institutions and launched it on my own.

I love running this workshop because I see meaningful change happen in people’s lives. When asked about what causes professionals stress and anxiety, time management comes up over and over. However, the reasons behind our time management problems often go much deeper than the need for a new calendar app or daily planner. For example, the reasons we procrastinate often have to do with our sense of imposterism, our fear of failure, or our avoidance of negative emotions associated with certain tasks. Sometimes, we have too much on our plate and cannot seem to get on top of things that relate to our sense of insecurity or deeply held need to prove our self-worth. My course delves deeply into the underlying emotional and personal reasons that we feel so much stress around our time management and provides practical solutions to help live differently and reduce our stress.

This is the venture I am most proud of, primarily because of the impact it has had, and the ways I have seen it relieve suffering, stress and anxiety. Beyond that, I had to overcome my own fear of failure to launch it. I had already done extensive reading on the topics of time management, procrastination, willpower, habits, and creating meaning. However, I also turned to the educational and psychology literature to read the primary research. I leveraged the lessons learned from years coaching students and residents to help others. I also used lessons from our MBA strategy class and went through the process of “market research” by getting to know some of the problems people face by providing free coaching. I prototyped the course twice before I re-created and imagined it in a new way, creating iterative improvements. I am now working on models for scaling it.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of helping foster the development of an amazing team in the UNC Office of Academic Excellence. I am privileged to serve as its first director. The office is comprised of a group of physicians, educators, and staff who provide holistic academic support for the 800 UNC medical students throughout their time at UNC and across many different locations around the state of North Carolina. Our team has grown significantly during the last two years and, as a result, had to change how we operate. We also had adapt to online dynamics with COVID. I am most proud of how we, as a group, have continued to advocate for students, provide student-centered support, create new policies, and develop innovative ideas for improving instruction in the UNC School of Medicine. We have become an incredibly supportive and tight-knit group who continuously inspire and encourage each other to do better, learn more, and problem-solve creatively. Our goal is to coach learners on how to learn and teachers on how to teach, and create a supportive environment where students of all backgrounds flourish.


Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I chose UNC Kenan-Flagler specifically for the culture and learning environment. In our strategy class, we learned that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” from Professor Hugh O’Neill. Many programs could have provided an outstanding education, but I was looking for one that would also provide a culture of collaboration, excitement, curiosity, a growth mindset, and go beyond “networking” to “belonging.” From my education background, I know that we learn best when we have a sense of belonging, psychological safety and high expectations of each other. When I sat in on a class in the Weekend Executive MBA program, it was clear that the culture was outstanding. Students felt safe enough to disagree with each other in meaningful ways without being slighted. When the professor asked a question, instead of the usual crickets heard in classrooms, there were dozens of hands up. Students were engaged, interactive and had well-thought-out ideas and responses at the ready.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lessons I have learned are: Don’t be afraid, analyze and have a plan. The idea of launching a business, switching jobs or trying my hand at entrepreneurship has always been intimidating. Through the entrepreneurship classes, I learned that there is no fundamental differences between people who are successful entrepreneurs and any individuals in my class. One of the biggest barriers I had to overcome in thinking about future options is the fear of failure. Many classes helped demystify the process of taking an idea through the stages of brainstorming or design thinking, to creating a model, to bringing it to market. First, you have to not be afraid; then you use the analytical tools to see if there is a need for the idea or product; and then create a plan for how you can create or market it. Another important lesson for me came from Professor Mabel Miguel’s class: Leaders and managers are not fundamentally different people, but the two roles require different skillsets. I have had many opportunities to develop the skills of a good manager, but had trouble envisioning myself as a leader who sets the vision and motivates the team. Instead, I perceived myself as the person who could get the planning and execution done. Professor Mabel’s class emboldened me to think differently and explore how to use the two skillsets in different settings when each was called for.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I think of juggling things into my time like a dynamic, 3D, Tetris game. I approach fitting it all in through the lenses of strategy, priority, and efficiency. With four kids, a busy professional life, and the MBA program, I had to examine my time even more carefully. I consider the lens of strategy in terms of what things I truly need to do, versus what I can outsource, and making sure my schedule reflects my values and moves me towards my goals. For priority, I think about how much time and energy I should allocate to the different things I’m doing. Some tasks require careful, A+ work, while other things, such as shallow work, emails, or administrative tasks, should be done as quickly as possible and do not require Pulitzer-prize-winning writing. For efficiency, I think about how each task I’m doing could be done more efficiently. Often, to work more efficiently means fully focusing on what you are doing and applying a deep focus (Cal Newport, Deep Work, 2016) to it. If you can do a 30-minute task in 25 minutes, then over the course of a 12-hour day, you’ve created two extra hours of time in your day! Practically, fitting everything in means many full days, spending time with my family after work, and then often jumping back on the computer once the kids are in bed for team meetings, MBA teamwork, or writing papers.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Do it! Be prepared for a lot of work. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn something, whether from a professor, a classmate, a project, or a textbook. As importantly, take every opportunity to create connections with your classmates. For me, it was very important to attend an in-person program where we would have the opportunity to create connections with classmates from other fields. As a physician, most of my colleagues are other physicians. Attending business school allowed much more intellectual cross-pollination and more diverse learning opportunities from people with very different backgrounds and skills.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? A general myth I heard was that business school was easy. In reality, it has been a lot of work. As a busy professional and mom, I have been very intentional about creating enough time to do the work. I  worked extremely hard to get everything done in all three spheres of my life. My classmates and I have all had to sacrifice our “free time” and other things we enjoy to create the time for the MBA work. However, it has been well worth it.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was the move to virtual learning during the pandemic. My cohort of Weekend Executive MBA students specifically chose the format for the in-person interaction, teamwork, and connections. The move to online learning incurred a major sense of loss. Since December, especially with the widespread vaccination rates, a cohort of our class decided to meet in person for classes, and make up for lost time in forming connections.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I most admire is Susie Tomko, who works as a market development leader at DuPont. Beyond being smart, motivated and hardworking, she has an uncanny and uncommon combination of strength, compassion, authenticity, boldness, humility, competence, and an intense desire to improve. She is skilled at bringing groups together and creating cohesion, but does not just go-with-the-flow when she sees that we are moving in the wrong direction. She is not afraid to challenge someone when she sees it is needed, but does so with wisdom, care, and insight. She is also quick to support, recognize and build others up. I would gladly work with Susie on any team, no matter the topic or objectives.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The ability to interact with and learn from other executive students in person was the major draw of the Weekend Executive MBA program. The content can be delivered online, but there is no substitute for in-person interaction, team-building, and collaboration. My goal was not just to learn how to create analytical and financial models or how to create a business pitch. My goal was also to learn from my cohort and create lifelong connections with them.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My general goals are to solve progressively bigger problems using new tools and approaches with the ultimate goal of relieving suffering. The context in which that happens is less important to me. I enjoy solving problems to relieve suffering for patients, students, colleagues, and clients. My hope is that I can continue to find roles that leverage my skills and allow me to work with creativity and with an amazing, multi-disciplinary team. Beyond that, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, and part of me hopes to always keep it that way, with a sense that the future is wide open, bright, and unknown.

What made Christina such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“Christina is an amazing scholar, colleague, and professional. With her many degrees (including a PhD from UC-Berkeley and an MD from Yale), Christina brings a rich academic background to the classroom. Her professional experience as an emergency room doctor, professor, and director of UNC’s Office of Academic Excellence enable her to draw on a wide variety of theoretical and practical ideas that enhance the course discussion. Her constant quest to expand and apply her knowledge has led her to create her own workshops on time management as well as create blogs and podcasts on the topic. And of course, that desire to learn has led her to add an MBA to her list of degrees.

Given her expertise, I have brought her to my MBA leadership class as a guest speaker. There she discussed the need for leaders to be able to manage themselves before they can effectively manage others. The student feedback and takeaways from her session were excellent. I will also be creating a video with her on this same topic I can use for another course.

Christina is truly a unique and wonderful resource for all those she interacts with. Personally, I have learned much from her as have so many others.”

Mark McNeilly
Professor of the Practice of Marketing


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