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How UNC Picks "the Best"

Sherrylyn Wallace is director of MBA admissions at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -- No. 18 in BusinessWeek's Top 30 B-school rankings. Wallace started in the job in late 1998. She has also worked as an account executive for Kraft General Foods, a product manager for Bubble Yum, and a marketing director in Skybox International's basketball operations. Here's an edited transcript of her conversation with BusinessWeek Online reporter Mica Schneider:

Q: Sherry, Kenan-Flagler dipped to No. 18 in BusinessWeek's 2002 MBA rankings. Has that affected the school's ability to attract students?

A: Not in a negative way. We've gotten positive statements from the market -- from recruiters and alumni on return-on-investment, on specific programs, and on the school overall. Those statements have been a net positive. This year, we're benefiting from a lot of enthusiasm for our new dean.

Q: Word on the street is that application volume is lower in 2003 than it has been in years. What trends are you noticing at Kenan-Flagler?

A: Unfortunately it's hard to say, since I changed the admissions deadlines from last year. This year we have four deadlines, up from three in 2002. If the deadlines were exactly as they were in 2002, then applications are flat. My sense is that we're certainly down, vs. two or three years ago. But the first deadline is such a small percentage of what we'll get overall that it's not a big enough sample to forecast. I can't say we'll see applications down 20% or 30%. After the second deadline in early December, I'll have a much better idea.

I'm optimistic that we'll enroll a strong class. I've been on the road with my staff since August, and we've done a lot of interviews, fairs, and forums to get in front of people early. The applicants I've interacted with have been very strong and knowledgeable about what it takes to be successful. The economic situation is not news to them, so they're coming to the table a lot more prepared and realistic.

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