Kenan Scholars Program

The Kenan Scholars program shapes future business leaders who will change the world for the better.

Each year, the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise selects a small group of incoming undergraduate and MBA students as Kenan Scholars.

This elite group of students are recognized for their superior scholarship and genuine interest in putting academics into action and, as Kenan Scholars, have an unique opportunity to supplement their classroom learning with hands-on leadership and research experiences. This world-class, transformative educational Program inspires students to engage in thought leadership while gaining practical experience and skills that will advance their research competences and leadership skills. The Program aims to enhance our Kenan Scholars’ Carolina experience and better prepare them to succeed in a diverse and interconnected global economy. The Program has two tracks: MBA Kenan Scholars and Undergrad Kenan Scholars.

Undergraduate Kenan Scholars Program


To shape future business leaders who will change the world for the better.


Providing a world-class, transformative scholarship experience to exceptional undergraduate students committed to learning and working in the areas of entrepreneurship, economic development and global commerce. The Kenan Scholars Program aims to expose the selected scholars to the cooperative nexus of academia, business, and policymaking; foster independent, creative critical thinking; and actively engage our scholars in real-world endeavors to create economic progress and to affect positive change within the state, across the country and around the world.

Kenan Scholars Program Overview

Each year, the Kenan Institute selects 10 to 20 sophomore students as Kenan Scholars. These students are recognized for their superior scholarship and genuine interest in learning how to put knowledge into action. The program is designed to connect the Kenan Scholars with academic thought leaders, industry and business executives, serial start-up entrepreneurs, economic development practitioners, civic leaders and policymakers. Scholars will also be introduced to the critical role that business plays in identifying and providing sustainable solutions to contemporary, complex issues. Our Kenan Scholars will be encouraged to develop the interdisciplinary competencies vital to their becoming successful business leaders, and will have access to coaching and mentorship from staff and faculty advisors as well as external business and policy leaders and near-peers.

Each semester of the 30-month program, Kenan Scholars dive into six sessions of programmatic activities, ranging from the Lunch & Learn speaker series, field trip excursions, and mentor panel sessions.

Scholars also have access to a number of other Kenan Institute events including research conferences, roundtable discussions and alumni events.


Kenan Scholars Research Seminar

To deepen and broaden the Kenan Scholars’ research experience, a faculty-led research project is an essential component of the Kenan Scholars Program. During senior year, Kenan Scholars are either enrolled in a Kenan Scholars Research Seminar or the Kenan-Flagler Honors Thesis course. Guided by faculty advisors, the scholars will gain a rich understanding of what can be learned from business research and how it can make a difference in the real world.

Summer Internships

The Kenan Institute requires all Kenan Scholars pursue valuable summer experiences. The Institute will provide financial support, a professional network, and placement assistance for opportunities that are well-aligned with the mission of the Kenan Scholars Program. Typically, scholars will participate in two specific types of internships:

  • Public sector or NGO (sophomore year summer)
  • Private sector (junior year summer)

Kenan Scholars also have the option of pursuing their own business ventures in place of one of these internships as an opportunity to further their entrepreneurial skills and pursuits.

Enrichment Fund

The Kenan Scholar Enrichment Fund was created to allow our Kenan Scholars to pursue meaningful opportunities outside of their academic curriculum. Each scholar can apply for grants totaling $2,000 during their tenure as an undergraduate Kenan Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Enrichment Fund is meant to provide for experiences such as workshops, conferences, interviewing, research, and pursuing innovative ideas.

Interested Kenan Scholars must submit an application to the Kenan Scholars Program Director in advance of the proposed expenditure. Each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, considering the Kenan Scholar applicant’s background, experience, and career trajectory. Scholars can apply to the fund anytime throughout the year, and can submit individual or group applications. A condition of the support is to provide a short presentation and written summary of the experience suitable for sharing publicly.

Mentors and Advisors

The Kenan Scholars Mentors are a select group of business leaders, near-peers, policymakers and faculty who have volunteered their time and expertise to provide professional guidance to the Kenan Scholars. During the Scholars’ junior year, a total of four moderated panel sessions with their respective board of mentors will be held. Each panel session will be followed by small group discussions with the mentors. These sessions allow one-on-one and group networking. In addition, the Kenan Scholars are encouraged to reach out to mentors for individual meetings.

Kenan Scholars Mentors are asked to commit to serving for one year with the opportunity to continue to engage with the same cohort of Kenan Scholars into their senior year. Mentors will also be available to scholars for individualized professional guidance.

Kenan Scholars also receive dedicated coaching and advising from the Kenan Scholars Program advisors. Scholars meet quarterly with their advisors and discuss topics from personal, professional and leadership development to effective research techniques. Kenan Scholar’s advisors help them set goals and then provide structure and accountability. This guided contact allows the Scholars to grow and experiment in a low-risk environment.

Alumni Engagement & Networking Events

In addition to access to many exclusive, invitation-only events at the Kenan Institute, the Kenan Scholars also have access to the growing list of Kenan Scholars Program alumni. Alumni from the Kenan Institute Leadership Fellows and Kenan Scholars Program already number more than 100 around the globe.


All UNC first-year students who are interested in becoming a Kenan Scholar should also apply for selection in the UNC Kenan-Flagler Undergrad Business Program. Learn more

MBA Kenan Scholars

The Kenan Institute’s MBA Kenan Scholars Program is the only organized research program for Kenan-Flagler students outside the Undergrad Business Program’s honors thesis and Ph.D. Program. The MBA students who have been selected as Kenan Scholars enroll in a Kenan Scholars Research Seminar course during their first year MBA (Mod III and Mod IV, as well as the following year’s Mod I and Mod II). They are eligible to receive 3 hours of course credits to work on various research projects. The MBA Scholars gain hands-on research experience through a year-long apprenticeship. Working directly with world-renowned faculty at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, Kenan Scholars are privileged to learn directly from these thought leaders. They are paired with Kenan Institute and Kenan-Flagler Business School researchers on specific projects and are able to work on critical issues that occur in real-world business situations, impacting economic growth and business success. Guided by their respective faculty researcher and the Program’s Research Director, along with mentorship from the Kenan Scholars Program Director, the Scholars enhance their subject knowledge, research competencies, and analytic capabilities.

In addition, the MBA Kenan Scholars Program enables our Kenan Scholars to immerse themselves in a collaborative environment where their technical expertise, individual leadership, and professional talents are challenged and further developed through action learning and active engagement in numerous activities at the Kenan Institute.

Program Activities

The Kenan Scholars strengthen and practice their critical success skills through active participation in:

  • Bi-weekly Kenan Scholars group strategy sessions
  • Networking opportunities at Kenan Institute’s invitation-only events
  • Monthly guest speaker Lunch & Learn series
  • Weekly check-in, mentoring sessions with the Program Director
  • Public Policy and Private Enterprise Excursions
  • Semester-end Retreats
  • Professional/Leadership development opportunities


The Kenan Scholars also benefit from:

  • Individualized, professional leadership development coaching and advising
  • Sharpening performance presence on multiple stages
  • Kenan Institute’s Onboarding Program workshops featuring UNC and Kenan-Flagler professors/subject experts. Topics include: team problem solving, creative design/thinking, marketing, and communications.

Meet our scholars
See past scholars
See available projects

Interested in becoming a Kenan Scholar?

Contact Kim Allen, Ph.D.
Kenan Scholars Program Director
Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise  • 919.843.3317

Through the program, I received an interdisciplinary understanding of entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as an amazing network of future leaders.

Violette Zhu

These opportunities were the practicum to what I was learning at the business school.

Sriram Shankar

I was given the unparalleled opportunity to work with professors and MBA students, and hone my skills.

Lucille Zhong

The Kenan Institute has played an important role in my time here...and has helped to shape my entire MBA experience.

Susan Sullivan