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Folks Fellowship, Endowed by MIBS Class of 1977, is Awarded to First Recipient

January 08, 2013

When Shigeru Sekine and Kevin and Nancy Corrigan entered the MIBS program at the Darla Moore School of Business in 1975, the program was just a year old and represented a new way of thinking about graduate business education. Thirty-five-plus years later, international business is well established as an important sector of business education, and the Moore School’s MIBS program, now known as IMBA, is recognized worldwide as a leader in the field.  

Randy Folks
As the Corrigans, Sekine and other members of the MIBS Class of 1977 see it, the Moore School’s international business program owes much of its success to Professor Randy Folks, who was not only one of the original architects of the MIBS degree but also, beginning in 1976, the program’s director. That’s why, at their 30th reunion in 2007, 18 members of the Class of ‘77 came together and pledged $250,000 to create the William R. Folks Jr.  MIBS Class of 1977 Fellowship, which honors their classmates and Dr. Folks’ legacy and provides financial support to outstanding IMBA students.

This year the Folks - MIBS ’77 Fellowship was awarded to its first recipient, second-year IMBA student Caroline Osborne, an Augusta, Georgia native with prior experience working for Coca-Cola and the European PGA who is on the Portuguese track.

Caroline OsborneFor Osborne, the substantial fellowship caps off an IMBA experience that has already been rich with opportunities. For example, “I was able to attend a national Net Impact conference in Baltimore,” she said, “where I met business leaders and fellow students who share my interest in sustainability.” She has also interned through the program with Scripps Networks Interactive, helping on expansion projects in Brazil and elsewhere. Osborne describes working with the office of alumni relations and getting to know graduates for the IMBA program as one of the highlights of her Moore School experience.

It’s largely thanks to Dr. Folks’ vision and expectations that the program offers students these kinds of unique and transformative experiences, said Kevin Corrigan. “He was very much the academic leader of the program,” Corrigan recalled.  “He set the academic bar high, so the program was difficult and a lot of work right from the start, which made it a great education.”  

The program’s rigor, along with distinctive features like in-depth language immersion, led to its rapid rise through the ranks of international business programs. Preserving that legacy of excellence is, said Corrigan, another key reason for the gift he and his classmates made. “Today’s MBA students have a lot more options to choose from,” he noted. “So anything we can do to make the Moore School IMBA a more attractive option can make a difference.”

Above all, though, Corrigan says, the class’s gift was a way of saying thank you, to both the Moore School and Professor Folks.  “We ourselves benefited from fellowship support and got a great education, and that makes you want to give back,” he said.

It’s not unusual for successful alumni to create fellowships at their alma maters. What is unusual is the fact that 18 members of the same class, representing one-third of the class of 1977, came together to make this particular gift. That, says Kevin Corrigan, is a testament to the esteem in which Professor Folks is held.

Folks himself sees it differently. “The class of ’77 was special,” he said. “The program was new and no one knew what to expect. It was a group of people with very diverse interests and objectives, and every moment I spent with them was a challenge but also a privilege and just incredibly rewarding. It was, to a large extent, because that class was so challenging that we became a strong program so quickly. They showed us where our weaknesses were, and also where our strengths were.”

Many members of the MIBS class of ’77 have remained connected with each other over the years, getting together at reunions and playing host to one another at locations around the world. That ongoing connection makes it less surprising to Folks that this particular class would have made such a significant joint gift. Still, he said, “I take it as a high honor that they put my name on it.”

For Osborne, being awarded the Folks Fellowship is a reminder of the Moore School's esteemed reputation in international business. She recently accepted a position at Coca-Cola Refreshments for the company's rotational Business Leadership Program starting in the summer of 2013. "Coca-Cola only recruits from schools like Moore with highly ranked international MBA programs,” she said. “So I am very thankful for the reputation of our degree, which Dr. Folks was integral in establishing."

Chosen for the award not just for her strong academic record but also for her high level of involvement with organizations like the IMBA Student Association and the Moore Association of Graduate Women, Osborne came to Carolina for her IMBA degree in large part because of the worldwide networking opportunities a Moore School international business degree affords. In that respect too, she is approaching her Moore School experience very much in the spirit of the MIBS class of ’77 and partaking in a legacy they helped to establish.

Creating the kinds of opportunities this fellowship has given Osborne is, said Folks, one of the most valuable gifts alumni can give to the Moore School. “The IMBA experience can be life-changing,” he noted.  “Anything that can be done to support those who would benefit from this degree is a very noble goal.”

By Leslie Haynsworth

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