Kenan Scholar Research

Research is a signature component of the Kenan Scholars program. It drives innovation and is critical to conducting business in today’s data-driven economy. Employers are looking for leaders who can problem-solve, think critically, interpret data and communicate findings clearly and plainly to a variety of audiences. During the senior year, Kenan Scholars work closely with Kenan-Flagler faculty to explore cutting-edge issues in business.

Scholars can choose to work on an independent research project under the supervision of a Kenan Institute affiliated center, or for those who are eligible, graduate with honors by successfully completing the senior honors thesis.

Kenan Scholars acquire knowledge and skills in three competency areas: 1) research methodology; 2) information and data literacy; and 3) communication of research findings. With a goal to move basic research discoveries quickly and efficiently into practice, scholars are supported in producing translational research products.


A Business Evaluation of Hotspotting in Healthcare: Cost-Benefit Analysis of Home-Based Care for Complex, High Resource-Use Patients

April 16, 2021

The rising cost of healthcare in the United States imposes significant pressure on public hospitals to meet the needs of high-needs, high-cost patients while maintaining financial viability. Hotspotting is an intervention whereby interdisciplinary healthcare teams visit and manage complex patients in their home environment with the goal of reducing patient visits to the hospital and associated costs. At UNC Health, volunteer healthcare providers visit complex patients on a monthly basis in their homes. This study evaluates the cost-effectiveness of UNC Health’s hotspotting program in 2019 based on its ability to reduce costs and improve outcomes for patients.

Authors: Greeshma Somashekar and Sam Wurzelmann, MBA Kenan Scholars and MDs & MBAs Class of 2021
Research Project Advisors: Brad Staats, PhD., Associate Dean of MBA Programs and Faculty Director, Center for the Business of Health, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and Amy Weil, MD, FACP, Professor of Medicine and Social Medicine; Medical Co-Director, The Beacon Program UNC School of Medicine

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Analysis of the Companion Diagnostic Market and the Challenges Impacting the Growth of the Sector

April 16, 2021

Personalized medicine has the potential to transform clinical practice by increasing therapeutic efficacy and value through tailored medical treatment for an individual’s biology or specific disease pathology. Over the last decade, diagnostic, pharmaceutical and biotech companies have been adopting strategies to capture the promise of personalized medicine, which has resulted in significant market growth in companion diagnostics. Such medical devices help identify patients who will benefit clinically from a drug or biological product, specifically providing the opportunity to improve clinical outcomes, support decision making for the providers, develop cost-effective reimbursement models for payers and enhance the launch of a new pharmaceutical treatments. This research project analyzes the current market trends to determine key areas of growth in this sector and investigate the challenges that must be addressed to expand capabilities to new therapeutic areas.

Author: Dale Ziobro, MBA Kenan Scholar and MBA Class of 2021
Research Project Advisor: Brad Staats, Ph.D., Associate Dean of MBA Programs and Faculty Director, Center for the Business of Health, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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Does Hospital Quality Suffer If Located in A County with A High Drug Overdose Mortality Rate?

April 16, 2021

In 2017, nearly 1.7 million Americans suffered from substance abuse disorders related to these drugs.  The opioid crisis has wide ranging effects on healthcare infrastructure and experts estimate nearly $2 billion in annual hospital costs are attributable to patients who experienced an overdose. This study seeks to understand if the shock to hospitals from treating a higher share of opioid patients affects overall hospital quality metrics. I compared hospitals located in counties with the highest drug-induced mortality rates with counties that are demographically similar in most other ways. I analyzed 97 counties – 40 “hard-hit” counties and 57 in the control group – and further broke these into categories based on population designation – 1) metro pop. 1,000,000+ 2) metro pop. 250,000 – 1,000,000, 3) metro pop. <250,000. I did not consider non-metro designated places because of inadequate access to hospitals and healthcare facilities in rural areas.

Author: Jack Byrnes, MBA Class of 2021
Research Project Advisor: Paige Ouimet, Ph.D., Professor of Finance, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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Inclusive Entrepreneurship Centers’ Best Practices for Minority Entrepreneurs

April 16, 2021

Entrepreneurs from underrepresented minority backgrounds face significant barriers in starting and scaling their businesses. Our data were sourced from U.S government agencies such as The Federal Reserve, Small Business Administration, Department of Commerce, etc. to demonstrate the struggles of minority entrepreneurs. This research project details ways and opportunities that the UNC Entrepreneurship Center (Eship Center) can support for these minority students and minority owned businesses to overcome many of these obstacles. Our research findings bring to light best practices from other top universities across the United States. By studying and applying these best practices the Eship Center can look to adapt its policies and programming to offer innovative support for minority entrepreneurs, understand the unique challenges these students and businesses face, advance entrepreneurship among the UNC student body and the surrounding community. Understanding this research will further enhance inclusivity in entrepreneurship for the university, the Eship Center and work to build healthy minority business ecosystems that can contribute to an equitable and robust economy.

Authors: Devon Johnson, Brian Mwanjila, Ikechukwu George, MBA Kenan Scholars and MBA Class of 2021
Research Project Advisors: Vickie Gibbs, Executive Director and Keysha Jones, Assistant Director, Community Engagement, UNC Entrepreneurship Center, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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Private Equity in Modern Age

April 16, 2021

Private Equity refers to an alternative investment where investors buy private companies. There were not many papers on private equity before the 1980s. However, with numerous publications on this subject in the modern age complicates the issue of research. The goal of our study was to establish a database to classify this information. Our database was written in PHP, MySQL and uses the WordPress framework. We downloaded papers from different sources and databases. Using a PDF extractor, we used an algorithm to parse through the text and convert the text into readable format. Once all the papers were converted into readable text, we managed to create a search engine to locate keywords. Our database also includes videos. We used an algorithm to convert video into audio and then use Natural Language Processing to extract text from audio. This enabled us to search videos for keywords as well. This database can help researchers and private equity investors to search for available articles using a specific keyword and therefore, this is an excellent tool for searching necessary information to decide on a private equity strategy.

Author: Andrey Makhanov, MBA Kenan Scholar and MBA Class of 2021
Research Project Advisors: Sarah Franks, Director, Institute for Private Capital, and Gregory Brown, Ph.D., Research Director, Institute for Private Capital; Professor of Finance, Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Scholar, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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A Look at Infrastructure Investing

January 01, 2020

McKinsey & Company predicts that there will be an annual infrastructure spend of more than $3 trillion over the next few decades. Over the last decade, private investment firms have looked to seize on this opportunity and use private capital to bridge this gap. This has led to a rapid increase in fundraising for the asset class, and all of the major global private equity firms now have dedicated infrastructure platforms. As dollars flow into this asset class, it is worth asking what makes an investment an infrastructure investment. Infrastructure has grown from mostly public-private partnerships to develop ports, bridges, pipelines etc. to include data centers, as well as social infrastructure, which can include investments in hospitals and schools. With such a broad set of potential investments, the asset class presents a unique set of challenges. In this paper we will explore the history of the asset class and analyze a set of infrastructure funds to develop a taxonomy of the class and risk return data of these funds. In addition, we will provide initial analysis of the major concerns of industry practitioners that arose during our research.

Author: William Pitt, MBA Class of 2020
Faculty Advisor: Greg Brown, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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Capital Provider Database and the North Carolina Private Capital Landscape: A Deep Dive into Ten Years of Venture Capital Funding in North Carolina

January 01, 2020

While startups, by nature, thrive on collaboration and information sharing, insight into their source of capital is quite the opposite. Much has been written about how opaque the venture capital (VC) industry is, and multibillion dollar businesses have been built trying to provide a glimpse into venture capital trends and activity. Further, while these third-party data sources such as PitchBook® and Crunchbase® are helpful, they are neither comprehensive nor entirely accurate. The purpose of this research was to provide transparency for founders and funders alike to understand where capital is flowing within the North Carolina (NC) entrepreneurial ecosystem, in terms of location and stage, and where it is coming from.

Authors: Joe Darcy & Garrett Majdic, MBA Class of 2020
Faculty Advisors: Maryann Feldman and Alyse Polly, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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Direct Investing and the Evolving Landscape of Family Business and Private Equity

January 01, 2020

A shift has occurred in the family business landscape over the past decade: family offices are employing alternatives to conventional private equity funds with increasing frequency. More specifically, it has become commonplace for family offices to acquire entire companies and operate them over the long run in lieu of private equity funds. This strategy is known as direct investing. There is little existing data to explain this shift in investment allocation. This study seeks to clarify the investment motivations, timelines and rationale that accompany this investment method and expose the black box of private equity and family enterprise.

Author: Mary Grace Hinkle, MBA Class of 2020
Faculty Advisor: Greg Brown, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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Hedge Fund Data: Creating a Public Key to Unlock a New Frontier of Research

January 01, 2020

Hedge funds are a diverse group of investment strategies within private capital structures. Their high degree of dispersion and secrecy makes analyzing aggregate hedge fund performance and trends difficult. While there are many sources of data on hedge funds, including commercial databases and government regulatory findings, it is currently challenging to find fund information and link data across multiple sources. The Kenan Institute has mapped out the hedge fund universe using Form ADV from SEC filings and created a fund key to join together two primary sources of hedge fund data: Form ADV and the Hedge Fund Research Database, a leading private provider. From this combined dataset, we made a series of observations on macro trends in the industry and reporting bias in commercial databases. As a result of this project, the academic community now has a more comprehensive dataset when researching the hedge fund industry and can better allocate research funding to the databases that provide the most value.

Author: Kevin J. Jamison, MBA Class of 2020
Faculty Advisor: Gregory W. Brown, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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How Are Corporations Setting Sustainability Goals and Are They Moving the Needle?

January 01, 2020

As companies around the globe tackle sustainability challenges, many of them adopt a set of sustainability goals with deadlines for achieving them. Companies tackle sustainability differently depending on their industry, location, organizational culture and other factors. The goal of this project is to understand the trends in sustainability goal-setting and reporting by analyzing existing academic literature, corporate sustainability reports from a representative list of global companies and global surveys of sustainability leaders. This study reviewed 20 representative corporate sustainability reports and utilized industrywide surveys and the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database to analyze reporting trends. A key insight is that, since 2015, sustainability goal-setting is primarily driven by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Companies identify the specific SDGs most relevant to their industry and use them to set their sustainability goals. According to a 2017 KPMG survey, 72% of companies mention SDGs in their annual report and 43% link their sustainability goals to SDGs. However, the evidence is inconclusive as to whether using SDGs is an effective method for adopting and tracking sustainability goals. The literature review suggests there is further opportunity to understand the impact of goal-setting by studying annual trends of progress on achieving sustainability goals (as reported by corporations) and whether these goals are revised or adjusted based on annual progress or lack thereof. The next steps on this project will be to interview sustainability executives to understand the best practices and potential roadblocks in setting and achieving sustainability goals.

Author: Raouf Kundil Peedikayil, MBA Class of 2020
Faculty Advisor: Olga Hawn, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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