MBA Student-Athletes Bring Lessons of Teamwork and Commitment into the Classroom

Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Learn how three Belk College MBA students are propelling their business careers forward


Vikas Gowda, Meredith Harris and Evan Shirreffs open up about how athletics, paired with graduate student life, has strengthened their experience as Belk College MBA students. 


Vikas Gowda

MBA ‘20 & Discus International Competitor, Four-Time Olympian 


Full-time MBA


Student-Structured Option (Banking/Finance)

Undergraduate Institution and Degree:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Mathematics

Favorite Place in Charlotte:

Benny Pennello’s


Frederick, Maryland

Dream Job:

My dream job would be one where I can combine my entrepreneurial mindset with the various skills that I developed when I was a professional athlete.

Meredith Harris

MBA ‘20 & Infielder, UNC Charlotte 49er Softball


Full-Time MBA

Undergraduate Institution and Degree:

UNC Charlotte - English

Favorite Place in Charlotte:

Frank Liske Park


Charlotte, North Carolina

Dream Job:

Capital Markets in Commercial Real Estate

Evan Shirreffs

MBA ‘19 & Quarterback, UNC Charlotte 49ers Football


Full-Time MBA



Current Employer:

WIMS, Inc.


Marketing and Finance Intern

Undergraduate Institution and Degree:

Finance Major and Business Law Minor from the University of Miami (Florida)

Favorite Place in Charlotte:



Athens, Georgia

Dream Job:


What have you learned in the MBA program that has been the best part of your academic experience or prepared you for your career?

Gowda: Confidence is something that I feel will greatly help me in my business career. After competing in four Olympics, I know that I have the abilities to perform at a high level. Regardless of the challenge, I am confident that if I am patient and put in the work, I can achieve my goals. This is the same mindset that I will be using in the MBA program and later in my business career.

Harris: The best part of my academic experience in the MBA program so far has been meeting my classmates. Some of the students have come directly out of undergraduate work and are full-time students; others have years of professional experience under their belts. Being in class with a wide variety of skills and experience has sharpened my own thinking and communication skills, as well as allowed me to build friendships and relationships with other students who are working full-time in the city.

Shirreffs: Being a student-athlete, I have not been able to build up much work experience, so a lot of the preparation for my future career has come through the advice of others. Class discussions and interacting with other students outside of class have been huge in my development and outlook on life. I have been able to hear stories from people that are much more experienced than me. I feel like I have learned a lot from their career successes and mistakes that I can hopefully apply to my own life.


Why did you choose the Belk College of Business over others?

Gowda: When I was thinking about where I wanted to get my MBA I was living in Phoenix. I grew up in Maryland and went to college in North Carolina. Being closer to my family was important to me because I had lived so far away for a long time. During Thanksgiving break, I spoke with many family members that have either attended UNC Charlotte or lived in Charlotte, and they had nothing but great things to say about the area and school. After doing some research about UNCC, I really liked the flexibility and diverse selection of concentrations the MBA program offered. Additionally, Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country. So many businesses are moving into the area. It was for all these reasons that I felt like I could obtain a high level and well-rounded education.

Harris: I chose the Belk College of Business over others for a few reasons.  First, I love Charlotte and the opportunities available here. Second, as a UNC Charlotte undergraduate alumni, I became involved in the University and love the resources available to students in helping prepare for the next steps in life, whether that is interview skills, resume editing, or job fairs.  Lastly, I spent my three undergraduate years at UNC Charlotte competing on the softball team, and had one remaining year of eligibility. Because of the atmosphere of my coaching staff, my team, the athletic department, and our city, I chose to stay in Charlotte to finish my athletic career and begin preparing myself for my job after athletics.

Shirreffs: Everything I was searching for in an MBA program was present in Charlotte, and it was honestly impossible to turn down the opportunity. The program allowed me the flexibility to play football and work in an up-and-coming business city. As I began to plan for a transition into a business career, I could not think of one reason why Charlotte was not the perfect place to be.


What activities are you involved in when you are not working, studying or competing?

Gowda: My undergraduate degree is in Mathematics. When I was living in Phoenix, I used to tutor high school kids in math. After I moved to Charlotte, I started volunteering with Heart Math Tutoring and I help students at a local elementary school.

Harris: When I am not in class or studying, I spend most of my team in the weight room or on the field. However, when I’m not studying or playing, I really enjoy reading and writing, and exploring the city and surrounding areas.

Shirreffs: Community service has always been a big part of my extracurricular activities throughout college. In Charlotte, I have been involved with Team Impact and the Second and 7 Foundation to work with some amazing children. Team Impact works to connect children dealing with disabilities or limitations in their lives. Essentially, our team drafts a child to become part of our football team's family. We go to events with the family and the kid comes to our football facility to watch practice, games, and interact with the guys that are part of Team Impact. The Second and 7 Foundation was founded by a former football player to stress the importance of education and literacy to second graders. I was paired with one class at a local elementary school. Books were provided for me to read to the kids every other week to encourage the goals of the organization and positively impact the kids.


How would you describe the Belk College of Business to someone considering a master's degree?

Gowda: My experience with the Belk College of Business has been very positive. I was not a big fan of school in general when I was younger, and I never saw myself going back to school for a graduate degree. With that being said, I have really enjoyed my time so far and I have a newfound appreciation for education. Something that has stood out to me has been the quality of the professors. They all have valuable real-world experiences and their main concern is imparting knowledge that will be useful in the corporate world.

Harris: I would describe the Belk College of Business as a very successful and challenging program that both teaches new skills and refines previous skills to make you more effective in your workplace.  From the admissions team and advisors to the professors and your classmates, Belk College of Business provides the resources needed to succeed. The Belk College is a central point of opportunity in a city that has a very large business population.

Shirreffs: The Belk College of Business MBA program is a mixture of intelligent individuals from every career field you can imagine. Entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals, engineers, journalists, etc. are all gathered together sharing their experiences and not only investing in themselves, but investing in each other. The value of the MBA program does not just come from the courses offered; it comes from the students and faculty I have been fortunate enough to interact and build relationships with.