Executive MBA Alumni Event

President Wendy Libby

President Wendy Libby

Stetson University’s Executive MBA program hosted their Annual Alumni Event at the Citrus Club in Downtown Orlando on May 20th. The event incorporated participation from our Executive MBA Alumni, current students, Stetson University administrative leaders, faculty and staff.

The evening began with tremendous energy as the alumni networked not only with their cohort of peers, but also became acquainted with alumni from other cohorts. These connections were almost immediate as these alumni have had similar fond experiences at Stetson to share.  “It was great to see old cohort friends and catch up and meet alumni from other cohorts. I am especially excited about the vision that Dean Bakamitsos shared. The program is on a great trajectory!” Rich Tetley, Cohort 5

Alicia Matheson, Cohort 7

Alicia Matheson, Cohort 7

Stetson University leaders, President Dr. Wendy Libby and Dean of the School of Business, Dr. Tom Schwarz welcomed the enthusiastic crowd and encouraged each individual to “get involved, stay involved” and be an active participant in connecting their professional and personal lives and talents with members of the Stetson community.  President Libby shared the Strategic Plans and the direction for the future along with highlighted the significant accomplishments and growth that the University has experienced in the last 3 years.  Dean Schwarz introduced Dr. Yiorgos Bakamitsos, the new Associate Dean of Graduate Business Programs. This new position at the University is a direct result of the strategy, future expansion, and focus on graduate business programs at all Stetson campuses.

The featured presenter, Alicia Matheson, Alumni from Cohort 7, drew the crowd in when facilitating a discussion on Evolutionary Service, “meeting customer’s expectations is an evolutionary process. In today’s world, the customer has all the power! Knowing and understanding customers changing needs, expectations, and emotions and using the knowledge, coupled with the innovation and technology, to build stronger relationships that deliver memorable experiences is vital. Building these loyal relationships will help create a sustainable competitive advantage with bottom line results”, said Alicia.

Alicia proceeded to share specific examples from her 20 years of leadership experience with the Walt Disney Company, her international experience working for the United Nations, and her time as a student in the Executive MBA Program. Alicia had other alumni, share their evolutionary and innovative services that have revolutionized the health care industry (Rich Tetley, Cohort 5), and put a new company on the map (Pablo Chavez and Krista Scimeca, Cohort 10)!

Alumni and current students alike agreed that the event was a big success! Dean Schwarz welcomed a few professionals that will begin their Executive MBA journey in the fall 2014.  He assured these individuals that the challenging but rewarding months ahead would be transformational in their professional and personal lives. Valerie Drebsky who will be joining the Executive

Valerie Drebsky, Melanie Johnston and Dave Tucker - Cohort 12 with Dean Tom Schwarz

Valerie Drebsky, Melanie Johnston and Dave Tucker – Cohort 12 with Dean Tom Schwarz

MBA program in the fall with Cohort 12 said, “We were so honored to have the chance to meet not only existing students but also get to know recently graduating and existing alumni to the program. Having the opportunity to talk with individuals at all different points in their journey was as valuable as we prepare for our next steps. We ran into some familiar faces through the company we work for but we had no idea they had gone through the EMBA program so it was really refreshing to see them and know they were able to complete the program and balance it while working full time. The networking was great and connections made through the presentations helped to break the ice for individuals we didn’t know. Thank you for the invitation and looking forward to making more memories and friendships along the way!”

We had an excellent participation by all the cohorts; however, we are pleased to

Cohort 9

Cohort 9

announce that Cohort 9 had the highest participation of all.  This was their first opportunity as alumni to cherish the rich relationships that were formed both within their cohort and with the cohorts that mentored them along the way!

Dr. Bakamitsos thanked the alumni and students for their enthusiastic presence within the community and encouraged them to share their talents with others to make a difference in Central Florida and beyond!

Plans are underway for our next Alumni Event!

Stetson invites alumni and guests to Istanbul and Budapest

Travelers on the Alumni/Guest trip will take a cruise on Istanbul's Bosphorus. Photo courtesy of GoToTurkey

Dublin, Johannesburg, Dubai and other cities invoke happy memories or warm feelings for alumni of the Stetson University Executive MBA program. Now, alumni have an opportunity to relive their international travel experience with the first Alumni/Guest Executive MBA International Trip!

You are invited to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, and Budapest, Hungary, with Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 9, this summer, June 17-23, 2012.

Enjoy guided tours of the two cities, a culinary expedition, a visit to Parliament, a Bosphorus cruise and a full day on the Danube Bend. Plus, you can sign up for additional excursions visiting the Turkish or Szechenyi baths or the House of Terror.

While Cohort 9 is busy learning about company operations, economic challenges and cultural considerations for international businesses, travelers on the Alumni/Guest trip can be taking in the view from Galata Tower, haggling for souvenirs at the Grand Bazaar or sipping wines at Castle Hill.

This trip is the first time since the program’s inception that Stetson University has included alumni and guests as part of the experience. Dr. Stuart Michelson, Executive MBA program director, and Wendy Lowe, program coordinator, chose to add the alumni/guest component because of the relationships that are built during adventures like these.

Students and alumni on international trips form bonds that can last a lifetime.

“Each year, Executive MBA alumni have the opportunity to gather at the annual Stetson University Alumni Event to reconnect, establish new relationships and hear from like-minded professionals shaping business in Central Florida,” said Lowe. “The camaraderie at these events is always a plus, and many alumni reveal that learning from other cohorts is extremely valuable.

“This trip will provide several opportunities for students, alumni and guests to spend quality time with one another, further strengthening the Executive MBA bond at Stetson University,” added Lowe. “For Cohort 9 to be able to share cultural experiences with Stetson Executive MBA program alumni will be extremely meaningful and further enrich their learning.”

Two years ago, Michelson added a second destination to each international trip. “Visiting two countries allows our executive students to see the polarity in cultural and business operations first-hand,” explained Michelson, “and provides an exciting way for our students to analyze how these different countries grow their business operations and resolve challenges that exist.”

“Incorporating alumni into the 2012 International Trip will provide our current students with program mentors, will provide hearty discussions and will allow all participants to be exposed to the Istanbul and Budapest way of life,” said Lowe. “These findings will shape our executives professionally and personally as they continue to grow and prosper.”

People gather in the streets of Istanbul for food and fun. Photo courtesy of GoToTurkey

If you are interested in joining the Alumni/Guest International Trip, contact Wendy Lowe by phone (321-939-7603) or e-mail (wlowe@stetson.edu). Also, note the following details:

  • The package costs $3,000 per person and includes cultural events, four-star accommodations, the welcome dinner, three group lunches, the farewell dinner, and daily continental breakfast.
  • Space is limited, so be sure to sign up soon!
  • The trip must have at least 15 people signed up in order for plans to move forward.
  • Travelers must submit a $500 refundable deposit by Feb. 10, 2012. Final payment is due May 4, 2012.
  • You can choose whether to book your international flights with Air Treks or separately (by anthony). The flight from Istanbul to Budapest is included in the package price.

Chang and Trujillo honored by Hispanic community

Juliana Trujillo, left, and Yvonne Chang are active in Central Florida's Hispanic business community.

Yvonne Chang, an alumna of the Stetson University Executive MBA’s Cohort 5, was a runner-up for the 2011 Don Quijote Award for Professional of the Year. Chang was a finalist with peers José Costa, vice president of Nodarse, a Terracon company, and Jaime Piñero, director of sales for CenturyLink. Costa won the Professional of the Year award.

The Don Quijote Awards are the most prestigious honors within the Hispanic business community in Central Florida, presented by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund of Florida. The Don Quijote awards are a celebration of success, courage and determination. They recognize the hard-working, innovative entrepreneurs who have exhibited the spirit of Don Quijote — that is, visionaries, dreamers and businesspersons who are willing to take risks in order to achieve their dreams.

In attendance at the awards banquet, Dec. 3, was Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 8 student Juliana Trujillo.

“It was such an inspirational event surrounded by successful, dedicated and humble professionals,” Trujillo said.

Trujillo was recently appointed president of Walt Disney World’s Hispanic Organization for Leadership Advancement (HOLA), in which she leads a committee that seeks to provide business insight to internal operations through engaging the Hispanic employee community at Disney while providing social, cultural and career advancement exposure for that key workforce segment.

Guatemala City children to benefit from Stetson outreach

Students and alumni formed assembly lines to package meals for children in Guatemala City.

More than 5,000 children in Guatemala City will receive a nutritious meal because of students, alumni and friends from Stetson University in Celebration. More than 75 volunteers donated two hours on Saturday, Dec. 3, to assemble meals for malnourished children abroad. Friends of Stetson packed 5,200 meals and donated $1,300, which will aid starving children in Guatemala this holiday season. “This philanthropic effort at the Celebration Center was a success,” said Wendy Lowe, Stetson University Executive MBA program coordinator. “We re-evaluated our goals early on, and based on the participants’ infectious joy, we feel fortunate to be able to proudly say that Stetson University contributed to feeding more than 5,000 starving children and raising more than $1,300.” Volunteers helped the Feeding Children Everywhere staff unload the truck and set up five assembly lines. With holiday music and Christmas spirit filling the room, each assembly line packed meals that consisted of rice, protein (lentils), vegetables, vitamins and minerals. The meals are scientifically formulated to combat the effects of hunger on the human body. All that recipients need to do to cook each meal is to add it to boiling water.

Children were handy helpers, too, during the food packaging event.

Younger family members helped by flattening the meal pouches for shipping purposes and adding personal messages and drawings to the outside of the shipping containers for the Guatemalan children to enjoy. Executive MBA students Duane Trumble and Glorimar Hefner of Cohort 9 and Raul Herrera of Cohort 8 brought their entire family, children included, to share in the experience, as did Cohort 6 alumna Melania Lavezzi. “Their smiles said it all,” said Lowe. Those who donated their time included current students and alumni, along with their friends and family members, from Stetson University’s Executive MBA program, Professional MBA program, Passport Degree Completion program and the School of Education/Counseling. The school’s programs worked together to organize this philanthropic activity. “We learned that our students and alumni were interested in participating in an activity that would have a meaningful impact,” explained Lowe (by anthony). “We selected Feeding Children Everywhere because it has both a global and local presence, factors our students noted were important.”

The volunteers’ efforts will be felt more than 1,000 miles away in Guatemala City.

Lowe pointed out that alumni from Executive MBA program cohorts 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 participated or made donations, as well as current students in Cohorts 8 and 9. Other Stetson University faculty and staff, including Professor Peggy Stahl, Dr. Chris Tobler and Dr. Becky Oliphant, also participated and enjoyed the opportunity to interact with students and alumni in a social setting. “It’s always a more meaningful feeling when I’ve reached out to support a reason that’s greater than myself,” said Monica Jordan, a student in Cohort 9 who volunteered to pack meals. Kathy Hannon, assistant director of the Professional MBA program, said she enjoyed the stories shared by the Feeding Children Everywhere staff throughout the event. “These stories allowed us to understand the impact that we were making globally,” added Hannon. “I am grateful for the outpouring of support and generosity,” said Lowe, “and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the beginning of continued philanthropic efforts in Celebration.” Donations will still be accepted online until Dec. 7.

Cohort 5 alum nominated for Don Quijote Award

Yvonne Chang is in contention for Professional of the Year in the Don Quijote Awards program.

Yvonne Chang, an alumnus of the Stetson University Executive MBA program, has been honored by Orlando’s Hispanic community.

Chang is a finalist in the Professional of the Year category of the upcoming Don Quijote Awards. The program, now in its 14th year, recognizes “business excellence, dedication to serve the community and outstanding professionalism among Central Florida’s Hispanic community.”

Chang was named one of three finalists for the Professional of the Year award. The native of Cuba began her career as an electrical engineer working on missile guidance systems. Today, she is the director of Operations Integration for Disney Vacation Club, serving 500,000 members in nearly 100 countries.

“The Don Quijote Awards truly bring to light the tremendous perseverance and business success of Central Florida’s Hispanic community,” said Augusto Sanabria, president and CEO of the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund of Florida (HBIF) in a statement. “We honor each of these finalists for their hard work, dedication and community involvement.”

The Don Quijote Awards were created to recognize and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of individuals who have shown character of great strength, courage, conviction and determination, just as the beloved character of Spanish literature.

Winners will be announced this Saturday, Dec. 3, by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and the HBIF, during a gala at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Cohort 5 graduate earns certification

Craig Feldman, a graduate of Stetson University Executive MBA’s Cohort 5, now has three letters to add to his name besides MBA: PMP.

Craig Feldman, far right, and his classmate Lynda Hoyte completed PMP courses in a program at Stetson University Center at Celebration. Mike Mekdeci, center, of Stetson congratulates them.

Feldman recently completed a course through the Stetson University Project Management Certificate Program and passed the subsequent test to become certified as a Project Management Professional. Feldman currently works as a Project Manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Feldman said his Executive MBA helped prepare him for this additional segment of his education. “Stetson taught me the foundations of what I needed to know, such as the mechanics behind project management. I learned a lot of the analysis for project selection in the Executive MBA program, like IRR, NPV, future value — comparing the project options you have and determining which project to choose.”

This new certification also taught Feldman several skills he didn’t have before, such as how to effectively plan a project, monitor the metrics behind it, and manage the expectations of participants.

“I feel incredibly accomplished,” said Feldman. “I’m so glad I started this program.”

Feldman graduated from the Stetson Executive MBA program in spring 2009 and began the Project Management Certificate Program in fall 2010. He received his certification Aug. 9, 2011.

9 takeaways for Cohort 9

Stetson University Center at Celebration was buzzing with excitement last night, Aug. 10, as a diverse group of 14 women and 11 men from nine corporations gathered for the first time as Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 9.

The Cohort 9 orientation dinner was an opportunity for the students to meet each other, members of the staff and a few alumni. The new students left with a little bit of inspiration, as well. Here are a few select pieces:

1. This program will be tough, but you will make it through. “Look to your right and look to your left,” said Dr. Stuart Michelson, dean of the Stetson School of Business and director of the Stetson University Executive MBA program, as he told students an anecdote from his school days. “That’s what my professor told my class as we were beginning our doctorate program. ‘Half of the faces you’re seeing won’t make it through this program,’ he told us. But I challenge you to look to your right and look to your left,” continued Michelson. “I expect that we’ll see everyone in this room tonight still together 19 months from now as Executive MBAs. You will get through this, and you’ll do it together.”

Cohort 9 assembled for the first time as a group at orientation, Aug. 10.

2. Help us help you. “We want you to succeed, and we want you to have everything you need,” said Wendy Lowe, coordinator for the Executive MBA program. “Help us help you. Tell me or Dr. Michelson if you want or need something,” Lowe continued. “We’ll do the best we can to accommodate you.”

3. Change your perspective. “What a journey you’re going to be on,” said Dr. Richard Pernell, a director at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and a Management and Leadership instructor for the Executive MBA program. “You’re going to change so much over these 19 months. It’s going to be super.” Pernell held up a photo of a lighthouse and asked what direction the light was shining. No one could tell. “From your perspective, you don’t know what direction you’re looking,” said Pernell. “So, change your perspective.” Once he moved the photo closer to the students, they could see that the title of the photo was Evening Light, so it was obvious that the direction was north. “You just had to change what you were looking at to get the whole picture. These are the types of things we’ll discuss in class, which begins Friday: leadership and management (which are not the same thing), and critical thinking.” Pernell ended with a question for the students to ponder that they’ll pick up discussion on tomorrow: If a turtle loses its shell, is it naked or homeless?

4. This is your program; shape it. Michelson and Lowe started preparing the students for their international trip, scheduled for June 15-24, 2012. “You get to help select the destination,” Lowe said, and Michelson asked for a quick vote by the students on where they’d like to go. Among the top spots were Brazil, Chile, Shanghai and Morocco.

5. You are more capable than you think. Denise Edelmaier, an executive in Cohort 8, told the new students that time management and prioritization are extremely important, and sometimes your three “buckets” (personal life, work and school) require a demanding juggling act. But, she said, “You are way more capable than you think you are. You can do this. I realized I had a lot more strength than I knew before I started this program.”

6. Use technology to your advantage. Shariq Khan, a classmate of Edelmaier’s, said it’s best to relax and enjoy the program. The best way to do this, he proposed, was to organize yourself and manage your time. “Use technology to your advantage,” said Khan. “Use Blackboard and Skype for meetings. Manage your schedule online. Make sure you make time for all the parts of your life.”

7. Pay attention to those who matter. Walter Kurlin, a graduate of Cohort 7, said to be sure to pay attention to the needs of your significant others and spouses. “They’ll be one of the most important parts of your program,” said Kurlin. “You’ll need their support.” Cohort 8 student Khan agreed, adding that students should be sure to not neglect their families during this rigorous program. “If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy,” Khan said, joking about the stress of keeping everyone in his home comfortable while also maintaining his duties at work and in school.

8. Focus on the concepts, not the grades. Whereas you may have focused on getting good grades in undergraduate studies, spend time now on learning the context, said Tyler Reed, a graduate of Cohort 4. “I would have done better in the beginning of my program if I had worried less about getting a good numerical grade and more about understanding the meaning and application of what I was learning,” she said. “I did figure it out, though, and then the program was much more fulfilling.”

9. Enjoy the routine. “You’ll find yourself planning your life in two-week increments,” said Craig Feldman, a graduate of Cohort 5. “It’s like a video game, with each weekend being a new adventure and progressing through stages to reach a new level, earning knowledge and gaining success along the way.”  Feldman also echoed Dr. Pernell’s sentiments about change: “The experiences you’ll share with your cohort are life-altering, and you’ll come back from the international trip a different person with a more global view and with more business confidence.”

In less than 24 hours, members of Cohort 9 will begin their journey. As they build their network, strengthen their leadership skills and increase their career versatility, these students will change their perspective on business, life and their day-to-day work. And one year from now, some of them likely will be giving pointers to the incoming Cohort 10.

Alumni Event featured entertainment, camaraderie and great prizes

Members of Cohort 7 reunited at the Alumni Event, after graduating only one week prior.

The Stetson University Executive MBA Alumni Event 2011, held May 14 at the Celebration Golf Club, brought together friends, colleagues, professors … and a comedian!

The night was a great success, in which alumni reconnected with each other, befriended new connections and visited with professors. In addition, the alumni raised funds for the Stetson University Executive MBA program, totaling $5,275. The monies were raised through a combination of silent auction items purchased, an optional donation to attend, and various donations on-site. A tip jar was posted at the bar so alumni could make donations directly to Cohort 8’s philanthropy effort in South Africa at the Oakhaven Home for the Aged. Alumni contributed $73 toward Cohort 8’s project there next month.

Cohort 6 was the most generous at the silent auction tables, with winning bids totaling $1,121. Cohort 5 was not far behind with $788.

Mark Mattern and his wife, Sonya Snyder, will be relaxing at Hontoon Resort soon, using the certificate they won at the silent auction.

A few alumni have signed themselves up for future adventures. In fact, Russ Lowe of Cohort 5 will be jumping out of a plane, courtesy of the sky dive package he won at the silent auction. Rich and Verena Tetley, Cohort 5, have plenty of leisure in store with four Park Hopper passes to Walt Disney World and four multiple-day passes to Sea World and Aquatica. Their furry family friends won’t go un-entertained either because the Tetleys also took home a pet basket from Woof Gang Bakery in Celebration. And Mark Mattern of Cohort 1 will find himself floating downriver on a Hontoon Landing pontoon boat, along with a two-night stay at the resort, while Anne Hamilton, Cohort 6, scooped up the Catering Auction items and will enjoy personal catering from Puff ‘n Stuff, Too Jay’s and Foodie in the coming year. 

The silent auction wasn’t the only method of winning, though. Mark Snider of Cohort 6 was the winner of the night of the grand door prize. Each alumnus who RSVP’d by May 1 was automatically entered into a drawing for a getaway. Snider won the drawing and, in turn, three days and two nights, plus breakfast each day, at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, a value of $458. Congratulations, Mark!

Dr. Vincent Brenner, the accounting professor who slips wry jokes into his mostly-numbers teaching presentations, won the faculty prize, a $25 gift certificate to Café D’Antonio in Celebration and a bottle of wine from Imperium Food & Wine in Celebration (by jones). Dr. Brenner has been teaching the accounting courses regularly in the Executive MBA program and is a cohort favorite.

Comedy entertainer Brian Staron cuts open a fresh lemon that contained something Dr. Stuart Michelson had lost.

The entertainment for the evening consisted of both classical music and comedy. Harry Rios played the keyboard throughout the evening. Rios is a recent graduate of the Stetson University School of Music. Brian Staron of Comedy Entertainment performed a couple of magic tricks that kept everyone guessing. Let’s just say that Dr. Michelson found his signed $100 bill — but it left a sour taste in his mouth!

Many thanks go to all the companies that donated products to the silent auction; to Wendy Lowe, Dr. Stuart Michelson and Stetson president Dr. Wendy Libby for hosting and organizing the event; to Russell Sirmans for the excellent photography; to entertainers Harry Rios and Brian Staron; and of course, to all the students of the Stetson University Executive MBA program — past, present and future.

To view photos from the trip, check out Russell Sirmans’ site, Stetson’s alumni page or Flickr.

Alumnus gets professor’s chair for a day

Russ Lowe taught students about his real-world statistics experience in a recent class.

Recently, a Stetson University Executive MBA graduate flipped his former role as student to that of a professor — at least, for a day.

On March 17, Russell Lowe (Stetson Executive MBA ’09) was a guest lecturer during a STAT500 class, Issues in Decision Science, at the Celebration campus. Dr. Betty Thorne had asked him to present; she had been his teacher during his MBA experience.

“I often use statistical methods, including regression analysis, to assist in making forecasts and estimates on future sales volume for my business unit,” said Lowe, who is regional sales vice president for Acuity Brands Lighting in Orlando. “During my lecture, I was able to share these real-world applications and methods to help Dr. Thorne’s students increase their identification of statistics information in a business context.”

“It was a great privilege to have Russell speak with my students,” said Thorne, professor of Decision and Information Sciences for Stetson University. “His analysis and interpretation of data made statistics come alive! Russ emphasized the value of a graph, looking for outliers, and recognizing variation and its possible causes.”

Students enjoyed the presentation, as well. “Russell demonstrated how statistics can take raw data such as orders placed and sales and turn this into a tool to forecast for future months and set goals for his team,” said student Philip Pilarz. “Russell used principles we have used in class, such as standard deviations and regression, to understand sales numbers across different regions as well as the relationship between variables to better understand what can be expected in time to come.

“Overall, it was very refreshing and encouraging knowing that the material we are taking our time to study can have real life practices in our future business careers, whatever they may be,” continued Pilarz.

Pilarz’s classmates Matthew Durak and Debra Gatlin echoed his sentiments, adding that Lowe’s visit was a great help and provided invaluable information.

“It was my pleasure to have Russ in class during his Executive MBA education at Stetson,” added Thorne. “As a professor, it is my joy to know that Russ is able to apply knowledge gained in his studies to his career. Thanks, Russ, for your willingness to return to Stetson to demonstrate applications of data analysis to our current students.”