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.

3 ways to balance MBA coursework with work and family

It often feels like 24 hours isn’t enough time in a day to get your job done and your home organized, especially when you’re also trying to raise children, energize your marriage or exercise and eat properly.

So how could you possibly fit in an MBA program on top of all that and expect to remain sane?

Kelly Glassburn and Penny Miller, who both graduated from Stetson University’s Executive MBA program in May 2011, managed to juggle the demands of school and a rigorous career, and Lofton Barnes and Shariq Khan, two current students, are getting into the groove of the balancing act. This foursome has a few pointers for balancing everything at once.

1. Establish a Support System

Studying requires dedication not only of the student but also of the student's family members and colleagues.

“The key component is family support,” said Shariq Khan, “or there just is no balance.” Khan was promoted to director of product yield management at Wyndham Vacation Ownership in Orlando only a few months after joining the program.

“It’s been tough,” said Khan. “Learning a new job takes a lot more hours. But I’ve got a great infrastructure — a supportive family and understanding bosses — and I’m very fortunate that I do.”

Khan’s classmate, Lofton Barnes, echoed his sentiment. “Your family must support you,” said Barnes, a father of two. “My wife has been phenomenal in taking on chores that I can’t dedicate myself to right now. It’s been a great experience because of that so far.”

Recent Stetson Executive MBA graduate Kelly Glassburn asked for the support upfront as well. “My first exercise in establishing balance was to get a firm commitment from everyone who would be affected by my decision: My husband was 110% supportive, even though he knew that he was likely going to be a single parent for the next 19 months. My leaders at work were equally supportive, and although no work moved off of my plate, their commitment to my success helped to alleviate any stress going into the program.

2. Stick to a Schedule

“I live on my calendar,” continued Barnes, who not only works as the assistant director of human resources for Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort but also owns Ladybird Academy in Winter Springs/Oviedo.

“I am forced to be very organized,” he explained, “because I have a lot of demands at work, school, business and home. I ensure that I get home by a certain time every night so I can spend time with my wife and kids and spend the rest of the evening focusing on schoolwork.”

“I dedicate my weekends to schoolwork,” said Khan, also a father of two. “I carve out time every day to interact with my wife and children, and I steal a couple of hours during weekdays to study if I can.”

Like Khan, Glassburn was promoted soon after starting the program. “That turned my work balance on its head! The only way I survived the transition period in my new role was in keeping with the rigid schedule I had set for myself.”

Glassburn abided by a rigid study schedule, which included work time first, then family time, then study time each night. “That often meant that studying happened from 9 to 11 p.m.,” she said, “but committing to a set schedule made it easier for me to get the work done and still maintain my family and work priorities without being too disruptive. I also set aside a specific area for studying, which helped me to focus on the work I needed to get done.”

3. Lean on Your Classmates

Members of the Stetson Executive MBA Class of '11 relied on teamwork to get them through trying times.

Penny Miller, a human resources business partner at The Walt Disney Co., said her cohort of 18 executives came to an agreement on the first weekend of class. “We committed that we wouldn’t leave anybody behind, knowing that at some point, each of us would be the one down.

“We discovered areas of strength and weakness among the team and used those to manage the ebb and flow throughout the program,” explained Miller.

“Regardless of where you are in your life, there is never enough time to get everything done,” lamented Glassburn, who was in the same cohort as Miller. “But for me, the single most important recipe for success in balancing a busy family, an overwhelming professional career, an accelerated Executive MBA program and my sanity was by tapping into the strength of the cohort. No matter how difficult life was, my cohort stuck with our mantra from the first class, ‘No one quits and no one gets left behind!’

“The cohort support was invaluable to maintaining a healthy sense of balance throughout the program,” continued Glassburn, “and in the end, I achieved my goal of completing the program and made some lifelong friends and business partners.”

Stetson’s donation to help Oakhaven residents open hair salon

Residents at Oakhaven plan to use Cohort 8's donation to set up their own hair salon.

Today, the residents of Oakhaven Home for the Aged will formally accept the check donated to them by executives in Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 8.

With $73 collected at Stetson’s Executive MBA Alumni Event in May, plus contributions from Cohort 8 and Stetson University, the students were able to present the residents of Oakhaven with $200 to use as needed. On July 3, the residents will be presented with the check during a special service at their church, New Apostolic Faith.

Francis Chamarengah helped coordinate the executives’ visit at the home. “The church and the home both have expressed their sincere gratitude for your visit and donation,” said Chamarengah to Wendy Lowe, Stetson Executive MBA program coordinator.

“They have been trying to open a small hair salon for the seniors at the home,” continued Chamarengah, “and the church will assist them in getting more equipment and items to get this salon going. Your donation will definitely go a long way in making this a reality.”

Cohort 7 performed the first philanthropic visit as a part of the international trip last year when the group prepared a meal for monks in Vietnam. Cohort 8 continuted the tradition this year at Oakhaven, and based on the enthusiasm expressed from the students in both cohorts and the groups they visited, this type of experience may become customary for the Stetson Executive MBA program’s international trips.

Three Cohort 7 students win honors in worldwide business simulation

Kenyon Langford

If Dynergy Champ was a real company that manufactured athletic footwear, three Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 7 alumni would be millionaires.

The three alumni, David Ulloa (College Board in Virginia), Chuck Rivas (Walt Disney World), and Kenyon Langford (GE Healthcare), just graduated with their MBAs earlier this month. Their performance in their final classroom exercise earned them an invitation to participate in the Best-Strategy Invitational (BSI), and their accomplishments in this exclusive group earned the trio accolades.

Dynergy Champ won first place in its industry, dominating fashion, with more than $1 billion in sales in its final year, based on a 10-year simulation. The industry was made up of six companies total. “We tried almost every tactic from small boutique to giant mega-producer,” said Langford. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t try the virtual shoe because the second-place team had that sewn up.”

David Ulloa

In addition, Dynergy performed well in all the categories BSI monitored: earnings per share (EPS), return on equity/investment (ROE) and stock price. All places are out of more than 100 teams that participated. See the team’s placement in each category below:

9th-best stock price: $468.96

10th-best ROE: 42.8%

11th-best EPS: $22.31

21st-best overall score: 108.5 out of 110 points (six-way tie)

The team of Ulloa, Rivas and Langford will be enshrined as one of the best teams ever to have managed a BSG company, and the three executives will be inducted into the BSG Hall of Fame as BSI Grand Champions. Dr. Kathryn Martell, the team’s adjunct professor, will also be recognized as a Master Professor.

Chuck Rivas

All Stetson University Executive MBA students participate in The Business Strategy Game (BSG) as part of the BN 585 capstone course, in which class members are divided into teams and assigned the task of running an athletic footwear company in head-to-head competition against companies managed by other class members. Company operations parallel those of actual athletic footwear companies. Just as in the real world, companies compete in a global market arena, selling branded and private-label athletic footwear in four geographic regions — Europe-Africa, North America, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. BSG has a strong 21-year history.

Company managers must make decisions relating to plant operations, distribution and warehouse operations, work force compensation, online sales at the company’s website, sales and marketing, and finance. The challenge is to craft and execute a competitive strategy that results in a respected brand image, keeps your company in contention for global market leadership and produces strong financial performance.

Congratulations, Stetson University Executive MBA alumni, on this tremendous accomplishment!

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.

C7: Better Together

Members of the Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 7, Class of ’11, showed unity at graduation, May 7, 2011. The classmates decorated their graduation caps with letters and lined up so that their back view read: C7 Better Together!  The cohort has been a close-knit group since the beginning. “I miss seeing my cohort already,” said Susan Golinsky, a Cohort 7 member. (You can click on the photo to see it bigger.)

Dr. Belcher wins EMBA Outstanding Professor award

Dr. Larry Belcher holds the plaque naming him the EMBA Outstanding Professor as members of Stetson University School of Business Administration’s Executive MBA Cohort 7 surround him. Students presented Belcher the award at the March 19 reception following the cohort’s last class of the 19-month program.

Many of Stetson’s veteran professors left lasting impressions on Stetson EMBA’s Cohort 7, but when it came to choosing one to receive the EMBA Outstanding Professor Award, the overwhelming choice was Dr. Larry Belcher, a finance professor at Stetson since 1990. Students said he has a knack for putting complex academic concepts into understandable real-world terms, connected with every student, espoused a centered approach to life and that his sense of humor helped lighten stressful classwork.

“You have to love a guy who answers to Dr. Doom,” said student Norbert Dean.

One highlight of Cohort 7’s studies was a trip to Vietnam and Hong Kong last summer where they not only met business leaders and toured factories and cultural sites, but also decided to perform a service project in Vietnam. The cohort worked in the kitchen of a small Buddhist monastery in Ho Chi Minh City preparing a meal for monks and played games  with children who also practiced their English on the students.

EMBA students in the past have visited Ireland, the Czech Republic and Dubai, and later this spring, Cohort 8 will embark for a tour of businesses and cultural sites in South Africa.

“I am forever changed because of this program,” said Darcy Clark, a Disney marketing manager. “I believe in myself more than I used to.  I’m more confident.  And most importantly, I’ve developed relationships that will far outlast my 19 months at Stetson.”

Walter Kurlin, a Disney facilitator of Orlando, agrees: “I have recommended and will recommend the program to others.”

EMBA graduates will receive diplomas at Stetson University Commencement ceremonies on May 7. Graduates include Penny Miller, Gillian Cady, Chuck Rivas, Norbert Dean, Aaron Wright, Terrence Tasior, Kelly Glassburn, Darcy Clark, Joshua Speed, David Ulloa, Kenyon Langford, Lourdes Mola, Alicia Matheson, Wael Alfattani, Susan Golinsky, Kimberly Ruggiero, Walter Kurlin and Joel Foreman.

‘Precious Pets’ business plan wins Cohort 7 honors

This is the team of Executive MBA students whose Precious Pets Resort and Spa business plan was selected by professors as the best. They are Wael Alfattani, Susan Golinsky, Terry Tasior, Kimberly Ruggiero and Joel Foreman.

Detailed business plans created by teams of students are a critical entrepreneurial exercise that draws on all elements of study and comes at the end of the rigorous School of Business Administration’s EMBA program.

Four teams in Stetson EMBA’s Cohort 7 created plans for businesses ranging from health and fitness to practical transportation and an art house. But professors and others who studied the plans awarded the Best Business Plan to a pet care concept developed by Kim Ruggiero of Winter Garden and four students from Orlando: Terrence Tasior, Wael Alfattani, Joel Foreman and Susan Golinsky.

Precious Pets Resort and Spa targets a high margin and underdeveloped niche of the steadily-growing pet care market by focusing on pet boarding supported with revenue from grooming, pet sitting, daycamp and care services and retail merchandising. The market model is tested and ready to be developed.

Participants in the Precious Pets project and other EMBA graduates will receive diplomas at Stetson University Commencement ceremonies on May 7.

Stetson University’s EMBA program is designed for mature students with years of real world experience who must fit weekend classes around family and career obligations. Most members of the group are employed by various Disney operations, but others came from backgrounds with Saudi Arabian Airlines, General Electric and other businesses.

Four Cohort 7 students earn peer awards

Top students of Stetson University’s Executive MBA’s Cohort 7 hold their gifts after learning that fellow students picked them for honors. They are Penny Miller, named Top Student Overall; Norbert Dean, named Cool Under Pressure; Gillian Cady, Team Player and Chuck Rivas, Best Humor.

Toasts, cheers, honors and feasting marked the end of studies March 19 for a group of MBA students at the Stetson Center at Celebration who completed the life-changing goal of earning a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.

Members of the cohort picked Penny Miller of Clermont, a human resources partner for Disney, as the Top Student Overall. Gillian Cady, a Disney project manager of Minneola, was chosen to receive the Team Player Award. Classmates chose Chuck Rivas of Apopka, who works in information technology for Disney, as the student with the Best Humor, and Norbert Dean of Windermere received the Cool Under Pressure Award.

“The experience was all that I hoped for and much more,” Miller said of her EMBA courses. “I have been applying classroom learning’s in my work since my first month in the program.” The understanding she gained, she said, helps her “bring a new level of overall business acumen to the table” in her professional role.

These students and other EMBA graduates will receive diplomas at Stetson University commencement ceremonies on May 7.

Six Cohort 7 students inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma

These six members of the Executive MBA’s Cohort 7 will be inducted into the Stetson University chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma because of their high grades. Back row: Aaron Wright, Terrence Tasior and Norbert Dean. Front row: Kelly Glassburn, Charles Rivas and Darcy Clark.

The seventh cohort of Executive MBA students ended 19 months of study — which had taken it halfway around the world — with a festive reception of accolades that produced touching testimony of their experience.

“I expected a good curriculum and great professors when I enrolled, but I did not expect the powerful relationships that we have developed,” Norbert Dean, a sourcing officer at Sea World, told his classmates. “The love and feeling of family as we went through the program was truly moving.”

Six students’ grades were in the top 20 percent of university graduate students and were tapped to join Beta Gamma Sigma, the highest recognition a business student anywhere in the world can receive in a baccalaureate, post-baccalaureate or doctoral program accredited by AACSB International. They are Norbert Dean, Chuck Rivas, Aaron Wright, Terrence Tasior, Kelly Glassburn and Darcy Clark.

These Beta Gamma Sigma honorees and other EMBA graduates will receive diplomas at Stetson University Commencement ceremonies on May 7.