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!

Executive MBA Students Gain a “Coach”

Stetson University launches a mentor/mentee program with Executive MBA Alumna and Cohort 10 executive students, as they engage in a personal and transformational journey.  Mentoring relationships are designed to help and support people “manage their own learning in order to maximize their professional potential, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the person they want to be.”Eric Parsloe, Coaching, Mentoring, and Assessing (London: Kogan Page, 1992).

As an EMBA student, the goal is to develop not only your skills and abilities, but also you as a person.  Specifically, the unique talents, insights and values you bring to bear in any situation. 

The mentoring program is designed to help develop and refine you as whole person.  Mentors/Mentees will meet this month to set expectations, establish an agreement, set SMART goals, use a conversation model, look for growth and reflection opportunities, and celebrate and come to closure.  Mentor/Mentees will interact at least 2 times monthly. 

The Mentors/Mentees will have a Stetson University facilitator guiding the continuous process.   External Mentoring Professionals will provide targeted workshops and training to the executive group. 

Krista Scimeca gains support, perspective, and a “coach”.

Juliana Trujillo, Executive MBA Graduate in 2012, said “I believe that Stetson’s mentoring program is a great   opportunity as it will allow the current students to share their ideas, experiences, and accomplishments with someone who perhaps is from the outside, but knows exactly where they are coming from.  One of the things that I have learned the most about mentors is that they are someone who can see the talent and ability within people, that perhaps they can’t see for themselves and just helps bring that out for them. I think anyone that is in this type of program has the skill and the will, a mentor will just help them never forget that.”  Juliana is mentoring Krista Scimeca in Cohort 10.  Krista enthusiastically shared that their initial meeting was impactful.  The camaraderie was immediate and the academic guidance was timely. 

Check back often to learn how these relationships provide meaningful impact and accountability towards ongoing professional and personal development.

Cohort 8 visits DeLand campus

The Roland George Trading Room permits students to make stock trades in real time.

Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 8 just returned from DeLand for the program’s annual trip to the Roland George Trading Room and got to tour Stetson University’s picturesque campus.

The trading room is home to the Roland George Investments Program, where students learn the ins and outs of stockroom trading. Once a year, as part of their Advanced Financial Management class, Executive MBA students make the trek from Celebration to DeLand to experience the real-time stock ticker — and to see the main campus where they’ll be graduating in May 2012.

“I didn’t know the trading room is the caliber that it is,” said Cohort 8 executive Torrance Johnson. “It’s not until you go that you realize how well-equipped it is.”

The students also enjoyed seeing Stetson University, Florida’s oldest private university. Most of them were seeing it for the first time.

“I loved seeing the main campus, very much the traditional ‘university feel,’” said fellow executive Larry Flory.

Raul Herrera, another of Johnson’s classmates, was reminded of the group’s international travels. The cohort’s visit to Vodacom in Johannesburg, South Africa, was fresh in his mind when the group took a tour of Stetson’s main campus and saw the boardroom.

The Stetson main campus welcomed Executive MBA Cohort 8.

“The school looked pristine,” added Herrera, “well-kept and very inviting. I am looking forward to being back for graduation!”

Graduation must be strong on the students’ minds, especially now that it’s only five months away. Herrera’s classmates, Johnson included, echoed his sentiments.

“It was a special moment being there with my cohort,” said Johnson. “It was great to be at the main campus and to know that is a few months, we’ll be back there for graduation.”

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.

Stetson Success Report, Fall 2011

Danielle VanCola joined the Stetson University Executive MBA program in August 2011, and she has already earned a promotion at Wyndham Vacation Resorts. VanCola is one of many Stetson Executive MBA students and alumni who have recently been promoted. Stetson University congratulates these Hatters and proudly recognizes their accomplishments.

Danielle VanCola was recently promoted to Account Executive, Wyndham Vacation Resorts.

Danielle VanCola was promoted from Junior Representative to Account Executive at Wyndham Vacation Resorts. The Cohort 9 student was inspired by her colleague Shariq Khan, who is a member of Cohort 8. Khan also works at Wyndham and was recently promoted to Director, Product Yield Management at Wyndham Vacation Ownership.

Khan’s classmate Harley Wentzel was promoted to Operations Manager of Ticket Fulfillment at Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts when his application, during the screening process, was elevated because of his MBA education.

Other promotions for Cohort 8 include Jason Plas to Integration Analyst, Time & Deployment, Strategy & Standards, Walt Disney World; Jacob Walters, Communications Technology Specialist, Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts; and Juliana Trujillo, Market Area Sales Specialist, Partners Federal Credit Union.

Kelly Glassburn and Susan Golinsky were both recently promoted within Disney.

From Cohort 7, Susan Golinsky has recently been promoted to Labor Administrations Manager, Operations Area Manager and Project Manager at Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts. “Obtaining an MBA degree has opened more doors and opportunities than before, not to mention adding numerous networking channels,” said Golinsky.

Golinsky’s former classmate Kelly Glassburn was also promoted to Manager of Marketing & Communications for Disney Photo Imaging. “Completing the Stetson Executive MBA program had a tremendous impact in both my personal and professional life, and I continue to reap the benefits on a daily basis,” Glassburn said. “I secured a promotion and found that often topics discussed in class on Friday would resurface in a Monday Steering Committee meeting, making me more strategic and effective in my new role.”

Norbert Dean is now the Chief Procurement Officer for Sea World.

Other promotions from Cohort 7 include Darcy Clark to Digital Marketing Manager, Disney Destinations; Norbert Dean, Chief Procurement Officer, Sea World Parks & Entertainment; Terry Tasior, Finance Manager, Walt Disney World; Lourdes Mola, Manager, Minority Business Development, Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts; and Penny Miller, Operations Human Resources Business Partner, Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts.

From Cohort 6, Jennifer Small has been hired as Executive Director/CEO at The Grove Counseling Center. She was also recently nominated for Orlando Business Journal’s Forty Under 40.

Justin LaFoe is now Director, Global Retail Development for Disney.

Justin LaFoe of Cohort 4 was promoted this fall to Director, Global Retail Development at Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts. “The Stetson Executive MBA program helped refine my strategic decision making skills which gave me the advantage I needed to grow at Disney,” said LaFoe. “Completing the program at Stetson was one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career.”

Other promotions from Cohort 4 include Geoffrey Pointon to Digital Marketing Manager, Disney Destinations; and Cathy Martin, Director, Career Development, Stetson University College of Law.

Stetson University will celebrate each success as Executive MBA students and alumni continue to excel in their careers. Onward and upward, Hatters!

Students and alumni, please report any promotions and job changes to wlowe@stetson.edu so we can recognize your accomplishments!

Stetson enrollment up after national dip

Graduate student enrollment in the United States dropped last year, according to a recent article in The Chronicle. But now, in Stetson University’s Executive MBA program, the numbers are higher than ever.

The article points to a study, Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2000 to 2010, which shows that new student enrollment fell 1.1 percent between fall 2009 and fall 2010. It had increased 5.5 percent in the prior year.

Students in Stetson's Cohort 9 are preparing for an increasingly demanding job market.

Similarly, enrollment in Stetson University Executive MBA’s Cohort 8 was down in fall 2010, at 21% below Cohort 7, which began in fall 2009. But Cohort 9 (fall 2011) is up 67% over that of the students’ predecessors in Cohort 8, making Cohort 9 the program’s largest class to date.

The students in the current two cohorts (8 and 9) also have more diversity in their corporate background than any previous cohort. The companies they represent include Genworth Financial, Press World Co., Partners Federal Credit Union, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, FedEx, Westgate Resorts, Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Waldorf Astoria/Hilton, Shades of Green, State Farm Insurance and Kaplan University.

In The Chronicle article, Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, pointed out the U.S. Department of Labor prediction that 2.5 million more jobs will require advanced degrees by 2018. As cohorts 8 and 9 graduate over the coming year and a half, Stetson University will be proud to add those students’ names to the list of professionals qualified for rigorous positions.

Cohort 8’s South Africa trip makes national news

The New American Colleges and Universities News picked up a story about Stetson University’s Executive MBA program and distributed it to the organization’s national audience. The article it selected was the one composed for Stetson’s The Lynn Letter about Cohort 8’s recent trip to South Africa.

In addition, The New American Colleges and Universities News posted the following video welcoming Stetson University’s incoming class of undergraduates:


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5OxrdDe9_I&w=560&h=315]


The New American Colleges and Universities is a national consortium of independent colleges and universities dedicated to the purposeful integration of liberal education, professional studies and civic engagement. The New American Colleges and Universities collectively and individually are often cited as models of the intentional integration of teaching and learning, scholarship and service. The organization was founded in 1995.

Executive MBA offers insight, perspective

Articles that explain what an Executive MBA is often focus on how entering a program is an investment in your future, or how it’s an opportunity for a professional to work and go to school at the same time, or how you will gain a competitive edge over your peers.

An Executive MBA classroom serves as an incubator for real-world experience and business thought leadership.

But for Aaron Wright, the experience was much more.

“I look at the way I work differently and with more insight,” said Wright, who is a graduate of the Stetson Executive MBA Cohort 7. “I listen a lot more and try to understand everyone’s point of view before expressing my own opinion or offering advice. I contribute more and can provide a perspective that wasn’t there before getting my MBA.

One of Wright’s classmates, Penny Miller, agreed, and said that the program taught her different ways of seeing the world. “I knew before end of first year how much had changed for me and the way I think and balance and juggle,” said Miller, who works as an HR business partner.

In general, Executive MBA programs attract a diverse group of professionals who want to expand their knowledge and skills. Many use their degree to enter a new field or gain expertise in a new area. Most students have at least 10 years of professional experience under their belts by the time they enter a program, with a significant portion of this experience at the managerial level. (Traditional MBA students usually average three to five years of work experience.)

An Executive MBA helps move along a student’s or graduate’s career. Susan Golinsky, another classmate of Wright’s, said the pursuit of her education at Stetson helped her get ahead of her colleagues. “The fact that I was in school helped differentiate me from others who were applying for jobs,” said Golinsky, “because I was balancing a full-time job and school. I got some promotions that I believe were attributed to my increased business acumen from the Executive MBA program.” Golinsky said the program was a confidence builder, and she learned an incredible amount from her professors and from members of her cohort.

A powerful feature of a typical Executive MBA program is the collective professional experience of its participants. This feature greatly enriches the educational environment, and a team approach is often used on projects that encourage the sharing of diverse perspectives on specific topics.

“My education has allowed me to better understand everyone’s motivations within a project or team environment,” explained Wright. “Where I was previously financially weak, I am now strong enough to ask tough targeted questions to ensure that my partners and clients are all able to accomplish their goals.

Members of an Executive MBA cohort learn from each other and form a professional network that can last throughout the graduates' careers.

“The cohort style of learning and phenomenal support from faculty and staff was the most important highlight for me,” Wright continued. “My experience felt like ‘service-oriented learning.’ We got such great support on a daily basis that it allowed us to focus on a rigorous curriculum and course of study. This really sets Stetson apart from other programs, and I am much better for it.

Many students say they are often able to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it immediately to their current job. Lofton Barnes, a student in the Stetson Executive MBA Cohort 8, is a perfect example.

“The transfer of knowledge is extremely fast,” said Barnes, who co-owns Ladybird Academy in Winter Springs/Oviedo, Fla. “The concepts that we’re learning I can go play with immediately. I can tell a difference already, many months before I graduate.

The Executive MBA is much more than a classroom with a highly educated professor, a textbook and students. The Executive MBA classroom is home to discussion among highly engaged professionals with a facilitator who has real-world experience. It is a place for managers from diverse businesses to work side-by-side throughout the program. Students learn from other students not by chance; it’s woven by design into the very fabric of the program.

Other direct, practical benefits of an Executive MBA program include:

  • Increased confidence and motivation
  • Ability to identify and apply best practice
  • Improved critical thinking skills
  • Clear understanding of the theory behind best practice
  • Greater ability to lead a team and to work within a team
  • Enhanced communication skills
  • Incisive and durable competitive edge

Learn more about Executive MBA programs at the Executive MBA Council, The Princeton Review and the Graduate Management Admission Council. Learn more about the Stetson Executive MBA program here.