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.

Stetson students and alumni invited to help feed the children

Children in other parts of the world could get a nutritious meal because of the time or money you donate. Photo courtesy of Feeding Children Everywhere

Alumni and students of the Stetson University Executive MBA, Stetson Executive Passport and Stetson University MBA programs who would like to give back to their community this holiday season now have the perfect opportunity.

On Saturday, Dec. 3, at 4:30 p.m., alumni, students and their friends and families are invited to Stetson’s Center at Celebration to package 10,000 meals for children in need all over the world.

“A few of us have been working with Wendy Lowe to try and extend our desire to stay connected with like-minded professionals,” said Kelly Glassburn, a Cohort 7 graduate. “We decided it would be best to rally the alumni as a group to participate in existing philanthropic efforts that make their way to Stetson.”

“This will be a great opportunity to reconnect with your cohort and give back simultaneously,” said Wendy Lowe, program coordinator for Stetson Executive MBA. “Come spread holiday cheer while enjoying the after-class atmosphere that you likely remember from your days in the program!”

Stetson has partnered with the organization Feeding Children Everywhere to make a difference in thousands of hungry children’s lives. Volunteers will form assembly lines and hand-package nutritious meals, and Feeding Children Everywhere will add them to one of its outgoing containers and ship these meals to those in need.

The reception begins at 4:30, Dec. 3. After that, Stetson will run two shifts: 5 to 6 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. Over those two hours, Stetson’s volunteers will package food that will serve 10,000 children at a cost of only 25 cents each, make the cost for the food at this event $2,500.

“We’re asking for one hour of your time and a donation of $5 to $25,” said Lowe. “Five dollars feeds 20 children, and $25 feeds 100 children! I’m confident that your participation will significantly impact those in need.”

Donations can be submitted online (, by text (text stetsonisfce to 85944 to donate $10), and in person (by cash or check). Contributions are 100 percent tax deductible.

“We are looking for 150 volunteers to help package these meals,” said Lowe. “All ages will be able to partcipate.”

If you have questions or if you’d like to RSVP, call Lowe at 321-939-7603 or e-mail her at

Cohort 6 graduate is nominated for Forty Under 40

Jennifer Small, a graduate of Stetson University Executive MBA’s Cohort 6, was among only 200 professionals in the Central Florida area who were nominated for the Orlando Business Journal’s Forty Under 40.

Jennifer Small said her education at Stetson played a big role in her nomination for an Orlando award.

“It was an honor to be nominated with such a prestigious class of visionary business leaders from all realms of profit and nonprofit companies,” said Small, who is the executive director/CEO for The Grove Counseling Center in Longwood. Nominations for the Forty Under 40 competition honor community leaders under the age of 40 who have shown professional success as well as civic contributions.

“I was both surprised and thrilled when I received an e-mail from someone in my Rotary Club, congratulating me on the nomination, which had appeared in the Orlando Business Journal,” explained Small.

“I credit Stetson with my increased knowledge and recent success! I attribute this nomination to the education I received from the Executive MBA program.”

Small also received her undergraduate degree at Stetson University in DeLand, where she was a music major.

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.

Cohort 8 visits seniors in South Africa for philanthropic experience

Denise Edelmeier, left, visits with a resident named Denise at Oakhaven Home for the Aged in Cape Town.

Members of Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 8 wanted to give something to the South African people in return for their adventure in the nation. After careful consideration, the cohort selected a retirement home as the best place to visit and provide support. This decision was made in part because of the age of residents who could share what it was like to live through Apartheid during this evolutionary century of change.

The cohort visited Oakhaven Home for the Aged, coordinated with the assistance of Francis Chamarengah of Cross Cultural Solutions. “Oakhaven is not a place for old people to live before they pass, but it’s a place for the living,” said the local director, Ms. McPherson, “It’s their home. We work tirelessly to provide an environment that allows residents the freedom to go about their day in a manner that feels most comfortable to them.”

At Oakhaven, residents can participate in organized games, exercises and movie viewings. Oakhaven provides total care (health, emotional, spiritual) for its residents, including medication, meals, laundry and hygiene services. Oakhaven houses more than 100 residents, 50 years of age and older.

Victor, age 84, is a retired carpenter who built one of the first skyscrapers in downtown Cape Town. He said he loves living at Oakhaven. He doesn’t have any family in the area, so he relies on his friendships at Oakhaven to provide company and support emotionally.

McPherson said Victor’s situation is not unusual for Oakhaven residents. Few have consistent visitors, and the students’ brief time visiting will not only be incredibly stimulating for the residents, but it will boost their morale for days and weeks to come, especially upon learning about the students and their lives in the United States.

Residents gave members of Cohort 8 a tour of their home at Oakhaven.

Cohort members mingled with the residents for more than an hour. Student Denise Edelmaier was captivated by a resident, also named Denise, who was born and raised in Cape Town and in earlier years was a seamstress making dresses in a factory. Jason Plas and some fellow students spent time with light-hearted residents Christine and Gloria. And resident Sam was a very sweet man who was more than happy to share his smile. He seemed very content to be a father of four, but it was sad for the students to see that he struggled to remember his children’s names.

“I could see that visiting with the seniors meant a lot to them,” said student Eric O’Leary. “The fact that they do not receive visitors is sad, and sharing time with the seniors was very rewarding.”

During the cohort’s time with the retirees, many residents requested photos, which the students gladly took and shared. At the conclusion of the visit, Cohort 8 presented Oakhaven Home for the Aged a donation equivalent to $200 (U.S.), a portion of which was raised at Stetson Executive MBA’s Alumni Event.

“You forever made a positive impact on Oakhaven and its residents,” said McPherson to the students upon their departure. The students concurred after leaving that they too had been forever changed by the conversations they had there and the time they spent with the retirees.

Alumni Profile: Jennifer Small, Cohort 6

The alternating Friday-Saturday schedule of Stetson’s Executive MBA program was a good fit for Jennifer Small ’93, MBA ’10, when she decided to return to her undergraduate alma mater for a master’s degree.

By then, Small was working full-time at The Grove Counseling Center Inc. in Longwood, Fla., a behavioral health and substance use disorder prevention and treatment center for adolescents and adults. She oversees the areas of finance, human resources, quality assurance, and managed care for the nonprofit center.

“The cohort style of the Executive MBA [based at the Stetson University Center at Celebration] was truly rewarding and worthwhile,” she said. “In traveling together halfway around the world for our international trip, we became very close-knit, sharing our experiences and developing an invaluable network, both professionally and personally. The cohort class style offers the ideal venue to create a foundation of lifetime colleagues and friends.”

Two weeks after completing courses for her Executive MBA, Small and her best friend from her undergraduate college days, Pearl Han Ashcraft ’93, traveled to Costa Rica for a service project trip. They spent a week on the tiny, impoverished island of Parismina with Globe Aware, living with a host family and helping build local infrastructure.

Small, who studied violin as a Stetson undergrad, was one of the Executive MBA’s most outstanding graduates in 2010 and was inducted into the international honor society Beta Gamma Sigma. Outside of work and the classroom, she serves on a variety of community boards including the Better Business Bureau of Central Florida, the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association and Seminole County Healthy Start Coalition. She is board chair of the Child Abuse Prevention Task Force and an ambassador with the Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce.