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.

Skydiving is only one of Michelson’s adventures this month

While the students in Stetson University’s Executive MBA Cohort 8 were getting prepared to fly across the Atlantic to visit South Africa in a just a few days, their director was flying as well — but mid-flight, he jumped out of the plane.

Dr. Stuart Michelson, dean of Stetson’s School of Business and director of Stetson’s Executive MBA program, went for a skydive last weekend at Skydive DeLand to celebrate his birthday. Jumping out of a plane at 13,500 feet might be too scary for some people, but Michelson called it “fun.”

“This is something you just have to tell yourself you’re going to do and then not let yourself back out,” said Michelson, after his jump. “Like many people, I don’t like heights, so the first step out of the plane is the hardest, but once you’re out, it’s great. The free fall at about 170 mph is a tremendous rush, and when the chute opens, you have a very peaceful quiet glide into the landing area. You can see for miles.”

This wasn’t Michelson’s first jump, though. In May 2010, he and another professor, the late Monique Forte, and eight Stetson University students went skydiving together, the day before graduation.

What’s up next for this daredevil, of course, is the trip to South Africa, where the current students in Cohort 8 are visiting for their international trip.

“It all seems very exciting,” said Michelson. “I’m especially looking forward to visiting the Apartheid Museum, the Pilanesberg Safari, the Robben Island Tour (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned), the Cullinan Diamond Mine and Warwick Winery.”

Michelson and the members of the cohort depart Orlando International Airport June 16 and return 10 days later. We’ll be posting updates throughout the trip on this blog. Stay tuned!

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.”

Stetson School of Business earns prestigious reaccreditation

Stetson University’s School of Business Administration has been reaccredited in both business and accounting by AACSB International — The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The reaccreditation was received earlier this month following an in-depth review of the business school and visit by an AACSB team.

“AACSB accreditation is the highest level of accreditation for business schools internationally. Stetson School of Business Administration is proud to be among the elite few universities awarded business and accounting accreditation,” said Dr. Stuart Michelson, dean of the School of Business Administration. “This ensures our students experience the highest quality programs taught by our exceptional faculty.”

Founded in 1916, AACSB International is the longest serving global accrediting body for business schools that offer undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in business and accounting. Only 607 schools of business, or less than 5 percent worldwide, have earned AACSB accreditation in business education. Of those, only 35 private universities internationally — including Stetson — 
also have accreditation in accounting.

To maintain accreditation, a business program must undergo a rigorous internal review every five years, at which the program must demonstrate its continued commitment to the 21 quality standards relating to faculty qualification, strategic management of resources, interactions of faculty and students, as well as a commitment to continuous improvement and achievement of learning goals in degree programs.

The first business school in Florida, Stetson’s School of Business Administration was established in 1897 and today offers a wide range of majors in its undergraduate business program, as well as a number of master’s programs. Business and accounting degree programs are rigorous, relevant to emerging trends in the business environment, and supported by strong faculty and academic leadership.

In addition to the traditional MBA, the School of Business Administration offers an Executive MBA, the Master of Accountancy degree (both in class and online), a joint Juris Doctor (law)/MBA degree in conjunction with the Stetson University College of Law and a dual degree Master of Science in Pharmacy and MBA in conjunction with partner school, the University of Florida College of Pharmacy.

Both the JD/MBA and MSP/MBA programs allow a student to complete two master’s level degrees in approximately three years of study. A collaboration between the university’s business and music schools allows a student to earn both an undergraduate music degree and an MBA in five years.

Among the distinctive business programs offered to students at Stetson are the Roland George Investments Institute, through which finance students make investments with real money; the Family Enterprise Center, which boasts the first academic major in family business in the United States; the Joseph C. Prince Entrepreneurship Program; the Stetson Summer Innsbruck Program, offering study-abroad in Austria; and several lecture series featuring top business executives.

The School of Business Administration requires an international business course of all undergraduate students and also offers many shorter field studies abroad each year, for both undergrads and graduate students. Countries visited through field studies this year included Japan, China, South Africa, Malaysia/Vietnam and Hong Kong. Additionally, all Stetson business students take a First Year Business Seminar designed to introduce new students to the business disciplines, as well as two shorter courses that transition them through their Stetson program.

The School of Business Administration is housed in the Lynn Business Center, which opened in 2002 and provides a modern and flexible instructional and work environment. The facility reflects Stetson’s commitment to small class sizes and collaborative faculty-student teaching and learning – and also provides the current technology to meet emerging needs in business education. The LBC was the first building in Florida to earn Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

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.