Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida

 Cohort 11: Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida

Stetson University’s Executive MBA Cohort 11 developed marketing plans for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida for their final project in the Marketing Decision-Making course facilitated by Dr. Michelle DeMoss in Spring 2014. Cohort 11 was instrumental in generating ideas for the development of Second Harvest Food Bank’s marketing objectives, strategies, and assisting them with maximizing marketing opportunities to improve their deliverables to the community. The objective of this project was to apply real world learning experiences to benefit both students and the community.

Cohort 11 at Second Harvest Food Bank

Cohort 11 at Second Harvest Food Bank

Second Harvest incorporated some of Stetson’s Executive MBA marketing plan solutions to use in both the short and long term. With September being the Hunger Action month, Second Harvest was dedicated to promote hunger awareness across the US through special events, e-newsletters, blogs as well as their staff and volunteers wearing orange t-shirts in support of their going orange campaign to fight hunger.

During this time, Second Harvest was also competing to receive a Walmart Fighting Hunger, Spark Change $60,000 grant which would help them provide 315,000 meals to the Central Florida community.

pic2Keith Henry, a current Stetson Executive MBA student and search marketing manager at the Walt Disney Company, helped Second Harvest create their first Facebook campaign. Keith leveraged his professional talents, expertise, and shared strategies to increase their fundraising exposure and marketing efforts, during a timeframe well beyond the conclusion of the advanced marketing course offered in the Executive MBA program. Through collaborative efforts of the Second Harvest team and Keith Henry, success was achieved by winning the Walmart grant for $60,000. “Giving back to those less fortunate is a passion of mine, said Keith Henry. I considered this more than just a class project, for me, it was an opportunity to utilize my expertise for the benefit of an organization I truly believe in. I feel privileged to have played a part in Second Harvest being awarded the $60,000 Walmart grant”. Second Harvest is very appreciative of Keith who donated time out of his busy work, school and family schedule to help them achieve this success and contribute to the Central Florida community.

Negotiations Workshop – Cohort 11

Dave Rothfeld - Executive in Residence for Stetson University

Dave Rothfeld – Executive in Residence for Stetson University


Cohort 11 participated in an all-day Negotiations workshop delivered by Dave Rothfeld, Executive in Residence for Stetson University.  During the negotiating session, students were instructed that virtually anything in the business world can be negotiated as long as the negotiator knows exactly what they are trying to accomplish in advance.

The cohort discussed common trends when negotiating professional agreements, salary increases, and extending job offers. Proven negotiation tools and techniques were shared and then modeled group exercises were conducted to practice the application of effective use in future encounters.

The executive students also learned the significance of non-verbal clues and their importance in any negotiating situation, and in fact that sometimes this communication is more impactful than what is actually being communicated verbally when negotiating.

The facilitator, Dave Rothfeld, stressed the importance of both parties in a negotiation walking away with the feeling that they have “won”.  Being creative and flexible is key. Innovative ideas were discussed in how to assist in the process.  The significance of such could result in a continued partnership, references, and an overall level of satisfaction by all involved.  This is the POWER of NEGOTIATING!

Cohort 11 - Negotiations

Cohort 11 – Negotiations

 The workshop concluded by the student teams working through “real” business scenarios and practicing their negotiation learnings.  Many commented that their confidence grew in handling delicate conversation and by their willingness to be open and flexible, sometimes even agreeing with their negotiator, to ensure that the negotiation worked out in their favor.

After successfully facilitating the workshop, Dave stated “In my 20 years of addressing MBA students at a number of universities, I must say that I enjoyed the enthusiasm and participation of Cohort 11 EMBA at Stetson University the most. Everyone was engaged and truly appreciative of the real-world approach to negotiating that I was able to present. I look forward to a future opportunity to address this group of committed executives.”


Leadership Starts with Self-Awareness

Greg McCann (2)

EMBA faculty & program director, Dr. Greg McCann

Executive MBA students in Cohort 11 are eager to share their Professional Development Plan (PDP) with their course faculty, Dr. Michelle DeMoss and Dr. Greg McCann. This month long project involved strenuous focus, soul searching, and discussions with professional leaders/co-workers and personal friends/family alike.

Dr. McCann, with expertise in leadership development, utilized the Professional Development Plan, which has been time tested over 15 years, “because all leadership starts with a deep-dive into self-awareness, a framework develops as a result, and then a  practice  is cultivated to move towards success.”


Professional Development Plan Dashboard

The purpose of the Executive MBA Professional Development Plan is to help students analyze who they are, what they value, how they define success, and what all of this means for them both professionally and personally.  This will serve as the foundation for monitoring their progress during the 19-month Executive MBA experience.  A Professional Development Plan dashboard will reside on their iPad, keeping each mindful and accountable for their goals each term.  The Cohort Coach will use the dashboard to guide their future coaching sessions and collaborative discussions.

Both the faculty and the cohort coach agree that there is no magical formula in these individual Professional Development Plans. Each individual’s issues, history, journey, and goals will be varied. Each individual will be held accountable for following their plan, paying careful attention to both the personal and professional aspects. The Coach will help facilitate adherence to these goals and success as the student as defined it!

Cohort 9 Graduates!!!


Three cohorts - working and supporting each other!

Three cohorts – working and supporting each other!

After 19 months of hard work and dedication, we were delighted to watch our largest cohort to date cross the stage, be individually recognized, and hooded during their rite of investiture. The Dean of the School of Business and Provost shook each graduates hand as they celebrated their personal journey in the quest of an MBA degree. Family members and fellow cohorts were just as vocal about their accomplishment, as cheers erupted from the audience. “This graduation experience was so much more overwhelming than any other I’ve been a part of before. It made me realize just how hard I’ve worked throughout the EMBA program and how badly I wanted to accomplish this goal. It was so inspiring to hear every single one of our names called and know that we had walked this journey together!” – Lindsay Swantek

The commencement ceremony included a speech from Stetson University President Wendy B. Libby who gave the “charge” to graduates – a tradition of placing a duty and responsibility upon the new graduates. Libby highlighted how a Stetson University education assists graduates in moving from success to significance, and reminds them how to be of service to the world.

C9 Grad 11

“Graduation was awesome. The message to lead a life of significance resonated with me. I took the president’s charge to heart! What a great way to conclude our program. I look forward to leading an active alumni life.” – David LaRocque, Stetson Double Hatter


During the cohorts time with us at Stetson, the group have developed lifelong relationships and grown together personally and professionally, resulting in tomorrow’s future leaders. We feel very privileged to have been a part of this transformational experience which included a 10-day international trip.  We have shared in their successes, challenges, and their personal journey – the proposals, pregnancies, and the losses shaped our overall experience. We are so fortunate to have experienced all these impactful moments!

We are so proud to have Cohort 9 join the Stetson Alumni family, and hope you will stay connected and continue to share your journey and lifelong friendship with us.


Melania Lavezzi, EMBA Class of 2010, Releases a Children’s Book

Melania Lavezzi and Melbi, who served as inspiration for the book.

Melania Lavezzi, a Celebration resident and a graduate of the Executive MBA Program in Cohort 6, releases her first children’s book in both paperback and an e-book version available now on Amazon.On December 20th, you can download the Kindle edition for free for 1 day!  Go to and search “Mom, dad, can we get a dog?” Click on the Kindle edition and enjoy with your family! In addition, the book can be borrowed from Kindle owner’s library until the end of February.

Book Description: “Mom, dad, can we get a dog” is written by a dog trainer and is the story of two children, CJ and Sofia, that want a dog.  Their parents know that owning a dog is a long-term commitment. For this reason, the wise parents try to expose the children to the canine world as much as possible. During their adventures, the family learns how to behave around dogs in order to be safe, how to have fun with dogs and how to be responsible dog owners. At the end of the book there is a quiz that reinforces the learning experience.

Congratulations to Melania for this incredible accomplishment.

Alumni and students, please keep sharing your successes with the EMBA team. Your fellow hatters, cohorts, faculty, and entire Stetson “family” enjoy celebrating with you.

Executive Students “Support Systems” Impact Success

 Stetson University’s Executive MBA Cohort 10 students participated in our 1st “Family Day” in late October, co-hosted by Dr. McCann and Dr. DeMoss and the Executive MBA team.  The event was held for two purposes:

1) To be introduced to the cohort’s “support system”

Pablo Chavez and his wife, Kristen

2) To hear from both students and their respective “support system” the impact the Management & Leadership course has had on their personal and professional lives over the past 2 months.

The Management and Leadership course, scheduled at the beginning of the EMBA program, provides each student the opportunity to craft a Personal and Professional Development Plan while receiving faculty facilitation, expertise, and suggestions from an “executive coach”.  The students will use this Plan as they practice these goals and work/life behaviors during their 19-month EMBA Journey and beyond.  During this process, each student noted the significance of their “support system” and how these individuals will be instrumental in their practice, journey, and overall success. Therefore, we felt that it was extremely important to wrap these members into our larger “learning community” as quickly as possible!

The students’ “support system” arrived and shared lunch and a discussion regarding their signifi

Judy Ashbrook and her daughter, Kelsey

cant other’s growth since starting their Stetson Executive MBA program on August 10, 2012.  Guests included spouses, fiancées, children, cousins, mentors, alumni from their respective workplace, and even an undergraduate professor, Dr. Allan Hall, who recently retired to Celebration and was the instructor to one of our EMBA graduate students. 

This event was definitely another “learning opportunity” in which all participants benefited greatly. 

  • Students introduced their peers to their support system
  • “Support system” members felt validated in their role as “coach” and “supporter” and the significant appreciation of their student
  • Stetson course facilitators, Dr. Greg McCann & Dr. Michelle DeMoss, were able to glean progress made based on the students diligent efforts and ongoing “practice”

 Wendy Lowe, Assistant Director, shared her understanding and significance of the “support system’s” role in the EMBA experience having once played that role herself.  Wendy encouraged family members to stay involved and as a result of this time together, the EMBA team will be formalizing the “Support System’s” participation in upcoming events with all current students and their families and future cohorts.

New EMBA Focuses On More Than Education

Dr. Greg McCann leads a discussion with the executive students and their “support system” members during “Family Day”.

Begin with “know thyself,” the ancient Socratic wisdom.

Blend with an array of business knowledge–innovative, theoretical, practical, academic. Stir in a diverse team of executives with close attachments and extremely personal commitments to success. Mix well with customized ingredients for human development and just a dash of boot camp intensity.

That powerful recipe is creating a “new” Executive MBA Program in the School of Business Administration, one that is changing lives and will produce exceptional individuals charged with remarkable energy and knowledge to focus on career success. Now in its tenth year, the EMBA Program is being infused with potent new elements to offer students something beyond “mere education,” something leadership is calling “development.”

“The (new) EMBA Program is broader, more inclusive and holistic than merely education,” say two top business professors who helped create the changes. “Development,” unlike usual classroom education, requires working with each practitioner to craft a values-based definition of success. It begins with one-on-one coaching and transitions to a team effort integrated throughout the 19-month program.

“EMBA professionals achieve success as they define it,” said Dr. Greg McCann, director of the school’s Graduate Council and EMBA faculty member. He and Dr. Michelle DeMoss, Marketing Department chair, have created changes to stay abreast of the needs of executives in today’s global business universe.

“We want to affirm the program’s strengths while building new and effective elements aimed at individual student needs,” said Dr. Thomas V. Schwarz, dean of Business Administration. “Personal coaching and mentoring are potent elements that can help catapult careers and give our school wide exposure for its innovative and intimate design and culture.”

The holistic approach develops the whole person, personally and professionally, because the two aspects of life are highly interdependent. Building and sustaining strong long-term relationships encourage quick response to individual needs.
A major linchpin of the program begins on the first day when participants start creating their Professional Development Plans, a month-long process that demands intensive, insightful review of one’s character, reputation, values, emotions, definition of success and a step-by-step action plan.

The long, detailed document becomes the catalyst for vital customized elements of the program energized through executive coaching sessions that guide and monitor progress. Every student is matched by commitment, personality, professional experience and expertise with an EMBA alumni mentor. Frequent mentor/mentee meetings lend constant guidance, feedback and wisdom to facilitate growth and development. Consultations with visionaries and global leaders will guide curriculum, rigor and relevancy of the program.

“Our intention,” said McCann and DeMoss, “is to empower each person to have a life-changing experience that leads to their development as a person, as a leader, and as a member of a team.” Cohorts are collaborative, not competitive. They share the core goals, learning values, reputation and behavior in communication, conflict resolution and mirror workplace teamwork. Members hold one another accountable. Success is shared.

Families are drawn into the EMBA experience to increase the comfort level and help create a sense of community for everyone involved. Advice for success is shared in discussions about the ripple effect of the program on practitioner/students, significant others and everyone involved in the process.

The members of Cohort 10 began work in August and will complete the program in spring 2014. Noticeable changes in their personal and working lives are already evident to them and others, they say.

“This approach to development and creative advancement is worth the personal investment,” said Peter Platt, a cohort member from Sanford and senior vice president of Jones Trading Institutional Services in Heathrow. “I am more than willing to pay for Stetson’s program.”

“This is the program,” said cohort student Mayra Santiago of Kissimmee, a workforce planning and leadership development manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “It has changed my life.”

The EMBA Program is based at the Stetson Center at Celebration, Florida. Classes are offered on alternating Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit the EMBA Web site, call Wendy Lowe at (321) 939-7603 or email at Ask about informational sessions held several times a year.

by Ronald Williamson

Multiple viewpoints and group dynamics

Cohort 9 student Duane Trumble said he learned how to better manage teams, thanks to the Organizational Theory & Behavior class.

Members of Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 9 successfully completed their 12th course of 17, Organizational Theory & Behavior.  The students said they appreciated the intense discussions regarding “soft skills.” They participated in various assessments, group and individual presentations, and individual activities, which enabled the cohort to study preferences, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for development as a person and leader.

“The Organizational Behavior course had a great impact on me,” said Duane Trumble, a Cohort 9 student who works for The Walt Disney Co. “Company organizational behavior is complex because it involves human behaviors. This course helped us learn how to utilize tools to better understand and manage teams and the organization, as well as help us with a structured personal development plan.”

Many of Trumble’s classmates added that the presentations encouraged thoughtful role playing, designed to provide a nice balance to the lectures, discussions, videos and written assessments with analysis that were threaded throughout the class sessions.  Students shared enthusiasm as they revisited their own personal development progress from when they began their Executive MBA journey just more than 12 months ago.

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 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 so we can recognize your accomplishments!