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.

Stetson benefits from lessons in gamification and job market trends

Wouldn’t it be great to win money from a lottery if you were “caught” going the speed limit on a highway?

That’s what drivers in Stockholm, Sweden, are experiencing thanks to an experiment that encouraged people to create games that motivate a positive change. This “gamification” is an idea that was addressed at the Executive MBA Council Conference in Key Biscayne, Fla., Oct. 16-19. Wendy Lowe, program coordinator for the Stetson University Executive MBA program attended the conference and learned about gamification, job market trends and career services options that students, alumni and future students will reap the benefits from.

This video shows the “Speed Camera Lottery,” which rewards safe drivers instead of only penalizing speeders. It was presented during Villanova University’s thought-provoking session on marketing and recruiting using gamification.


Gamification takes advantage of the fact that the elements of a game are fun and addictive,” explained Lowe, citing Harvard Business Review and Wall Street Journal articles that have documented how game mechanics can drive certain behaviors.

Tactics used by IBM and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu are making mundane tasks such as management training, data entry and brainstorming seem less like work. These games reward employees with points or badges and show competitors’ scores on leaderboards.

“I am intrigued by these gamification techniques and how they may assist in the recruitment and application process,” said Lowe. “I’m exploring possibilities for the Executive MBA program to see how we can employ such tactics and strategies to benefit our students and alumni.”

Lowe was among more 440 Executive MBA Council members from around the globe at the conference, and the idea of incorporating gamification into Executive MBA recruitment and retention was only one of many fascinating subjects.

Lowe attended one session hosted by Rosemary Haefner, vice president of, who noted some interesting statistics:

  • One in 10 corporations REQUIRE an MBA.
  • Six in 10 corporations PREFER that an employee or candidate have an MBA.
  • Nearly half (49%) of corporations offer tuition reimbursement.
  • An Executive MBA has the greatest impact on critical decision-making, global perspectives, and increased confidence through educational rigor and focus.
  • Employees with an MBA are more engaged and satisfied at work.
  • Purposeful access to learning with rich content is critical, using tools such as iPads, laptops, podcasts, webinars, digital text and videos.

Lowe also participated in the Career Services track, which discussed services that best reflect students’ differing backgrounds and goals. Some of the services, such as career/executive coaching, workshops, seminars and campus recruiting access opportunities, are already offered by Stetson University, but Lowe learned of other options as well that may benefit Stetson students and alumni in the future.

“While we’re coming up with additional options,” said Lowe, “students should be sure to contact Stetson’s director of career services, Robin Kazmarek, who advises graduate students on career opportunities. A toolkit of resources, resume workshops, self-marketing tools and techniques, along with a knowledgeable staff, are at any Hatter’s fingertips.

“I returned to Celebration last week after the conference inspired to implement many of the best practices presented and to plan for future innovations,” concluded Lowe.

Business intelligence now more valuable to employers

Screenshot of KNIME

Converting raw data into information that managers can use to make decisions is becoming increasingly important. Image via Wikipedia

A shift in the world of marketing has led to a new appreciation for the analysis of data.

A report in The Wall Street Journal, “Business Schools Plan Leap Into Data,” discusses an emerging trend among graduate and undergraduate business schools to add classes, certificates and degrees geared specifically toward business intelligence, or data analytics.

The article says that as the use of analytics grows, companies will need employees who understand the data. The authors cited a study that found that by 2018, the United States will face a shortage of 1.5 million managers who can use data to shape business decisions.

“Analytics is certainly in the Top 5 things [executives] are worried about and investing in actively,” said Scott Gnau, president of Teradata’s Teradata Labs, told The Wall Street Journal. “Industry is going to demand it. Students are going to demand it.”

Kim Ruggiero, a Cohort 7 graduate of the Stetson University Executive MBA program, said she has witnessed firsthand the business world placing more value on the ability to decipher the numbers.

“Data analysis is vital, especially in the social media space, because as a marketer you need to know who to message to, what to message and how much to message,” explained Ruggiero, an associate marketing manager at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “Digital tactics such as online advertising, QR codes, website activity and social media sites are much easier to track than traditional media like radio and TV. It allows us to determine which tactics performed well and what the level of engagement was among our consumers to help influence decisions in the future.”

One of Ruggiero’s classmates, Darcy Clark, agrees. “Data is critical,” said Clark, who works in digital marketing at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “I use data on a daily basis, most often as it relates to our social media and Facebook strategies. We can measure the impact of a particular post and tell how many people engaged with the content, how many clicked through to get more information and how many ultimately purchased (if it was tied to an offer).”

Clark added that many people in her organization are tasked solely with data analysis, each working on a different piece of the puzzle. “It’s that important,” she emphasized.

But as much as data analysis is key in the marketing field, both Ruggiero and Clark say they believe most business schools don’t prepare students for the practical uses of data analysis.

“The base knowledge we gained from the Stetson Executive MBA program set the foundation for later learning that can only occur on the job,” said Clark.

Students in the Stetson Executive MBA program take several classes that focus on the subject, including Fundamental Statistical Management Techniques, Marketing Concepts and Analysis, Managerial Decision Analysis and Marketing Decision Making.

“Dr. Ted Surynt’s and Dr. Ram Subramanian’s classes were great in opening up my mind to think creatively about how all the pieces of a puzzle fit together,” added Clark. “That is critical when you’re looking at numbers and data and how those things fit into the larger marketing and overall business picture.”

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.

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.

College degrees and careers

The importance of an education for your career, written by Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 4 alumnus Cathy Martin:

I was in my thirties when I confronted the beast that was my education to that point. There I was, in a management  job  I loved (Director of H.R. for a large diversified manufacturing and marketing firm), without the usual college degree. I’d attended a big university for nearly five years, unable to settle on a suitable major. Or, unable to sit in a seat in a classroom and focus, depending on how you view my bad decisions. Or, if you view them as my parents did, more interested in social opportunities than educational opportunities.

Read the rest of this post here. 




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.”

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.”

Executive MBA student salaries continue to rise, according to council research

Originally published by the Executive MBA Council in its quarterly newsletter:

Recent graduates of Executive MBA Programs who participated in the Executive MBA Council 2010 Student Exit Benchmarking Survey reported increases in their salary and bonus packages from the start to the end of their programs. In 2010, the average salary and bonus amounts of students in the survey rose 11.4 percent from the start to end of the program, compared to 9.4 percent in 2009. Students’ average salary and bonus package at the start of their EMBA Programs was $127,955, increasing to $142,534 by the end of the program.

The Executive MBA Council conducts the Student Exit Benchmarking Survey to track the perceptions and opinions of EMBA Program graduates and to help measure the return on investment of the degree. The survey included 3,674 students from 116 programs. In addition, 37 percent of students in the survey reported receiving promotions, and 68 percent reported receiving new responsibilities during their time in the program.

“Executive MBA students continue to do well in this challenging economy,” says Michael Desiderio, executive director of the EMBA Council. “Survey data shows the return on investment for EMBA students remains significant.”

Graduates in the survey remain loyal supporters of the EMBA experience. The survey’s loyalty index helps demonstrate participating students’ satisfaction with their program. The loyalty index is a combination of students’ rankings of program quality (8.4 on a 10-point scale), students’ willingness to recommend their program to a colleague or friend (8.8), and the likelihood of supporting the program as alumni (8.2).

“The loyalty index shows that EMBA students continue to be satisfied with their programs and educational experience,” says Desiderio. “It also shows that alumni are willing to stay involved with programs.”