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.

Self-discipline pays off for Cohort 6

EMBA’s Cohort 6 -- Back row: Anne Hamilton, Brian Sward, PJ Baro, Andre Hale, Shawn Byrd and Eileen Bowe. Middle row: Abdullah Qasim, Kelly Long, Damaris Jimenez, Mark Snider, Carlos Escobar, Doug Steele, Derrick Guss and Melissa Emley. Front: Bryan Tabler, Deborah Gustafson, Jennifer Small, Melania Lavezzi, Shibani Kyani and Melissa Holycross.

Consider this business proposal: Build a luxury hotel resort condominium on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast that will have rapid initial sales and maintain high occupancy rates. Call it the Tropical Sands. Give it 84 two-bedroom units with many amenities, including balconies with views of both ocean and jungle. Build it in the country’s hottest destination, easily accessible and environmentally rich.

Or what about selling cars online, or operating an adult daycare center or selling wine or developing and selling smart phone apps?

They are all entrepreneurial ideas of students in Stetson University’s Executive MBA Cohort 6, who graduated from Stetson University in May 2010. The detailed business plans, some of which may become reality, are a critical exercise that comes at the end of 19 months of rigorous study.

Awards, surprises, friends and good food made a festive finish for a cohort that went a long way together — all the way, in fact, to the constitutional monarchy of Dubai on the Persian Gulf, 3,700 miles east of the cohort’s classroom, for the international field study element of the group’s studies. In Dubai, students met leading financiers and managers of businesses with a global reach. They also walked the sands of the Arabian Desert and met a few camels.

Students voted lecturer Peggy Stahl of the Management and International Business Department as their “Distinguished Professor.” Jennifer Small was voted “Top Student Overall.” The award for best business plan, decided by Drs. Monique Forte, Ted Surynt and Stuart Michelson, dean of the School of Business Administration, was Tropical Sands, developed by Anne Hamilton, Melania Lavezzi, Abdullah Oasim and Doug Steele.

Among other accomplishments, Cohort 6 left its mark on Stetson by developing a Code of Ethics for future cohorts.

The EMBA program is designed for students with years of real world experience. Cohort 6 is a combination of regional residents, employees of Celebration area businesses, and some who traveled more than two hours to attend class every Friday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

But that wasn’t the hardest part, said PJ Baro. “Making the decision to obtain a graduate level degree was the most difficult part,” Baro said. After that was merely a matter of “great discipline and focus to balance family, work and school responsibilities.” The reward, he said, has been meaningful relationships, a wide professional network, advanced business knowledge and acumen that will “make a lifelong impact.”

Baro was one of six Cohort 6 members tapped to join the honorary society Beta Gamma Sigma. The others are Eileen Bowe, Melissa Emley, Jennifer Small, Doug Steele and Brian Sward.

Cohort 8 student introduces new Disney character

Denise Edelmaier, EMBA student at Stetson University at Celebration, successfully juggles both school and her full-time job as the Plush and Doll Product Developer for Disney Parks and Resorts Merchandise. Denise started the EMBA program Aug. 13, 2010. Since then, she has managed to launch a successful new product line around a “beary” new Disney character named Duffy the Disney Bear.

Duffy officially launched at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim on Oct. 14, 2010, to rave reviews. Duffy’s merchandise assortment includes 12-inch pre-dressed bears, a 17-inch bear with more than 10 unique costumes to choose from and dress him in, a 28-inch Duffy that is so huggable you won’t be able to put him down, a keychain, a magnet and more.

In addition to the expansive product line around Duffy, the parks launched a fully integrated strategy that includes a meet-and-greet Duffy character in Epcot and California Adventure, food and beverage treats, children’s activity placemats, and a create your own Duffy activity in Epcot where Guests can take him to each country and decorate him any way they choose. If you happen to be in either park, you will find Duffy dressed in his signature sailor attire as we welcome him back from world travels with his owner, Mickey.

Disney Bear was originally created by the Disney Design art team here in Orlando using Mickey as the inspiration; Duffy has a Mickey Mouse shaped face and a Mickey-shaped birthmark on his hip. Two years later, Tokyo Disney Resort adopted Disney Bear to be fresh content for Tokyo Disney Seas Park. The story behind the bear was: Minnie made a bear for Mickey to keep him company on his world travels. Mickey named him “Duffy” because Minnie gave him the bear in a duffel bag. Eventually Duffy became a character in the Tokyo Disney Seas park, and over a 5-year period, Duffy became one of the most sought-after souvenirs in the Japanese resort and a coveted collectible by Japanese women ages 20-35.

Duffy is going global as part of the “One Disney” strategy. Disney Parks Entertainment, Marketing, Food and Beverage, Tokyo Disney Seas, Hong Kong Disneyland and U.S. Disney Parks are all leveraging the same company-owned intellectual property.

Duffy’s success is a great example of successful marketing synergy and globalization which Denise is learning more about as part of her Stetson EMBA curriculum. Denise says she has one of the most fun jobs at Disney, getting to dress and play with bears. But her role also requires influencing strategic direction and leading a team, which are both good reasons to further her education.