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Saigon Children

by Judy Ashbrook & Mayra Santiago

Today, we had the great pleasure to visit the students and administration of the Saigon Children’s Charity (SCC) – a very worthwhile local charity which focuses on poverty reduction through education and training.

After a very informative presentation by the Communication Development Manager, Do Thi Xuan Phuc, we got an opportunity to talk to a group of students, ages 14-22, about why higher education is important, potential career opportunities they can consider, as well as sharing personal stories in order to get to know one another.  There was a 20 minute dialogue back and forth sharing the importance of education, learning how it can help them in their life, and the students were very interested in learning about us and what we do! They heard about Margo’s work with the Disney internship program and learned that they could dream to be an intern and work at one day.  Mayra spoke about coming from Puerto Rico and choosing to immerse herself in the American cultural and way of life, becoming a leader in Disney Company. We also enjoyed interacting with the students and staff through an ice breaker in which we broke up into 3 groups, had 5 minutes to create a team name, brand slogan and how we’d promote ourselves, and then present to the group. Three distinguished teams emerged based on commonalities between Stetson students and Saigon students.  Our team was Magic Saigon – Magic to represent Magic Kingdom and Orlando Magic blended with their Saigon.  We pictured fireworks over the Saigon skyline, and decided we would sell ourselves by promising magic through creativity, education, and innovation.

The students in this school have the opportunity learn skills in many areas such as hospitality, beauty, IT, English and photography.  In order to fund their programs, SCC has many fund raising initiatives. For example, recently they have published a book of photographs taken by the students themselves reflecting Vietnam daily life. With proceeds from this book, SCC will be able to continue support the children of Vietnam with initiatives such as scholarship programs, school construction and training and educational development programs.

To end a wonderful time with this organization, we were able to show our support by purchasing several of the ‘coffee table’ books displaying this impressive collection of photographs  taken by students and compiled over 5 years.  We discussed on the bus to look for ways we could give back to them, and with 90% of the profits going directly back in the form of aid & scholarships these seemed perfect!  Our total donation came to around US$500 which we will be used to help the kids of Ho Chi Minh City to be empowered and self-sufficient. This visit was an extremely rewarding and apt way to end our time in Vietnam!

 

Saigon Children’s Charity is truly making a difference in the lives of the children in Vietnam every day.  We encourage you to follow this link below so that you can too can learn more about the Saigon Children’s Charity. 

www.saigonchildren.com/

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Krista Scimeca, Sabrina Singleton & Maureen Karkovice – Esquel Group

V3 - Esquel2

Tuesday morning we visited the Esquel Group garment manufacturing facility. Going into this visit I was particularly interested to witness one of these facilities first-hand, especially given the high-profile clients they service and the media perceptions of textile manufacturing in developing countries.

Esquel Group is truly a remarkable company in this arena. From the moment we walked in the room, we could see that this company truly cared about their employees and about conducting business with integrity. The word “ethics” was written in huge letters on the conference room wall, along with their four other key values: environment, exploration, education, and excellence. These terms truly sum up what Esquel is all about. They are very innovative with their vertically integrated industry systems, from micro-financing and coordinating with cotton farmers, to spinning, combing, dying, weaving, production of buttons and labels, washing, pressing, finishing, inspection – Esquel executes all of these steps, and more. The chairman’s priority to strong corporate responsibility is apparent – the company is committed to absolute quality and efficiency, but is equally invested in the well-being of their workers and provision of environmentally friendly methods. Garment manufacturing facilities consume large amounts of water, and Esquel has invested in massive water treatment facilities to treat and purify the used water to drinking standards before the water is discarded. They invest in extensive training and development, as well as numerous entertainment and sporting activities for their employees. They strive for “Fun People serving Happy Customers,” and it shows.

“Esquel was especially interesting to me because I am currently doing feasibility research and strategic planning for a business idea that would affect the cotton/textile industry” said Sabrina Singleton who appreciated the overlap between school and professional work, and found it to positively benefit her. “These are the kind of reasons that the Stetson EMBA program is especially valuable to me.”

V3 - Esquel4

We took a tour of the facility after our discussion, and the conditions of the factory were very clean and well-organized. The workers were absolute experts at their task and seemed to enjoy their work, although there does appear to be some turnover at the early stages of employment. Everyone we smiled and said hello to smiled right back at us. This trip was eye-opening, and although there are players in the garment industry that certainly fit the sweatshop media stereotype, there are also companies such as Esquel group that are committed to not only conducting business well but making a difference in the industry. This focus on ethics and environment is dually appreciated by their top customers, and has given Esquel a competitive advantage to survive and succeed in a declining industry.

Cody Hampton – Energy in Vietnam
PowerIn America having power for your day to day operations is not really a concern for most people or businesses, but in Vietnam this is a real issue residents face every day. The energy system has not been upgraded for many years and they continue to add additional cable through the city when needed, creating the mess of wires that can be see in parts of Ho Chi Minh City and other regions of Vietnam. The residents of the city also deal with regular black outs because of the system’s inability to cope with demand at times. This is a very big issue and risk for Vietnam as they continue to develop and expand growth. As the country attracts new foreign businesses to start up operations here, many companies are very concerned about having enough power to fit the needs of their operations.

The city is already looking to improve this issue as seen in the new District 7 area the city, which is being built with a much more modern power system. This section of Ho Chi Minh City is very new and is a very expensive part of the city to live in. Most residents of this area are Expats or property investors. The next 5-10 years will be very interesting to see how this area grows, expands and impacts the other districts of this city.

For more on the power in Ho Chi Minh City & Vietnam, watch Sabrina & Margo’s Vlog http://youtu.be/3l2LMHkxRUw

 

 

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Judy Ashbrook & Pablo Chavez – US Commercial Service and Lowe & Partners

HCM2 - Lowe AdvertisingThe few days that we have spent in Vietnam have gone by really quickly, with so many things to see and do.  Today, we had the opportunity meet Frank Joseph, a Commercial Officer with the US Commercial Service, and Indraneel Guha, Director of Strategic Planning Services at Lowe & Partners.  Both visits gave us insights into both how to do business in Vietnam, and the Vietnamese culture and what it is like to work in Vietnam personally.  What stood out about two of the visits was the differing perspectives between the two presenters.  The US commercial service focuses primarily on providing assistance for US company’s to export to Vietnam, and his point of view was mostly small business oriented. Although Vietnam provides opportunities as an emerging market, Frank Joseph was realistic about the challenges of entering the market, such as government red tape, infrastructure, financing and education.  From a Marketing perspective, the presentation at Lowe & Partners looked more closely at the local culture and implications for marketing products as well as the potential of the country as an emerging market.

Overall, the presentations gave the impression that there is a market to be developed in Vietnam, which has great potential, but there is considerable risk due to the cultural trends and political stability of the country.

HCM2 - PhoIn the evening, we had a choice to explore the city on a motorcycle tour or by ourselves.  We traveled by foot from our hotel to the Ben Thanh Market, where the sights and smells were amazing.  As you travel up and down the streets you see all sorts of items for sale such as souvenirs, luggage and Vietnamese delicacies to eat.  The city is fascinating at night, lots of movement happening all around, with taxis and scooters.  Truly an experience just to cross the street! We ended up going to Pho2000 where we experienced Phở – a delicious  bowl of chicken, beef or vegetables served with rice noodles and broth. It was so good, we are all considering going back for seconds!

 

Margo Haines – Food Education: Moving Through the Streets of Ho Chi Minh City

HCM2 - Food tour17For our first optional night Angie, Cody, Lauren, Wendy, our trip guide Michaela and I chose to see the city from the back of bikes, joining Moggy’s Mekong Madness, a motorcycle food tour of Ho Chi Minh City.

The tour began at the hotel and continued on through 5 of 7 districts of Ho Chi Minh City. The group were introduced to weird and wonderful local cuisine from the traditional phở to frog legs and local beverages. As the tour went through the city the guides were able to share local information and the history of Vietnam with us. The culture is so rich and to have the exposure to the districts and the differences between each of them was eye opening. The tour provided a feeling of safety while being able to immerse ourselves in the local culture. The experience of riding through the city on motorbikes, which is the main mode of transportation in Vietnam, and taking in all of the sites while eating the local cuisine was an experience of a lifetime!

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Krista Scimeca – Arriving in Saigon:

Arrival in Vietnam2What a trip! After about 21 hours in the air on three separate flights – our travel time totaling well over 24 hours with layovers, we’ve finally made it over to Ho Chi Minh City.  Overall, Cohort 10 faired pretty well through our travels!  We’re a little tired and groggy, but adjusting to the time difference, and we’ll push through the jet lag in no time.  We’ll be arriving at the Sheraton Saigon with nice, big, comfy, warm beds in hopefully about an hour.  I know I won’t have trouble sleeping tonight.

Tomorrow we’re looking forward to a full and exciting day of Vietnamese culture, starting with a tour of the Mekong Delta region and ending with a beautiful dinner cruise.

 

Wendy Lowe – Day 1: Mekong Delta & Dinner

HCM1 - Mekong Delta5Today we viewed the scenic countryside just outside of Ho Chi Minh City as we headed towards the Mekong Delta for the day.  On the journey there we saw local farmers hard at work, taking care of their crops including fruits and rice.  The students were amazed by the non-stop motorbike activity that served all the purposes of an actual car; including carrying furniture, babies, and supplies for their businesses on the back.

At the Mekong Delta, we traveled by boat, debarked at an Island where a local village resides.  Here we witnessed daily life and the means by which the villagers sustained their families.  Very talented craftsmen, the villagers made items out of every part of the coconut from northern hats, to keychains, to an actual home – roof and all. We were amazed by this ingenuity and by their economical use of this resource.  We also sampled local fruits, honey tea, and coconut candy while on the island and traveled thru the village on a horse and buggy and on a sampan boat.

Angie Stevens said the day was eye-opening.  This wasn’t a simulated place like we often see in a touristy area like Orlando, but the actual “real thing”.

HCM1 - Bonsai Dinner Cruise GroupWe concluded our day with a Welcome Bonsai Dinner aboard a boat that had musical and dancing entertainment, a magician, and a masseuse!

Vietnam has amazing charm; friendly people.  You can walk everywhere and take in the markets along with the sights and sounds of every day living here.  This was a wonderful way to spend our first day in Vietnam, immersing ourselves in the country’s rich cultural heritage.

 

 

Tomorrow the real work begins, with business visits to the US Commercial Office and Lowe Advertising.

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Mekong Delta - Vietnam

Mekong Delta – Vietnam

By Dr. Jon Carrick

The world has become highly globalized and we now must interact with companies from all over the world. Throughout the past term, we have been studying how to interact and conduct business with other countries and cultures. It is beneficial to study these things in the classroom, but there is no substitute for experiencing it first-hand. This is why I am so excited about our EMBA trip to Vietnam and Singapore.

We will get to experience two of the most dynamic economies in the world. Singapore rose from the ashes of conflict in the 1950’s to become one of the strongest economies in the world; it was literally one of the poorest countries in the world and it is now among the richest. The Singaporean economy has grown at an average of 8% p.a. since the 1960’s, and its impressive growth continues.

Vietnam has also recently experienced great growth, but is still a developing country. It will be an interesting contrast to see countries in vastly different stages of economic growth. It will also be interesting to be welcome in a country that, less than 40 years ago, we were at war with. If you had told people 30 years ago that Vietnam would be an important trading partner with the U.S., people would have thought that you were crazy. But here we are getting ready to visit an open and friendly Vietnam.

Between the two countries, we have nine great business visits planned. These visits are to an array of small and large organizations and will really bring to life what we have been learning in the classroom. Stay tuned, as the students and I will blog about each of our visits and our other experiences in Vietnam and Singapore.

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Mkting Sim2

A few weeks ago Cohort 10 experienced a highly interactive simulation, in which students define and execute a business-to-business marketing strategy. The aim of this group exercise was to develop an understanding of the link between marketing strategy formulation and effective execution, and using segment and customer needs analysis to make product marketing and design decisions. “The simulation helped students experience the interconnectivity of each of the marketing mix elements in making strategic business decisions.” according to the course professor Dr. Michelle DeMoss, Ph.D.
Mkting Sim1

Successful marketing strategies require consideration of a variety of factors, which may impact realization of goals. In this simulation, the students need to identify market segmentations, set a product price and discounts. They then allocate sales and marketing resources for each targeted segment including setting the level of spending on marketing communications and market research. Customer feedback is then provided by the program through dynamic video interviews so that students can gain important insights into the effectiveness of their marketing strategies. The simulation can be relayed a number of times, adjusting factors such as price and marketing investment to see changes in the results.

Mkting Sim3Dr. DeMoss was thrilled with the outcome of the exercise, stating that “the class performed very well, with one group achieving the highest simulation score yet!  Students were so engaged in the exercise that they requested that the simulation be available to play for the rest of the semester on their own time.”


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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.

 

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Ho Chi Minh CityWith just 7 weeks to go before they leave for Vietnam and Singapore, Cohort 10 are beginning to prepare for their 10-day international experience.

Today in a Skype call with our International Study Programs program manager, Michaela Vokounova, the students got a first glimpse at their full itinerary and the events that will dominate their trip. There is so much to see in the 10 days away, that the itinerary is filled with cultural events, sightseeing and business consultations – this will be an immersive experience, which allows the students to appreciate the differences of doing business in both countries, and deepens their understanding of different cultures, people and perspectives, to reinforce the importance of a global mindset.

The trip will consist of visits to 8 different small and large businesses in a range of industries, daily cultural events – including a boat cruise on the Mekong Delta and day at Sentosa Island – and a philanthropic activity helping disadvantaged people in Ho Chi Minh City.

Singapore skyline at nightMekong Delta - Vietnam

We are very excited about what promises to be an amazing residency!!

Keep an eye out for future updates and watch Facebook and our blog for stories of our travels when we leave in 7 weeks.

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C9 Capstone 1

Team 1 presents

Cohort 9 completed their final capstone course on March 23, 2013, by bringing the knowledge and skills they had gained over the past 19 months, and applying these to real-life business cases. Students experienced a working product, and the processes of strategic business plan development while bringing together different functional business areas such as marketing, finance and management to develop a comprehensive plan to address the needs of the company.Each group worked with an existing company, collaborated throughout the semester by acting as a consultant to refine all aspects of their business plan, and eventually make recommendations accordingly. On the last day, the business teams presented their recommendations to the entrepreneurs and a panel of experts. Each group did a phenomenal job, making this a very rewarding experience for the students and businesses alike.

Below is a summary of the businesses that our EMBA teams were exposed to for this exercise.

The judging panel & audience

Natural Current, Inc. – Edwin, Crystal, David, Michelle & Brian.

Natural Current produces innovative and environmentally friendly products for the swimming pool industry by providing an off-grid alternative to clean residential and commercial swimming pools. The product utilizes solar technology to reduce the energy cost to the consumer, and also reduce their carbon footprint, and is capable of filtering up to 10,000 gallons of water daily.

ProFlower Design – Joe, Monica, Wayne, Nelson & Lindsay.

ProFlower Design offers unique and innovative software that has the potential to reinvent the world of floral design and events. ProFlower Designs provides a range of tools to companies in the floral industry.

C9 Capstone 2

Congratulations to the winning team!

Fusion Fitness Designs – Glorimar, Christina L., Rebecca, Bonnie & Duane.

Fusion Fitness Designs is a Florida based company which designs, manufactures and sells strength training equipment. Their mission is to “supply the international strength training equipment market with a superior product in design and aesthetics and provide new designs, increased technology and health awareness training.”

Choose Rain – Christina B., Danielle, John, Maria & Michael.

Choose Rain operates in the ultra premium bottled water category. The amount of water Americas drink has risen nearly every year and Choose Rain plans to capitalize this trend while standing out by offering a healthy alternative to the other bottled water products, which are treated with chlorine.

Summaries ‘R US – Brad, Dianne, Gwen, Toshi & Valerie.

Summaries ‘R Us is a website of textbook summaries (focusing on History and Science) that helps students to focus their studies on important and relevant information in book chapters. The site would provide chapter summaries, as well as other useful resources to help students study and manage their workload.

Congratulations to everyone on some outstanding work, and we look forward to
celebrating your graduation with you next month!!!

 

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EMBA Cohort 9 experienced a Lean Paper Cup Simulation demonstrating the benefits of Lean principles and practices in action. Students learned how to simplify a process, make it more efficient, and ended up with a usable cup that was high-quality with little to no waste.

Have you drunk from a handmade paper cup?? Check it out.

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