Why not now? Finding the right time to start my MBA

Christina Laemers (Cohort 9) and Darcy Clark (Cohort 7) bond over their Executive MBA experience.

By Christina Laemers
Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 9 student
Walt Disney Co. Communications Manager

“It was the most difficult and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”

This was the sobering, yet optimistic testimonial I collected from Darcy, a long-time colleague and friend who, only a month prior, had donned a cap and gown and accepted her diploma as an official graduate of the Executive MBA program at Stetson University. I had just been accepted to the program and I was searching for a sign that the time was right to embark on such a major life event, and Darcy was in the perfect position to share some advice on the matter.

To back up a bit, I should explain why I sought advice on such a personal decision. I am someone that consistently struggles with the question, “where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s not because I am particularly wishy-washy or aimless; I do have goals and dreams I plan to accomplish. It’s just that so far, opportunities have presented themselves and if it felt right, I went for it. Now faced with a decision to tie myself in one place for 19 months, it seemed like a big commitment. Not the time, per se, but the freedom that makes it so easy for me to jump on any opportunity: company travel, impromptu vacations, weekend adventures, even a special assignment abroad. The way my career has developed so far, who knows where I might be in 19 months?

Thus began my search for some sound input on the decision, and my mentor and friend Michelle echoed Darcy’s sentiment. “It’s a challenge, but you’re up for it. You won’t ever find ‘the right time,’ if that’s what you’re waiting for.”

Christina Laemers prepares for a graduate experience of a lifetime!

Was it what I was waiting for? Michelle’s words sparked something. I was so concerned about what I might miss that I actually missed the bigger picture: this was an opportunity I would regret letting pass by, and really, now was as good a time as ever. I just had to get out of the “I can do that later” mentality, and consider the “why not now?”

Cohort 9 has just started this journey and I’m still searching for equilibrium (vocab word from Econ!) among my social life, career and being a student; but so far, I find that “right now” was right on the money. I still don’t know where I’ll be in five years, but with the support of my leaders, family, and 24 new best friends, I know exactly where I’ll be in 19 months: donning my own cap and gown as a part of Stetson’s MBA graduating class of spring 2013.

‘Chronosynclastic infundibulum,’ or community building in action

The Sirens of Titan

Image via Wikipedia

Business and creativity are not the opposites some people think they are. In fact, in Dr. Richard Pernell’s MGT 502, Management & Leadership, students learn a blend of business and creativity in the form of  chronosynclastic infundibulum.’

This class was Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 9’s first. It is designed to foster constructive approaches and methods to enhance creativity, innovation, employee motivation and career success. The cohort quickly built a sense of unity, trust and respect with each other that will strengthen over the next 18 months.

Chronosynclastic infundibulum is defined in Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan as the following:

A point in space where, upon a person entering it, that person’s existence in space-time ceases to be linear, becoming discrete. This means that a person that has entered a chronosynclastic infundibulum exists at multiple points and lines in space-time. For example, such a person could exist at all points in time in one place and also appear at another point for five minutes.

According to Dr. Pernell, chronosynclastic infundibulum’s obscurity is just what makes illustrating it the perfect assignment. “It’s all about their learning,” explained Dr. Pernell. The team members, divided into three groups, were thrown into an ambiguous situation with unclear expectations and a fuzzy evaluation process.

“They are developing as a community through experiential learning,” continued Pernell. “This type of learning has emotion as the glue to stick the learning to their experience and is therefore cemented in different parts of the brain to be retrieved at the appropriate time for use. Their presentations illustrated their commitment, not necessarily to the product itself, but rather to the structured action that produced it. This structured action is essentially ‘community building in action,’ the major outcome of MGT 502. Their presentations let all of us view their thinking in a way that was unrestricted by their previous learning patterns.”

One group created a movie as the platform of its presentation and paired it with a performance. “It was a true representation of each person’s creative talents coming together,” said team member Christina Laemers. “We created an original poem set to representative music and imagery, and further appealed to the senses with an interpretive reading that incorporated elements of taste, texture, scent and sound. The journey of creating the project was the real learning experience, most notably learning how to collaborate as a group, discover each other’s strengths and allowing ourselves to trust one another. I thoroughly enjoyed working and presenting with my team as well as watching what the other groups came up with!”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hp3OjFuZ3dw&w=560&h=315]

Another team performed a poetic reading of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (LSD), complete with lighting, sound effects and props. “We were trying to have Cohort 9 travel though time and space into a chronosynclastic infundibulum where all the different kinds of truths fit together and then bring them back to the classroom,” explained student Toshi Matsumura. “Our props included a spinning color ball, flashlights with colored cellophane, rain sticks, citrus and lavender fragrances, train sounds, stream sounds and kaleidoscope motions on the two front white boards (by jones). The team not only enjoyed presenting to Cohort 9, but also the time spent together to prepare for the presentation.”

A third team used its collective artistic talents to create a movie using puppetry and sound effects to show their interpretation. “I really enjoyed this project because the creativity allowed us to let our guards down and act a little silly, which was beneficial during a time when we’re still getting to know each other,” said Lindsay Swantek, a member of the third group. “It was enjoyable to see how each group interpreted the meaning so differently. I have a feeling we’ll always reflect back on the memories of these presentations with a smile!”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goFsPmfPR2Y&w=560&h=315]

With course No. 1 now complete and 16 more to go, Cohort 9 has worked hard to develop meaningful connections with one another, with the assistance of Dr. Pernell and Professor Peggy Stahl.  Members of the cohort are partners in each other’s learning, and their sense of excitement will undoubtedly propel them through the academic journey ahead.

Cohort 9 begins its journey

Cohort 9 is off to a good start, with one weekend behind the students already — and now only slightly less than 19 months left to go!

Class began Aug. 12, and members of Stetson University Executive MBA’s Cohort 9 started their Management and Leadership class taught by Dr. Richard Pernell and Professor Peggy Stahl. “The problem solving and early teamwork was evident as I witnessed small groups working and collaborating effectively,” said Wendy Lowe, coordinator for the Stetson University Executive MBA program. “The first weekend seemed to be extremely successful.”

The students of Cohort 9 are just getting to know each other. They started class Aug. 12 learning management and leadership.

The students agreed. “In the last two days I have gained an affirmation that this program is absolutely the right path for me,” said Christina Laemers, a Cohort 9 student who works as a communications manager for Walt Disney World.

One of the features that stands out in the Executive MBA program is the cohort environment, which teaches students to work together, to support one another and to learn from each other.

“Not only do I feel better equipped to be an effective leader,” said Laemers, “but I know the people in my cohort, although all very different, share the same investment in the learning process. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity, and to be surrounded by such fantastic, unique and intelligent people!”

“Just in the first two days, we have witnessed a dynamic group of people that is well balanced with personalities,” said Laemers’ classmate, Duane Trumble, a quality assurance/guest support professional at Walt Disney World. “I can feel that we are going to have a lot of fun, learn a lot from each other, and cohesively walk each other together through this experience. It’s going to be an awesome ride!”

“I thoroughly enjoyed the first week of class dealing with behavioral patterns relating to business interactions,” Danielle VanCola, a member of Cohort 9 and a junior account executive at Wyndham Vacation Resorts. “Rich and Peggy engage and challenge us to be involved and interact with our cohorts.”

The learning doesn’t stop in the classroom, either, as the students begin to apply it in their careers. “Each week, I will make an effort to apply different aspects of the instruction to my personal and professional life,” said VanCola, “and see how it influences others positively.”

The students resume class Aug. 26 and will alternate weekends from now until April 2013.