Make just one change

Just making one change in your daily routine could make you happier and more productive at work. That is, according to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, who maintains that happiness is a choice.

Stetson University Executive MBA alumnus Penny Miller of Cohort 7 found out about his book and wants to pass along Achor’s ideas to her fellow alumni.

The article she passed along recommended adding one of the following to your daily routine for three weeks:

• Write down three new things you are grateful for each day;

• Write for two minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours;

• Exercise for 10 minutes a day;

• Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out;

• Write one quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising someone in your social support network (family member, friend, old teacher).

The article explained that, in a study, the group of people who added in one of these activities had a better general sense of well-being within three weeks. Within four months of incorporating the exercise, they had a significantly higher life satisfaction score.

“I will be working on a new habit or two,” said Miller. “I can handle writing down three things I’m grateful for and a quick thank-you note every morning. Seems those two make sense together!”

After several weeks, Miller had kept up the new habit. “I have continued to note three things I’m grateful for and send a thank-you note each workday,” she explained. “I’ll admit sometimes I make up for missed notes later in the week. I’ve had some busy and challenging days over the past couple of months and it really does help. Plus I’ve shared this article with some co-workers in hopes that they too will make the choice to be happier at work which will only help me.”

If you try adding in one of the exercises, let us know! We’d love to hear how it goes.

And if you have articles, books or ideas you’d like to share with Stetson students and alumni, e-mail program coordinator Wendy Lowe at

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!

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.

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.”

Dr. Belcher wins EMBA Outstanding Professor award

Dr. Larry Belcher holds the plaque naming him the EMBA Outstanding Professor as members of Stetson University School of Business Administration’s Executive MBA Cohort 7 surround him. Students presented Belcher the award at the March 19 reception following the cohort’s last class of the 19-month program.

Many of Stetson’s veteran professors left lasting impressions on Stetson EMBA’s Cohort 7, but when it came to choosing one to receive the EMBA Outstanding Professor Award, the overwhelming choice was Dr. Larry Belcher, a finance professor at Stetson since 1990. Students said he has a knack for putting complex academic concepts into understandable real-world terms, connected with every student, espoused a centered approach to life and that his sense of humor helped lighten stressful classwork.

“You have to love a guy who answers to Dr. Doom,” said student Norbert Dean.

One highlight of Cohort 7’s studies was a trip to Vietnam and Hong Kong last summer where they not only met business leaders and toured factories and cultural sites, but also decided to perform a service project in Vietnam. The cohort worked in the kitchen of a small Buddhist monastery in Ho Chi Minh City preparing a meal for monks and played games  with children who also practiced their English on the students.

EMBA students in the past have visited Ireland, the Czech Republic and Dubai, and later this spring, Cohort 8 will embark for a tour of businesses and cultural sites in South Africa.

“I am forever changed because of this program,” said Darcy Clark, a Disney marketing manager. “I believe in myself more than I used to.  I’m more confident.  And most importantly, I’ve developed relationships that will far outlast my 19 months at Stetson.”

Walter Kurlin, a Disney facilitator of Orlando, agrees: “I have recommended and will recommend the program to others.”

EMBA graduates will receive diplomas at Stetson University Commencement ceremonies on May 7. Graduates include Penny Miller, Gillian Cady, Chuck Rivas, Norbert Dean, Aaron Wright, Terrence Tasior, Kelly Glassburn, Darcy Clark, Joshua Speed, David Ulloa, Kenyon Langford, Lourdes Mola, Alicia Matheson, Wael Alfattani, Susan Golinsky, Kimberly Ruggiero, Walter Kurlin and Joel Foreman.

Four Cohort 7 students earn peer awards

Top students of Stetson University’s Executive MBA’s Cohort 7 hold their gifts after learning that fellow students picked them for honors. They are Penny Miller, named Top Student Overall; Norbert Dean, named Cool Under Pressure; Gillian Cady, Team Player and Chuck Rivas, Best Humor.

Toasts, cheers, honors and feasting marked the end of studies March 19 for a group of MBA students at the Stetson Center at Celebration who completed the life-changing goal of earning a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.

Members of the cohort picked Penny Miller of Clermont, a human resources partner for Disney, as the Top Student Overall. Gillian Cady, a Disney project manager of Minneola, was chosen to receive the Team Player Award. Classmates chose Chuck Rivas of Apopka, who works in information technology for Disney, as the student with the Best Humor, and Norbert Dean of Windermere received the Cool Under Pressure Award.

“The experience was all that I hoped for and much more,” Miller said of her EMBA courses. “I have been applying classroom learning’s in my work since my first month in the program.” The understanding she gained, she said, helps her “bring a new level of overall business acumen to the table” in her professional role.

These students and other EMBA graduates will receive diplomas at Stetson University commencement ceremonies on May 7.