Cohort 8 visits DeLand campus

The Roland George Trading Room permits students to make stock trades in real time.

Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 8 just returned from DeLand for the program’s annual trip to the Roland George Trading Room and got to tour Stetson University’s picturesque campus.

The trading room is home to the Roland George Investments Program, where students learn the ins and outs of stockroom trading. Once a year, as part of their Advanced Financial Management class, Executive MBA students make the trek from Celebration to DeLand to experience the real-time stock ticker — and to see the main campus where they’ll be graduating in May 2012.

“I didn’t know the trading room is the caliber that it is,” said Cohort 8 executive Torrance Johnson. “It’s not until you go that you realize how well-equipped it is.”

The students also enjoyed seeing Stetson University, Florida’s oldest private university. Most of them were seeing it for the first time.

“I loved seeing the main campus, very much the traditional ‘university feel,’” said fellow executive Larry Flory.

Raul Herrera, another of Johnson’s classmates, was reminded of the group’s international travels. The cohort’s visit to Vodacom in Johannesburg, South Africa, was fresh in his mind when the group took a tour of Stetson’s main campus and saw the boardroom.

The Stetson main campus welcomed Executive MBA Cohort 8.

“The school looked pristine,” added Herrera, “well-kept and very inviting. I am looking forward to being back for graduation!”

Graduation must be strong on the students’ minds, especially now that it’s only five months away. Herrera’s classmates, Johnson included, echoed his sentiments.

“It was a special moment being there with my cohort,” said Johnson. “It was great to be at the main campus and to know that is a few months, we’ll be back there for graduation.”

Warwick Winery international trip presentation

Executives from Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 8 just returned from South Africa for their international trip. Part of their assignment from the trip was to do a presentation about one of the companies the group visited in Johannesburg or Cape Town. The team of Raul Herrera, Harley Wentzel and Jacob Walters produced a video showcasing Warwick Winery. Here it is for your viewing enjoyment!


Cohort 8 students arrive in Cape Town

Students boarded a bus to the airport in Johannesburg for their flight to Cape Town.

On Wednesday, June 22, members of Stetson University Executive MBA’s Cohort 8 travelled to Cape Town, the oldest city in South Africa. It is regularly heralded as one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. Their arrival coincides with that of First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters, who landed on the Cape on their South Africa journey from the United States.

The weather has been inhospitable, but the South Africans have not. The people in Cape Town have been charming and welcoming to the students. “We can see why this is the country’s No. 1 tourist destination,” said Wendy Lowe, program coordinator. The students checked into their hotel, located in the heart of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront district.

With a few hours of free time, several members of the cohort went to the Greenmarket Square, a lively flea market surrounded by coffee shops and cafes, a must for local wares. They found the area to be an interesting cultural crossroad, with a lively atmosphere and amazing architecture. Jacob Walters said he enjoyed negotiating with local vendors to get the best price for his souvenirs. Juliana Trujillo found impressive African animal carvings and equally enjoyed the bargaining system, paying less than half the original asking price. “I wish shopping was like this in the U.S.,” said Trujillo.

Torrance Johnson was fortunate enough to spot First Lady Michelle Obama’s motorcade during his spare time. Mrs. Obama visited the District Six Museum while she was in town.

In the evening, the cohort planned to celebrate student Raul Herrera’s birthday at Balthazar, the largest wine bar in the world with more than 600 wine selections. Herrera received this recommendation from one of his wine suppliers where he works, at Disney’s Jiko in Animal Kingdom Lodge. Balthazar boasts the biggest wine-by-the-glass bar in the world as well as fine foods, and the students thought it would be the perfect spot to celebrate this wine connoisseur’s birthday.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Cohort 8 tours huge diamond mine

Cohort 8 executives experienced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at Cullinan Diamond Mine on Tuesday. Hosted by underground engineer, Pat, the students toured the mine, which is one of the leading producers of “large” diamonds in Africa. The company’s general manager and supervisory staff joined them on their tour. The mine, which is located in Pretoria, produces 1 million diamond carats a year that range in color, quality and size.

Cullinan officials described the mining process in detail and the role of the miner, then let the students observe the process. It all begins with Kimberlite, a rock with minerals and diamonds embedded. The miners at Cullinan Diamond Mine extract 9,000 tons of Kimberlite each day over rotating nine-hour shifts.

Student Alexandra Mandell asked Pat about the four C’s — cut, color, clarity and carat — that distinguish diamond quality and price point. Pat showed the group different examples by way of a chart and introduced the students to the special “blue diamond,” the rarest form found at Cullinan Diamond Mine. Cohort 8 students held replicas of these very large, multimillion-dollar diamonds — which only had the students wishing the diamonds were real!

After members of the cohort suited up and grabbed their head gear and protective wear, they traveled 763 meters down into the Diamond Mine to see the production process first-hand. They observed the drilling, extracting of Kimberlite, the transportation of rock to the crusher, and the greasy conveyer that sifts and separates the Kimberlite from the diamonds. The Kimberlite and diamonds are mixed with water on the conveyer. Because diamonds won’t absorb water, they drop to the bottom and the grease is removed through a heating process, then the clean diamonds are left for final polishing and tender.

A highlight of the underground tour was speaking to a few of the miners directly. Two miners addressed Cohort 8 student Torrance Johnson in their native tongue while waiting for the shaft elevator. When he indicated he didn’t understand the language because he wasn’t African, the miners were delighted to meet someone from the United States and asked if they could hug him. “That is a moment I will never forget,” said Johnson.

Another miner told student Denise Edelmaier that he prefers mining diamonds over gold any day. Why? “It’s less dangerous! We’ve had no fatalities for years here,” said the miner. “Fatalities happen in gold mining because the conditions are unbearably hot.” Pat explained later that diamond mining is “gentleman mining” because it’s a much safer and cleaner environment than mining gold or platinum.

The conversations with these miners reaffirmed the Cullinan executive team’s position that employees and the safe extraction of diamonds are critical to the company’s success and therefore have the highest regard at the mine, even more so since the 2008 acquisition by Petra Diamonds.

Johnson asked Pat about government regulations and laws pertinent to the workforce. “The miners are so respected that several benefits are provided,” explained Pat. “A free car is awarded monthly to the miner with the best safety idea. If a diamond is discovered by a miner, the miner receives 10 percent of its market value. And employees received a salary increase with improved benefits as a result of the Petra Diamond buyout.”

Additionally, miners said they feel secure in the fact that the mining operation is not expected to change, based on the success they’ve maintained over the years in the production of diamonds. Pat said a recent geographical evaluation revealed that 200 million carats of diamonds are still available for extraction in the mine, further securing the jobs of more than 2,000 employees in Pretoria.

Pat told the group that risks are inherent in any successful endeavor. In diamond mining, the risks include water reaching the Kimberlite making it difficult to extract, overdrawing or unevenly removing Kimberlite from a block in the cave, or not supporting the infrastructure correctly. “These can all be avoided with proper attention to detail and training,” said Pat.

Jason Plas asked Pat the process from extraction to sale. Cullinan sends diamonds for proper valuation, packs the diamonds in parcels for sale, and then sends them off for purchase — of which 25 percent are gems and 75 percent are used for industrial purposes.

The Cullinan Diamond Mine has a large footprint in the market, providing the company sustainability and relevance in the community and environment. The company stays connected to its community by funding local parks and conservation, school learning materials, a sports complex and a band.

A few students are bringing home desirable Cullinan Diamond products to share with loved ones back in the United States, but we won’t mention names so we can avoid ruining any surprises!

Cohort 8 gets South Africa itinerary

Lewis Chidziva, center, met with Stetson EMBA Cohort 8 to discuss the group's plans for the international trip to South Africa.

On Saturday, April 2, members of Stetson University’s Executive MBA Cohort 8 met Lewis Chidziva, who will lead the students on their international experience this June in South Africa. The managing director of MBA Vista visited the classroom to tell the students what to expect culturally and business-wise, and to give them their first look at the itinerary. Chidziva has secured executive level meetings with various businesses in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

“I was jazzed before, but I didn’t really know what all would be included,” said Jacob Walters, a member of Cohort 8 who works for Walt Disney World. “Now, I can tell that the whole experience is going to be phenomenal!”

Members of the cohort will begin their trip in Johannesburg, where they will meet with executives from Nissan, Vodacom, Billion Group, Johannesburg Stock Exchange and Cullinan Diamond. They will also go on a safari, visit the Apartheid Museum and ride through Soweto on bicycles.

Torrance Johnson, a classmate of Walters’ and a manager at Celebration-based B.A.S.S. LLC, said he is most excited about visiting the stock exchange, the largest exchange in Africa and among the Top 10 largest in the world. “I’m also excited about going to the Apartheid Museum, where we’ll get to learn about the history of the country and walk in someone else’s shoes for a day.”

In Cape Town, the students will meet with Investec, Spar and Warwick Winery. They will experience Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope, and Robben Island as well.

The Executive MBA students will experience South Africa to its fullest — the culture, cuisine, music, business practices and the astounding beauty.