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!

Cohort 5 graduate earns certification

Craig Feldman, a graduate of Stetson University Executive MBA’s Cohort 5, now has three letters to add to his name besides MBA: PMP.

Craig Feldman, far right, and his classmate Lynda Hoyte completed PMP courses in a program at Stetson University Center at Celebration. Mike Mekdeci, center, of Stetson congratulates them.

Feldman recently completed a course through the Stetson University Project Management Certificate Program and passed the subsequent test to become certified as a Project Management Professional. Feldman currently works as a Project Manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Feldman said his Executive MBA helped prepare him for this additional segment of his education. “Stetson taught me the foundations of what I needed to know, such as the mechanics behind project management. I learned a lot of the analysis for project selection in the Executive MBA program, like IRR, NPV, future value — comparing the project options you have and determining which project to choose.”

This new certification also taught Feldman several skills he didn’t have before, such as how to effectively plan a project, monitor the metrics behind it, and manage the expectations of participants.

“I feel incredibly accomplished,” said Feldman. “I’m so glad I started this program.”

Feldman graduated from the Stetson Executive MBA program in spring 2009 and began the Project Management Certificate Program in fall 2010. He received his certification Aug. 9, 2011.

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.

Cohort 8 shapes up for South Africa trip

Larry Flory is Cohort 8's "Biggest Loser," and he has $160 to show for it.

What are some of the benefits of the Stetson Executive MBA program? Many of the students would follow the list of academic and networking advantages with some glowing commentary on the catered lunches and the breakroom that’s stocked with every imaginable savory and sweet treat.

As students in Cohort 8 embarked on their Executive MBA journey, they were bound and determined not to gain the “Freshman 15,” and they used the upcoming South Africa international trip as the catalyst to get in shape. The original goal was looking their best in the wetsuit they planned to wear when going on the optional shark dive in Cape Town during the South Africa adventure this month.

In the style of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, the students weighed themselves at the beginning of the program, dieted and exercised over a period of months, and measured their weight loss on a percentage basis. With 11 participants putting in $20 each, the person who came in third place would get his or her $20 back, second place would get $40, and the winner would get $160.

Through seven weigh-ins over the course of four months, the top 3 “losers” lost a combined 35 pounds, or 15.47% of their body weight. Just before the students went on their trip, they had their final weigh-in, and the winner of the competition was Larry Flory.

“My plan worked,” said Flory, who is a vice president at Disney’s Partners Federal Credit Union. “I casually mentioned to my classmates a ‘study’ that suggested that eating a pint of ice cream just before bed would actually speed up one’s metabolism and cause net weight loss. Apparently some believed it and went that route. I just can’t remember where I heard about that ‘study,’” Flory said with a smirk.

Flory was especially diligent in his weight loss efforts and took on the challenge with great competitive spirit. He regularly exercised before work and school, skipped dessert, and even weighed in on the final day in a lightweight running outfit to ensure the best possible results.

Flory lost 13.20 pounds of 6.19%. In second place was Ghaleb Abulola, an Orlando resident from Jeddah, who lost 12 pounds, or 4.74% of his body weight. And Raul Herrera, general manager at Disney’s Jiko restaurant, lost 9.80 pounds, or 4.54% of his body weight.

All 11 participants either lost weight or maintained their original “fighting weight.” It is a common Cohort 8 joke now about who can reach the third floor study group room the fastest by taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

In fact, a few of the students have signed up for the new Tinkerbell Half-Marathon at Disney World in winter 2012, committing to a healthier lifestyle long-term. The breakroom still has the sweet and savory snacks, but it now also contains Slim-Fast drinks, Special K bars, and Detour bars, as requested by the executive MBA students. Cohort 8 is determined to be smarter, stronger and healthier.

Congratulations on your weight loss, team, and good luck getting into those shark dive wetsuits!