Category Archives: Balancing Responsibilities

Janice’s Transformational EMBA Journey Results In Lifelong Opportunities

Janice Trew

Shared by Janice Trew

As a senior in high school, I had an opportunity to join a two-day business session in our regional school district. Our first guest speaker talked to a room full of college-bound high school seniors about the importance of a college degree and more so the importance a Master’s Degree would be 15 years from that moment. I remember thinking I was barely prepared to spend another 4 years in school, yet alone more. His comments stuck with me and here I am today, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. And though it took a while to convince me I needed additional education, the choice was based on timing, opportunity and support.

Stetson’s Cohort 14 EMBA students posing for a group picture.

My career path has always been focused on Food and Beverage. From my first job at 14 in a breakfast cafe, to my first professional internship at 21, I have worked all types of food service in many different positions. I wanted a change after 15 years as a Food & Beverage Leader at Walt Disney World. Better yet, I needed a change. An old friend, and alumni of Stetson EMBA, called me up with an opportunity to work in Revenue Management as an analyst, focused on Food & Beverage Line of Business. I was overjoyed to join the analytical workforce where I could use my vast knowledge of the food and beverage industry behind the scenes. Not only was I fortunate to work along side my friend Brian Sward (alumni) and Krista Eudene (alumni), I  also met and became friends with Marissa Condello who was just finishing up her program at Stetson. Along with past F&B peers I’ve had the privilege to work next to, those three spoke so highly of the program, I finally sought more information. I knew I could be more successful in my new role, with additional education. It was the first time in my 15 professional years, I felt the desire to learn more to advance my potential.

The choice to go back to school became a family decision. Both my husband and I worked full-time during the weekdays, and watched over our three young daughters. We analyzed our finances and talked through what a typical week schedule would look like if we decided I was able to go to grad school. Since our daughters were still in elementary school and middle school without after-school activities, the timing was the best it could be. I never wanted to be a “calendar person” but quickly realized my success as a professional, a college student, a wife and mother would depend greatly on a balanced schedule. We made it work. We agreed to keep family movie nights every Friday, but sacrificed family dinners on Sunday to study. We agreed on early bedtimes, so I could study at night and still watch Saturday football every other weekend. Even squeezed three half marathons into the 18months, for added fun.

Cohort 14 at Disneyland in Hong Kong during their International Trip.

I could have never predicted the profound influence the EMBA, and my cohort, would have on me. The leadership course taught me so much about myself, in both a professional perspective and a personal insight. I was taught vulnerability and strength. It allowed me to thrive in my past role, and gave me courage to seek out new opportunities. Half-way through my program, I was promoted into a senior analyst role within the Food and Beverage Pricing and Revenue Management team. Through the business courses, I realized what I passion I had for financial business aspects. Motivated by Dr. Giovanni Fernandez’ classes, I started to look for new roles at Walt Disney World in the financial arena.  Since my last class in Spring 2018, I was offered a role with the  Attendance Forecasting team on a large-scale project with vast scope and challenges. And just recently joined the Merchandise Forecasting team as a Senior Analyst. I truly believe the Stetson EMBA helped create the opportunities for me, through advanced education and leadership.

I graduated in May 2018, as part of Legion 14, with a Masters in Business Administration and 11 life-long friends. We shared ideas, projects, long study nights, and lunches. We bonded in Hong Kong and Thailand but grew roots for those friendships since Day 1. We watched one another grow personally, and professionally. We had each others’ backs; if one of us stressed, we all offered a helping hand. All the late nights, all the weekends studying, all the pressure and all the help: it was worth every minute, every penny, every effort. This program helped me believe in myself and helped me reach my potential.

Janice & family on graduation day.

Scout’s Honor

Shared by Brian Vann

Scouts, BSA offers boys and girls the opportunity to build leadership skills, develop strong character and learn how to provide service to their communities.  These teachings and the Scouts’ philosophy of developing boys and girls led me to introduce scouting to my sons.  Brian, Jr., 10, is a Webelos and Layson, 7, is a Tiger.

I decided to lead my oldest son’s Tiger Den four years ago.  As a leader in the Scouting program, I learned how the organization impacts our young people.  After two years of leadership at the Den level, I moved to lead the entire Pack as the Cubmaster.  As a Cubmaster, I plan the programming for our Pack meetings and help our Den Leaders deliver the Scouting program to our youth. 

Reflecting on my time in Scouts, the program has impacted me just as much as it impacts the youth.  Watching the youth learn and develop character, service attitudes, and honor inspires me.

Making Magic with my MBA

Shared by Sarah Culver, Alumna of Cohort 12

Completing the Stetson EMBA has enriched my personal and professional life in ways that I could not have imagined. When I was considering MBA programs, I chose Stetson because it was complementary to my full-time job at The Walt Disney World Resort, and I was really intrigued by the cohort experience. I knew that no matter what master’s program I selected, it would be a challenge and come with trying times, so I liked the concept of going through the whole program with a cohort that would be a great support system. I learned it was much more, as the cohort quickly became part of my family.

Sarah Culver

The technical knowledge I gained during my EMBA gave me the depth of understanding and the credibility to be someone my team could count on to analyze financial reports and data, as well as the ability to see unconventional ways to improve efficiencies, save costs, and improve workplace safety. The varied subjects we studied gave me many lenses to look at the workplace with and a better concept of the “big picture”. This knowledge helped me as I got promoted during my program to being a Restaurant Guest Experience Manager in Magic Kingdom Park.

While the technical knowledge was an extremely important part of gaining my EMBA, the concepts that we learned about the difference between being a leader and a manager have been very relevant throughout my leadership journey at Disney.

One of the most valuable parts of the EMBA program for me was the coaching sessions and the focus on self-reflection and being intentional about how you approach each area of your life to be the best leader you can be. My advice to anyone considering this program would be that to reap the benefits of this approach, you have to be vulnerable and “all in”. Like most things in life, it will be what you make of it, and you will only gain what you are willing to put in. The result for me brought about a positive shift that allowed me to better align my personal and professional life and not only be a better employee and leader, but also be a better friend, partner, daughter, and sister.

Reflecting on my Stetson experience, I have taken away so much more than 18 months of intensive studying, learning concepts, and developing skills; I realize now that it was a platform to catapult me into a lifetime of learning. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to participate in this program because it would not have been possible without support from leaders, coworkers, family, friends, and Disney’s commitment to continued learning. Since graduation, I have had the opportunity to work and learn from different restaurants at Disney and most recently have had the opportunity to join a leadership team supporting Disney Internships and Programs that aligns with my values of ongoing education and development.

My personal life has also had some exciting changes since graduation; I met my forever partner, and we recently got engaged and bought our first house! I can’t wait to see what my next chapters hold; I’ve got a lot of learning and adventures ahead!

Britteny Freemyer, Jessica Zaucha, and Joe Iglecia (fellow Cohort 12 classmates) help Sarah Culver and Andrew Bosko celebrate their recent engagement!

Cohort 15 Presents their Integrative Research Projects

Each year students ending their EMBA program have a Capstone Project to complete and present on their last day of class. This year it was Cohort 15’s turn to present their final project before celebrating together that evening at their graduation party.

They were tasked with a research project on launching an innovative product or service, or redesigning an existing product or service for the bottom of the pyramid. Each of the 4 teams were fully responsible for the project from beginning to end. Below is an overview of the companies each team presented on.

Generation Hearts

Pictured from left to right: Juan Yang, Lilian Kaares, Ryan Gormon and Elena Outlan

Generation Hearts is a company whose vision is to enhance the quality of life for lonely, aging, less fortunate individuals by satisfying the basic human need of interaction via an intergenerational safe and caring virtual social network. Their logo which displays connected hearts aims to connect generations to one another to help the aging population who are lonely. Through a downloadable app on your phone, seniors could easily connect to trained individuals that will speak with them and keep them company for some time throughout the day. This company was created by Ryan Gorman, Elena Outlan, Lilian Kaares and Juan Yang.

Block Builders

Block Builders was created by Kris Sahadeo, Kristie Jones, Nicole Amero and Sophia Baldwin to enhance lives by creating high quality places to live. Their mission is to build world-class, affordable residences through up-cycling shipping containers into Minuscule Mansions. Don’t let the fact that they are shipping containers fool you, while they are very affordable, each container is fully outfitted to look like a regular home and redesigned exteriors form beautiful communities.  

GrOtown Greens

Pictured from left to right: Brian Vann, Natalie Ferrer, Kate Kroll, Jessica Bundy and Laure Warfield

GrOtown Greens is dedicated to feeding and fueling Orlando through a vertically integrated model which incorporates school gardens, holistic education, a fresh take on a food truck (for improved access to healthy dishes and increased food distribution) and continued community engagement opportunities. Through their efforts, GrOtown Greens hopes to plant the seeds for a better tomorrow for children and their families in Central Florida. This company was created by Jessica Bundy, Natalie Ferrer, Kate Kroll, Brian Vann and Laurie Warfield.

F3: Food For the Future

Pictured from left to right: Aziz Ndiaye, Nicole O’Reilly, Eddie Molina and Greg Lucas

Food For the Future (F3) was created by Aziz Ndiaye, Nicole O’Reilly, Eddie Molina and Greg Lucas. F3 leverages the organizational advantage of an established non-profit (Meals on Wheels America) to create an in-home delivery option for families who need food during school breaks. Through partnerships with multiple non-profits and civic organizations they bring peace of mind and create “Full Bellies, Healthy Minds” to the underprivileged youth of Central Florida. By working with administrators in local schools with free and reduced lunch populations, families could connect to F3 to receive this service.

With their presentations, final projects and papers submitted, SqUadron 15 can now take some time to relax and celebrate their accomplishments. We can’t wait to see you walk across the stage on Graduation Day!

Safety in Thailand

Thailand is called the Land of Smiles for a reason – the people are about as friendly as they come. As a tourist to Bangkok be aware of these helpful safety precautions.

The power of forethought

Don’t wait until you forget your passport in the taxi or watch in horror as your wallet goes flying off the back of the Tuk Tuk – take photocopies of any and all important documentation and keep a copy on your person and one in your suitcase that you leave in the room. Also, keep all important documentation and any extra credit cards or cash in the safe in your hotel room.

Driving in Bangkok

There are a few things to know about transportation in Bangkok. First, Bangkok has the second highest traffic fatality rate in the world. Therefore, you will want to take extra precautions when deciding how you travel through the city. Traffic jams are also very common, so take that into consideration of travel times! Your best precaution is to look both ways a few times before crossing the street in the hectic pace of the city!

When it comes to renting vehicles like scooters, this is best saved for places like Ayutthaya, unless you are sure you want to brave the busy and crowded streets of Bangkok.

If you are getting a taxi anywhere, to get the most reasonable rate be driven by reputable drivers, and it would probably be a good idea to organize with your concierge when you are in need of transportation. Another tip would be to get the contact information when you have found a trusted taxi driver, so that you can either reach them again when you are leaving your destination, or even establish a time to be picked up again. Make sure to ask the taxi driver to put the meter on and if they say they can give you a better rate, do not take this taxi, as they may attempt to charge you a lot more than you’d think when you get to your destination.

Be wary of mini vans, as they are privately owned and though they may have cheap fairs, the drivers are on tight schedules, generally driving very quickly, and may not stop when you want them to.

Tuk Tuks are very much part of the Thailand experience and it is suggested that every visitor ride in this fashion at least once but do note they will quickly weave in and out of traffic so it may not be for the faint of heart. Barter the rates for your Tum Tum – 50 TBH is the rule of thumb. If you are traveling somewhere that is a considerably short distance and the driver wants to take you somewhere further to charge a higher fee, they may tell you that where you want to go is closed for the day but they can show you something else, or that they know a better attraction to see. Make sure you only go to the destination you chose, or find another Tuk Tuk.

Thai Heat

Though our Cohort is coming from Florida, be aware that the weather in Thailand can be similar if not worse than a Florida summer – and wandering around the city can take its toll. Keep water with you at all times and wear sunscreen. Try not to stay out in the sun for extended periods of time.

Welcome to Bangkok; City of Angels

Cohort 15 counts down the fifteen days until they set off on their international trip to the Land of Smiles. Bangkok, Thailand!


The official name of the city of Bangkok in Thai is the longest name of a city in the world: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. However, a little easier to remember and pronounce, it is locally called ‘Krungthep’ –

‘City of Angels’.

Bangkok is a city bustling with over 8.281 million residents, which Mastercard claims is the most visited city in the world.

Bangkok is a bustling and vibrant city, known for its love of all things color. It is a thriving city for innovation and technological advancement. It isn’t the concrete jungle that you may have heard it to be.

Bangkok’s most famous landmarks are the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun.

The Grand Palace is where His Majesty of Thailand lived until the 20th Century, and is where important rituals still take place, such as the changing of the robes for the monks which is carried out by the King. It also houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is the most sacred temple in all of Thailand. The Emerald Buddha dates back to the 14th Century.

Wat Pho is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. One hundred and eight is a significant number, as it is the number of positive actions and symbols that aided Buddha in reaching enlightenment, hence the number is a recurring theme in the temple. If you want some good luck, buy a bowl of coins at the entrance that can be dropped into the one hundred and eight bowls that line the walls. The money supports the monks and the upkeep of the temple. Also, remember to take off your shoes as you enter the temple out of respect!

Wat Arun is the Temple of Dawn – though it is just as beautiful at sunset as it is at dawn. The Spire on the bank of Chao Phraya River is a world-famous landmark. You can climb the narrow stairway of the central prang in order to get a breathtaking view of Bangkok and the surrounding area. This temple was envisioned by King Taksin in 1768, and was home to the Emerald Buddha before it was moved to the Grand Palace.

Another one of its famous and unmissable attractions is the world’s largest weekend market, called Chatuchak.

Bangkok is clearly as diverse and unique as it is colorful, with a rich culture that permeates through every street, canal, and building block. It is a business hub, on par with those in the Western world, yet still has a small town feel in areas, and a charm that is unmistakable.

We can’t wait for our Executive MBA Cohort 15 students to experience this magical place in a few short weeks.

Cohort 15 Reflects Inward in Completing a Professional Development Plan

One of the transformative aspects of Stetson University’s EMBA Program is our unique Leadership Development courses placed strategically throughout the students 18-month experience. In the first course, students develop a Professional Development Plan (PDP), designed to be their roadmap for leadership growth and skill development. The PDP is viewed as a living dynamic document that will be enhanced and altered as a result of their academic and collaborative learning environment and personal journey. Ideally, the PDP will become an indispensable archive of reflection during the program and should provide documentation of student’s professional and personal growth.

Cohort 15 is currently developing their PDPs and a few members shared their experience with our team.

Juan Yang shared that she learned was “priceless to [her] and [her] family.” She found that the progress helped her discover and find out “who [she is] and what [she wants] to do the most to develop [her] career goal”. In exploring herself and her family, she also believes that her mother has taught her resiliency from a young age.


Elena Outlan found that “developing the PDP was quite a bit of work.” She found that her approach was more systematic, which she was glad of – it was a fine line to follow the steps of the assignment “or you would quickly realize that you are in trouble.”

Elena spoke volumes towards the EMBA program here at Stetson as she discussed the impact her classes had on her ability to complete her initial attempt at her PDP.

I believe the discussion topics and reading materials we had during and outside class were also extremely important in shaping our thinking around the PDP document.

Though Elena finds she “cannot state that [her] PDP is close to perfect”, she thanks Dean Neal and Dr. Kelly for their teachings, as they provided a “solid roadmap” to continuing her professional development throughout the duration of this course.


Aziz Ndiaye stated that he “enjoyed writing the PDP” and found it to be an extremely useful tool with regards to his personal and professional growth. Aziz noted that he intends to “lean on the talented professionals from [cohort 15] to strengthen [his] leadership skills.”

Aziz reflected that he has enjoyed the experience of writing a PDP before, as he has compiled many versions of this throughout his career, as well as S.M.A.R.T goals. He therefore did not find this assignment challenging, but instead embraced the task and was “very excited to work on this critical project”.

I can assure you that Dr. Mero and Dr. Hall have made this Leadership and Management Class very interactive and entirely meaningful.

Cohort 14 Reflection on their Professional Development Plans

 As Cohort 15’s deadline for submitting their Personal Development Plan (PDP) approaches, we asked Dave and Jason from Cohort 14 for their tips and reflections with regards to their experience with this assignment.

Dave reflected that the assignment “was more work than [he] expected”; however, he “learned a lot about [himself].” Through his experience, he had the realization that a personal development plan is “a document that is a work in progress. It is not done when you turn it in. In fact, it may never be done!”

After handing in his assignment, he felt free to focus on his next project. It did, however, afford him the opportunity to get feedback from others and, more importantly, helped him realize that the assignment “is wholly owned by yours truly,” lamenting that it is more of a commitment he made to himself.

The net of it is that I can’t let myself down, or others that depend on me.

The point that Dave found most beneficial to walk away with, is that he had a tendency “to use [his] head when working through challenging issues”, and yet through the assignment, he learned through “the encouragement [he] received in [his] leadership journey was to “listen” to [his] heart”. He finds that he has since made decisions in this regard, and been all the better for it.

Dave hopes to find the time in the future to share more of his journey, and choices made, thanks to experiences and opportunities relating to this assignment.

Jason reflected that he knew “if [he] wanted to be successful with this paper and subsequently the program, [he] would need to assimilate the knowledge learned with real life application”. He reflects on theories learned in the classroom that could help shape students into becoming leaders. He found that he was able to “introspectively consider [his] character as it related to [his] strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots.” This allowed him to gain greater insight into how others viewed him as a leader also.

Jason found, similarly to Dave, that his PDP needed to be approached more as a “work in progress, which then became a map” to aid him in navigating his EMBA. Jason also included a SMART goal in his PDP, as he determined that it would help him “lean out of [his] comfort zone by including some personal character challenges.”

Part of our learning was how to grow through understanding the unknown aspects of ourselves and embracing them. This notion resonated with me and was one of the main pillars of my PDP.

One tip Jason had for the PDP assignment was that students should look at their current situation, and what led them to where they are at that moment. Using the PDP like a road map as he did, the project could be used to help each individual aim beyond their “target growth and challenge [themselves] to the extent of [their] capabilities.” After all, each individual is looking to obtain personal growth through the program. All in all, Jason summed up the assignment – and the program – in this:

You will be surprising yourself in ways you did not think possible throughout your program, and you will be humbled by your experiences.

The Newest Cohort in Celebration

On August 18th, Cohort 14 welcomed Cohort 15 to Stetson’s Executive MBA Program. Adam Swiatek from Cohort 14 shares some great highlights from Orientation weekend. Our new students are eager and enthusiastic to begin classes and we are excited to have them!

Each year, the Stetson EMBA admits a tight-knit group of students to the program. The group takes classes together, travels abroad, creates group projects and socializes together. Through the structure and the experience that the EMBA provides, students are able to take relationships to the next level – creating bonds that are unparalleled and unmatched.

Since the program is selective, there is extra special attention given to each student and the relationships that form as a result of the program. Cohort 14 (affectionately called the “Legion”) welcomed Cohort 15 last weekend. These are the new eager students who will be sharing the Center at Celebration with the “Legion” – and more importantly, the snack room! They are the next generation and the next wave of EMBA learners coming through the program prepared to receive a transformational experience.

Cohort 14 paved the way for strong relationships and close bonds. Over this past summer, those relationships were strengthened as the cohort traveled to Hong Kong and Bangkok as part of their International Field Experience course. Through in the moment scenarios, that could only come up when traveling, the cohort bonded and learned more about each other. They were already close – but, the trip experience really solidified the deal.

When they returned back to the Center, they were excited to keep the memories of their time together going with the new wall décor in Celebration featuring their travels and experiences of our Cohort 14 students on the walls for all to enjoy!

Cohort 15 was welcomed to the EMBA program by Cohort 14 students with open arms. Returning students could not wait to meet the new students for breakfast. And, the meeting of new friends continued at lunch at Happy Hour after class. Returning students interspersed with new students during meals – as they told the tales and shared their personal experiences of the journey the next 18 months ahead.

Following the first weekend of class, some Cohort 15 students already started using the study rooms and taking advantage of the resources that Stetson provides. This won’t be the only opportunity that they have to use the study rooms. There will be 18 more months of coursework and small group work ahead. While some of it will be relatively easy, some of it will really take the mental power and support of the whole cohort. They will discover their strengths – some strengths that they might not even know they had – and band together to make the educational experience truly amazing.

Cohort 14 undoubtedly will continue to be great mentors and supporters of our new executive students as they learn to balance professional and personal priorities with being a student in a progressive master’s program. As these two cohorts collaborate, naturally skills will be transferred and networks will be broadened heightening each individual’s experience.  Later this fall, Alumni will be added to the mix with our Tailgate Mixer at the Stetson vs. Brown football game in DeLand and then in the spring at our annual Alumni event. Pairing emerging leaders in Central Florida has been a highlight for all involved.

Some Final Top Tips From Cohort 14’s Lyndsey Denton!

As Cohort 15 embarks on their EMBA journey, Lyndsey Denton from Cohort 14 shares some final tips before this semester takes off! It’s all about balance, strengthening current relationships, and making new lifetime connections!

Lyndsey with husband.

One of the best parts about this program is its ability to transform you. Be prepared for that! If you are willing to be honest with yourself and be vulnerable to the rest of the cohort, it can be life changing! With that being said, don’t forget that you do have other obligations to uphold besides school. Everyone has a life outside of school, so it’s important to remember to take the time to relax and unwind! Take a day or 2 (I like the Sunday after a class weekend best!) to not do homework if you can and just relax with family or friends. You can find balance if you just make sure to use time wisely with the rest of your days until next class time. As many fellow cohort members have said, take a couple hours each day doing homework. It’s easy to procrastinate with 2 weeks between classes typically, but I would recommend just carving out a little time each day. There’s a lot of reading and coursework to do between each class weekends, so you can get it all accomplished without feeling too stressed if you do a little every day.

Lyndsey (second row, third from the right) with friends from Cohort 14.

Embrace Group work: When it comes to group work, I’ve found it works best for me when I’ve physically met with my group. While this may not always be available, it is a good idea to try to accomplish such a couple of times. I was a little afraid of group work at first, because much of my undergrad had been done so individually focused. I’ve grown to enjoy group projects because more ideas are formed and more can be accomplished together. Everyone in the group has their own strengths they bring to the projects.

Another tip I would recommend is to take time to build relationships with your cohort. You are all on this journey together, and know what the others are going through. I’ve found being vulnerable and open with everyone to be a great experience and is helping me to grow in so many ways. Share your wins and losses with each other, things in and out of the classroom. This may include going out with the other members of the cohort after class, this is a great way to get to know everyone and let loose. Building relationships with these people has been awesome, and I could not be more proud to be a member of this group of individuals.