Category Archives: Cohort 11

Where Are They Now? – A Q&A with an Alumna

Cinthia Douglas, a Cohort 11 alumna of our Stetson EMBA program shares her personal journey and experiences!

How did your education enhance or change your current career path?

Since graduating with my MBA, I received a promotion with Disney Parks & Resorts.  I am now leading the Trade Marketing and the Consumer Marketing for both Disneyland and Disney Cruise line in Latin America.  I can definitely attribute this growth directly to my experience at Stetson.  The program was a wonderful balance of business acumen and meaningful leadership courses.

What piece of advice would you give to students considering pursuing an EMBA?

My #1 piece of advice is that YOU CAN DO THIS!  I did it with a young child and a full time career.  The hardest part is taking that first step and committing.  It is a lot of hard work, yes, and a lot of pressure, but all of it is manageable.  You will learn to manage time like you never have had to in your life.  And, you may have to give up watching TV for about two years (giggles).

How has your education at Stetson impacted your professional life? 

My entire life was impacted truly – Because the leadership courses and career coaching included some serious self-reflection.  That guided self-reflection is what helped me get a clear view of what I valued, and how to lead others by understanding what they value.

Why did you choose our EMBA program over others in the Central Florida area?

I chose the Stetson EMBA because a co-worker recommended it.  I had worked in my field for over ten years, and I was looking to connect with other professionals.  The Friday/Saturday all-day classes were also more convenient for me, having a young child at the time.  I did not want to have to drive Downtown or farther for evening classes during the week.

Stetson’s Executive MBA Family Reunites!

Stetson Executive MBA alumni, current & prospective students, faculty and guests gathered for their annual networking event at the Bohemian Hotel in lovely downtown Celebration on Thursday, March 30th. Just a stone’s throw away from their Executive
MBA experience, the venue brought back fond memories of a rigorous and rewarding academic challenge, a heightened awareness of professional and personal strengths, and lifelong friendships and a support system within this extended family. 


This year’s “Cocktails & Connections” event was vibrant with friendly smiles, lots of laughter, and hugs! It was amazing to watch cohorts catch up with their peers and interact with those that experiences the program years prior and after.


Dr. Mary Jo Jackson, Executive Director of Graduate and Professional Programs, welcomed the professional group and shared Stetson University’s significant historic past that dates back to 1883 and reveals our ongoing knowledge, commitment, and ability to deliver an exceptional education.  Dr. Yiorgos Bakamitsos,Associate Dean, explained that the Executive MBA program has developed its uniqueness and special qualities by the students that attend. They are passionate, driven, and creative co-creators of learning in the very diverse networks we form each August. In our cohorts, students are vulnerable by sharing their experiences, debate different perspectives to enhance understanding, and take learning to an elevated level. This creates a fascinating and exhilarating experience, as a faculty member facilitating such key topics to a high-energy and focused group.  Wendy Lowe, Director of Admissions for the Executive MBA, challenged every attendee to stay “connected” and “involved”. She shared ways in which this is currently happening; recommending future EMBA students to the program, by being a guest speaker in a class or at a conference, mentoring eager professionals, tutoring new cohorts, being a leader on various local organization Boards, and by setting a good example of leadership and business acumen every day in their professional work and as a person of character in their personal lives.  Kara Cummings, Marketing Manager for the School of Business, reminded the attendees that staying connected in today’s high technology world is even easier. Visit our newly designed website (, participate in our EMBA Facebook page ( , read our EMBA Blogs ( , and post pictures with the hashtag #StetsonEMBA. 


It was a wonderful night of reconnecting, sharing stories & new experiences with one another, and being reminded of why holding a Stetson Executive MBA degree is so special!   

EMBA Values Day 2016


Values Day, marked by tradition and dedication to personal growth, global citizenship, and intellectual development, was held at Stetson University on September 20th. For the first time, a group of distinguished colleagues from Stetson’s Executive MBA program received the opportunity to present. With a message centered on values-based leadership, Arden Tilghman, Valerie Drebsky, and Andrew Wertheim discussed the significance of integrity, following your core values to not only reach your professional and personal goals but achieve ultimately the richest satisfaction. Integrating movie themes and current events, the team delivered a stellar performance to a group of students, professors, and faculty.

Personal ethics are incredibly significant to all of us as individuals. However, we rarely bridge our own values in the workplace. Wertheim, Drebsky, and Tilghman argue that a shared vision of values is vital to the success of an organization. Likewise, they contend that employees will refrain from personal growth and happiness if their daily duties fail to align with their particular value-set. The most inspirational leaders are those who find personal drive through past experiences and deeply rooted values. Author Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr. explains, “becoming the best kind of leader isn’t about emulating a role model or a historic figure. Rather, your leadership must be rooted in who you are and what matters most to you”.

The team, each of whom come from three differing cohorts, enjoyed the experience of diverse insights into what values-based leadership meant to them. For example, each of the speakers addressed the challenges one faces while attempting to align their values with their workplace. The audience was receptive to the interactive presentation, which allowed for opportunities for each guest to reflect on their own value principles. Andrew Wertheim, a current EMBA student, explained he was “excited for the opportunity to highlight some of the foundational leadership material” he learned during the program, and that it was truly a gift to share this with the broader Stetson community. Meanwhile, guests found the information to be “thought-provoking” and “incredibly useful for today’s workplace”. Though Wertheim, Drebsky, and Tilghman were the first graduate student and alumni to speak at Stetson’s Values Day, it will likely not be the last. “I’m thankful Stetson has continued to host this annual day dedicated to personal growth, and I look forward to being involved in the future”.


A great leader building a great future!

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 8.56.20 AMA life changing experience. That’s how Tamara Clay, a former student from Stetson EMBA, describes the program. And since the very beginning it was really a challenge, but a challenge that Tamara was willing to take since her time as a student at the Stetson Law School. “I was immediately drawn to and intrigued by the addition of leadership development to the traditional EMBA program”, says Tamara, remembering the first time she was presented to the program. With high expectations and knowing that at Stetson she would be able to learn from a high selected group of professionals and experts, Tamara had no doubts to join the EMBA in August 2013, becoming a part of Cohort 11. Prior to deciding on Stetson, she had spent significant time researching and had learning about other EMBA and MBA programs around Florida. But Stetson had all the things she needed to grow and reach a different level in her career. “I knew that the Stetson culture was one of support and collaboration, which would be able to create a great environment for learning, and that’s what I was looking for”, adds Tamara.

Since her first class, which she recalls as a deep dive into her personal development, she not only developed great professional skills, but also the personal knowledge and the confidence to go after her goals. Nothing better than her own words to express how this program was important to her personal and professional journey. “I’ve done some personal development work in the past but this surpassed my expectations. I was blown away. It was awesome to see not only my own development but to witness others in my cohort grow personally and professionally as well”. A journey that has transformed the lives of hundreds of professionals throughout the last few years. A journey that has taken Tamara to a different path in her career, and that gave her the strength to close her own law firm in Florida and move to Los Angeles to start a new job, in a new city, in a new segment. And even at that moment, Stetson EMBA was there to help. “I leaned on my cohort for advice and support. A couple of classmates have come to Los Angeles to visit me and I continue to keep in touch with several others”.

Building a network and knowing that she will be able to keep this network for the rest of her life, was also a great gift of the Stetson program. “I have a friend that went through a different EMBA program. Her experience was very different. She earned a degree but did not build a network”, she remarks, while recalling how much help the EMBA was for her to develop her personality and create new relationships. “I’m an introvert but through this program I have come to truly value the relationships that have been forged with Stetson’s faculty and my cohort. It’s very special”.

Currently being one of the main executives of Hyperloop Technologies, Tamara has nothing less that gratitude to Stetson program and to the 18 months she spent there. In her new role as Director of Human Resources she has been given the unique experience of being able to create policies from scratch. Hyperloop, a futuristic transportation company that started its operation a year ago with 4 people in a garage, has now over 100 employees and is growing fast. “I was employee number 13”, remembers Tamara. And she has been able to apply all the leadership theory she got from the EMBA. “I walked into a company with a great corporate culture and leadership that embraces the idea of leading with values. Every employee knows their MBTI from their first day and we make this public to the company. I have all the books from the leadership classes on my bookshelf and they are a great resource”. Tamara says that the feedback has been tremendous, and she gets high employee engagement. While still working on her Personal Development Plan objectives and goals, Tamara explains that she’s been using all she learned with Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs Leadership Agility model, to keep Hyperloop a healthy and growing place to work, and to transform herself in a better leader. “When people ask me about leadership this is the book I recommend they read. And of course, understanding MBTI types. It really helps in a team environment.”

Since she moved from Florida to California to embrace this huge and new challenge in her personal and professional life, she has taken all she learned in her cohort experience and has applied it in her new position. And she says, “I’m an introvert so I tend to be a bit of a loner. However with all support I had from my cohort I got here, and I am building a network of friends. I’m not only growing more and more each day, but also I’m open to new experiences now. I wouldn’t have accomplished this without the EMBA experience.”

Hyperloop Tech is the transportation innovation and solution for the future, creating efficient travel for commerce – for people, cargo and trade. Hyperloop is building the transportation system of the future, a concept that has captured the imagination of brilliant engineers and innovative leaders from around the world. When asked about the future, Tamara is positive. “I’d love to continue to grow with Hyperloop and to help others fulfill their dreams. Coaching and teaching are definitely in my future, and I am glad I had such a strong and solid foundation for that at Stetson EMBA.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 8.53.55 AMAbout Tamara Clay

As a leader at Hyperloop Technologies, Tamara is responsible for the direction, strategy, and impact of Human Resources in the company. Her team manages recruitment across the company to support its integrated talent development, and people-driven initiatives. Her extensive knowledge in leadership and teambuilding is used daily to create a dynamic environment to facilitate the teamwork needed to build the future of transportation; the Hyperloop. Prior to joining Hyperloop, Tamara worked as a transactional attorney and business consultant representing business owners and high-level corporate executives in Florida. In her law firm Tamara practiced therapeutic jurisprudence, believing that law can be used to help business owners achieve personal and professional goals. Tamara holds an Executive MBA from Stetson University in Celebration, FL and a Juris Doctorate from Stetson University, College of Law in Tampa Bay, FL. Tamara received the William F. Blews Pro Bono Award for performing over 120 hours of pro bono public service. She also received the Stetson University College of Law Leadership Certificate. Tamara is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management.

Interviewing Stetson Alumnus Carl Pfeiffer, and talking about the Theodore Surynt Leadership Award.

“ Success is all about growing others.” Jack Welch
Carl Pfeiffer

Since 2015 Stetson University nominates an EMBA graduating student that has demonstrated superior leadership and significant contributions to serving the Stetson community, and rewards him or her with the Theodore Surynt Leadership Award. This award is of extreme importance for both the University, and the nominee.

Theodore Surynt, known as Ted all over the university halls, joined the School of Business Administration at Stetson University in 1983 as an Assistant Professor of Information Systems, after he earned his Ph.D. in MIS from Georgia State University. From that point on, Ted served Stetson University all the way up from a Full Professor of Decision Information Sciences, of which he was also the founding chair, to the role of Associate Dean of the School of Business Administration. Ted was always a leader and brought many credits to Stetson University and to the School of Business Administration itself. “He was a big fellow, the one who had the job done, the one who always had your back”, says Yiorgos Bakamitsos, Associate Dean of The School of Business Administration, remembering all the various recognitions Ted earned during his career at Stetson. With integrity, professionalism and loyalty, Ted devoted great part of his life to teach, to inspire and to help people, both as a faculty, a dean, a volunteer, or a friend. Ted was a leader in every sense of the word, and his name came as a natural indication when Stetson board was first conceiving this award. The nominees of the Theodore Surynt Leadership Award are, therefore, nominated based on his story of life, of integrity, of commitment and of leadership.

The first student indicated to this prominent place in our community was Carl Pfeiffer, from Cohort 11. At first a very quiet and introverted student, Carl showed up as having strong interpersonal and communication skills, and a natural leader amongst his Cohort members.

Carl Pfeiffer is an introvert by nature but a very innovative forward thinker, with wide-ranging interests, including marketing, giving back to the community and creating sustainable projects that can help other people. Carl is also considered very creative and an inventive problem-solver, qualities that only a true leader carries.

He has worked in a variety of industries like the entertainment, hospitality, healthcare, production and marketing industries for almost a decade, and is currently responsible for overseeing all video production at the Florida Hospital Nicholson Center, providing strategic vision and team direction in marketing, as well as assist with developing new digital and audio visual revenue opportunities.

Carl was a focused and committed student, and continues to model these ideals in his company and the community daily. Above all, Carl believes that a true leader is never ready, and always should be trying to learn, and grow. He has devoted himself to be a life-long student of Leadership, and uses that idea to mold a legacy, not just in the work place but at home as well.

“Leadership is not about what you are; it is about serving people, and empowering them to reach their maximum potential,” says Carl with an honest and wishful thinking that companies may develop more on behaviors and character, much more than just technical skills. Quoting Jack Welch, Carl remembers that, “ before you are a leader success is all about growing yourself, but when you become a leader success is about growing others”. This has been the platform of his entire development, and one of the reasons he chose Stetson, almost 3 years ago, to give him the leadership base and learning needed to become more well rounded.

When asked about the Theodore Surynt Leadership Award, Carl mentioned he was surprised and flattered to receive it. “I had no idea that it was coming, and I am sure that all my colleagues from Cohort 11 were as much entitled to this award as I was”, said Carl pointing all the great initiatives that his entire Cohort had had during their EMBA journey. “Our group really pushed ourselves to higher standards, with a belief that business and life can and should be done better.”

For the future, Carl wants to continue his learning about leadership, develop his potential as a true leader, and work as close as possible to his ideals of building a better place to live and to work in. He is also very excited about putting together and bringing to life their EMBA Capstone project, with three other Cohort members, Arden Tilghman-Sedgwick, Jennifer Farb, and Adam Galea. The project, called The Farm at 312, creates an innovative form of eco-tourism and education for kids, young adults and adults in Orlando, FL and around the world. It is a sustainable space where the farm environment will be the bigger interactive attraction, working with animals, sustainable crops, and using technology such as aquaponics to create economic solutions for healthier food. “People will learn from their own experience, and not only from what they hear from their families and friends”, said Pfeiffer. “It is a different lodging and entertainment option in Orlando and we” – meaning him and his business partners – “believe that this kind of learning experience will have impact on families and communities”.

We are crossing our fingers for Carl and his associates. One thing is clear; Carl is the kind of leader that will never walk away from a challenge or from any small impediments. He has the confidence and the compromise needed to go further and to succeed.

Values Based Leadership.

Tom EppersonTrue leaders leading by true values.

Tom Epperson graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor of Arts (BA), English Language and LiteratureGeneral in 1997. He has a Master’s degree in Human Resource Development from The George Washington University, and holds a certificate in Business Coaching by North Carolina State University. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. He is married with two children and lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Currently, Tom works as a Senior Director of Human Resources for Luck Companies, a privately-held organization that operates one of the largest stone companies in the United States. However, Tom has also supported Luck Companies in a variety of ways over the years, including his role as one of the architects of the company’s cultural transformation.

A non-profit work perceiver and admirer, Tom is also the Executive Director of InnerWill, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating better people, braver leaders, and a wiser world.

Tom is fully dedicated to igniting human potential through Values Based Leadership, which turns out to be his field of expertise. Tom guides organizations through its cultural transformation, and has helped to develop Values Based Leaders both inside and outside companies.

Tom is a passionate speaker and has vast experience in coaching, facilitation, human resources and organizational development. Travelling all over the country to spread his message and to develop Values Based Leaders in diverse companies and schools, is a passion, and Tom usually dedicates his free time to accomplish this. For Tom, every single person has huge potential and he believes that as leaders, everyone needs to positively cultivate that potential in others, and impact the lives of those who live and work around us.

That is what Values Based Leadership is all about. Help leaders to make conscious value choices and develop their own state of awareness and alignment, being able to ‘ignite’ others’ potential. In other words, a leader needs to lead by staying loyal to their values and to their beliefs. Strategies, tactics and approaches to different situations can change, especially when you are dealing with different and diverse people. But essentially, the leader never changes their principles, and always works on vital alignment of personal and organizational values. It means that a corporation’s mission, vision, strategy, and procedures will always be in line, and wherever you look you will always find values representing the leader and the company’s ethics.

As Tom Epperson says, “This approach to leadership assumes that managers’ and workers’ core principles are the same; therefore, little time is spent on office conflict.” He also points out the importance of engagement amongst leaders and employees, and indicates, “This also means that employees and managers behave in a way that is conducive to the productivity, profitability, sustainability, and integrity of the business.”

“A leader needs to pursue self-reflection, balance, self-confidence, and humility”, complements Epperson. “It is important to highlight also that everyone can apply this. Position, level, gender, or age does not play a crucial role in Values Based Leadership, because there is empowerment everywhere. A leader does not have to wait until he or she reaches an advanced position to become a Values Based Leader. They just need to think of what kind of leader they want to be and do it. It is much more related to their own craving, than to their capabilities and skills”.

Tom Epperson shared his Values Based Leadership expertise with Stetson University’s Executive MBA program students the past two years. The knowledge, energy, and fresh perspective are dynamic and his direction is easy to implement.

Tom Epperson is a true Values Based Leader, and you can also be one!

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida

 Cohort 11: Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida

Stetson University’s Executive MBA Cohort 11 developed marketing plans for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida for their final project in the Marketing Decision-Making course facilitated by Dr. Michelle DeMoss in Spring 2014. Cohort 11 was instrumental in generating ideas for the development of Second Harvest Food Bank’s marketing objectives, strategies, and assisting them with maximizing marketing opportunities to improve their deliverables to the community. The objective of this project was to apply real world learning experiences to benefit both students and the community.

Cohort 11 at Second Harvest Food Bank
Cohort 11 at Second Harvest Food Bank

Second Harvest incorporated some of Stetson’s Executive MBA marketing plan solutions to use in both the short and long term. With September being the Hunger Action month, Second Harvest was dedicated to promote hunger awareness across the US through special events, e-newsletters, blogs as well as their staff and volunteers wearing orange t-shirts in support of their going orange campaign to fight hunger.

During this time, Second Harvest was also competing to receive a Walmart Fighting Hunger, Spark Change $60,000 grant which would help them provide 315,000 meals to the Central Florida community.

pic2Keith Henry, a current Stetson Executive MBA student and search marketing manager at the Walt Disney Company, helped Second Harvest create their first Facebook campaign. Keith leveraged his professional talents, expertise, and shared strategies to increase their fundraising exposure and marketing efforts, during a timeframe well beyond the conclusion of the advanced marketing course offered in the Executive MBA program. Through collaborative efforts of the Second Harvest team and Keith Henry, success was achieved by winning the Walmart grant for $60,000. “Giving back to those less fortunate is a passion of mine, said Keith Henry. I considered this more than just a class project, for me, it was an opportunity to utilize my expertise for the benefit of an organization I truly believe in. I feel privileged to have played a part in Second Harvest being awarded the $60,000 Walmart grant”. Second Harvest is very appreciative of Keith who donated time out of his busy work, school and family schedule to help them achieve this success and contribute to the Central Florida community.

Negotiations Workshop – Cohort 11

Dave Rothfeld - Executive in Residence for Stetson University
Dave Rothfeld – Executive in Residence for Stetson University


Cohort 11 participated in an all-day Negotiations workshop delivered by Dave Rothfeld, Executive in Residence for Stetson University.  During the negotiating session, students were instructed that virtually anything in the business world can be negotiated as long as the negotiator knows exactly what they are trying to accomplish in advance.

The cohort discussed common trends when negotiating professional agreements, salary increases, and extending job offers. Proven negotiation tools and techniques were shared and then modeled group exercises were conducted to practice the application of effective use in future encounters.

The executive students also learned the significance of non-verbal clues and their importance in any negotiating situation, and in fact that sometimes this communication is more impactful than what is actually being communicated verbally when negotiating.

The facilitator, Dave Rothfeld, stressed the importance of both parties in a negotiation walking away with the feeling that they have “won”.  Being creative and flexible is key. Innovative ideas were discussed in how to assist in the process.  The significance of such could result in a continued partnership, references, and an overall level of satisfaction by all involved.  This is the POWER of NEGOTIATING!

Cohort 11 - Negotiations
Cohort 11 – Negotiations

 The workshop concluded by the student teams working through “real” business scenarios and practicing their negotiation learnings.  Many commented that their confidence grew in handling delicate conversation and by their willingness to be open and flexible, sometimes even agreeing with their negotiator, to ensure that the negotiation worked out in their favor.

After successfully facilitating the workshop, Dave stated “In my 20 years of addressing MBA students at a number of universities, I must say that I enjoyed the enthusiasm and participation of Cohort 11 EMBA at Stetson University the most. Everyone was engaged and truly appreciative of the real-world approach to negotiating that I was able to present. I look forward to a future opportunity to address this group of committed executives.”



Courtesy – Jennifer Farb

The one thing that I keep telling people over and over about my trip is how amazed I was by the courtesy and respect of all 4 Asian cultures I visited.  In America, we have a very individualized culture, where we are very focused on ourselves, our families, and possibly our immediate company and community.  In China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand, the cultures are focused not on the individual, but the society as a whole.  The communist nature of the government of China inherently causes the people to focus on the entire community, but it is also inherent in their culture as family is the center of everything.  Our tour guide shared with us that even when they introduce themselves, they lead with their family name instead of their given name as we do in the US.  The people were also extremely welcoming and seemed extremely happy to see Americans.  In Hong Kong, I was immediately shocked by the cleanliness, especially with the stark contrast to the heavy pollution in Mainland China, and the entire 4 days we were in the city, I did not see more than a couple of pieces of litter on the ground.  I saw many people in Hong Kong drop things by accident, but each person took great care to pick it back up if they let it fall.  In the Subway system, each station had large panes of glass blocking anyone from falling onto the track, and there were not even fingerprints on the front of the glass.  Everyone was standing very peacefully in straight lines waiting to get onto the trains.

A brass band played in the Subway station in Taipei
A brass band played in the Subway station in Taipei

In Taiwan, the subway system was organized much like the one in Hong Kong and there were also beautifully cleaned bathrooms that even had potted plants and sinks on motion sensors.  Each public restroom had a picture of the employee that was servicing it, with a note stating if you needed anything to speak with them directly.  In Taiwan many people did not speak English, but everyone we encountered was happy to at least try.  Thailand though was by far the most courteous culture that I have ever encountered and was truly touched by how respectful every person we encountered was from the Marketing Executive at McDonald’s Thailand all the way to the vendor peddling the Buddha statues in her market stall.  Each person takes the time and care to Wai at the beginning and end of every encounter and it really forced you to be completely in the moment and focus on the person you are speaking with.  The children were also some of the most respectful I have ever encountered and when I heard one child speak out of turn at the Grand Palace and raise their voice, all it took was the father to give them a stern look and the child was peaceful once more.  I am much more aware of how courteous I am being to the people around me now that we have returned to the United States and realize more and more that most Americans are not.  We have developed as a country much further along than one like Thailand and China, but countries like Hong Kong and Taiwan are quickly showing us that by combining some of the assets of both cultures, there may be a better and happier way to live where we can all look out for each other just a little more.

Street Vending: Bangkok

Rachid Labzioui – Street Vending: Bangkok

I can’t imagine myself going to Bangkok, Thailand and not trying some of the country’s delicacies. Thai cuisine in known worldwide to be rich in flavors and sometimes full of surprises.

Streets are packed with make shift food stands which are equipped with the minimum necessary equipment to make some of the most mouth watering dishes someone can ever taste. Locals are the ones usually that can be seen hovering around them but also you will also see that tourists are more and more prone to try the food.street_vending2

Cheap, clean, delicious and can be found everywhere with more than 20000 vendors in Bangkok alone. These are key reasons why business is booming with street vendors.

Another phenomenon that shocked me is the abundance of street bars. They are everywhere as well and usually start doing business later at night. You don’t need to be in an enclosed traditional bar to be able to enjoy a nice alcoholic beverage, but you can still do that while people watching on the side of the road.

A side walk bar in Bangkok
A side walk bar in Bangkok

These are usually minivans equipped with coolers, ice makers; blenders to make cocktails and even little kitchenette able to serve some amuse bouches for the patrons. Their prices are relatively cheaper than regular bars. That’s why they are jam-packed every night. At least during the time I was there.