Category Archives: Cohort 12

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!

Alumna Karla Jain Powell ’16

Choosing to do Stetson’s EMBA program was one of the best decisions I’ve made personally and professionally. It was the perfect balance for me to grow business skills and learn deeply about what my drivers are that can be applied to work and my life as a whole.

While in school I worked for the Walt Disney Company in Learning and Development. I knew this was an area I was passionate about and wanted to pursue further when I was done with school. I had lived in Florida for 6 years and though I loved my time there, I always knew it wasn’t my forever.

In my new home state of Colorado.

Shortly after graduation I was recruited to work for a company in Colorado as they were creating a new Learning and Development team. They were very excited to hear about the program at Stetson and how we focus not only on business development but personal and leadership development as well. I took a leap of faith, packed up my life in Florida, and made the move for this new career opportunity.

Most recently I’ve been able to use all facets of my EMBA in a Project Management role. Being able to see something full scope is something I solely credit to Stetson. Seeing the impacts of one decision financially, strategically, and employee focused are all skills I learned in the program.

Earning my EMBA at Stetson was the busiest, craziest, sleepless two years of my life, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I left the program with an education I’m very proud of and lifelong friendships.

Visiting best friends (Cohort 12) back in Orlando. Pictured left to right: Joe Iglecia-Scholl, Jessica Zaucha, Karla Jain Powell, Britteny Freemyer and Sarah Culver.

Thank you Stetson!

Written by: Karla Jain Powell ’16

Where Are They Now? – A Q&A With An Alumnus

Reminiscing with Cohort 12 Alumnus, Joseph Iglecia-Scholl, on his perspectives of his impactful experience at Stetson University’s EMBA Program.



What was your career path before attending Stetson’s EMBA program?

Before attending the EMBA program, I was working my way up the ranks at Walt Disney World in food and beverage. I was a manager at one of the larger restaurants on property.

Did that change after graduation?

It changed during the program. I took a leap of faith that persuing my degree and having my MBA from Stetson University would put me ahead of the curve in a smaller and more competitive team.

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

I find that my MBA helps give me confidence and credibility that I would not have otherwise.

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

Don’t be afraid. The program is designed for you to learn and to be successful.

How has your education at Stetson impacted your professional life?

My personal network has grown, I have more confidence taking on more difficult projects, and I always know that I have my cohort that I can still count on to help me when I need guidance.

What is the most valuable information you learned while you were in school?

I learned that I am capable of much more than I would have thought I was. There were many times when I thought “I don’t think that I can do this!”  But, step by step and bit by bit with the help of my friends, family, and cohort, every one of those times I came out on top.

What is your favorite memory of Stetson’s EMBA program?

Our international experience, hands down! I have countless memories that will last a lifetime of exploring Bangkok, Thailand with my friends.

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

No matter who you are or what you do, you work in an international economy and market. I liked the emphasis that Stetson put on international business studies.

What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment during your time in our EMBA program?

It is hard to pick just one. The program stretched me and challenged me from day one.  I think that if I had to nail it down though, I would pick gaining a better understanding of myself as a person and as a leader.  We spent so much time in class looking at ourselves layer by layer “in the mirror” that I feel like I really came to know myself more.

Do you still keep in touch with members from your cohort?

Of course! We have quarterly meet-ups that we all still try to attend, holiday parties, and still get excited whenever we see each other out and about.

Alumna Valerie Drebsky Reflects On Her Transformative Experience At Stetson

In just a few weeks, yet another cohort of driven and energized students will begin their Stetson Executive MBA experience. As such, alumna Valerie Drebsky of cohort 12 recently took some time to reflect on her own journey before, during, and after the formative EMBA program!

What tangible impact has your Executive MBA experience had on your life?

Friendships & Partnerships- I was part of a cohort of 20 likeminded individuals where we learned, grew, explored, pull through course work, etc. together. We became very close and I learned as much from them as I did the professors. From that we have a network of alumni that continues to grow and there is nothing more exciting than that!

What makes Stetson University’s EMBA program unique?

I went to school originally to get smarter in business. I was in meetings where I wasn’t sure what they were talking about – sounded like another language. It got to a point that “faking it till you make it” wasn’t going to work anymore. For this, business knowledge I could have gone to any university to pursue an MBA. I went to Stetson because I found something I didn’t even know I was looking for. I found a program that invested in me both personally and professionally. I became better-rounded in business as well as learning things about myself I never took the time to get to know.

What professional outcomes have you noticed after receiving your degree?

I learned awareness is so valuable and that is exactly what I got during my time at Stetson. The EMBA program had us dig deep into two major areas- business and ourselves. Graduating from the program and reflecting back I am so grateful for what I learned and continue to learn about both subjects.

Have you traveled post-EMBA trip?

 I have- on our international trip we went to Thailand and from there some of our cohort extended our trip and ventured off. We visited Hong Kong and Tokyo in addition to Thailand. Exactly a year later the company I work for sent me to Shanghai for the opening of two hotels there. I was there for 5 weeks and explored the city of Shanghai as well as Beijing and a return to Hong Kong. Asia was never on my list of places to visit but Stetson pushes you outside of what you think you know. Because of these pushes I have tried things, learned things and had adventures I never imagined.

When did you see members of your cohort last, and do you stay in touch?

 We do! We regroup every other month- open invitation to anyone that can come. We also have other get together like a yearly holiday celebration or a spontaneous- “Hey I miss you – Let’s meet up!”

What do you enjoy outside of work?

Four months ago my wife gave birth to our first child- a baby girl. Today what I love most is hanging out with my little family and watching our daughter see things for the first time! Outside of family I love to run and have recently gotten into workout videos like beachbody. I love trying new things and exploring as well.

What would you like to see included in our next EMBA alumni event?

I love the alumni events – it’s a great way to reconnect with people you may not have seen in a while. What I would love even more is to connect with people there I have never met before such as from other cohorts – etc.

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”.


We Did It! We finally graduated!

13133288_1298164946877453_4750646036647372539_nMy graduation was a really special day that I was fortunate enough to share with my close friends and my Stetson family. After a 18 month journey with nineteen fabulous people, seventeen challenging courses and 12 awesome professors, I found myself in front of a mirror adjusting my cap and gown. Actually, I found myself in front of a mirror having a minor panic attack, because I never really thought that I could do it, and believe me I was struggling to place the hood on my gown with my shaky hands. I was minutes away from having completed a master’s degree, and I was having issues with a hood! Luckily, my daughters came to my rescue, and after talking to me and making me understand I was just nervous, because I cared so much, they made sure that I looked presentable.

When I finally realized I was looking for my own spot in the procession line-up, I was surprised by how many people I knew and how fast the days went by. Starting an Executive MBA at the age of 45 was really not expected, but on top of it all, having made so many friends with different ages and backgrounds (and even from different places around the globe) was not only amazing, it was also magical. It was really cool to see so many friends all in one place, celebrating the same achievement that we all worked so diligently to master

I also really underestimated how amazing it would feel to get hooded and to walk at Commencement. I could hardly contain my smile as I walked past so many undergraduate students, parents, and teachers. But, I have to say that hearing my name called, walking across the stage and shaking several hands of University leaders are all somewhat of a blur! As I focused on not tripping on the stairs or on the stage, I was still able to truly appreciate the excitement and focus on the moment. That day was not only the accomplishment of a tough but rewarding task, but also the realization of a dream! A dream to be proud of myself in front of my family, my friends, my cohort, my graduate professors, and Stetson’s staff who have helped me throughout the journey. I even smiled with pride in front of people that I’ve never met and that I won’t probably ever meet in my lifetime. The joy of the conquest and the beauty of having done something bigger than I ever thought I could do was overwhelming. I was not only graduating with a master’s degree, but I was also graduating from one of the premier universities in Central Florida, and from one of the leading programs in the US.  Being from a foreign university background, I have now accomplished an EMBA program in English and, let me brag a little, I have done a great job!

Having dedicated my time to this EMBA was honorable and such a valuable choice. We always tend to think that we’ve accomplished a lot in our lives and sometimes we neglect our own capabilities and strength to go even further. I put off this lofty goal for a long time, like many do. Having two undergraduates and one graduate diploma in Brazil did not satisfy me. I wanted more, and I came after it. I am the first one in my family to graduate from a foreign university, which is also extremely special. All of the love and support that I had on graduation day — not to mention throughout the course of completing my degree — made me feel really proud of my accomplishments. As somewhat of a perfectionist, occasionally I’ve been less than satisfied with certain grades during my time at Stetson. But on graduation day, the grades, the time spent in the study rooms, all of the little things that I like to stress over, didn’t matter — I made it, I have a master’s degree!

And here I am now, celebrating this wonderful adventure and this huge undertaking with my Cohort, who, like me, was always ready to do more and to conquer new victories. We Did It Cohort 12! We did it, Heitor, Marissa, Yoshi, Chad, Melanie, Tom, Liliana, Ashley, Valerie, Dave, Joe, Jessica, Sarah, Rose, Franz, Britteny, Karla, Kim and Aubrey. We did it together, joining efforts and bringing the “best of each of us” to the experience and from that we have built a strong foundation for our future and for our careers.

Congratulate to all of you graduates who took the time and the incredible and necessary effort to go through it and to become a better person, a better professional and a great leader!

Cheers to a very bright future!

They learned together and now they celebrate together

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One step at a time. This is exactly how Stetson’s EMBA Cohort 12 walked the path during an 18 months journey that ended last weekend. Now, and after 17 different subject matters, all the 20 graduates are ready to move on. They have worked more than they ever thought about, and have been developing their leadership skills day-by-day, struggling with the unknown, but certainly growing with all the new and fascinating things that revealed themselves to them. Everything they went through has brought them together to create a new chapter in their own future. A chapter that started right there, after they finished their last class.

As tradition dictates, Stetson University was proud to recognize some higher achievers. Even though the whole team of faculty and the whole Cohort 12 has been amazing during their journey, some of them stood for their significant contributions, higher GPA’s or a different and innovative leadership. Stetson staff, teachers and Cohorts salute outstanding faculty and graduate students who have distinguished themselves through their grades, leadership and service.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.34.38 AMBest Innovative Sustainability Project Presentation Award

For the project have encompassing all aspects required and for the excellence in both the union of the points presented and the presentation itself, Dr. Jaideep Motwani and judges selected the AJUDA project as the winner of Best Innovative Sustainability Project Presentation. AJUDA is a private company to be established in Brazil, seeking for the integration of Social, Economical and Environmental responsibility. Its mission is to provide food to the poor living in the suburbs of state capitals, at fair prices and with local distribution. It is innovative since it creates a disruptive and completely new supply chain for dry foods in Brazil, and is sustainable since it brings social, economical and environmental benefits to the people living in the bottom of the pyramid, but also to the company itself, that is capable of generating profits to keep a health growth. Heitor Bover, Chad Cooper, Cristiane Gandin, Yoshi Takamura and Marissa Zerbo represented AJUDA COMPANY.

Outstanding Executive MBA Achievement Award

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This award is presented every year to the graduating student with the highest overall GPA in the Executive MBA program. Cohort 12 exceeded Stetson’s expectations and for the class of 2016 the University and the School of Business Administration proudly honored not one, but three students that achieved exactly the same GPA. They were Chad Cooper, Ashley Forbes and Marissa Zerbo.

Beta Gamma Sigma Award

The Beta Gamma Sigma Award is presented every year to graduating students in the top 20% of their class. The recipients are selected on the basis of their outstanding character, scholastic achievement, participation in school affairs and potential for civic, business, and professional leadership. Based on the highest overall GPA in the Executive MBA program, the Beta Gamma Sigma award is the highest recognition a business student anywhere in the world can receive in a business program accredited by AACSB International. The class of 2016 winners were Chad Cooper, Valerie Drebsky, Ashley Forbes and Marissa Zerbo.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.37.01 AMTheodore Surynt Leadership Award                                    

This award is presented to a graduating student each year that has demonstrated superior leadership and significant contributions to serving the Stetson and professional business community. The award is given in honor of the late associate dean of business administration and Executive MBA information systems faculty, Dr. Theodore Surynt, who served at the School for thirty years, and is based on the Cohort’s indication throughout a voting process. This is the second year that Stetson’s School of Business Administration grants a student with this award, and it is an honor for any student to achieve such a high standard. Valerie Drebsky, was the most voted amongst her friends and cohort this year. Valerie demonstrated not only an outstanding leadership potential, and above all an innovative leadership based on integration, inclusion and social/environmental concerns.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.32.35 AMExecutive MBA Distinguished Professor Award                  

An energized faculty is key to educational excellence and this has been an important pillar for Stetson since the very beginning. After all, enhancing graduate teaching is at the core of our existence. Stetson is proud of its faculty, and together with the students, we have created this award that is presented every year by the graduating cohort to one faculty member. This award recognizes their significant contributions of innovative teaching, research, and program service. Cohort 12 voted and indicated Dr. Matthew E. Hurst, PhD, Assistant Professor of Finance, as the one who inspired and contributed greatly towards their achievements with innovative and integrative teaching methods, that went beyond their expectations, and helped the Cohort to reach high levels of knowledge and engagement.

It was really a great and valuable season for us. Nor the students, nor the faculty or the staff will ever forget the commitment, the engagement, the passion and determination that moved a group of strangers who joined in 2014 to start this walk, into a cohort of friends that ended this journey together in 2016. A Cohort that fought together, that grew together, that learned together and that, together, celebrated their victory and the high achievements of their friends and teams.


Meet Stetson Executive MBA class of 2016


Meet Cohort 12Tourists from all over the globe know Walt Disney World as one of the most popular destinations to visit. It is certainly a magical place, and people usually say that wonderful things happen here. Well, from our point of view it’s true, not only for tourists and families who fly to Florida searching for a great place to have fun, but also for students and professionals who seek a great education at the first business school launched in Florida.

Since 1883, Stetson University has been helping graduates and undergraduates pursue knowledge, success and confidence. Part of this success is attributed to its School of Business Administration with operations in DeLand, Celebration, Gulfport, and Tampa.

Amongst its most prestigious programs is the Executive MBA, launched in 2002. This eighteen-month program joins high achievers from diverse backgrounds, ages, markets, and countries, in a cohesive group to practice and apply leadership and technical business aspects. Students are engaged in learning by thinking strategically, expanding their network of ideas, making new business contacts and developing competencies in a team-based approach. “Cohesion is just one word”, says Valerie Drebsky, Business Manager within Walt Disney’s Lodging Line of Business, while describing the Executive MBA program. “This program opened my eyes to many different layers inside me. It allowed me to be more open in all aspects of my life”, she concludes.

Drebsky is not wrong. The Stetson EMBA Curriculum has been entirely designed to work at different levels, both personal and professional. Students are motivated to learn from theory classes, from practical projects, and from international experiences. “Each EMBA Cohort has the same class structure, but different experiences will be offered during the program. One of them is the International trip, that happens in the middle of the journey and leads students to different parts of the world”, boasts Dr. Yiorgos Bakamitsos, Associate Dean of Graduate Business Program, and Associate Professor of Marketing. “The global experience is a catalyst preparation for the advanced course work demands going into year two of the program”, he adds. Cohort 12 travelled to Thailand in June 2015 and had the most exciting time. “The trip was eye-opening on how other cultures work”, said Ashley Forbes, Walt Disney World Sports Sales Planning & Integration Manager. For Joseph Iglecia-Scholl, a Guest Service Manager responsible for Housing Programs at the Walt Disney Company, “traveling the world is one of the best ways to learn and to grow, and Stetson provided us with the best experience ever”. Jessica Zaucha, an Events Coordinator also from the Walt Disney Company, shares the same feeling. “Being able to take our classroom skills and transfer them into our business visits in Thailand was a remarkable experience”, she said.

Our international students are also thrilled about the Thailand experience. Heitor Bover, Brazilian and CEO at Arcosinal Group, have travelled the world, but said that this Thailand adventure was nothing like his personal travels. “Our international trip showed me the importance of companionship, trusting and supporting.” Liliana Molina, from Puerto Rico, explains, “This trip was the experience of a lifetime and helped the Cohort to come together as one”.

But no point of view can be more veritable than the one from someone who lived in Thailand for two years. Aubrey Hang, presently a Social Media Community Manager at Walt Disney World in Orlando, lived and worked in Bangkok and she remembered that with Stetson she had the opportunity to see a different aspect of the city. “I was familiar with the culture and the area, but seeing it from a business perspective was totally different and very informative”, said Aubrey.

Transformative, informative, enlightening, rewarding, empowering, life changing and epic are only a few ways students describe Stetson. And with more than 130 years, Stetson is creating a culture of commitment, valuable leadership and business skills, where students are poised to be future leaders of thousands of companies around the globe. Marissa Zerbo, a Senior Pricing Analyst at The Walt Disney Company, who wants to be an uplifting and creative leader and expand beyond the work place, sees Stetson as the main bridge that will help her to accomplish her goals. “This program allows you to learn about your true core values and how to incorporate them into your life both professionally and personally”, said Marissa, who also thinks the EMBA is a truly “humbling learning experience”. With the same mind-set, Heitor remembers that this was an excellent opportunity for him to ‘look at the mirror’, learn more about his behavior and develop important skills to take him to another level of leadership in his career. “The way classes are formatted made me look at the business world in a different way, and it changed me and improved my skills”, he added.

Stetson’s EMBA can be the bridge you need to achieve your objectives faster and more assertively. Students come from a variety of fields and markets. Hospitality is currently the flagship driven by our location, but many professionals from Marketing, Operations, Human Resources and a great number of entrepreneurs have joined the program in recent years and this continues to grow. For Cristiane Gandin, who came all the way from Brazil just to empower her career with an overseas educational experience, this EMBA is nothing less than exceptional. “ The whole program, the faculty, the cohort, the international experience and all the opportunities we are exposed to can really transform us and take us to a different path in our career”, she wrote. Cristiane expects to move from Marketing, in which she has more than 20 years of experience, to a new career within the educational field, and she is confident that Stetson helped her to develop the strengths she will need in the future. For Cohort 12, which is currently taking their final two Capstone courses, the impact has been significant and life altering. Rose White, born and raised in Floridian, who works for Chilli’s Bar & Grill, remembers how much the EMBA “encouraged her to push herself outside of her comfort zone and grow into a leader”. Valerie Drebsky went from a temporary assignment to an effective role in the lodging line. Ashley Forbes says that her responsibilities in her current role have expanded while in the program. Joe Iglecia-Scholl remembers that he changed roles twice during the EMBA and both to better positions, with increased responsibility. Marissa Zerbo had a promotion and two salary raises since she started the EMBA. She is positive that the Stetson EMBA experience was the trigger into achieving such a great improvement in her role at The Walt Disney Company. Stetson helps CEOs, Directors, Managers, Coordinators, Supervisors and employees at all levels, to empower and achieve the recognition they want.

The Stetson EMBA is a unique program and one of the few that deepens into leadership development and executive coaching as part of the entire curriculum. These sessions can bring immeasurable value to students. Melanie Johnston, a VIP Tour Manager at The Walt Disney Company, specifically identifies both the leadership program and the coaching sessions as amazing. “They helped me connect the dots throughout the whole program, and made me feel grounded and energized”, she says. Melanie further describes the experience as “empowering.” Karla Jain Powell, who also works for The Disney Company, but in Operations Training, agrees. Karla wanted to focus on training and development for her profession, and her choice to come to Stetson was in part based on the innovative leadership courses combined with complimentary individual coaching sessions. “The leadership development courses are what set Stetson apart from other Executive MBA programs”, said Karla, attested by Kimberly Tuttle, Restaurant Guest Service Manager at The Walt Disney Company, who shares exactly the same feeling. For Britteny Freemyer, responsible for Disney Internships and Programs at Walt Disney World, Orlando, “the coaching sessions allows you to push the boundaries and take a deeper look at any obstacles you may be facing, giving you a sense of insight and encouragement”. It’s really a common feeling among the students, and Ashley Forbes synthesizes it when she said; “The leadership courses and the executive coaching are an added perk to the program”.

Asked about what has transformed them the most in the year and a half program, Cohort 12 came up with a thousand different answers. Professional and personal development seems to be a common sense amongst the students. Sarah Culver, a Magic Kingdom Restaurant Guest Service Manager at The Walt Disney Company, remembered how much she has been challenged to grow when she said, “I have felt supported and have been able to recognize how my strengths and areas of opportunity show up in the work place. The Executive MBA changed the way I thought about being a leader, peer and employee.”

For Cohort 12 it is a lifetime experience, and Stetson knows exactly how to turn it into the best thing that has ever happened to you and your career. At the end, as Kimberly Tuttle says, “you truly only get out of this experience what you put into it”. Cohort 12 has risen to the challenge and succeeded “together” with assistance from a student-centric faculty and support team. For them the ‘dream is just coming true’. The class of 2016 graduates in May, and that’s when the magic begins!

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!