Little did I know while taking a picture in
front of the Millennium Falcon that I would be pulled to join a family in a
galaxy far, far away!
the pleasure of opening three of the new Food and Beverage locations in Galaxy’s
Edge: Bubo Wamba’s Family Farm Milk Stand, Soda Droids, and Oga’s Cantina.
Bubo Wamba’s Family Farm
Milk Stand is famous for its blue and green milks! It was so enjoyable to help
open and run this special stand.
Did you see the new Coke
orbs, as well? These soda “droids” can be found throughout the land. Opening
and stocking these stylistic drinks was out of this world!
Finally, I was treated to time spent at Oga’s Cantina. The cast and crew affectionately
named one of the slugs “Joe”!
My time off from the World was brief, and I am
now back on planet Earth. Despite the brevity of my time at Galaxy’s Edge, I
will always cherish my memories and relationships formed. It has always been a
dream of mine to open a location and relish in the triumphs and tribulations of
the opening day and weekend. Having this experience has made me a stronger
leader and person. I will always
remember the opportunity I was given to help create a world where passionate
souls can come and experience what it’s like to be a part of something they’ve enjoyed
My time on planet Batuu may be over, but my passions have been renewed. As they say on Batuu, “till the spire!”
Joe Styron is a current student in the Executive MBA program, Cohort 16.
Olá from the beautiful city of Porto! Situated along the Douro River and the second largest city in Portugal, there is a breathtaking view in every direction! After an evening of exploring the city, Cohort 16 traveled to AAC Textiles in nearby Vila Nova de Famalicão. With 30 years of experience in the textiles industry, AAC Textiles works with high-end luxury brands from all over the world to support the design, sampling, and production process of quality made Portuguese textiles. The textile industry accounts for 10% of Portugal’s exports with 95% of the industry located here in the northernmost part of the country.
What sets AAC apart from other manufacturers is their ability to work with companies specializing in specific aspects of textile production in order to create a high-quality product. They focus on delivering smaller quantities with a quick turnaround time and work with many high-end designers from all over the world. Products produced here are sold across the globe including Europe, Asia, and the US.
Paulo Pereira, CEO of AAC Textiles, gave the cohort a tour of the facility where we reviewed various aspects of the textile making process. We visited the sample library where all of the various fabric and embroidery samples are available for clients to review, met pattern makers who turn a designer’s sketch into real life, and visited the prototype department where articles are first created for clients to review. Clients visiting the facility can get a true understanding of the textile making process starting from their idea to the completion of a finished piece.
The textile industry is focused on how manufacturers and designers can produce quality products using sustainable materials, while creating less waste and reducing their carbon footprint. AAC Textiles encourages clients to use organic cotton and recycled plastic whenever possible and encourages eco-friendly printing techniques. They lead by example with their commitment to working in a sustainable work environment themselves. They do not use plastic at their office, and their space has been designed to minimize electricity using radiant heating and cooling in their floors. AAC Textiles operates with a belief that clothing brands and their producers should promote sustainability in a way that one day will become the industry standard.
In order to keep the textiles industry thriving in Portugal, AAC Textiles believes in investing in people and a continued focus on sustainability. From artists and designers to pattern makers and factory workers, hiring, training and keeping skilled workers is important to their business. Focusing on sustainability is not only a responsibility to them, but it is also a differentiator they have made for themselves in the industry. After today’s visit the cohort had a greater appreciation for textiles made in Portugal.
Homeless people lost to our society, children living in extreme poverty, plastic overfilling landfills and oceans… issues facing our society.
“Social Impact” is the act of taking deliberate actions to create a significant change that positively alters a social issue impacting our world.
Today our cohort started our day with a volunteer organization, CAIS, which was established to help people of extreme poverty or those socially excluded. This group has trainers who lead a team of people they serve to compete in the Homeless World Cup of Street Futball. We had the opportunity to play soccer with this group of amazing people. It was fun, insightful, and humbling. I loved that our cohort and professors jumped right in and played street futball. While playing, I realized that this sport is a great equalizer; it didn’t matter if you were a Senior Vice President, a volunteer trainer, or a homeless person; all were equal on the field.
Following futball, we visited the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation on its beautiful campus in Lisboa, Portugal, which serves to elevate humanity through Art, Science, Education, and Charity. The foundation was created in 1956 and has served the people of Portugal ever since. The foundation identifies significant issues impacting socially excluded groups, solves them in a localized manner, and then works to institutionalize the solution within the public sector. Some of the foundation’s projects include Art for Inclusion, Hip-Hop for Underprivileged, and Hack for Good. The foundation currently has three key areas it is working to address: sustainability, knowledge, and cohesion & social integration.
In 2013, the Calouste Gulbenkian foundation developed a program called Maze, which is a company established to aid entrepreneurs committed to making a social impact as a result of doing business. Maze assists qualified entrepreneurs with market intelligence, strengthening ventures, and advising on capitalization. To be eligible, the start-up needs talented teams with solid technical and managerial skills, a unique and innovative product, tech-enabled solutions and a strong and clear business idea with impact potential.
Maze has an acceleration program known as Maze-X and a venture capital company known as Mustard Seed: Maze. Mustard Seed: Maze is an Impact Capital company that serves as an investment group for venture capitalists with the goal of reorienting capital toward impactful incomes. Mustard Seed: Maze wants to use social investments to help solve the most pressing social challenges of our time. They have two endgames: government adoption and corporate adoption. Mustard Seed: Maze is working to have 1.4B (euros) in annual contracts between Portuguese government and impact entrepreneurs and between 250M (euros) and 400M (euros) in annual funding for impact entrepreneurs with private capital.
The cohort enjoyed learning more about the potential of impact investing and the role of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in making lasting, socially impacting changes.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
At a young age, Nicole O’Reilly, a current student in Cohort 15, learned about the importance of giving back from her mom.Kate O’Reilly, mother of Nicole, shared “When our daughter Nicole was born, I was so thankful that she was healthy. Listening to the radio one day that September when she was just a few months old, the opportunity to become a Partner in Hope for St. Jude Children Research Hospital presented itself. Four and a half years later, our son Sean was born, so I upped the ante.” She participates each year in a national campaign, Thanks and Giving®, created by Marlo, Terre, and Tony Thomas, children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital founder Danny Thomas. Their motto: “Give thanks for the healthy kids in your life, and give to those who are not.”
While giving each year, Kate never had an opportunity to visit the facility. “28 years later, I was finally able to see this amazing place,” said Kate. Due to stringent security clearance requirements, she was not able to drive on property when she visited in March 2018. Though she was not able to go into the building, she stated, “I’m proud to be part of something that gives and asks nothing in turn.”
Continuing in her mother’s footsteps, Nicole shares, “I’m grateful to my mom for making my brother and me aware of such an incredible organization that does so much for families going through the unimaginable. In the future, when I have my own family, my goal is to have my kids make the biggest list they can think of: books, movies, toys, etc., go shopping, and then personally take all the donations to St. Jude’s!
Currently, I use an app called Charity Miles as a means to give back. Through corporate sponsors (like Johnson & Johnson, SwapPet, Marriott, etc.), for every mile you walk, run or bike those companies will donate a certain amount of money to the charity of your choice. There are over 40 charities to choose from including St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Even though each mile doesn’t earn that much, (I think 10 cents per mile or something along those lines) it adds up! Charity Miles is free to download, and then you just start working out.
I use Charity Miles daily on my lunchtime walk with my friend (and Stetson Hatter MBA ’18 Graduate) Sarah Zambrano, and we used it back in February of this year while I completed my first 5K.
This app can even be used for a fun scavenger hunt day, like my fellow Cohort/SqUadron members Brian Vann, Natalie Ferrer, Nicole Amero, and I did back in April 2018.
My fellow Cohort/SqUadron members Laurie Warfield, Kate Kroll, and I have started to walk weekly in Celebration before a homework session. You guessed it, I use the app then too. It’s great to see my daily accomplishments and know that I am making just a small difference to families that are experiencing some of the most difficult times in their lives.”
While balancing the demands of work, school and family, Nicole found her way of supporting those in need. We look forward to seeing the many contributions Nicole will share in the future!
Dr. Ram Subramanian, Professor of Strategic Management in our Executive MBA Program, ventured to Thailand with our Cohort 15 students, and shares his experiences.
“We’ll Always Have Sukhumwit”
My colleague, Jon Carrick, was in full drill master mode on our first day in Thailand. I, like most others in Cohort 15, had landed late Saturday at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok and the nearly 20-hour flight had left me, as I am sure the others, in a groggy and disoriented state. Jon, a veteran of several trips to Thailand, had anticipated correctly our discomfiture and had the perfect antidote for it! A 6:00 a.m. wake up call and a day long bus trip was just the panacea for jet lag!
The beauty of Ayutthaya more than made up for Jon’s tough love approach! Ayutthaya, Thailand’s variation of Ayodhya, the historic city in northeast India, putatively the site of Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic, hit its peak in the 14th-18th centuries, when it was a leading city in Asia, and a center of both commerce and culture. By then, Buddhism was widespread, and Ayutthaya was replete with numerous statues of Gautama Buddha. What we saw, however, was the strange sight of statue after statue with Buddha’s head chopped off. Our intrepid guide, Crystal, told us that the Burmese were to blame for the beheadings. Regardless of what the Burmese did, Buddha’s influence permeates even today in a country where 97 percent of the people are Buddhists. Buddha got his enlightenment while meditating by a tree and so I thought it fitting that an interesting feature of our visit was the sight of a Buddha statue embedded in a tree.
While Sunday was the cultural tour of Ayutthaya, the rest of our hectic week was filled with business visits, each of them distinct and interesting in its own way. At McDonald’s or McThai, we saw how the famed American restaurant chain succeeded by adapting its menu to fit local market needs. An interesting presentation at Taskworld showed us how coding and start-up skills can be found anywhere. Our visit to Kantor gave us a fine-grained glimpse of Thai market conditions from the perspective of a market research firm. Kidzania allowed us to be kids once again, albeit for a brief while. And at Hangar we saw a replica of Silicon Valley’s vaunted entrepreneurial culture as our presenter told us that the search was on for Thailand’s first unicorn! Every day was exhausting but interesting and informative. At the end of each day, we looked forward to coming back to the luxurious confines of Westin Grand Sukhumwit, our hotel, which as our resident hotel expert Aziz pointed out is part of the worldwide Marriott group. Suffice to say, I wouldn’t be wrong if I paraphrase Humphry Bogart in saying, no matter what, we’ll always have Sukhumwit!
As Cohort 15 prepares to return and Cohort 16 prepares to begin their EMBA journey, we wanted to take the time to get to know our new Assistant Director of Graduate and Professional Programs, Jessica Kozlowski!
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the beautiful island of St. Croix. You should visit if you haven’t been there before. It’s a great place to kick back and relax with stunning beaches and lots of historical sites to explore.
Tell us about where you worked prior to Stetson
Most of my career has been spent in higher education. Right before joining Stetson, I worked for the University of Notre Dame with the Alliance for Catholic Education. It was a remote position in which I worked with four Notre Dame ACE Academies in Central Florida as the Regional Advancement Coordinator. I also worked at Valencia College as Director of Transition and Enrollment Services and Chestnut Hill College as Assistant Director of Admission and Coordinator of On-campus Recruitment. In addition, I have experience in the staffing industry as an Executive Mortgage Recruiter at ABTSolutions and Director at CareersUSA. I’ve also worked part-time at Walt Disney World for seven years.
What are you most excited about working at Stetson?
Meeting new amazing people, the opportunities for growth and making this a life-long career.
Are you married?
Yes, two years to my loving and supportive husband Tommy. He’s my rock, very handsome and I couldn’t imagine life without him.
Do you have any children?
I have two awesome stepsons, Karter and Tommy Jr., who are totally into sports and enjoy going on adventures with me.
Who inspires you, or is your hero?
Oh boy, this is a hard one for me. My parents were my first heroes and they always will be. I have also really admired Harriet Tubman, but there are many people that inspire me. I am inspired when I see random acts of kindness, good deeds and people bringing hope to others.
What are you passionate about at work?
Building relationships and finding ways to bring new levels of success to the institution.
What is your favorite type of cuisine?
I really enjoy all types of food but, if I really had to pick, it would be a tossup between Latin and Caribbean.
What are some of your secret talents?
I have danced since the age of two and became part of the Caribbean Dance Company and the Contemporary Dance Company in St. Croix so needless to say, I love to dance. I also competed in gymnastics, though I can’t tumble the way I used to anymore – bad wrists. I’ve been told I’m great at event planning, crafts and DIY projects.
Tell us some of your pet peeves?
Injustice, bullies, lies and people who don’t do what they say they are going to do. In general, I truly value integrity.
Where is your alma mater?
Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA where I earned both my bachelor and master degrees.
What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy going to the beach, hiking, Geocaching and just about anything outdoors. I love adventure and like to experience and try new things from skydiving to new restaurants.
What impression do you want to leave on EMBA students?
It is my personal mission to positively impact those I meet and I would hope to do that for our EMBA students.
Once the capital of Thailand before the new age that brought to life the city of Bangkok, Ayutthaya is an unmissable city located just an hour outside of Bangkok
Ayutthaya is a city of ruin today, thanks to pillaging by the Burmese, but 300 years ago it was the largest city in the world – and arguably one of the most beautiful. It is a city full of ruins of temples and palaces, where tourists can explore a more ancient Thailand.
Ayutthaya Historical Park is one of the most visited attractions in the city, home to ruins of ancient temples and palaces. It was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. This historical park boasts 425 unearthed archaeological sites, most of which you can walk through or even climb to the top of to enjoy a spectacular sunset, depending on flooding. Some ruins are in a preserved enough condition that you can feel as though you are strolling through some of the most important buildings in ancient Thailand, such as the Royal Chapel.
Khlong Sra Bua Floating Market is a more modern addition to Ayutthaya, but is a replica of the ancient Khlong Sra Bua village, which was once an important trade tour. There are some great trinkets to be found here, and the entertainment is the highlight with performances giving life to Thai folk tales that you may not hear or see anywhere else in your trip.
Wat Mahathat was the spiritual center of ancient Ayutthaya, the royal ceremonial group for religious and non-religious ceremonies.
Some relics found here are now housed in the Chao Sam Phraya Museum, but this site is also home to the Ione Buddha’s head entrapped by the roots of an overgrown banyan tree. Please be courteous when taking photographs or admiring this popular icon, as gestures deemed disrespectful, such as standing over the Buddha’s head, will not be tolerated.
Wat Yai Chaimongkol is one of the best-preserved ancient royal monasteries in the city, giving you a taste of an ancient Thailand. It is home of the famous large reclining Buddha and a 62-metre inverted bell-shaped chedi that commemorates King Naresuan’s victory over the Burmese. It was originally constructed as a forest temple school.
One note we suggest in exploring this beautiful ancient city is to either rent a bicycle to tour as many ruins as possible on your short time here, or if you have your driver’s license with you – and are brave enough to drive the streets of Thailand – you can rent a moped to travel in style. Alternatively, you can travel by Tuk-Tuk as you go from site to site.