Category Archives: Graduation

Janice’s Transformational EMBA Journey Results In Lifelong Opportunities

Janice Trew

Shared by Janice Trew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Janice & family on graduation day.

Cohort 15 Presents their Integrative Research Projects

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

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

Generation Hearts

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

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

Block Builders

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

GrOtown Greens

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

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

F3: Food For the Future

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

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

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

5 Star Hotel Accommodations for a 5 Star Cohort

The Westin Grande Sukhumvit,

home of SqUadron 15 for the next few days is a 5 Star hotel of 363 rooms located in the Business and Commercial District of Bangkok; one of the emerging cities in the Asia, Pacific Region. The property is part of the Marriott International Group, the largest hotel chain in the world, after the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

We arrived at the hotel on Saturday, June 23, 2018, at around 2330 hours and after settling in our well-appointed rooms, a few of us met in the lobby restaurant where we indulged ourselves in some local Thai food and drinks. It was a great opportunity to decompress and bond after a long and exhausting journey from Orlando, Chicago, and Tokyo.

On the afternoon of June 24, 2018, our Stetson EMBA Cohort #15 met with Mr. Peter Lucas, an Australian Expatriate who has been appointed General Manager in 2016.

Most recently, he held leadership positions at the Four Points Sheraton Bangkok and Hilton Melbourne Australia.

During our briefing, Peter told our group that there are more than forty 5 Star hotels in Bangkok; a city that has become the  #1 tourist destination in the world ahead of London of Paris.

In 2017, Bangkok welcomed more than 30 million guests and visitors.

The main opportunity in the hotel business here in Bangkok is the very low ADR (Average Daily Rate) which is about $95.00 per night for 5 Star Hotels. The ADR in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco is between $600.00 and $750.00 per night.

The success indicators at the Westin Sukhumvit and in the Marriott Hotel Group are Revenue, which includes Profit and Budget Achievement- Guest Satisfaction- Quality Assurance Audits- Employee & Owner Satisfactions.

Before leaving for Bangkok, Dr. Carrick told us that the breakfast buffet at the Westin are tremendous and we unanimously agree. We always look forward to meeting at the restaurant early in the morning to enjoy the variety of fabulous local and international food served by the friendly and welcoming staff.

Shared by Aziz Ndiaye

Cohort 14 Presentations

One of the culminating efforts for Cohort 14’s, 18-month experience was to research and identify an innovative product or service (or redesign an existing product or service) for the bottom of the pyramid. As a team, they were to select the product or service and be prepared to present the target market, service concept, operations strategy and service delivery for your offering. Below is an overview of each groups presentation.

Good Turn

Good turn was created by Cohort 14 members Matt Wierenga, Dave Pickens, Desi Warner, and Adam Swiatek.

From left to right: Dave Pickens, Desi Warner, Matt Wierenga, and Adam Swiatek.

Their concept was to create a network of skilled individuals who have the opportunity to pay it forward with an act of kindness. Professionals fill out a survey identifying their skill set which then are added to a broader network list. These services would be beneficial to those in need or who may not be able to afford to pay for these services otherwise.

This company runs off of a give and take concept; looking at our community alone, there are 350,000 people who are in need, and 3.17 million with the skills to help.

These services would be accessed through a phone application or through the internet, and would work on a token system. Some of these e-tokens would be donated to charity, others sold to businesses that would gain promotion and online marketing from the experience. The e-tokens would then be distributed to those in need, who could exchange an e-token for a service they are in need of in the community.

The Kin~nected Hearts Foundation Empowering Families

This company was created by Cohort 14 members Julie Billy, Hakim Lucas, Lyndsey Denton, and Christy Reynolds.

From left to right: Julie Billy, Christy Reynolds, Lyndsey Denton, and Hakim Lucas.

Their concept was a company with a social enterprise focus and directed at those at the bottom of the World Pyramid, focusing specifically on single mothers of young children in Central Florida. A significant 68% of single parent households are living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, 85% of brain growth occurs in the first 3 years of life, yet 45% of center-based child care facilities do not offer infant and toddler care.

A social enterprise is an organization that has a mission that benefits the public or community; they utilize trade, of which a substantial portion of income comes from; and reinvest the majority of their profit into their mission.

Their mission statement is:

To serve the single mothers of young children in Central Florida by providing education, job placement, and support services, while providing high quality, on-site child care in a nurturing environment.

The company would offer support services, with a mentorship program, child care, job training, and job placement. This is an extremely unique offering as all of these services are provided in one location vs. what traditionally these single mothers face and that is having to go to individual agencies one by one to get their issues resolved.

Ms. Keeter Beater

This company was created by Cohort 14 members Jason Mejeras, Rachael Faircloth, Zineb Sands, and Janice Trew.

The goal of this company is to reduce the spread of diseases in the rural, southeast Asia region. Preventing illness and death from diseases is done through affordable sanitation and proper protection. They target families with school-age children 5-17, school teachers, healthcare providers, and those at the ‘bottom of the pyramid.’

A hygiene product combined with a bug protectant is used to reduce illness. It is made up of liquid citronella soap dried on paper which dissolves when water it is applied. This is then sold in small, local marketplaces. This is a unique offering as it is a solution that provides hygienic car

From left to right: Zineb Sands, Jason Mejeras, Rachael Faircloth, and Janice Trew.

e plus insect repellant all in one. Also, they address sustainability as there is no waste of any kind or footprint left behind. The box the product initially comes in, is returned to the distributors for reuse, and the soap dried paper dissolves and disappears.

All three teams presented their very different products with passion, knowledge, and enthusiasm; however, our guest Alumni panel selected Ms. Keeter Beater as the company with the overall Most Innovative Product or Service. A huge congrats to their company for their creative and well-thought out plan which we all agreed could be implemented and solve a looming problem in this region!

We are so fortunate to have watched our students transform professionally and personally over the past 18 months. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for all of them! 

Top photo: Cohort 14 on their first day of classes 18 months ago. Bottom photo: Cohort 14 on their last day of classes!

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.

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!

Cohort 9 Graduates!!!


Three cohorts - working and supporting each other!
Three cohorts – working and supporting each other!

After 19 months of hard work and dedication, we were delighted to watch our largest cohort to date cross the stage, be individually recognized, and hooded during their rite of investiture. The Dean of the School of Business and Provost shook each graduates hand as they celebrated their personal journey in the quest of an MBA degree. Family members and fellow cohorts were just as vocal about their accomplishment, as cheers erupted from the audience. “This graduation experience was so much more overwhelming than any other I’ve been a part of before. It made me realize just how hard I’ve worked throughout the EMBA program and how badly I wanted to accomplish this goal. It was so inspiring to hear every single one of our names called and know that we had walked this journey together!” – Lindsay Swantek

The commencement ceremony included a speech from Stetson University President Wendy B. Libby who gave the “charge” to graduates – a tradition of placing a duty and responsibility upon the new graduates. Libby highlighted how a Stetson University education assists graduates in moving from success to significance, and reminds them how to be of service to the world.

C9 Grad 11

“Graduation was awesome. The message to lead a life of significance resonated with me. I took the president’s charge to heart! What a great way to conclude our program. I look forward to leading an active alumni life.” – David LaRocque, Stetson Double Hatter


During the cohorts time with us at Stetson, the group have developed lifelong relationships and grown together personally and professionally, resulting in tomorrow’s future leaders. We feel very privileged to have been a part of this transformational experience which included a 10-day international trip.  We have shared in their successes, challenges, and their personal journey – the proposals, pregnancies, and the losses shaped our overall experience. We are so fortunate to have experienced all these impactful moments!

We are so proud to have Cohort 9 join the Stetson Alumni family, and hope you will stay connected and continue to share your journey and lifelong friendship with us.