Tourists 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!