Category Archives: Stetson in the News

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 EMBA marketing class creates plans for organization that is a “beacon” in our community

Marketing class creates plans for organization that is a “beacon” in our community

Stetson University’s Executive MBA Cohort 14 had the unique pleasure of collaborating with non-profit organization Lighthouse Central Florida as a component of their Marketing Decision Making course with Dr. Tod Cox. On the first day of class, the cohort visited Lighthouse Central Florida to see the Lighthouse Central Florida operation firsthand and learn about the mission, vision and goals of the organization from the Executive team. Lighthouse Central Florida strives to “chart a course for Living, Learning, and Earning with vision loss”. The Lighthouse Works division provides training and employment opportunities for those with vision loss.

Kyle Johnson, Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer, and Kit Twenter, Director of Sustainability and Communications, attended class on Saturday, June 10, 2017, to see the cohort’s final presentations. The cohort presented marketing recommendations and ideas on how the organization could further make an impact on the lives of children and adults living with blindness and vision loss.

Cohort 14 is a passionate, caring group who made a connection with Lighthouse Central Florida and the services they provide our community. They immediately saw a need, which increased their desire to help. Lighthouse Central Florida is the sole provider of services for the visually impaired in our area. And, the need is great, since the number of visually impaired persons is expected to double in the next decade. Lighthouse Central Florida serves over 600 people annually, but has the capacity for increasing that number with the help of fundraising efforts and community awareness. Lighthouse Central Florida is striving to be a “beacon” that illuminates, inspires and guides the visually impaired.

The cohort identified a variety of ways that Lighthouse Central Florida can take the next step in meeting the demands of a growing and important segment of our community – those with vision loss and blindness. Through the cohort’s work, several key themes and tactics emerged:

  • Heighten brand awareness. A unifying message and support from a local brand marketing agency could help spread the word in Central Florida and beyond. By messaging key constituents, Lighthouse Central Florida can inform our community about the services they provide – both for clients served and customers of their Lighthouse Works program.
  • Increase fundraising opportunities. Sourcing additional revenue from new sources and new places is a tried and true strategy for non-profits. By deepening relationships and growing new ones, Lighthouse Central Florida can find the financial means to help more people in our area.
  • Expand community partnerships at annual events. Through annual events, Lighthouse Central Florida can inform our community about their work and service. These events could be an opportunity for those with vision loss to shine as they showcase the best in arts and entertainment.
  • Leverage contact center talents and expertise. By focusing on the Lighthouse Works business, the organization can expand call center operations. Through expansion, the organization could look for top talent to work at the call center and simultaneously attract new potential contracts and customers. The service provided by the Lighthouse Works call center is unparalleled and personalized; capitalizing on this area could demonstrate a competitive advantage.

Lighthouse Central Florida is a “beacon” of light in our community. Cohort 14 looks forward to continuing the relationship and continuing to inform, advocate, and support their continued growth.

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!   

Cohort 10 begins

Published in Celebration News

Cohort 10 students are, from left, Maureen Karkovice, Ray Harpel, Pablo Chavez, Krista Scimeca, Margo Haines, Mayra Santiago, Peter Platt, Judy Ashbrook, Lauren Hall, Sabrina Singleton, Angie Stevens and Cody Hampton.

Members of Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 10 began their 19-month academic journey in Celebration on Aug. 10, 2012.

Executives travel in from Gainesville to Davenport, and cities in between including Celebration residents, who have immersed themselves in developing their professional and personal lives in pursuit of their MBA degree. For some, obtaining an MBA has been a dream, which can now be realized with the help of engaging instruction and supportive faculty.

The program began with a Management & Leadership course with emphasis on developing their professional and personal and lives. By the end of their first course, the cohort identified their strengths, areas for development, how to effectively deal with conflict and communications, and how these skills would be critical individually and as a team member within the group dynamic. The students developed as a team through experiential and collaborative action, applied intelligence, trust and authenticity, and through peer and professor feedback, support and overall coaching.

Cohort 10 is off to a brilliant start, with process values and a definition of success that will imprint their behavior through the intensive program and onto completion of their MBA goal. These executives pride themselves on contributing positively to our local community, through both work and leisure activities. Currently, they are balancing professional, personal and graduate education, which means spending alternating Fridays and Saturdays in the Celebration Center, learning from topic experts and preparing for numerous global visits where they can experience “best practices” first-hand.

“I am fulfilling a dream as a part of the Stetson EMBA Cohort 10,” said Maureen Karkovice, Celebration resident. “After careful research and consideration, I realized that the Stetson EMBA is a premier program, and a cut above. Stetson is providing not only the highest quality educational instruction and environment, but goes above and beyond through the Cohort experience. I am already experiencing more from the program, professors, and the team than I ever imagined!”

To learn more, attend our School of Business Open House on Oct. 6, 2012, at 10 a.m., which includes a classroom observation and lunch or a reception on Nov. 8, 2012, at 6 p.m. Questions can be directed to 3231-939-7603.

Stetson’s Cohort 9 visits Budapest, Istanbul

Published in Celebration News

Stetson University Executive MBA students floated between two continents as they sailed down the Bosphorus Strait between the European and Asian side of Istanbul. Astonishing views of architectural jewels like the Dolmabahce Palace, the Ortakoy Mosque and Bosphorus Bridge were glowing in the distance. Twenty-five students embarked on the trip of a lifetime as they experienced global business practices and explored the historical and cultural influences of the Middle East and European region over the course of nine days. We had a similar delight in Budapest when we sailed down the Danube River with views of Parliament, Chain Bridge and the impressive Vajdahunyuad Castle. Each year the Executive MBA program, as part of its coursework, travels to a different destination to engage with entrepreneurial and well-established companies in marketing, finance, hospitality, operations and manufacturing. Immersion in these destinations increases the students’ understanding of international business and its application to their own corporate careers.

General Electric Co., Divan Hotel Group, Budapest Bank and Koc Holdings, all profitable and expanding in this region, shared their unique goals for Istanbul, their strategic ties as business partners, and the economic opportunity with tourism growth, leveraging best practices, expanded marketing efforts, or as a “safe haven” for those wishing to escape volatile zones.

Students were provided a bird’s-eye view of lean and “just in time” manufacturing processes at both Mercedes-Benz Turk and Nokia. Just fascinating to witness a motor coach and a cell phone being assembled from parts in a very methodical manner.

Pozitron (mobile applications) and IND Group (internet banking), entrepreneurial companies, were similarly initiated by their founders during their late college days and feature a very young staff with an average age younger than 30. Both started with family financing, and now fewer than 12 years later generate huge revenue growth and sales. Pozitron reports 80% growth each year, and IND Group has revenues that top $12 million Euros with more than 220 employees in 15 countries.

The business visits were incredible, but even more significant was the appreciation we discovered for their traditions and culture by exploring the various mosques, castles, governmental buildings, and cathedrals. As we walked the pedestrian streets each night, the breathtaking architecture, community spirit and importance of maintaining traditions are evident.

To culminate our International experience, the executive students wanted to “give back.” We partnered with a local university and adult volunteers from Hakosz and treated more than 20 children in “state care” to a morning at the Budapest Safari Park. In six teams, we escorted these children, ages 4 to 12, through the various animal exhibits while playing interactive games which involved the executive students learning basic Hungarian words and the children learning some English words (by jones). The adult volunteers served as translators.

“Despite the language barriers, the walls came down with smiles, sharing of local snacks and with the help of the volunteers,” said Wendy Lowe, assistant director of the Executive MBA program. “Stetson students felt proud to be able to give these children a field trip away from their everyday surroundings and into a natural habitat where we could join in their excitement. During our three hours together, we shared more than just fun and games; we truly made a significant impact on one another’s lives! The children helped our students realize that the motto “work hard, play hard” is definitely rewarding, and as we learned at Nokia, ‘living adventurously’ is possible. We will take away numerous life lessons from our time with these loving children.”

Stetson University helps homeless family in Central Florida

A homeless family in Central Florida captured the attention of Stetson University staff, students and alumni.

This past week has been an extraordinary one for Stetson University. If you’ve been following CBS and the 60 Minutes segment on the homeless in Florida, which aired Nov. 29, you know the story of the Metzger family of Sanford. Watch the CBS 60 Minutes video segment here.

Arielle Metzger, 15, was wearing a green and gray Stetson T-shirt during her interview. Arielle, who lives in a truck with her brother Austin, 13, and father Tom, talked about how important education is to the family and how she eventually wants to become a lawyer to help children and homeless people.

Stetson reached out to the Metzger family with the following:

  • A financial aid package to cover the full cost of attending the university for Arielle and Austin. Watch as Fox News follows up with the family in Sanford after Arielle and Austin Metzger learned that Stetson University guaranteed them a full scholarship.
  • To help guide them, three undergraduates from the Stetson Bonner Scholars Program will mentor Arielle and Austin as they continue their public school education. The Bonner Scholars Program is a prestigious national program dedicated to opening access to education for all students who are seeking an opportunity to serve others. Stetson is the only Bonner school in Florida.
  • Members of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority committed to raise funds to help support some of the immediate needs of the family.
  • The Metzger family met
 with President Libby on the CBS Early Show. Watch as the Metzgers discuss receiving the full scholarship from Stetson University.
  • Stetson has always had a significant commitment to serving the greater community. From DeLand to Gulfport, the university distinguishes herself through a university-wide commitment to affirming the worth and dignity of every human being and to bettering the world.
  • Hundreds of alumni, parents and friends have contacted the university inquiring as to how they can help families like the Metzgers. You can be a part of the university’s efforts to assist families with extreme financial need by making a contribution to one or more of the following funds or programs (by anthony). Just link to Stetson’s online gift form, click on “other” and enter the name of the following fund or program you would like to support:
Dr. Wendy Libby, right, appeared on the CBS Early Show with Arielle and Austin Metzger.

The Bonner Scholars Program — Supporting students who are actively engaged in service to people in need
The Student Coalition to End Homelessness — Stetson University student organization that works directly with the homeless in Volusia County
The Opportunity Stetson Scholarship — Providing scholarship suport for students in extreme need
The Annual Fund — Providing scholarship support each year for students with financial need
Law General Scholarship Fund — Supporting law students with financial need
Public Service Fellows — Providing resources for law students who work with the indigent

For more information, call the Office of Development at 386-822-7455 
or e-mail

Chang and Trujillo honored by Hispanic community

Juliana Trujillo, left, and Yvonne Chang are active in Central Florida's Hispanic business community.

Yvonne Chang, an alumna of the Stetson University Executive MBA’s Cohort 5, was a runner-up for the 2011 Don Quijote Award for Professional of the Year. Chang was a finalist with peers José Costa, vice president of Nodarse, a Terracon company, and Jaime Piñero, director of sales for CenturyLink. Costa won the Professional of the Year award.

The Don Quijote Awards are the most prestigious honors within the Hispanic business community in Central Florida, presented by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund of Florida. The Don Quijote awards are a celebration of success, courage and determination. They recognize the hard-working, innovative entrepreneurs who have exhibited the spirit of Don Quijote — that is, visionaries, dreamers and businesspersons who are willing to take risks in order to achieve their dreams.

In attendance at the awards banquet, Dec. 3, was Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 8 student Juliana Trujillo.

“It was such an inspirational event surrounded by successful, dedicated and humble professionals,” Trujillo said.

Trujillo was recently appointed president of Walt Disney World’s Hispanic Organization for Leadership Advancement (HOLA), in which she leads a committee that seeks to provide business insight to internal operations through engaging the Hispanic employee community at Disney while providing social, cultural and career advancement exposure for that key workforce segment.

Princeton Review lists Stetson among the nation’s best

Stetson University’s School of Business Administration has been named one of the nation’s best business schools in a new guidebook released Oct. 11 by The Princeton Review.

Stetson's business school is among the top in the nation, according to The Princeton Review.

The education services company compiles its guidebook of top business schools annually based on input from more than 19,000 students in Master of Business Administration programs accredited by AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, as well as statistical data received from the institutions.

The new 2012 edition of the book, The Best 294 Business Schools, includes a profile of Stetson’s School of Business Administration that includes information on academics, student life and environment, the admissions process, statistical data and career placement services. Students highlighted Stetson’s small class size, personalized education, accessible and supportive faculty, modern facilities, flexible schedules for working professionals, and global focus, including opportunities to study business abroad during short or semester-long trips.

It highlights Stetson’s traditional MBA, Executive MBA and accelerated MBA/Juris Doctor (law) degrees. The profile notes the proximity of the university’s Central Florida campuses in DeLand and Gulfport/St. Petersburg and satellite center in Celebration to metropolitan areas including Orlando, Daytona Beach and Tampa Bay.

“Stetson University’s School of Business Administration graduate programs are designed to bring post-graduate professional academics to the highest level,” said Dean of Business Administration Stuart Michelson. “Designed for both current and future business professionals, the curricula are focused on the real-world challenges and opportunities facing businesses today.

“The graduate faculty is committed to delivering the highest quality instruction in an active-learning, engaged environment. Small class sizes and professors who provide insight and an academic focus are key features of the Stetson experience,” Michelson said. “The international focus of our curriculum prepares the business professional to succeed in today’s rapidly changing global business environment.”

The Princeton Review profile on Stetson includes comments directly from students. “The atmosphere is collaborative, as most students are also ‘interested in diversifying their skills in both business and networking,’” the guidebook said. “For professionals the atmosphere is supportive, and students find they ‘can relate with classmates, since many also have full-time jobs.’”

Of the more than 13,000 business schools worldwide, Stetson’s School of Business Administration is one of only 177 that hold AACSB accreditation in the fields of business and accounting, and one of only 37 private colleges and universities that hold the accreditation in both fields.

Read the full press release here.

Cohort 8’s South Africa trip makes national news

The New American Colleges and Universities News picked up a story about Stetson University’s Executive MBA program and distributed it to the organization’s national audience. The article it selected was the one composed for Stetson’s The Lynn Letter about Cohort 8’s recent trip to South Africa.

In addition, The New American Colleges and Universities News posted the following video welcoming Stetson University’s incoming class of undergraduates:




The New American Colleges and Universities is a national consortium of independent colleges and universities dedicated to the purposeful integration of liberal education, professional studies and civic engagement. The New American Colleges and Universities collectively and individually are often cited as models of the intentional integration of teaching and learning, scholarship and service. The organization was founded in 1995.