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EMBA residency holds surprises for experienced executives.

Donna Skees (BBA ’99) was sure she would fail at public speaking. Angel Medina Jr. (BBA ’92) thought he would sail through a challenging ropes course.

Both were wrong.

Along with the rest of their group, they discovered unexpected strengths and areas for improvement during an intense five-day residency in the Florida Keys that marked the beginning of their Executive MBA program. Filled with teambuilding exercises—culminating in a high-wire balancing act—as well as presentations on personal styles, presenting, career planning, leadership and more—the sessions developed individuals’ skills and forged a team mentality.

Newly formed teams participated in many exercises during a five-day residency that kicked off the EMBA program.

“My biggest fear is public speaking,” said Skees, director of finance, ChildNet. “I thought that was maybe the worst experience I would have, but it was the best. It was a double whammy because I accomplished something that I had a fear of doing.”

“During the ropes exercise, I knew I was being restrained but I wasn’t able to feel comfortable until I had the support of my teammates and of Skees, who, at 30 feet above ground looked at me face-to-face and helped get me through,” said Medina, recently retired as area president-South Florida Regions Bank and now assisting companies in restructuring and improving performance.

Angel Medina and Donna Skees during the challenging Ropes Course.

Students feel strong affiliation with all their classmates.

Though Skees and Medina are parts of different teams within the group, the residency created a bond among all the participants.

“This was different from other teambuilding events I’ve participated in,” Medina said. “It created unity and a desire to see everyone succeed. We all worked together, not just the team. We developed a great collaboration to help each other in areas where some people have more experience than others.”

The EMBA group after completing the Ropes Course.

Sarah Perez, director of the EMBA and the Professional MBA in the Chapman Graduate School, College of Business Administration, Florida International University (FIU) confirms that what Skees and Medina underwent is exactly what the kick-off residency in the Keys is all about.

“The students get to know each other, and more about themselves, before they even start classes,” she said. “Leadership sessions start right away and will continue throughout the 20 months of the program.”

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