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Executive MBA speaker series brings business leaders to the classroom

Students in USF's Executive MBA program cite the catered meals, books delivered to their door, and the accelerated schedule as the program's obvious perks.

USF's Executive MBA also offers another benefit to its students: the opportunity to hear the personal career journeys of high-profile business executives from around the world.

The Executive MBA Distinguished Speaker Series brings in well-known business leaders to speak exclusively with the program's students about what the leaders learned in their career journeys and how it applies to the students' own burgeoning executive careers. This spring, students will hear from Rick Silva, President & CEO of Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, on March 7, and a mergers & acquisitions panel including Quantum Capital Partners Managing Director Stuart Lasher and Hill Ward Henderson Attorney Dave Felman on April 4. In January, students heard from Yan Xuan, president of Nielsen in the Greater China region.

"Bringing local and international business leaders into the classroom is a vital part of the experience we give our Executive MBA students," said Irene Hurst, director of MBA and Executive MBA programs for the Muma College of Business. "Hearing the stories and advice from these professionals that our students look up to helps them to think about what they want their careers and business legacy to look like -- as well as business tips they can apply now."

This past fall, other guests included Jabil CEO Mark Mondello, local philanthropist and health care CEO Dr. Kiran Patel, and Sun State International President Oscar Horton.

In addition to sharing business insights gained through years of experience on issues such as negotiating, profit margins, or competition, the business executives often share some surprisingly uncomplicated philosophies on leadership and life.

"The best way to learn is to just be quiet and listen," Mondello told students. "I really think that good leadership is a servant role."

Andre Kirwan, a member of the 2013 Executive MBA cohort and an assistant vice president at the Bank of Tampa, said the speaker series was one of the most personally valuable experiences he took from the program.

"Especially hearing from our guest speakers, one of the things I have taken from this whole process is you should never stop learning and striving for a deeper perspective and understanding of the world we live in," he said. "It's inspired me to dig deeper into my passion. I think one of the beauties of going back to school is that mental stimulation because we can get stuck in the ruts of our daily lives. It really recharged my batteries."