Brian Lopipero and Deborah Stamps come from different career paths-and different cities-yet both are on the same cohort team while pursuing their online Executive MBA degrees at Saunders College of Business.
Lopipero '10 (packaging science) from Syracuse, N.Y., was a "Ritchie," a cellist with the RIT Orchestra and is an active alumnus of Eight Beat Measure a cappella group who works as a brand manager for Littlest Pet Shop at Hasbro, Inc., in Pawtucket, R.I.
Stamps, who earned 16 credit-hours toward her Executive MBA in the Saunders College custom-designed 2016 Nurse Leadership Development Program, is a nurse executive who serves as vice president for quality, safety and innovation for Rochester Regional Health. She also serves on the RRH Chief Nursing Officers Council as representative to the Executive Leadership Team.
Both decided that RIT's Executive MBA cohort-based program would add business and operational skills to their leadership portfolios when they complete their degrees in May 2018.
"Out of 20 students, the cohort teams (4-5 members) are established by the program with an emphasis on diversity in industry, experience, position and personality," said Jeffrey Davis, associate director of Executive MBA programs at Saunders College. "These teams then work together for the entirety of the program honing their efficiency to ensure maximum ability by the time they reach the capstone project. A typical team would have someone from finance/accounting, someone from engineering/IT, someone from marketing/sales, and someone from health care."
Lopipero designed toy packaging (Nerf, My Little Pony, Transformers) before landing a spot in Hasbro's U.S. marketing division two years ago. "At Hasbro, you get to play with toys, not quite on the same level as Tom Hanks in Big, but it's pretty close," he said. "Hasbro allows me to be a creative thinker, and what drew me to marketing was that I wanted to have a bigger impact on the actual success of the company.
"I had to flip a switch in my brain to go back to school again. It's challenging-and it's hard and difficult to stay motivated. The cohort set-up helps provide some of that motivation. Being on a team with Debbie and three other people is like a mini support system where we encourage each other to succeed."
Similarly, Stamps, who lives in Rochester and earned a Doctorate of Education degree in 2010, thought she was "all done with school" until attending the nurse leadership program.
"It gave me a taste of business acumen that I knew I could apply to my health care skills," said Stamps. "My current role requires a more comprehensive understanding of business strategy and financial impact; this degree is like learning a whole new language in critical thinking."
Both Lopipero and Stamps agree that getting an Executive MBA is a lifestyle and career change.
"We're all learning things for the first time, understanding new opinions through different lenses," said Stamps.'"It all starts with having great teams-at home, work and school. Working collaboratively as a team ensures success-and you also get to make new friends along the way."