Category: EMBA

Adventures with August

Adventures With AugustBy Donna Blackburn

EMBA alumnus Ed Fields, Class of 2007, and his son August, go on a hike in “Adventures With August” and teach us all how to reflect on what is important.

Ed, Senior Advisor & Chief Strategist at the City of Birmingham, and his son August, the cutest social influencer ever, will have you heading out for a journey with your family and friends in tow.

As a long-time walker, I can attest to the importance of a sauntering walk, one that allows you to slow down and listen to birds, gentle breezes, the crunch of rocks under your feet, and pops of tree branches.  Ed and August’s adventure is a reminder to find a moment to wander in nature.

In returning to the “reopening of the world,” Ed encourages everyone rushing to get busy, to pace themselves, and remember to “reserve a little time for space and reflection.”  His words of wisdom to his son, and us, as well, is to remember others by “helping someone hike, helping someone build, helping someone grow.”

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. When you take a walk in nature, a change occurs. We are strengthened and renewed, seeing more clearly, and walking taller, with our spirit soaring. From quiet moments come big ideas and just maybe an adventure.

We all need more adventures with August and Ed.

For more information on the UA EMBA Program and our amazing EMBA alumni and their families who make the world a better place, contact Cheryl Altemara at


UA EMBA Alumnus Michael Mettee Named FirstBank CFO

Michael Mettee, FirstBank chief financial officer

University of Alabama Executive MBA alumnus Michael Mettee has been named CFO of FirstBank, the Nashville-based lender, and its parent company FB Financial Corporation.

Mettee took over as interim CFO of FirstBank in April 2020 as it was working to finalize its $611 million acquisition of Franklin-based FranklinSynergy Bank (NYSE: FSB). The deal, which closed in August, grew FirstBank to 87 branches across four states and mortgage companies across the southeast and gives it approximately $11 billion in assets.

Mettee graduated from the UA EMBA Program in 2011. “The Executive MBA program at Alabama was instrumental in forming the way I think as a business person,” said Mettee. “The unique structure and curriculum allowed me to learn from classmates, top instructors, and business executives who really set me up to take the next step in my career. Roll Tide!”

Before joining FirstBank in 2012, Mettee managed budget and forecasting for the retail banking operation of BBVA Compass. He also spent a decade in secondary marketing at BBVA, Regions/AmSouth, and Wachovia/SouthTrust.

“I am truly honored to be named CFO of a bank with the reputation and track record for success that FirstBank has built,” Mettee said in the company’s press release. “I am fortunate to work alongside a talented and dedicated team of associates across our footprint that provides unmatched customer service and works together to execute our strategic plan.”

To request more information on the Executive MBA Program and attend a virtual information session, contact Cheryl Altamara at or 205-348-4501.

UA EMBA Welcomes 2020 Incoming Classes

The University of Alabama’s Executive MBA Program is proud to welcome this year’s incoming classes.  The Huntsville EMBA class started in August and will graduate in December 2021.  The Tuscaloosa EMBA class completed orientation on November 20 and will graduate in May 2022. Forty-five students enrolled for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters.

Our new EMBA students represent diverse industry and functional backgrounds. Industries include manufacturing, government, non-profit, defense, technology, engineering, media, consulting, energy, legal, education, aeronautics, healthcare, agriculture, services, and financial.  The average age is 36, with an average of 12 years of work experience.  Students living in Alabama are joined by classmates from across the U.S. Thirty-six percent have military backgrounds.

Changes to EMBA included taking the Tuscaloosa EMBA (TEMBA) hybrid with students meeting face-to-face one weekend per month for the four semesters. The Huntsville EMBA (HEMBA), a hybrid program, has moved from a five to four-semester program. Both classes will come together in November 2021 to attend the international trip as part of their global business course.

Congratulations to all of our new EMBA students. Roll Tide!

Huntsville EMBA (HEMBA)

  • Eric Chism, Aviagen
  • Desmond Clay, Torch Technologies
  • Aaron Joyner, Department of Justice
  • Kevin Neal, QuantiTech Inc.
  • Emily Newton, The Boeing Company
  • Will Patton, Adhere
  • Clark Roper,  Piggly Wiggly Alabama Dist. Co.
  • Ty Sackett, EOS Defense Systems USA, Inc.
  • Shannon Sullivan, Lockheed Martin
  • Cody Vanderford, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.
  • Mike Weigart, CAE
  • JD Williams, S3 inc
  • Tyler Wilson, PeopleTec, Inc.

Tuscaloosa EMBA (TEMBA)

  • Brian Albritton, Leidos
  • David Bath, PeopleTec
  • Ben Bourgeois, RJ Mechanical
  • Maleah Cousineau, U.S. Army
  • Michael Emfinger, Accenture
  • Michael Gallant, Halliburton
  • Kelli Gant, Warrior Met Coal, Inc.
  • Peyton Hartzell, Clear Inc.
  • Matthew Hayne, The Valletta Group, Inc.
  • Dr. Jack Heath, Huntsville Hospital System
  • Patrick Hogan, DIPRA
  • Rodney Holmes, Birmingham Fastener
  • Joshua Horton, Meredith Corporation
  • Shannon Kynerd, Hunt Refining Company
  • Katie Masoor, Deloitte Consulting
  • Jayson McConnell, Tronox
  • Mona Lisa Morris, Birmingham Business Resource Center
  • Sudheer Nagam, GEODIS
  • Rob Norris, Southern Nuclear
  • Brooks Padgett, Truist
  • Edward Patton, Phifer Inc.
  • Ryan Pew, Spatial Networks
  • Lily Posey, Altec
  • Natasha Shumpert, Jefferson County Department of Health
  • William Simms, BLOX, LLC
  • Casey Smith, Simulation Technologies (Simtech)
  • Chris Spann, Collins Aerospace
  • Caleb Story, CareView Communications
  • Cade Warner, The Westervelt Company
  • Colin White, Carl W Consulting
  • Flynn Woods, Inteva Products
  • Dominic Yeager, The University of Alabama

To apply for the next UA EMBA program, contact Cheryl Altamara at or 205-348-4501 to request more information and attend a virtual information session

Huntingdon College Dedicates the Black Student Union Center in Honor of Wanda A. Howard

For 40 years, the Black Student Union has been a part of campus life at Huntingdon College. This October, the College community will dedicate a new BSU meeting and event space in honor of trustee Wanda A. Howard ’81, who helped to found the BSU and who has mentored countless Huntingdon students and student-athletes and served as a guiding light on the board of trustees for 11 years.

When did you find out about the Naming?

I was informed during a Friday night meeting with President Cameron West in early September.  He stated that a space had been identified to house the new BSU Center.  I was extremely pleased to hear it.  Thereafter, he asked if it could be named after me, which caught me absolutely off guard.  I ultimately agreed after picking myself up off the floor.

What does it mean to me to receive this honor?

It gives me a greater urgency to continue my commitment, responsibility, and accountability to collaboratively effectuate transformational change for racial equality, justice, and inclusion at Huntingdon, The University of Alabama, and our country in general.

As CEO/Principal Consultant for B.O.L.D. Endeavors, LLC, (BOLDnDev), Howard is currently expanding business activities beyond operational consulting and real estate restoration. She is establishing an enterprise that emboldens (inspires, prepares, and equips) this Generation with Truth, godly wisdom, knowledge, life skills, and diverse opportunities to be courageous and daring leaders spiritually, naturally, and financially as they live the abundant life in Christ Jesus.

BOLDnDev comes after a successful career in diverse healthcare arenas from pharmaceutical sales in Brooklyn, NY to business office management in acute care and physician office settings in Alabama and twenty years of high-performance healthcare project management experience, which included directing the software implementation team at a Fortune 15 company; leading complex, enterprise IT projects in the fifth-largest US healthcare system and orchestrating the UAT for the largest US home health and hospice company’s interstate, data center migration of 100+ applications.

What advice would you give to fellow EMBA alumni in serving on a board and paying it forward?

I encourage them to be servant leaders of unwavering integrity who can lead from the front by valuing all people, having a selfless purpose and a deep desire to tangibly improve the lives/conditions of the people they are serving and to equip them to also live a high impact life that pays it forward for generations to come.

For more information on how The University of Alabama EMBAs are making an impact in their companies and communities, visit the UAEMBA website or contact Samantha Vasey at 205.348.0954 or

Sullivan Named Executive Vice President at Bryant Bank

Mark Sullivan, an alumnus of UA’s Executive MBA Class of 1994, has been named Executive Vice President at Bryant Bank.

After retiring from Synovus at the end of March, he knew he would not stay retired for long.  According to Sullivan, “I still have a lot of energy, and hopefully, a little knowledge to help an organization move forward toward its goals.”  The new role at Bryant Bank will “allow me to expand my focus beyond just the local market while remaining very active and engaged in the Tuscaloosa community.”

“This job will allow me to continue to draw on the overall strategic knowledge and training I received in the EMBA program, but in an even broader way.”

To learn more about Mark Sullivan and his new role as Executive Vice President at Bryant Bank, click on the article below.

EMBA Spotlight: Julie Mathis, HEMBA 2020

This month we are spotlighting EMBA Class of 2020 alumna Julie Mathis, Human Resource Business Partner at Pilot Company. Julie shares with us how The University of Alabama EMBA Program prepared her to move into an executive position.

Tell us a bit more about your company, Pilot, and your new role in the company today?

Pilot is a growth company focusing on innovative solutions across our retail, energy, and logistic operations. Our vast network of more than 900 retail and fueling locations provide travelers with convenient stops offering an incredible variety of amenities and products to make road travel easier.

The Pilot Flying J travel center network includes locations in 44 states and six Canadian provinces with more than 630 restaurants and 35 Truck Care service centers. Our One9 Fuel Network connects smaller fleets and professional drivers to the services they need at a variety of fueling locations. We supply more than 11 billion gallons of fuel per year with the third largest tanker fleet in North America. Our sourcing infrastructure, strong market presence, and expertise in energy and logistics optimize the distribution of fuel, DEF, bio, and renewables.

Our fleet also provides critical hauling and disposal services of our nation’s busiest basins. As an HR Business Partner for the Sales Division, I work with the leadership team to drive company initiatives and business strategies. Essentially my role is to make sure we have the right people in the right places.

You began your EMBA Program in the fall of 2018, what was that journey like for you?

Beginning the EMBA Program at orientation, fall 2018.

At first, terrifying. But I quickly learned that there was nothing in my classes that was “over my head.” The challenge was not in understanding new theories and concepts, rather the volume of work and time management. This is a skill you MUST have in corporate America. There were times where things would get dumped on us last minute and when you think about it—that’s the real world.

How has the EMBA Program at UA helped you in your job roles thus far?

My MBA has made me a more well-rounded professional. I chose the MBA program over an HR Masters program because I wanted to understand the whole business. In doing so, I am not just HR, I am a thought partner to Senior Leaders of the organization and help drive company strategy.

Describe a UA EMBA project, assignment, or a particular class takeaway that you considered
invaluable to you and your company.

Simply stated, this is what I learned from Dr. Ron Dulek that I will remember for the rest of my life: Humility will take you a hell of a lot farther than book smarts. Humility is a life journey. Projects will come and go. It’s about how you change the lives of others that really matter most. That, in itself, is a legacy.

Also, Dr. Larry Baldwin’s negotiation class offered me the most practical knowledge that I use every day. We would work through everyday scenarios and learn how to negotiate the desired outcome. This type of knowledge is something that every professional can put to use right away.

What one piece of advice would you give any aspiring female business professional?

The investment in yourself now is truly an investment in your future self. You’re worth it. The advice is the same as I give my kids: stop whining and be the change you want to see in the world.

What advice do you have for others wanting to start an Executive MBA degree program?

Mathis and her fellow UA HEMBA classmates.

I think this is best given as an analogy. It’s like when you were a kid and you would go to the very back of the diving board and then take a running leap into the pool. You’re a little scared, a little excited, and when you get completely submerged into the water you realize, it wasn’t so bad and totally worth it.

For more information on The University of Alabama Executive MBA Program, visit the UAEMBA website or contact Samantha Vasey at 205.348.0954 or

You’ve Heard the Lecture, Now Read the Book

Sitting with Elephants

Dr. Ron Dulek’s newest book, Sitting with Elephants: Lessons in Humility from the African Bush, has just been released.  The book shares lessons Ron and his wife, Sally, learned while spending fifteen summers living in an African bush house.  As we would expect from Ron, the story tugs at both your heart and your funny bone. The book’s content includes significant content from Ron’s opening day lecture to EMBA’s in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa.

Proceeds from the sale of Sitting with Elephants will be directed toward an educational trust fund for African students desiring to attend the University of Alabama.

Dr. Dulek is the John R. Miller Professor of Management in the Culverhouse College of Business at The University of Alabama. Dulek teaches management communications in the EMBA Program. He is a devoted teacher and has received numerous awards and honors by his students, the college, and the university.

The book is available on-line at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, and Waldorf Publishing.

To become a part of our upcoming EMBA programs, contact Samantha Vasey at or 205-348-0954 to request more information and attend a virtual information session.

UA Executive MBA Announces New Format For Tuscaloosa and Huntsville Programs

The Executive MBA Program offered by The University of Alabama’s Manderson Graduate School of Business announces new features to its format to better accommodate the schedules of busy working professionals.

Student at whiteboard“When considering adjustments to how we deliver the EMBA Program, we had a strong desire to preserve the valuable in-person classroom experience our programs offer. We recognized a need to make the required in-class session schedule more manageable for our students who have busy careers, plus active family and social commitments,” said Donna Blackburn, Director of Manderson Executive MBA programs.

What is new about the EMBA program is significant. Now professionals who choose the Tuscaloosa location will attend class sessions on Friday from 12:00 to 8:00 PM, and Saturday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM one weekend each month during the 17-month program. EMBA students were previously required to be on campus two weekends per month.

Student at homeEach course provides online instruction and content to support monthly in-person class meetings. This blended-instruction model aims to allow students more control over their busy lives while growing their business acumen through a meaningful and academically rigorous degree experience.

The Huntsville EMBA location adopted the one weekend per month, blended-instruction format in 2015. As a result, enrollment for that program has steadily grown, and students appreciate the flexibility the blended format offers.

About the blended format EMBA format in Huntsville, Lakota Holder, current EMBA student, and Regional Service Sales Director for The Bailey Company, said, “I can’t image earning my MBA any other way.  The class sessions in Huntsville provide the face-to-face engagement with my classmates and faculty I wanted, and because it’s just one weekend each month, my performance and travel schedule for work doesn’t suffer.”

Additionally, students in the EMBA Huntsville location can now earn their MBA in four semesters rather than five.  The program previously spanned 21 months but will now cover 17 months, or four semesters, like the Tuscaloosa location. In both programs, students work through 16, three-hour courses to earn an MBA.

UA EMBA in Macchu Picchu
UA EMBAs visit Macchu Picchu.

Furthermore, the immersive international study trip is now optional to allow students to save on their EMBA experience. Previous study trips have taken EMBA students to South Africa, Peru, Ecuador, and other locations to meet with and learn from local entrepreneurs and executives and to gain an understanding of business as it applies to international settings.

UA EMBA enrolls twice each year.  Huntsville location students start the program in August and graduate in December 2021. Tuscaloosa location students begin in December and graduate in May 2022.  Application deadlines are July 6 for Huntsville and October 19 for Tuscaloosa.

Successful applicants generally have a minimum of five years of professional work experience and must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.  We typically do not require a GMAT, GRE, or Executive Assessment entrance exam score for applicants meeting or exceeding our work experience minimum.  EMBA prefers a 3.0 undergraduate grade point average but does offer conditional admission for some candidates with a strong professional profile.

To become a part of our upcoming programs, contact Samantha Vasey at or 205-348-0954 to request more information and attend a virtual information session.

Celebrating the EMBA Class of 2020

UA EMBA 2020 Huntsville Class
UA HEMBA 2020 Class
UA TEMBA 2020 Class in Tuscaloosa
UA TEMBA 2020 Class








Although The University of Alabama Executive MBA Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremony, scheduled for May 2, is postponed until August contingent on how the summer health outlook progresses, we celebrate their achievement today as they finish their final semester.

We will also celebrate again in August so that they receive the recognition they so richly deserve. We look forward to honoring our EMBA graduates along with their families, faculty, and staff at the EMBA Ceremony. The ceremony will honor the achievement of our graduates who have earned their degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the world, during one of the most challenging times in recent history.

Congratulations UA EMBA Class of 2020

  • Alanna Aaron, Infomedia
  • Brandon Barnhill, Pilot Catastrophe Services Inc.
  • Chad Brennan, Dynetics, Inc.
  • Jeremy Chism, Aerojet Rocketdyne
  • David Coleman, Hunt Refining Company
  • Mike DeWerff, Motion Industries
  • Cynthia Dempsey, Decatur Morgan Hospital
  • Danielle Devaney, The Boeing Company
  • Shane Gandy, Pratt & Whitney
  • Lonnie Golightly, BF Goodrich/Michelin
  • Gilbert Goscicki, BASF
  • Pamela Harris, The University of Alabama, AL-PTAC
  • Joey Holdmeyer, Sonoco Products Company
  • Jake Horner, Unison Environmental Services
  • Bob James, Social Security Administration
  • Gabe Lewis, Mobius
  • Julie Mathis, Futaba Corporation of America
  • Brian McCormick, Parker Hannafin
  • Phil Monkress, All Points Logistics, LLC
  • Jared Murray, The Reprieve
  • Candace Padgett, Southwire Company
  • Justin Padgett, DRD, LLC
  • David Ramirez, Seimens
  • Jennifer Ridgeway, PPG Aerospace
  • Stephen Schlanger, Walt Disney World
  • Robert Smith, Trustmark
  • Adam Stephens, OYO
  • Amanda Suddath, FirstGroup America
  • Patrick Talley, o2ideas
  • Wilson Townsend, Schneider Electric
  • Tim Ware, Anheuser-Busch
  • Mandy Watts, B.Braun Interventional Systems
  • Stephan Williams, GAF – Tuscaloosa
  • Ted Yonke, ThyssenKrupp Materials

The Power of the UA EMBA Network

Destin Sandlin with contributing writer Cynthia Dempsey (HEMBA 2020)

I wanted to share with everyone the power of The University of Alabama Executive MBA network and what it has done for North Alabama to save lives. I am the Business Manager of Surgery for Decatur Morgan Hospital in Decatur, Alabama.

At the beginning of April, I reached out to my HEMBA 2020 cohort asking for donations consisting of personal protective gear to use in my hospital. I asked the cohort to check within their network to find those who would be willing to donate supplies.

By taking advantage of the vast UA HEMBA network I was connected to Destin Sandlin, a local engineer that offered to print face shields for us through the use of a 3D printer. Much to my surprise, Destin has a YouTube channel with nearly 8 million followers. He made a video calling for everyone in North Alabama with a 3D printer to join us in our efforts to facilitate the fantastic work that our healthcare professionals are performing day inCOVID-19 Face Shield and day out.

Destin acquired local warehousing space and set up operations for the mask bands to be received from the community, sterilized, and then sent to Huntsville Hospital Logistics as a donation. We are expecting to receive thousands of these in the coming weeks which will surely save lives. To be honest, when I reached out and asked for donations, I was expecting a few hundred masks or gloves, certainly not thousands!

Throughout this process, Destin has been meeting with our supply chain team and the Chamber of Commerce. He is now looking to see if he is able to engineer and print culturettes for our lab and protective gear for our anesthesia team. Thanks to the connections within our cohort, our medical staff on the front lines will have proper protective gear. It’s so great to see our community come together to help!

Additionally, our cohort is working to raise money to buy meals for hospital staff at Huntsville Hospital, Madison Hospital, Athens Hospital, and Decatur Morgan. The idea is to help our local restaurants by purchasing the food from them and then to treat healthcare professionals to a warm meal. We are still working on the vast logistics of such an operation and then we will move into a funding phase generously provided by the Huntsville Hospital Foundation. We are also planning on raising funds for our friends in South Korea at Teach North Koreans Refugees (TNKR) once we are through the COVID crisis. Our EMBA class visited companies in Cambodia and South Korea, including TNKR during our EMBA international trip as part of our global business course.

For more information on The University of Alabama’s Executive MBA Program, contact Cheryl Altemara,, or call 205.348.4501.

Article contributed by Cynthia Dempsey (HEMBA 2020), Business Manager of Surgery for Decatur Morgan Hospital