EMBA Candidates

Leinesa Adams

adamsLeinesa enjoys helping solve the world’s healthcare challenges for Medtronic, a global leader in medical technology. She has focused on innovation as an engineer, product manager and business development manager. Due to her unique perspective she was invited to find new medical technologies for the business, help define strategy, lead teams of people from across the business, and manage relationships with external company executives and physicians.

Chana Adebowale

chanaChana Adebowale is now a published author but comes from humble beginnings, growing up in and out of foster homes and homeless shelters.  She experienced her first taste of success in the car industry at 18 and went into the mortgage industry in her early twenties.  Chana has been in the mortgage industry since then and is ready to give back to people who are struggling with some of the same obstacles she faced in her youth.  She is hoping to use the knowledge obtained in her MBA program to establish either a rehabilitation center for at-risk youth or a homeless shelter of her own where she can provide hope for the people by sharing her own story.

Julie Ankenbrand

ankerbrandWhen Julie was young, she decided to adjust her plans for the immediate future in pursuit of excitement and the experience of something she never envisioned doing, so she joined the Navy as an aircraft mechanic and served one tour in Hawaii with deployments to Bahrain and Oman. She was in awe of the precision with which military leaders executed operations and adeptly lead such large and diverse teams, which was her inspiration to pursue a career in management. During the 15 years following, she worked as the General Manager of a restaurant, Director of Operations for a sailing school/yacht club, and the Sales and Contracts Coordinator/ Executive Assistant to the President for a commercial audiovisual design and integration firm.

Julie is a proud mother of two toddlers and made the decision after they were born to take a break from her career for a few years to stay home with them and finally complete her educational goals. In her free time, she loves being active outdoors and enjoys running, paddle boarding, CrossFit, and sailing. Julie takes exceptional pride in being known by many as 'a catalyst for positive change', both personally and professionally.

Lisa Burke

burkeLisa currently serves as Senior Director of Customer Insights & Growth Solutions at KeHE Distributors, where she develops transformative retail solutions based on analytics, consumer insights, demographics, and category trends. For the past 18 years that Lisa’s been in the industry, she’s held positions in Business Development, Marketing, Purchasing, Sales, and Account Management. Lisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications, was KeHE’s 2010 Marketing Excellence Award winner, and was also selected as the Marketing MVP in 2015.

Matthew Calise

caliseAfter graduating from Florida State University, Matthew Calise was thrilled to find a job in his hometown at Wounded Warrior Project. Shortly after leaving Wounded Warrior, he found a home at Swisher International, Inc., the #1 cigar manufacturer in the U.S. Born and raised in Jacksonville, he hopes to give us as much to his community as it has given him.

Gina Camp

gina campGina is a credit analyst at Swisher International. Prior to working for Swisher, she was a kindergarten teacher in the Duval County school system. She has also been a real estate loan administrator with Wachovia Bank and a construction loan administrator with First Union National Bank.

Radu Chindris

chindrisRadu Chindris is an entrepreneur on a mission to build and grow profitable businesses. His background includes international trading, strategic planning, business development and real estate development. He currently manages multimillion dollar development projects, providing his clients with unique advantages.

Jason Cupit


Jason is a Development Director at Black Knight, Inc., the mortgage and finance industry leading provider of integrated technology, services and data solutions.  Jason has 18 years of IT experience and is responsible for Distributed Development in the Servicing Technologies division.  His responsibilities span across a multitude of teams, disciplines, and technologies.  Jason started his professional career as a Java developer for a DoD contractor immediately following the Y2K push, and cut his teeth on groundbreaking web and security software.   Joining Black Knight in February 2005, Jason worked his way into management, leading various teams and groups across the enterprise. 

 Jason was born and raised in a suburb of Denver, Colorado and moved to the First Coast in 1996.  He graduated from the University of North Florida in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and a minor in Business.  Jason has 18 years of IT industry experience, including web, mobile, app, and security development.  He has led development, delivery, quality assurance, business analyst, system administration, and performance testing teams over his career.  

 In 2003, Jason married his loving wife Betsy, an elementary educator.  The Cupit’s are dedicated to their four beautiful children and enjoy spending free time on the soccer fields cheering for all four kids playing competitive soccer, one of which starts for a national league travelling team.  Jason has previously served as President and Vice President of a Homeowners Association, coached youth athletics in football, soccer, and flag football, and presented at several technical conferences.   Hobbies include camping, fishing, boating, spending time with close friends, and learning more about the intricacies of Leadership.

Holly Decardenas

decardenasHolly is the software development team lead at the LPGA, a job that requires her to drive often to Daytona Beach. FL for work. She lives in the Mandarin area of Jacksonville with her husband Lee, who is also pursuing his MBA, and their two cats, Lily and Sabrina. She has four stepsons, two of whom are young adults exploring the world, one who is in the 9th grade, and one who is in 5th grade. Recreationally, she likes to spend time with friends and family, travel, read good books, go to the beach, work out at the gym and play her cello.

Erik Deppe



Erik has been employed by Fidelity National Financial, Inc., since August 2010.  He previously worked in the P&C Insurance industry for 11 years (accounting and financial reporting).  He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business degree from Indiana University (1999), majoring in Accounting, Finance, and Computer Information Systems.  He is an Illinois licensed CPA.

Erik is currently responsible for the Statutory accounting and reporting functions for each of the five insurance companies (over $4.5 billion in revenue in 2016) within Fidelity National Financial, Inc.

Nigel Deverteuil

devertNigel Deverteuil is a business and technical leader with over 19 years of progressive experience transforming business objectives into bottom line results. He has a demonstrated track record of success in increasingly demanding and complex roles. Nigel is adept at building and leading high performing teams, solving difficult problems, and improving processes. His areas of expertise are Change Management, Strategic Planning, Process Improvement, Team Building & Talent Management, Project Management, Cross-functional Initiatives, and Software Development Life Cycle.

Nigel has worked for Citi Jacksonville since 1997. Currently, he is the Senior Vice President for Global Operations Technology. Prior to that role, he was the Senior Vice President for Global Functions Business Planning and Analysis, and has been both a Senior Manager and Senior Lead Analyst for Business Planning and Analysis.

Phillip Gordon

gordonPhillip graduated from the University of Florida in 2006 and immediately started working for Acosta Sales and Marketing as a participant in their Leadership Developmental Program out of their Tampa office. After 2 years in the program and 1 year of calling on Publix he was transferred to Acosta’s Jacksonville office to join the Winn Dixie Team. After 3 years of calling on Winn Dixie as a Business Manger he left Acosta in 2012 to join Conagra as a Customer Business Manager.

Catherine (Cate) Gordy

gordyCate Gordy serves as the vice president of Business Operations for the Black Knight Origination Technologies Division. In this role, she is responsible for managing all internal operations, including project governance, and as product manager of an internal business management system to support operational excellence. Her focus is on operational efficiency and optimization to drive improved business performance.

Most recently, Cate was the data analytics reporting manager within the Corporate Risk Management Office where she was responsible for the implementation and configuration of the vendor risk programs technology platform and automation. Prior to joining Black Knight, Cate served as the accounts payable manager for a privately held real estate holding company. She brings a vast background of activity based cost accounting and financial management experience to the division.

Kalicia Hastings

hastingsKalicia is an accomplished Master Black Belt with a strong background in continuous improvement using Lean Six Sigma tools and methodology to improve profitability through efficiency improvements and cost reduction. She collaborates regularly with the corporate regional vice president and mill leadership to lead lean six sigma project improvements in 4 recycled containerboard mills. Kalicia coaches and mentors Green Belts and Black Belts to execute projects with excellence and is an instructor within the program. Her background includes directing a $5.4 million facility shutdown and demonstrated sustained savings of over $1 million using Lean Six Sigma Methodology for consecutive years. Kalicia previously worked for Brown-Forman as an associate process research engineer and worked in the paper industry as a process and project engineer with United States Gypsum. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering with a specialty in paper engineering from Western Michigan University. She possesses strong technical skills that are combined with outstanding leadership and interpersonal skills.

Elvis Higgins

higginsElvis has a Bio-Engineering degree from Georgia Tech, but spent 10 years as a Civil Engineer. Immediately after college, as a side endeavor, he formed a small software development and temporary staffing company, HG Computers Inc., with two college roommates. The company had great success for several years until the small recession in 1990 dried up the work.

Elvis worked for several engineering firms in Atlanta and then Jacksonville, but the IT itch kept coming up and in 1996 he decided to change careers. He has been in IT at CSX for the past 19 years. He has had the privilege to work on a number of cutting edge projects in his time at CSX. His office implemented the first real time asset tracking system at CSX, Position Gateway. He has been involved in Positive Train Control since its inception, the largest train control project since the railroads implemented signaling systems in the early 20th century.

Elizabeth (Beth) Johnson

johnsonBeth has spent 35 years in the CPG industry in various roles with service providers—brokers, data providers, and media agencies. Her goal is to teach at the collegiate level when her corporate career comes to an end.

Cassandra (Cassie) Kirkland


Cassie Kirkland is a Central Florida native who came to the northeast on a basketball scholarship at Flagler College in 2008. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 2012 and then moved to Jacksonville to begin her career at Southeastern Grocers. She began her career at SEG as a category assistant and acted as the right hand man to the Buyer in center store grocery. She then moved on to be a Promotion Analyst for two years and now an Assistant Buyer for center store grocery. Throughout these roles, she has experience in vendor negotiations, category reviews, market trends, business related software, buying categories and merchandising. She is a disciplined problem-solver with excellent analytical and organizational skills. Detailed knowledge of business-to-business issues and resolution, procurement practices and extensive customer service experience with team members, centers of excellence, and the vendor/broker community.

Bamana Larsen

larsenBamana was born in Africa and raised in Kansas. She completed her undergrad at Bethune-Cookman on a basketball scholarship. Post-graduation, she worked within the financial sector. Bamana relocated to Jacksonville in 2001 to work for Merrill Lynch, where she was an analyst, first in Client Reconciliation and then in Marketing Services and Support. She is currently with Impact Church and oversees the adult learning programs, workshops and seminars. She is an entrepreneur and is certified through the John Maxwell Team. She is married with 4 children and enjoys time with her family, reading, writing and shopping.

Luke MacWilliams

Luke served four years in the U.S. Navy’s expeditionary command, earning numerous medals and honors. Upon his return to civilian life, he attended Palm Beach State College and then the University of Central Florida where he earned a degree in Marketing. After graduation, he joined Target, where he is an Executive Team Lead.

Jay Marcus

marcusJay Marcus is a Network Professional with over 30 years of experience in the area of Information Technology and similar fields. He moved to the Jacksonville area in the late 80’s during his six year tour of service in the United States Navy, and has made North Florida his home along with his wife and two children. A graduate of the University of North Florida, Jay now serves as the Director of Network Services for Black Knight Financial Services, a leading provider of services and solutions for the Mortgage Industry.

Josh Newsteder


Josh is a 22 year retired Navy pilot who is now an aviation executive and entrepreneur.  He is a perpetual student of aviation and airlines.  He is a driving force for positive change and a calculated risk taker.

Josh has been married for 25 years to Beth Newsteder and they have two children- a son, Harris (21) and a daughter, Isabelle (18).

Daniel Roach

daniel roachBorn and raised in Fernandina Beach, Daniel attended the University of Florida after high school. Upon graduating from UF, he took a job with Smurfit-Stone doing procurement and sourcing. He later left Smurfit to Southeastern Grocers in the grocery business. He is currently managing a supply chain operations team in order to meet the needs of their corporate strategy.

Jamie Seim

seimAt Wells Fargo Advisors, Jamie attained his series 7 and 66 security registrations and 2-15 life, health and variable annuity insurance licenses, along with the designation of Certified Financial Planner™ Professional. Now in his 6th year with the firm, Jamie has over $30 million in assets under management with over 100 households. Originally from Grand Island, Nebraska; Jamie attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney, eventually graduating cum laude from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor’s Business Administration degree in Finance. Jamie played as a touring golf professional for five years on the NGA/Hooters Tour, Moonlight and Buy.Com Tours. After golf, he managed four different multimillion dollar hospitality businesses for six years before joining Wells Fargo Advisors. Jamie works with his clients who are individuals, families, businesses and institutions to help them grow, manage, preserve and transition their wealth.

Jamie is an active member of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce where he’s held many leadership positions. Jamie was honored as a top professional “40 under 40” by the Jacksonville Business Journal in 2016. His involvement in the Saint Johns County Chamber of Commerce awarded him the Pat Morgan Outstanding Member Award and he is a graduate of the Saint Johns County Leadership class of 2015. In 2014, Jamie founded a successful networking group called JAX Trailblazers, Inc. Over the years Jamie has devoted his time to many charities. These efforts earned him the 2012 Volunteer Service Award by Wells Fargo.

Lynsey Seim

lseimLynsey graduated from the University of Florida in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and was an associate in Business Recovery Services with PricewaterhouseCoopers. After a few years, she returned to school and graduated from the University of South Florida, College of Medicine. Her completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic from 2007-2010, and she was Chief Resident from 2010-2011. Lynsey joined the staff of Mayo Clinic in 2011 and is currently a Consultant in the Division of Consultative and Diagnostic Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine.

She serves as the Medical Director of Florida and International Business for Mayo Clinic Health Solutions/Global Business Solutions in Rochester, Minnesota. She is active in multiple committees at both the local and the enterprise level at Mayo Clinic and has recently joined a community advisory board for a local Hospice center to expand her community service involvement.

Jason Sepielli

sepielliJason has worked in IT management for the past 10 years. He specializes in process improvement, staffing and infrastructure.

Zach Simpson, Esq., CPCO

simpsonZach Simpson was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and has lived all throughout the Southeast. Over the past six years, he has had the pleasure of living in Jacksonville, Florida. He just recently moved into his first house in Mill Cove with his wife, Lyndsey. Zach attended Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, while minoring in Fraud Examination. Zach began his legal studies at Florida Coastal School of Law, where he obtained his Juris Doctorate. Since graduating from law school, Zach’s primary areas of practice have been corporate law along with healthcare, compliance, and personal injury.

David Smalls

smallsDavid is originally from Charleston, SC, and moved to Jacksonville in 1995 and has been here off and on ever since. He served 5 years in the US Navy as a Nuclear Machinist Mate and instructor. He started his college education at JU, but had a break and finished at the University of Phoenix. He currently works for a company that manages care for workers comp claimants. He is over the Data Management teams and is a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.

Brian Snavely

snavelyBrian was born and raised in Aurora, Colorado. After high school, Brian attended the University of Florida. Upon graduation in 2004, Brian moved to Jacksonville and started working for Fidelity National Financial. Brian has worked for Fidelity National Financial for 12 years. In 2008, Brian met his future wife, Sara Tadro, whom he married in 2013.

Amy Sommerfield

sommerfieldAmy grew up in a very small town in northern Michigan with her parents and older brother. After attending Western Michigan University, she graduated with a degree in Food Marketing and went to work for McCormick & Company on their Walmart team. In the 9 years she has worked for McCormick, she has held a variety of positions across Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Maryland and Florida. After spending four years in McCormick sales headquarters working on private label sales/marketing, she and her husband moved from Baltimore to Florida. For the past two years, she has managed the direct business with Publix from a headquarter perspective.

Eric Sutton

suttonEric Sutton received his B.A. from University of North Florida in 1998 with a major in graphic design and minor in advertising. Since then he has been a graphic designer at LSI Inc. in Jacksonville FL, creating 3D art and interactive multimedia for US and Allied Foreign Armed Forces. He has built 3D models of CH-47 Helicopters for U.S. Army training used in training for troops headed to Afghanistan following the events of 9/11. He traveled to Germany as an integral part of a team helping the German Military train soldiers on P-3 Orion flight and maintenance operations.

For the past two years Eric has served as Chairman of LSI’s ESOP Advocacy and Advisory Committee’s Culture Subcommittee and eight years in the general committee. In this capacity he also serves as an advisor to the company’s Board of Directors, helping the Board communicate with employees to address their concerns on ESOP related issues.

During the past four years, Eric has been a certified internal ISO 9001 auditor, conducting quality management audits in different departments within LSI, such as Proposal Development, Purchasing, Courseware Development, and Application Development.

David Taylor

David was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida and has younger brothers that are twins, James and Andrew. While in Middle and High School at The Bolles School, he played both Baseball and Football. After graduating from UF, he began his career at Acosta in the Leadership Development Program and graduated from the program in June 2008. After graduating from the program, he moved into a Business Manager position on the Grocery Team.

Hanna Werede


Hanna has over 10 years of experience working in manufacturing.  Currently, she works as a Demand Planning Analyst.  In this role, she is responsible for improving products and services for customers by using advanced analytics; standing up big-data analytical tools; creating and maintaining models; and onboarding compelling new data sets.


Previously, she was a procurement agent responsible for analyzing data, negotiating and buying parts inside and outside of the USA.  Besides her bachelor’s degree in Business Management, she has an AA in Accounting and certificates in Computer Science, Green Belt and Lean World Class.

Robert Woodin

wootinRecently retired after serving proudly for 24 years in the United States Navy, Robert Woodin is a Computer Based Training Specialist/Subject Matter Expert (CBTS/SME) at A. Harold + Associates LLC. As an accomplished project and program manager from 2006 – 2012, Robert lead multiple teams of naval personnel assigned with the planning and development of 12 multi-million dollar and highly complex multinational exercises with 10 countries in Central and South America. From 2012-2014, Robert served as the Lead Instructor responsible for training 18 ships with over 150 personnel each in Cryptography Intelligence, and Electronic Warfare areas.

Robert earned his Bachelor's in Business Management and Supervision (Cum Laude) at Florida State College of Jacksonville in 2015. Additionally, he has earned his Yellow Belt certification in Lean Six Sigma methodology. Robert is a professionally motivated leader who, in addition to pursuing an Executive MBA at Jacksonville University, is currently pursuing a Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP0, Project Management Professional (PMP), and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification.

Ken Young

youngKen Young is manager of environmental field services at CSX Transportation. In this role, he oversees compliance with federal, state and local environmental regulations for CSX's facilities in Florida, including its headquarters in Jacksonville. He previously held a similar role for the CSX Northeast region, based in Baltimore, managing regulatory compliance for all facilities between Richmond, Virginia and Quebec, Canada.

Ken served in the United States Marine Corps for eight years, with posts at the White House, United States Naval Academy, Camp Lejeune and in Okinawa, Japan. He also spent several years working as a private security contractor in Iraq and later served as a member of the Pentagon Hazardous Materials Response Team. Prior to joining CSX, Ken worked for several environmental management consulting firms after co-founding a successful marine dock construction firm in Annapolis, Maryland.

Ken holds a bachelor's degree in emergency management from American Military University. He recently relocated from Tampa and lives in San Marco with his wife Melanie and daughter Alexandra.