EDBA Spotlight

EDBA Student Implements Research Strategies in Senior-Level Executive Position with Cracker Barrel Corp.

Gaby Ivey, Executive Doctorate in Business Administration student, is already seeing the benefits of a high-level education at the intersection of theory and business practice.

Recently accepting a position as the VP of Organizational Development for Cracker Barrel Corporation, Ivey is putting theory into practice as she implements her strategy for the organization.

With a long history in human resources development, Ivey found a passion for leadership training and human resources development during her time in the Air Force as she helped airman learn about new computer technology.

“The common denominator among these roles was the love and joy I had in helping others learn and reach their full potential,” said Ivey.

Ivey held several positions in human resources and organizational development, including VP positions at Tupperware Brands and MasterCorp, Inc. in Orlando.

Crummer News spoke with Gaby about her new position at Cracker Barrel, how the Crummer EDBA program is helping her, and her plans to enhance Cracker Barrel’s organizational development program.

Tell us about your new position at Cracker Barrel, what are you going to be doing for the organization?

I’m the VP of Organizational Development, and am responsible for identifying and developing talent, our diversity and inclusion strategy, and employee engagement. My role is almost that of a talent scout, identifying known and hidden talent within the organization, developing that talent, and helping our employees become the best version of themselves.

Cracker Barrel is an historic organization, with great talent, and they continuously look for opportunities to take the organization to the next level. The timing of me going through the EDBA program and starting a new job is perfect; it’s bringing new perspectives to the table from thought provoking class discussions and course assignments that I previously wouldn’t have had.

One interesting part of your position is being responsible for the diversity and inclusion initiatives for the organization. That is at the forefront of every organization’s strategy right now. What are your plans in that respect?

Cracker Barrel believes we need to reflect the communities that we live and work in.  We believe in “Pleasing People” and it shows in everything we do from how we treat our employees, to how we interact with our guests.  The unconscious bias we all have can lead to you making decisions that you are not aware of.  Most individuals do not have the intent of causing harm, but don’t realize how social stereotypes form outside their own conscious awareness.

With the Rollins resources and richness data I have access to now, I can approach topics like unconscious bias, confirmation bias and build a data-driven strategy based on actual research. I am now able to leverage the numerous resources Rollins provides to benefit my organization.  The EDBA program has helped me to better interpret and evaluate current research and understand the benefits of different research methodologies.  I now see the value of engaged scholarship and how the marriage of academic research and business application can result in new insights.  This new awareness helps me identify research to create an effective strategy.

It sounds like the Crummer EDBA is already helping you in your new position! What are some other ways you’ve seen the benefits of the EDBA program?

When I was at Tupperware Brands, several employees there went to Crummer and Rollins. I saw first-hand the difference of the employees who went to Crummer/Rollins and how they thought strategically about workplace challenges; that made me want to enroll in the program.  Another benefit is the resources Rollins provides, from the Student Service Center, access to faculty, and the Olin Library and my mentor from the EDBA cohort ahead of us.

Even though I’m only three weeks into my current position, I’m adding value to my organization because I am bringing alternative approaches based on theories introduced to us in class that can generate new and innovative ideas.  It’s not “hey, let’s try this and see if it works”; it’s evidence-based research. It has proven results, and we can build upon that as an organization.

You’ve mentioned the peer aspect and faculty accessibility of the program being very beneficial for you as well. How has that helped you on your rigorous academic journey?

The access to faculty and staff, I have not experienced before at other institutions. It feels like a family. When I have a question, I can reach out to my professors or staff for guidance and they respond quickly. They really care about us as individuals and want to help us.  What I like most is they challenge me to think differently.

Also, I really wanted a cohort-based program where I could grow and network with my peers. I learn so much from my classmates – class 8 is great.  I also wanted an academic program that had real practical components that I could immediately apply at work.  It was the business application that I saw and am experiencing in the Crummer program that I didn’t see in other programs. The concept of engaged scholarship where you are blending academic research with business application to identify solutions fascinated me, and it was the right choice – I know it.