The Lions?

Understand that I have been a Detroit Lion fan my whole life. You are born into this, nobody would voluntarily choose this misery. The Lions have never won in my lifetime. They have been rebuilding since 1957. So when Keith Harrison told me the Lions had taken on a UCF flavor, I didn’t know whether to send congrats or sympathy. So, I decided to wait until after the traditional Thanksgiving Day game. True to form, the Lions almost won. This is what they do — they huddle up and figure out a way to almost win.

It is incredibly hard to win a job in the NFL, whether it be on the playing field or the front office. This is reason enough to celebrate these achievements. I can only hope for their sake that this influx of UCFers will help change the culture in Detroit. If these guys can help the Lions win, they can help anyone win. Charge on, guys. Hope to see you at a Superbowl sometime soon. Frankly, I will settle for a playoff game win.

You can read more about Mike Hughes, Andre’ George  and Ademi Smith by clicking here.

Podcast: Was Innovation in the Pandemic Really a Thing?

Did the pandemic spark a flurry of innovation or was everyone too busy bingeing Tiger King and Zooming to endless happy hours to launch new businesses and products?

Listen in to the latest episode of the Is This Really A Thing? podcast as I talk to UCF’s entrepreneurial in-house experts Cameron Ford, founding director of our Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership; CarolAnn Dykes Logue from the UCF Business Incubation Program; and resident entrepreneur in the college Michael Pape. We also caught up with UCF alum Caroline Castille, who is the CEO of Clickable Impact, a company that helps startups grow and scale. Listen Now

The Invitational is Friday!

This is the one time in your life when employers are going to come in large numbers looking for you.  We bring them straight to campus.  Eighty of them will be here to meet you this Friday, Sept. 23, when we host The Invitational: An Event for Internships, Externships & Jobs at The Venue. This invite-only College of Business career fair features jobs, internships, co-ops and volunteer opportunities and is open to select business students. This Invitational is shaping up to be our biggest yet, so don’t miss out on your chance to meet employers and make valuable career connections.

Many students who have attended past Invitationals have landed internships and then gone on to get full-time opportunities with some of the area’s top employers.

The college provides a lot of opportunities for students to get out of their comfort zones, build their networks, expand their horizons and gain career experience. The Invitational just might be the most important one of all.

If you want more advice on how to make The Invitational your thing, check out our podcast by clicking here:  https://business.ucf.edu/is-the-invitational-your-thing/

I look forward to seeing you there.

So You Fancy Yourself an Entrepreneur

Perhaps the biggest change in business schools and universities generally over the last 20 years is how many students want to be entrepreneurs. When I went to school, I didn’t know a single person who wanted to do this. In fact, college was a choice not to do this. It was seen as the best way to get yourself a nice safe professional career working for a big company with good pay and lifetime benefits.

Things change. I have no doubt that the internet has something to do with this as the barriers to entry in many businesses and industries have been greatly reduced by technological innovation.

Schools like ours have responded by offering many courses, co-curricular activities and resources for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Thursday, the Center For Entrepreneurial Leadership hosts Startup Fest in the student union. The event showcases UCF student startups, campus resources, and community partners that help students connect to entrepreneurial mentors, money, and credentials. It is open to any student on campus. Whether you are a freelancer, side-hustler, innovator, or future founder, Cameron Ford and his team look forward to sharing the resources and opportunities available to help ALL UCF students learn entrepreneurial skills and achieve career success.

No need to RSVP. Come as you are. You can learn more about the event by clicking here.

Made in Detroit

I try to go to Michigan every Labor Day weekend. This year I had three good reasons to do it. I’m only going to focus on two here. One was about the future, the other was about remembering the past. I grew up in Upper Michigan. My parents were working-class people. My mom was a bookkeeper by day and a caterer by night. My dad painted houses. They managed to put enough money together to send me to the University of Michigan. I was the first person in my family to go to college.

The U.P. was a great place to be a kid, but I was made in Detroit. Southeastern Michigan from Ann Arbor to Detroit transformed me. I go to remember where I came from and what I can do for my students. The University of Michigan showed me worlds I didn’t know existed, helped me make good choices about my life and gave me a serious lesson in the importance of greatness. Being pretty good or kind of good, wasn’t good enough there… not for the faculty, not for the students, not for the football team. It still isn’t. Every game at the Big House starts with a proclamation that you are on the campus of the best public university in the world. It’s an arguable point, but it’s one everyone there believes. Belief makes it so in Ann Arbor.

College also gave me the opportunity to explore Detroit and study its people. Detroit is a lesson in resiliency. The working-class people of that city won World War Two. They were the arsenal of democracy, and by 1950, they had the richest city in America. What followed was a series of storms: the race riots of 1967, the Japanese car invasion, the gas crisis, the flight of auto production and people from the city, and urban decay to name just a few. By the early 21st Century, Detroit hit rock bottom.

Throughout it all, the city maintained its sense of working-class purpose. It built a Renaissance Center in the middle of the city, hunkered down and waited for a few of its favorite families (The Fords, Illitches and Gilberts) and an influx of young entrepreneurs to invest in its revival. Walking the streets of downtown Detroit this weekend gave me a sense that the city is coming back strong and the people there couldn’t be more proud. It reminded me about the power of hope.

College is great. It gave me a life I wouldn’t otherwise have had. But it is a different life, not a better life than my parents had. The working people of America built this place. We live in their world, and they gave us the opportunity to dream big by providing for all of us. We still need them today. College isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of things that need to be done and plenty of paths to a rewarding life. Today it’s good to remember, we were all made in Detroit.

I Think Maybe We Are Back

The pandemic taught us all a lesson in persistence and the need to adapt. My hope is that it also made us more appreciative of the power of daily interactions with friends and colleagues. I sense that after the first week of class and two enormously successful events that we have rediscovered our purpose.

Thursday night we welcomed about 100 people interested in building or expanding a partnership with the College of Business. President Cartwright, a first-time attendee at this event thanks to COVID, commented on how noisy the room was and how motivated people were to find a mutually beneficial relationship with us going forward. For our part, we put our best foot forward by featuring our students, faculty and staff. People stayed way past the 6 p.m. ending time.  The college shined.

While that event was going on, another part of the team was working at Addition Arena to get us prepared for Welcome to the Majors the next morning. The doors opened at 9 a.m., and we welcomed more than 1,500 students to the College of Business. Denise McFadden was an exceptional emcee/class instructor. Alumnus and Darden CEO Rick Cardenas gave great advice, and the students embraced the networking opportunities we provided. I could see the pride on my team’s faces as the event unfolded. They knew they had hit it out of the park, just like the good old days.

We still weren’t done. There were guests to host and FinTech students to meet and orient to the college and the expectations of the program. Those events went on flawlessly as well. 

Rituals like the events we have to start the semester are important. Done right, they add meaning to people’s experiences, provide them with new opportunities and perspectives and help them understand that they are part of something bigger than themselves. My team shook off the rust from the last couple of years and delivered big. We are incredibly lucky to have them.  Hats off to Tiffany, Erika, all the Kelli’s (however, you spell your name), Jasmin, Justin, Susan, Sarah, Justin, Darrell, the OPD team, and the Office of the Dean staff who pitched in to make sure we covered everything.   

Our culture of engagement is built on the simple idea that learning is a social activity and that the best education occurs when you get a chance to sit on a log next to someone who has something interesting to say.  Conversations ensue, people see the world differently, and good things happen.  A lot of good things happened last week. I sense it is going to be a very good year.

Welcome, now dive in

Today is the first day of the fall semester. If you are new to the college, you are not alone. We welcome more than 1800 new students to the College today along with several new faculty and staff. You’ve probably heard that we are big: more than 8200 undergraduate students, about a 1000 graduate students and 225 faculty and staff. It can be hard to stand out in such a large crowd. If you stand in the back of the room and wait to be discovered or provided the help you need, you guarantee disappointment and risk total failure. Fortune favors the bold here. Don’t miss out on accessing the many resources we have to help you succeed.

But our scale does not define your experience in the College, the shared beliefs of our faculty and staff do.  We believe that no real learning occurs inside your comfort zone; that the most defining moments happen when you get to have a conversation with someone who has something interesting to say; and that a great education expands your horizons, helps you make good choices about how to spend your one precious life, and gives you the skills and confidence to know that you can compete with anyone anywhere.  We have created a culture and set of experiences that will demand that you engage with us in the pursuit of these objectives. These things are not negotiable.  If you are not willing to sign up  for this adventure, we are not the place for you.  Frankly your life here will be miserable.  If you are willing to go down this path, the journey will transform you.

For our undergraduate students, the journey starts immediately. “Welcome to the Majors” is Friday. It is designed to introduce our newbies to the culture of the college and help them start to form a strategy for how to stand out from the crowd and “get to the one” (if you don’t know what that means you will). Welcome to the Majors is complemented by workshops run by our student Ambassadors that gives new students tips on how to best succeed in the College, including how to succeed in our core courses. The Ambassadors are part of the College’s leadership team and play an important role in shaping our culture. They will be doing several of these workshops the first two weeks of the semester in The Exchange. But don’t wait for a session, if you need an answer, find someone and ask. If they don’t have the answer they will get you in front of someone who does.

The Exchange is a place where we invite in community leaders who have interesting things to say to our students. Thanks to our friends at FAIRWINDS Credit Union,  we have a guest in the exchange almost every day.  Most days we have more than one Exchange. Many of our guests in The Exchange employ UCF interns and graduates. They are interested in identifying good talent while sharing their experiences and advice with young people like you.  At no other time in your life will you have so many potential employers coming to visit you.  Go early and often, but remember to reserve your seat before you go, there are only 120.

By October you will likely have had your first tests in your primary core classes and will need to start taking a hard look at where your interests intersect your skills and talents.  Many students come in to the College thinking they want to do something, only to change their mind mid-semester.  The Office of Professional Development can help you understand where you might best fit in.  Internships can also help. It’s why we do an Internship Invitational and Career Fest this month.  Look to get involved.

The goal of all this activity in your first seven weeks is to get you engaged outside of your comfort zone, to get you in the right major, plot an efficient course to graduation and have you develop an action plan for landing the job you want before you leave here. Denise, the Office Professional Development team, the Primary Core Faculty, the Student Ambassadors, and Justin Barwick who runs The Exchange are all here to help you make good choices as you start your time with us. And if you need some mid-course corrections, don’t we have several things planned to help you get on a new path.

Welcome to the UCF College of Business. Get your armor ready Knights. Charge On!

Location: Various

Friday I was walking out of the student union when a young man politely stopped me and asked for help. He looked like a high school student, or maybe a freshman. When I said “Sure, what do you need?” He replied, “Can you tell me where the location ‘various’ is?”

It took me a second to understand what he had just asked. When it registered, I said: “Well, that could be anywhere at UCF.” He shrugged and marched on. I should have stopped him and asked why he was on campus or what event he was trying to get to, but in the moment, his question left me almost as bewildered as he was.

At first, I blamed him for asking such a silly question. Then I blamed whoever gave him the form with such vague instructions. Then I blamed me. I should have been more helpful. It was a teachable moment and I whiffed. Tiffany would have never let this happen, I thought. She would have rescued him and he would have been grateful.

It’s easy to forget how daunting of a place UCF can be. How easy it is to get lost in a crowd or in one of our various buildings. It’s one of the motivations behind our first professional development course. You can’t succeed here if you don’t know where you want to go or what you need to get there. It all seems easy — until it isn’t. Then panic can set in as you search nearby to find someone who can give you the answers you now desperately need. If only that young man had checked the form he was given and asked the person who gave it to him, where exactly he needed to go. Everybody would have been better off, especially him. Instead, he left it to a last-minute chance encounter with a stranger who wasn’t prepared to answer the question he asked. It didn’t go well. Don’t let this happen to you.

Welcome to the Majors Summer 2022

When someone becomes part of something that is different from what they have experienced, it is a good idea to mark this change with an event that signifies their movement into unfamiliar terrain and helps them better understand what will be expected of them going forward.
We welcome 450 students to the college this week with “Welcome to the Majors.”

The College of Business is different than what students have experienced to this point in their education. How different depends a bit on where they are coming from, but one way it is different for every new student is the importance we place on “doing.” Up until this point, most students have probably thought that school was about acquiring knowledge and seeking to “be” something — an accountant, finance major, etc. Success required you to sit and learn — meaning passively consuming lectures and correctly repeating what you were taught on exams.

The basic message of Welcome to the Majors is to let you know you have entered a different experience where that strategy won’t be enough to succeed. The College of Business is a professional school. We believe the ultimate purpose of business education isn’t knowledge, but action. Don’t misunderstand. Knowledge is important. But if you don’t learn to do things with that knowledge, it’s not very useful. In short, knowledge is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success. In our College, you must do.

This starts at Welcome to the Majors where we encourage you to think about what you want to do in your career rather than what you want to be. This emphasis on doing continues in our core courses where we ask you to work in teams to solve real-world problems and in our professional development courses where you need to invest time in getting out of your comfort zone and do things that will help you develop your professional network. We want you to leave us with a reputation for doing that gets you a great job offer before graduation.

All of this will require a change in your mindset. Welcome to the Majors is just the start of that process. It will introduce you to the many opportunities you have in the college to embrace doing, connect with amazing people and get to where you want to go. But you need to come ready to dive in.

To learn more about how to succeed in the college, check out our guide by clicking here. It will give you a wealth of information about our culture, resources to help you succeed and tips from students who have excelled in our environment.

A Speech to Remember

I go to a lot of graduation ceremonies. It’s part of the job. Like most people, I rarely remember much of what the commencement speaker says. It’s not that the speeches are bad, or poorly delivered or devoid of moments of humor. It is that they are largely the same. Most speakers emphasize that this day is the start of the journey, not the end, that life has challenges, that your education has equipped you to face them and that you must rise to the occasion and change the world.

Saturday was different. Rick Cardenas, the incoming Darden CEO, finance major and UCF College of Business Hall of Fame Inductee acknowledged this challenge. He admitted he didn’t remember the graduation speeches at his commencements beyond a call to change the world. He noted that this was an almost unattainable goal and as a result most people reject the challenge. Their words fade quickly from memory.

Instead, Rick challenged the graduates to change one life. He then told his story. Of how his parents came from Cuba, how is mom and stepdad moved to the Dominican Republic while he chose to stay here at age sixteen and how people along the way changed his life through acts of kindness and advice at pivotal points on his path to where he is today. It was an authentic, vulnerable and compelling speech. So compelling that several students thanked him as they crossed the stage to receive their diploma.

My favorite part of Rick’s talk was when he mentioned how sometimes a few words at the right moment can change a life without the speaker even realizing it. He gave examples from his own experience and I hoped the graduates understood that this truth is what underlies our culture of engagement in the College. Having authentic conversations that transmits knowledge and perspective from experience changes lives.

We will post the video of his talk as soon as it is available. It is thirteen minutes well spent. Thank you Rick. It was most certainly a speech to remember.