Why Go to a Research University?

I’m going to brag on my colleagues in the management department for a minute.  They had a terrific year and their accomplishments give me the opportunity to explain what we are trying to achieve in the college and why you want to go to a research university like UCF.

Google has a search engine that measures the impact of academic research.  It is called Google Scholar, and they recently recognized 10 papers written in 2006 as “management classics.” These are papers people are still talking about 10 years after they were originally published. This means the ideas in these articles have inspired others and stood the test of time. I was pleased to see that two of those 10 papers were written by teams that included one of our faculty. Both of these faculty are recent hires, people who joined us in the past couple of years as part of our continued efforts to attract more thought leaders to the college. Jim Combs, the Della Phillips Martha Schenck Chair of American Private Enterprise and Professor of Management, was recognized for a paper titled: “How much do high‐performance work practices matter? A meta‐analysis of their effects on organizational performance.” The paper has been cited 1,420 times. Ron Piccolo, Galloway Professor of Management and Chair of the management department, was recognized for “Transformational leadership and job behaviors: The mediating role of core job characteristics.” That paper has been cited 1,370 times. To give you a sense of how influential the ideas in these two paper are, understand the average published paper in management is cited fewer than 30 times.

I seek out and pay people with influential ideas like these so they will bring their research insights into the classroom and influence practitioners. A case in point is Dr. Marshall Schminke. Marshall is the BB&T Professor of Business Ethics at UCF.  He has written more than 40 papers, consulted with a wide array of companies and been quoted in more than 50 national publications. A few weeks ago, Marshall  was recognized as a “Master Ethics Teacher” at the 6th Teaching Ethics at Universities Conference, hosted by the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University, and sponsored by the Society for Business Ethics and the Wheatley Institution at BYU. The award recognizes outstanding faculty members who have made significant contributions to the teaching of business ethics.  They do this by taking their research into the classroom and boardroom.

And let’s not forget that Marshall’s colleague Dr. Robert Folger is one of the founding members of the behavioral ethics field.  Behavioral ethics is a new field of social scientific research that seeks to understand how people actually behave when confronted with ethical dilemmas. Rob became the college’s second Pegasus Professor earlier this year. It is the highest honor UCF bestows on faculty. He is the Distinguished Alumni Endowed Professor in Business Ethics, has mentored many Ph.D. students and has more than 25,000 citations to his work. In short, he has had a lot of insights that have inspired others and changed how people understand ethics in organizations.

As you can see, the Management Department had a banner year.  More importantly, our management students get to learn from some of the best faculty in the field. The reason to attend a large research-oriented university is you get to learn from people who are actively influencing how the future will unfold. You get to engage in conversations with people who wrote the book or article, rather than someone who is just explaining something they read. In the process, you gain more insight and perspective. In today’s information saturated world, it’s more insight and perspective that is going to differentiate you from the crowd. If you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most, wouldn’t you want to hang out with people with insights like Professors Combs, Piccolo, Schminke and Folger?  And I didn’t even mention Drs. Ambrose, Bennett, Ford, Taylor or Whiting.  Look them up — they’re pretty cool and very accomplished, too.

Everybody’s Got Issues

It’s Father’s Day, and while this day doesn’t really hold a candle to Mother’s Day, it is worth reminding yourself what gifts your dad gave you.  Mine gave me several: A love of the Detroit Tigers, the absence of the “look back” gene and an ability to make do with what you’ve got immediately come to mind. But perhaps the greatest gift he gave me was an insight into people and the human condition. One day, sort of out of the blue, dad said to me, “Everybody’s got issues.” I don’t remember the context of that comment; it was probably when somebody on the Tigers hit into their 50th double play of the season, but his genius in that moment stuck. Over time, it has become one of the main principles of my leadership style.

Dad’s point was that you have to take people for who they are. The perfect employee, student, parent, Detroit Tiger or you do not exist. If you demand this, you are going to be endlessly disappointed. Recognizing that people are imperfect and always will be is liberating. It allows you to emphasize the positive, coach where you can to improve performance and look for teammates with complementary skill sets that can strengthen the whole.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have performance standards, and there are, of course, people who have too many issues (Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame says this best, “It’s a long road baby and where it’s going to take me, just depends on the weight of my load…”).  But if you find a way to work with people, be authentic and allow them to be authentic in their interactions with you, you’ll be surprised how loyal they will become to your leadership and how much you can accomplish together.

So thanks, dad.  Enjoy your day. Go Tigers.

 

 

A Thank You to our Corporate Partners

I spent the bulk of last week creating interactive thank you emails to our corporate partners.  Each email summarizes how the corporate partner helped us offer students a new experience, how that experience is designed to change them and how it is consistent with the values of our benefactor.   This is something I do personally. I don’t delegate this to someone on my staff even though I know several people who would do a competent job. Why do I do this myself?  Because no one else can tell our partners how critical their contributions have been to my effort to transform the college. 

Let me explain.  When I came to the college five years ago, we were insular and offered a very transactional experience focused on basic skill transfer.  We taught courses.  Students either came or watched them via lecture capture.  Knowledge was assessed in our testing center.  There were a few pockets of excellence in the college that offered something different—professional sales, the launch pad, sports business— but for the most part, you could get through the college without ever stepping out of your comfort zones, experiencing something different, or having a conversation with a business professional or prospective employer about your future.

But business is done in the real world.  It is an activity. What you “know” is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for success.  Ultimately, business is about what you do.  What you achieve is about more than knowledge, it is also a function of the size and nature of the professional network you can draw on for assistance, the portfolio of experiences that shape your mindsets, how you can recognize and connect dots quicker than others and your willingness to try and risk failure.

To become the college I envisioned, we needed mechanisms to have conversations with the community, invite them to be a part of us, and engage our students in a wide variety of experiences that would expand their horizons, help them make good choices about their futures, and give them the mindsets to compete with anyone, anywhere.  Over the past five years we have gone about doing just that—building partnerships that would transform us and our students.

In writing the many thank you emails I did last week I was struck by just how critical the totality of these partnerships have become to the life of the College.  It is the accomplishment I am most proud of over the last five years.  In 2011-2012, the year before I came, the College touched 862 students and members of the community through our events and activities. This year, that number is 30,000.  Yes, you read that right. Those interactions include student to community as well as faculty to community interactions.  It is not just that activity is up.  Conversations are way up.  Positive restlessness on our many advisory boards is way up. Study abroad is way up. Job shadowing is up, Internships are going up. Post-graduation prospects are going up.  If you don’t believe me, come spend a day with us.

The time, treasure and talent our corporate partners provide are instrumental to the college we have built and the transformations we plan in the coming years.  If you are a student or faculty member engaging in one of these many interactions and you spot one of our corporate partners, stop by and thank them for all their support.  We couldn’t do what we do without them.

Why Does Finance Rule at the College of Business?

The College of Business works a little differently than a lot of colleges on campus.  Before you  become a business major, you must successfully complete a set of lower division courses.  This makes you eligible to be a business student, and typically you then still have 60 credit hours to complete before graduation.  Thirty of those credit hours are the same for everyone.  They include 15 credit hours you must complete before you are admitted into a specific major.  Over the fall and spring semesters, 1,313 students did just that.  The table below shows where those students ended up….

Major Fall ’16 Spring ’17
Finance 191 174
Integrated Business 157 132
Accounting 132 112
Marketing 93 92
Management 71 54
Economics 42 42
Real Estate 12 9
Total 698 615

The numbers are always bigger in the fall, because more students come to us in the fall than do in the spring semester.  That said, the pattern is exactly the same:  Finance is our most popular major.  Integrated Business admits the second most students, followed by Accounting.  Economics and Real Estate continue to be our smallest majors.

Maybe it’s because I was an Economics major, but I’m always surprised at the disparity between Finance and Economics. Finance majors get exposed to a fair bit of economics… they better if they want to know what they’re doing.  And, according to most published reports, Economics graduates typically make a little more money than their Finance counterparts right after graduation. That differential also grows a bit as people get to the middle of their careers. Given the costs of the degree are the same, why wouldn’t Finance majors figure out that Economics is the better investment? Maybe that investments class is too late?  LOL

Then again, people maximize utility, not income… maybe Economics is seen as just too boring and needs a better compensating wage differential to encourage more students to enroll?

My readers have any insight on this?

 

How Would You Describe Us?

You can tell people who you are all day long, but how people perceive you defines that for you.  I’ve been collecting data from various groups on how they perceive the College of Business.  As part of this process, I’d like to hear from my readers.

You can give me your feedback by clicking on the link below.  The survey only takes about 5 minutes to do.  There are no right or wrong answers here, just adjectives you might use to describe the College.  We want to know how well you think they fit.  I’ll share the results in an upcoming post.  Thanks for your help.

Click here to take survey

 

How to Leave Your Team

I have a very talented engagement team.  They engage everyone: alumni, students, faculty, staff, corporate partners and the wider community. You know you have a great team when other people want to hire them away.  Sometimes, especially in bureaucratic human resource settings like those employed by most universities, it’s hard to match what someone else might give them in money or responsibility.  When that happens, you celebrate their time with you and cheer them on to great success in the future.  If you do this right, they remain an extended part of your team forever.  Ask Bridget Downs Keefe or Kelly Dowling.

This happened Thursday when we celebrated Erin’s new opportunity over at the Medical School.  Erin has been our alumni relations officer for the past few years.  She helped us elevate the Hall of Fame, organized Career Day (and then week), partnered with Engineering and Sciences to bring a Big Data Symposium to campus and was the main point of contact for alums who wanted to volunteer their time and talent back to the College.   She helped us move our agenda, learned a lot along the way and shared many disappointments with us as we searched for a decent lunch option in the Student Union once they took our salad bar away (Yes, we are all still bitter about this).

The problem with being the College’s alumni officer, is that there is little room for upward mobility.  Most colleges only have one such position and the central office has very few tiers.  By the end of year two, you kind of have the job down.  By the end of year three, if you are any good, you are looking for a new challenge.  If you engage with lots of other people like my team does, they see your performance and want to find a place for you in their organization.  The smart thing to do is to take what you’ve learned and move on.

Some people do this quietly.  Others do it with tears or a little regret.  Erin, did it with the same charm, wit and originality that defined her time with us.  You see, Erin solved the disappointing lunch option problem by eating a sweet potato almost every day.  We would tease her about it as we each complained about our food.  So on her final day, she left each of us a note and a sweet potato with a message that kind of defined her relationship with each of us.  Mine is pictured above.  Yes, I admit to using “rat bastard” a lot when describing another person or group who beat us to the punch on something.  I’m pretty sure I called Deb and Chip this when she told me about the new opportunity.  On the other side of the potato she wrote a phrase that I had come to appreciate her for using: “This is how they get ya….”  When I read it, I simply nodded.  Everyone who got a sweet potato is going to remember that day with a smile.

So,  good luck girl.  I’m going to miss those polka dots at staff meetings,  the calm in Tiffany’s storm leading up to the Hall of Fame and the smell of microwaved sweet potatoes at lunch.  We are on your team forever Jess (Oh wait, I mean Erin :)), go do great things!

 

Swagger

I want UCF students to get a great education.  This is not just about whether they have a solid grasp of statistics, finance, marketing or management.  Understanding these topics gets you a good education, not a great one.  A great education requires things that transcend a specific course or major.

First there must be some “aha moments”: eye-opening interactions that expand your horizons; presenting you with new possibilities, challenges, and perspectives on the world. Aha moments come from interacting with accomplished faculty, dedicated staff and engaged students who challenge your values and world view while raising your aspirations.

Second, a great education helps students make good choices about their careers and life.  It allows students to realistically preview different paths, better understand their interests, strengths, and weaknesses, and helps them develop a realistic plan to achieve their goals.  This requires students to get out of their comfort zones, experiment, build relationships with people who are different than themselves and risk failure so that they can succeed.

Finally, a great education gives students the confidence, knowledge and skills to compete with anyone, anywhere, no matter what the competition’s pedigree.  This comes from being in a competitive environment that helps students improve their performance through sustained effort combined with strong developmental feedback.

If you got these three things, you got a great education.  And a tell-tale sign that someone got a great education is what baseball coaches call swagger.  They look for it when players step up to the plate.  It is a critical quality in a game where you fail (get out) way more frequently than you succeed (get a hit).  Ricky Henderson, perhaps the greatest lead-off hitter of all time was famous for repeating under his breath: “You are the greatest Rickey” every time he stepped into the batter’s box.  If he struck out, he could be heard saying on his way back to the dugout: “You’re still the greatest Rickey.”  Rickey had swagger and people wanted him on their team.

Knights need swagger too. Be prepared: I am going to be looking to instill some swagger in all of you.

Welcome Back Students

attrium-2-remodel

This place never really stops.  As soon as we are done sending one group of students off to new adventures at graduation, we begin work on welcoming another set of students to the college in a week.  We do this three times a year.  Summer is no exception.  Welcome to the Majors is Friday.

But the title of today’s blog post isn’t so much about the start of another semester as it is about the end of a construction project.  For almost six months, BA-1 was under construction.  The project sucked the life out of the building.   There were few students in the halls.  They simply came to class and left in search of friendly space to do their work. The energy in the building vanished.  It felt like just another office building. This might surprise some readers, but no faculty member ever got into higher education because they wanted to work in an office building. None.

That ended just before May graduation when the final touches were put on the remodel and the furniture arrived.  Students were literally taking things out of boxes themselves and going to work in the new spaces.

Things really get back to normal today.  Thanks to some very generous donors, students will fill the Ravago Entrepreneurial Corridor and the Lupfer Atrium.  They will see their friendly dean’s face back up on the screens (or the North Korean leader as I like to call him) and will know what’s going on in The Exchange by looking at the display just outside the entrance to the facility.   Most importantly, they will have a place to study, work in teams, and have the kinds of conversations that define a good education.  So welcome back students.  If you’re new to the College of Business, don’t be shy, no one ever had a great college experience by being anonymous. We don’t believe in that here — work to make the place your own.  If you are a returning student, help us restore the buzz. We missed you.

Winners Go Here

As you can see from all the photos in this post, the last few weeks have been spent recognizing winners in the College.  From our national sales competition champions to the winners of our Joust, Failure Competition, Case Competition, Dean’s Excellence Awards and Founder’s Day honorees we celebrated a lot of success here in the College of Business.


It should come as no surprise that the College of Business believes in the value of competition. We send students to compete nationally and host a number of signature contests each year.  We do this because we believe competition makes us better and gives us a chance to celebrate our values: it demands us to take risks, asks us to work with people we did not know before, forces us to use data to support our arguments and gives us the chance to showcase our problem solving skills under pressure.  When it’s over, we get to measure ourselves against others and our confidence grows.  We learn that we can compete with anyone anywhere.

This last point was driven home to me, not by the winners but by teams and students who didn’t place first, yet proudly posted their accomplishments on-line.  Students like Casey Mallet, George Rogue, Jean Broussard, Jonathan Johansmeyer, Sara Laneand Monica Bermudez….

Each of these posts noted how far the students had come, how much they had learned, the value of a great team or coach and how the experience had transformed them. Wins come in lots of forms and when you get out of your comfort zones to engage with us, you learn lots of winners go here… including you.

Ambassadors For Life

Despite some of their best efforts to stay much longer than their parents hoped, eventually all our young squires turn into knights and set out to conquer other kingdoms. In fact, it’s our mission to make this so.  That does not mean will miss them less or fail to relish their return as successful alums with stories to tell of their journeys in The Exchange.

This week, we lose seven Ambassadors to graduation: Brynleigh Benak, Michael Gonzalez, Thomas Huang, Theresa Joseph, Soheila Latifalojar, Vanessa Del Valle, and Ryan Wolf.  We also lose Merarys Dias to graduation this summer. ….In the past I have used the Monday blog post before graduation to say a few words about each of them individually and what they contributed to us.  This group deserves something different. They were much more than the sum of their parts. They were the first group since our founding set of Ambassadors to fully grasp the nature of their task and impact the College of Business student experience in a fundamental way.

So I want to describe them in the way that people describe the College to me: Diverse, Welcoming, Engaged, Forward-Looking, Relevant and Accessible.  They took to the challenge of being confident without seeming arrogant or intimidating and have used this quality to touch the lives of a lot of their fellow students, especially through Street Smarts.   Amanda Brown would be proud.  So am I.

Like all of our students graduating Friday, they are going off to embark on a wide array of adventures. The people who meet our Ambassadors along the way will infer a great deal about the College of Business through the quality of the interactions they have with them.  Whether they like it or not, they are Ambassadors for life.  The task doesn’t change, just the venue.  The mindset doesn’t change either.  What made you winners here, will make you winners there: confidence without arrogance or intimidation is a winning formula everywhere.  Thanks for what you did for us. Charge on!