One of the joys of working in my business is that you get to see people mature, hone their talents and move on to great opportunities. Usually this involves students, but sometimes it’s a member of your team. Nobody likes losing talent, but people need new challenges to continue to grow and do the things in life that they want to do. So I’ve always encouraged my people to explore what’s out there and hope that when they move on that they will remember their time with us fondly. I also hope they will share a bourbon with me once in a while to let me know what’s going on with them. Happily most do (It’s your turn, Bridget. It’s been ages).
This week Josh Miranda moves on. If you don’t know Josh, it’s because he is the guy behind a lot of what we do in the Office of Outreach & Engagement. He is the guy behind the website. The genius behind many of our videos. The producer of the podcast. The poster of content on our social media sites. The technical expert that runs Zoom events… etc., etc. He has been a very big part of our visibility efforts over the past few years. It was only a matter of time before somebody in the private sector with a big checkbook found him. If Erika panicked, she would be in one now. She doesn’t.
But what I will miss most about Josh is his ability to absorb the many indignities that come with being the youngest member of a team full of mean girls. (I admit that I freely participated in this.). Which brings us to the title of this post. At one of the first college events Josh attended, he was photographed scooping up a second plate of meatballs. Erika referred to him as “Meatball Miranda.” I made sure the label stuck.
Everybody who works for me teaches. The students see what they do, how they perform their work and how we operate as a team. Josh was no exception. He taught a lot of young people, especially our Ambassadors, how to handle the demands placed on a young professional, how to develop your own standards of excellence and how to sell your ideas to a group of over-achieving, fast-moving, type A personalities who are in love with their own ideas.
In so doing, the guy behind so much of what we did made all of us better. Thank you, Josh. Now go do great things you can tell us about over a bourbon someday soon. Well, maybe a Shirley Temple for you.
Last week, saw two cases of potential academic misconduct cross my desk. One involved the posting of quiz questions on an on-line study site, the other the presence of identical, unusual wording in multiple responses to the same exam question. Both cases are under investigation.
There hasn’t been a lot of published work on cheating during the pandemic, but there is a general sense that the shift to online learning has cheating on the rise. A recent article on CNBC, notes that a study at the Imperial College London, found that the number of questions and answers posted on Chegg’s homework help section for five STEM subjects between April and August 2020 (when the school shifted to online instruction) was up over 196% from the same time period in pre-CoVID, face to face instruction during 2019 (click here to read the entire article). Perhaps the best evidence that charges of academic misconduct are on the rise, is that some law firms have developed units to specialize in defending students charged with cheating (click here for an example).
Cheating isn’t new. It’s a response to stress, performance anxiety and a sense of desperation. The pandemic has clearly been stressful for students and the online environment can make it seem like no one is watching. But, one explanation for the rise in academic misconduct is not that students are cheating more, but that faculty are getting better at detecting it in online environments. That certainly seems to be the case in the college where we share information on the latest cheating innovations and methods to stop it. We also encourage faculty to pursue misconduct charges in cases where the evidence warrants it.
I’m raising this issue now because Spring Break will be next week and we will shift entirely to remote instruction again when we return through final exams. Finals is an especially stressful time under the best of circumstances. Exams come in rapid succession and doing well on a final may be necessary to pass a course or get into the major of your choice. The temptation to cheat will likely be at its semester peak. But understand that a poor grade is way easier to recover from than a finding of academic misconduct. Classes can be repeated, there is more than one path to a successful career, and people admire persistence in the face adversity. Cheating, on the other hand, damages your reputation and that can take years to rehabilitate. It’s also easier to detect than you think.
I call Bill Steiger the Nick Saban of sales programs because all his students do is win national championships. Last weekend he made it official as the UCF Professional Sales Program team won its sixth, taking the title at the National Shore Sales Competition, which was virtually hosted by Salisbury University.
Angie Mele placed second in the individual competition, and Laura Rivero was fourth. UCF was the only team with two students in the finals. Great job coaching the team by Stefanie Mayfield Garcia.
The next challenge for Bill is to tie Phil Jackson’s 11 rings (an excellent book on managing high achieving people by the way) although the record shows not very many college coaches make the transition to coaching the pros, and I’m not sure there is a sales competition for seasoned sales professionals. Hmmm…maybe we should invent one?
Of all the things that got postponed a year ago, the biggest casualty for us, was the Joust. We had just shut everything down and hadn’t yet figured out how to do events virtually. If entrepreneurship is about anything, it is about learning to deal with adversity and pivot. True to form, the Joust has recreated itself as a virtual event. The first round will take place this Thursday from 3 to 5 pm.
The Joust is the brain child of Cameron Ford who runs our Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. It is open to students from across campus. Students from outside of business compete regularly in the Shark-tank like event. Several have taken home the top prize over the years. Aside from encouraging students to get out of their comfort zones and put their idea to the test, my favorite part of the Joust is seeing what our students think could be viable business ventures. It says at least as much about them as it does about the needs of the consumers they hope to satisfy with their product or service. I will be especially interested to see how the Pandemic has shaped their ideas.
Special thanks to our presenting sponsor Echelon. It’s only appropriate that one of our own entrepreneurs– Lou Lentine class of 1993 and CEO of the Echelon has stepped up to support this event. He has picked up the mantle from Steve Felkowitz, former CEO of Atico and class of 1973 who was the long time presenting sponsor of this event. Winners from round 1 will compete in the finals from 3 to 5 pm on April 8th. You can watch the finals by clicking here.
I have been writing this blog for more than a dozen years. Today was the first time I didn’t have a post ready to go Sunday night. I’ve been struggling for topics lately. I see the blog as an opportunity for me to provide students with insights and observations into their experience, to help them see what they are experiencing from a different perspective and to give them some advice on how to get the most out of their time in the College so that they can go on to success in life.
A year into the Pandemic and remote instruction, it has been harder for me to see what students are experiencing, give them my take on what is going on and help them recover or take advantage of what they are going through. Frankly, most days have seemed like Groundhog Day… doing the same things over and over again without much sense of moving things forward: activity and accomplishment are two different things.
So here’s an offer: If you think you have an insight based on your experience over this last year that would be of value to others, send it along to me by replying to this post. The blog has a moderated discussion feature, so others won’t see it until I read it. If my team thinks our readers would be interested in hearing from you, I will ask your permission to post it as a guest blog.
Although my blog is typically targeted at students and how they can get the best out of the experience in the College, I have come to appreciate that many of my readers are UCF alumni and corporate partners who have an interest in how we are preparing students for success after graduation.
Earlier this week, Lonny forwarded to me an email from a marketing student who had just completed a job interview. She noted that she was shocked when the woman interviewing her asked about GEB points, what she had done with them and what she had learned from the experience. She went on to tell Lonny: “Luckily, your class had prepared me to answer all of her questions.”
That interviewer’s question is genius. For those of you who do not know, students in the college are required to take a set of professional development courses. Those courses help students decide what they want to do in their careers, sharpen their focus, create an action plan, develop networking skills, connect them to people who can help them achieve their goals and prepare them to succeed on the job. Our ultimate goal is to have students leave the college having thought very seriously about what they want to do with a professional job (or graduate school acceptance) in hand. Because these classes are about “doing,” students accumulate points for successfully completing activities from a long menu of options to determine their final grade. As you might guess, there are two very different approaches students take to completing these courses: (1) Those who take this seriously, have a plan and use the many professional development opportunities we provide in the college to get ahead, and (2) those who procrastinate, believe they already know everything, treat it as a burden and cynically comply (sometimes after multiple attempts to complete the courses). The interviewer’s question is designed to determine which type of student they have in front of them.
If you want to understand whether you have a UCF College of Business student who takes their professional development seriously, is both a self-starter and coachable and is likely to give you 100 percent on the job, ask this interviewer’s question. It will tell you a great deal.
The first rule of business is keeping your word. The second rule is showing up. Sometimes these are the same, like when you make an appointment with someone and ghost them.
Two Fridays ago we held the Spring Semester version of the Invitational, a place where we match firms and students interested in internships and employment. Because it was virtual, we matched specific employers with specific students at specific times. Some students didn’t show up to their appointments. They told a prospective employer that meeting with them just wasn’t a priority. They also kept another student from having that opportunity. I’m sure the no-showers were thinking that they didn’t really want to work for that company and that some better opportunity will come along.
Professional networks are much smaller than these students think and word tends to get around. First, the OPD staff, GEB instructors and members of the Office of Outreach and Engagement know you didn’t show up. These three groups literally meet with hundreds of employers each year. Their opinions matter to prospective employers. How likely do you think it is that they will recommend someone who no-showed for another opportunity? Second, people move around. That person who got stood up could move to another company and be the interviewer for that “better opportunity” the no-shower seeks. They’re probably not getting that interview.
Getting a job in the profession of your choice is hard right now. Reputations can be damaged in seconds and can take years to repair. Don’t start your career with a reputation for not showing up. It will cost you big time.
Last week a local news outfit reached out asking if someone in the college would be willing to be part of a story on how the pandemic is changing things forever. I responded to my communications and marketing team that I wasn’t their guy because I didn’t think the pandemic was going to change much and that stories like this are just hype. They found someone else.
My response was a bit of an exaggeration. In short, I think the changes that will last are those where companies found ways to offer customers greater convenience at a cost they could swallow. This hasn’t been entirely sorted out in that customers sought safety first and that was typically delivered in a convenient manner often at no cost because companies were willing to sacrifice some margin just to survive. Going forward, if safety is no longer an issue, it will come down to what people will pay for a convenience. I’m thinking things like meal delivery services and telemedicine for minor health issues might fall into this category.
I also admit that my response was driven in part by my own industry where speculation is rampant about the end of face-to-face education because online modalities are just so convenient for everyone. The primary problem I have with this argument is that learning is never convenient. The best lessons are learned hard. Transformation and understanding come from the struggle. If you’re not willing to get out of your pajamas or your house to learn something new, how likely is it that you’re really going to learn something you didn’t already know? This doesn’t mean things should be made needlessly complicated (that’s just annoying). Nor does it mean that good grades or a certification cannot be earned without effort. They clearly can. But good grades and learning are different things. The key point is that the future of education doesn’t lie in convenience; it lies in increasing understanding, transforming minds and giving people hope for a better future. Whatever methods best produce those outcomes at a price people are willing to pay will prevail. That was true before the pandemic and it will be true after it, as well.
The Invitational is this Friday. If you haven’t decided to go, you should. Click here to find out why. Then make it your thing by getting some advice from those who have been there. Listen to our podcast on The Invitational by clicking here. Don’t be that dude (it’s almost always a dude) who is going to try to fake their GEB assignments (that never ends well). Be the student who prepares for the opportunity and lands the internship or job that will get you to where you want to go…
This week we would normally be celebrating the induction of three alums into our College of Business Hall of Fame. Like so many things, we aren’t having one this year. HOF 2020 was one of the last meaningful things we did in before everything shut down.
Rituals like the HOF are important, not just because they give us the opportunity to honor alums, but because they remind us of our purpose and allow us to celebrate our accomplishments of the past year. In doing so, this event “fills our tanks.” As much work as it is to put on, people look forward to this event. 800 attendees usually show up. We take great care to make it an evening to remember. People leave with a renewed sense of who we are and what we can accomplish. Everybody shows up the next day with a smile on their face.
We are all, I fear, in dire need of having someone fill up our tanks. I have heard way too many staff over the past few weeks talk about how happy they are that they can work from home and how they don’t want to come back to campus. This view isn’t just sad, it is dangerous, and I am challenging the team to do something about it. Not on Zoom but something meaningful in person. I don’t care if we need to do it five people at a time, 45 feet apart in triple masks. It’s time to reconnect, fill our tanks and stop doing the same thing over and over again on Zoom (It’s like perpetual Groundhog Day).
I got a glimpse of a solution Friday when I had an impromptu meeting with a few students who stopped me to ask about Bitcoin. We talked for about 20 minutes, and it is the most fun I have had at work in months.