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!

Who won our Failure Competition?

Our Poll Closes at 5 pm.  Good Luck contestants…