I need some inspiration

I’ve been writing this blog for about ten years now. I’ve never missed a week. Inspiration has been easy because I’ve been living the college experience along with my faculty and students everyday. Almost every blog post is based on something I’ve encountered in the prior week— a conversation I’ve had with a student, faculty member, alum, corporate partner, staff member or friend of the college.

The pandemic has limited access to my inspiration and I’m not sure that I have the same grip on the student experience as I do when I walk the crowded halls of BA-1 and BA-2. I could use a little inspiration. So if you have an interesting topic or take you would like to share, leave a comment to this post. If it catches my attention, it might lead to a zoom meeting and a blog post. Otherwise, I’m just going to have to keep coming up with stuff on my own that I think will help my readers think differently about the college experience and get more value out of your time with us.

Acta non verba

I admit that I have some unusual reading habits. Yesterday I was reading on article on the 100 Latin phrases everyone should know. Why you might ask? The article was making the argument that many great leaders throughout history studied Latin because the language succinctly states many great truths. One especially got my attention: Acta non verba.

It translates to “actions, not words.” It’s ancient wisdom on how to judge people, especially professionals. It’s how I judge my direct reports and it’s the simple philosophy behind our culture of engagement in the college. Being smart is over-rated. It’s not about what you know or how good you are with words, so much as it is about what you do. I know lots of people who are smarter than me who don’t accomplish much.

Nowhere is this truth more evident than in student appeals. Most of the appeals I get from students who have had an unsuccessful experience in the College come down to trying to explain to me why they didn’t do something they were expected to do because they thought it was unreasonable, unnecessary, too difficult or misunderstood. They think their words will substitute for their deeds in my evaluation of their situation. These appeals usually also fail to recognize that many other students successfully got that same job done. Not a winning hand.

Circumstances can sometimes conspire to derail even the best of actions, but when such circumstances seem to follow the same person over and over again it becomes pretty obvious where the problem lies. If you want to build a great reputation (what we call a personal brand these days), succeed in the college and go on to a successful career take a tip from the ancient Romans— acta non verba.

Bursting my bubble

Since June my work bubble has consisted of going into BA-1 everyday with Dr. Robb and half-day Hand. Day after day. Week after week. It has been a three person bubble. Mostly I’m in Zoom meetings where groups of people are planning for uncertain futures on a screen that resembles the Hollywood Squares. The only good news is that parking is plentiful. Campus is cavernously empty.

Then last week, my bubble got burst. I went to Jimmy Johns, got a sandwich and sat outside. Three bites in, a young student walked up out of the blue— a business student no less who recognized me. We chatted for a few minutes about how her study abroad trip had been postponed and how she was hoping campus would return to something like normal soon. She still had big plans and wanted to get on with them even though most of her classes were going to be online this fall. It was a welcomed reminder of why I signed up for this gig.

Universities lie at the crossroads of wisdom and youthful exuberance. They are places where twenty somethings can have spontaneous conversations with people their grandparents’ age and not feel weird about it. In the process everybody learns. This is incredibly difficult to recreate on such a mass scale anywhere else and it is one of the reasons why universities are so great.

Let’s hope we can restore all those chance conversations soon. My guess is that will take a university-trained research team working in the lab rather than a group of administrators on Zoom. That’s another thing that makes University’s great….

Prepare to Conquer the Fall

I have three youngsters in college. Two are rising juniors. One is just headed to college. If you’re like my wife and I, you probably have some questions about what life is going to look like on campus this fall. So, we’ve created a new resource for you. You can access it by clicking here. We think that once you’ve reviewed this material and see our commitment to providing an engaging experience for you, your son or daughter, you’ll be eager to start your journey with us this the fall.

If you’re returning to school, registered for classes before July 1 and haven’t checked your schedule, you should. Things may have changed. To understand why, click here.

Armor Up Knights. Prepare to conquer the fall.

A Pandemic Pivot

One of the most valuable qualities you can develop is an awareness for where things are heading.  Things are always changing.  If you can learn to anticipate where things are going, you can get ahead of the curve and take advantage of emerging opportunities.  That’s a much better place to be than behind the curve, where opportunities are dwindling and irrelevance awaits.  Many a failure story has been built on not seeing something coming.

Grant Smith, rising senior, current student ambassador and a former marketing intern of ours, is rethinking his career path in light of the coronavirus pandemic.  Initially Grant was planning on going into social media/digital marketing, but now he is shifting into market research.  

His analysis goes like this: the economic slowdown has put downward pressure on marketing budgets as companies struggle to survive. Firms are deferring campaigns and cutting their ad spend.  As budgets and staff shrink, the remaining  social media managers are being asked to take on too many responsibilities all within one role, such as crisis communications, graphic design, photography, and digital analytics while at the same time getting a lot more pressure to achieve company expectations in the digital space.  But COVID has also changed the way we shop. Larger companies still want data-driven decision making based on the  new purchasing patterns of their consumers as they transition to even more online orders and remote transactions. Couple this with the higher barriers to entry that come with acquiring data analytics skills, and Grant thinks this is the place to be.  So during quarantine, he invested his time to learn some programming languages and begin to gain the analytical skills necessary to work toward a career in market research and consumer insights.

Is he right? Is this a pandemic pivot that will pay off or is what he sees just a temporary change in the relative value of skillsets brought on by a COVID-induced downturn in the business cycle? I have written several times that analytic skills are only going to get more important in business in the future. I’m less sure about the future of social media managers. I’m sure Grant has done his homework, but if he hasn’t already done so, I’m sure there are a few of our marketing professors who have something to say about this. Consulting visiting practitioners in The EXCHANGE wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Not just social media managers, but perhaps more importantly, the people who hire them. The broader Grant’s network, the more likely he will find people who can help him see the future and make the right choice for him. Which brings me to my readers: any advice for Grant?

Your Friends Are Redundant

What follows is my most under-appreciated post. I run it almost every semester, and it gets fewer hits than I would hope. Given what is going on in the world today and the need to understand each other better, I wanted to post this again…

You have all heard the expression: “It is not just what you know, but who you know that matters.” Well, your friends don’t know much. OK, that is a little harsh. More precisely, your friends tend to know the same things and have the same experiences that you do. From an information acquisition perspective, they are redundant.

This tends to be the natural state of affairs because most people befriend people who are just like them. This makes life comfortable, but dull. If you want to have an exciting, challenging, highly successful life, you need to get out of your comfort zone and actively search out people who are different from you. You want to meet people who can expand your knowledge base, introduce you to new experiences and broaden your perspective. Be purposeful about this.

I have friends who study the structure of human interactions in the workplace and other settings. It is called social network analysis. They look at who knows who, who people go to when they need information or help and how the patterns of people’s interactions differ. It turns out that people with different types of social networks perform differently at work. In other words, who you know and who and what they know really do matter.

For example, managers with more dispersed networks—people who know more people from different parts of the organization, as well as many people outside the organization, get promoted more quickly and earn more money than managers who tend to only associate with people in their work group. And building a broad network with many casual friends whom you only interact with once in a while tends to be more valuable than focusing on building a network with more frequent interactions involving a close set of friends.

Why? Most innovation is stealing. New ideas are scarce, but many old ideas can be applied in new settings. Lots of innovation comes from taking something that was tried successfully in one setting and adapting it to another or from combining existing things in new ways. The more people you know in different settings, the more likely you are to discover something you can apply in your work. And the broader your social network, the more people who will see your genius in action and spread the word to others that you are a rising star. The result: promotion and higher pay.

So stop hanging out just with people from your high school or people who have the same major you do or who like the same music you do, and find some people who are as different from you as possible and get to know them. I would especially recommend that you get to know some international students—they have very different experiences and perspectives, many come from emerging markets and given globalization are people you are likely to be doing business with some day. Developing those contacts now could pay off big later.

Starting to Reopen Campus

Beginning today, employees will start returning to BA 1 and BA 2. Some may be asked to return full-time, but most will be given the option to return on a rotational basis to help preserve social distancing. We are not yet ready for students to return. If you are a student that needs assistance, please continue to reach out either by phone or electronically.

KEY POINTS FOR RETURN TO CAMPUS:

  • Before returning to campus please complete The Returning to Campus Operations Training Module in Webcourses.
  • You should also complete the COVID-19 Employee Self Questionnaire each day before returning to the office. It can be found by clicking here. (This questionnaire will be replaced by a phone app in the fall).
  • The direction from UCF is that if you can work remotely in an effective manner, continue to do so. Please speak with your supervisor for your individual weekly plan.
  • Within workspaces, no more than 30% of employees should be in the workspace at a given time. The 30% limit should be thought of as 30% of the employees in a space prior to depopulation.
  • Our return to campus is a phased approach with social distancing, mandatory masks in public spaces, and good hand hygiene in place.
  • Cloth face coverings began arriving this week and distribution is targeted to begin next week (please see below for more details on pickup locations)

Face Covering Distribution 

Cloth face coverings will be distributed at several locations on the main campus, with distribution stations coming to the UCF Downtown, Rosen, and Lake Nona campuses in the near future. UCF has ordered a face covering for each student and faculty and staff member, and they will be available for pickup throughout the summer and at the start of the fall semester. A valid UCF ID card is required to obtain a face covering, and individuals will be responsible for acquiring another face covering in the event the one provided by UCF is lost or damaged. Click for a map and listing of distribution locations here.

Things Are Still Very Fluid

While it’s encouraging to see the start of us reopening, keep in mind that the public health situation remains fluid. Orange County has responded to the increase in reported COVID cases with a mandatory mask order and UCF may have to pivot its reopening plan should conditions change. We will keep you posted.

Let’s Have a Real College Football Playoff this Year

Forget the regular season.  There are 130 Division 1 Football programs.  Rather than a regular season, let’s have a single elimination tournament just like in basketball.  Bottom 4 teams will need to have a play-in game (week 1).  After that, we can crown a national champion in just seven weeks.   Everybody is done before Thanksgiving. Might be a shorter timeline if everyone doesn’t play.  Divide up the revenues like is done in the NCAA Basketball tournament.  Done.   Big ratings. True National Champion.  Turns a complicated mess into something more manageable.  What do you think Danny?

We Need to Do Far More Than Know Their Names

Today’s guest post is by Dr. Richard Lapchick. If you don’t know who he is, you will by the end of this post.

I have been writing and speaking expressing my outrage after the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and so many more. Mesmerized and inspired by the huge protests and encouraged by the world of sport that I come from where athletes, coaches, teams and leagues have raised their voices against racism and hate.

Today Dean Jarley offered me his blog. My intent is to speak to my fellow faculty, administrators, students at UCF, and especially, in the College of Business and to students in and alumni of the DeVos Sports Business Management Graduate Program.

As some of you know, I have spent my life working in the area of civil rights. As a 15-year-old dreaming of playing in the NBA because my Dad is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, I went to a basketball camp where there were five other white guys and a black guy. One of the white guys railed the N-word against the black guy for the first three days until I challenged him. He knocked me out cold.

I define a leader as “someone who stands up for justice and doesn’t block its path.” I now realize that day in that camp was the first time I stood up for justice. The black guy was then known as Lew Alcindor and became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem has been a lifelong friend and even spoke at a UCF commencement in 2017. He asked me to speak when they unveiled his statue at the Staples Center. He taught Tacko Fall his Skyhook at my request. But on that day in 1961, he became for me a young urban African-American lens with which I could see what racism was doing in his community. I have tried to spend the rest of my life fighting against racism.

In 1978, I was a professor of Political Science at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk. I was the American leader of the sports boycott of apartheid South Africa. After leading protest demonstrations for four days in Tennessee, I was working late in my office when two men wearing stocking masks attacked me. They caused liver and kidney damage, a hernia, a concussion and used scissors to carve the “N-word” on my stomach.

Some people suggested, “Now you know what it’s like to be Black.” I told them, “I really don’t know because I can walk away from the fight against racism and re-join the white middle-class. I will never face the daily discrimination that confronts people of color every day.” No matter how empathetic we may be, and how engaged we may be with trying to be part of the solution, we can never totally understand what it is like.

As we watch demonstrators chant about police brutality and see incident after incident on television and in social media, it is easy to understand the rage. I share it. But I worry that we lose perspective that racism affects every aspect of our lives in America and around the globe.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are more than 1,000 hate groups in the United States. There were 600 when Barak Obama was elected. White nationalist groups have grown by 55 percent in the Trump era. Some of our children are learning how to hate.

According to the FBI there were 4,571 incidents classified as hate crimes in 2019. One in two is actually reported.

The Forbes list of the hundred wealthiest Americans have more aggregate wealth than all 42 million African-Americans combined, according to the Institute for Policy Studies.

If you are in the bottom 10 percent of male wage earners, your life expectancy is 14 years less than if you are in the top 10 percent (73.6 years vs. 87.2 years). If you are affluent, you will live 14 years longer than if you were a low income worker.

Black infants die at a rate more than twice that of white babies.

The CDC reports that the Black maternal mortality rate is double that of whites.

The high school drop out rate in urban America is 40percent.

The United States has five percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Those we incarcerate are disproportionately Black or brown and have mostly committed minor drug offenses that soon will not be on the law books.

While the COVID-19 virus has kept us physically apart from our students, I have regular conversations via zoom with our students one on one and collectively. I am inspired that our African-American students are sharing stories of their lives and helping our white students better understand and appreciate what it means to be Black or a person of color. There are 250 graduate programs in sports business management now. Ours is the only one that emphasizes diversity and inclusion and using the power of sport to affect positive social change. The Orlando Magic have been a great model for that in Central Florida. The DeVos students are seizing this time. They are actively trying to do their part to make sure this protest is different and change will come because the movement could be sustained.

Most represent Generation Z. I also hear from many alumni who are Millennials. I believe these generations are more compassionate, passionate and committed to social justice than older generations. They have tools that can serve justice, such as smart phones to capture historic moments of racism that cannot be denied by the police or authorities. They have social media to spread the word.

They are being joined by a chorus of professional and student-athletes, coaches, teams and leagues that are taking stands against racism. On Friday, the Jacksonville Jaguars became the first professional team to go as an entire team and organization to protest when they marched to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Headquarters. On Saturday, more than 70 players, coaches and other staff personnel from the Denver Broncos joined a Black Lives Matter protest. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), part of the DeVos Program, does an average of 10 reports a year on issues of race and gender in sport. TIDES has been compiling a preliminary list of actions by athletes, coaches, teams and leagues. As of Sunday morning, there were 171 entries. When the DeVos students enter the sports world, they will find a lot of allies. One of them is DeVos alum Brian Wright who is the General Manager of the San Antonio Spurs. Brian was inducted into the UCF College of Business Hall of Fame a few months ago. On Tuesday,I had an hour Zoom meeting with Brian and RC Buford, the Spurs CEO. The discussion was about how the Spurs could better fight against racism in San Antonio.

I wrote an Op Ed in Sunday’s Orlando Sentinel. I ended on a hopeful note that I believe we may have reached a moment when we can bring about change that creates a new justice system. Some call it a “broken system” now, but I think that it was designed throughout our history to produce exactly the situation we live in today regarding race. We must smash that system that has resulted in us getting to know the names of people only because they have been murdered. If we do, their lives will not have been lost in vain and they will look down on us and smile on a truly egalitarian America.

Richard Lapchick is a human-rights activist, pioneer for racial equality and an internationally recognized expert in the field of race and gender issues in sport. He is director of UCF’s DeVos Sport Business Management Program in the College of Business Administration, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, and president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice. He was inducted into the Commonwealth Nations Sport Hall of Fame in the category of “Humanitarian” along with Arthur Ashe and Nelson Mandela.