Three Questions

When I interviewed at UCF, I talked about how I would start the job by making an effort to meet everyone one-on-one and ask three simple questions:

1. Give me your perspective on UCF and the COB?

2. What would you do if you were me?

3. What do you see as your role here?

Thirty minute conversations begin next Monday. See you then.

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My Wish for LBS

No, it is not Christmas in June.  This is my last week at UNLV and I have been reflecting on my time here: what I thought went well, what I might do differently at UCF, and what I would like to see the next Dean of LBS achieve.  LBS has been my baby for the last five years. I want to see it thrive in the future.

For those of you who have heard me speak or are regular blog readers, you might think my wish for LBS would involve a new business model for Nevada higher education, a more radical revision of the MBA curriculum, or a more engaged undergraduate student body.  You would be wrong.

Nothing has driven me more crazy in my time here than our missed opportunities or hesitant efforts to collectively celebrate achievement, whether it be students admitted into upper division, graduation from the EMBA program, our victories in the Governor’s Cup or award winning teaching or research by faculty, to name just a few.  Don’t get me wrong, such successes are acknowledged: they are featured on our website, congratulatory emails are frequently sent by faculty, and on occasion we even serve cake. But rarely (the Nevada Business Hall of Fame being the biggest exception) do we create the kind of ceremony and ritual that adequately underscores the significance of the achievement to the life of the individual or the reputation of the school.  Frankly, I have walked out of too many LBS events thinking “that just didn’t look or feel right”.  There was even an event not too long ago where I felt obligated to remind attendees that this was a celebration and not a funeral.

Rituals and ceremonies are a collective expression of our identity and what we value.  Without them, we have a diminished sense of who we are.  If we are ambivalent about who we are, it is difficult to identify what should be celebrated and how.  I’ll know that LBS has arrived when it learns how to celebrate its success in a way that affirms a collective identity and set of values.   This is something I plan to make more of a focus at UCF, and it is my wish for LBS.

Wanted: Accounting Ph.D.s

If you are an employer, the job market for people with Ph.D.’s in Accounting is brutal.  Only a few programs graduate students and with an aging accounting faculty, the number of job openings far out-strips the supply of qualified candidates.   Salaries are rising rapidly and people unhappy at one institution can easily move to another.

To give you a sense of this: for the last two years we have tried to fill two faculty positions in accounting.  After interviewing nine people for those two positions and making several offers, we landed just one person (she is graduating from UCF by the way).  In the meantime, we had one accounting faculty member take a job at another university and had to offer big pay raises to two others just to keep them.  So after all that work, we are right back where we started:  still looking for two hires in Accounting!   And in case you think this is happening because we are cheap:  We now have assistant professors in accounting making more than the vast majority of our full professors in other departments. Think a total compensation package for brand new professors of $200K per year.

I know you accounting students tend to be more practically oriented than intellectually curious.  This is one of the reasons it is so hard to attract sufficient numbers of accounting students to pursue a Ph.D.  But research, particularly accounting research can be of great practical importance and a career in the academy can give you a combination of pay and autonomy that few other professions can match.

So if you don’t want to be a slave to the billable hour or give up your Friday nights to count inventory in some small town as you work your way up the bottom rungs of the professional ladder, consider continuing on to get your Ph.D.  You get better hours, high pay, the opportunity to influence the lives of your students, and the chance to do research that just might change how people do business.  It doesn’t really get any better than this.

Is more always better? Sometimes only better is better – Seth Godin

Jonathan Gabriel, my Information Specialist at UCF passed on a copy of Pegasus Magazine to me the other day.  The story that caught my eye was on UCF’s size and whether “bigger is better”.  It drew my interest in large part because we have been having the same conversations here at UNLV and especially about the Lee Business School.

The crux of the Pegasus story is that being big provides students with a wide array of opportunities and is a consequence of a drive to improve access and student success.  I have no qualms with that line of reasoning, but as Seth Godin wrote in his blog this week, more isn’t always better, “sometimes only better is better.”

Let’s agree that people flock to excellence. Take a look at the other schools in the top ten list of big universities: Arizona State, Ohio State, Minnesota, Texas, Texas AM, Florida, Michigan State, Penn State, Indiana—for the most part big schools in big states with academic reputations that UCF and UNLV envy.

Let’s also agree that while big gets you noticed, admiration comes from getting noticed for the right things. These include distinctiveness, transformational experiences and achievement.  The colleges and universities that will thrive in the coming decades, those that will attract the best students, faculty and resources, will be those that have made a conscious effort to differentiate themselves in the marketplace by communicating and delivering a unique value proposition that capitalizes on institutional assets that are difficult for others to emulate.

If UCF and its College of Business or UNLV and LBS want to move from big to great, these young institutions will have to define and implement a strategy that provides a distinctive value proposition.  This means they will have to identify the type of people they want to attract, how they will change them while they are here, and how these changes will advantage those that come into contact with university in the marketplace and life.  This also requires that an institution know what they are not and that they cannot be all things to all people. From my perspective I will know we have made real progress when after listening to the goals and aspirations of a great person considering joining us, we respond “well then I guess UCF isn’t for you….that’s not what we do here…you might consider school “X”….It was great to meet you, good luck.

And, I’ll bet if we execute this strategy and become better in distinctive ways, we will be plenty big.