I’m sitting at home with the family. The presents have been unwrapped. The big holiday movie openings have been attended. My mind is turning toward 2014. When you work in academia, the holidays don’t mark the end or beginning of the year. They are more like baseball’s All Star break: a time to assess the year to date and think about how you are going to approach the second half of the season. What follows is a list of ten predictions for UCF for 2014. It is a combination of my “to do” list and things I think are reasonably likely to happen.
1. UCF and USF will be asked to join the Big 12: There is a strong business case for this move. Lots of television sets, a presence in football rich Florida, an emerging rivalry between programs on the rise and restoration of the Big 12 championship game give the Big 12 ample incentives to make this happen. A competitive game with Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl would make UCF hard to resist. For UCF and USF, it means they have arrived and can bring opponents to Central Florida that don’t regularly visit Tallahassee, Gainesville, or Miami.
2. It will be a banner year for UCF Accounting and Finance Graduates: The economy will continue to improve in 2014. With transactions up, firms looking to expand and Verizon causing a lot of movement in the local marketplace, it is a very good time to graduate with a degree in accounting or finance. I expect both the number and terms of offers in these areas to be very strong.
3. The College will welcome ten new faculty in the Fall: With the academic job market improving and an inability to match offers, I fear we are going to lose several faculty this year. Combine this with our own aggressive hiring plan and I expect we will have at least ten new faculty starting in the fall. Unfortunately, the net increase in faculty may prove to be very small, but we will have lots of new faces to welcome to UCF and new faces bring with them a sense of renewed energy.
4. Transfers from the community college system to UCF will start to Decline: A better economy will start to generate an expanding job market. Better employment opportunities will fuel a rise in labor force participation rates. More graduates with Associate’s degrees will choose better work opportunities over pursuing a degree at UCF. Competition from state colleges will also cut into UCF transfers. It may be 2015 or 2016 before we start to see the full impact of this, but change is coming.
5. The College will create a degree designed for people working in small or medium Enterprises: Almost half of all Central Florida employees work in places with less than 250 coworkers. And data from LinkedIn tells me that over half of our alumni stay in and around Orlando. With job growth concentrated in small firms and a desire by many students to stay in the area, a degree that prepares people to work in such environments meets both employer needs and student’s locational preferences. This will require that we graduate a set of students with a broader portfolio of business skills. The new major could be a no important differentiator for the college and give these students an advantage in the marketplace.
6. The UCF Blackstone Launchpad will set the record for serving student Entrepreneurs: There are five Launchpads around the country. In our first month of operation, we had met with about two-thirds as many student entrepreneurs as the reigning record holder did in a year. Simply put, we will blow the current annual record out of the water by fulfilling our mission to bring a spirit of entrepreneurship to the entire campus. The challenge will be to turn out more businesses than any other Launchpad. Imagine if UCF were not only near the top in patents, but in new business start-ups by students as well: The blueprint for the next generation university and business school, I think.
7. The vote total in the next round of Our Failure Competition, will exceed one Thousand: This Spring will bring the third edition of our failure competition, a contest among seniors to discuss a failure they have experienced, how it changed them, and what others can learn from the experience. An exercise in the power of risk-taking and resiliency, this semester’s contest will include videos from the finalists, prize money and voting by UCF alums.
8. A second College of Business faculty member will become a Pegasus Professor: Dr. Robin Roberts became the College’s first Pegasus Professor last year. With such a strong roster of senior faculty, many who are recognized leaders in their field, there are plenty of reasons to expect another Pegasus Professor in our ranks this year.
9. A Masters a program in a “Big Data”: Companies have so much data and so few people who know how to make sense of it that the demand for people with “Big Data” skills will continue to sky-rocket. Working with our colleagues in statistics, look for us to offer a Big Data track in our Professional Masters in Science Program in Fall of 2014.
10. Lines at the testing center during finals will Disappear: We are going to save procrastinators from themselves and balance the testing Center’s workload. Either all tests will be by reservation only via the COBA pass or students will be assigned a specific time for each test like the good old days.
11. Something I haven’t predicted will impact us in an important Way: This is just the reality of our world. Things change. You have to stay both humble and flexible.