Hall of Fame 2014

On Thursday February 6, we inducted alums Rasesh Thakkar and Mayor Ken Bradley into the College of Business’ Hall of Fame in front of 500 guests. Below are my comments from the evening on why we hold this event:

So Why Do We Hold This Event? Universities are ultimately about hope. Parents and spouses struggle to devote the financial resources necessary for their loved ones to pursue a college degree in the hope that it will provide them with a better future. States support higher education in the hopes of building stronger, more vibrant economies. Donors support research and many educational activities in the hope of solving our most difficult problems and creating a better world.

As faculty and staff, we get few opportunities to see the end results of our efforts to build this better world. The natural cycle of university life brings us a fresh batch of 18 to 22 year olds every year who are searching for purpose, meaning, perspective and the skills that will lead to a career and a full life. After four or five years, they leave us with optimism in their career choice and confidence in their ability to compete with anyone, anywhere as we then turn our attention to preparing the next set of students for the next set of challenges.

But tonight we pause. We take time out from our busy schedules to note how far we have come in realizing the promise of higher education by recognizing those alumni who have gone on to impact our community and the business world in ways that remind us of the importance of what we do here and give us hope for the future of our great institution and the place we call home. In so doing, we also pay homage to the efforts of our long-time colleagues who played such an important role in shaping the lives of our alumni; people like Marilyn Hunt, Ken White, David Kloch, Bill Callerman, and Charles Lako, who we lost this year. It is through their many efforts that we and our honorees come to this place tonight.

Tonight also gives me the opportunity to talk to you about how we are building on the efforts of our long-time colleagues and all of you to fulfill the promise of hope for so many people and create a national footprint for our college.

The challenge today is three-fold. It is to give students the skills necessary to be market-ready day-one while also preparing them for the long-haul in an uncertain world increasingly characterized by multiple career changes. It is to create employers, not just employees. And it is to help develop a dynamic metropolitan community that will make us the destination of choice for people who have choices.

These challenges require that we build a college with a much more engaging culture. One that places itself at the crossroads of town and gown and welcomes people in. A place with the capacity to slay the BEAST, by bringing together people from business, engineering, applied sciences and technology in ways that will unleash the commercial potential of our ideas and solve our most pressing problems. This is not just rhetoric. It is happening now in the College of Business.

Let me introduce you to Lynn Becker and Lonnie Butcher. Lynn and Lonnie are heading up our effort to bring career coaching to all of our students through our new Professional Development Center. It is the goal of this new center to work in partnership area employers to improve the market-readiness of our students through a series of workshops, coaching sessions and activities designed to sharpen their career goals and implement a concrete plan to launch their career by landing the job of their choice BEFORE they leave college.

Where are Amit Joshi and Paul Gregg? Amit and Paul are co-chairing a committee of faculty, alumni, and friends of the college who are developing a new integrated business degree designed to meet the needs of the many small and medium sized companies that make up much of Central Florida’s economy. We anticipate that as many as half of our graduates will go to work for small and medium sized Florida enterprises going forward. Preparing students for this environment is critical to our region’s economic future and combined with our professional development center activities we will ensure that our region has the talent it needs to prosper.

But it isn’t just about creating employees. Could Dr. Cameron Ford please stand and be recognized. Cameron is Director of our Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the mastermind behind our Blackstone Launchpad. It is Cameron’s goal and the goal of the College to spread an entrepreneurial spirit across campus, slay that Beast I mentioned earlier and create more Central Florida businesses. I would encourage all of you to visit the bee hive of activity that is the Blackstone Launchpad. In less than six months of operation, it has assisted more than 350 student inspired ventures–more than any other university-based Launch pad has done in any year.

Cameron is not the only faculty member helping to slay the Beast. Where are Ron Michaels, Richard Hoefler and Carol Saunders? These three faculty have been collaborating with our colleagues in the College of Sciences to develop a new masters program in business analytics. Big data holds the promise of transforming how we do business and lead our lives and our College working in partnership with others intends to be at the forefront of these developments.

The ultimate goal of education isn’t knowledge, it is action. To change business and transform society we must unleash our ideas into the community. Let me introduce you to Robin Roberts from the Dixon School of Accounting. Robin is the College’s first Pegasus Professor, the highest award UCF gives to a faculty member. His work on corporate social responsibility is uncovering how some companies distort their environmental activities and is critical to policy-makers looking to improve corporate public disclosures. Robin was the inaugural speaker at our monthly citrus club talks…a place where we bring our most compelling ideas to the business community for discussion, debate and hopefully action.

Social responsibility and developing ethical business leaders is a major focus in our college. It is one of the key ways we fulfill the promise of higher education to build a better world. My last introduction of the night is Dr. Marshall Schminke. Marshall is the BB&T Professor of Business Ethics at UCF. He hosts an annual conference on behavioral ethics that attracts the leading minds in business ethics from around the country to speak at UCF. The event is an opportunity to showcase the College to the academic community at large, promulgate our ideas and expand our College’s reputation as a place for thought-leadership.

Through all of the activities done by all of the people I have introduced you to tonight, we are building an engaging culture that will attract people with choices… The kinds of people who are drawn to and will create the opportunities that will drive our local economy and fulfill our mission of hope.

In keeping with our culture, we chose tonight’s honorees because they continue to do much to make Orlando and UCF the destination of choice for people with choices. It is through our honorees vision, collaboration, risk-taking and engagement with the community they are helping us create a better Central Florida for all of us.

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