Taking time to Remember

To my Uncle Walter and Uncle Lawrence who served on the Yorktown during the Battle of Midway,

And my Uncle Morse who was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge,

To my cousin Clayton who served in the 82nd Airborne,

And his brother Gary who was killed in action during the Tet Offensive,

To all the UCF alums and students who have stood in harms way,

Thank You.


Looking for An Evening MBA Program?

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at the Citrus Club about why parents should send their kid to business school and how to choose one. It was a presentation focused on undergraduate education. But spring is also a time when many people consider returning to school to pursue their MBA. About sixty percent of applications to our Evening MBA program come in between now and the deadline in August. A few thought..

Most people thinking of doing something these days, google it. So you google “MBA Rankings” and start looking for a top-ranked school in a good location at an affordable price. The rankings are a good place to start. Programs that score high deliver on their promises to students (and employers) and help graduates achieve their career goals. But realize that different programs make different promises to students. They attract different people hoping to get different things out of their MBA experience.

Most obvious is the difference between full-time and part-time programs. Part-time, evening or working professional programs as they are sometimes called, appeal to students that have great demands on their time and are looking for an efficient vehicle for gaining the credentials they need to move up in their current firm, change jobs or start a new career. These students tend to favor practitioner-oriented programs that play to their work experience and stress immediate relevancy over the development of a deeper perspective based on a rigorous conceptual approach. Some of these students will choose an on-line option because they are drawn to the combination of convenience and efficiency offered by such programs. That combination comes at a price–less interaction with faculty and peers and a much higher price tag. In contrast, full-time students are making a much bigger commitment of time and lost wages and are typically looking for a more immersive experience that will up-grade their conceptual abilities and produce results over a longer time horizon.

You can see these differences in the rankings. The top of Business Week’s full-time program rankings is a list of elite schools presented largely in the order you would expect. Academic prowess and reputation rank supreme. The part-time rankings, on the other hand, offer several surprises. The number one program in 2012 Elon has students with very average GMAT scores and almost ten years of work experience taught in very small sections. Number three, Carnegie Mellon has students with half the work experience of Elon, who are taught largely by non-tenure track faculty (i.e. practitioners) in much larger class sizes.

But other differences matter too. MBA programs don’t have a commonly-defined set of pre-requisite experiences, required undergraduate majors, or selection criteria. The general applicability of the degree (MBAs are employed everywhere) attracts a broad range of students with a wide range of interests, talents, and aspirations. Some MBA students hope to start their own business or work for a small firm. They are likely to be drawn to more generalist programs, that stress entrepreneurship, strategy and a comprehensive view of business. Other prospective MBAs are looking to move up in the corporate world. They tend to have strong technical skills in engineering, finance, or the sciences and are looking to augment those talents with managerial skills. Still others want to change careers. They may be liberal arts majors with creativity and strong communication skills who have never taken a business course in their lives and are looking to improve their data-driven decision-making abilities in one or more functional areas of business.

And then there is the fifth year business school “senior” who simply can’t leave the fraternity house and thinks an MBA might be the best way to stick around for another year or two. Unless you too want to join the unambitious, run from programs who admit these students. If you are a fifth year senior go get five years of experience before enrolling in an MBA program. If you won’t listen to that advice, at least go to a different institution from the one where you got your undergraduate degree. Otherwise, you are likely to hear many of the same professors share the same insights with you that they did when you were an undergraduate. It’s not like they were keeping secrets from you until you became a graduate student under the belief that “you couldn’t handle the truth.” Yes, they will offer you material in a more sophisticated manner, but the difference is rarely enough to justify you going to that same institution immediately upon graduation.

The bottom line is this: Your MBA experience will be heavily influenced by the students around you. Be wary of programs that claim they can be all things to all people. Diversity in students’ industry backgrounds, types of work experience and cultural perspective are big plusses. Diversity in student expectations about program goals, approaches, and outcomes tends to breed dissatisfaction and dissent. Look for a program that has a strong sense of itself, the type of student it wants to attract, and what it is trying to accomplish. Take the time to dig deep and ensure you are joining a program that draws the kinds of people you want to be around and compete with both today in class and tomorrow in the business world.

Throwing out the First Pitch

My love of baseball is well known throughout the college. If you’ve been in my office or attended some of my events, you know what I’m talking about. I have used baseball to illustrate the narrow edge that distinguishes greatness from failure, to challenge our community to “take the ball” and get to know us, to recognize the achievements of our faculty and staff at our Dean’s Awards event and to get alumni to come out to learn more about what we are doing. I literally threw out the first pitch at a Fort Meyers Miracle game a couple of weeks ago and will do it again on May 29th at a Jacksonville Suns game. These are from the mound people…the full sixty feet-six inches; none of this throwing from the infield grass stuff. If you are going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.

Throwing out a first pitch is tough. You are out of your comfort zone. The attention is focused on you and people expect you to mess up…most people do. They bounce the ball well in front of the plate or throw it over the catchers head. So, if you surprise them with a strike right down the middle of the plate, you are rewarded with the audience’s respect and admiration. The secret to success of course is to make that pitch the first one the crowd sees, not the first one you throw. Reading about how to throw that first pitch strike isn’t really that helpful..it requires some bullpen work.

If you are one of my young Knights who graduated last week and are still trying to throw that first pitch for a strike, I would suggest some bullpen work before that next interview. If you didn’t get in those bullpen tosses before you left school, what makes you think you are going to throw strikes now?

Tiffany Hughes

Last week I attended the Orlando Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business” Awards Banquet. Many accomplished women were in attendance, but there was only one reason to go and eat yet another chicken dinner: Tiffany Hughes.

Tiffany is formally our Director of Community and Corporate Engagement. More accurately, she is our Chief Excitement Officer, expert networker, therapist, event planner, corporate shakedown artist, advisor to our ambassadors, confidant of our donors, and always the smartest person in the room. Tiffany never sleeps and wouldn’t be caught dead without a name tag. She is a disciple of Helen Donegan (mentors matter) and always has a smile on her face and a can of “Big Sexy Hair” in her seemingly bottomless purse.

By all accounts, our friends at the OBJ were the last to figure out that Tiffany Hughes is “a woman to watch”–their designation for up-and-comers. The rest of us figured that out the first time we met her. All you need to know is that wherever I go, the first question I get asked when I enter a room is “Where’s Tiffany?” Disappointment and shock that I am sometimes left on my own follows. I understand. There is no one quite like Tiffany Hughes.

Today, I am welcoming a group of young girls to the College. They have likely never set foot on a university campus and are here to attend a “Girls Going Places Conference.” I will tell them what I tell all students: to look for ways to sit on logs and have conversations with people who have interesting things to say and can help shape their perspective on the world. I will then ask them to form a line and to take a few minutes each to talk with Tiffany: Teaching is not reserved solely for professors even in universities.

On a more personal note…….To Nikki and Maddie: I know we take up a great deal of your mom’s time, way more than we should really. I also know that at your ages, it is hard to imagine that your mother is way cool. I am sorry that I didn’t insist on having you attend the OBJ dinner. You really should have been there to see the huge amount of admiration and adoration people from all over Central Florida have for your mom. She is a remarkable woman who teaches us all something every day. Do like the rest of us and learn from her. In a few short years, people will be asking your boss where you are when they enter a room alone.