Where is UCF?

I spent part of last week in Atlanta visiting with alums and donors while recruiting a new member to my Dean’s Advisory Board. Everyone I met asked essentially the same question: Where is UCF? Why don’t I see UCF recruiting students in our schools? Why don’t I see UCF alums in my company? Why don’t I see a visible UCF alumni presence in our community? Not the “Where’s UCF?” question we are used to hearing, but this version of the question, like its “in Orlando” cousin, touch on our awareness challenge.

Part of the issue is that UCF is young and just reaching the national stage. Building visibility takes time. Part of the issue is that most of our students love the state of Florida and want to stay here. Expanding young Knights’ horizons, many of whom are first generation college students, also takes time. That said, “Where is UCF?” is a valid question that comes from a reasonable expectation that the second largest university in the nation should cast a very large shadow across the country. Our national presence should not be left to chance. We need a coordinated strategy.

Developing such a strategy has preoccupied my mind since returning from Georgia. I don’t have all the answers, but I am tempted to start by taking a page out of the DeVos program’s play book and adding a wrinkle of my own (yes students I’m making another sports analogy) . Today, the DeVos students are in Chicago. They are traveling to explore opportunities in sports management and marketing, meet with high level people at key companies and network with alums. Think of it as DeVos invades Chicago. I would like to do something similar with groups of UCF College of Business students in selected cities where we have a reasonable concentration of alums (e.g., Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle) who could help. “host” the event. My twist: I want students to spend a day working with UCF admissions staff visiting schools and recruiting high school students to campus.

Yes, budget is a challenge. But as a sign in my office says: We haven’t the money so we’ve got to think. The other reason we should think is that the potential benefits of this strategy are huge: (1) it would be a good way to expand students’ horizons by showing them life outside Florida; (2) the travel opportunities could be structured as rewards for student behaviors we wish to promote; (3) we could attract more high achieving students to the college; (4) the opportunity to network with current UCF students could mobilize the alumni base and serve as the basis for “UCF Days” in the companies we visit; and (5) all of this concentrated effort should raise our visibility in these cities and across America as a whole.

I am going to ask my Dean’s Advisory Board at our next meeting to take on this challenge and help us develop, fund and implement a plan to increase the College’s visibility in large metropolitan areas across America. My idea is just a starting point for that conversation. Kelly and I have spent a great deal of time over the last year building the national scope of the board. It’s time to put them to work.

The answer to the “Where’s UCF” question needs to be “Everywhere.”

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