Hall of Fame 2015

Our 2015 College of Business Administration took place last Thursday night.  Almost 700 people were in attendance.  For those of you who missed the event, my comments before the gathering are provided below:

Good Evening Everyone.

I want to take a few minutes tonight to explain why we have a Delorean in the back of the room.

When Kelly or Tara and I are on the road meeting with alums, especially FTUers, the conversation invariably turns to a discussion of how accessible the faculty were to students and how their personal interactions with a professor left a lasting impression. We hear many stories about how Marilynn Hunt molded young minds to think like an accountant. How Bill Callarman opened his home and shared his wisdom. And how Ken White taught people who feared numbers the beauty of statistics. Perhaps the most touching moment I have had at UCF was when Hall of Fame member, former head of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors and current Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard said this about Dr. White during a lecture sponsored by another Hall of Fame member Andy Titen and his wife Gail: “It is a great thrill to have Dr. White in the audience for my talk today. He made economics come alive for me and I owe much of what I have become to the help he gave me here at UCF many years ago. Thank you.”

Marilynn couldn’t join us this evening, but both Dr. White and Dr.Callarman are here tonight. I ask that they stand and be recognized.

Comments like this from alumni do not surprise me. If you ask any faculty member: “Whose student are you?“, they identify a professor or two who encouraged them, gave them a different perspective on the world, taught them how to ask good questions and instilled in them the qualities to succeed in life as well as their careers. And it is the goal of every faculty member I know to create this relationship with their students—to have disciples who have learned from the power of their insights, leave UCF changed for the better and go to into the world to put those ideas into action.

To give you a sense of how we are accomplishing this today, I asked some of our current students, this very same question: “Whose student are you?” I want to share some of their answers with you tonight.

Let me introduce you to Dr. Carolyn Massiah and her student Dwayne Houston. Among Dwayne’s many honors, he is on the president leadership council and is headed for a career at Proctor and Gamble. When he talks about being Dr. Massiah’s student he says this:

            “Over the past 2 years Dr. Massiah has fed into my life academically, professionally, and personally. Having the opportunity to do research with Dr. Massiah taught me how to think outside of the box by turning data into innovation. That lesson laid the foundation for me to succeed in my professional endeavors at JC Penney and Proctor & Gamble. Professionally, Dr. Massiah has helped prepare me for the future, walking me through how to successfully obtain my MBA and corporate success. She has polished me as a student while always making sure I met the right people at the right time.

It’s not often that you meet a person who genuinely has your best interest at heart, but Dr. Massiah is that person for me. Not only is she my mentor, she is a friend and role model. In the moments where I felt overwhelmed, her graceful words would calm me. In my moments of joy, she would smile and rejoice with me. Her actions have taught me how to greet life with a smile while facing my fears with a courageous heart. Her uplifting interactions with other students taught me how to sincerely care for others. I truly believe that I am a better person because of my time spent with Dr. Massiah and I am thankful for our relationship.”

I can tell you that Dwayne’s words capture the very essence of Carolyn and demonstrate that he truly is her student. I had the humbling experience a year ago to watch a video of Dr. Massiah give a lecture just before she underwent chemo treatments. She taught her 1600 students a lot that day. We are so lucky to have her. Thank you Dwayne and Carolyn for being here tonight.

Where are Dr. Steve Sutton and his student Irina Malaescu? Irina is about to become one of us. She is a Ph.D. Student in the Dixon School. She writes about her mentor, Dr. Sutton:

“One of the pivotal moments in my life and my career happened 5 years ago, when I was first introduced to Dr. Steve Sutton at the Accounting Information Systems conference in Tampa. Meeting him was intimidating – I was just a Masters student and he was one of the most renowned figures in Accounting Information Systems… The following year, I was admitted into the PhD program at UCF and he agreed to be my mentor, my supporter, and my role model.

Steve has taught me to look at the broader picture when starting a research project and has encouraged me to establish my own writing style. He has spent endless hours reading research papers and providing excellent suggestions for improvement. At the same he has empowered me to be in control of the final product and, ultimately, to walk along my own individual pathway.

During my first presentation in the doctoral program, I was a nervous wreck: tired, stressed and, extremely insecure. Steve spent countless hours coaching me and building up my confidence to teach me how to deliver an effective presentation of my research in an academic setting. Since then, I have stepped in front of more than a dozen national and international audiences presenting my own research and discussing that of others.

Dr. Sutton is kind and thoughtful, seeing potential where others see failure. He has been my cheerleader in my darkest hours, never giving up on me and always maintaining his confidence in my abilities to succeed. As a future assistant professor, I have learnt many skills from Steve that will guide me on how to be a generous mentor and colleague. It is an honor to have Dr. Steve Sutton as my academic mentor and I can only strive to be worthy of the investment that he has made in me.”

From what I hear, you will make Steve proud Irina, just like he makes all of us proud here at UCF. Thanks to both of you for joining us this evening.

Mateo Rosales tells a similar story about his mentor, Dr. Melissa Frye. Where are they seated in the audience? Mateo writes:

“Rarely do you find a professor that has such a large impact on a person’s life. For me, Dr. Frye epitomizes everything a mentor is, and more. Early on, she helped me gain perspective on the corporate finance field through her class and life experiences. I really got to know Dr. Frye during test week, when I stopped by her office. I found how easy it was to relate to her and talk to her about my future goals. From then on I knew that Dr. Frye was more than a professor, but a mentor as well. I could go to her for anything I need, let that be advice, career guidance, or just a person to talk to. The mentorship didn’t stop when I finished her class. When I was presented with different job opportunities and no true guidance on where to go, I emailed her asking for help with a cover letter. Little did I know that meeting with her pushed me to not only apply to that one opportunity, but a few more that I had wrote off because I didn’t think I was qualified for those positions. Dr. Frye pushed me to reach my potential by telling me the way to succeed is to take risk and go outside of my comfort zone. As my time at UCF comes to an end, I will always remember Dr. Frye as a professor that pushed me to reach my high goals, to persevere to be my best and not let small things come in the way of my progress. I can’t be thankful enough for her help and guidance.”

To all the students in the room: It is shocking what happens when you show up for office hours with something other than a question about what will be on the exam. When you have the chance sit down with someone like Dr. Frye and pick her brain for free, you take that opportunity. You never know where the conversation will lead. Good luck on your new job Mateo, I know Dr. Frye has given you the skills and confidence to compete with anyone. Thank you both for joining us tonight.

Knowing what it takes to compete, is also at the heart of a story told by Alia Staples, the student of Dr. Sam Dahger. Alia, couldn’t be with us tonight. She is too busy running her business in Northern Virginia, but she took the time to write about Professor Dagher. Sam, is seated with his colleagues in the Department of Management. Sam? Alia writes….

“I had the honor of being a student of Dr. Dagher’s during the last two semesters of my MBA program at UCF. By this point of the program, I had a clear vision of a business I wanted to open after I was done with my MBA. I had become disenchanted with corporate America and wanted to open my own Pilates studio. I got the training, I was teaching Pilates full time, and my passion for the industry was there. But my business plan needed polishing and I wanted some guidance from a seasoned professional. I was lucky enough to take Dr. Dagher’s Capstone and Leadership courses. Both were invaluable in teaching me how to analyze external and internal factors that contribute to a business’ success, and leadership skills that are critical to managing a small business.

On several occasions, I made appointments to meet with Dr. Dagher in his office to share my business plan with him and receive his feedback and ideas. I found him thoughtful and thorough in his suggestions for improvement. I was thankful that he took time out of his schedule to review and discuss a personal pursuit of mine and will always be thankful for his perspective. His mentorship allowed me to feel more confident to start executing my plan, search for a commercial space to call my own, and make my dream become a reality.

Exactly one year after I graduated from UCF, I opened the doors of The Pilates Loft in Arlington, Virginia. It is the second location of an existing studio brand that originated in Orlando, Florida. We have been open for one month, the studio is full of clients, and every projection set in my business plan is being met or exceeded. I have no doubt that my UCF MBA and Dr. Dagher’s contributions to my education are a huge part of this success. GO KNIGHTS!”

Well done Sam. It’s always nice to be a part of helping someone realize their dream.

And finally in the spirit of Dr. White and his student Glenn Hubbard, we have Dr. Richard Hofler and his student Brach Champion. Where are they? Brach writes……

“Dr. Hofler has been a huge influence in my life personally, professionally, and academically. He first sparked an interest in my chosen field, econometrics, when I took his class on the same subject. Dr. Hofler’s passion for econometrics was evident from the first day, and it impacted my thinking greatly. When I began to get involved in undergraduate research, he was the first person I thought of as a potential mentor. His answer was a resounding yes and from there his influence in my life increased exponentially.

Since working with Dr. Hofler, I have decided to pursue a doctorate degree in economics, and a career in econometrics. Without his influence I would not have known the importance of a Ph.D. or the possibility of making a successful career in econometrics. Having Dr. Hofler as a mentor has exposed me to the exciting world of academic research and the opportunities within it. I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today without Dr. Hofler’s influence in my life.”    

I have returned to where I started with my stories: Much has changed in the time between when Dr. White inspired a young Glenn and Dr. Hoefler lit a fire under his student Brach: Computers, the internet, distance learning, and smart phones to name just a few. Yet even in this age where information is free, faculty remain the most important part of the education process after the students themselves. And this is why President Hitt’s goal of adding 100 new faculty to UCF each year for three years is so important. Each of these new faculty will create hundreds of opportunities for students to have those one-on-one conversations that will give them a different perspective, challenge them to get out of their comfort zone, and differentiate them in the world. This is how we make a very large school small, provide more of the same opportunities those FTUers had, and in the process, take UCF and the College of Business Back to the Future.

For those of you who don’t know, this is the 30th Anniversary of the movie: Back to the Future. When Marty goes forward in time, he goes to 2015. Marty had a person who had a huge impact on his life …Doc and used the lessons he learned from Doc to change the course of his life and redefine his future.   And so we have a Delorean in the back of the room tonight as a symbol of our effort to build a culture of engagement where every student has the opportunity to find their Doc and carry their professor’s insights with them as they create their future.

As alums and friends of the College, I invite all of you to take the time to become a student’s Doc. Our Hall of Famers in attendance tonight have already accepted this challenge by agreeing to sit with a student who earned an invitation to this event by convincing me they had three good questions to ask one of our most accomplished alumni. Those conversations are well underway and you too can share your perspective with a student by becoming part of our mentor network or joining us for one of our alumni career panels. Just take out your smartphone, get on LInkedIN and join the group #UCFBUSINESS. (This is 2015 people, got to connect like our students do.) We will be in touch.

As the boss likes to say “we have come to that happy time in the program” where we recognize the accomplishments of our alums and induct three new members into the Hall of Fame. I look forward to hearing them tell us “whose student they are” as they provide us inspiration to continue our work to prepare students for the future that lies ahead.

Grant, I return the program to you…

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