Admission into the Majors

Last week, I wrote about all the hard conversations that went on in the Office of Professional Development over the past couple of weeks and promised to show you data on how students got into each major in the college. To give you a sense of the workload, the Office of Professional Development staff saw 1172 students in the ten work days between January 4 and January 15.  They also processed 571 requests for admission into the majors.  Busy times indeed.

The table below reports the number of students who successfully petitioned into each major as well as the percent of applications approved for each major.  The majors are sorted into two groups: (1) The Technical Majors that require at least a 3.0 overall  gpa in the Primary Core as well as a “B” or better in the Primary Core course associated with their major of choice and (2) the Generalist Majors that require at least an overall  2.0 gpa in the Primary Core.  In the case of Economics and Real Estate successful admission into the major also required a “C” or better in Quant II or Finance 3403 respectively.



There are a number of ways to look at the data, but the most important information is the number of students that successfully applied into a major. Three hundred and twelve students did so.  Just over sixty percent (188 students) entered one of the four technical majors, with the largest number entering Finance.  One hundred and twenty four students entered one of the generalist majors with Integrated Business being the most popular.

The table also reports that 45.4% (100% -54.6%) of all petitions weren’t approved. Why didn’t all the student applications succeed? The answer is that a good number of students either don’t fully understand the new requirements (you can get help by clicking here) or hope we will admit them into their first major of choice anyway.  Most of the failed applications (168 or 65% of the total) were made by students who hadn’t completed either the common course pre-requisites or the entire Primary Core. In short, they applied too soon.  That said, many of these early applicants have partially completed the Primary Core and their grades to date suggest they have an uphill battle to gain admission into the major of their choice.  The remaining 91 failed applications (35% of the total) were made by students who had completed all the necessary courses but didn’t meet the entry requirements for their major of choice.  A good many of these students had a “B” or better in the course associated with their preferred major, but failed to meet the overall Primary Core gpa requirement.  These students had to choose another major or retake a course and apply again next semester.

Again I want to thank the Office of Professional Development staff for the tremendous effort they made these past few weeks. They have been on the front lines of change and had to conduct many hard conversations with students.  It is my hope that blog posts like this, where we publish the results of admissions into the majors, will help students better understand that we are serious about these new entry requirements and that performance in Primary Core courses are key to determining their future opportunities in the College.

Hard Conversations

The end of last semester brought all of our changes to the curriculum and professional development into focus when the first group of business students finished the primary core.  The numbers aren’t final just yet ( I will post them in my next blog), but roughly half the students who sought admission into one of our technical majors achieved their goal.  As you can imagine, this led to a lot of hard conversations in the last few weeks.

The goals of our new approach are to get students into majors where they can thrive earlier, graduate them with fewer excess hours and have them leave with a full-time job offer in hand.  Also because education is a collective experience, having people in the right majors improves both the rigor and quality of what goes on in the classroom.  The outcomes are the most important: people leave better prepared.; program quality goes up; and graduates are more confident that they are on a path to success.

Not surprisingly, many of the students who failed to achieve their initial goal were upset. Several seemed convinced that we would have no choice but to modify our approach because in their eyes, too few students got into their major of choice. The reality is that our approach is based on the performance histories of tens of thousands of students who have come through the college over the last decade— the percent of students succeed in certain courses, how performance in those courses impact performance in later courses and how this all leads to post graduation success.  We only have one semester of experience with this system, but so far it is producing the results we expected.

Other students wanted to argue that they were misadvised, that the grading scale in a class was unfair or that someone else had a special advantage.  External attribution is a common response when faced with disappointment, but it’s hardly ever true. We provide everyone the same opportunity. The office staff keep detailed notes on advising visits, grading scales are the same for everyone in the same class and course prerequisites ensure everyone started from the same point. No system is perfect, but there isn’t a way to be misadvised or disadvantaged in the primary core. Everyone has the same shot in the same courses as they move through the system.

The toughest conversations involved students who just wanted the chance to bet on themselves and repeat the experience again. The system does allow for a one class repeat, but for those finding themselves in a deeper hole, past experience tells us the chances for success are remote and that the student’s interests are best served by meeting with a career coach and charting a new academic future.  The key is to get it done early and not fall victim to the fallacy of sunk costs.  Recognizing that things change and that you need to adapt is one of the best skills you can develop.  The change you are going through now will not be your last and at least you have a guide to help you think it through. More successful days lie ahead

To all those in the College who had those hard conversations with students, especially the OPD staff who took the brunt of student disappointment, thank you. The fact that they were hard meant they were important.  The fact that you were willing to have them, showed you cared.  Some will thank you later. Others never will. But I’m firmly convinced we are on the right track and that you are all a key part to our rising success.

Big Bucks For Entrepreneurship

I was sporting a little attitude on Saturday and was looking to spark a friendly rivalry, so I tweeted out the following:

It got a fair bit of response from UCF Business alums, but to my dismay silence from our friends in Tallahassee.  Eh, my guess is that Seminoles don’t work on the weekend.

Anyway in case you missed it, the Moran family donated $100 million to fund a new School of Entrepreneurship at FSU.  It is a remarkable act of generosity by the family that will certainly elevate entrepreneurship at FSU and hopefully have a huge impact on Florida’s economy.  Kudos to all involved.

That said, the point of the tweet was to underscore my view that the catalyst for entrepreneurship is rarely big bucks.  I have a framed quote in my office from Rutherford that reads: “We haven’t the money, so we’ve got to think.” Necessity really is the mother of invention and transformational change rarely comes from the well-financed.  It usually comes from some upstart with a disruptive idea willing to push through to the market and success.  Universities rarely need tens of millions of dollars and shiny new buildings to help students along; just enough resources to provide mentoring, a place to test ideas and a path to some modest funds at the right time.  That is the whole idea behind our Blackstone Launch Pad that as Cameron notes, has been bending the culture at UCF and facilitating student entrepreneurs from all across campus at record rates for a few years now.

Some of that success can be credited to a dynamic entrepreneurship community in Orlando who have pitched in to help link students to the resources they need (something I suspect they are having to create in Tallahassee as part of the project), but I think it is also the result of our decentralized approach that emphasizes fluid partnerships and places for entrepreneurially-minded students to come together in ways that empower them to take full ownership of their ideas.

Would a few more well-placed gifts help us scale our efforts to start more new businesses? Yes!  But, the secret sauce to our success in entrepreneurship at UCF is our culture.  And I don’t think centralization of the kind at the heart of the FSU project is going to outperform our strategy in the long-run.  Time will tell, but I think we are very well positioned for this challenge. Game on, ‘Noles.  See you on Shark Tank.


A “To-Do” List for 2016

Maybe it’s because I have a goal-setting meeting with Dale this week, but rather than offering predictions for the new year, I’ve put together a “to do” list. And because it’s my nature to think in terms of fundamental change rather than incremental improvement, my list focuses on those activities and outcomes that I believe would be most transformative for the College and UCF generally. Checking off any two of these tasks in a given year would be success in my opinion. Achieving three, would come close to finding the holy grail.  In other words, most of the things on this list aren’t easy.

Naming the College with a $40 Million Gift: My best estimate is that it will take about $3 million more per year in recurring money to boost the College into the next tier of U.S. business schools. A naming gift would provide an endowment that would generate about half of those funds, allow us to attract and retain more world-class faculty and advance graduate education as well as provide us with the branding and external affirmation of our vision necessary to compete on a national basis.

Having Elon Musk Speak at our Fall Welcome to the Majors: I believe in the value of strong role models and few people exhibit risk-taking, the courage to fail, data-driven decision-making and collaboration with people from different backgrounds better than Elon Musk. Having thought-leaders know what’s going on at UCF doesn’t hurt either. If we can land him, we will invite our friends in Engineering to join us at the event. Who’s got a connection?

Instituting A Five Year Accounting Degree: Sitting for the CPA exam requires 150 credit hours in Florida and the demands of the profession require people who are both technical experts and students of the business. This type of holistic preparation is best achieved through an integrated approach that moves students seamlessly through to a Masters Degree and represents an obvious evolution in our program.

Having a Scalable High-Employment-Potential Business Plan Win the Joust: The Joust has matured to the point where it consistently draws viable business ideas, but it has yet to produce a scalable venture with large employment potential. Having such a winner will likely require greater coordination between business and STEM students, something necessary for the next evolution of entrepreneurship on campus. Having such a winner would energize campus and set a new standard for the role of the university in economic development.

Being Consistently Ranked in the Top 50 Public U.S. Business Schools by UT Dallas: The UT Dallas Rankings have become a significant benchmark for assessing thought-leadership among business school faculty. We have consistently hovered near the 50 public mark, but the size and composition of our faculty have made it difficult to sustain a presence on the list. Achieving this goal would result in greater attention among our peers and allow us to better compete for the best faculty. It would also be a ranking that few other colleges on campus could match.

A ReInvention of the Economics Department: Economics needs an identity and leadership role in the College. Maybe it’s around business analytics. Maybe it’s around financial economics or some other emerging business practice. The discipline is of such general importance that it can’t afford to remain siloed or focused exclusively on aspects of government policy as it is at some institutions. The College needs its perspective and rigor in helping us chart the future of business education and practice. The sooner we figure this out, the better for everyone involved.

Joining the Big 12: We immediately become a more visible university the day we join a power five conference. It will also give us a new set of peer and aspirant schools upon which to benchmark our academic performance.  My experience suggests that raising one sights almost always produces better results.

Getting 20 percent of Integrated Business Majors Internships: Our newest major won’t produce graduates for about two more years. So allowing a meaningful number of would-be employers the opportunity to observe our Integrated Business students in the making would help smooth the introduction of our new major to the marketplace and give our students a good chance to secure permanent employment before they graduate.

Finance and Marketing Cooperating on a CFP Program: Certified Financial Planners require an assortment of client relationship management and investment skills.  A careful combination of our professional sales and finance curriculum would provide a powerful signature experience for some of our best students.  Demand for such professionals is strong and I’m betting a few partnerships with local firms would give our graduates an advantage in the marketplace.

Developing a University Budget Model that Encourages Investment in R&D: At times universities seem to run like cash businesses: everything is focused on covering today’s activities and graduating today’s students. Little thought is given to investing in the institution’s own future. Our new budget model not only needs to consider funding today’s efforts but aligning resources to priorities in a way that allows the institution to continuously reinvent itself. This invariably means low value activities will have to be phased out to make the resources available to fund high-potential initiatives. This will be hard. Yet to refuse to do so is to stagnate and die.
Wow.  I’d better get busy.