Bringing The EXCHANGE to the 2016 Hall of Fame

I wanted this year’s Hall of Fame event to give the more than 650 attendees a taste of  our culture of engagement in the College and experience how it helps shape our students to be better risk-takers, communicators, collaborators and problem solvers.  Like all things at UCF, pulling off a conversation with 650 people represented a BIG challenge. So, I called in UCF alumnus Robin Cowie to help orchestrate the evening.

The result was an EXCHANGE involving 60 students sharing their compelling stories with the  audience in 15 minutes.  That we were inducting Larry Tobin, the CEO of FAIRWINDS Credit Union, the company that sponsors The EXCHANGE, was just icing on the cake.  The students then joined the attendees for dinner at their table to extend the conversation.

Noor Hashim, our lead ambassador, ended this portion of the evening by inviting everyone in attendance to come to campus and participate in The EXCHANGE.  She also provided instructions on how the attendees could hear all 60 of the stories told that night.

The students rocked it.  I knew they would and we got tons of great feedback on the event. The student stories are so compelling, I wanted to offer them to you by clicking the links below.

These student stories were followed by the stories of our 2016 Hall of Fame Inductees.  I will share the HOF stories with you next week.  One made Lonny Butcher the happiest man at the event.


Einstein Comments on Performance Evaluation?

Maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking a lot about goal setting and budget models lately, but when I got a thank you card with  the following quote on it attributed to Albert, it really stuck:

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” -A .Einstein

I wish he had provided advice on what administrators should do when what counts most has to be experienced.  Anybody got a good quote on that?

Street Smarts

I would be the first to admit that we do not do a very good job onboarding transfer students to the College of Business. We only get 90 minutes with the m as part of the University’s orientation and most of that time is focused on schedule planning. For the students, its a bit like drinking water from a fire hose. They need to absorb a lot of information in a very short period of time. Once they get into the semester and experience their first set of exams, transfer students realize that we are a very different place than the one they left: different culture, different class sizes, different standards, different rules and far too frequently this leads to disappointing outcomes for the students.  By the time they figure out they are in trouble, its too late.  If you aren’t proactive at UCF and get the help you need early, the place can run you over.

So I have charged a group of Ambassadors, transfer students all, to help us put together a series of workshops that can be delivered in the Exchange the first two or three weeks of the semester that will better orient transfer students to the College of Business.  These sessions might include such topics as how to access the various resources available to students, how to avoid student debt, the importance of connecting with other students and joining clubs, building a relationship with your career coach and faculty expectations of students.

Some of these sessions will need to be run by College personnel: career coaches, associate deans and department chairs.  But, the Ambassadors can play an especially critical role in helping transfer students develop “street smarts.”. As students, they are in the best position to help other students learn what it takes to thrive in the College of Business.  So at the first meeting of our “task force,” I have asked them to put together a set of “street smarts,”  tips that they could share with other students as they start their journey in the College.  Some early suggestions include:

  • Although Lonny might act like the Tasmanian Devil, he is really Batman with a utility belt that can help lost students find a path to success.
  • You are not in the College until you complete the College Program Prerequisites. If you haven’t already done them, do them NOW.
  • You need to watch Dr. Clevenger’s lecture capture class carefully because he includes random facts that appear on the test. It is his way of catching “lecture surfers.”
  • If you think you can work full time and take a full course load like you did at the community college, you are going to find out that you’re wrong.
  • Dude, Intermediate Accounting is really really hard: Lots of students fail. If you want to major in accounting, you will need to bring your “A” game for this course..
  • If you want to avoid lines in the testing center, get there before 11 am.  There are never lines then.

You get the idea.  We plan on launching this new onboarding program in Fall of 2016.  To provide the most comprehensive set of advice possible for this effort, I want to include all of you in this process through social media.  So, if you are a student with a piece of advice you’d like to pass along to those who follow you, or someone new to the College who could use advice about a particular challenge, let us know by leaving a comment on this post or tweeting us using the hashtag #UCFBIZSTREETSMARTS.

This is an easy way to have a lasting impact during your time at UCF. Let’s help all our Knights get off to a good start in the College of Business.

You are Business Students First

I have been meeting with the Office of Professional Development staff weekly since the first of the year to learn more about how students are responding to the new primary core requirements and admission into the various majors. Change is always difficult. People need to develop different mindsets and behaviors to succeed in new settings. This forces them out of their comfort zone and into unfamiliar situations where the fear of failure and need to alter course can lead to lots of anxiety. Anxiety leads to questions and where answers aren’t immediate, people assume the worst.

The OPD staff tell me that many of the students they see just don’t understand the need to complete the common course prerequisites and primary core requirements before beginning work in their major. They want to jump right in to the major of their choice. Let me explain.

The key to understanding this issue is to recognize that we are preparing you to be a successful business professional. This makes you a business student first and a major second. Of the 120 credit hours needed to graduate, 75 are from the business school. The first 15 credit hours are designed to teach you how the economy works (i.e. micro and macro economics) as well as the languages of business (accounting and statistics). If you can’t master these two things, you have little chance of being a successful business professional. You need to pursue a different career path. This is why we require you to complete these courses before you gain admission into the college.

Once you do gain admission into the college, more than half of the curriculum is common to all students. Again, you are a business student first. It’s not enough just to excel in your major: An accounting major who goes to work for a public accounting firm, but can’t manage people, provide good customer service or develop clients, isn’t going to work there for very long. They have no chance of making partner. Similarly, a marketing major who makes a presentation with an obvious error in calculating an internal rate of return because they didn’t like finance is going to get laughed out of the room. Ask some students who made this mistake at last semester’s case competition. They can tell you it damaged their credibility and it wasn’t fun. 

Like it or not, you need to be a well-rounded professional, effectively communicate with people from different functions and connect the dots by analyzing data in real time to succeed in business. The primary core courses are meant to ensure that you are on your way to developing these skills and show sufficient mastery of the basic concepts in accounting, finance, marketing and management to choose one of these majors if this is your desired path. Just like doctors must master a set of general medical topics before specializing in an area of medicine, we require business students to have a firm grasp of the whole before allowing them to move on to specialize. If you can’t perform competently across these areas, you will not succeed: there is little reason to let you specialize in one. (I want to know that my surgeon passed anatomy and isn’t just a person skilled with knives.) And like medicine, we see an important role for those who choose to be the integrators across disciplines and functions. People who have a good working knowledge across areas (i.e., general practitioners) rather than just a master of one. It is the thinking behind our Integrated Business major.

Finally consider this: It is highly unlikely that you will start and end your career in the same place doing the same things. The pace of change is accelerating. Some of the hottest jobs out there today didn’t exist ten years ago….. You couldn’t major in them. Looking ahead, you will likely change jobs and careers more than a few times before retiring. The best way to navigate the risks of such an uncertain future, is to have a diversified portfolio of knowledge and skills. We aren’t just preparing you for your first job, but for a long career. It’s another reason we treat you as business students first.

Ken White and HOF 2016

It’s been a good start to 2016:   We got a million dollar gift (more on that in a minute). George Anders inspired students and gave insights to business leaders at Welcome to the Majors.  We hired Jennifer Johnson to run The EXCHANGE and direct student engagement.  UCF Alumnus Robin Cowie agreed to add his magic to planning our Hall of Fame Program.. a sort of Blair Witch Project meets James Bond meets student engagement.  Have I got your attention?

But the best thing that happened this month happened at our faculty lunch to kick off the semester. Perhaps people thought I was going to announce something really crazy for the Spring. Perhaps people were just hungry.  But whatever the reason, the place was packed.  It even included some retired faculty, a job candidate and a few people from our executive development center including Dr. Ken White and his daughter Keri.  As fate would have it, they sat right up front and it gave me the perfect opportunity to make an announcement I had planned to do in another setting.

You see that million dollar gift came from alumnus Glenn Hubbard.  He gave it in the name of Ken White and Jim Xander to establish a professorship in economics.  Glenn said he felt that he owed it to the school because these two faculty had done so much to put him on the path to success.  I meet many alumni who say the same thing about Dr. White and that they couldn’t have survived statistics without him.  So, I reached out to a few of our board members and floated the idea of honoring Ken at this year’s Hall of Fame.  The suggestion was greeted with enthusiasm and I announced both the gift and Ken’s honor at the faculty lunch.  Some tears flowed.

Recognizing Dr. White at this year’s Hall of Fame is the perfect bridge between last year’s program (Whose student are you?) and this one (on student engagement).  It links the success of our alums to the futures of our students through the engaging faculty who shape all their lives.  So as we celebrate the success of our alums represented by this year’s inductees and hear the stories of some of our current students, we will take a moment to recognize one of our own and the impact he has had on all of them.  If that doesn’t deserve Hall of Fame status, I don’t know what does.