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.

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8 thoughts on “You are Business Students First

  1. Dean Jarley,

    Thank you for caring about our future and putting in effort to make our college experience a wonderful experience.

    Along with your comment about the changes that could be difficult to students, there is a book called “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson that can help students. This book talks about changes and how we can prepare ourselves to succeed.I highly recommend the book, especially the fact that it is a short book which only takes about an hour or less.

    Best,
    Erika Chirino

  2. Dean Jarley,

    I understand the need to raise the bar in order for students to have a better chance at succeeding in their business careers. However, I feel that this change may have come too soon. When it comes to our career expos and internship fair, certain desirable companies like Deloitte, PwC, KPMG, and others do not recruit ANY business majors besides accounting here UCF where on the other hand they recruit ALL college of business majors at FSU and UF. I know this because I also was accepted to FSU and knew the pros and cons.

    I am all for change, stricter regimen means brighter and well trained students but when we lack recognition, and do not have the recruiting power the other universities have, it is simply too soon to demand more from students when the outcome still remains the same.

    What do you think?

    Best regards.

    • Hi Austin:

      I am not familiar with the differences in recruiting practices of the big four at different institutions. Perhaps someone in the Dixon School can chime in on that issue?

      That said, I think you have the causality backwards….the only way to change the perception is to change the reality. That is where the reputation comes from. So, if we want to be perceived on the same level as some other institution to which we aspire, we must have the same standards as them and produce similar results. From that perspective, the sooner we do this the better.

      Finally, I’m not willing to accept your premise that we have inferior students to FSU or UF. I think if we put Knights through the proper preparation, they can compete with anybody, anywhere.

  3. Pingback: Business Student Choices – UCF Office of Professional Development

  4. Thanks Paul, this really hit home! By my count I’m now on my sixth career (and four of them were inside of the same company)

  5. Dear Mr. Jarely,

    I do agree with the fact that as business students we need to be well rounded. That being said some of us are stronger in certain areas of business than others. I, myself, consider management a strong suit, but struggle when it comes to the quantitative and accounting side of things. What I don’t agree with is the fact that we are only allowed to repeat one of the primary core classes once. I believe someone who has failed a class, but wants to continue to try and succeed should be allowed to do so. Is that not part of the entrepreneurial spirit, to never give up and give it all you have? Why limit our chance to succeed by limiting our chances to try? It may take someone a few tries to finally grasp accounting subjects or financial concepts, but in the end is it not the goal of the college to have its business students overcome their challenges and be well rounded business people? Allowing us only to repeat one course one time puts more stress on us and only makes us turn to memorization techniques and quick study hacks to simply memorize material for the test so we pass the test, instead of encouraging us to actually learn the material so that we may apply it later on in our careers and not simply a test. Again, I agree with the premise that we must be well rounded, but I don’t agree with the fact that the college does not allow us to try and get back up when we fall.

    I hope you read this,
    Harsim Zafra

    • I too am a fan of persistence, but I also think it important not to fall prey to the fallacy of sunk costs. Reasonable people can disagree on exactly where to draw that line so I won’t argue 1 retake is the only reasonable policy.

      What I will do is tell you why we settled on 1 retake. First the data tells us that people who struggle in multiple courses don’t usually markedly improve their performance with retakes. Second, it is clearly better to choose a different major early in your time with us than later: it will cut down your time to graduation, you will likely graduate with a higher GPA (we are talking about retakes, not grade forgiveness) and this should make you more appealing to prospective employers who will have more confidence you can do the job. The state of Florida agrees with us. It discourages students from accumulating excess hours by charging them more and funds universities in part on how long it takes you to graduate and the income you earn after you leave. We are all motivated to get this right. Finally, the classroom experience is a collective one. We have just as much responsibility to ensure that our best students are challenged in class as we do to provide second chances for students who struggle. The more students who struggle in the class, the harder it is to challenge the others.

      So taking this all into consideration, we wanted to give students who had one bad outcome the opportunity to try one more time. For students facing a wider struggle, we think it best to have an honest conversation that puts them on a new path to success.

      As to the issue that the current policy forces you to memorize more material than you otherwise would, I’m not sure why that would be true. Any good test would reveal the fallacy of a memorization strategy.

      I’m sure you have many talents and can find success here at UCF. If you are struggling to find the best option for you, talk to one of our career coaches about how to best discover where your path lies.

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