Where Have You Been?

About 600 students will graduate from the College this semester.  The data tells me that about twenty percent of our graduates will have plans to go to graduate school.  Of the remaining, about half will leave with a job in hand.  The other half are thinking they will work on finding something after they cross the stage.

Wow, that’s a really bad plan.  There are many reasons why this is true, but perhaps the biggest one is that students have way more resources available to them in the search for a job and career before they graduate than after they leave school: College Career Coaches, University Career Services, Professional Development Opportunities, Blackstone Launchpad, Student Clubs, Internships and the Exchange to name just a few.

The Exchange presented by Fairwinds Credit Union may not seem like a career search tool, but think about this: Every day a potential employer or someone from the community who can connect you to people with  jobs is making a presentation in the Exchange.  Every day.  They are coming to you.  They offer advice.  They talk about what they do and what they experienced in their early days. They give you insight into how you can be like them someday.  If you can’t find a career and first job with people coming to you every day, how easy do you think its going to be when you are on your own and have to visit them?  And, when you do show up on their door, do you think they might be wondering: “Where have you been?  I was out at the Exchange and didn’t see you in the audience.  hmm….”


Can the Joust Become a Team Sport?

Shark Tank is T.V.’s version of the Joust.  We were first.  The producer of Shark Tank is a Knight and at least one UCF student has done both events.  Like its T.V. counterpart, the Joust requires contestants to get out of their comfort zone and use data to convince a skeptical group of judges from the business community that their idea will lead to a successful enterprise worthy of investment.  Several Joust contestants have gone on to launch companies that are in revenue. This year’s finals is Friday and we expect a big crowd in the Pegasus Ballroom.  You can learn more about the Joust by clicking here.

In Medieval Times, the Joust was a showdown involving single riders on a horse.  In our version, the horse is a business idea and we allow more than one rider. But, we rarely, if ever, see teams made up of students from different backgrounds.  They tend instead to be pairs of engineers, performance artists, app developers or business students.  Inspiration usually strikes one person at a time and a like mind to help flush out a new idea has a lot of value, but brining new ventures to market usually requires a team of people from different disciplines: research and development, production, marketing, finance, etc.. Even in the prototype phase, the constructive friction that comes from having multiple perspectives on a project can be the difference between failure and success.

So, how do we build on the success of the Joust and make entrepreneurship at UCF into a team sport?   How can we get more teams of students comprised of people from different backgrounds to bring their business plans into the arena?    Maybe we could hold speed networking events where students interested in working with a start-up could meet aspiring student entrepreneurs….Starter Riot Redefined?  Or maybe we see the development of the management team as a post-Joust exercise that is best left for our accelerator program.  However we do it, I have always believed there is a reason the College of Business sits between the College of Engineering & Computer Science on one side and the College of Sciences on the other.  It would be great if students from these three schools (and others) would connect, form teams, win the Joust and enter the marketplace together.



Walking the Talk

In case you haven’t noticed, we are looking for some new recruits to our CBA Student Ambassador program. I owe the Ambassador concept to my wife Suzanne, who ran a similar program at University of Kentucky for several years. There I watched her introduce students to new experiences and challenge them to make a real difference in the life of the College. In the process, Suzanne transformed most Ambassadors into confident leaders and effective stewards of a culture that had been shaped by successive generations of student leaders.

If you’ve met my wife, you know she is a doer. She’s not one to spend lots of time conceptualizing or analyzing. She believes experience is the best teacher. So, while Suzanne’s Ambassadors got the occasional developmental workshop or etiquette dinner, the heart of Suzanne’s approach was to give her Ambassadors the opportunity to experience leadership by doing it. She wanted them to experience the glamorous and unglamorous parts, the hard stuff and the fun stuff, the triumphs and the setbacks. Most students rose to the occasion, but some were ill-suited to the effort and had to be let go. They never learned to walk the talk.

You see, leadership isn’t about a line on your resume.  It is about the values you hold, the actions you are willing to take to promote those values and your ability to help people see a future they have yet to experience.

When I started at UCF, I knew I had an uphill climb.  The student experience was far too transactional and people were comfortable.  I needed a vision that would shake things up, a group of students who shared my values about student engagement and a set of ambassadors willing to help me transform the place through their hard work and advocacy for this vision. With more than 8,500 students the task was way more than I could do alone.  Too much reliance on technology gave people the illusion that the best learning happens within your comfort zone and I knew my message of change would best be heard if it came from fellow students rather than just old guys like me.

So, if you believe that students should play a role in creating their own education. If you believe that new relationships and new experiences lead to new perspectives that differentiate rather than commoditize education and transform lives. If you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work toward a vision where every student is engaged in a set of experiences that will set them apart and prepare them for what lies ahead, then come join us. We have a leadership experience worthy of your time and commitment.

I don’t need you to have the highest grade point average or believe you represent “the best and the brightest.” I need you to believe in the cause and have the time to commit to the work without it hurting your grades. I also need you to have the unusual combination of humility and passion to overcome the struggles ahead without giving up or just focusing on the lines on your resume. In exchange, you get to work on becoming a leader as you help build a college culture that is worthy of your legacy for the time you spent here.

If you want to be that kind of Ambassador, you can apply to join by clicking here