Having it All Come Together

Friday was the summer edition of Welcome to the Majors.  A mere 600 new students entered the College.  The event is part of our students’ first professional development class.  The classes are led by Lonny Butcher.  Lonny is hell-bent on getting students great jobs before they leave UCF.  One of the things I stress at the event is the importance of getting engaged and developing a distinctive set of relationships, experiences, and perspectives while in the College that will land each student the job they want before they graduate.  We call this “getting to the one.” To achieve this goal, we push students hard to get them out of their comfort zones.  Not surprisingly, some students push back.

After the formal part of the program, Lonny and I hang around to network with students. Much to my surprise,  Bashaar Zainal, the Spring winner of our Failure Competition, sought me out to tell me how participating in the contest had given him the courage to help others persist in the face of adversity.  He promised me several students would be entering the next round of the competition.

Then when I returned to my office after the event, the following exchange between Lonny and a student was waiting in my mailbox….

From the student:

Mr. Butcher, 

First off, if a TA is reading this to see if it is worth Mr. Butcher’s time, yes, yes it is. Please forward this higher up accordingly. This is the email I have been waiting two years to send. Through these last 4 GEB courses, I have molded myself into a professionally dressed, interview acing, hand-written note writing, confidently speaking, networking, young professional. While at first glance, attending various workshops and having my resume critiqued were easy points to a “pointless one credit class”, but my perception of myself relevant to my peers, my idea of how to attain seemingly unattainable positions, and how to be “the one” were all due to the things I have learned and accomplished while in these courses. (All of my friends even ask me to critique their resumes now!)

 If you remember, I had thanked you a little under a year ago for your role in my motivation to find a professional internship. Since then, I have interned for Lockheed Martin and am currently a marketing intern for a small company in Altamonte Springs. Less than 24 hours ago I was offered a full time position to be a consultant for Ellucian, an international software company for higher education. This was my “reach” position that I spent three months interviewing for and had to give a 30 minute presentation in front of senior management (just to prove I won’t breakdown into the fetal position under pressure). I called my parents in tears when I was extended the offer, and was told by HR (off the record) that I was a priority candidate out of 25. 

 My point in emailing you was not to brag or bore you to death (hopefully you are still reading). I will graduate in August truly feeling like UCF invested as much in me as I did in it and your courses “made a believer out of me”. I came into UCF at the age of 17 two years ago, with only 3 months of being a Wendy’s Team Member on my meager resume. Now at 19, I have had three professional internships, and a full-time professional career waiting for me (that pays well above entry-level with benefits I didn’t even know I needed). I’ll get off my soap box now and just end on this: you rock, your team rocks, and GOOOO KNIGHTS!

 I wish you all the best! Who knows…maybe one day I’ll be back to give a presentation in The Exchange and new GEB’ers will pretend to listen to me while on Instagram. That’s the dream.

Lonny responded:

I cannot begin to thank you enough for this note.  I will say that by the time I hit your third paragraph, I definitely wasn’t bored.  I was overwhelmed with pride and joy for you.  You got to make a call to your parents that, in retrospect, I would have killed to make.  Congratulations on your job offer!!!  To be included in your accomplishment is an honor, thank you so much!

I’ve come to realize and accept that student’s early perceptions of the class are not necessarily what they will end with.  I am proud of your hard work, proud of your focus, and proud of your tenacity.  These are qualities that I want all of our students to have.  And to hear that this was your reach job makes me even happier!!  How amazing!!!

Funny you should mention the Exchange….  In the Fall I will be hosting a session just for GEB 3003 students where I’ll bring in students from 4004 and very recent grads to talk about how they leverage their activities to accomplish their goals.  I would be honored if you would be one of my speakers.  I don’t have details yet, but as soon as I do I’ll share them.  If you can make it, we’d love to have you!

I’ve also copied Dean Jarley and his Director of Communication, Erika Hodges on this so they know what you accomplished.  Today we held the summer Welcome to the Majors where Dean Jarley told students about getting to the One.  Congratulations, you’ve fulfilled his charge.  YOU ARE THE ONE! 

I am so proud of you!!!  Congratulations and I look forward to hearing from you as you continue to grow and succeed!!

Lonny

I love it when things all come together: Failure Competition, Exchange, Getting to the One…Best Welcome to the Majors day yet.

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Welcome To The Majors

Our Summer version of Welcome to the Majors is this Friday.  The event is meant to introduce new students to the College’s culture– a culture that stresses the importance of using academic performance, professional development and extra-curricular engagement to craft a portfolio of accomplishments that will ensure that graduates realize their early career goals.  Each semester we bring in an accomplished speaker to set the stage for the student experience that lies ahead.  This edition’s featured speaker is Laurette Koellner, a 1977 graduate of the College and member of the Dean’s Advisory Board. Laurette’s many professional experiences includes serving as President of Boeing International.   She very well may be the most accomplished business woman to graduate from the College. She even has her own Wikipedia page! Laurette is a terrific speaker and I’m sure she’s going to “wow” the 600 students in attendance with her message about how to “get to the one.”

The “Welcome to the Majors” title is a play on my love of baseball, but it also represents a key decision many students face when they enter the College: What to major in?  Some students come believing they already know their path.  Many plan to figure it out along the way.  Frankly, the decision about a major is a bit over-rated.  Figuring out what you want to do with your life and career is way more important.  It’s why we make answering this question the subject of our first professional development class.  It is also why we require you to complete the primary core before allowing you to choose a major.  Professional success comes from finding the intersection between your talents, interests and desires on the one hand and what someone else is willing to pay you to do on the other.  No one ever got a job merely because they wanted or needed one.  They got a career opportunity because someone else was convinced they had the talent, experiences and passion to solve a problem.  The primary core helps students identify where they have sufficient talent and interest to succeed.

Our evidence to date suggests most students do not find  a quick path to a major. Of the roughly 2500 students to attend the Wecome to the Majors event over the last year, only 40 percent have finished the primary core and gained access to a major.  Some students came to the College still needing to complete the common program prerequisites.  Many have decided to take two semesters to complete the five courses that comprise the primary core rather than do them all in one semester.  Still others have decided to use their one retake of a primary core course before choosing a major.

When they do make it through, many choose a different major than what they expected coming into the College.  So far, the numbers look like this:  Finance 256; Integrated Business 229; Accounting 135; Management 123; Marketing 104; Business Economics 57; and  Real Estate 30.  The Integrated Business major didn’t even exist two years ago when many of this year’s students entered UCF.  Now, it is our second most popular major among students who have completed the primary core.

So when you are standing at Welcome to the Majors this Friday, know that this is just the start of your experience in the College.  The journey is going to challenge you to think hard about what you want to do, get you out of your comfort zone, make you plan for the future and likely change you in the process.  That’s a good thing. It will help get you to that “one” we will be talking about.

See you Friday.  Oh, and bring some swagger.

Time to Pivot

I went to school to be an astronomer. I graduated an economist. Physics taught me that I needed a different future. I think it all turned out just fine.
A number of my students are learning this week that they are not going to get into their major of first choice. They have used up their one grade forgiveness and either didn’t manage a “B” or better in the gateway course to their chosen major or didn’t achieve a 3.0 in the primary core. Whether you were a student who narrowly missed the mark, or were farther away, the disappointment stings.

It’s okay to take a moment alone to reflect on this outcome.  Scream if that helps. Then make an appointment with a career coach ASAP. You need to pivot and develop a new path to success. Maybe that plan involves a new major in the college. Maybe it involves majoring in something else at UCF. Or maybe your future lies on a path that will take you beyond our campus. Everybody has a multitude of skills, experiences and interests. Success comes from finding where your talents intersect your passions and meet someone else’s needs. Our career coaches can help you sort this out.

While you consider your options, realize that this won’t be the last time you are asked to pivot. I meet people who changed careers all the time: former accountants who are successful entrepreneurs, economists who became real estate professionals and marketers who ended up in human resource management, to name just a few. Successful people are asked to reinvent themselves regularly.

The trick is to see the new opportunity that opens up when another door closes. Having a second set of eyes help you see the future can really help: Make that appointment.

A Week of Smiles

Saturday I had about 15 students tell me they “got to the one” when they crossed the stage. It made me smile, because I tell all of our students at our Welcome to the Majors event that they need to figure out their unique value proposition before they see me at graduation.

The only thing that made me smile more this week was the Ambassadors’ parody of my Welcome to the Majors video.  I’m not sure the term “angels” applies, but Noor really nailed it.  Click the link to give it a watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4ghBVM5aDo

Don’t tell Provost Whittaker, but sometimes taking money for this job just seems like stealing.

They Grow Up So Fast

Saturday is graduation.  About 600 young squires will turn into knights.  This group is a little special because it includes the first group of freshmen who started at UCF when I did.  It also includes 10 College of Business Ambassadors, the largest group I think we have had graduate at the same time.

Collectively, our Ambassadors are a group of over-achieving, over-joining, hyper-competitive students who plan to rule the world and at times can be kind of a pain in the butt.  Like all people with passion, they have both edges to their sword.  You don’t get one edge without the other…. Frankly, it’s what I like most about them.

But, it is equally true that each of them brought something a little different to the table.  So, to send them off right, I asked my team to weigh in on the qualities that best exemplify each of our graduating Ambassadors.  My job was to synthesize….

Breanna, Brittany and Natacha have been with us the longest.  Brittany and Natacha are marketers who are more than willing to drag students out of their comfort zone if necessary to get them engaged. Brittany is a data-driven, creative, problem solver. She reminds me a lot of Lonny, right down to her love of heavy metal. Natacha is contagious. She invites you in, smiles and gets you to drink her kool-aide.  Never underestimate her. Tina says she’s a “smart cookie.” Breanna is, in many ways, the opposite of Brittany and Natacha: a strong silent type who is moved to act on social causes.  She wears her heart on her sleeve and never turns down a request for help.  Together these three show the strength in the diversity that is the Ambassador program.

Jeragh was with us the shortest period of time.  He joined us late but made an impression with his communication and team-building skills. He’s a natural collaborator. Everyone’s going to want him on their team.

Noor, on the other hand, would rather write the rules than follow them. She sneaks up on you and before you know it, she’s leading the group! She did just that this past semester. One of my team described her as “the whole package”–patient, level-headed, strategic, collaborative….. this is seriously going to go to her head.  She also drives a mean go-cart.

Nhu is my best risk-taker.  Risk-taking is at the heart of her family’s story. She is determined, strong willed and all in.  I’m betting she will have our best failure story someday.  I promise you failure won’t slow her down a bit.

Youssef is curious.  He always has his finger on the pulse of what is going on.  It makes him a great problem-solver.  He would be an excellent academic.  His willingness to listen makes him a natural leader.

Patrick is always willing to provide a dose of calm to any impending storm.  He’s level-headed, quick to analyze and willing to stand back and let others take the credit for the team’s success.  I’m guessing he is going to make a great CFO. Although I’ve  heard a nasty rumor that he could become a model.

Somebody described Katilyn as a future Merrell Bailey.   I’m guessing that was a reference to her aspiration to become a lawyer.  Katilyn’s way more quiet than our red-headed alum, but like our Merrell, she’s smart, friendly and empathetic.  Boston University  is lucky to have her.

Last, but not least, is Natalia. Natalia is a rock star.  In some ways, she reminds me of Leif: A non-traditional student who earned the respect and admiration of “the kids” by demonstrating the power that can come from exhibiting gratitude for her UCF experience.  That also describes Tiffany Hughes, and like Tiffany, Natalia is a “Whoo Hoo Girl.”  Trust me, that designation carries a lot of weight around here.

We will miss them all and revel in their future successes.  Charge On, Knights. Charge On.