Happy Birthday DeVos Sport Business Management Program

The DeVos Sport Business Management Program turns fifteen this year.  I attended their inaugural alumni banquet Friday night.   It’s easy to tell when you are with someone or something special.  The message is never about the “what” or the “how”, it’s about the “why”.  If you ask any DeVos alum why they joined the program and do what they do, they will answer: “I believe sports provides a powerful platform to change people’s lives and create a better world.  That’s why I came here. Oh yea, by the way I got a Masters’ Degree from one of the top programs in the world and a job in and around sports that lets me work toward that vision every day.”

Kudos to Dr. Lapchick and his team for building a program with such a strong sense of purpose.  Kudos to the DeVos family for generously investing in such a bold vision.  And kudos to the UCF alums in attendance whose accomplishments, commitment and passion reminded everyone why the program was built in the first place.

Charge On DeVos Alums, Charge On

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Fixing Your Passion

Last week I kicked off my Failure Competition and interviewed Justin Wetherill in the Exchange. Little did I know when I agreed to Jennifer’s request to interview Justin that the two events would be related.  Let me explain…

Justin is a failed accountant.  He came to the Dixon School because he knew getting an accounting degree would get him a job even in a down economy.  It did.  Problem was he hated the job.  Life in a cubicle just wasn’t for him.  He still needed to eat. So rather than just quit, he and his engineering friend started looking for another path.  There were some dead-ends.  A failed t-shirt company, more precisely a failed idea for a t-shirt company, still makes him laugh.

Then one day Justin broke his new smartphone.  Sending it back to the manufacturer was both expensive and time consuming.  So Justin and his buddy started tinkering with how to fix them. Once they figured that out, the business partners starting buying broken phones on EBay, fixing them and reselling them for a nice profit. The business wasn’t sexy, but it turns out that a lot of people break their electronics (you can ask my stepdaughter Isabella.)  Soon they had a store.  Then two stores.  Then forty stores.  Then they started franchising stores.  uBreakiFix is now an international operation with a big valuation (click here).  Ten years removed from UCF, Justin is doing really well. In fact he is doing way better than really well.

Justin would humbly tell you that you can do this too…that there’s nothing special about it.  You just need to believe in yourself and chart your own course.  Failing to find his passion in accounting took him down a radically different path with a network of friends and family who gave him the support and resources to make his business a success.  In the process he didn’t just fix phones, he fixed his passion.

This story would seriously win the Failure Competition.  So what are you waiting for? Admit that failure, plan that new course, write about that journey and win our failure competition.  Maybe that $500 or letter of recommendation from the Dean will set you on a path where your passion meets your skills and propels you to success.

Admit it, You Failed

Despite what helicopter parents think, everyone fails. It is part of life. Getting comfortable with failure is a key step in becoming a better risk–taker and successful leader. That is why we celebrate failure and persistence in the college. Today, we begin the tenth installment of our Failure Competition. Entering our competition is simple:

Write an account of a failure you have experienced in the past. Your failure story has to focus on a new experience, a time you stepped out of your comfort zone: the farther the better. Tell us why this was such a stretch for you, the failure that resulted and what you learned from the experience that would be of interest to others.

While the Failure Competition began with students in our capstone class, it is now open to any UCF student on campus: undergraduate, graduate or EMBA, business, education, engineering or whatever. The only requirement is that you currently be enrolled at UCF. Two semesters ago, we had a music student win the competition.

Need inspiration or guidance to tell your story? Search my blog. We have posted many stories about failure over the years.
Here are the ground rules, complete with important deadlines:

1. To enter you must post your essay in response to this blog. If you are a capstone student this semester include your section number and name of your instructor. If you are not in this class, tell me your class standing ( e.g., freshman, senior, graduate student) and your field of study. You must complete this exercise by 5 pm on Friday Nov. 4th.
2. Instructors from the Capstone Course will then choose a winner from their section and explain why they chose the essay they did. A panel of College staff will choose no more than five finalists for me to consider from the rest of campus. I need these by 5 pm on Nov. 11th.

3. Those winning entries are then sent to me. I will select three finalists by Nov 14 at 5 pm.

4. The finalists will be asked to submit short videos based on their essays. They must have those videos to me by 5 pm on Nov. 21.

5. I will then feature one video each day on my blog starting Nov. 28th with a vote by everyone reading my blog taking place to determine the winner on Friday Dec. 2nd.

6. The winner will get a letter of recommendation from me along with a $500 prize. Second place will get $300, third place $200. These monies are awarded through our financial aid office.

Good Luck

There Will Be More Hurricane Matthews

Even staying just off the Central Florida shore, Hurricane Matthew disrupted plenty: lives, homes, travel schedules, job interviews, football games and career week in the College to name just a few. Some things can be rescheduled.  Others cannot.  They’re more perishable: schedules don’t match up, priorities change, things are different after the storm.  Life passes the moment by…just ask LSU and Florida.

It’s a good lesson in taking advantage of opportunities at the first-available moment.  You just never know if something unexpected might cause the opportunity to fade. So, when I got a few emails from students upset that they wouldn’t get credit for activities they hoped to complete during Hurricane Matthew’s visit, I wasn’t very sympathetic.   None of these opportunities were required to be done Thursday or Friday.  Attendance in The Exchange for example, is never mandatory.  It’s just one of many things a student can do throughout the semester to show that they are engaged with their own education.

Sure you didn’t see the disruption coming, but I can tell you from experience that it’s the things you don’t expect that get you, not the ones you do. The same is true in business.  In fact, business disruptors hope you don’t see them coming.  It’s part of their plan.  And, like all disruptors they don’t really care about the damage they inflict on you.  Call it bad luck if you’d like, but bad luck is usually just an excuse for a lack of vision or poor execution. The marketplace judges these things very harshly.  And no one ever learned from external attribution.  It may make you feel better to call it bad luck, but it doesn’t cause you to change behavior and improve performance.

The better strategy is to learn from the failure and develop a recovery plan so that the next time the unforeseen happens it doesn’t cause you to crash and burn.  Unfortunately, there will be more Hurricane Matthews.  The question is: Are you prepared to deal with that?

Job Guarantees and Free Shipping

I had a very thought-provoking response to my blog post about free shipping from a student last week. You can read that post and his comment by clicking here. It raised several issues I hear about regularly, so I thought I’d share my response with all of you.

Hello Angel. If you believe people don’t really want education, but instead the job that comes at the end, then free education would be the equivalent of free shipping. People don’t really want shipping. They want the product being shipped. Shipping is just the means to the end. So in your view, I’d want to give away the education and charge you for the job you get as a result of the education. More specifically, I’d want a slice of the boost in pay that comes with your education over the course of your working life. Doable in theory, a collections nightmare to implement in practice.

The Udacity guarantee you reference is fairly narrow in scope and expansive in what it considers employment. As you noted, it’s limited to four programs in high demand fields. It also considers things like free-lancing or being offered a grader job at Udacity as employment. My guess is the company is using the job guarantee as a means of trying to convince their potential customer base that their approach is legit. Nothing wrong with that, but universities occupy a different place in the market.

Despite dissatisfaction among some commentators with the recent post-graduation experiences of some students, the data continues to show that a university degree is a great investment for the typical graduate: it lowers the risk of unemployment and substantially increases life-time earnings over the average person who does not have a degree. So, we don’t have the “proof of concept” problem that new entrants like Udacity do. Our product more than pays for the initial investment of the typical student.

Universities also offer a broader portfolio of programs that appeal to a wider set of students who want different things out of their college experience (not just a job) than operations like Udacity. It would be difficult for any university to offer job guarantees to all their graduates. Not every degree program has a strong connection to a specific job and defining what constitutes an appropriate employment outcome across a broad set of degree programs would be tough.

This doesn’t mean we don’t care about the post-graduation experiences of our students. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I care. We have professional development courses, career coaches, and innovative offerings like the Integrative Business Program to help transition you to a good job. Our data shows that about 70 percent of our graduating seniors report they either have a job or are heading to graduate school when they fill out The First Destination Survey. This is done before they graduate, not six months out.

That said, I’m still not satisfied. I want this number to be much higher and have toyed with a different idea: If you are graduating and have yet to find your next challenge, the college would allow you take up to three extra undergraduate courses in the next semester after you graduate for free. There are a few details we would need to work out and it would probably take an act of the Florida legislature to allow us to do this, but like the Udacity plan, it would underscore our commitment to your success. Unlike the Udacity plan, it would also require the student to continue to show their commitment to their future by completing the additional coursework. It’s not free-shipping or an employment guarantee, but it just might be the opportunity some of our students need to  fully realize their dreams.