While You’re Returning That Gift, Consider Passing it Forward

So, you are standing in line to return that one gift you didn’t need or like.   Sure, you could pocket the cash or trade it for something you’d like better. But if you are already wondering where you are going to put all that new stuff or believe less can actually be more especially this time of year, consider passing the proceeds of that returned gift forward and into our Student Opportunity Fund.

Launching a successful career or business can come down to having the few dollars necessary to take advantage of the right opportunity at the right time. Maybe it’s the cost of an airplane ticket to launch a career in international business through a study abroad experience. Maybe it’s the entry fee necessary to prove yourself by competing in a national student sales competition or the cost of sitting for a project management certification exam. Or maybe it’s the seed money to launch a hummus company that lands you on SharkTank and puts your product in every Publix store. 

A small investment can go a long way toward a student realizing their dream. This is the big idea behind our Student Opportunity Fund– we want to micro-finance our students’ futures.


The college of business has almost 60,000 alums. If the average alum gave just $20, maybe what you’re getting for that gift return today, we would have almost $1.2 million to finance the low cost opportunities that can have the biggest impact on the lives of our nearly 9,000 students. It’s a great example of how UCF can leverage the power of scale to create huge impact.

So if you really don’t need yet another tie or scarf, consider becoming part of that UCF equation.  Click here, donate and enter Student Opportunity Fund in the comments section.

The UCF Knights thank you. 

College Football Needs Relegation

UCF played Arkansas State in the Cure Bowl Saturday evening.  The College is a sponsor of the game: we provide them with office space down at the Executive Development Center. I have a personal stake in their cause: my mother died of breast cancer at fifty-nine.  That said, outside of Orlando and Jonesboro, few people cared about the game.  It was buried on the CBS Sports Network with a 5:30 p.m. start.

The Cure Bowl is not alone.  Almost all of the bowl games played before New Year’s Eve are meaningless games that fill some network time and provide people who don’t want to talk to their relatives during the holidays an excuse to escape for a few hours.

Lonny has a solution: Relegation.  Both Lonny and I are Liverpool FC fans.  We were talking about the state of the English Premier League the other day when Lonny blurted out, “College Football needs relegation!”  Lonny does this a lot. He blurts out things. In the last week of the semester, when even a small fraction of his 4,000 students come to beg him to forgive their poor performance in his class, the long line can get to him. He blurts out more then.

This blurt, though, might be genius.  And like any good supervisor, when a subordinate has a great idea, you go with it and claim it as your own. So, here is how it would work: The bottom team in each of the Power Five conferences would be paired against the winner of one of the non-power five conferences with a slot in the higher ranked conference at stake. If the Power Five conference school loses the game, they get relegated. These would be preset slotted games: worst ACC team plays winner of AAC; worst Big Ten team plays winner of MAC; worst Big 12 team plays winner of Conference USA; worst SEC team plays winner of Sunbelt; Pac 12 worst team plays Mountain West champ.  So, instead of UCF playing Arkansas State, imagine Navy  playing Virginia for a spot in the ACC next year. Or, how about Western Michigan playing Rutgers for a spot in the Big Ten. Five bowls now have meaning.  Heck, they all have divisions, so lets do it that way and have 10 bowl games with relegation at stake instead of just five. Ratings would skyrocket. Are you listening ESPN?

Will it happen? Probably not. Conferences are about more than just football. Some even have academic consortia that produce powerful societal outcomes. Maybe most importantly the president of the losing Power Five university likely gets the ax in the process. None of them are voting for that, and I, too, think making football even more important on campus isn’t a good thing. But, it sure would be fun to watch….


Casey Field

Saturday we graduate the last of our original Ambassadors.  I’m a little surprised that Casey is leaving us.  Intellectually curious, an adventurer, dancer, traveler, social entrepreneur, economics and finance major, honors in the major student and Miss UCF contestant, I can’t think of anyone who has taken more advantage of what a university has to offer than Casey.  She thrives here.  Casey is certain to return to an institution of higher learning near you, probably as a graduate student, then as a faculty member.  Eh, she might be a little too stylish to become a faculty member—maybe she’ll reinvent that role, we’ll see.

We didn’t need an Ambassador program to engage Casey.  She came ready to roll and embodies what I want our culture to produce: graduates armed with a diverse set of experiences, a broad network of professional peers and strong analytic skills who aren’t afraid to define success on their own terms and take risks in pursuit of their dreams.

What I hope the ambassador program gave Casey is a sense of how difficult it is to get others to buy into a future you see so clearly, but they have yet to experience.  It is humbling, unglamorous work to engage the unengaged–done more often in the trenches than on the stage.  Use what you have learned about failure, persistence, pivoting and not believing your press clippings to further all those causes of yours, Casey. Charge on woman.  Do those great things and if you want to come back someday, don’t worry we will still be here for you.  You are most certainly a part of us.

You Are What People Think You Are

A couple of weeks ago, I joined the Ambassadors as they debriefed their experiences and student feedback from the “street smarts” program this semester.  The street smarts program is a peer-to-peer effort to on-board students entering the College.  Designed and run by the Ambassadors, the program consists of two different one hour workshops.  The first workshop occurred in the second week of the semester and was meant to provide students with survival skills as they encountered lecture capture, the testing center and a culture that demands their attention and engagement.  The second workshop occurred just after midterm exams and focused on helping students find their passion, major and path forward.  It was a very impressive undertaking by the Ambassadors that required creativity, project management, and getting out of their comfort zones. More than 700 students attended each workshop.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the debrief session was the observation that some students thought the Ambassadors were intimidating and a bit unapproachable.  If you’ve met the Ambassadors you know that they tend to be “Type A” folks who kind of want to rule the world, or at least their part of it.  They are joiners, aspiring leaders, and engaging students.  It is these characteristics that drive them to be Ambassadors.  They are also strong personalities.  Speaking from personal experience, sometimes people interpret aggressive action spurred by passion for a cause as being arrogant and unapproachable.  As a smart Director of Marketing once told me: “You are what people think you are.”

I was tremendously impressed by how the Ambassadors owned this observation by some of their peers.  Rather than try to refute it, they talked about how to become more approachable.  At our holiday party last week, I suggested that the group adopt a value championed by Rich Lyons who is Dean of the Haas School at Berkeley: Confidence without Arrogance.  It is a wonderful phrase that encapsulates what I think a great education provides people—enough confidence in your abilities to know you don’t need to display an air of self-importance to succeed.   It is also an incredibly flattering way to be described by others.  Perhaps we can all join the Ambassadors journey and resolve to work on becoming confident without arrogance next semester (i.e., a quiet, but discernible swagger).