Why Go to a Research University?

I’m going to brag on my colleagues in the management department for a minute.  They had a terrific year and their accomplishments give me the opportunity to explain what we are trying to achieve in the college and why you want to go to a research university like UCF.

Google has a search engine that measures the impact of academic research.  It is called Google Scholar, and they recently recognized 10 papers written in 2006 as “management classics.” These are papers people are still talking about 10 years after they were originally published. This means the ideas in these articles have inspired others and stood the test of time. I was pleased to see that two of those 10 papers were written by teams that included one of our faculty. Both of these faculty are recent hires, people who joined us in the past couple of years as part of our continued efforts to attract more thought leaders to the college. Jim Combs, the Della Phillips Martha Schenck Chair of American Private Enterprise and Professor of Management, was recognized for a paper titled: “How much do high‐performance work practices matter? A meta‐analysis of their effects on organizational performance.” The paper has been cited 1,420 times. Ron Piccolo, Galloway Professor of Management and Chair of the management department, was recognized for “Transformational leadership and job behaviors: The mediating role of core job characteristics.” That paper has been cited 1,370 times. To give you a sense of how influential the ideas in these two paper are, understand the average published paper in management is cited fewer than 30 times.

I seek out and pay people with influential ideas like these so they will bring their research insights into the classroom and influence practitioners. A case in point is Dr. Marshall Schminke. Marshall is the BB&T Professor of Business Ethics at UCF.  He has written more than 40 papers, consulted with a wide array of companies and been quoted in more than 50 national publications. A few weeks ago, Marshall  was recognized as a “Master Ethics Teacher” at the 6th Teaching Ethics at Universities Conference, hosted by the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University, and sponsored by the Society for Business Ethics and the Wheatley Institution at BYU. The award recognizes outstanding faculty members who have made significant contributions to the teaching of business ethics.  They do this by taking their research into the classroom and boardroom.

And let’s not forget that Marshall’s colleague Dr. Robert Folger is one of the founding members of the behavioral ethics field.  Behavioral ethics is a new field of social scientific research that seeks to understand how people actually behave when confronted with ethical dilemmas. Rob became the college’s second Pegasus Professor earlier this year. It is the highest honor UCF bestows on faculty. He is the Distinguished Alumni Endowed Professor in Business Ethics, has mentored many Ph.D. students and has more than 25,000 citations to his work. In short, he has had a lot of insights that have inspired others and changed how people understand ethics in organizations.

As you can see, the Management Department had a banner year.  More importantly, our management students get to learn from some of the best faculty in the field. The reason to attend a large research-oriented university is you get to learn from people who are actively influencing how the future will unfold. You get to engage in conversations with people who wrote the book or article, rather than someone who is just explaining something they read. In the process, you gain more insight and perspective. In today’s information saturated world, it’s more insight and perspective that is going to differentiate you from the crowd. If you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most, wouldn’t you want to hang out with people with insights like Professors Combs, Piccolo, Schminke and Folger?  And I didn’t even mention Drs. Ambrose, Bennett, Ford, Taylor or Whiting.  Look them up — they’re pretty cool and very accomplished, too.

Everybody’s Got Issues

It’s Father’s Day, and while this day doesn’t really hold a candle to Mother’s Day, it is worth reminding yourself what gifts your dad gave you.  Mine gave me several: A love of the Detroit Tigers, the absence of the “look back” gene and an ability to make do with what you’ve got immediately come to mind. But perhaps the greatest gift he gave me was an insight into people and the human condition. One day, sort of out of the blue, dad said to me, “Everybody’s got issues.” I don’t remember the context of that comment; it was probably when somebody on the Tigers hit into their 50th double play of the season, but his genius in that moment stuck. Over time, it has become one of the main principles of my leadership style.

Dad’s point was that you have to take people for who they are. The perfect employee, student, parent, Detroit Tiger or you do not exist. If you demand this, you are going to be endlessly disappointed. Recognizing that people are imperfect and always will be is liberating. It allows you to emphasize the positive, coach where you can to improve performance and look for teammates with complementary skill sets that can strengthen the whole.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have performance standards, and there are, of course, people who have too many issues (Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame says this best, “It’s a long road baby and where it’s going to take me, just depends on the weight of my load…”).  But if you find a way to work with people, be authentic and allow them to be authentic in their interactions with you, you’ll be surprised how loyal they will become to your leadership and how much you can accomplish together.

So thanks, dad.  Enjoy your day. Go Tigers.



A Thank You to our Corporate Partners

I spent the bulk of last week creating interactive thank you emails to our corporate partners.  Each email summarizes how the corporate partner helped us offer students a new experience, how that experience is designed to change them and how it is consistent with the values of our benefactor.   This is something I do personally. I don’t delegate this to someone on my staff even though I know several people who would do a competent job. Why do I do this myself?  Because no one else can tell our partners how critical their contributions have been to my effort to transform the college. 

Let me explain.  When I came to the college five years ago, we were insular and offered a very transactional experience focused on basic skill transfer.  We taught courses.  Students either came or watched them via lecture capture.  Knowledge was assessed in our testing center.  There were a few pockets of excellence in the college that offered something different—professional sales, the launch pad, sports business— but for the most part, you could get through the college without ever stepping out of your comfort zones, experiencing something different, or having a conversation with a business professional or prospective employer about your future.

But business is done in the real world.  It is an activity. What you “know” is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for success.  Ultimately, business is about what you do.  What you achieve is about more than knowledge, it is also a function of the size and nature of the professional network you can draw on for assistance, the portfolio of experiences that shape your mindsets, how you can recognize and connect dots quicker than others and your willingness to try and risk failure.

To become the college I envisioned, we needed mechanisms to have conversations with the community, invite them to be a part of us, and engage our students in a wide variety of experiences that would expand their horizons, help them make good choices about their futures, and give them the mindsets to compete with anyone, anywhere.  Over the past five years we have gone about doing just that—building partnerships that would transform us and our students.

In writing the many thank you emails I did last week I was struck by just how critical the totality of these partnerships have become to the life of the College.  It is the accomplishment I am most proud of over the last five years.  In 2011-2012, the year before I came, the College touched 862 students and members of the community through our events and activities. This year, that number is 30,000.  Yes, you read that right. Those interactions include student to community as well as faculty to community interactions.  It is not just that activity is up.  Conversations are way up.  Positive restlessness on our many advisory boards is way up. Study abroad is way up. Job shadowing is up, Internships are going up. Post-graduation prospects are going up.  If you don’t believe me, come spend a day with us.

The time, treasure and talent our corporate partners provide are instrumental to the college we have built and the transformations we plan in the coming years.  If you are a student or faculty member engaging in one of these many interactions and you spot one of our corporate partners, stop by and thank them for all their support.  We couldn’t do what we do without them.

Why Does Finance Rule at the College of Business?

The College of Business works a little differently than a lot of colleges on campus.  Before you  become a business major, you must successfully complete a set of lower division courses.  This makes you eligible to be a business student, and typically you then still have 60 credit hours to complete before graduation.  Thirty of those credit hours are the same for everyone.  They include 15 credit hours you must complete before you are admitted into a specific major.  Over the fall and spring semesters, 1,313 students did just that.  The table below shows where those students ended up….

Major Fall ’16 Spring ’17
Finance 191 174
Integrated Business 157 132
Accounting 132 112
Marketing 93 92
Management 71 54
Economics 42 42
Real Estate 12 9
Total 698 615

The numbers are always bigger in the fall, because more students come to us in the fall than do in the spring semester.  That said, the pattern is exactly the same:  Finance is our most popular major.  Integrated Business admits the second most students, followed by Accounting.  Economics and Real Estate continue to be our smallest majors.

Maybe it’s because I was an Economics major, but I’m always surprised at the disparity between Finance and Economics. Finance majors get exposed to a fair bit of economics… they better if they want to know what they’re doing.  And, according to most published reports, Economics graduates typically make a little more money than their Finance counterparts right after graduation. That differential also grows a bit as people get to the middle of their careers. Given the costs of the degree are the same, why wouldn’t Finance majors figure out that Economics is the better investment? Maybe that investments class is too late?  LOL

Then again, people maximize utility, not income… maybe Economics is seen as just too boring and needs a better compensating wage differential to encourage more students to enroll?

My readers have any insight on this?