Are You An Ambassador?

Ambassador-a person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity.

I believe education is a relational good.  It isn’t produced or consumed alone.  It requires the active participation of others.  The more people who engage in it by sharing their insights, challenging convention and searching for shared understanding, the more valuable the education becomes. The more valuable the education, the more promising your future.

The problem is that most people don’t understand that education is an enlightening experience that develops mindsets, provides the perspective that gives knowledge meaning and leads to better purposeful action. People are also busy and education is inconvenient.  It demands your full attention when you would rather be doing something else.  So, they look for shortcuts: They want to google their education.  But knowledge without perspective is frequently misapplied.  They are conditioned to think that good grades reflect learning. So they cram to succeed on that exam. But temporary mastery of content is not the same as sustained mastery of action. They graduate with a good gpa, totally unprepared for what lies ahead.

The hardest thing for any leader to do is to help people work toward a future they have yet to experience.  The cost of working toward any vision are up-front and known.  The benefits of the vision are in the future and fuzzy.  Convenience favors the status quo. And because education is a relational good, an enlightening experience that cannot be created or consumed alone, I need ambassadors: people who will engage and promote the common future and enlightening experience we seek. I cannot do this myself. I need people who will advocate for the cause, create converts and move the needle forward.

If you “get” what I’m talking about and want to work toward this vision, apply to be an ambassador. It will be an enlightening and rewarding leadership experience for you.   The application process begins this week.  If instead, your looking for a co-curricular activity that will add balance to those good grades and round out your resume, we are not for you.  Your real education will have to take place somewhere else. If you are unsure about whether you are up to the challenge, have a conversation with Jennifer Johnson.  She runs the ambassadors program as well as The Exchange.  Conversation is at the heart of the educational experience and who knows, talking with her  just might inspire you to join us.

Going Out On Your Terms

I spend most of my time thinking about how to prepare people to reinvent themselves every few years. Conventional wisdom is that market change is accelerating, that disruption is everywhere, that jobs are fleeting and that to get ahead, you have to change rapidly. Forget working for the same company for your entire career. Heck, forget about having one career. Embrace change, because it’s coming whether you like it or not.

Saturday was different. I attended Joe Melbourne’s retirement party. Joe has lead CFE Credit Union for 20 years. He has been with them for 23 years. His board wanted to extend his contract another five years. Joe’s response was that nobody wanted to be dealing with him when he’s 81. If that’s not a textbook example of going out on your own terms, I don’t know what is. Joe has been a great friend and supporter of UCF and the college. So a number of people from UCF were in attendance, including Dr. Hitt –another guy who is going to get to leave on his terms one day.

With two leaders of such unusual longevity in the same room, I couldn’t help but speculate about whether they shared some traits that account for their amazing runs leading their organization’s. Both of them have overseen enormous growth, and let’s be honest, they don’t keep you if you’re not winning. Both of them are very genuine and are loved by their employees. Heck, both of them have been around so long that they have essentially hired everyone in their organizations, and people tend to be the most loyal to the person who hired them. But I think a key to both their longevity may be their emphasis on partnership.

There is a view that as CEO tenure lengthens, internal harmony improves because everyone learns to better coordinate with each other, build trust and align. Yet over time this familiarity tends to make the CEO more insular, more risk-averse and more likely to favor the status quo. They become less attuned to external market changes and performance declines. But an emphasis on partnership might mitigate the tendency to be insular. It requires you to be out and about and in tune with your partner’s needs. Joe’s heavy involvement with UCF might help explain why a leader in his 70s made it a strategic priority to understand and meet the needs of his youngest customers. Or maybe the causality works the other way around. Either way, I think the partnership link mattered to Joe’s success in much the same way it does for Dr. Hitt.

Maybe my theory is driven by my hope that Joe benefitted from our partnership as much as we did. He has been a great friend. Joe, when that New York weather gets old, come visit us in the college and share your insights into how we can all go out on our own terms. Or better yet, maybe we could do a Dean’s Speaker Series together on the subject down at the Citrus Club. That would be great fun and give you the opportunity to tell me my theory is a bunch of crap. We both know you can’t pass that opportunity up…lol.

Failure is the Best Teacher

Everyone fails. It is part of life. Rather than pretend it won’t happen, you should count on it and know what you will do to recover from it.  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 eleventh 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 time you stepped out of your comfort zone to experience something new: 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.  It needs to be genuine, people can spot a fish story a mile way.

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. About a year 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 March 24th.  Don’ Worry If You Don’t See it Right Away.  I Have to Accept It.
  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 April 4th.
  3. Those winning entries are then sent to me. I will select three finalists by April 7th at 5 pm.
  4. The finalists will be asked to submit short videos based on their essays. Those videos must be sent to me by 5 pm on April 19th.
  5. I will then feature one video each day on my blog starting April 24th with a vote by everyone reading my blog taking place to determine the winner on Friday April 28th.
  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

A Knight of Affirmation

Thursday was our 18th Annual Hall of Fame Induction ceremony.  It’s an important day in the college.  Honoring our most successful alums is an affirming event for the faculty and staff—it reminds us why we do what we do.  It is also an opportunity to show the community what we are all about and why we are worthy of their time, talent and treasure.  The event has grown to be quite large.  This year we expected 740 guests.


So, as you might imagine, it’s an all hands on deck production. We want people to leave our event having something they want to talk about at work the next morning.  Job descriptions give way to just getting stuff done and putting on a first-class event.   People, especially the students involved in the evening, leave their comfort zones behind.


This year in the final rush hours leading up to the event at Rosen Shingle Creek, Jennifer Johnson, our Director of Engagement, tore her quad muscle.  I didn’t even learn of it until the event had started and by then Jennifer had gone to the ER, had it taped-up, was given crutches and returned to experience the evening.  The tear is painful and any reasonable person would have expected Jennifer to go home and begin her recovery.  She came back to work, not because she had to, but because it was where she wanted to be that evening.  We all toasted her at our after-party.  I smiled somewhat smugly.


People sometimes wonder why I like to hire folks with sharp edges and give them wide discretion to be who they are and do their thing.  They think that hiring people more willing to color in the lines would be easier and lead to more predictable behaviors and outcomes.  I always reply that when you hire people with passion, they come armed with two edges to their sword…you don’t get one without the other.  But if you are willing to engage them on their terms, they will return the respect and support you show them many times over and the place will advance in ways you could never have engineered on your own.  The most affirming thing that happened at this year’s Hall of Fame was Jennifer returning for the evening.   More than the big crowd, amazing inductees, honored guests and energizing students, her actions told me we are on to something in the college of business.


Improving our Job Numbers

Students come to business school to get the skills that will land them a great job and future.  It’s just that simple.  If we want to assess our value-added, the simplest, most powerful measure of the success of our efforts is the number of students who realize their professional aspirations and land a job.

Accrediting agencies and ranking organizations typically look at the percent of students who have landed a job six months after graduation.  Our benchmark is the percent of graduates who leave us with a job in hand.  It’s a more aggressive goal, but the biggest cost of going to school is not tuition, it is the opportunity cost associated with forgone income.  If you want to improve the return on investment to education, one way to do it is to reduce the time people search for a job after graduation.  When we first made this a priority, we moved the percent of students leaving us with a job in hand by 11 percent.  This year I’ve challenged our Office of Professional Development staff to improve that number by another 5 percent.

I got the mid-year job numbers last week. They made me grumpy. Fewer students filled out our survey this fall than last fall, but the total number of students reporting they had landed a new job before graduation fell slightly. The number who said they were going to stay in a job they already had fell much more sharply.  Maybe we raised people’s expectations about what they could achieve, making them less willing to stay in a job they got while in school. Maybe it’s a random dip in the data. But the bottom line is that more students about to graduate were still looking for a new opportunity when they filled out the survey. If we just had the same number of Fall 2016 graduates find new jobs as happened with Fall 2015 graduates, we would have showed the progress I was looking for in percentage terms.

We need to do better. We are going to roll out a new invitation-only internship fair this spring (more to come on this in a later post) and are adding a new course to help students better prepare for the future that will debut in Fall 2017. This should help. But I think one of the challenges of being at UCF is that we are so large and have made student engagement such a priority in the college that we regularly engage in conversations with students that dupe us into thinking we’re winning.

I had just this kind of encounter leaving the building Friday.  A student came up to me to thank me for our “Get to the One” initiative and the professional development courses that helped him land the job of his dreams. He was elated and given the numbers I saw Monday, it was an especially affirming conversation, but I walked away thinking: “One down, 599 to go.”

Like many things, it is the discussions you don’t have that burn you. We need a more systematic approach that tracks our progress in real time, not just once a semester, and motivates more students to have a sense of urgency about realizing their futures. And we need to achieve this without a significant increase in people power. The challenge at UCF is to do things at a scale others think impossible. This requires new thinking and I’m going to get people together next week to take a cold hard look at how we can show continuous improvement in the number of graduates who are leaving with a job in hand.

A Gift to Support Our Culture

The construction in BA-1 can’t get done fast enough in my view.  The project has quieted the common spaces on the first two floors.  The usual hustle and bustle is gone– no students practicing presentations in suits. No groups working on team projects.  No “Good Morning Dean Jarley” as I walk down the halls. The few people who do pass through the building are just scurrying to find a more welcoming place to get on with their lives.  It’s a stark reminder of just how critical the right spaces are to creating the culture you need to support your objectives. It feels like we have gone backwards in time.

The good news is that this week, we are announcing a five hundred thousand dollar gift from The Ravago Group to help bring the right spaces to BA-1. Ravago is the global leader in the distribution, resale and compounding of commodity, engineering and specialty plastic and rubber polymers.The company has offices in Maitland and one visit there will convince you that they understand the important role physical space plays in supporting culture: Its a beautiful, functional, stylish office that tells you that forward-thinking winners work here.  Ravago’s generous gift will help us build the inspiring, high-tech, creative spaces necessary to create an educational experience that instills the mindsets, habits and behaviors students need to succeed in today’s marketplace.  It’s a gift to a culture that strives to get students our of their comfort zones, take risks, collaborate and invent their futures.

Thanks for believing in what we are trying to achieve Ravago. We look forward to hosting your team in our new space in early summer.

Hall of Fame 2017

February is Hall of Fame month in the College of Business.  Preparation for the event that takes place on Thursday February 23 at Rosen Shingle Creek dominates our staff meetings.  Why spend so much time and effort on just one evening?

Because it’s the single biggest opportunity we have each year to show our alumni and community what we are all about, why we deserve their support and how much progress we have made together. Looking back over my five years as Dean, I cannot help but be proud of the many partnerships we have built with organizations and friends throughout Central Florida.  These partnerships have helped us promote a dialogue with the community about the practice of business, engage our students in their professional development, and ignite conversations about the future of business education.  We have come a long way toward achieving our vision of becoming the cross-roads of town and gown– an engaging place where people from different backgrounds come together to collaborate, take risks, analyze real time data and invent the future.

For those of you who have been coming to this event over the last five years, you know that no two Hall of Fame evenings are alike.  We try to bring the UCF College of Business experience to our audience during the evening and that means getting out of our comfort zones and taking some risks with the program.  If you want to attend an event that will make you proud of your hometown business school, give you a chance to get to know our amazing alumni inductees, faculty and students and give you something to talk about the next day at work, come join us by clicking here.  (We’ll also get you on your way home by 9:00 pm.)

See you February 23rd.

The Jobs of Our Integrated Business Graduates

There is a lot of interest among faculty, students and our Dean’s Advisory Board members in the post-graduation experiences of our Integrated Business (IB) majors.  It’s our newest major and is designed to produce graduates who can integrate across business functions. We’ve only graduated 26 students so far: 5 last summer and 21 more in the fall.  It’s not a lot of data, but Chris Leo used LinkedIn to track the current employment of those 26 graduates and found information for 19 of them. That means at least 73 percent of our IB grads are currently employed although in at least one instance we know it’s a job they had while in the program.  Conversely, we know that at least 3 students got their current job from an IB internship while at UCF.

Collectively, the 19 students have a wide array of jobs.  Four IB students work in marketing-related roles: Social Media Analyst at The Sports Quotient; Marketing Coordinator at John Wiley and Sons; Market Research Interviewer at Integrated Insight Inc. and Marketing and Research Associate at Coldwell Banker Commercial.  

Three IB grads have recruiting jobs at Alligent Healthcare, BlueWave Resource Partners, and TekPartners, respectively, while another is an Industry Development Professional at Pontoon Solutions– a staffing firm. Three other IB grads hold analyst positions: Revenue Performance Management Analyst at Global Convergence, Business Analyst at Masseys Services and Senior Purchasing Analyst at Publix Super Markets.  

Two grads are in project coordinator roles, (Rock Em Apparel and SON Technology) while two others are employed in customer service jobs (Enterprise and OnlinePartyDesign) and another pair in operations positions (Amazon and Apple).

The list is rounded out with a Solution Developer at Deloitte Consulting and a Staff Accountant at RLF Architecture and Planning.

Obviously 26 graduates isn’t a lot to go on,  but I think the diversity of jobs held by our IB graduates speaks to the robustness of the major in providing general skill sets that can be employed in a wide variety of functions and settings.  In a world where jobs and job titles come and go at an alarming pace, the ability to adapt, integrate and add value across functions is a great way to achieve employment security.  It’s one of the ideas driving the development of the IB major.

Keep it up IB faculty, I think you’re all on to something here.

The End of BE 2000

Richard tells me that the BE 2000 shrine that has resided on the first floor of BA-1 will be removed this weekend.  For those of you who have forgotten, it looks like this:


When you brand an initiative with a date, you eventually get a dated brand. In fairness to Dean Huseman, I’m sure he didn’t expect the curriculum he pioneered or the monument he commissioned to last this long.  If there’s an alum who is interested in preserving it in their yard, den, etc., give us a call.

As coincidence would have it, we are removing the last physical vestiges of this by-gone era at a time when we are also imagining the future of the College. We have challenged ourselves to think about what business education should like in the coming decades and how we can use this exercise to develop and act on a plan that will make us first-movers in the marketplace. It is not exactly clear yet what that future will look like, but competency-based curricula, career readiness for students and five-year programs culminating in master’s degrees are receiving a great deal of attention.  Ultimately, we want to do for business education what Elon Musk is doing for cars.

Hey, wouldn’t a brand new Tesla be the perfect thing to replace that BE 2000 monument under the steps of BA-1? Maybe when people do something really great in the college, we could let them toot the horn.

We had a DeLorean for the Hall of Fame a few years back…. Tiffany, can you get me one of those?


Progress in Admission to Majors

Near the end of last semester, a reader asked if I would post information about how many students got into each major based on their performance in the Fall semester.  I commented at that time, that the data wasn’t ready yet, but that I would as soon as I had final numbers.

The table below shows the number of students who got into the major of their first choice at the end of Fall 2016.  This means they completed the primary core that semester and when they did, it qualified them to move from their designated “pre-major” to that same “major”.  What the data below doesn’t show (we still need to compile this) is the number who decided to enroll in a different major after their performance last fall.  We estimate that this about an additional 50 students.


We admitted more than twice as many students into a major for this Spring 2017 (698) than we did last year at this time  (312) when the system was brand new.  In fact, we are nearing what we would expect to be a steady-state number for a Fall or Spring semester in-take into the majors, which is about 800.  Note also that the relative order of admissions into the majors has remained the same.  Finance is the most common followed by Integrated Business (IB) and then Accounting. Economics and Real Estate tend to have much more modest numbers.