Doing Not Being

The week between semesters is one where many students learn about whether they got into the major of their first choice. Students tend to see their major as their identity in college.. they are an accounting major, or an economics manager or a management major. In large part, this is an exercise in “being.” Students think this label defines both their present and their future. When they learn they didn’t get into their major of first choice, students tend to think doors have been slammed shut and that their life is over.

This week we welcome about 700 students to the College and try to impress upon them the importance of having the right mindset at Welcome to the Majors. There we try to help newcomers understand that the goal of education is ACTION, not status. It’s about what you want to do, not what you want to be. Students tend to say things like: “I want to be an accountant.” or “I want to be a financial analyst.” When we follow that up with: ” What does an accountant or financial analyst do?” Students give us confused looks. They are stuck in “a being” mindset.

Doing is action oriented with a specific goal in mind– “I want to provide people with a unique entertainment experience.” Or ” I want to invest in the stock market so I can retire at 40.” Or, “I want to apply data analytic techniques to hockey player performance and build a better hockey team.” When you focus on action, you tend to think about the skills and extracurricular experiences you need to be good at what you want to do. Our aspiring hockey mogul needs a good grasp of statistics, a way to sell her value proposition to a general manager, and probably an internship where she can start to develop these skills and better understand the business. A lot of different classes in a lot of different majors and experiences can help get her there. The same with investing and retiring at 40… Would it surprise you to learn that many top- end financial firms hire physics majors because they have developed the skills necessary to work with very complex models.

There are a few instances where you need to be, before you are allowed to do. You can’t routinely do surgery without a medical degree and the proper credentialing. Similarly, it is possible to become a CPA without an accounting degree, but the most efficient path involves getting one. But these examples are the exception, especially for people who want to succeed in some aspect of business. So if you are one of those students who didn’t get into their major of first choice, remember what we told you at Welcome to the Majors. Focus on you want to do and find a way to acquire the skills and experiences necessary to do what you want to do. If the evidence suggests that you don’t have the ability to develop those skills, pivot and pursue something else you want to do. It’s a long career. No one has all their doors shut at age 20 or even age 40. Figure it out and charge on.


We Won’t Forget You

Today is graduation.  We graduate about 2,000 students a year from the College of Business.  Spring is the biggest graduation ceremony we do each year.  It is so large, that UCF has a separate graduation just for us.

Over the last 12 years, every College of Business graduation ceremony involving students from our Executive Development Center has included one person: Mike Sheahan.  As the program liaison, Mike would stand on the same corner outside the arena to congratulate students and their families as they entered the arena.  In the more than 1100 students Mike has greeted over those 12 years,  I dare say he has never ever forgotten even one of their names.  As EMBA graduate and UCF VP of Communications and Marketing Grant Heston notes: “Mike has an amazing ability to recall people’s names at a moment’s notice.  Frankly, it is a superpower.. he doesn’t just remember their names, he remembers their spouse’s name, their children’s names, maybe even their crazy uncle’s name.”  Combined with a hearty handshake and a warm smile, he makes every person he greets feel like they are the single most important person in his life at that moment.  And, this is not a fleeting thing — you could run into Mike 10 years later and he would still have all this information at the ready.  You would have no need to introduce yourself.

Mike’s uncanny ability to never forget someone is so impressive that we have adopted it as a mindset for how we treat our graduates, retired staffers, and former faculty.  Simply put, we will never forget you.  For our many graduates today who took the time to get to know us– there may come a time in your future when you need your college to remember you, help you make a connection or point you in the right direction toward success.  Call or email us. We will do what we can to help.  Mike wouldn’t have it any other way.   So Mike as you enjoy your retirement, know that we will continue the tradition you gave us and know too that we will certainly never ever forget you.


You’re Behind

I spent most of last week at a conference with about 500 other deans. I have a love-hate relationship with conferences. The networking is good, but the sessions tend to disappoint. They always have great titles, but little of the content in them that’s new. You leave feeling a bit cheated.

I was expressing this frustration to a friend when he commented–“if you are learning something here, you are behind.” He’s right. By the time it makes it to a conference, it isn’t new. It’s state-of-art. If you haven’t already adopted it, you are behind. The better way to learn is to go visit people you meet at conferences that you know are innovating and land an invitation to go visit them. Go see what they are doing live, while it’s developing without all the “marketing” that tends to go with conference presentations. You get the real story much quicker and can learn from their mistakes. Then return the favor, extend a visit to them, show them what you are up to and ask for them for feedback.

In a year or two, they will be asking you and your friends to make that conference presentation to let others know they’re behind.

The Promotion Fairy

The best part of my job is when I get to tell faculty that they got promoted.  For tenure- track faculty, this is a high-stakes game.  If you are an assistant professor and don’t get promoted to associate professor in six years (about half of all new hires), you are looking for a new job.   If you do get promoted,  it is like getting an equity stake in the firm–your colleagues believe you are worth keeping around, value your insights and contributions to teaching and research. They believe that we are better as a college with you than without you.  If you make a second promotion to Full Professor, it is a sign that you have a national reputation as an expert in your field and are someone who can be relied on to mentor others and help set the direction of the department and college.

Promotion is the end of a long process that starts with letters from accomplished scholars at other big name schools critiquing what you accomplished and then goes through a number of committees at the department, college and university level that vote on whether your work merits this reward.  Department chairs, deans, provosts and university presidents also get a say.  In the old days, lots of trees died in this eight-month process. Now its all done electronically.  Our clinical faculty go through a similar process although it doesn’t involve external review and life-time employment isn’t on the line.  Usually, once it makes it through to the provost and president, it is pretty much a done deal although technically it still needs board of trustee approval..

So, when I get to tell people they made it through the university (or they didn’t) and the decision is just waiting for board approval , I do it in person.  This year, I got to tell lots of people they made it. Lots of smiles ensued as I made the rounds, shook people’s hands and let them know how proud we are that they are a part of us. So, for the record–  Professor Pradeep Bhardwaj is being recommend to promotion to Full Professor.  Professors Yu Tian, Sami Alpenda and Craig Crossley are being promoted to Associate Professor, pending board approval.  Dr. Ray Sturm will become our first Senior Lecturer, Jeff Reinking an Associate Lecturer.  Lynda Dennis, Lonny Butcher, Scott Buckstein, and Chis Leo are all being promoted to Associate Instructor.   We continue to expect great things from all of these folks and are grateful we get to call them our colleagues.

Charge On…