A Letter from the Director

The Integrated Business Degree program, which launched in spring 2016, is the newest of the seven BSBA degrees offered by UCF’s College of Business.

IB represents a new approach to undergraduate business education and was developed by a dedicated group of UCF faculty members in conjunction with members of the business community and UCF alums. There is nothing like it in the college nor anywhere else at UCF. Indeed, there isn’t another business program like it anywhere in the world. We believe it represents the cutting edge of undergraduate business education.

So what makes the IB program so different?

Many things, including its innovative coursework, use of flipped classroom methodology, intentional teaching of soft skills and focus on small- and medium-size, privately held firms.

Course work.

Rather than continue to teach the same things taught by business schools for the past 50 or 60 years, we talked to business owners and UCF alums to find out what they thought should be taught. They told us, “everybody sells something,” (a product, an idea, themselves), so we require students to take a sales class. They told us, “today’s graduates don’t know how to tackle long-term projects,” so we require students to take a project management class. And so on. Each of our eight required classes provides students with exposure to a skill set that is useful across industries and across functional areas of business. Further, our classes teach processes, not answers. So our technology class doesn’t teach how to use specific technologies, it teaches the process of identifying a technology solution to a business problem, whatever the business and whatever the problem. And our decision making class teaches a process of critical thinking that is influenced by careful (but not complex) data analysis.

Flipped Classroom.

For years, business education has been (1) read chapter 4; (2) lecture on chapter 4; (3) take exam on chapter 4. But the real world doesn’t come in chapters, or lectures or exams. And many students don’t learn well or learn deeply from this approach. So we did away with it. IB classes have no lectures. Students encounter material online in short readings, videos or exercises prior to coming to class. In class, they break into teams and work on assignments that get them actively engaged with the material. They learn through doing. The instructor acts as a consultant, coach and mentor, rather than a talking head at the front of the room.

Soft Skills.

Our alums, employers and the research tells us the skills that make for a successful career aren’t usually the technical ones, because technology changes and as people advance from entry level to executive positions, they cease being technicians. The skills that remain important throughout a career are the soft or transferable ones, such as the ability to write well, convey information, work in a team, solve problems, think critically, understand the role of a leader and so on. While we have talked about these skills in business for many years, they don’t get taught. Part of the reason the IB program adopted the flipped classroom approach is to make sure we could intentionally teach these soft skills in an environment in which the instructor can observe, coach and correct. All of our classes use team based learning, but in some classes various roles rotate through members of the team, so that, for example, everyone makes a presentation, writes a summary or takes on the role of team leader at some point during the semester. We believe coursework that emphasizes process and intentionally teaches soft skills will produce graduates who are uniquely qualified for today’s ever changing career paths.

Small/Medium Size Businesses.

It’s funny—we know all of the net growth in the economy comes from small businesses. And we know about 40 percent of UCF’s business graduates go to work for small businesses. We also know many of our most successful alums started businesses, but when you look at the traditional undergraduate business class, all of the examples are extremely large companies. Partly that’s because there’s a lot of information and data available for large companies that is much harder to come by for small businesses, but partly it’s a bias. We think of success as being the relatively small handful of companies that happen to grow very large, rather than the thousands and thousands of businesses that employ 10 or 50 or 250 employees, produce innovative goods and services, and create a lot of wealth and prosperity. In IB, we want to prepare students for a world in which they will likely switch career paths multiple times and often wear a lot of “hats” (take on a lot of different roles) during a typical work week. So we have adopted a program-wide focus on small- and medium-size, privately held businesses—businesses where you know the owner and where advancement can come quickly if you work hard and know how to solve problems. We also want to prepare our students whose goal is to start a business of their own. In fact, students in IB must take one elective and there are only three choices: an internship, the first class in the Entrepreneurism certificate program, or our Small Business Development class.

In addition, the IB program is the only UCF business degree offered (face-to-face) on multiple campuses. We understand not everyone finds it easy to drive to east Orlando three to four times a week, so we bring our program to you!

The degree program is available on 5 campuses in Central Florida, with face-to-face classes offered every semester at:

  1. UCF Main Campus (East Orlando)
  2. Valencia West (West Orlando)
  3. Valencia East (East Orlando)
  4. Seminole State (Sanford/Lake Mary)
  5. Valencia Osceola (Kissimmee)
  6. We may expand to to the downtown campus when it opens.

 

I’m very excited to be a part of this innovative approach to undergraduate business education. Please know that I’m always available to talk with you about the program and am always thankful for your feedback (positive or negative). We’re not stupid enough to think we’ve got everything figured out, so please give us ideas how to make the program better. I am…

Sincerely yours,

 

Jim Gilkeson, Ph.D.

Jim Gilkeson, Ph.D., CFA

Director