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Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Aug. 3, 2015

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Students in the UCF College of Medicine’s class of 2019 attended their white coat ceremony on Monday. (PHOTO: Wendy Sarubbi)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The UCF College of Medicine’s seventh class, comprised of 121 students, received their first white coats on Monday, beginning their journeys to become physician Knights.
  2. WKMG Local 6 news interviewed UCF Foundation CEO Mike Morsberger about his vision for success.
  3. UCF earned $2.2 million in grants to help first-generation and at-risk students pursing STEM and other fields succeed in college.
  4. The Tampa Bay UCF Alumni Chapter hosts UCF Day with the Rays on Sunday, Aug. 9, at Tropicana Field.
  5. UCF sophomore and cancer survivor Ben Watson founded a charity to help families dealing with pediatric cancer.

Strength in the Saddle

Alumna ensures disabled horseback riders get the therapy they need

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Lauren Parslow, ’14, shares a quiet moment with Whitey, one of the horses that provides therapy,
through Freedom Ride, to physically/mentally disabled children and adults.

Lauren Parslow, ’14 | Volunteer Coordinator, Freedom Ride

By Angie Lewis, ’03

“Horses mirror our emotions,” Lauren Parslow, ’14, says. “What we feel, they will feel.”

And, that’s what makes them especially well suited as animal partners in helping children and adults cope with physical and mental disabilities, and post-traumatic stress, while improving their interaction skills and building their confidence.

Parslow, who’s been riding and working with horses since she was 5 years old, works as the volunteer coordinator for Freedom Ride, a therapeutic horseback riding center in Orlando. She loves everything about her job, because, every day, it allows her to make a difference in the lives of others.

“I can see the changes in the riders, their physical and mental health improving, and their overall quality of life improving,” she explains. “I also love that I get to work with the things I am most passionate about: children and horses.”

Freedom Ride is a PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship)-accredited riding center that provides therapeutic riding lessons that help its mentally and physically disabled participants gain core strength, posture and balance.

In addition, the non-profit organization also provides hippotherapy, a form of occupational therapy in which a therapist uses the movements of a horse to engage sensorimotor and neuromotor systems to create functional change in a patient. It also offers a military program to help veterans increase self-awareness, enhance coping skills and learn more effective ways to interact and move forward within the community and with loved ones.

Parslow originally majored in forensic science at UCF — until she took chemistry, which was extremely difficult for her. During her struggle, she was also working at the YMCA, which led her down her new path.

“I realized how much I enjoyed working with children,” she explains. “I did my research and knew I didn’t want to become a teacher, so I took the early childhood development track. I loved every class and gave 100 percent every day.”

While pursuing her degree in early childhood development and education, Parslow interned with Freedom Ride for four months to gain the hands-on experience required for her major. Now employed with the organization for almost one year, she ensures they have enough quality volunteers to care for the horses, facility, and work the classes alongside the riders.

“I think my education degree helps me offer my expertise on our riders and their behaviors that the other staff may not understand,” she says. “I’m able to offer insight into why children do certain things and not others, or what they respond to best.”

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Jasper & Lauren

Horsin’ Around Q&A

Q. What advice do you have for current education students at UCF?
A. Enjoy what you’re studying! You’re going to be guiding future generations. A degree in this field is EXTREMELY important. I wish more people would understand that. The first eight years of life are most important. So many milestones are reached in that time frame. PLEASE enjoy what you are doing. There has to be passion for what you want to do or it will affect future generations.

Q. Describe a typical day at work.
A. The first thing I do when I arrive at work is greet all of my staff members and volunteers. We have a small staff, and we always ensure our volunteers have a great time. We’re a family, and I want to make sure that they feel that way. Throughout the day, I enter the volunteer hours into our database, work on the monthly volunteer newsletter, ensure that we have enough volunteers each day, visit the horses and riders, and be thankful that I have a job that I enjoy. There are days where we may not have enough volunteers, so I’ll need to work a class, which I thoroughly enjoy! I’m always asking the other staff members if they need anything done, and I will do it if they need the help. My days go by quickly, but I always come to work with a smile on my face and leave with a smile!

Q. What’s the last thing you Googled?
A. “Trucks for sale.” Living on a farm is tough without a truck!

Q. What one thing drives you absolutely crazy?
A. I’m a firm believer that if someone says they’re going to do something, they should do it. I don’t like seeing people, or myself, get their hopes up only to have them crushed.

Q. Last book you read?
A. PATH Instructor Manual. I’m going to become a riding instructor!

Q. If someone wrote a book about you, what would the title be?
A. Happy-Go-Lucky, or something along those lines. I’m always, always happy. I always have a smile on my face and enjoy life to the fullest.

Q. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
A. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was to beat depression and anxiety. Before attending UCF, I was a very anxious and depressed teenager. I sought help from a psychologist and her dog, and overcame my depression and anxiety. Those two things are very hard to beat and overcome, but I’m glad I did. I think that’s why I’m such a happy and thankful individual.

Q. Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A. Worrying never changes the outcome. How true is that?!

Q. What’s something you learned in the past week?
A. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to step up and take care of things when no one else is willing to help. It’s difficult, but it can be done!

Q. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
A. I’m easily intimidated, and I do NOT like confrontation.

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See how Lauren and Freedom Ride are helping others:

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Equestrian Club at UCF Expands Outside of Stables

Equestrian Club at UCF Expands Outside of Stables

UCF's Hunt Seat member Alex Sipos rode to third place in an Intermediate Fences class at a UCF horse show on March 14. (Photo: Courtesy of Cy Cyr/Central Florida Future)

UCF’s Hunt Seat member Alex Sipos rode to third place in an Intermediate Fences class at a
UCF horse show on March 14. (Photo: Courtesy of Cy Cyr/Central Florida Future)

By Noelle Campbell
Digital Producer, Central Florida Future

What’s a Knight without his horse?

The Equestrian Club at UCF knows that statement all too well. It brings together students of all levels, who have a passion for horses, to participate in monthly competitions that span from Savannah, Ga., to Miami, Fla.

In the National Reigning Horse Association Collegiate Riding Championships on June 27, Hunt Seat rider Morgan Sykes proved to be good on his horse. He finished second in the nation, just a half point behind the national champion.

The title is a big leap from the club’s inaugural year when it boasted only four members.

Today, there are more than 50 members participating in one non-competitive and two competitive teams within the club. The competitive side of the club is divided into two parts: Hunt Seat and Western.

Hunt Seat competes in four divisions: walking, trotting, cantering and over fences, where riders must complete a course in the correct order and positioning.

“You’re judged in Hunt Seat on the way you perform with the horse — on how you ride as a rider, how correct you are and how effective you are in your positions as a rider,” explains Josie Graham, club treasurer and Hunt Seat captain.

For fairness’ sake, the names of competing horses are drawn from a hat and assigned to a rider, who only has about five minutes with the horse before competing.

“You have this horse and you have to adapt yourself to this horse, and it really makes you into an effective rider,” Graham says.

Western team members compete in Western pleasure horsemanship and reining. Like Hunt Seat, competitors rely on a random draw for their horses.

The horses could be donated to the show for the day by volunteers or belong to the schools the at which the team competes.

The Western team is available to anyone from beginners to the open class, who are allowed to show in the reining class. Reining incorporates Western-styled patterns, spins and sliding stops into its horsemanship.

But competing isn’t the only thing on riders’ minds. Since its founding, the club has taken care of Knightro’s partner in crime, Pegasus, who circles the field at every home football game.

The non-competitive team works with the Pegasus Mascot Program, which was created in 2001 by the UCF Alma Mater Society.

The well-being of Pegasus is in the hands of squires, who spend four to five hours volunteering and watching over Pegasus during football games. They also get the mascots ready for appearances and do crowd control, says Jennifer Steele, club president and Pegasus Mascot coordinator. During the 2014-15 football season, there were 10 squires.

All members of the club also volunteer twice per semester with the club’s philanthropies.

One such organization is Heavenly Hooves, a therapeutic riding center in Kissimmee, Fla., for people with disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder. The volunteers assist in many areas of the organization, including helping with lessons, fundraising and cleaning stalls. Amy Lesch, manager of the volunteer services, says the club’s presence at Heavenly Hooves is beneficial because of their passion and experience with horses.

But, whether they’re riding their way to victory or volunteering their time, club members are all about the teamwork.

“At the end of the show, it doesn’t matter how each one of us did because we’re all a team,” says Cara Spirazza, club vice president and captain of the Western team. “I think the teamwork and the team effort of it is the most rewarding part, because we’re all there for each other. We’re all riding together and putting in all the hard work together.”

Learn More

This story was published in a July 27, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

UCF Professor Explains Why We Look at Gross Stuff

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By Christin Senior
UCF Today

Ever wonder why you can’t help but rubberneck at a car crash as you’re driving by?

Bridget Rubenking says it’s all about evolution. Rubenking, an assistant professor of radio and television at the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication, was a featured guest on HuffPost Live with host Nancy Redd on July 23 as part of a panel discussion on viewing gory images and videos on the Internet.

During their conversation, Rubinking shared findings from her research on why humans feel compelled to view things that elicit disgust, such as blood, guts and body products. Her research involved measuring various physiological responses experienced by 130 undergraduate students as they were shown video clips of disgusting scenes in entertainment media, such as the infamous toilet scene from the movie “Trainspotting.”

“We found that once disgust was introduced in a scene, people started paying attention a lot more…” Rubinking said. “Surprisingly few people stopped and turned away.”

Her research, titled, “Captivated and Grossed Out: An Examination of Processing Core and Sociomoral Disgusts in Entertainment Media,” was published by the Journal of Communication in 2014, and has since been featured in media outlets such as the Daily Mail, ABC News, New York Magazine and Science Daily.

“It’s a very evolutionary fit thing to rubberneck at gore and gross images,” she said. “It’s inherently human to pay attention to these things, because we want to avoid it. We tend to gawk at the scene of a car accident so that we know to avoid this happening to us.”

WATCH VIDEO

This story appeared July 24, 2015, on today.ucf.edu. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article

UCF Student-Athletes Crush the Competition

UCF Football, Men’s Basketball, Softball earn AAC Team Academic Excellence Awards

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By Andy Seeley
UCFKnights.com

UCF student-athletes are continuing to excel in the classroom, as well as in competition. Three Knights programs were honored Tuesday, July 28, as the American Athletic Conference announced its Team Academic Excellence Awards for 2014-15.

The American Athletic Conference Team Academic Excellence Awards recognize the team in each conference sport with the highest GPA for that academic year. UCF’s football, men’s basketball and softball programs each earned that distinction this year.

“I’m very proud of our student-athletes for their hard work and success in the classroom,” interim Director of Athletics George O’Leary said. “We have a culture of academic success at UCF.”

For Coach O’Leary’s football program, it marks the fourth straight season the Knights have been honored as the best academic team in their conference. The Knights have brought home the Team Academic Excellence Award twice in the two-year existence of the American Athletic Conference. In addition to the last two AAC honors, the football program also brought home the Conference USA Sport Academic Award in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

The Knights are the two-time defending American Athletic Conference champions on the gridiron to go along with the Academic Team Excellence Awards.

Head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie led her softball squad to a school-record 50 wins last season. The Knights were the American Athletic Conference Champions in both the regular season and postseason tournament and advanced to the NCAA Regional Final. The Black and Gold accomplished those feats while also fielding the strongest academic squad in the conference.

Meanwhile, men’s basketball head coach Donnie Jones leads a squad that posted a school-record Academic Progress Rate score in the most recent NCAA release, to go along with his team’s AAC Team Academic Excellence Award.

Academic accolades have become the norm at UCF.

As a department, the Knights rank No. 1 in the nation in NCAA Graduation Success Rate among all public institutions. At 95 percent in the most recent GSR report, UCF trails only private institutions Notre Dame, Stanford, Duke and Northwestern. The Knights’ GSR is 11 points above the national average. UCF’s football, volleyball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer and rowing programs are all tops among The American in Graduation Success Rate.

In the most recent NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) report, the Knights improved for the 10th consecutive year. Two Knights programs — volleyball and women’s tennis — have had multiple perfect scores in APR, while the department average of 981 is a school record. Twelve of the Knights’ 16 sports are at or above the national average for APR.

This story was posted July 28, 2015, on UCFKnights.com. It has been slightly edited in accordance with alumni association style guidelines. See original article.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — July 27, 2015

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Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Renowned physician, surgeon, educator, entrepreneur and proud UCF Knight Dr. Gideon Lewis, ’00, was named to the UCF Foundation Board of Directors. “I have always strived to lead by example,” he said. “Serving on this board provides me with a much larger platform to encourage more people to give back to UCF.”
  2. ICYMI: Alumni, students, faculty and staff, and the Central Florida community came together to help Tivoli Apartments residents who were devastated by a July 12 fire.
  3. After losing his partner to an early retirement due to medical issues, UCF Police Officer Matt Scott has a new K9 partner, a 16-month-old German Shepard named Justice.
  4. UCF Athletics announced a change in traffic flow following all of this season’s home football games. Get in the know!
  5. We’ve got six new UCF Alumni Facebook cover photos anyone can use! Spruce up your profile and share with friends!

Alumni Community Unites to Help Fire Victims

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About 75 residents, including 25 UCF students, were displaced by a fire on Sunday, July 12, at the Tivoli Apartments off McCulloch Road in Oviedo. (Photo: Johnathan Kuntz, Central Florida Future)

When Ken Brown, ’02, got an email last Tuesday inviting donations for the approximately 25 UCF students displaced by an apartment fire two days before, he had some of the help they needed literally at his feet.

Managing director of the Orlando-based IT staffing company Tekk Fusion, Brown keeps a stack of laptops under his desk that employees can use while traveling or working from home.

“I looked at them and thought, ‘Those kids need these more than we do right now,'” he said.

So, he loaded up all 14 laptops, along with bags of food, clothes and other essentials, and headed to campus, where he donated everything to the Knights Helping Knights Pantry, the organization designated to receive and distribute donations to help victims of the fire.

And, Brown wasn’t alone — not by a long shot. Hundreds of other UCF alumni and friends came together to give more than $20,000 in cash and truckloads of food and necessities to victims of the fire via the Knights Pantry.

In fact, pantry manager Jessica Roberts says that as of July 23, the pantry has received 150 pounds of food, 25-30 bags of clothing, multiple small appliances and furniture items, hundreds of toiletry items, school supplies, and $700 in gift cards.

“When the Tivoli fire victims come to the pantry, they are given unrestricted access to toiletries, produce, clothing and the food donated specifically for them, in addition to 10 food items from our other inventory (instead of the traditional five items),” Roberts says.

The Knights Helping Knights Pantry is still collecting items for the displaced Tivoli students, and can always use donations throughout the year to help all Knights in need. Visit their website below for more details.

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Knights Helping Knights Pantry

Update on donations

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — July 20, 2015

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Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Congratulations to Mary Lou Sole, a longtime UCF professor and administrator, who was named as the new dean of the College of Nursing! (Also, see the Orlando Sentinel article.)
  2. The superheroes at Limbitless Solutions have done it again! This time, they partnered with the Orlando City Soccer Club to donate a 3-D printed arm to a 6-year-old Brazilian boy.
  3. Things may be a little quiet around UCF this time of year, but our regional alumni chapters and clubs — including Austin, Jacksonville and Boston — are keeping busy!
  4. Speaking of travel, did you know that the alumni association has partnered with many different companies to offer great benefits, including discounts on rental cars, hotels and even LEGOLAND? Visit our benefits page to check out all of the awesome discounts you can take advantage of as a UCF Knight!
  5. ICYMI: The Blackstone Launchpad at UCF is helping to propel students toward their entrepreneurial dreams. Read about three such Knights who have started their own unique companies.

Nearly 10-percent Increase in College Grad Hires

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Orlando is the fastest-growing metro area in the country, with more than 4 percent in job growth.
(Photo: Deanna Ferrante, Central Florida Future)

By Deanna Ferrante
Senior Staff Writer, Central Florida Future

You’ve turned in your last assignment, taken your last test and walked across the stage at graduation. But, there’s still one thing to do: Find a job.

Employers are planning to hire 9.6 percent more college graduates than they did last year, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Sean Snaith, director of UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness, said it seems to be a high percentage — even though Orlando is the fastest-growing metro area in the country, with more than 4 percent in terms of job growth. That’s well over the state’s rate of growth at around 3 percent and twice the national rate, which is just above 2 percent.

“We’re now in the seventh year of this economic recovery,” Snaith said. “I think hiring has been improving not rapidly, but improving steadily.”

Lynn Hansen, executive director of UCF Career Services, said it’s a combination of the economy and the university’s location that makes Orlando an advantageous area for graduates.

“I think we’re fortunate that we’re located where we’re located,” she said. “With the history of technology companies, transportation, health care and hospitality here, I think we have a lot going for us.”

Big-name corporations, such as Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Target, Lockheed Martin, Yelp, Yahoo and even the CIA, have all come to UCF to recruit students. Hansen said employer recruitment on campus has seen a significant increase. In spring, Career Services was actively working with 1,077 employers — an increase from 563.

“To me, that’s an indication that the demand is up for talent,” she said.

In a 2013-14 Career Services survey of 8,658 graduating students, 71 percent said they were seeking full-time or part-time employment. Of that number, 42 percent were already in the workforce or had accepted job offers, and 8 percent had been offered positions.

Students who were already employed or had received a full-time job were in the hospitality services and health care industries. Education and engineering were other popular choices.

Also in 2013, the Florida Department of Education found that out of the 12,047 UCF fall graduates, 68 percent of those who found jobs in Florida were still employed a year after graduation.

But, these statistics aren’t the whole picture, Hansen said.

There are plenty of students who get jobs out of state or in other countries who aren’t counted as part of these totals.

Hansen said students who do fall in the employment statistics can improve their chances of being hired by joining campus organizations, volunteering with clubs, conducting undergraduate research, finding internships or getting part-time jobs.

“Those things help build that student into a person … that the working world is looking for,” she added.

For graduating students looking for work, it all comes down to planning.

“It’s never too early to begin the process,” Hansen said. “Finding that great job after graduation isn’t like picking up your cap and gown on the way to the commencement ceremony.”

This article appeared in a July 16, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with the AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original story. 

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Commencement Through the Years

250K-grad

With UCF’s summer graduation ceremony just around the corner, on Aug. 8, the Summer 2015 issue of Pegasus Magazine took a look back at 45 years of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

From the first commencement ceremony in 1970, to the array of distinguished speakers over more than five decades, to the 250,000th graduate, Daniel Berreth, ’15, UCF continues to charge its unique path through history.

TAKE A LOOK…

With groundbreaking new programs, the addition of more faculty members, and UCF Downtown on the horizon, the Knights of tomorrow have much to look forward to!

 

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