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Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Aug. 15, 2016

less debt

1. Less college debt? Where do we sign? Turns out, 48 percent of undergraduates at UCF carry no debt upon graduation – well below the national average.

2. UCF is partnering in a new national project called Re-Imagining the First Year of College that is designed to increase student success, particularly for students who are low-income, first-generation or racial minorities.

3. There’s a new, clear bag policy for UCF football games and you’re going to want to read it. Some key items you will not be able to bring into Bright House Networks Stadium include purses, diaper bags and non-approved seat cushions.

4. Four PhD students at the UCF College of Nursing are receiving full scholarships thanks to the help of three new grants totaling $85,000.

5. A partnership between UCF Health, the UCF College of Medicine’s physician practice and My Health Onsite opened a new health center for Osceola County Sheriff’s Office members and their families.

Olympic Knights: Bronze or Bust

Aline team

UCF alumna Aline Reis (center, black jersey) has a chance at the bronze medal on Aug. 19.

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug. 18, 2016) – A chance at a bronze medal is on the line for one Knight at the Summer Olympics.

UCF alumna Aline Reis ’11 and her native Brazil will face Canada in Friday’s bronze-medal soccer match at noon. WATCH

If Brazil wins, Reis will join an elite group of UCF alumni who have stood on the podium at the Summer Olympics. Michelle Akers ’89 won gold with Team USA’s 1996 soccer team, and Phil Dalhausser ’02 brought home gold from the 2008 Beijing Games in beach volleyball.

Dalhausser, a three-time Olympian, was also competing at this year in Rio but unfortunately exited the games early with a loss to top-seeded Brazil on Monday’s quarterfinals. He thanked his fans, sponsors, family and friends via Instagram for the support he received. Dalhausser thanks

Reis, who earned her degree in interdisciplinary studies, was called up to Brazil’s National Team Camp in February with no guarantees of a spot on the Olympic roster. She secured a role as the reserve goalkeeper on the 18-member roster.

Her shining moment occurred on Aug. 9 when she received a starting nod, played all 90 minutes in goal and came up with two great saves to earn a shutout in a 0-0 tie against South Africa.

She was featured in an Aug. 16 article by Sports Illustrated  after Brazil lost a heartbreaking match in penalty kicks to Sweden that — had they won — would have advanced them to Friday’s gold medal game.

“The coolest thing is it’s not only the typical soccer fan that’s supporting us,” Aline said in the story by Grant Wahl. “We have senior citizens, women of all ages watching us and sending us messages, wanting to take pictures with us. So I think that’s the biggest accomplishment we can have, even more important than a gold medal. We want to change the face of women’s soccer in Brazil. And if we can continue to do that through the media and the soccer that we’re playing on the field, that’s our biggest accomplishment.”

During her career at UCF, Reis earned All-American, all-region and all-conference honors and helped UCF win two conference championships. She was also recognized as a scholar All-American.

Lasting Impact



Aug. 17, 2016

Christal Peterson was an All-American sprinter and conference champion for the UCF track and field team before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences (pre-clinical) in Summer 2015. She also served as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President. This fall, Peterson will start the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at UCF.

Peterson recently returned from a week-long service-learning trip to Panama with the UCF Athletics-based group Knights Without Borders. Since 2013, KWOB has aimed to provide cross-culture experiences in developing a sense of world unity. In addition to this trip, Peterson has also served on KWOB journeys to Costa Rica and Ireland. The group of 30 who traveled to Panama built a multi-purpose sports court with Courts for Kids in the town of Tucuecito in the province of Coclé.

Below is a first-hand account of the experience.

“Knights Without Borders is something I look forward to every summer because it is almost like a reset button on my life. For a whole week I am forced to have no communication to the outside world, and I am okay with that. I think sometimes you need an experience that makes you evaluate your life and your priorities, not taking anything or anyone for granted.

My connection to UCF is even more important now as an alumna than it was as an undergrad. UCF is on the rise, and it’s important to continue to contribute to its legacy. I was not the only post-grad former student-athlete on the trip, and I honestly believe that helped because we are all in the same boat right now; some of us are going straight to grad school while others are taking some time off to figure out if grad school is the right fit for them. So it was kind of cool to connect with them and realize that I was not alone in my feelings of closing an important chapter on my life (sports) and taking on a new one – in my case, being an adult and graduate assistant for the student-athlete welfare and development office.

crop workIn terms of the day-to-day work, we did not have a cement mixer, so all of our cement for the court needed to be made by hand, which I thought was absolutely crazy. But after the first batch, I realized that it was something that could be done. Since I’m so used to being a helping hand, I just assumed that I could help mix the cement. That was a big fat NO with every shovel I tried to put into the mix. I slowly realized my place in the system.

Inauguration day for the court was a beautiful thing. Seeing the people of Tucuecito come together as a community to see the finished product was simply amazing. What really stuck out to me the most was that the townspeople all prayed over the court, almost like they were christening it. They prayed that the court stays around for generations to come, and that it also brings the community together as one. Then they prayed for the hands that built the court. It was really an honor.IMG_7146

What I’ve learned on these trips is that you just appreciate the value of time because it is not promised for anybody. It is truly a blessing to be able to connect with people on a deeper level, beyond the basic information.

Our individual journeys are unique, and there are reasons for everything at the end of the day. I learned that my life is no longer my own anymore. It is to serve others, and I will continue to do that. I want to thank UCF for all the opportunities I have been granted. Never in my life did I think I would be traveling the world and helping people while doing it. I am extremely blessed to have participated on my third KWOB trip. The power of sports is such a universal language that can literally inspire and change the world. That’s why every day I live by the quote: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’”

-Christal Peterson ’15


Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Aug. 15, 2016

Dalhausser and Lucena

UCF alumnus Phil Dalhausser (left) and beach volleyball partner Nick Lucena (right) are aiming for gold at the Summer Olympics.

1. There’s no stopping those Knights in Rio. Three-time Olympian Phil Dalhausser (Business ’02) and his partner Nick Lucena take on the top-seeded Brazilians in Olympics quarterfinal action of beach volleyball today at 3 p.m. Aline Reis (Interdisciplinary Studies ’11) and her native Brazil will face Sweden in the soccer semifinals on Tuesday at noon.

2. Don’t waste any more time to Knight Your Ride. The black-and-gold license plates are now available in tax collectors’ offices across Florida.

3. All hail the trivia queen Courtney Paulson, a Burnett Honors College alumna who won Jeopardy in July. She will return to the quiz show on Sept. 12 to try to defend her title.

4. Big 12 talk is bigger than ever after ESPN reported the conference’s commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, will conduct video conferences with at least 18 schools that are expansion candidates. And yes, UCF is on the list.

5. Fun for the whole family is in store at the UCF Football FanFest at Bright House Networks Stadium this Saturday from 6-8 p.m. Fans can meet the team, get autographs and check out the Carl Black & Gold Cabana — all for FREE. There will also be fun for the kids with face painting, inflatables and more.

Olympic Knights: Alumni Shine in Rio



By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug. 12, 2016) – For UCF’s three alumni participating at this year’s Olympics, life has been busy in Rio.

Aline Reis ’11 (Brazil, soccer) along with Ricardo Gouveia ’14 (Portugal, golf) are making their first Olympic Games appearances while three-time Olympian Phil Dalhausser ’02 is on the road to recreating magic from the 2008 Beijing Games when he won gold for Team USA in beach volleyball.

With week one of the Olympics in the books, here’s a look at what has happened already, and what is coming up for each Olympian.

Phil Dalhausser
Dalhausser, a 2002 business graduate, and his partner Nick Lucena dominated their first two matches of pool play, sweeping Tunisia and Mexico.

On Thursday afternoon at Copacabana Beach, they outlasted Italy in a thrilling and intense back-and-forth record-breaking third set (24-22). The third set in a beach volleyball match is supposed to be up to 15 — but the team has to win by 2. Dalhausser/Lucena’s third set was the longest final set in the 20-year history of Olympic beach volleyball. Click here to see highlights of the match

According to USA Today, both teams received a standing ovation.

The victory was extra sweet for UCF’s alumnus, as Italy’s Nicolai and Lupo were the pair that knocked him out of the 2012 Olympics in London. 

Dalhausser and Lucena advance to Saturday’s Round of 16 matchup against Austria’s Alexander Huber/R. Seidel scheduled for 11 p.m. ET. Watch link

Dalhausser has previously said these Olympic Games – his third – are likely his last. He told USA Today that before his opening match against Tunisia, he woke up with butterflies.

“It’s the first time since, man, I can’t tell you how long,” Dalhausser said. “I can’t remember being nervous in London, maybe Beijing was the last time I was nervous before a match.”

Aline Reis
Reis’ first appearance for Brazil’s National Team couldn’t have been more memorable. UCF’s former All-American goalkeeper started in Aug. 9’s match against South Africa – the team’s third match of the Olympics – and played all 90 minutes in goal, recording two saves to secure a shutout in the 0-0 tie.

Reis, an interdisciplinary studies alumna, was called up to Brazil’s National Team Camp in February with no guarantees of a spot on the Olympic roster. She had never competed in a match for Brazil’s National Team before Tuesday night.

As Brazil’s reserve goalkeeper, Reis said she takes great pride in her role on the team and has always approached each day with a “starter’s mentality.”

“If I’m the reserve, I believe the starting goalkeeper deserves nothing less from me. I want to push her so she can also perform her best, I know this way I’m helping the team, as well,” she wrote in a message to UCF Alumni. “But I have never lost faith, and I knew that if I had the opportunity to play in a game, I would be ready for it. Thankfully, the opportunity did come! It was magical! The best part of it was listening to the whole stadium sing our national anthem. Words cannot describe that moment.”

Brazil is known for its love of soccer, but the country traditionally throws all of its support behind the men’s team. This Olympics, however, things are changing, especially with the men’s team’s early struggles of failing to win their first two matches.

Fans are making their own women’s jerseys. Dozens of supporters are showing up at airports as the team travels around Brazil for their games to either send them off or welcome them with cheers, well wishes and posters. Roughly 40,000 people attended the Brazil-South Africa matchup in Manaus.

Reis said it has been incredible to see the outpouring of love and fandom.

“All this attention we are receiving is a blessing and gives us the opportunity to change the face of women’s soccer in this country. My dream is that one day women’s soccer can be everything it is in the USA,” she wrote. “I’m just thankful and proud to be part of this whole experience and this special moment. I seriously hope that our contributions will serve our country and our sport in ways beyond the soccer field. We want more than just a gold medal!”

Brazil advanced to Aug. 12’s quarterfinal round and will face Australia at 9 p.m. Watch link

Ricardo Gouveia
Ricardo-APGouveia, an interdisciplinary studies alumnus, was part of golf’s historic return to the Olympics in Thursday’s first round. It marked the first time the sport has been featured in the Summer Games since 1904.

Gouveia is one of 60 players from 34 nations competing over the weekend looking to capture glory in Sunday’s medal round.

At the conclusion of Thursday’s 18-hole competition, Gouveia was tied for 42nd with a score of 73. The leader after Day 1, Marcus Fraser of Australia, turned in a score of an 8-under-par 63.

The Golf Channel is airing live coverage on Friday and Saturday from 6:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Golf channel will begin Sunday’s medal round coverage at 6:30 a.m. and air it until the broadcast switches to NBC from 1-3 p.m.

Burnett Honors College Alumna Wins “Jeopardy!”

Courtney_Paulson_AD_07-29-16_SN_7355 (002)


By Brittany Pigott, The Burnett Honors College

ORLANDO Fla. (Aug. 8, 2016) — On an average day, Latin and sports do not go together in the same sentence. Unless, perhaps, you’re a contestant on “Jeopardy!”

Luckily for UCF and The Burnett Honors College alumna Courtney Paulson, she is well educated in both.

Paulson ’11 won the July 29 airing of America’s favorite quiz show, “Jeopardy!” thanks to her successful guess on this final question: This Catholic university gets its name from the Latin words for “new” and “house” and was in the news in Spring 2016.

“I had taken Latin in high school, and the first school I thought of was Notre Dame, and knew the Latin word for new was nova by watching a taping of Jeopardy earlier that day, but I couldn’t think of a school that had nova at the end,” she said. “Until I remembered watching the last March Madness game when Villanova had won. I’m a huge sports fan.”

Paulson, originally from Minnesota, attended UCF as a National Merit Scholar. She graduated in 2011 with her Bachelor of Science in statistics while receiving recognition for completing both University Honors and Honors in the Major. Outside of Honors, Paulson was also a part of the math club, athletics tutoring program, physics society, astronomy club, Marching Knights and completed a college work experience internship with Lockheed Martin.

“Once I visited UCF I was sold and made my decision to attend the day we got home,” Paulson said. “It’s so hard to pick a highlight when you get to spend four years in Orlando, Florida, but I loved everything about UCF and was so sad to leave.”

She then decided to further her education after receiving a full ride into the business statistics Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California.

“I was able to bypass getting my master’s since I already had the research experience by completing a thesis through the Honors in the Major program,” Paulson explained.

She is currently enjoying a two-week break after completing eight years of continuous schooling before she moves to Maryland to start her professional career as both a researcher and professor in Statistical Regressions and Business Analytics at the University of Maryland.

“I grew up doing trivia leagues in high school and was also a part of the Honors College bowl team, so I always knew I wanted to be on ‘Jeopardy!’ I actually took the online test periodically and auditioned back in high school for their teen tournament,” Paulson said.

After nailing the timed online 50 question quiz, she was then invited to an in-person audition. The audition consisted of another quiz and a mock version of the game, as well as a personality interview. After passing the online quiz and feeling very confident in the face-to-face audition, she was put into the contestant pool where she could be called anytime within the next 18 months.

After going through the process a few times, she finally got the call to put her trivia skills to the test.

“I had no idea what to expect. You spend the day doing practice rounds and watching the other people compete. You basically have a whole day of free jeopardy trivia, answering daily double and final answer questions, where you get to stand up in front of the podium and ring the buzzer,” Paulson said. “It’s the ultimate nerd experience.”

Paulson’s episode was taped the last week of April and aired on July 29. Although there were many rigorous questions about U.S. Code, women authors, word origins, scary sounding animals, battleships, musicians and traveling Ireland, she came out as the champion with a total prize of $11,700.

Paulson returns to “Jeopardy!” on Sept. 12 when she will look to defend her title.

Want to be the next “Jeopardy!” contestant? Click here to start your journey. 

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Aug. 8, 2016


  1. Nominations are now open for UCF Alumni’s 30 Under 30 awards program! This program, now in its second year, celebrates the achievements of young alumni in the areas of professional success, community involvement and/or university engagement. The deadline to nominate is Aug. 31. To find out more information click here.
  2. Education and research go hand in hand. UCF is seeking a partner to help build a #UCFHospital that would train more doctors, create a healthier community and expand our partnerships in Lake Nona.
  3. Can’t stop watching the Olympics? Be on the lookout for three UCF alumni who are participating in the Rio Summer Games: Phil Dalhausser ’02 (beach volleyball), Aline Reis ’11 (women’s soccer) and Ricardo Gouveia ’14 (golf).
  4. Expect the pregame atmosphere at IOA Plaza to be a lot more amped. UCF Athletics announced the debut of the UCF Tailgate Concert Series presented by FM 96.9 The Game and iHeartRadio. ’90s throwback Gin Blossoms (Hey Jealousy, Found Out About You) has signed on for the season opener Sept. 3.
  5. From a former foster child to a Green Beret to first-generation graduates, UCF’s alumni base of more than 260,000 worldwide welcomed 3,600 new members to its family over the weekend. Congratulations to the Class of 2016!

Once In A Generation

Samantha and mom Jodi_2
By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — Samantha Ogden was sitting on a patio looking out at nature in her hometown of Sorrento, Florida, when she got the email. The email from UCF that stated she was graduating this summer with her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in psychology.

“I closed my phone, and I cried,” she said. “Nobody in my family has gone on to higher education.”

Ogden is from a two-stoplight town on the outskirts of Mount Dora. The population from the 2010 Census was listed at 861.

“It’s the town everyone passes through to get gas,” she said.

Ogden came to UCF as a DirectConnect student from Lake-Sumter State College. Just before earning her associate’s degree, she was brought to UCF’s campus for the first time by a friend who was a Knight.

They walked from the education building to the Reflecting Pond, and Ogden thought they had covered campus and the tour was done.

“I was like, ‘This is it? Cool.’ He said, ‘Oh no. Come with me,’” she recalled. “We walked and we walked and we walked, and we stopped in front of COHPA (College of Health and Public Affairs). He said, ‘You see that down there? The Arena? There’s more. All of these are classrooms. And this is your college.’ I was so intimidated by it.”

Ogden had her heart set on a criminal justice degree ever since the fourth grade when her school held career week. She said it is an accomplishment in Sorrento to graduate from high school, let alone college.

Her mother, Jodi, was a driving force behind Ogden’s desire to achieve more.

Ogden took her mother to campus for the first time last week to pick up her gown and cap, which they decorated together with a ‘Country Bumpkin’ theme. It’s the nickname her co-workers gave her.

“She’s the only person I want going with me to do this,” Ogden said. “She has been so hard on me to complete it and do it. All she’s been talking about for the last year is me graduating. She should be here. She should get to enjoy it.”

Jodi was diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis C while Ogden was in school at UCF. She went through treatment for three months.

“I was stuck in bed, and she was always there. She continued school and we carried on,” Jodi said. “I’ve been a single mother for 18 years. I raised three kids. We all know how to pull together, work together.”

Ogden not only helped care for her mother and continued school, she started her own wallpaper company, Water Lilly Construction.

Ogden developed a deep interest in set design and carpentry in her spare time, which led to her professional endeavor. She plans to continue growing her business after graduation.

She said the biggest takeaway from her college experience was embracing the transformation that comes along with the journey.

“There’s a big world out there and this (college) is how you get there,” she said. “The purpose of the university is to expand your mind. Along with change comes friction and difficulty and dissonance in yourself. You’re going to feel discouraged or like it’s too much pressure. But every time things get really difficult, you have to remember that’s a sign that something is happening, something is changing, and you’re going to crest over that hill.”

Olympic Knights: Dalhausser Dreams of Recapturing Gold

6-11-16 Phil Dalhausser celebrates vs Gibb Patterson quarterfinals

Photo courtesy of FIVB


By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — UCF alumnus Phil Dalhausser is back at it again for Team USA. The 2002 business graduate and beach volleyballer is set to compete in his third Summer Olympics this month as the Rio Games kick off Friday.

Dalhausser is one of three UCF alumni who will participate in the Olympics this year. He is striving for another gold medal (he was crowned champion at the 2008 Beijing Games) and is joined by Aline Reis ’11 (Brazil, soccer) and Ricardo Gouveia ’14 (Portugal, golf), who are making their first Olympic Games appearances.

Dalhausser was introduced to beach volleyball at Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School where his coach liked to have his team practice on the sand to give the squad an advantage in the indoor game. His fondness for the game grew at UCF where he played club indoor volleyball and found ways to get extra practice on sand.

“They had sand courts on campus and Orlando had a nice little volleyball community and almost every night those courts were packed. So I would be at the courts probably more often than when I was in class,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. “Any time I could get a game in, I’d be down there playing. I guess you could say I was obsessed with it.”

In his first Olympics appearance in 2008, he not only won gold but was also named Most Outstanding Player for beach competition. He was honored as USA Volleyball’s Beach Team of the Year in 2015 with his partner Nick Lucena. The teammates promoted the Road to Rio on NBC’s The Today Show in April.

In addition to his many career highlights, he is a Michelle Akers Award winner (2009), which is the university’s highest honor given to alumni who have brought international, positive attention to UCF through their accomplishments.

Dalhausser, 36, and a father of two, has publicly said he expects these Games to be his last, so he has his heart set on making them unforgettable.

“There’s never been a male player who’s won two gold medals on the beach side, so I’d like to be the first to do that. That’d be pretty sweet,” he told the Daytona Beach News Journal.

Beach volleyball is set to compete at Copacabana Beach from Aug. 6 until Aug. 18. Dalhausser’s first match is scheduled for Aug. 7 against Tunisia at 3:30 p.m. and will stream live on www.nbcolympics.com.

Second Time Around

Kim Hardiman

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — When Kim Hardiman first realized she needed to go back to school, she resisted. She already possessed bachelor’s and master’s degrees plus years of teaching experience on her resume.

Now with graduation day in sight and a second master’s degree under her belt, she views her decision to come to UCF as a blessing.

“As an older teacher, you think you know it all and you don’t,” she said. “The teachers here at UCF are the best I’ve ever had in my life. I value this master’s degree more than the first one I got.”

Hardiman was born in Hong Kong and was an orphan for the first five years of her life until a couple from New York adopted her. She said she was lucky that her parents wanted an older child.

“Most children in the orphanage, they end up working in the factories,” she said. “I was very blessed. Every adversity [I faced], there was a twist or a turn that something good happened over it.”

Her upbringing in New York introduced her to people from all cultures and backgrounds. As she got older and started traveling overseas to places like the Middle East, Thailand, South America and Europe, she grew to love those cultures even more.

“I just realized there is so much to learn. It’s not just from the textbook,” she said. “When you’re in another country and speaking to someone in another language, it comes alive.”

She studied art at Stony Brook University and earned her master’s in fine arts from Hunter College in the 1980s. She remained in New York, living as an artist and a dancer. She picked up traditional Chinese ribbon dancing to reconnect with her heritage.

Sept. 11, 2001, changed things for her. She used to ride the subway into the World Trade Center frequently and said she was supposed to perform a dance there the day of the attack. She didn’t feel well that morning and decided not to go.

The galleries that displayed her artwork shut down while the city began rebuilding. She felt she needed a change and eventually moved to Florida.

Her passion for interacting with the international community prompted her to return to school to pursue teaching. She completed her Teaching English as a Foreign Language graduate certificate at UCF in 2005 before spending the next decade at Embry Riddle Language Institute. She also served as Embry Riddle’s Asian Student Union advisor.

When teaching requirements changed, Hardiman needed to earn a second master’s degree if she wanted to continue her career. So she returned to UCF 11 years after earning her original certificate.

She juggled three classes a semester while also teaching two courses as a graduate assistant. Although she said it was a lot to handle, she excelled and was selected as the 2016 Sunshine State Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) of Florida Outstanding Educator Award.

“I value what I do with my education because now I can help other people. I want to ignite the passion [in them] to go back to school. Don’t ever say no to education,” she said. “That’s my message as an alumni. Take the risk. Try something new. Try a class you don’t know. Even work with teachers you hate because you learn the most from the teachers you had the hardest time with.”

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