Then & Now: Eight Ways UCF Has Changed in 25 Years with President Hitt

The 1992 comedy “Wayne’s World” summed it best: “Party Time! Excellent!” On March 1, we’ll be commemorating the man, the myth, the legend that is President John C. Hitt, who will celebrate his 25th anniversary at UCF.

When Hitt first accepted the job in 1992, UCF’s enrollment was 21,267 (In 2017 we’re at 64,318) and just five of the current 12 colleges on campus existed. As we take a look back over the last 25 years, here are some events and moments that captured the headlines in 1992 and how they relate to life at UCF today.

 

1. We Want Ducks!
In 1992, a cargo ship container tumbled into the North Pacific, dumping 28,000 rubber ducks that were headed from China to the U.S. We can neither confirm nor deny that some of these ducks have been spotted at Spirit Splash. One of the nation’s best campus traditions celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015.

2. Baby Bortles
On April 28, 1992, Rob and Suzy Bortles brought their son Blake into the world. Years later, after guiding the Knights to their best season in history – largely in the on-campus stadium that President Hitt had built – and a BCS Championship, the highest drafted football player in UCF history is suiting up for the Jacksonville Jaguars every Sunday in the fall.

3. Up In Smoke
Remember when smoking was a thing? In 1992, the first prescription nicotine patch went on sale. In April 2012, President Hitt announced that UCF would become a smoke-free campus by that August.

4. Happiest Place on Earth
Our neighbors Mickey and Minnie unveiled Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom in October 1992. Twenty-three years later, Knights football players, coaches, band members, cheerleaders, fans and the main man himself, President Hitt, flooded the park to celebrate UCF’s BCS Fiesta Bowl win in a one-of-a-kind parade down Main Street – and of course take a ride down the 56-foot drop.

5. Skate Culture
Longboards are almost as prevalent at UCF as flip flops and tank tops. While you’re gliding through Memory Mall on your skateboard during a class break, think about this: The OG skateboarder Tony Hawk opened his own company, Birdhouse Skateboards, in 1992.

6. We Salute You
A Few Good Men – YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH – was one of the most popular films of 1992 and nominated for four Oscars that year, including Best Picture. UCF has a few good men and women of their own in the ROTC program, whose building was dedicated by President Hitt in 2013.

7. Not Just A Dream, But Reality
In 1992, the Dream Team was the biggest story of the Barcelona Summer Olympics. Fast forward to 2016 and UCF’s own Dream Team of Olympians participated at the Rio Games in August. If you want to talk about the remarkable things Knights can do, check this out – In university history, seven former Knights have participated at the Olympics, and four of them were involved in Rio.

8. Big-Time Gamers
We have one word for you: Kirby. That loveable pink orbed character first appeared in Kirby’s Dream Land for Game Boy in 1992. In the years since, the video game industry has exploded – even right here at UCF.

In 2005, the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, UCF’s graduate game-design program, held its first class of 12 students. Today, it is ranked as the best grad game design program in the world by the Princeton Review. And following the ideology of President Hitt to “dream big,” by 2019, FIEA will become a part of UCF’s new downtown campus, which will bring more than 7,000 students to help grow the Orlando gaming, film and digital media economies.

UCF Leaders’ Personal Contributions to UCF Downtown Exceed $1 Million

Led by President John C. Hitt and trustee Alex Martins, University of Central Florida leaders have made personal contributions totaling more than $1 million for the UCF Downtown campus.

President Hitt and first lady Martha Hitt contributed $100,000, as did trustee Alex Martins, a UCF alumnus and CEO of the Orlando Magic, and UCF Foundation Board of Directors member Dick Nunis. Other leading personal contributors include trustee Robert Garvy and Phyllis Klock, chairwoman of the Foundation Board of Directors.

The commitments from UCF’s leadership include gifts from trustees, deans, vice presidents, and members of the UCF Foundation and Alumni Association boards of directors.

“Our university’s leaders are making generous personal investments in UCF Downtown because they know the campus will greatly expand educational opportunities for students,” said Mike Morsberger, vice president for alumni relations and development. “Their support, along with the commitments from our community partners, is vital to make this innovative campus a reality.”

Earlier in January, the Orlando Magic and CFE Federal Credit Union each pledged $1.5 million toward the construction of the new academic building that UCF would share with Valencia College.

Orange County commissioners voted unanimously to contribute $3 million, and Valencia College will contribute $2 million.

Additionally, the value of in-kind contributions of land and infrastructure by the City of Orlando and the developers of Creative Village is approximately $75 million.

Pending approvals, the campus will open in fall 2018. UCF Downtown will offer students an innovative learning environment within walking distance of a wide array of internship and job opportunities in fields such as digital media, communication, public service and health-related programs. UCF will share the campus with Valencia College, which will offer programs in digital media, health information technology and culinary and hospitality, including workforce training and other certificates to increase access to education in the immediate downtown area.

The new academic building at UCF Downtown will complement a renovated Center for Emerging Media building where UCF’s nationally ranked graduate video gaming school, the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, is located. One-third of the new building will be funded by private donations. The university also is contributing $20 million from its resources and asking the state for an additional $20 million.

FOLLOW THE PROGRESS OF UCF DOWNTOWN

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 4, 2016

student-therapy-dog-Nemours
(From No. 5 below:) Palmer Vorkapich, a 6-year-old patient at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, lights up during a visit from Ion, a therapy dog owned by UCF College of Medicine student Christa Zino.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Knights had much to be proud of last year! Check out just a few of them in this list from UCF Today of the “15 Moments that Made Your Heart Burst with Knight Pride in 2015.”
  2. With $20 million needed in community support for the UCF Downtown campus, alumnus and CEO Alex Martins, ’01, and the Orlando Magic stepped up, contributing $1.5 million toward the project. And, just this morning, it was announced that the CFE Federal Credit Union has committed its own $1.5 million. Keep up with all the latest developments on the UCF Downtown campus at ucf.edu/downtown.
  3. UCF economist Sean Snaith says Florida’s economic future is merry and bright, with the state’s housing market continuing to improve, and job growth forecasted to continue to outperform the U.S. labor market.
  4. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected a UCF team to receive a P3 Award — a first in UCF history — which recognizes student projects that benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet by using environmental solutions that move the nation toward a sustainable future. The winning project focuses on ways to make algae biofuel easier and less expensive to produce.
  5. To help cheer up patients at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, UCF second-year medical student Christa Zino regularly brings her therapy dog, a 2-year-old boxer named Ion, for visits.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Sept. 14, 2015

family-weekend-2015

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Those interested in UCF doctoral, master’s, specialist or certificate programs can attend Tuesday’s Grad Fair, which will guide prospective students through admission options and the transition to graduate school.
  2. On Wednesday, the College of Engineering and Computer Science will host its 3rd Annual Career Kick-Off Workshop, which helps CECS alumni connect with CECS students, to provide guidance on career paths, resumes and interviews.
  3. The “The Understudy,” an exploration of the existential vagaries (and comedy) of show business and life, opens at the UCF Theatre on Thursday evening.
  4. This Saturday’s football game against Furman is UCF’s Family Weekend! There’s much to see and do over the weekend, including the alumni association’s 4EVER KNIGHTS’ Family Weekend Tailgate on Saturday, so be sure to plan ahead!
  5. UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year, and has a series of commemorative events planned for FIEA alumni and students.

UCF’s Video Game School Ranked 2nd in North America

FIEA

By Mark Schlueb
UCF Today

For the second consecutive year, the University of Central Florida’s video game graduate school ranks No. 2 in North America, according to The Princeton Review and PC Gamer magazine.

This is the fifth time that The Princeton Review has ranked graduate-level video game development schools, placing UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy – or FIEA – behind only the University of Utah for 2015. The school has been ranked in the top five every year since the rankings began.

“With our 10-year anniversary approaching, it’s great to see The Princeton Review continue to recognize the outstanding work of our faculty, staff and students,” said executive director Ben Noel. “We’re proud to be part of Central Florida’s growing digital economy.”

Since opening its doors in 2005, FIEA has graduated 412 alumni working at more than 125 companies around the world, including Google, Electronic Arts, Blizzard, Bungie, Zynga, Ubisoft, Disney, Microsoft, Bethesda, n-Space and Industrial Light & Magic.

“FIEA’s exceptional faculty members, first-class facilities and close connections with the gaming industry’s top companies have propelled the school to one of the very best of its kind in the country in less than 10 years,” said UCF Provost and Vice President A. Dale Whittaker. “This is a testament to UCF’s success with location-based education and valuable partnerships – our students thrive in the classroom and in the job market when they learn in an environment so closely immersed in their industry.”

The average starting salary for recent FIEA graduates is $60,359 and they are working on some of today’s most popular projects. Those games include NBA Live 15, Diablo III, Sunset Overdrive, Skyrim, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, Star Wars 1313, Borderlands 2, Battlefield 4, The Walking Dead, Gears of War 3, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Bioshock Infinite, Transformers 3 and Dead Space 3.

The school is located at UCF’s Center For Emerging Media building, located in downtown Orlando near UCF’s future downtown campus. FIEA is designed to graduate talented and well-qualified professionals to work in video games, new media, film and simulation industries.

The Princeton Review chose the schools based on a survey it conducted in 2014-15 of 150 institutions offering game design coursework and/or degrees in the United States, Canada, and some countries abroad.

In addition to being published today on The Princeton Review website, the listing will also be featured in the May issue of PC Gamer magazine, on newsstands March 3.

View the full rankings.

This article was republished from UCF Today. View the original article, which was posted on March 25, 2015.