1. Last month, UCF art grad Forrest Lawson’18 bested more than 400 artists for top honors and a $50,000 award at a regional competition for his piece 6/12/2016, a sculpture he created to memorialize the Pulse tragedy, honor its victims and communicate the emotions and responses the shooting awakened across communities.
2. Limbitless Solutions, a UCF-alumni-led nonprofit you may have heard of when Iron Man himself got in the game, has been at work on Project Xavier. The team has designed a wheelchair that uses electromyography sensors, placed on the patient’s temporalis muscles, to control a power wheelchair or vehicle. When the user clenches his or her jaw in various ways, the wheelchair will respond by moving forward, backward, left or right.
4. The best kind of good times are good times with fellow Knights. From Summer Kickoffs to baseball games and every Habitat for Humanity event in between, our alumni know how to have a good time. Keep up with our events page to make sure you don’t miss out on the fun and also sorry if you’re prone to FOMO and we just really kicked it into high gear.
5. We know UCF grads are prone to success and accomplishments, so tell us about yours. Submit a Class Note for consideration in an upcoming issue of Pegasus right here. We want to celebrate your career win, your wedding, your birth, your published book, your retirement…all of it! Knights are about cheering on Knights. Also, hey, even if you got a new address recently, let us know. We won’t put it in print for everyone to see, but we will make sure all your future mail (from us; that’s all we have control over) gets to the right place.
Last month, UCF art grad Forrest Lawson’18 bested more than 400 artists for top honors and a $50,000 award at a regional competition for his piece 6/12/2016, a sculpture he created to memorialize the Pulse tragedy, honor its victims and communicate the emotions and responses the shooting awakened across communities.
Born and raised in a small town in between Naples and Sarasota, Punta Gorda (“we call it the In Between because there really is nothing going on there”), Lawson somewhat explored his creativity growing up, but hadn’t really thought of it as a future career path.
“I was always drawing very macabre things, because I was a gay teen in the closet,” Lawson says. “But I never really explored it until I got to college because back then it was like I had to become a dentist or a doctor.”
Lawson, who met his now-husband during their sophomore year of high school, was bullied growing up for being gay long before he even came out. Because of this, he and his husband dated secretly for a few years until officially making their relationship public following graduation.
“It was more of a survival thing; I was just denying it because I didn’t want to have to confront other people or myself,” Lawson says.
After high school graduation, Lawson attended Florida Gulf Coast University, before transferring to Valencia College to major in architecture. But once he realized he was having more fun building actual models, he took advantage of the DirectConnect to UCF program and switched to majoring in art by the time he arrived at UCF in 2014.
“Coming to UCF was a great experience for my work and growth,” Lawson says. “I just never really felt the sense of community that I feel in Orlando anywhere else. For me, UCF was the right choice.”
The decision Lawson made to switch from architecture to art was in large part due to the joy he found in the creation of tangible objects.
“I think I have control issues, even still, because so much of my life and coming out felt out of control,” Lawson says. “So I think for me, having that control over tangible clay and making sculptures, it makes me feel a little more stable.”
During his years at UCF, Lawson was able to implement a community aspect to his work by doing more outreach-driven projects, taking his initial vision and allowing others to participate in its execution.
Shortly after the Pulse tragedy in Orlando on June 12, 2016, Lawson and several of his friends came across an article that said a long-standing FDA ban had been lifted. The ban in question specifies, “Men who have had sex with other men (MSM), at any time since 1977 (the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States) are currently deferred as blood donors.” When Lawson showed up to donate, however, it became clear that the article was false — the ban was still very much in place.
“We had literally just been gunned down in what we kind of equated to a church for us,” Lawson says. “We had been told at that point we were worthless because somebody wanted us dead. And so, we wanted to help. We wanted to donate blood and help our brothers and sisters. But we couldn’t. It was a slap in the face, just, ‘no, you’re still worthless, don’t bring that here.’ It was a kick when we were down.”
Most of Lawson’s work is a response to his own anger. And being turned away from donating blood and doing all he could to help the victims of Pulse made him angry. So he got to work creating the sculpture Better Blood (seen right).
“Artists have a task, in society, to paint the revolution in a way that people can connect with,” Lawson says. “I want to use the platform that I have in whatever capacity that I have to communicate that ignorance and hatred are not acceptable.”
While creating Better Blood was a helpful experience for Lawson to express his frustration, he was still eager to create something that would memorialize the Pulse tragedy and honor the victims.
This motivation would eventually become 6/12/2016, which involves 49 cubes with the names of the victims hand-stamped and their dates of birth. The cubes also contain the two commonalities between each of the 49 victims – their death date and the wristband they were wearing the night of the shooting. Lawson posted a nationwide call for people to submit their response to the tragedy and each of the narratives selected are juxtaposed to a name and wristband.Putting together 6/12/2016 took Lawson about five months. He describes it as a long and emotionally exhausting process.
“It definitely made me confront a lot of feelings that I hadn’t yet,” Lawson says. “I had feelings of alienation and separation anxiety after the shooting. Pulse was actually the first club that I’d ever gone to. So it was strange, especially going there and seeing the pictures. I don’t think there’s ever going to be a time where I’ll fully process it, but doing this at least did make me confront it.”
This past May, 6/12/12016 and Lawson headed to Lake City, South Carolina to compete in the ArtFields competition. ArtFields began in 2013 with a simple goal to honor the artists of the southeast with a week’s worth of celebration and competition. This year’s event involved 400 artists showing pieces over the course of eight days, culminating in 12 awards presented. Lawson recalls feeling relieved after the smaller-in-dollar-amount prizes had been awarded because he was nervous about having to get up onstage and give a speech. He hadn’t begun to fathom he’d be the recipient of the grand prize of $50,000.
“I whimpered and I cried in front of 400 people,” Lawson says while describing the surreal moment of his win.
For the most part Lawson has very responsible plans for his $50,000 reward – pay off student loans, help out with his upcoming move to the University of Georgia where he’ll soon be starting the MFA program– but he did cook a big meal for his friends and go out for his first filet mignon in six years.
Lawson knows that his success is due in large part to his willingness to push past doubters or those who may root against him by turning that negativity into something beautiful. His advice to up-and-coming artists is to do the same, even when that negativity may be on the inside.
“Research, read a lot, learn about galleries you should be in touch with. And stick with it,” he says. “It’s so cliche, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Don’t let your inner saboteur talk you out of being creative if that’s what you’re meant for.”
1. Happy Birthday, UCF! It’s been an incredible 56 years of growing, learning, winning and charging on. Thanks to all alumni for being a part of where we’ve been and get yourself ready now ‘cause where we’re going is gonna be even bigger, bolder and brighter.
2. We’re saying that with confidence because UCF continues to add new rankings to our list of accomplishments. We now rank among the top 100 universities in the world when it comes to issuing patents and 31st among public universities in the nation, according to new rankings released last week by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. Learn more about the ranking and some of the inventions that led to patents in 2018 right here.
3. “When musical theatre alumna Jerusha Cavazos ’14 stopped by the UCF Performing Arts Center ahead of her Broadway debut last October, she felt a wide array of emotions: Gratitude. Excitement. Nervousness. Joy. Shock. She knew she was about to embark on something special as part of the original Broadway cast of The Prom, a new musical comedy about acceptance and love.” Read more about Cavazos and her role in Tony Award-Nominated Musical here.
4. The UCF Young Alumni Council is recruiting new members! If you’ve got a passion for your alma mater and want to help us engage the future largest alumni-base in the country, this is the role for you. Apply today and play a role in UCF’s tomorrows.
5. In case you missed it, we have four Knights who are currently playing on soccer’s biggest stage. Check this FIFA Women’s Schedule for US, Jamaica, Brazil and Scotland games and the dates you can be cheering!
1. As if being a Knight and a Disney employee wasn’t already a pretty great gig, the deal got sweetened when Disney and UCF announced that they will be offering free tuition for cast members. The interim president for UCF, Thad Seymour Jr., says, “Many of our students already are Disney employees who will immediately benefit, and this program has the potential to change lives in our community for generations.” Read the whole story here.
2. Despite her two-decade career with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Holly Bryan ’99 ’05MS initially never wanted to serve as a police officer. “I wanted to be a nurse or a vet, something medical,” says the nursing alumna as I sit across from her in her full police garb. “But I needed a job while I was waiting to get into nursing school, so I went to the police academy and here I am.”
3. The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup will host a record number of past and present UCF student-athletes representing their countries. These four Knights are helping to mark a major milestone for UCF and the women’s soccer program. Read more here.
4. This past Saturday was the official start of Hurricane Season and we want to help you help yourself in all the preparation needed. UCF Today asked Associate Professor Christopher Emrich, an expert in hazard science, social vulnerability, disaster recovery and community resiliency, some of the do’s and don’t’s to get ready for the 2019 Hurricane Season.
5. In better upcoming-season news, college football season is up ahead and the kickoff times and television plans for the 2019 season were announced late last week. Mark these days on your calendars now and get ready for an incredible season of UCF football!
Despite her two-decade career with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Holly Bryan ’99 ’05MS initially never wanted to serve as a police officer.
“I wanted to be a nurse or a vet, something medical,” says the nursing alumna as I sit across from her in her full police garb. “But I needed a job while I was waiting to get into nursing school, so I went to the police academy and here I am.”
There’s a little more to it than that, though.
Bryan’s career-path was, in some ways, seemingly set to involve acts of service. The oldest of five, when her parents divorced, she stepped up and helped provide care for her siblings, taking turns with the others to cook, clean and be a support system.
Bryan’s first job as a teenager was as a nurse’s aide. When she graduated from high school, she joined the military as a combat medic and when she was released, she became an EMT. She had enjoyed her career up to that point, but still envisioned being a nurse.
As she was completing her pre-requisites to start nursing school, she had a few friends who were looking to start in the police academy, which piqued Bryan’s interest enough as something she could do on the side while she sought her nursing degree.
In 1996, she had two big first days — one as a cop at OCSO and one as a nursing student at UCF. Every week she would work four 10-hour shifts, from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., and then she’d head to UCF for a full day of classes. This was about as overwhelming as it sounds, but, for Bryan, her educational experience has proven to be extremely beneficial in her career.
“That time has helped me throughout my entire law enforcement career,” she says. “All that medical training? I’ve rolled up on several traffic crashes, cardiac arrests, infants needing respiratory help. All that stuff I learned plays a role in law enforcement, so I figure I just have one step up.”
Over her years at OCSO, Bryan has done night watch as a lieutenant on I-drive, road patrol for three years and experienced critical incidents alongside colleagues and the community. She says one of her favorite things about being a deputy in Orange County is the opportunity to protect both the residents and the visitors who come here.
“I think anything between nursing, law enforcement, my military years…it has all made me a better person all around,” she says. “I think I’ve learned to appreciate life, to appreciate people, to appreciate diversity. Those three career choices have given me that.”
Ultimately Bryan ended up sticking with OCSO (even after she received her nursing degree) out of a sense of loyalty and dedication to her job and coworkers. She is currently a lieutenant working in community relations. She oversees about 22 employees that execute things like crime prevention (hosting meetings in neighborhoods about burglar-proofing homes) and civilian police academies (providing overviews of what the sheriff’s office does).
“The sheriff’s office is quite a team,” she says. “There’s no way I would be successful without my team. I succeed when they do and when I fail them, I fail myself as well.”
She explains that when she first started in the military, she would walk with her head down, but experiences in her life have proven that she’s built to lead.
She recounts one story from her nursing days that helped shape her. There was a female patient in the ER whom Bryan had already stuck three times to draw blood, which is the maximum amount of attempts for a student. The on-call nurse came in to take the reins from Bryan, but the patient knew Holly was a student who needed to learn. She insisted that she didn’t want the nurse to do the procedure; she wanted Bryan to try again.
“I told her ‘I can’t anymore’ and she said, ‘You can if I authorize it.’ The nurse basically said I could do it one more time and if I didn’t get it, that was it. And I got it. So even though that woman knew nothing about me, just that I was student nurse, she knew I could handle the challenge. She gave me an opportunity to step up one more time so I could be successful and she pushed me to another level of confidence. Those are the kind of people we need around.”
Bryan knows that in her role as a cop, the most important things she can bring to the table, are respect, understanding and empathy.
“When people call, they’re in a time of need, they’re not having a good day,” she says. “So even if it might be my 200th break-in, it’s probably their first one. It’s cliché, but it really is rewarding to help make someone’s bad day a little bit better by how I respond. Whether it’s a medical call or a crisis, if I can help you get to the other side of whatever you’re going through, it’s a big deal.”
1. It was always one of two things for Lainie Pekich ’13, Paul Jaszczenski ’03 and Kaia. They were either at a dog-friendly human establishment, where Lainie and Paul could eat and drink and enjoy each other’s company, while Kaia was bored under the table. Or. They were at a human-friendly dog park, where Kaia was thriving in her environment, running around and getting her energy out, while Lainie and Paul were trying to find a tree to provide some shade and thinking how delicious a cold beer would be about now. As longtime business owners and entrepreneurs, Lainie and Paul knew there had to be a better way and if there wasn’t, they’d create one. That’s where Orlando’s first dog-park bar, Boozehounds, begins.
2. Florida may have Florida Man and lovebug season, but we also have the #1 spot in the country for higher education, according to U.S. News & World Report. As one of the five Florida state universities included on the magazine’s national list of top 100 public universities, UCF certainly contributed to this win for the state! Elizabeth A. Dooley, UCF’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs told UCF Today, “UCF is proud to be a major contributor to the access, affordability, student success, and excellence that distinguishes Florida as the top state in the country for higher education. Together, the universities and state colleges in Florida are showing the nation how the power of higher education can lift lives and energize the future.”
3. You may or may not have liked who ended up on the Iron Throne last night, but one thing is for sure: Game of Thrones fans had quite the journey following along. Why is it that we get so wrapped up in the lives of fictional characters? Two-time alumnus and UCF Professor Peter Telep ’95 ’98 has the answers.
5. With hurricane season just up on the horizon, a team of UCF researchers will brief emergency responders from across the state about their work looking at the impact of recent hurricanes. At the annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference, hundreds of emergency management personnel, first responders and planners from across Florida gather together. Learn more about the conference and those representing UCF at it.
1. There are 108 days left until the next season of UCF football. The hype is real and the momentum is building and we have less than 1,000 season tickets remaining. Get your head in the game now and ensure you don’t miss a single phenomenal moment in Spectrum Stadium this year.
2. Our women’s golf team is heading to the NCAA National Championships on Wednesday morning. The Knights crushed it at the NCAA Elum Regional in Washington on May 8, racking up a combined score of 874. “The grit our team showed on that back 9 today was unbelievable. We kept telling them all week to believe, just believe,” UCF head coach Emily Marron says.
3. “Many kids say they want to work with animals when they grow up. But only a small number of them are willing to scrub poop out of animal enclosures to reach that dream. Katelyn O’Rourke ’14 was among those willing to do anything. Now the psychology alumna’s hard work is paying off with a career that includes hosting an animal-actor show at Universal Orlando and visiting commercial and movie sets. ‘I pushed myself to get where I am,’ O’Rourke says. ‘It’s a hard business to get into, but you can do it if you’re willing to work hard.’” Read more here.
4. From April 29-May 3, four UCF students participated in the NPR News’ national training program, NextGen Radio. The program is a week-long “pop-up” digital journalism training experience and the theme of the week’s stories was immigration.
“Rick Brunson ’84, associate instructor in the Nicholson School, represented the university in the partnership and is mentoring one of the students. ‘We are fanning out around Central Florida to locate, capture and tell the stories of immigrants who have arrived here and are making a new life,’ he says. ‘The training is highly structured with tutorials in audio reporting, web production, social media production, photography, video and more. Our stories will be richly layered, textured and multimedia in nature.’” Read more here.
5. Jason Smith is one of the 8,300 people who joined the UCF Alumni family last weekend and he already has big plans to put his degree to work. This week he starts his work as a UCF-trained psychiatrist caring for patients at Osceola Regional Medical Center and at the Orlando VA. Read about his unconventional path to getting his M.D. degree right here.
1. Over the weekend, more than 8,300 students graduated from UCF. These new members of the alumni family showed off their creativity, sense of humor and momentum toward future aspirations with their grad caps. Check out some of the best here!
2. Gladys Jose ’12 knows the exact length it is from Will Smith’s name to her own on the cover of the new children’s book, Fresh Princess. She also knows that her name being on the cover of anything involving Will Smith is a pretty phenomenal thing.
3. The ChargeOn Tour begins this week! Check dates and locations to see when are where you can meet Danny White, some of our incredible coaches and fellow Knights. Spend the night getting hyped on UCF athletics, ‘cause there’s a lot to be hyped on.
4. The successful flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket last week from west Texas carried multiple research payloads, including one from the UCF. It marks the fourth flight into space for the university in the past year.
One special guest flew aboard the flight today – a small plush Citronaut, affectionately referred to as Dave. The Citronaut, which is a blend of an orange and an astronaut, is UCF’s retro, unofficial first mascot from when UCF was known as Florida Technological University. He’s become a beloved throwback figure among the Knight Nation… Read more here.
5. For now we can only hope that some day this adorable story about an alumna rediscovering her preschool sweetheart after 12 years and falling in love with him will become a romantic comedy starring the next Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling. Until then, read all about here on People.
Gladys Jose ’12 knows the exact length it is from Will Smith’s name to her own on the cover of the new children’s book, Fresh Princess. She also knows that her name being on the cover of anything involving Will Smith is a pretty phenomenal thing.
“Whenever I’m asked how this Fresh Princess thing happened, it’s just, the stars aligned in such a way,” Gladys says. “It’s an anomaly. I know this isn’t normal!”
Growing up an only child with a single mom, Gladys learned two things early on in her life: how to be very independent and how to fill her time doing something she loved — drawing.
Though, yes, this story ends with her being the illustrator for a hit book backed by a Man In Black, she didn’t necessarily think of her childhood spent drawing as a career possibility. When she started college (first at Valencia, and then Direct Connect to UCF), she selected psychology as a major. It wasn’t until her then-boyfriend-now-husband suggested a design class as a fun elective option that she started considering it.
“He ended up dropping out of the class the first week and I’m sitting there like ‘OK, well, thanks dude,’” Gladys says. “But that is what kind of started all this. I sat in the classroom and realized that design one class was a lot more fun than anything else I was taking.”
As Gladys started preparing for graduation from UCF in 2012, she was hoping to land a full-time job at a design firm. She had a game plan of 20 different design firms she was going to apply to. A month prior to graduation, at a portfolio critique with local design-industry professionals, Gladys was confident that she’d show her portfolio off and get a job offer. She had a feeling it was her moment.
She had four sit-downs with design firms lined up and decided to throw author/illustrator Ethan Long into her extra spot near the end of the day.
“At that point I only had two illustrations in my portfolio,” Gladys says. “I just went for the feedback. He illustrates picture books and I was going to be a designer. He looks at my portfolio and he’s just kind of like ‘Meh’ at it, until he got to the last illustrations and was like, ‘This! This is what you need to be doing! Why don’t you have more of this in here?’”
Gladys explains that she had never considered freelance, illustration or freelance illustration. Yet when she got home that day she typed “how to be an illustrator” into the Google search-bar and a new game plan was set in motion. She would do freelance graphic design and in her spare time work on developing herself as an illustrator.
In her research, Gladys came across the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The international organization offers, in addition to several other benefits, conferences and portfolio critiques for aspiring illustrators, which Gladys now fit into the category of. At an event in February 2015, Gladys met with Chris Tugeau of The CAT Agency and was told that her portfolio was ready and that it was clear she understood who she was as an artist.
This was as much good news as Gladys needed to confidently reach out to Chris a few days later with a thanks-for-the-feedback-also-will-you-represent-me email. In February of 2015, the answer was not now.
A little over a year later, a new burst of confidence set in and Gladys submitted her portfolio to the daughter of The CAT Agency duo, Christy T. Ewers. In August of 2016, the answer was, still, not now.
“I didn’t draw for like three months after that,” Gladys says. “It was too sad. It felt like a big wall. I kept getting the feedback that my work was amazing, and they loved it, but they weren’t taking new people.”
The following January 2018, Gladys caught news that Christy was taking over the agency, and she decided 2018 was going to be her year. She sent a long email to Christy explaining that she had been working on her portfolio and was sending a manuscript of a book she’d illustrated. Gladys signed the email with one more “I’m still holding on to hope that someday there will be a spot for me.”
In January 2018, the answer was an offer of representation and a contract to sign.
Christy sent out an email with Gladys’ work to editors and art directors she had relationships with, letting them know about the new talent she was representing. That same day an editor from HarperCollins Children’s Books reached out to ask if Christy’s new artist had any samples of little girls with flair.
All Gladys had to work with at the time was the word flair. And so she went to Google again to try narrow down the word to something tangible she could represent through illustration. After she sent in 10 different girls with 10 completely different looks, there was silence for months. Gladys felt that sinking feeling again — maybe the timing just wasn’t right.
Then in June of 2018, word came back that she got the project, she’d have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and oh also Will Smith is tied to the project and she’d be illustrating characters inspired by The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
“It was like I didn’t have knees anymore, because I just fell to the floor,” Gladys says. “It’s like that Will Smith clip that’s a gif. It’s not that stuff like this doesn’t happen to people like me, but I never thought that something like this could happen to me specifically.”
The story centers around Destiny, a girl with — you guessed it — flair. Her life gets flipped-turned upside down when her family moves to West Philadelphia.
For Gladys, it’s not just the obvious excitement of being hired to do such a big project with such a big celebrity, but that Fresh Princess offers something she had been looking for when she was a child.
“This isn’t just life-changing for me,” Gladys says. “We need more diverse books and books with kids of color that aren’t just telling the story of African American history, but stories that are about just normal kids today. I would look for books with girls who looked like me, but I couldn’t. So being a part of a project that has a little brown girl, and knowing my daughter gets to grow up with this…Will Smith is just kind of the cherry on the cake.”
2. “Avengers: Endgame” is the culmination of ten years, 21 films and a lot of smart minds coming together to create a franchise full of scientific possibilities and not-so-possibilities. So, if you have already made it through your list of pre-Endgame MCU movies to watch, take a beat to read The Science Behind ‘Avengers: Endgame.’ Two researchers at UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center provide their expertise on some of the movie’s scientific elements.
3. All you New-York-er Knights, commit Thursday, May 23 to your memory because UCF’s Charge On Tour is heading your way! We want to meet with alumni, fans and friends to celebrate another impressive year for UCF Athletics. Join us to hear from a number of special guests, including Vice President and Director of Athletics Danny White, Head Football Coach Josh Heupel, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Johnny Dawkins, and Head Women’s Basketball Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. Register here.