1. The UCF baseball team earned the No. 5 seed in the 2018 American Athletic Conference Tournament at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. The Knights will play the first game of the tournament on Tuesday at 9 a.m. against the No. 4 seed ECU. (The game was originally schedule for 3 p.m. but due to the threat of inclement weather, the game was moved up) For more information about the tournament, including tickets, please visit The American’s championship central page.
2. Good news for UCF’s cutting edge RESTORES clinic, which helps people coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. The program has been awarded a $10 million grant to expand its work.
3. Professionals from Walt Disney World, the Orlando Magic and City of Orlando — all UCF alumni — shared some of their wisdom and experiences at a career enhancement panel, and we’re loving their five career tips. The panel was part of Hospitality Knight hosted by UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter. For more chapter and club events on the horizon, take a look at the alumni events calendar.
5. A former Air Force fighter pilot; a 4-foot-2 woman who refused to let a rare genetic disorder keep her from pursuing her dreams; a 27-year-old cancer survivor; and a couple who are both active duty Army officers were all part of the 2018 graduating class from the College of Medicine. Read about them all in this Orlando Sentinel feature article.
ORLANDO, Fla. (May 17, 2018) – The hospitality industry is known for prioritizing customer service above all, and that is certainly the case for Michelle Jenkinson ’07 and her team within the fan experience and operations department for the Orlando Magic.
So when a fan who had gotten engaged two days prior to attending a Magic game lost her ring underneath the bleachers, Jenkinson’s team sprang into action. An operations staff member knew of a crevice in the floor and located the ring, where he hooked it with his pinky finger and safely retrieved it.
“Those are the moments that we teach our employees about at the Amway Center,” Jenkinson said. “If you think back to your favorite moment of a sporting event, do you remember the score? It’s more likely you remember who you went with. Or the fact that the usher bent down and talked to your child and got them a foam finger and made them feel special. We want to create legendary experiences for our fans.”
Anecdotes like this and other motivational takeaways were shared at a career enhancement panel hosted by the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter on May 15.
Jenkinson along with two alumni who have gone on to become prominent professionals at Walt Disney World and City of Orlando shared their insights and experiences at a networking and social event held on Rosen’s campus.
Below, we share some of the panel’s top tips that apply to any job.
A snapshot of the panelists:
• Marylouise Fitzgibbon ’94, Regional General Manager for Walt Disney World
• Michelle Jenkinson ’07, Director of Fan Experience and Operations for the Orlando Magic
• Allen Johnson ’81, Chief Venues Officer of Orlando Venues
• Moderator: Tom Hope ’09MBA, UCF Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
1: An effective leader leads with kindness. Marylouise Fitzgibbon: “We’re still making really smart business decisions and still working on smart strategies and forming tactical plans, but in every decision we make, people make all the difference. It’s not just something, it’s everything. Leadership is all about relationships. When I was in school, I think that concept sounded nice to have, but now that I’m further along in my career, it’s a differentiator. The reason we all got into this business is that we wanted to make a difference in the world. For me, that difference starts with one person, one employee, one guest, one peer. That’s something I’ve tried to hold onto all these years. There’s so much data that shows that leaders who have a style of kindness are more effective. Those are the people you want to work for. Those are the people I want to work for.”
Michelle Jenkinson: “Some leaders want to lead with fear or want to lead with being aggressive. It just doesn’t work. Lead by being part of a team. A lot of times, the leaders I’ve admired and something that I try to emulate now, is having the mindset that I’m no different than the greeter on the club level checking tickets. It’s all about the fan experience, the guest experience and making sure you are part of your team. You just have to get your hands dirty, whatever it takes to get the doors open and the lights turned on. You’re not above it.”
Allen Johnson: “I agree that kindness is one of the most important qualities of a leader. Qualities that I look for in a leader is No. 1: listening. No. 2: know your people. Know their names. And if you know their wife’s and their husband’s or companion’s name or their kids’ names, you’re golden. There’s four words I tell everyone you have to learn. The first two are ‘thank you.’ The last two will get you through life on everything: ‘I’m sorry.’
2: Prioritizing work-life balance (or integration) is necessary for career longevity. Marylouise Fitzgibbon: I have two sets of twins, it’s sort of my claim to fame. At one point I had four kids under the age of five. I used to get asked the question about work-life balance a lot. Choose your spouse, your companion really careful. The only reason I can do what I do is because I have an amazing husband who gets me. I joke that I don’t know the name of my kids’ dentist, I never have, but their very perfectly capable father does and takes them. I don’t say that with pride, but I also don’t say it with embarrassment either. I’ve stopped using the term work-life balance because it doesn’t exist. I like thinking about work-life integration. You aren’t two separate people, as much as you try. Be aware that the people who work for you are dealing with the same issues that maybe you are, so I work a lot with my team on integrating our personal and professional lives.
Michelle Jenkinson: I have three small children, 6 and under. Balancing that on top of 45 games a year — on a game day I’m there at 9 a.m. and typically don’t leave until 11-12 o’clock at night. So what does that look like? I have to have an awesome team at home as well as an awesome team at work. We know when we need to pick up the slack for one another. It’s important to have fun in the office and do things as a work family. I love every single one of them. The other key is to take the down time when you have it. If you get a day that it’s slow in the office, take it off. Realize that work is always going to be there.
Allen Johnson: I know everyone struggles with this, even more so in this industry. I consider the time I spend with my family special. Whatever we are doing, I try to make it special. Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking them to the library because that’s what they like doing. But everyone needs to find what their happy place is. My degree is in psychology and I’m big on mindfulness. I learned how to meditate when I was in high school and I do that a lot when I’m in a stressful situation. It’s up to you to find the things that work for you to help balance.
3: It’s all in the details. Michelle Jenkinson: When it comes to events, a lot of people have this idea of what it’s about. They think weddings, the Grammys and you have an unlimited budget and life is good. Let me tell you, that’s .02 percent of the events industry. Every event has the same components though – attention to detail. We’ll go on walk-throughs on a game day, and I’m worried about a scuff on the terrazzo. That seems ridiculous, but if we don’t do that, those scuffs add up. That’s maintenance on your building. So it’s easier to take care of those little things. As for the job, you plan as much as you can, but also know that nothing in events goes to plan. Be able to adapt to that and be flexible. Keep that mindset because it will get you further in this industry.”
4: Don’t wait for the perfect job. Marylouise Fitzgibbon: “Stop trying to find the perfect job right out of college. Get something. Your degree will pay off big, but it’s probably not that very first job. It won’t be long to set yourself apart. Don’t get caught up with titles. Just get a job.”
Allen Johnson: “You have to start somewhere. I think Marylouise is absolutely correct. People are impatient when they first graduate because you want to be us up here on this panel. It’s a long road. What I look for when I’m hiring someone: If I have two candidates and one has the most perfect background, education, experience, everything, and the other candidate as the best attitude, I will hire the best attitude every time. It’s the only thing that you can control.”
5: No matter what year you graduate, it’s *always* a good time to be a Knight. Marylouise Fitzgibbon: “I chose UCF because in my small graduating class, a lot of my peers got into UF, FSU but they did not get into UCF. So when I got the acceptance letter from UCF, I chose it truly out of spite (laughs). I know that’s a bad reason, and I’m embarrassed to tell you that, but we’re all friends here. I graduated in 1994, and back then even, it was a big deal to get chosen to attend UCF. Now, being out in the world and being an employer, the reputation that this university has is so phenomenal and powerful. It’s a proud moment when I’m sitting in recruiting meetings and people are actively trying to find UCF students and I’m the one in the room who whispers, you know I went to school there (smiles).”
Michelle Jenkinson: “I was born and raised in Florida in Merritt Island. I had a lot of friends that went to UCF. I would come visit them. I loved Orlando, loved campus. I honestly didn’t apply anywhere else. Orlando had a good mix of bigger city but that excitement of college life. UCF was growing quite quickly. I’m extremely proud to be a UCF Knight. Even since I’ve graduated, I love to be a part of the success the university has had.”
Allen Johnson: “It’s weird, I started at a school called FTU and graduated from UCF. I don’t know how that happened (laughs). I’m third-generation Central Floridian. I was born in Kissimmee, raised in St. Cloud. I fell in love with UCF and a girl. UCF gave me an opportunity to experience college life on a scale that is much bigger now, as we all know, but back then it was still a major university. I’m proud to be a UCF Knight. I run Camping World Stadium and we have a bowl game every Jan. 1. This year is the first year I’ve missed it in 14 years. I chose to go to Atlanta. My boss allowed me to. That’s how important UCF is to me.”
1. “It’s always thrilling to be back in a classroom—and it makes me wish I could be a college student all over again. If that wish were ever to come true, the college experience would look very different—and better—at an innovative institution like UCF.” — Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates) in a recently penned entry on his blog site, gatesnotes.
2. UCF picked up its third American Athletic Conference championship trophy of the 2017-18 athletics season over the weekend. The rowing team joined football and women’s soccer (regular season) as squads to bring home the hardware this year. For rowing, the championship marked the team’s fourth-straight title, and in effect, the Knights became the second women’s program in The American to win four straight titles in the five-year history of the league. The Knights join UConn Women’s Basketball as the only two squads with four or more conference titles.
3. From athletics to the arts, there are plenty of summer camps for learning and play affiliated with UCF that can help keep students busy during the summer break. UCF employees are offered a discount on camp rates, so be sure to sign up early to take advantage of this benefit.
4. The Orlando Sentinel featured the new senior living community affiliated UCF, which is in the works and set to open in mid-2020. Legacy Pointe at UCF will reside about 2 miles away from UCF’s main campus and across from the Econ River Wilderness Area. Legacy Pointe residents will be able to attend any class for free as long as it’s not full. Transportation to and from the community will be provided for them. And they can use campus amenities, such as the library, study halls and the gym.
5. The names of four officers from Central Florida, including Lt. Debra Clayton ’98 ’02MS and Deputy First Class Norm Lewis ’04, were added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C. City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer along with law enforcement officers from Orlando, Kissimmee and Orange County visited the nation’s capital to pay their respects at the National Police Week vigil.
1. More than 8,100 UCF graduates joined the UCF Alumni family over the weekend, including Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Jaha Dukureh. The renowned activist and United Nations goodwill ambassador earned her master’s degree through UCF’s online nonprofit management program. She studied the field to better understand how to run her own nonprofit organization, which she started to help put an end to female genital mutilation. Read her incredible story
3. The 2018 ChargeOn Tour has its first stop scheduled for Tuesday, May 8, at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville for the Jumbo Shrimp’s game against the Tennessee Smokies. Head coaches Josh Heupel, Katie Abrahamson-Henderson and Johnny Dawkins along with Vice President and Director of Athletics Danny White will be all be part of the program, which starts at 6:15 p.m. at the Sea Best Shrimp Deck. Purchase your ticket, which also includes an all-you-can-eat picnic package.
4. The UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter is hosting a panel of five outstanding UCF alumni on May 15 at 6 p.m. In addition to sharing their personal stories, the panelists from organizations including Walt Disney Company, Universal and the Orlando Magic will discuss themes like leadership, career development and achieving professional success. Register Now
5. Just a friendly reminder that Teacher Appreciation Day is Wednesday, May 8. Did a UCF professor make an impact on your life? Consider taking a few moments out of your day to send them a note telling them what they mean to you!
ORLANDO, Fla. (April 30, 2018) – While four Knights fulfilled lifelong dreams of hearing their names called during the 2018 NFL Draft, another pair of Knights were working behind the scenes to capture every moment.
Alumni Eric DeSalvo ’09 and Brandon Naidus ’12 are the maestros of the social media accounts for their respective teams.
The two share more than a similar job. In fact, Naidus was an undergraduate student intern for UCF Athletics Communications when DeSalvo took his first job out of graduate school in 2011 as the UCF assistant director of communications for the baseball and volleyball teams.
They keep in touch often, and that was certainly the case over the weekend as they both worked to churn out quality content worthy of viral numbers.
DeSalvo and UCF were one of the select college brands whose digital content teams were invited to the draft at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Meanwhile, Naidus and his department covered the draft remotely from the media conference room in the Arizona Cardinals facility.
They still might be slightly sleep deprived from the big weekend, but they took some time to share a glimpse into the strategy, the creativity and the heart it takes every day to do their jobs.
You both have covered drafts before in some capacity. How did you apply what you’ve learned from those experiences and adapt your strategy for success this year? DeSalvo: “The first draft I was really involved with was when Blake Bortles was drafted in 2014 and went third overall. We had a template created for a graphic that allowed us to interchange the team he was drafted to. It also had the round and the overall pick. People might not remember, but I screwed that up. I put he was taken sixth overall because I had put that in the template as a placeholder, and when he was picked third, I forgot to change it and didn’t realize it until about three minutes after I tweeted it. A coworker spotted it, and I had to delete the tweet with well over 100 retweets. I fixed it and put it back out and all was OK.
“That actually happened again the following year when Breshad Perriman went in the first round. It said the 25th pick when he was the 26th. So, we have learned, you don’t worry about rounds and picks. It’s all about what team the the guy is going to. After that, I measure our success on how much original, on-site content we can get and if we can get video or photos straight from the guys to show that these lifelong dreams that came true. We knew we were going to have our stuff prepared, but success in my mind, was getting more of the stuff that hits the hearts of our fans and the NFL team’s fans.”
Naidus: “My first draft I was wide-eyed, not sure what to expect. I was in charge of updating the website and handling all social media postings for the Jaguars in 2013 when I was an intern. In 2014, I still did that and that was the year they took Blake and Storm (Johnson). This year was the sixth draft I have been a part of, and I was responsible for leading the charge of what kind of social content we created and put out there. It’s interesting to see how things evolve. In 2013, I was preparing headshots for the website. Now I’m preparing graphics and tweets that can be shared by our current players to welcome our draft picks to the team – which a few years ago wasn’t even a thought. We want to be informative and engaging. Our fans have a lot of outlets they can go to for news, but we want them to come to us first.”
What kind of preparation do you need to do before a big event like the draft? DeSalvo: “Twitter is always going to be first because it’s the immediate news. Before the draft, we uploaded 32 versions of a highlight video for each player, for each team they could potentially go to. We had seven guys who could have been drafted. So seven guys multiplied by 32 possible teams meant we uploaded 224 into the back end of Twitter, before the draft, with the message of the post already crafted. I had Megan Herboth in the communications department send that out from Orlando because I was on site in Dallas. I don’t ever want to jeopardize connectivity because every second is precious when it comes to getting this post out. People can’t wait to celebrate big news. Having it out immediately and accurately is the biggest part to our success when it comes to those big numbers.”
Naidus: “I basically looked at every mock draft and said ‘OK, what are positions of need for our team?’ and created content based on the top few players at every single position. You try and do as much work on the front end to save yourself on the back end to keep from getting trampled. We had a whole list of content with all the pieces we planned on putting out leading up to the draft; the days of the draft; and the day after the draft. All the graphics, all the video elements. Could they pick someone we didn’t anticipate them to pick? Sure. But you prepare as best you can and then I assigned responsibilities to our social team so everyone knew what they were responsible for handling.”
Many have said they expect that this year’s draft will forever be known as the year of Shaquem Griffin. Eric, what was it like to be there to experience it? DeSalvo: “It was pretty incredible to see the amount of coverage he got. He was a day-3 pick that received top-5 pick coverage. It was a roller coaster because he initially wasn’t there to hear his name called. He was with his family at the hotel. So, I was determined to get crowd reaction from whatever team he went to. Seattle had two really close picks back to back in the fifth round, so I figured it would be his time more than ever, hedged my bet and waited by their section in the stadium. Sure enough, when he got picked they went crazy. Being able to get a different angle – that in-the-moment reaction – was awesome to capture. When he did get to the stadium, it was really neat just being able to see everybody yelling his name as he was riding in his golf cart to go to the ESPN and NFL Network sets. Everyone from security guards to producers wanted to say hi and congratulate him. A lot of people congratulated his mom. So being able to experience that and just see the love he received from every single person first hand was pretty incredible. ”
What does the average person not know about your job? DeSalvo: “The amount of people you collaborate with. They don’t understand how many people are contributing to what we’re putting out there. The amount of edits that can happen. The amount of stuff that’s done on the fly. You have to be so reactionary in this business. You always have to be on. I mean, I had no idea when Alabama was giving their rings to their players, and all of a sudden, we’re getting bombarded by people, including Alabama players, tagging us in pictures of their rings. I’m flattered they are thinking about us, but to be able to pivot on the fly and come up with some replies to people, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not just a job. There’s a lot more to it than just having fun and posting messages, and sometimes it’s very tough to turn it off. Social media can consume your life. Shout out to my wife, Jessica, for putting up with me in this field. I know she enjoys seeing me love what I do, but I can’t appreciate her enough.”
Naidus: “Probably the amount of hours that go into it. I’ve had drafts where I’ve worked over 50 hours in three days. The preparation that goes into it from a content perspective – how prepared you have to be on the front end in order to succeed as everything is happening. It’s not just grabbing a cool video as a guy walks by. I would be shocked if any team has a heads up on who their picks are. I had no idea who we were taking this year. In the six years I’ve done this, I’ve only had a heads up once for a first-round pick. People probably think, ‘Oh if he works for the team, he probably knows.’ Not really. It doesn’t really work like that.”
Your role means you’re often the voice of your team. How do you feel about having that responsibility? DeSalvo: “I’m in a unique position because I’m an alumnus of the school I work for. People give back to their alma maters in different ways: monetarily, service and by working there. I feel like this is the biggest way I’ve been able to give back to UCF – a school that’s been a part of my life since day one with my dad graduating from the Class of ’75. I’m able to utilize my passion on a daily basis because I’m a fan, too. Whenever we’re putting out messages and we’re ‘yelling’ in all caps, it’s because we feel that way. I’m not just putting that out to fake emotion. It’s real. And that’s what awesome because there are so many people who work here and graduated from here who feel the same way. Being at the controls of us in our golden years right now, that’s something that I wouldn’t change for the world. It’s my way of giving back to my alma mater in maybe one of the most unique ways possible.”
Naidus: “There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of pressure, so it’s a little nerve-wracking, but it’s exciting, too, and it has offered me a lot of unique opportunities. Last year we drafted Haason Reddick, and I was sitting at the press conference next to his mother, who was crying because her son realized his dream. In that moment, it’s hard not to get choked up. Being a part of such a special day for people who have worked their whole lives toward something, it’s really cool to be a part of that.”
Share your most memorable behind-the-scenes moment from this year’s draft. DeSalvo: “I think it was riding in the freight elevator with the Griffin family and getting the picture where I said, yup you guys broke twitter. It was just so quiet. Nobody was really talking, and they decided to go through their phones and check social media really quick. I’ve always wanted a picture like that because I was envisioning in my head it would look cool in black and white. Weirdly, two of the top moments of my career have happened in a freight elevator. The other was my first trip to New York City last year and riding in the freight elevator at Madison Square Garden standing next to Johnny Dawkins. I remember thinking to myself, he’s probably ridden in this elevator so many times, and knowing the kind of people who have gone through this elevator. So it came full circle again this weekend. That moment was definitely up there.”
Naidus: “The coolest aspect for me was how quickly and efficiently our social media team produced content. The person that leads our efforts with social media videos, Jesse, was working his first NFL Draft. While this was the second draft for our social graphics guy, Jackson, this was the first time he was responsible for creating the bulk of our graphics for the draft. Over the three days, there is so much information and so much content, it can get overwhelming at times. I thought they handled it incredibly well. Their sense of accomplishment after the last pick was made was a great moment. I thought our entire broadcasting/digital department, which we fall under, churned out great content pieces for various mediums leading up to and during the NFL Draft.”
1. UCF’s Shaquem Griffin ’16 will attend the NFL Draft at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium in Texas on April 26-28, as he looks to join his brother Shaquill ’16 (Seattle Seahawks) in the league. Griffin was featured on Monday’s TODAY show on NBC.
2. The UCF programming team finished first place in North America and 10th worldwide in the Association of Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Contest held in Beijing. UCF defeated teams from Harvard, MIT and Stanford, among others, en route to earning the program’s highest finish in more than three decades of competition.
3. Renovation of the Reflecting Pond is nearly complete, and the iconic spot on campus is expected to be back in action by April 30. The Reflecting Pond was drained in October after Spirit Splash and has been undergoing an extensive renovation ever since. Pro tip for graduates looking to snap some photos: in order to maintain the pond’s beauty and functionality, please do not throw glitter in the pond.
4. Everyone’s favorite Jeopardy! contestant, UCF sophomore Hannah Sage, finished third in the game show’s College Championship finals, collecting $25,000. Sage received a resounding welcome from fans in Spectrum Stadium at the UCF football team’s Spring Game.
5. Although there are still sports to be played throughout the spring, UCF clinched the War on I4 trophy against rival USF for the second year in a row. The women’s golf team’s runner-up performance at the American Athletic Conference Championship last week sealed the deal, giving the Knights bragging rights for another year. #ChargeOn
ORLANDO, Fla. (April 20, 2018) – After Josh Haley ’12 ’14MS saw projects at April 19’s College of Engineering and Computer Science Senior Design Showcase, he’s not so sure that his own project at the inaugural showcase in 2012 would measure up anymore.
“Things that were really, really cool projects when I was an undergrad are now just kind of ‘Eh, I’ve seen cooler,’” Haley said. “The students coming from UCF every year are getting smarter and faster at implementing complex systems. The university has really kept pace on the increasing demands of this industry.”
Haley, a software engineer and assistant technical staff lead for SoarTech, was one of 32 alumni to offer their expertise as judges at the senior showcase this year.
The event featured 123 teams and 600 students. An additional 130 students from nine other engineering colleges presented 25 additional projects for the first Florida-Wide Student Engineering Design Invitational.
The partnership shows how strong engineering and computer science talent is being developed at universities to fuel Florida’s innovation economy. UCF is the nation’s No. 1 workforce supplier to the aerospace and defense industry and is among the nation’s top producers of engineers and computer scientists.
“I think we really impressed the visiting colleges with the scope of our senior design showcase given how large of a university we are and how many teams we have and how well the event came together,” Haley said. “I thought it was a great opportunity to see the focus of the senior projects at some of the universities in the state. I’m familiar with the awesome work that is being done at UCF, but I had no idea of some of the great medial technology applications coming out of Miami and USF.”
Haley is the chair of the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter and previously spent three years as the communications chair for the group. He said many members of the chapter, himself included, enjoy mentoring and interacting with the current students on a regular basis.
He can still recall the stress and workload the students undertake in pulling off a successful project.
Before he become the first in his family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, he developed his own project – an autonomous robotic rover with a metal detection element that safely navigated a synthetic minefield and reported back successful paths.
The showcase now holds a different vibe to him in his role as a judge.
“It’s a fun event where I can see what’s going on with the student projects, and not just within my own discipline, but across the entire college,” he said. “I think now I have a much greater appreciation for all the wonderful things the other disciplines are doing that I probably didn’t have as an undergrad.”
He said he believes the senior design showcase will continue to improve and grow as the project complexities continue to increase and the students consistently turn out high-quality work. As for the Florida-Wide Student Engineering Design Invitational, he hopes that will become an annual event.
“The statewide invitational allows more cross-pollination of project ideas and priorities. As part of the alumni judging component, we would absolutely would love to have a Florida Cup that travels school to school based on who claims the coolest project for that year.”
ORLANDO, Fla. (April 19, 2018) — The sounds of construction can be heard on the third floor of Orlando City Hall. The building is being retrofitted with energy efficient technology as part of the City of Orlando’s sustainability initiatives.
It’s one of the many projects currently underway and supervised by sustainability director Chris Castro ’10 and sustainability project manager Brittany Sellers ’13MA ’16PhD. From the moment the UCF alumni step in their offices, they are literally surrounded by the results of their labor of love.
Their daily mission, especially on April 22’s Earth Day, is to transform Orlando into one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the country. That’s not exactly easy to do when one of the world’s top tourist destinations is also Forbes’ fourth-fastest growing city in America for 2018.
“When you look at Orlando from a long-term sustainability standpoint, 30-40-50-plus years from now, the amount of energy, the amount of water we’re consuming, the amount of waste that we are generating, is unsustainable,” Castro says. “At a certain point, our economy could become impacted negatively if we don’t start proactively paying attention to that.”
Easy Being Green
Castro and Sellers have been paying attention for quite a while.
Castro, the son of palm tree farmers in Miami, arrived at UCF in 2007 as an undeclared major. In his first year, he enrolled in a class taught by Penelope Canan, a nationally recognized professor for her environmental and sociology research. After taking her environmental sociology course, he knew he wanted to dedicate his life and career to sustainability.
He jumped in immediately by starting IDEAS for UCF, a sustainability-focused student organization. The group welcomes students of all majors and interests, and it focuses on originating solutions to make UCF’s campus more sustainable.
One of its first major achievements was receiving a commitment from President John C. Hitt and UCF to become a carbon neutral campus by 2050. IDEAS worked on programming and policies to help make strides toward that goal.
“I saw UCF as this unbelievable opportunity. For me, it was the best Petri dish that any student could ever imagine,” Castro says. “Everything I was doing through campus, I’ve now tried to expand it and take it to real life and the municipal government.”
Sellers heard about the project as a human factors psychology doctoral student and wanted to study the challenge Castro helped implement as part of her dissertation.
She examined the project with a behavioral lens. How were students living in older dorms competing against students in newly constructed dorms? What if students couldn’t easily access sockets to unplug electronics? Did they know what the challenge on campus meant in the bigger picture of impacting climate change globally?
“Information does not equal action. People can know to do the right thing but there are all these other factors, and we need to look at what that means. What are the elements that can make it more possible?” Sellers says. “My transition to the department of sustainability at the city was pretty seamless even though I had come in as a psychology researcher. It might not seem like the most logical jump. But from the interdisciplinary approach I had in my education, it all made sense. A lot of that was fostered at UCF.”
People, Planet and Prosperity
Castro joined City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s sustainability department full time in 2014, and Sellers joined soon after in 2015 before graduating with her doctorate a year later.
The two have brought their expertise to Dyer’s Green Works initiative, which began in 2007. Every day, these Knights and their team – which includes energy project manager Ian LaHiff ’09, sustainability associate Joe England ’09 ’12MA and public outreach coordinator Daniel Friedline ’13 – are shaping the policies and actions that make Orlando and Central Florida a more livable, vibrant and sustainable place to live.
“Sustainability is about changing that mindset to get people looking at people, planet and prosperity. It’s about the triple-bottom line: social, economic and environment,” Castro says. “The fact is, we won’t have an economy if our people are dying and are sick. We won’t have an economy if the natural resources in our environment that we depend on aren’t there. So what cities are positioning to do in our office and our roles is to figure out how we can change our operations internally, and externally, how we can change our culture to embrace the triple-bottom line.”
The first phase of the Green Works program focused internally on city operations. The city knew it needed to buy in to what it was asking of its residents, so it began upgrading municipal building features to minimize energy consumption. It lowered water usage, diverted waste and transitioned its fleet vehicles to alternative fuels.
In 2013, Green Works took what it learned from its internal changes and applied its success outward to the community to foster a culture that embraced sustainability.
To keep from getting overwhelmed, Castro and Sellers focus on making progress in six key areas: energy and green buildings; local food systems; solid waste; livability (planting trees, pedestrian and bicycle trails, expanding parks); transportation; and water. Within each area are policies and actions needed to make their goals happen by 2040.
There are measures like developing plans for solar generation on rooftops in support of Orlando’s 100 percent renewable energy commitment – one of 50 cities in the country to undertake such a monumental task. Or transforming all downtown LYMMO buses into all electric zero-metric buses. Or adding electric motorcycles for the Orlando Police Department. Or addressing food insecurity with farmers markets that accept SNAP benefits. Or fleet farming, exactly like the food being grown in plant beds outside of UCF’s Student Union.
“We could be here all day,” Sellers says as Castro and she list one example after another.
Castro and Sellers estimate their office juggles 40-50 projects simultaneously at any given time, and even though the work is demanding, Sellers says she is excited to be part of the team and takes prides in the work they accomplish every day, especially in the city where her alma mater is located.
While some may say they’re ‘saving the world,’ she prefers to look at it from a slightly different perspective.
“I like when we go out and do good things, you see that light spark in other people. You ignite that desire to do the right thing, the good thing. So I like to frame that as ‘amplifying the good that already exists in the world,’” she says. “Sometimes we’re changing hearts and minds and there’s an evolution, but at the same time, for a lot of people, this already lies within them, and we’re just kind of empowering and enabling that in them.”
Power of One
While they are certainly leading the charge, they want everyone to understand the role each individual can play in helping the city’s progress toward a better future for Orlando.
Castro points to a phone call he received recently from a concerned citizen about an oak tree that was scheduled to be cut down because of development. The individual asked if something could be done to stop trees like the oak from being cut down in the future.
Now, Castro’s team along with the parks and planning teams will collaborate on exploring ways to improve tree ordinances and protect Orlando’s urban forest.
“That all happened because of one individual. That voice goes an extremely long way,” Castro says.
They’ve made it a priority to provide tools and information to the public on their website www.cityoforlando.net/greenworks as well as host community forums to encourage others to use their voices.
Castro and Sellers both agree that the single biggest aspect about sustainability that people do not realize is the effect one individual can have in making a difference.
“Changing out your light bulbs, changing one degree in your home [thermostat], unplugging appliances, changing your diet, carpooling or ride sharing or alternative modes of transit,” Castro says, “little by little, these actions in a collective sense, make a huge global impact.”
ORLANDO, Fla. (April 16, 2018) – The UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center (FAC) is not only one of the greenest buildings on campus – it was recognized over the weekend as one of the best in the Central Florida region.
The FAC won Most Outstanding Project of the Year (Existing Building) at the U.S. Green Building Council’s fifth annual LEEDership Awards on April 14.
The LEEDership Awards recognizes and honors the outstanding green building projects, forward-thinking businesses, innovative design teams and instrumental region members and volunteers who have displayed green building and sustainable development leadership in the greater Central Florida area.
In January 2018, the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Operations & Maintenance (LEED) Gold certification, established by the USGBC and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute.
The FAC is one of 21 UCF projects to achieve LEED certification, however, it is the first building on campus to achieve certification under the operations and maintenance rating system. Like many of its peer institutions, UCF mandates LEED certification for all new construction and major renovations.
High performance buildings play an integral part in supporting UCF’s goal to reach climate neutrality by 2050. When complying with the high efficiency standards, UCF LEED buildings are consuming about 30 percent less energy and 40 percent less water than similar non-LEED buildings.
In 2016, the FAC pledged to green its workspace in alignment with the university’s commitment to sustainability.
In two years, the building has accomplished significant energy reductions by using low or no-cost facility improvement measures. It has recommissioned air handler units, improved the solar reflective index of the roof and changed LED lights to a lower color temperature. These energy upgrades show a payback of 6-to-12 months and incur a cost savings of more than two times the initial investment within one year.
Installation of low flush appliances, water conserving aerators and reclaim water irrigation helped in water conservation, reducing indoor water use by 31.1 percent from baseline and outdoor water use by 50.85 percent.
The FAC has served the campus for more than a decade, hosting everything from university functions to televised Senate debates to weddings to corporate meetings, press conferences, graduation regalia distribution and classroom space. To learn more about the FAC or rent the facility, please visit ucfalumni.com/alumnicenter.
1. The UCF football team’s annual spring game is upon us! Before heading to Spectrum Stadium at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, stop by the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center for our first ever Spring Game Indoor Tailgate! Doors open at 3 p.m., and just like the regular season tailgates, all UCF alumni (with driver’s license or valid ID) and their guests are welcome to attend this free event. RSVP now
2. Speaking of the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, the FAC was recognized over the weekend as one of the greenest buildings in the Central Florida region. It won Most Outstanding Project of the Year (Existing Building) at the U.S. Green Building Council’s fifth annual LEEDership Awards on April 14.
4. UCF was ranked 25th in the nation for enrollment of freshmen National Merit Scholars in Fall 2017, according to the annual report recently released by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. With 88 National Merit Scholars enrolled, UCF also was ranked the 13th highest public institution in the country. The ranking places UCF above institutions such as UCLA, Penn State and Georgia Tech.
5. All of Knight Nation is Team Hannah after UCF sophomore Hannah Sage advanced to the semifinals in the Jeopardy! College Championship, which airs Tuesday at 7 p.m. Sage, along with 14 competitors from universities across the nation, has the opportunity to win a grand prize of $100,000 and a shot at the next Tournament of Champions game.