1. UCF’s Presidential Search Committee selected eight semifinalists vying to become the university’s fifth president and next visionary leader. The 15-member search committee will interview the semifinalists on Feb. 22 and 23 at the Student Union. Following the final interview, the committee will vote to bring three to five finalists to campus. Find out more about the semifinalists.
2. The UCF football team announced the date of its annual spring game: Saturday, April 21, at 6 p.m. at Spectrum Stadium. More details about activities surrounding the game will be forthcoming.
3. Three Knights are featured among Orlando Weekly’s annual selection of its “10 people making Orlando a better place to be.” College of Engineering and Computer Science alumni Ricky Ly ’08 and Albert Manero ’12 ’14MS ’16PhD along with College of Medicine alumna Rasha Mubarak ’08 all received shoutouts in the recent article.
4. This year’s recipients of the Order of Pegasus, UCF’s most prestigious student award, were announced Friday. Of the 22 honorees, four are already alumni of the university.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 12, 2018) – The wedding ring popped out of the box, rolled onto the gazebo floor and continued rolling right on into the depths of Lake Baldwin during the middle of Nicole Dumbroff ’15 and Cecil Chik ’09 ’15MA’s wedding ceremony.
Thanks to a scuba diver from theringfinders.com, the ring is back on Nicole’s finger after spending two weeks in the lake, and she laughs now as she recalls this romantic-comedy-esque moment of the couple’s five-year love story.
The Chiks’ wedding day is something they weren’t sure would happen when they met at UCF in 2013. But when Florida legalized same-sex marriage in January 2015 and the U.S. Supreme Court declared it a right nationwide six months later, social norms changed things for the couple in the best way possible.
“The same way that my family members asked my sister when she was going to marry her husband, they were now asking me. And they had never asked before,” Cecil said. “We’re married, so now the next question people are asking is, so when are you going to have kids? So, in a way, this has normalized my relationship in a way I never would have thought possible.”
Cecil immigrated to Miami from Hong Kong with her family in 1989. She grew up on Calle Ocho, learning to speak Spanish before English, and at her parents’ insistence, she was destined for a college education.
A first-generation student, she chose UCF because her cousin attended the university and enjoyed his experience. She strengthened her connection to the university by getting involved with the Campus Activities Board through the Office of Student Involvement.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics education and taught for Osceola and Orange County Public Schools before returning to UCF in 2013 as a graduate assistant within UCF’s LGBTQ+ Services and Multicultural Student Center to pursue a master’s degree in counselor education.
Her decision ended up changing the trajectory of her life both personally and professionally.
How They Met One of her role’s main responsibilities included managing UCF’s first LGBTQ safe space on campus, Pride Commons. The space opened its doors for a test run during 2013’s summer semester before officially opening in September.
“I loved being a part of that beginning because I was able to set up something that I didn’t have in my undergrad for every single student that came afterwards. You can come in and you can play card games with people, and you don’t have to talk about different identities, but the people surrounding you, you know will understand your experience,” Cecil said.
During one of Cecil’s shifts, an undergraduate statistics student from Coral Springs walked in and struck up a conversation with her.
“I knew she was interested in me, but the thing is, I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to because I was a graduate assistant at the time and she was in undergrad,” Cecil said. “So I kind of skirted around the situation. I didn’t really say anything. She friended me on Facebook and I left it untouched.”
Nicole interjected: “For two weeks! I knew there may have been an ethical dilemma. She’s older than I am. We have a 7-and-a-half-year age difference.”
Cecil quickly cracked: “It’s her favorite thing to bring up,” and laughed.
Nicole continued: “I was used to being rejected because of my age. So I thought, you know what – it’s ok. If it has to remain a crush, it will remain a crush. I was accepting of that. But then she finally did accept my friend request.”
For the record, Cecil pointed out that she asked permission first from her supervisor at the time under the guise of asking advice about the situation for a friend. With no ethical conflict to worry about, the two quickly became attached to each other.
Two Weddings and One Lost Ring Not long after, they had their first date: lunch at Mills Market and a stop at Lake Baldwin, where they had their first kiss.
Three years later, they proposed to each other. Cecil popped the question on Feb. 29, 2016, by recreating their first date, and Nicole returned the gesture in a surprise proposal on April 1.
They wanted to get married at UCF where their relationship began. They started planning for a November 2017 wedding but also decided to hold an intimate ceremony beforehand on Dec. 28, 2016, at Lake Baldwin in front of their families – the same date as Cecil’s grandparents’ anniversary.
Nicole’s aunt performed the ceremony. Cecil’s sister jumped into the lake to go after the ring. The whole family had a nice meal together afterward.
Nearly a year later, they held a big bash with all of their friends at Live Oak Event Center, just around the corner from Pride Commons where they first met.
“We made it to UCF’s Snap (chat) story. We had some friends text us afterward, ‘Over 300 people watched your first dance!’” Cecil said.
After “I Do” The two now live in DeLand, where Cecil is the director of diversity and inclusion at Stetson University.
“Opening Pride Commons and having the ability to stand up and fight for something I personally believe in, and also be able to do it on behalf of a community I belong to, is really what kickstarted my passion to do the diversity and inclusion work I do now,” Cecil said.
Nicole received a Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship to obtain her master’s degree at UCF and is guaranteed a job with the Department of Defense in California after she graduates this spring with her degree in statistical computing with a data mining track.
The two will move this summer to the West Coast but they will always have a special place in their hearts for Orlando and UCF.
“UCF always felt like a welcoming place. I never felt like I had to hide my identity. Because Orlando is a pretty gay-friendly city and the sheer size of the school, there’s so much diversity,” Nicole said.
Cecil added: “I am very grateful to UCF for dedicating a space to LGBTQ+ inclusivity because it didn’t just provide a safe space for queer-identified people – I found the love of my life there.”
1. UCF’s annual faculty and staff fundraising campaign Believe started Feb. 1 and will run through the duration of the month. Last year, the Believe campaign saw 2,045 staff members contribute more than $1 million in philanthropic support to the university. We’re proud to report that one-third of UCF’s faculty and staff are alumni. Learn more about this year’s campaign.
2. With the Philadelphia Eagles’ win on Sunday night in the Super Bowl, former UCF cornerback D.J. Killings ’16 became the 10th Knight to earn a Super Bowl ring. Killings, who was a four-year letterwinner for the Knights before graduating with his bachelor’s degree in human communication, started his NFL career with the New England Patriots before being released and picked up by the Eagles in October 2017.
3. Another Presidential Search Committee meeting is being held Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. at the UCF Global Collaboration Room. The Orlando Sentinelpublished a story Saturday about the 21 candidates who have applied for the job so far. You can also stay informed about the process through UCF’s Presidential Search website.
4. News last week out of the College of Medicine reports that a strain of bacteria commonly found in milk and beef may be a trigger for developing rheumatoid arthritis in people who are genetically at risk. A team of UCF College of Medicine researchers are the first to report the connection. Read more about the study.
5. Rollins College is hosting a conversation with UCF President John C. Hitt on Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Knowles Memorial Chapel in Winter Park. This is a free event, and no tickets are required, however, space is limited. Doors open at 7 p.m. Further event details can be found on Facebook.
1. Did you and your significant other meet at UCF? Share the details of your #UCFLoveStory with us and you might be picked to be featured during Valentine’s Day week on our official social media pages. Fill out this online form.
2. UCF Provost and Executive Vice President Dale Whittaker announced last week that the university will create an Academic Health Sciences Center at Lake Nona as well as a new college and new interdisciplinary, inter-college school that will anchor UCF Downtown. Some changes mean that the College of Education and Human Performance and College of Health and Public Affairs will no longer exist, but no academic majors or programs are being eliminated. Read Whittaker’s full announcement and learn more about the restructuring from this FAQ.
3. Florida Governor Rick Scott surprised the football team to congratulate the Knights on their undefeated season. The celebration continued at the NFL Pro Bowl over the weekend when the team was recognized on the field at Camping World Stadium during the game.
4. UCF’s men’s basketball team will play both of its games this week at home. The Knights will first tip off against UConn on Wednesday at 9 p.m. at CFE Arena before holding a double-header with the women’s basketball team on Saturday. The men will take on Houston at noon before the women face Memphis at 2 p.m.
5. The UCF police department is still searching for a suspect in recent battery cases at UCF (see sketch below). The suspect is described as a thin, dark-skinned, dark-haired college-aged male who is about 5-foot-7 or 5-foot-8, wears glasses and speaks with an accent.
As UCFPD continues to aggressively investigate the case, it needs the community to remain alert and to speak up if anyone has any related information that could help. UCFPD can be reached 24/7 by calling 407-823-5555.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 24, 2018) – During last year’s NFL Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports Steve Hogan ’91 had a unique perspective of the game.
From the sidelines, he watched as New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ children played catch with Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hovered close enough to extend a handshake and a thank you. In the stands, 60,000 fans displayed their varied allegiances with NFL team jerseys of nearly every color.
Hogan, widely regarded as being the “quarterback” who brought together leaders from the public and private sector to convince the NFL to move the Pro Bowl from long-time location Honolulu to Orlando, forced himself to take a breath and look around to appreciate the final product of the community’s hard work.
“You have to pinch yourself in a moment like that. It was a neat five minutes,” he said with a laugh.
And then it was off to the next task at hand. Whether it is community projects, college football bowl season, World Cup bids or this week’s NFL Pro Bowl (again in Orlando), Hogan’s world has constantly been in motion since he joined the events department at Florida Citrus Sports in 1995.
And yet, Hogan, who has served as Florida Citrus Sports’ CEO since 2006, still wakes up every day excited to head to the same organization that he’s been dedicated to for the last 23 years.
“I just love the fact that Central Florida is constantly a community that has continued to push the boundaries and reinvent itself as it relates to sports,” he said. “As long as I’ve been here, I always feel like there’s been something new to work on. A new challenge every year to be excited about. It’s why I’ve been able to stay here for so long.”
Hogan grew up in Central Florida and spent two years at Polk State College before transferring to UCF.
Hogan said UCF’s ability to provide a student experience in a metropolitan area seemed like the right fit for him.
A journalism major with an interest in advertising and public relations, he had the opportunity to gain real-world experience within the hospitality industry with part-time jobs at places like Church Street Station.
“The class environment was fantastic, the support you get on campus and guidance – all those things were great, but it’s also the well-rounded nature of what the community is, what campus is like, the culture for students and the opportunities,” he said. “To me, it was everything together that some schools can’t provide.”
Since graduating, Hogan has been recognized by the Orlando Business Journal as a CEO of the Year; by Polk State College as a Distinguished Alumnus; and most recently in December, he received the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association’s 2017 Charles Andrews Memorial Hospitality Award in recognition of his achievements and contributions to Central Florida’s hospitality industry, as well as the community at large.
Hogan credits relationships as the key to success in his line of work.
“Relationships are what give you the opportunity to begin conversations for things that potentially won’t be available or occur for 4-5-6-7 years down the road,” he said.
Hogan said they tried landing the Pro Bowl back in 1997 when an opening became available and continued to “beat the drum” until the game was awarded to the city in 2017.
Another part of beating the drum included a more than $200 million commitment to improvements to Camping World Stadium – a project that Hogan worked tirelessly for alongside community leaders for nearly a decade to secure approval for the reconstruction.
A Win For Orlando
While the reconstruction has certainly helped land marquee events like this week’s Pro Bowl, part of the reconstruction opened the door to another passion project for Hogan: LIFT Orlando.
The non-profit was organized in 2013 and consists of business leaders partnering with west-Orlando residents to break the cycle of poverty through neighborhood revitalization. Under Hogan’s leadership, Florida Citrus Sports committed itself to the cause by intending to use the stadium as a positive economic engine. Increased profits from sponsorships and games would be directed toward funding programs that focused on benefiting the neighboring children and families.
“We’re in a position to have this impact. To not do it and have the only story 30-40 years from now be that the stadium was renovated and rebuilt and hosted successful sporting events, that would have been an incomplete story. That’s what drove us to say, maybe there’s a different approach for social innovation,” Hogan said.
Hogan knows it will take decades to create the real change that LIFT Orlando has set out to achieve, but he is already starting to see impact take shape.
Two blocks from the stadium, Lift Orlando’s $40-million mixed-income housing apartment building is set to open for new residents later this month. The project demolished a former crime-ridden, boarded up property that had been foreclosed since 2013.
Plans for a new Boys & Girls Club in the area are also in the works.
The neighborhood has rebranded itself West Lakes, and now, the public address announcer greets fans every game day with a booming: “Welcome to Camping World Stadium and the West Lakes neighborhood!”
“The residents are taking pride in serving ambassador roles on game days and telling their stories. Kids that are living in this neighborhood are making their grades and get to come to every single event here free of charge with their whole family because they’re doing their part in staying in school and staying out of trouble,” Hogan said. “This is just the beginning. Five years ago, it was an idea, and it’s really hard as you start having conversations with each other. But seeing this become reality is the best reward.
“We are – in every respect – interested in Orlando winning.”
1. Nominate a worthy Knight before Feb. 9 for UCF Alumni’s 30 Under 30 awards! The 30 Under 30 Awards program recognizes outstanding young alumni who have found success in their professional and personal endeavors. Nominees must be alumni of the university, but anyone can submit a nomination. Note: Award candidates must be age 29 or under on May 19, 2018.
2. The UCF Board of Trustees voted unanimously last week to extend the tuition reduction, which started this spring, through the spring 2019 semester for students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have been displaced by Hurricane Maria. “We should view this as an opportunity to serve,” said UCF President John C. Hitt.
3. Rollins College’s prestigious Winter Park Institute will host “A Conversation with UCF President John Hitt,” moderated by Rollins President Grant Cornwell. Expect a thought-provoking talk on an astonishing career in education. The event is Thursday, Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the Knowles Memorial Chapel on the Rollins campus. This is a free event – no tickets required, however, space is limited. Doors open at 7 p.m.
4. The UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center is holding a symposium on athlete health featuring UCF leadership and retired NFL players on Saturday, Jan. 27. This event begins with a champagne luncheon with former NFL pros (included in ticket price) honoring retired NFL players who attended UCF, including Bobby Spitulski ’98, Rick Hamilton ’98, Marquette Smith ’95 and Elgin Davis. Tickets are limited, so act fast!
2. Need to update your closet with some new championship gear? Visit ucfalumknights.com, sign up with your email and get 25 percent off your first order from Barnes & Noble.
Also, the Orlando Sentinel Media Group announced Friday that it is publishing a book on the Knights’ incredible season called “Perfect Knights.” The hardcover, full-color book is now available for a pre-order discounted price of $24.95. It can be purchased by going to OrlandoSentinel.com/PerfectKnights.
3. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Orlando community will remember the lives of UCF alumni and officers Debra Clayton ’98 ’02MA and Norm Lewis ’04 on Jan. 9, the one-year anniversary of their deaths. The two officers were killed in the line of duty during the attempted apprehension of a wanted homicide suspect. A motorcade that will begin on campus at the Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership will lead the families to a private church service.
4. UCF is seeking your input for its fifth president, so the university will host four opportunities for the campus and Central Florida communities to provide feedback at listening sessions this week. Visit www.ucf.edu/leadership/presidential-search for more information about the sessions, and while you’re there, please consider filling out the UCF Presidential Search Survey.
5. Since this is the first Five Things post of 2018, we’d like to wish you a wonderful year ahead! If it’s anything like 2017, we know it’s going to be great. Check out this retrospective video from the university on just how big last year was for Knight Nation.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 24, 2017) – On Dec. 31, 2011, Sarah Dodson ’01 knew New Year’s Eve would never hold the same meaning to her again. After five years of treatment, her 8-year-old daughter Marlie, who dreamed of becoming a UCF cheerleader and nurse, died of a brain tumor (Pineoblastoma).
In 2012, Dodson and her family established a new tradition with the hope that they could re-channel their feelings about the day into a positive experience. As a tribute to Marlie’s life, the family has sponsored a Share-A-Meal each year at the Ronald McDonald House at Orlando’s Arnold Palmer Medical Center.
This year, they’re expanding their efforts to Atlanta where the family of Knights fans will be to support the undefeated UCF football team in its Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl appearance on Jan. 1 against Auburn.
“We were moved by memorializing Marlie for this event, but ultimately it was representing UCF in a community that we’ve been invited to be a part of with this bowl game,” Dodson said. “That was a big piece of it for me – how cool is it that we can represent UCF and give back to this community on something that we’re all so passionate about? What an honor it is to represent UCF in addition to Marlie’s memory.”
The idea to extend the Share-A-Meal to Atlanta was planted at the American Athletic Conference Championship Game on Dec. 2.
A longtime supporter of the football team, Dodson was sitting in the stands at Spectrum Stadium before the last play when her sister turned to her and said, “They’re going to win this game. What are you going to do? I guess you’re going to have to have the Share-A-Meal in Atlanta.”
Dodson said she laughed it off as an unrealistic possibility. She was already committed to their annual meal in Orlando, but the idea stuck with her.
She researched the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and learned of its reputation as college football’s most charitable bowl and its commitment to education and the community’s children. As an educator herself with Club Z! In-Home Tutoring Services, it struck a chord.
She also learned the bowl is celebrating its 50th year – it’s golden season. Gold also happens to be the color for childhood cancer awareness. And “forever golden” is how Dodson’s entire family refers to Marlie.
Dodson felt there were too many signs to ignore. Her friends and support system at home told her they would take over the Orlando meal this year and encouraged her to go to Atlanta.
“This has almost been like a movement for Team Marlie. Now we know we can do this anywhere,” she said. “We can have multiple groups travel to any city because we’re so supported. It’s so perfect that it worked out and our first city will be Atlanta, and we’ll be there because of UCF.”
Dodson connected with the Ronald McDonald Family Room at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorder Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Scottish Rite. They’ll be serving meals to the patients, families, nurses, doctors and hospital staff.
Although Dodson can only bring three helpers onto the floor with her to serve the meals, her entire regular tailgate crew of 12 will help in the preparation.
“Meals are very important for the families who visit the family room. Most families do not want to leave their child’s bedside even if that means going downstairs to the cafeteria, so having a place where they can eat as a family moments away from their hospital room and worry free of cost, is a special treat,” said April Smith, family support services manager for Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities. “Families have expressed how grateful and appreciative they are to have groups and individuals volunteer their time to provide and serve warm prepared meals. I was happy to hear Sarah wanted to continue her volunteer work while visiting in Atlanta.”
They also plan to distribute sparkling apple cider and champagne flutes to help create a festive New Year’s Eve atmosphere in the children’s rooms.
Dodson said experiences like these are always a balance of excitement and compassion. Inevitably there will be some tears, but she is looking forward to the opportunity to honor her daughter’s memory on a weekend she knows her little cheerleader would have been thrilled to be a part of.
“This season was something that we’ve all been waiting for. The thing about Marlie was win or lose, she was a fan. I know her pride for this team would be through the roof,” she said. “If I was able to put to words what Marlie might feel, looking down on us, I think mostly she would be excited that we were living life and embracing another community and another group of children. She taught us to live life and to find happiness and love in everyone you come across. Continuing to be her voice and share that passion, I think she’d be excited we have smiles on our faces and are enjoying the experience.”
ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 21, 2017) – When news broke that the UCF football team was headed to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Jan. 1, perhaps no one was more overjoyed than the Atlanta UCF Alumni Chapter.
With roughly 4,200 UCF graduates living in the Atlanta metro area, it’s one of the largest hot spots in the country for alumni.
“I was bombarded with messages. Everyone was so excited,” said Falini Shah ’14, chair of the Atlanta chapter. “I know we’re going to leave our mark here, and everybody is going to enjoy their time in Atlanta.”
Shah recently moved to Atlanta from Denver, where she served as the chair-elect for one year. The regional chapter and club program has helped her network and create new friendships as she has started her career in healthcare. She is a big advocate for getting involved with the chapter and club program as a way to grow professionally and stay connected to UCF.
“If there’s any hesitation, I’ve found it’s related to time commitment. A lot of people say, ‘I already work 50-60 hour weeks and I have a family and I like to travel a lot, I just don’t think I’m going to be as available.’ But it’s really what you make it,” she said. “So any sort of involvement you’re able to give back to a university that has given so much to you, I would say take up that opportunity. You just never know who you’re going to meet at these events.”
The group has been helping prepare the city transform into #Knightlanta. Shah and several devoted members of the chapter recently traveled around the city hanging UCF flags at local establishments to help make UCF fans feel more at home when they arrive on bowl weekend.
“When I was going around to these places asking them to hang up our flags, all I had to say was we were able to sell out our allotment of 13,000 tickets in less than a day, and everyone I talked to was like, ‘Yeah, put up some flags! We’re happy to have you guys!’” Shah said. “We’ve done so well for ourselves this year, and it shows in how strongly Knight Nation supports UCF.”
The chapter also has some tips to share with fellow Knights who are traveling to its city. Read on for Shah’s local guide to Atlanta.
>Where is the best place for a cup of coffee that’s not Starbucks?
Dancing Goats Coffee Bar. They have a few locations around the city, and in addition to their specialty coffees, they have a lot of great pastries that they make on site.
>I’ve been to Six Flags, the Coca-Cola Factory and the Georgia Aquarium. What are some other sites I shouldn’t miss? Ponce City Market. During the day it’s all retail shops and food. There’s a winery, a brewery, a couple of small plate restaurants of any cuisine you can think of. On Friday and Saturday nights they turn the entire roof into a mini amusement park with a putt-putt golf course and carnival games. They also have an ice skating rink right now through the holidays.
Atlanta has a lot of history and we have several museums. One of my favorites is called the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. The Atlanta Botanical Garden is also something I’d recommend for everyone, especially during the holidays. They have special light displays.
>Where can I go to get a jump on my New Year’s resolution to exercise more? The BeltLine. Also, the Chattahoochee River Trails. You can walk, bike or run on various trails and there are beautiful views year round. It’s great for all ages.
>When it’s any weekend but the Peach Bowl, where can I hang out with fellow Knights in Atlanta?
The hardest part about Atlanta is that it’s so big. Our watch parties are held at The Bird Rotisserie & Sports, which is in between the metropolitan area and the suburbs, and my goal has been to make sure that we have events in different parts of Atlanta so everyone can be involved in one way or another.
2. The latest issue of Pegasus magazine is out, and its cover story explains how UCF’s history department is working with Florida veterans to preserve their stories.
3. If you’re heading to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, remember to check out the complete list of bowl weekend activities at ucfalumni.com/bowlbound.
4. UCF research may lead toward an exciting future where the blind see again, neurostimulator implants help relieve chronic pain and war veterans feel the sensation of touch in their prosthetic limb. Melanie Coathup, PhD, an internationally recognized specialist in bone regeneration and implant design, has been hired to lead the university’s new Prosthetic Interfaces faculty research cluster, which will work on big problems like these.
5. This is the last Five Things post of 2017. UCF Alumni wishes you and yours a happy holiday season and a great new year! Go Knights!