Hannah and Her Horses

Photo by Chris Tully

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug. 14, 2017) – Hannah Miller ’14 made her way back to the grandstand in Naples, Italy, after checking off another completed amateur harness racing event when to her surprise, the Springfield, Illinois, native heard someone shouting her name.

The interdisciplinary studies alumna turned to find two young girls eagerly waiting to talk to her. The older of the two explained that her younger sister followed all of Miller’s races and wanted to be just like her when she grew up.

“I almost got teary-eyed. This is what I do it for,” Miller said. “When I started racing, I didn’t realize that girls hadn’t really won Amateur Driver of the Year or competed overseas for the United States. If people can see a girl getting out there and doing it, I hope I can inspire at least one person.”

Harness racing is a form of horse racing in which the horses race at a specific gait (a trot or a pace). They usually pull a two-wheeled cart called a sulky where the driver – in this case, Miller – sits.

It’s a male dominated sport, which is part of what makes the 25-year-old remarkable. More so, she’s just really good at what she does.

Miller became the first woman to earn National Amateur Driver of the Year in 2015 after setting the amateur racing record for victories in a single season (32). She matched that record in 2016 and was chosen to represent the United States last September in the amateur World Cup in Budapest, Hungary, again becoming the first female to earn the opportunity.

She finished runner-up by a point, marking the best performance ever by a U.S. competitor in the international event.

“I barely race against any other girls. Sometimes I get comments from people who think ‘maybe she can’t handle a horse.’ I have had to prove myself, which I think I’ve done now, and people realize I can,” she said.

As Miller tells it, as soon as she came out of the womb she was at the barn or racetrack. She is the daughter of Erv Miller, a renowned horse trainer, and sister of professional driver Marcus Miller. Her aunt and uncle own a stable as does her boyfriend, where she works at from time to time.

Her parents used to skip Illinois winters to train horses outside of Orlando, so when Miller graduated from high school, she was thrilled she was accepted into her “dream school,” UCF, where she could pursue her bachelor’s degree while still train on her family’s horses.

“I had such an amazing experience at UCF. Any time I can talk about it, I do,” she said. “It’s just a great school, and I am proud to say I am a UCF Knight.”

Now, she is stationed in Jackson, New Jersey, and spends her time racing three to four events a week. Races are typically a mile long and involve 10 horses and drivers who reach speeds upwards of 30 miles per hour.

“When I’m in a race, there’s a horse breathing down my neck, there’s a horse to the outside and I’m surrounded the entire time by horses,” she said. “You have to make split second decisions. It’s dangerous. You have to be on high alert, look for things that could go wrong.”

She often rides horses that her family and she own, and thanks to her success, she gets more and more offers to ride horses owned by others in the racing world.

A couple years ago a friend nicknamed Miller “Hurricane Hannah,” and it seems to suit her. She is a force with no intention of letting up.

She has her sights set on breaking her single season record and wants another shot to compete at the World Cup.

“I love what I do and I love the horses. The adrenaline rush I get on the track, I’ve never had before,” she said. “It happens every time I race.”

Five Things Alumni Should Know About 2017 UCF Football Season

1. Start planning ahead for your gameday attire. UCF’s opener against FIU on Aug. 31 is a white-out, and this game-by-game breakdown of #UCFansWear will help you and your tailgating buddies to show up on point throughout the season.

2. It’s going to be a fun 33 hours for fans with the UCF Football Countdown to Kickoff Luncheon (Aug. 18) and Fan Fest (Aug. 19). This year’s kickoff luncheon boasts featured speaker Hall of Famer Tom Osborne in addition to Knights head coach Scott Frost. Fans can also buy into a special dinner with the two coaches on Aug. 17 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando East-UCF. If interested, contact the Golden Knights Club office at 407.823.2086 or [email protected]

Fan fest will take place from 6-8 p.m. Aug. 19 at Spectrum Stadium. It’s your chance for autographs, photos on the field and meet and greets with the team!

3. UCF Alumni’s Indoor Tailgates are held at the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, adjacent to Memory Mall, starting three hours before kickoff of every home game. The family friendly Indoor Tailgates are FREE for all UCF alumni and guests. Just show your alumni key card and driver’s license at the door.
**For UCF’s seven regular season home games, tailgating on Memory Mall and in most other areas of campus will start six hours prior to kickoff – but no earlier than 8 a.m.

4. If you can’t make it to the game, then finding a UCF Watch Party in your city is the next best thing. Bookmark this webpage and visit it each week for the most up-to-date information about our official chapter and club watch parties around the country.

5. It’s still not too late to get tickets. Fans can explore all of the new options at Spectrum Stadium by visiting WeRiseandConquer.com or calling (407) 823-1000.

Pro Bowl

Courtesy of PWBA and USBC

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug. 3, 2017) – At 15 years old, Stefanie Johnson ’06 ’08MA cleaned tables at a Miami bowling alley for $5.15 per hour and the extra perk of free games with a very clear goal in sight – to one day make it as a professional bowler.

Today, Johnson, now 33, is a 13-year veteran of Team USA Bowling and a five-time World Champion looking to add another accomplishment on her resume at the PWBA stepladder finals Aug. 6 in her new home base Plano, Texas.

‘My life has revolved around bowling for as long as I can remember,” Johnson said.

Johnson was drawn to UCF as a freshman in 2002 because of the university’s bowling program, which had started a year earlier. Johnson competed for her high school bowling team and wanted to continue honing her skills under UCF’s head coach, PWBA Hall of Famer Pat Costello.

“I knew if I wanted to get to the next level, she could take me there,” Johnson said.

As she pursued her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and master’s in communication, she chose classes that worked around her team practice schedule in addition to spending extra time at the lanes on her own. It paid off. She was selected as a two-time All-American and NCBCA MVP.

But during her sophomore year, the PWBA Tour folded leaving the ladies no professional tour to compete in.

“I was devastated,” she said.

So she set her sights on the only other option there was: Team USA. She made the team in 2005 and has competed every year since, traveling all over the world to represent her country. As the reigning world champions, Team USA will head to Las Vegas this December to defend its gold medal at this year’s competition.

In 2015, the PWBA Tour resurged and Johnson claimed the honor of PWBA Rookie of the Year. After taking some time away from the game for motherhood to 3-year-old Levi and 4-month-old Kenzie, she made her 2017 debut in Orlando right where she spent so many of her college days at Boardwalk Bowl.

Courtesy of Stefanie Johnson

In addition to a successful day at the Orlando Open, where she qualified for this week’s stepladder finals that will air on tape delay Aug. 15 on CBS Sports Network, she also had some time to visit Lazy Moon and return to campus.

“I recall spending many afternoons by the Reflecting Pond completing assignments while soaking up the college life experience and watching squirrels run around everywhere. I had the opportunity to drive around campus and it’s amazing what the campus has turned into,” she said. “Once a Knight, always a Knight!”

She said life balance and family have always been a priority along with her bowling career, and she’s learning that to be true now more than ever.

“It’s imperative to have an army of support in my corner otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do what I do,” she said. “It’s certainly a team effort every time I am on the lanes competing and they are all with me every step of the way.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—July 31

1. Roughly 3,700 UCF students are expected to join the alumni family when they graduate in two ceremonies Aug. 5 at the CFE Arena. Graduating members of the UCF Summer Class of 2017 can enter the UCF Alumni Instagram contest by posting a photo of their decorated grad cap to their Instagram account. Tag @UCFAlumni and use the hashtag #UCFGrad in the caption for a chance to win.

2. UCF and HCA Healthcare’s North Florida Division will start building a new hospital next to the College of Medicine in Lake Nona within 18 months. The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) gave the final certificate of need approval for a 100-bed medical and surgical hospital that officials hope will be open for patients by the end of 2020.

3. Save the date for a rare solar eclipse that will occur on the first day of fall classes, Aug. 21. The Planetary Sciences Group at UCF, the College of Sciences, and the student-run Astronomical Society will host a viewing party 2-3:30 p.m. in front of Millican Hall and the Reflecting Pond to mark the occasion.

4. Although the full 2017-18 men’s basketball schedule has not been released yet, fans can scope out a few dates that have been set against teams from the SEC and Big Ten. With the return of big man Tacko Fall and under the leadership of Johnny Dawkins, UCF has high expectations for the upcoming year. Fans looking to purchase new tickets can call (407) 823-1000 or click here: www.ucfknights.com/jointhefamily to secure them today.

5. If you want to convince your boss it’s cool to play video games at work, a UCF alumnus has found the proof to back you up. Michael Rupp ’09BA ’09BS ’12MS, a UCF doctoral student in human factors and cognitive psychology, and his co-authors evaluated whether casual video game play during rest breaks is an effective way to combat workplace stress. This Newsweek article discusses the team’s findings.

Hoist The Colors

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 31, 2017) — When the City of Orlando raises its new flag today on its 142nd birthday, it will be a particularly proud moment for UCF alumnus Tim Eggert.

Eggert, who graduated from UCF with honors in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in art, crafted the winning design (pictured above). The new flag was selected from more than 1,000 submissions in a contest that the City of Orlando launched in February.

With more than four months of public input and committee discussion, the final design was officially approved by the Orlando City Council on July 24.

Eggert explained a little more about the process, the symbolism within the flag and why he’s proud to live in this city.

Q:  How did your idea for the flag first take shape?
A: The only idea I had was the Lake Eola fountain surrounded by the ‘O.’ Nothing else really came to me. The fountain seemed like a good foundation for the flag since it is a landmark of Orlando and has come to be an important meeting place to many people. I really wanted to have a reflection in the water and forming an ‘O’ seemed like the best way to incorporate that.

Q: Unity was a central theme in the design from the start. Why did you feel so strongly about incorporating unity?
A: Orlando is a diverse city — both in its residents as well as in the people who visit it. I wanted to convey unity and a sense of welcoming with the design.

Q: Unity was a central theme in the design from the start. Why did you feel so strongly about incorporating unity?
A: All entrants had to submit a hand-drawn design on a note card. From there I drew it on the computer and then we tweaked it over the course of a few in-person meetings. It was very collaborative. I came up with the revised look of the fountain spray, and they had the idea to split the color to have the top be white and the bottom be blue. We introduced the gold in the final stage, and we chose a blue that reflected the City’s brand.

Q: In addition to unity, there are now several layers of symbolism within the flag’s design. What is your take on those?
A: As the design evolved, so did the meaning. Parts that evolved were the colors and the reflection in the water. The reflection (seven shapes total) stands for the six commissioners as well as the mayor. That was something that was incorporated after tweaking the design and meeting with the City’s staff. The introduction of the orange/gold color was also part of the design process. I love the addition of gold to the flag and the meaning of sunshine and hope it brings.

Q: How does it feel to know that you’re part of this historic day at the official flag raising and that you’ve played a unique part in creating a lasting symbol for this city?
A: I love how the flag raising is coinciding with the city’s 142nd birthday. It’s exciting to be a part of history.

Q: This isn’t the first community project you’ve been involved in. You have a sunset painting on an art box by the downtown YMCA in Mills 50 district. Why do you take such pride in being an active part in this community?
A: I grew up in Orlando and have seen this city become a uniquely creative place. The arts are all around this city, and I think it is important to help cultivate that by being involved.

Q: Why are you proud to be a UCF Knight and represent this university?
A: I’m proud to be a UCF Knight because I loved my experience there. I had some amazing professors and learned so much. It shaped who I am professionally and personally.

#UCFGrad Spotlight: Dr. Mom

Photos courtesy of KMD Creations

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 27, 2017) – It’s expected that more than 3,700 students will pass through cap and gown pickup at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center this week in anticipation of Summer Commencement.

Some dance in excitement. Some are jittery from too much coffee and not enough sleep. Some are snapping photos for social media love. Some simply are there to cross off another to-do on the list.

When Taylor Bousfield ’13MEd strolled up to claim her doctoral regalia as she breastfed her 5-month-old and cared for her nearly 3-year-old while maintaining a Zen-like calmness, the regalia distribution staff took in the scene before them and wondered: is Wonder Woman real?

“Most of the time I’m a mess,” Bousfield said with a laugh.

Bousfield was born and raised in Orlando and attended The First Academy through middle and high school. After earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi, she taught for three years in Louisiana before moving back to Central Florida to teach at Lake Howell High School.

She had an itch to further her education, and when a grant opportunity arose to do so at UCF, she took the chance to earn her master’s degree in exceptional student education with a certificate in autism spectrum disorder.

While she was in graduate school, Bousfield learned of a doctoral grant from Lisa Dieker, a UCF professor and Lockheed Martin eminent scholar chair.

“I figured, why not try?” Bousfield said. “We have an incredible education program that has faculty members who are so innovative. Not to mention the opportunity to work with TeachLivE. That is something I wouldn’t have been able to do anywhere else.”

A month after starting the doctoral program, she learned she was pregnant with her almost 3-year-old, Luke.

“He literally went to every single class, one way or another – whether it was in person, in utero or on Skype,” she said. “There’s no way I could have been able to accomplish everything without the support of our special-ed faculty and my chair, Lisa Dieker.”

Bousfield’s interest in special education and teaching was instilled at a young age. Her aunt, Charlotte Day, is the county coordinator for Special Olympics in Orange County. Bousfield said from the time she could walk she was volunteering at events.

She will graduate on Aug. 5 with her doctorate in education, and her children and husband will be in attendance. She hopes that her family’s immersion in her university experience will instill a drive and a passion for education in her sons.

She plans to stay at UCF as a Teach Live liaison as she works with associate professor Rebecca Hines, PhD.

“Taylor will be an amazing addition to our program. Her doctoral work included research methods in TeachLivE that we will use to help prepare future teachers,” Hines said.

Bousfield said her biggest challenge over the years has been balancing her roles as a mother, a wife and a student, but she wouldn’t have traded the experience for the moment when she learned she had accomplished her goal.

“Hearing ‘Dr. Bousfield’ after passing my dissertation defense – with my husband and both of our boys there in the room — was amazing. It’s probably the best moment I’ve had in a while,” she said. “My advice to anyone is find a support system and don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Now is the time. Somehow it will always work out. Don’t put off life for school, and don’t put off school for life.”

 

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—July 24

1. Feeling Lucky? Knight’s Pantry is! They’ve been selected to compete in the Bags for Change contest at Lucky’s Market Orlando. If they win, it means more resources for Knights in Need. Help them win: like the Knights Pantry at UCF comment in the comments section of the Lucky’s Market Facebook post by July 31 to cast your vote.

2. The City of Orlando unveiled its new flag Monday, and the winner is a design by UCF alumnus Tim Eggert. Eggert graduated with honors in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in art. The new flag, which was selected from more than 1,000 submissions, will be raised on July 31 to celebrate the city’s 142nd birthday.

3. UCF alumnus Sam Borkson ’01 will debut an animated video series that blends art and technology on Netflix in August. Check out more about Borkson’s series, True and the Rainbow Kingdom, and his installations across North America, Asia and Europe in Pegasus Magazine.

4. The UCF Board of Trustees unanimously voted last week to accept the updated contract of the on-campus hotel. The unnamed hotel will consist of 179 rooms, a full-service restaurant, 10,000 square feet of conference and banquet facilities, and a 4,500-square-foot entertainment area.

5. As UCF gears up for football season, pencil in some save the date opportunities for unique opportunities to interact and hear from the Knights:
>Fantasy Camps: Aug. 6-8 | Aug. 10-12
>Kickoff Luncheon with special guest, Hall of Famer Tom Osbourne: Aug. 18
>Fan Fest: Aug. 19

BONUS: We’re feeling very proud of UCF alumnus Matt Williams ’16, who signed a contract with the Miami HEAT on Monday after a stellar campaign during NBA Summer League games. The Orlando native is one of UCF’s most decorated men’s basketball student-athletes.

Courtesy of UCF Athletics

 

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—July 17

1. A story for those young at heart: A new program at UCF pairs seniors and children to play games together. The goal is for participants to become more active and to have positive social experiences, where the adults feel a greater sense of well-being and purpose by helping the children, and the kids learn more about aging.

2. UCF recently was selected to receive two awards totaling $3.1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative that is focused on making solar energy systems more efficient and affordable. The research projects will be led by two alumni, Kristopher Davis 07 ’11MS ’15PhD and Joe Walters ’13MS.

3. The American Athletic Conference preseason poll for football will be unveiled Tuesday at its annual media day. Fans can tune in at 8:30 a.m. on The American’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

4. You might learn a thing or two in this Ted Talk with alumna Gail Lovelace Menasco ’08:

5. The latest issue of Pegasus examines how UCF grads are at the center of a creative boom in Central Florida.

Small World Moment for Knights in Texas

Alumna Shelby Shankin mentors current UCF student Justin Tejada, whom she met by chance in Austin, Texas, at his summer internship

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 13, 2017) – Nearly four years ago, UCF alumna Shelby Shankin ’13 found herself in Austin, Texas, for the first time in her life to work on mega festival South by Southwest.

Justin Tejada is a current first-generation student who has made it his mission to grasp every opportunity he finds at UCF. That’s how he ended up in Austin, Texas, for the first time in his life this year for a summer internship.

Tejada said it’s unusual for an out-of-state candidate to be selected to intern at marketing agency George P. Johnson, which has worked with clients such as American Express, Google, Lexus, Under Armour and Samsung. So when the powers-that-be at the company found out Tejada was a UCF student, they knew exactly who his mentor should be — one of its event logistics managers, Shelby Shankin.

“From the moment I met her, I could tell she was super excited and eager to help me learn,” he said. “It was just because of that connection of UCF. That was awesome.”

Although Shankin recently accepted a job with a historical boutique hotel, Hotel Ella, she intends to keep in contact with Tejada well after his internship ends in August. While he is in Texas, the two meet for an hour once a week and discuss his internship as well as general questions he has about life, career and his upcoming senior year at UCF.

“As a first generation student, I’m super nervous about what’s to come. I’m always worried about, am I going to get a job? That’s something I wanted to work on myself this summer – putting that aside and focusing on the now and enjoying the present,” he said. “I think she has helped me understand that I need to worry about the future, but not as much as I do.”

The two are somewhat of kindred spirits. When Shankin was studying at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, she gained valuable experience in several internships, working for companies like Universal Orlando and the Orlando Science Center. She even studied abroad in France for a semester.

She moved to Austin after graduation as a contracted event coordinator for High Beam Events and flip flopped with the company and George P. Johnson in different positions before accepting her newest venture as a venue event coordinator for Hotel Ella.

“Whenever a good opportunity has come up I just say yes. I just like to try everything,” she said.

Tejada’s resume reads with that same philosophy.

He worked as an external relations assistant for the College of Business Administration; interned for UCF Athletics, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando; served as public relations director of Children Beyond Our Borders and is currently the marketing director of CAB, the UCF campus activities board.

An advertising-public relations major who is also minoring in political science, Tejada is studying for the LSAT and thinking about law school. Like Shankin, he has tried different opportunities to see how they fit for him and knows he has Shankin in his corner to help him along the way.

“He’s seeking as much information as he can and trying to get as much out of this experience and life as possible. No matter where he ends up, I see him being very successful because he wants it,” Shankin said. “I’ve encouraged him to try everything. Take as much advantage of senior year as possible. I don’t think there’s anything wrong from having that urge to try everything. I think that’s where you learn so much. You just don’t know where life can take you.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—July 10

1. Matt Williams ’16 is making UCF proud in the NBA Summer League with the Miami Heat. After netting 14 points on July 6, he started against San Antonio on July 8. The Heat have a game at 4:30 p.m. today against the Wizards, which will air on NBA TV. Williams is one of more than 10 Knights who started professional careers in their sport in 2016-17.

2. Florida sunshine making it hard to read your phone screen while you’re spending your summer days at the beach? UCF professor of optics and photonics Shin-Tson Wu, PhD, and his team of researchers developed a film that coats cellphone screens to cut down the glare. Their inspiration? The eyes of a moth.

3. A team of UCF researchers has discovered a potential new weapon in the fight against tuberculosis, which is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. Their research studied extracts of sponges and other marine organisms to see if they could kill the dormant tuberculosis bacteria. Findings of the study published in June in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

4.  An associate professor of computer science at UCF recently had his startup get picked up by Uber.

5. A new restaurant is expected to open on University Boulevard this week. Toasted’s menu features a variety of types of grilled cheese sandwiches as well as burgers and salads. The restaurant plans to hire 20 new workers and has signed a five-year lease.