Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – March 12, 2018

1. If you missed it, the UCF Board of Trustees named Dale Whittaker, PhD, the university’s president-elect Friday after a nationwide search. Whittaker, who currently serves as UCF’s provost and executive vice president, would become president July 1 if his selection is confirmed later this month by the Florida Board of Governors. He would replace John C. Hitt, who is retiring from the presidency on June 30.

2. UCF has announced ticket details for the 2018 UCF Spring Game presented by Dex Imaging on April 21. To sum up, the game is basically free to attend. If you are interested in checking out the premium seating areas (Tower Club, Stadium Club, Carl Black & Gold Cabana) and are not already a premium season ticket holder, you have the option to purchase tickets in those sections. Full ticket details can be found at, and don’t forget, the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center is hosting its first-ever Spring Game Indoor Tailgate from 3-5 p.m.

3. The Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter is accepting nominations for its annual Notable Knight Award. Established in 2012, the honor is presented to a Knight who best exemplifies a heart for volunteering and giving back to the Space Coast community. You can learn more about nomination criteria and submit your pick by visiting

4. Shout out to UCF College of Business Administration alumnus Jesse Wolfe ’15, whose company O’Dang Hummus just scored a new deal with Walmart. His hummus salad dressings, featuring flavors Ranch, Buffalo Ranch, Honey Mustard, Caesar, Roasted Red Pepper and Greek Tzatziki, will be placed in 2,000 of Walmart’s stores. You might remember Wolfe and his company from ABC’s Shark Tank. Read more about this new partnership in the Orlando Sentinel.

5. The UCF baseball team will look to extend its 12-game win streak this week with five home games on the docket. The Knights are coming off back-to-back victories over the No. 1 Florida Gators and a weekend sweep of Siena. Get yourself to John Euliano Park!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – March 5, 2018

1. On March 29, the UCF community — alumni, parents, students and friends — will come together and give generously to the academic or athletic programs most meaningful to them. UCF Day of Giving is the day to support what YOU love about UCF, too.

At UCF we dream BIG, so we’ve set a goal to reach 1,000 donors in 24 hours. Whether you’re a first-time donor or a loyal annual donor, we need your support to achieve this ambitious goal that will help to ensure a strong future for UCF.

2. If you’ve been keeping tabs on Shaquem Griffin ’16 at the NFL Combine, then you’ll know the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Defensive MVP ran away the competition — quite literally. Here’s a recap of Griffin’s record-breaking performance.

3. It’s March, so bring on the madness! Post-season basketball is already in full swing with the women’s basketball team set to face USF in the American Athletic Conference semifinals at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut today at 4:30 p.m. on ESPNU. The winner of the matchup will advance to face either UConn or Cincinnati on Tuesday for the league title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, the UCF men’s basketball team clinched the sixth seed in its conference tournament, which will be held in Orlando at the Amway Center starting Thursday, March 8. The Knights will tip off against ECU at 9 p.m.

If you’re planning on heading to Amway to cheer for the Knights, stop by Ember for a reception from 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by alumni organizations from the American Athletic Conference. This event will offer drink specials, first-come-first-serve appetizers and best of all, is free to attend! UCF fans should register online and  check in on site with UCF Alumni for an opportunity to win a special prize pack, including two tickets to the Knights’ opening round game against the Pirates later that night. You can also buy game tickets through UCF.

4. The UCF College of Nursing is accepting nominations for its Outstanding Alumni Awards Program. Through this program, five distinguished alumni and one student will be presented an award at the 2018 UCF Alumni All-Class Nursing Reunion on April 14. Applicants and recipients of these awards have demonstrated remarkable work in the field of nursing in one of six categories: Community Service, Education, Innovation, Mentorship, and/or as an outstanding UCF College of Nursing faculty member, or Senior Noble Knight.The deadline for nominations is Friday, March 16.

5. The UCF Board of Trustees aims to select the university’s president-elect this Friday. Three of the four finalists are on campus this week for their interviews – Matthew Wilson, JD, president of Akron University, was the first to complete his visit on Friday, March 2. Once the trustees makes their selection on March 9, the Florida Board of Governors will vote on the decision March 28 or 29.

BONUS:  Make your Monday more fun with this career quiz!

The Buzz On Alumna Kristin Harris

Photo of alumna Kristin Harris '11
Advertising and public relations alumna Kristin Harris is living the life she always dreamed of as BuzzFeed’s celebrity editor and head of talent relations

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (March 1, 2018) — On any given day, you can find Kristin Harris ’11 interviewing A-listers such as Ryan Gosling, Rihanna, Nicole Kidman, Bill Murray and Ed Sheeran.

As BuzzFeed’s celebrity editor and head of talent-relations, Harris has the job that pop culture nerds dream about.

When she was 10 years old, the Lake Mary, Florida, native pictured her career as it is today, and though it’s taken a lot of hustle and hard work, the advertising and public relations alumna has made it her reality.

Harris broke into the industry during her first year at UCF when she was selected by Teen Vogue for a program the magazine was spearheading to collaborate on a project with a skin-care company.

The pivotal moment to jumpstart her current career, however, happened two summers later. She emailed more than a dozen editors to beg for an internship. Without any published work to her name, she created a blog and wrote sample articles in the hopes it would be enough to convince an editor to hire her.

She received a reply from Eva Chen, one of the fashion industry’s youngest editors to lead a national American magazine. Two days later, Harris flew to New York for an interview and was offered an internship at Teen Vogue about eight years ago.

“I’m lucky she took a chance on me. It sounds overdramatic now, but at the time, an internship at Teen Vogue – it was the heyday of [MTV’s show] The Hills – it was a really big deal,” she said. “It was the year magazines started creating an online presence. It was the beginning of everything that exists now. She let me do whatever I wanted. … Without that experience, I would say I would not be where I am right now.”

In addition to the working knowledge she gained through her internships, Harris continued to round out her resume with campus involvement through student government and the study-abroad program. Her time at UCF helped transform her from a quiet teenager to a go-getter.

“I grew up so much in those four years and in this industry and my job, I really truly needed that,” Harris said. “It was really through my experience at UCF — the friendships I made, the professors I met and the opportunities I had — that I grew into the kind of person who could go after her dreams and make them happen.”

She moved to England to further her education at the London College of Fashion. When she came back stateside, she job hunted for a year in New York City.

She remembers a day that seems so long ago now, sitting by the water in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn contemplating her life. Despite her hard work and effort, a job remained elusive.

What was she doing? Should give up on her dream? Map out a new life plan?

Then she checked her inbox.

“I randomly got an email from an editor at Seventeen magazine. She blindly emailed me and said, ‘Someone passed on your resume, I’m hiring for this editor position. Are you interested?’” Harris said. “I still, to this day, don’t know who passed on my resume, which is why networking and hustling and staying involved is so important. Because you just never truly know what’s going to happen.”

She worked at Seventeen for a year, and although she was wasn’t actively looking to leave the magazine, she applied to BuzzFeed in 2014 on a whim for an associate celebrity editor position. Known for its creative, fun and engaging content, the digital media powerhouse scared her. Harris said she didn’t think she was good enough.

“I’ve learned that the things that scare me the most, of what I’m most fearful of, are the ones that are always worth it the most, at the end of the day,” she said.

After two years, she helped create a role coordinating talent relations. She attended her first Grammy Awards in 2017, has navigated red carpets with Blake Lively, and flew from New York City to Hawaii and back in the span of 72 hours to interview Zac Efron on the set of a movie.

It’s not a typical life, but it’s the wonderful one she pursued and finally made her own.

“In this world, your imagination is your opportunity,” Harris said. “Whatever you dream up you can make happen.”

Read more about Harris’ biggest career highlights in the spring issue of Pegasus magazine.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – Feb. 26, 2018

Blake Bortles will suit up for the Jacksonville Jaguars through 2020

1. UCF’s Presidential Search Committee selected four finalists for UCF’s next transformational leader, and each finalist will visit UCF to meet with students, faculty, alumni, donors and community partners and also will give a presentation at an open forum. The campus community and public are invited to attend presentations by each of the candidates scheduled for March 2 and March 6-8. Attendees will be able to provide feedback. Visit to learn more about the finalists and their soon-to-be scheduled visits.

2. DUUUVAL! Former UCF football great Blake Bortles signed a contract extension over the weekend with the Jacksonville Jaguars to lead the team through the 2020 season. “This is definitely the place I wanted to be,” the quarterback said, also citing personal reasons such as Jacksonville being close to his hometown of Oviedo, Florida.

3. Radio-TV alumna and former Order of Pegasus recipient Kaitlyn Chana ’13 overcame three eating disorders from the time she was in middle school until she was ready to get help in college. Now, she’s using her experience to help others and raise awareness for mental health. Check out this National Eating Disorders Week spotlight

4. UCF has brought in 1,575 new football season ticket accounts since Jan. 1, its highest amount since the stadium first opened in 2007. Season ticket renewals are also around 90 percent sold. Shannon Green breaks down all the rewards from the best football season in school history in this Orlando Sentinel article.

5. FAIRWINDS Credit Union will fund a new $1.1 million endowed professorship for a proposed UCF FinTech program, the first of its kind in the State University System. The gift to benefit financial-technology education, to be fulfilled over the next eight years, was announced Feb. 20.

More To Her Story

Former Order of Pegasus recipient Kaitlyn Chana ’13 is using her personal experience with eating disorders to create preventative care resources for mental health education.

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 23, 2018) – On the surface, Kaitlyn Chana ’13 had it all together. In fact, she basically owned life.

The former straight-A student at Lake Brantley High School started her own non-profit as a teenager that sent cards of kindness to hospitalized children. She was a member of UCF’s President’s Leadership Council, LEAD Scholars and received UCF’s most prestigious student award, Order of Pegasus.

The radio-TV alumna was even selected as one of 20 people to carry the Olympic torch in 2010 for the Vancouver Winter Games through Calgary, Canada, because of her charity work.

Yet, underneath the surface, Chana battled through three different eating disorders over 10 years until the day she came to a very hard-hitting realization.

“With eating disorders, it’s life or death. If you don’t pick one, unfortunately one is going to overcome and dominate. I didn’t want to die,” she said. “I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be a reporter that’s telling meaningful stories.”

Today, she’s doing just that and recently returned to campus as part of LEAD Scholars’ Leadership Week to share her personal story and her mission to change the stigma around eating disorders and mental health.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, eating disorders are serious but treatable mental illnesses that can affect people of every age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic group. No one knows exactly what causes them, but national surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

Chana said several factors contributed to her first eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, when she was in middle school. A perfectionist, Chana said society’s perception of beauty combined with desire to please someone in her life whose love and acceptance she craved warped her reality. To her, thinness equated to beauty, acceptance and success.

She began deteriorating until she weighed closed to 60 pounds. She aimed to trim to a 12-inch waist. She carried weights in her backpack and wore weights around her ankles to shed more calories all the while maintaining her perfect GPA and anchoring the school’s morning announcements.

“My bones were protruding. When I looked in the mirror, I thought I was morbidly obese,” she said. “I cut everything off. I couldn’t cry. I didn’t even know what happy was if you defined it to me. I couldn’t understand those feelings. When I had doctors, psychologist, a nutritionist trying to help me get healthier, I transferred eating disorders. I was feeling more, but I still wanted control, so I picked up another set of bad habits.”

She shifted to bulimia nervosa, a disorder marked by binging and purging to avoid weight gain. In college, she stopped purging but instead transitioned into a binge eating disorder. She would claim control by limiting her food intake for days and then gorge on 10,000 calories in one secret sitting.

As a student at the Nicholson School of Communication, she began to see the stamina journalists needed daily to be successful in the industry.

“I knew I couldn’t keep this pain and suffering all bottled up inside of me and be able to complete the task for just my basic classes, let alone an actual full time job as a reporter,” she said.

So she visited UCF’s Student Health Services and for the first time, truly wanted the help she was asking for. They helped her find Winter Park’s White Picket Fence, a counseling center specialized in eating disorders.

It took baby steps every day, but now after a decade-long journey, she says she is fully recovered. She doesn’t wake up in the morning and go to bed at night thinking about food and weight. When she is hungry, she eats, and when she feels full, she stops.

And if she is ever in a stressful point in her life, she thinks about the past and reminds herself that those methods didn’t work for years, and they certainly won’t solve problems now.

She also credits her family, specifically her mother, for helping her through her recovery.

“Together, we figured it out. My mom would read books about it, and she would help me through the process. It truly was an exhausting journey, and I can only imagine from her standpoint. There were days where doctors said, ‘Kailtyn, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to die.’ My mom would say, ‘You can’t die on me. We’re going to do this together. We’re going to figure it out together. Just hold on.”

Chana (left center) with her Reel Stories. Real People. team

So now Chana wants to help others through the best way she knows how – storytelling.

She achieved her professional goal and became a reporter for Action News Jax in 2015 after a brief stint at a news station in Bangor, Maine. On the side, she started another organization, Reel Stories. Real People., which tells stories that inspire, advocate, and educate the public on topics through digital media not typically showcased in traditional news media.

Through the organization, she also wants to shape curriculum about eating disorders and mental health for free distribution to public schools nationwide. She intends to produce a 30-40 minute film that high school teachers can use, along with a thought-out, written plan featuring common questions, a class activity, assessments and a list of resources.

“I went to a school the other day that had the same text book that I had over a decade ago, and it’s disheartening because there’s only two paragraphs on eating disorders. But if we were able to have that preventative care and talk about it when I was in the class, maybe I didn’t have to go through all this pain and suffering,” she said. “Our goal is to help teachers redirect the conversation on mental health by providing informative preventative care resources. Now, they will be able to instruct their class with a one-day lesson that’s engaging and dynamic, but also resourceful.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – Feb. 19, 2018

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.

5. Let’s make Monday a little more fun. Take this UCF Study Abroad-inspired quiz to find out where you should travel this year!

Pride Commons Connection Leads To UCF Love Story

Alumnae Nicole and Cecil Chik met at Pride Commons when it opened in 2013 and married on campus four years later.

By Jenna Marina Lee

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, 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.”

The couple commemorated their wedding date with a brick on Knights Terrace at UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – Feb. 5, 2018

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 Sentinel published 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.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – Jan. 29, 2018

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.

UCF Alumnus’ Drive to Champion Orlando Leads to NFL Pro Bowl

UCF alumnus Steve Hogan, courtesy of Florida Citrus Sports

By Jenna Marina Lee

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.”