Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Sept. 25

1. Thank you to all alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff and friends of UCF who donated to help restock the shelves at Knights Helping Knights Pantry. In just over a week, 459 of you have combined to raise more than $84,000 in addition to hundreds of non-perishable food items that were generously dropped off.

Anyone interested in joining the cause, click here.

2. The UCF football team is coming off a big win at Maryland, and the Knights want to #SelloutSpectrum for their conference opener against Memphis this Saturday at 7 p.m.

If you are watching from afar but wish you could be there in person, consider sending someone to the game in your place. UCF Athletics is encouraging fans to donate tickets for first responders, National Guard members, law enforcement officers and power company employees as a thank you for their efforts during and after Hurricane Irma. To donate tickets, click here.

P.S. Shoutout to the New York UCF Alumni Chapter for representing the Black and Gold proudly on ESPN’s “College GameDay” in Times Square on Sept. 23!

3. UCF Athletics announced last week that the Oct. 14 Homecoming football game will be dubbed the “Space Game” and will honor the university’s long-time ties to the United States space program. Fans will be encouraged to wear black with white shirts among them, giving the illusion of stars in the night sky. Mission Patch T-shirts are currently available at the UCF Bookstore or on online.

4. UCF is making heads turn. The university was recently recognized by “U.S. News & World Report” as one of the top innovative institutions in the country. UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management has been ranked No. 2 in the world as a hospitality and hotel management school, according to “CEOWORLD Magazine.”

5. UCF alumnus Albert Manero ’12 ’14MS ’16PhD knocked it out of the park with his TEDx Talk about prosthetics and Limbitless Solutions earlier this month. See for yourself:

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Sept. 18

1. As classes resume today on campus, the Knights Helping Knights Pantry is in need of supplies. The student-run organization provides food, water, clothing, linens and other housewares in times of need, and the pantry’s shelves are nearly bare following Hurricane Irma. UCF alumnus Nelson Marchioli ’72 has pledged to match every dollar donated to the pantry up to $25,000. The pantry also accepts donations of canned foods, bottled water and more (see the list). If you are in a position to help fellow Knights, please consider making a gift. Any donated items can be dropped off to the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

2. In case you missed it, the UCF football team rescheduled its matchup with Memphis for Sept. 30. The game had originally been scheduled for Sept. 9 and was moved to Sept. 8 in advance of Hurricane Irma before ultimately being called off. Season-ticket holders with a season ticket card will not be affected. Those with tickets in Roth Tower suites, Field Cabanas or the Roth Tower club should use tickets dated Sept. 30. For more information about this game, visit ucfknights.com.

You can catch the Knights on the field before then when UCF travels to Maryland this Saturday at 3 p.m. on Fox Sports 1. Find a watch party

3. The basketball teams released their schedules for the 2017-18 season. A doubleheader will tip off the season on Nov. 10 at CFE Arena. See the full schedules: MBB | WBB

4. A team of UCF students has taken first place in a North America cyberdefense competition and has been invited to compete in the Global Cyberlympics world finals in the Netherlands later this month.

5. A blood drive is taking place on campus Sept. 18-22 to help with the critical shortage caused by Hurricane Irma. Get the details

UCF Film Alumnus Hits It Big at Today Show

UCF alumnus Aaron Brownlee joined the NBC News team as a producer for the “Today” show

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug. 29, 2017) – UCF film alumnus Aaron Brownlee ’06 has stood on the New York City stage where the Broadway hit “Hamilton” performs every night. He has interviewed Academy Award winner Robert De Niro, taken flight with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds and has brought joy to pediatric cancer patients by delivering beanies to them in their hospital rooms.

Brownlee’s role as a producer over the last year for NBC’s the “Today” show has already given him a lifetime’s worth of unforgettable experiences, but what really makes him pinch himself is his trek to Rockefeller Center’s commissary every day for lunch.

When he reaches the ninth floor, he steps off the elevator and turns right instead of left toward the food.

A fan of “Saturday Night Live” since he was a child, he never misses a chance to go peek at the stage and silently reflect on this moment in his life.

“I look at this holy grail of comedy and I think to myself, ‘You’re here. Even if it’s a bad day, you’re staring at Lorne Michaels’ dreamland right here,’” Brownlee said. “Take it in, always appreciate every day.”

Aaron Brownlee (right) interviewed Lin Manuel Miranda (left) for a segment about the Broadway hit “Hamilton”

Brownlee has been a storyteller for as long as he can remember. Growing up in Georgia, he put on plays with his brother in their basement and says he shot an original hour-and-a-half James Bond film before he could drive a car.

He came to UCF because he liked that the university allowed its film students to own the work they created while in school.

“I would run to class because every day I was learning something I was so passionate about. It was a joy to go to class,” he said. “Being around a lot of creative people with a lot of different point of views helped changed the way I wanted to tell stories.”

After graduation, he headed to California thanks to an internship connection that UCF had with UCLA. He got his start as an assistant for a producer who was making horror films.

He spent the next decade filling up his resume with experiences as a production assistant on “NCIS,” various full-time jobs and a freelance producer, working on a variety of projects from advertisements to music videos to print with companies like Target, Best Buy and People magazine.

In 2016, a mentor asked him about his interest in applying for a job at the “Today” show. The opportunity to work for the nation’s longest running morning show, which is currently celebrating its 65th year on NBC, intrigued him.

He went through a series of interviews and still remembers the day he got the phone call asking if he was ready to move to New York.

“I never have doubted myself, but for the very first time, just knowing that it’s such an institution and it’s one of a kind, I had this whole bout of unwavering self-doubt. I was just like, ‘Did you talk yourself into this? What did you just do? Are they going to figure out you’re a phony within the first 10 minutes?’” he said. “Looking back on that moment, that’s when I knew that I really, really wanted it, and wanted to work for them.”

On the set of the “Today” show

Since joining the production team, he estimates that he has created at least three hours of television. His segments range from 3-4 minutes on average, and he typically works on four projects at any given time.

His real passion lies in telling people’s stories and creating an emotional connection between audience and subject. He said when people are trusting the “Today” show to tell their stories, he feels a responsibility to “get it right.”

“Being able to tell stories about real people that matter, who are doing great things in life and trying to help people; being able to put that on a national platform and get letters and emails and cards that say, ‘You’ve changed my life’ or ‘We’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars because of your piece,’ that’s what is most rewarding,” Brownlee said. “I can see the fruits of the labor of my work.”

With the surge of television access on platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon in addition to traditional media, Brownlee, like most, believes society is experiencing the golden age of television.

He is happy to be contributing to it and hopes to continue to expand the depths of his storytelling.

“One day, if I have a drama or a dramedy on television or streaming on Netflix and people are loving it and it has a part of myself inside of it,” he said, “that would be the ultimate dream.”

Aaron Brownlee with his parents behind the scenes at Rockefeller Center

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—August 28

1. Congrats to this year’s 30 Under 30 award winners, who were recognized in a special ceremony at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center over the weekend. View the gallery highlighting this outstanding group who is making its alma mater proud.

2. The countdown to college football is over! UCF Football is back in action this Thursday at 6 p.m. at home against FIU. Check out some new, exciting things the team has going on this year, and don’t forget to stop by UCF Alumni’s Indoor Tailgate, which kicks off at 3 p.m. Thursday at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

Out of town and in need of a watch party? Visit ucfalumni.com to find the most up-to-date information on locations for official watch parties nation-wide.

3. The UCF women’s soccer team knocked off No. 4 North Carolina on Friday in double overtime with a 2-1 win. To put it in the simplest terms: it’s a BIG deal. Read more about the historic win, and trust us, you’re going to want to watch this video:

4. The UCF College of Sciences Distinguished Speaker Series is back this September with six UCF faculty who are experts in topics relevant to the natural, computational, social or behavioral sciences and the developments in their respective fields. The 2017-18 series will be held monthly at Tuscawilla Country Club at 6 p.m., from September 2017 to April 2018 (excluding November and December).

5. Save the date for this year’s film fall showcase hosted by UCF School of Visual Arts and Design. Some of the finest examples from the previous year’s crop of student films will be brought together for a single night of celebration on Sept. 8 from 7-9:30 p.m.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—August 21

1. Today is the first day of school for Knights, and the university will welcome the largest and most diverse student body in its history, including a freshman class with a university-record GPA. Enrollment at UCF now tops 66,000 students, and the fall freshman class has an average incoming GPA of 4.05. Among the incoming freshman class are some of the nation’s top students, including 88 National Merit Scholars. A record 45 percent of current students are minorities, and 25 percent are the first in their families to attend college.

2. “I donate because we’re at a special moment in time. We’re making philanthropy part of our culture.” – Mike Morsberger, Vice President for Advancement and CEO of UCF Foundation, Inc.
Become one of the 70,000 donors moving UCF forward: www.ucffoundation.org/70k

3. The UCF Marching Knights have a new home on the south side of campus following Saturday’s opening of a 3,500-square-foot building for offices and instrument storage. The facility is a welcome change for the 325-member band, which previously operated out of a trailer.

4. Alumnus Chris Sadowski ’99 was featured by Ironman.com for raising awareness and funds to combat hunger by logging 188 miles in two endurance races overseas. The Winter Park resident has completed more than 50 triathlons, including six IRONMAN races and two IRONMAN World Championship events, along with 20-plus marathons, eight ultramarathons, and numerous 5K and 10K running races. Charge On, Chris!

5. Several local and national UCF Alumni chapters and clubs are hosting events this week ranging from trivia to Painting with a Twist to baseball games. Find out if one is in your area to connect with other Knights.

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.