1. The Whittaker era has officially begun! UCF’s fifth president, Dale Whittaker, assumed office yesterday, with today being his first official day on the job. He and his wife, Mary shared a special message with Knight Nation and encouraged us to follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @UCFWhittaker.
2. The Heisman hype is real for UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton. The Hawaiian-born Knight dominated the 2017 season and is one of the top returning players in the nation heading into 2018. We got chills watching UCF’s debut #HIsman campaign video, which you can watch for yourself below.
3. UCF recently became a member of the Blue Community Consortium, which aims to help develop sustainable and economically successful coastal communities worldwide. The consortium’s Members share best practices on a global basis while simultaneously learning from best practices developed by other network members from around the world.
4. UCF placed a record 243 student-athletes on the American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team, which was announced by the league last week. The Knights posted a department-wide record grade-point average of 3.33, marking the 21st consecutive semester that UCF student-athletes have achieved at least a 3.0 GPA as a department — the longest streak in school history. What can we say? Knights just do it better.
And in case you missed it, former UCF men’s basketball star Matt Williams ’16 joined the Chicago Bulls for the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas. The Summer League will feature all 30 NBA Teams from July 6-17. Williams made three appearances for the Miami Heat in his rookie season last year.
5. UCF offers courses in just about any subject you can think of, and that includes perhaps the most famous wizard of all time, Harry Potter. UCF English Professor Tison Pugh says the series is “just as meaningful as my literature classes on Chaucer or the King Arthur legends.” This fun Q&A with Pugh is great for some light summer reading.
P.S. Wishing you and yours a happy and safe Independence Day!
1. UCF President John C. Hitt H’17 and his wife Martha H’17 will retire this week from the Office of the President after 26 years of service to the university. Several alumni took the opportunity to share memories of this beloved couple as a humble way of saying thank you for all they have done.
2. Speaking of the president, that means Dale Whittaker will take over as UCF’s next great leader this week. He recently outlined some lofty goals he has in store to continue the university’s upward trajectory.
3. UCF’s Spectrum Stadium will play host to a professional football team coached by former Florida Gators coach Steve Spurrier, part of a new spring league that will start next year. The Orlando team, which will be part of the new Alliance of American Football, will play at least five games each season at the stadium on UCF’s campus for three years.
4. Two alumni are changing the game for public transportation around Orlando with their startup company, Omnimodal. The company, launched in early 2017, merges real-time information from public transit systems (I-Ride Trolley, Sanford Trolley) with existing navigation apps on mobile phones (Google Maps, Transit App) so users can plan how to get around and make adjustments on the fly.
5. Summer has officially begun, and our Knights around the nation have rounded up tips for your travels to their cities. Whether you’re planning on heading to the beach, the city or the mountains, check out these recommendations first from locals about food to eat and must-do activities!
2. Thanks to researchers at UCF, squeezing oranges may give us a new way to deliver medicine or to detect bridge failures before they happen. Engineering Assistant Professor Andrew K. Dickerson and graduate student Nicholas M. Smith have figured out the mechanics of how oranges release that thin stream of fragrant oil when squeezed. By mimicking nature’s mechanism of an orange layer, pharmaceutical companies may be able to develop a less expensive and less complex way to deliver airborne medication.
3. There is now a UCF Alumni persona on the official UCF Mobile app! Download the app for iOS or Android and select the Alumni experience to stay informed about all things black and gold. For more information about the app, please visit ucfmobile.ucf.edu.
4. Although the 2018-19 men’s basketball schedule isn’t completely finalized, we did find out which American Athletic Conference opponents will be visiting the CFE Arena. The Knights will host nine league opponents, including two NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago in Cincinnati and Houston, and a pair of teams rich in history with first-year head coaches in Penny Hardaway’s Memphis and Danny Hurley’s UConn.
UCF will play Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Temple, UConn and USF twice during the year, once at home and once on the road. The Knights will only host ECU and Tulsa, and only go on the road to take on Wichita State and Tulane. Fans excited for the upcoming 2018-19 UCF men’s basketball season can purchase tickets today by calling (407) 823-1000 or online: https://ucfknights.co/mbb1819tix.
5. A big thank you to Police Chief Richard Beary ’04MS, who retired last week after 11 years at the head of UCF’s police department and 41 years serving Central Florida in law enforcement.
Chief, you’ve impacted so many people at UCF over the past 11 years.
ORLANDO, Fla. – Sunday won’t be the first Father’s Day that Marlon Gutierrez ’11 celebrates, but this one will hold its own special milestone. This Father’s Day will be the first for his all-inclusive fatherhood community, Orlando Dads Group.
The UCF College of Business alumnus is a first-generation American – the son of Nicaraguan immigrants – and the first in his family to earn a college education. But he says becoming a first-time father nearly two years ago to his daughter Isabella was an even bigger leap into uncharted territory. He knew he needed help.
There is no shortage of mothers groups in Orlando. With a click of a button and a few seconds, you can find playgroups, breastfeeding-support groups, emotional- support groups, first-time mother groups, Mommy and Me classes, tribes for mothers of twins and triplets, single-mothers groups, mothers of preschoolers and mother meetups.
The same Google search for dads? Not so much.
Not until Gutierrez stepped in.
“I wanted to be there just as much as my wife was there for our daughter. I was having a hard time figuring out where are these people who have a similar identity that I can connect with? That’s when I realized Orlando still hadn’t developed that yet. Sometimes you have to create the things that you want,” he says, crediting his wife Stefany for the words of wisdom.
Orlando Dads Unite
He reached out to City Dads Group, a national organization that originated in New York City in 2008 and within five years grew to more than 900 fathers. In 2013, the organization expanded the concept and now fosters 34 groups across the nation in more than 20 states.
With City Dads Group’s support, Gutierrez’s Orlando chapter has grown to more than 85 members in its first year. There are no dues or minimum participation requirements.
The only prerequisite is being a dad.
“It’s an all-inclusive group,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home dad, working dad, gay, straight, young or older, single or married or a foster dad — you just have to be a dad.”
The group organizes three events per month. One will be held June 16 at 2 p.m. at the South Trail Branch Library (4600 S. Orange Blossom Trail), where the group plans to enjoy a free performance by DAPS, a local group of freestyle rappers and improvisers who use hip-hop to put on a comedy show.
Gatherings like these are labeled “family events,” which encourage dads to bring significant others, extended family or friends along with their children.
The second meetup of a month is categorized as a “Dads’ Night Out.” These meetups are solely for the fathers. Gutierrez planned one recently at an arcade lounge in downtown Orlando and another at Winter Garden’s Crooked Can Brewery.
The third outing of a month is for dads and their kids. A recent pizza night in Waterford Lakes was a big hit, and an upcoming movie date for a free showing of Sing is scheduled at CMX Cinemas in downtown Orlando on June 26 at 9:30 a.m.
Because the group is still relatively new, Gutierrez’s biggest challenge is figuring out what programming works best and where. His group includes fathers from Winter Garden to East Orlando.
Some fathers connected with the group for the same reason Gutierrez started it — they sought a supportive and relatable community. Some have joined it because their wives enthusiastically nudged them into it.
Regardless of the reason, Gutierrez tries his best to hook the dads’ interest early because he knows how helpful it can be to have a support system.
“There’s no manual or guide on how to be a parent,” he says. “I think [this group] has taught me a lot about myself, and I realized that I had to make a lot of changes. I was very much focused on my career because that’s what society expected me to do. Now, being more open with a community that has supportive fathers and environments like the City Dads’ network, I’ve been able to find other dads out there trying to do the same thing. It’s OK not to be so focused on my career. I can be balanced on my career and family and travels and make my life what I want it to be.”
Time management is key in achieving that balance, and he has found that work-life integration works best for him.
He volunteers with the UCF College of Business Alumni Chapter as a mentor for current students. He started a short-term corporate rental company with his wife called Orlando City Corporate Housing, which Stephany now manages.
He works full time from home for Student Loan Hero, a resource and loan-advisement company, where Isabella has become an honorary “employee.” When the toddler plops on her father’s lap for virtual meetings, she is greeted by name by Gutierrez’s co-workers. He says they are all supportive of his balancing act.
Although his schedule takes some careful coordinating, he has high hopes for the fatherhood group, which he plans to keep growing and make an integral part of the community.
“I want this group to also be able to paint a different picture on what fatherhood looks like. Dads can get involved. We do care, and there’s a lot of things that we’re doing,” he says. “More than our enrollment numbers, I want to have a group that feels powerful together because we’re sharing something that’s pretty amazing.”
1. The new issue of Pegasus magazine is out, and it is dedicated to President John C. Hitt H’17 in honor of his 26 years at UCF. The publication is a great tribute to a great man, and we were particularly struck by these words written by Hitt himself: “That’s the modern-day version of a knight: You do what has to be done, and you try to do what’s best for all.” Give it a read, and have the tissue box nearby.
2. The ChargeOn Tour is headed to Tampa tonight at Tropicana Field for the Rays’ game against the Toronto Blue Jays. You must purchase a ticket to the baseball game at the box office in order to attend the program that will feature Director of Athletics Danny White and football head coach Josh Heupel. Here’s the rundown: 6-6:50 p.m.: Pregame UCF ChargeOn Tour appearance with entrance at Gate 4 through Republic Bank Draft Room 6:50-7:10 p.m.: Autograph session at the Press Level by section 221 7:10 p.m.: First pitch of Rays vs. Blue Jays game
3. As Police Chief Richard Beary ’04MS prepares to retire after 11 years at UCF and 41 years of law enforcement service, UCF is conducting a comprehensive, transparent search for a new campus safety leader. Four UCF Police chief finalists will be on campus this month to meet with students, faculty and staff members, and other partners.
4. Hawaii is looking to ban sunscreens with the ingredient oxybenzone because of research conducted by UCF associate professor John Fauth. Fauth and a team of international researchers in 2015 published a study that showed oxybenzone disrupted coral reproduction and caused bleaching. Coral bleaching is destroying reef and impacting local economies and ocean species that depend on the reefs for survival. Legislators in Hawaii crafted a bill to ban sunscreens with the ingredient in May. The legislature approved the bill, which awaits the governor’s signature.
5. This week, the Orlando community unifies in remembrance, love and action as we honor the 49 lives lost and those impacted by the attack at Pulse on June 12, 2016. A vigil at UCF will be held June 13 from 7-8:30 p.m. in front of the Pulse mural at the Student Union, and Millican Hall will be lit up after dusk.
In addition to UCF’s vigil, there are several events from blood drives to art exhibits to remembrance ceremonies taking place around Orlando. View the list here.
1. The American Athletic Conference released game times and television partners for three of the UCF football team’s 2018 matchups. The season opener at UConn on Aug. 30 will kick off at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU. UCF hosts FAU in a Friday night contest on Sept. 21, which is set to begin at 7 p.m. on ESPN. UCF’s Nov. 1 home game with Temple is slated to get under way at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
2. UCF alumni are encouraged to help usher in the next generation of Knights at Freshman Welcome events this week in Tampa Bay (June 6) and Southwest Florida (June 7). Enjoy complimentary hors d’ourves, beverages and UCF-themed giveaways as we induct local high school seniors and their families into the UCF family.
3. The founder of uBreakiFix, Justin Wetherill ’07, is part of the UCF Alumni family. Hear how the UCF College of Business Administration helped Wetherill start and grow his business for the past decade.
4. Orange County is opening a new fire station today that is expected to improve emergency responses in an area that includes UCF. The new station is located at 10679 University Blvd.
5. Word on the street is that USF Athletic Director Mark Harlan has accepted the same position at Utah. We can neither confirm nor deny that losing the War on I4 rivalry trophy to UCF in back-to-back seasons played a part in his decision to leave Tampa, but we wish him well in his new endeavors.
1. The UCF baseball team earned the No. 5 seed in the 2018 American Athletic Conference Tournament at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. The Knights will play the first game of the tournament on Tuesday at 9 a.m. against the No. 4 seed ECU. (The game was originally schedule for 3 p.m. but due to the threat of inclement weather, the game was moved up) For more information about the tournament, including tickets, please visit The American’s championship central page.
2. Good news for UCF’s cutting edge RESTORES clinic, which helps people coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. The program has been awarded a $10 million grant to expand its work.
3. Professionals from Walt Disney World, the Orlando Magic and City of Orlando — all UCF alumni — shared some of their wisdom and experiences at a career enhancement panel, and we’re loving their five career tips. The panel was part of Hospitality Knight hosted by UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter. For more chapter and club events on the horizon, take a look at the alumni events calendar.
5. A former Air Force fighter pilot; a 4-foot-2 woman who refused to let a rare genetic disorder keep her from pursuing her dreams; a 27-year-old cancer survivor; and a couple who are both active duty Army officers were all part of the 2018 graduating class from the College of Medicine. Read about them all in this Orlando Sentinel feature article.
ORLANDO, Fla. (May 17, 2018) – The hospitality industry is known for prioritizing customer service above all, and that is certainly the case for Michelle Jenkinson ’07 and her team within the fan experience and operations department for the Orlando Magic.
So when a fan who had gotten engaged two days prior to attending a Magic game lost her ring underneath the bleachers, Jenkinson’s team sprang into action. An operations staff member knew of a crevice in the floor and located the ring, where he hooked it with his pinky finger and safely retrieved it.
“Those are the moments that we teach our employees about at the Amway Center,” Jenkinson said. “If you think back to your favorite moment of a sporting event, do you remember the score? It’s more likely you remember who you went with. Or the fact that the usher bent down and talked to your child and got them a foam finger and made them feel special. We want to create legendary experiences for our fans.”
Anecdotes like this and other motivational takeaways were shared at a career enhancement panel hosted by the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter on May 15.
Jenkinson along with two alumni who have gone on to become prominent professionals at Walt Disney World and City of Orlando shared their insights and experiences at a networking and social event held on Rosen’s campus.
Below, we share some of the panel’s top tips that apply to any job.
A snapshot of the panelists:
• Marylouise Fitzgibbon ’94, Regional General Manager for Walt Disney World
• Michelle Jenkinson ’07, Director of Fan Experience and Operations for the Orlando Magic
• Allen Johnson ’81, Chief Venues Officer of Orlando Venues
• Moderator: Tom Hope ’09MBA, UCF Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
1: An effective leader leads with kindness. Marylouise Fitzgibbon: “We’re still making really smart business decisions and still working on smart strategies and forming tactical plans, but in every decision we make, people make all the difference. It’s not just something, it’s everything. Leadership is all about relationships. When I was in school, I think that concept sounded nice to have, but now that I’m further along in my career, it’s a differentiator. The reason we all got into this business is that we wanted to make a difference in the world. For me, that difference starts with one person, one employee, one guest, one peer. That’s something I’ve tried to hold onto all these years. There’s so much data that shows that leaders who have a style of kindness are more effective. Those are the people you want to work for. Those are the people I want to work for.”
Michelle Jenkinson: “Some leaders want to lead with fear or want to lead with being aggressive. It just doesn’t work. Lead by being part of a team. A lot of times, the leaders I’ve admired and something that I try to emulate now, is having the mindset that I’m no different than the greeter on the club level checking tickets. It’s all about the fan experience, the guest experience and making sure you are part of your team. You just have to get your hands dirty, whatever it takes to get the doors open and the lights turned on. You’re not above it.”
Allen Johnson: “I agree that kindness is one of the most important qualities of a leader. Qualities that I look for in a leader is No. 1: listening. No. 2: know your people. Know their names. And if you know their wife’s and their husband’s or companion’s name or their kids’ names, you’re golden. There’s four words I tell everyone you have to learn. The first two are ‘thank you.’ The last two will get you through life on everything: ‘I’m sorry.’
2: Prioritizing work-life balance (or integration) is necessary for career longevity. Marylouise Fitzgibbon: I have two sets of twins, it’s sort of my claim to fame. At one point I had four kids under the age of five. I used to get asked the question about work-life balance a lot. Choose your spouse, your companion really careful. The only reason I can do what I do is because I have an amazing husband who gets me. I joke that I don’t know the name of my kids’ dentist, I never have, but their very perfectly capable father does and takes them. I don’t say that with pride, but I also don’t say it with embarrassment either. I’ve stopped using the term work-life balance because it doesn’t exist. I like thinking about work-life integration. You aren’t two separate people, as much as you try. Be aware that the people who work for you are dealing with the same issues that maybe you are, so I work a lot with my team on integrating our personal and professional lives.
Michelle Jenkinson: I have three small children, 6 and under. Balancing that on top of 45 games a year — on a game day I’m there at 9 a.m. and typically don’t leave until 11-12 o’clock at night. So what does that look like? I have to have an awesome team at home as well as an awesome team at work. We know when we need to pick up the slack for one another. It’s important to have fun in the office and do things as a work family. I love every single one of them. The other key is to take the down time when you have it. If you get a day that it’s slow in the office, take it off. Realize that work is always going to be there.
Allen Johnson: I know everyone struggles with this, even more so in this industry. I consider the time I spend with my family special. Whatever we are doing, I try to make it special. Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking them to the library because that’s what they like doing. But everyone needs to find what their happy place is. My degree is in psychology and I’m big on mindfulness. I learned how to meditate when I was in high school and I do that a lot when I’m in a stressful situation. It’s up to you to find the things that work for you to help balance.
3: It’s all in the details. Michelle Jenkinson: When it comes to events, a lot of people have this idea of what it’s about. They think weddings, the Grammys and you have an unlimited budget and life is good. Let me tell you, that’s .02 percent of the events industry. Every event has the same components though – attention to detail. We’ll go on walk-throughs on a game day, and I’m worried about a scuff on the terrazzo. That seems ridiculous, but if we don’t do that, those scuffs add up. That’s maintenance on your building. So it’s easier to take care of those little things. As for the job, you plan as much as you can, but also know that nothing in events goes to plan. Be able to adapt to that and be flexible. Keep that mindset because it will get you further in this industry.”
4: Don’t wait for the perfect job. Marylouise Fitzgibbon: “Stop trying to find the perfect job right out of college. Get something. Your degree will pay off big, but it’s probably not that very first job. It won’t be long to set yourself apart. Don’t get caught up with titles. Just get a job.”
Allen Johnson: “You have to start somewhere. I think Marylouise is absolutely correct. People are impatient when they first graduate because you want to be us up here on this panel. It’s a long road. What I look for when I’m hiring someone: If I have two candidates and one has the most perfect background, education, experience, everything, and the other candidate as the best attitude, I will hire the best attitude every time. It’s the only thing that you can control.”
5: No matter what year you graduate, it’s *always* a good time to be a Knight. Marylouise Fitzgibbon: “I chose UCF because in my small graduating class, a lot of my peers got into UF, FSU but they did not get into UCF. So when I got the acceptance letter from UCF, I chose it truly out of spite (laughs). I know that’s a bad reason, and I’m embarrassed to tell you that, but we’re all friends here. I graduated in 1994, and back then even, it was a big deal to get chosen to attend UCF. Now, being out in the world and being an employer, the reputation that this university has is so phenomenal and powerful. It’s a proud moment when I’m sitting in recruiting meetings and people are actively trying to find UCF students and I’m the one in the room who whispers, you know I went to school there (smiles).”
Michelle Jenkinson: “I was born and raised in Florida in Merritt Island. I had a lot of friends that went to UCF. I would come visit them. I loved Orlando, loved campus. I honestly didn’t apply anywhere else. Orlando had a good mix of bigger city but that excitement of college life. UCF was growing quite quickly. I’m extremely proud to be a UCF Knight. Even since I’ve graduated, I love to be a part of the success the university has had.”
Allen Johnson: “It’s weird, I started at a school called FTU and graduated from UCF. I don’t know how that happened (laughs). I’m third-generation Central Floridian. I was born in Kissimmee, raised in St. Cloud. I fell in love with UCF and a girl. UCF gave me an opportunity to experience college life on a scale that is much bigger now, as we all know, but back then it was still a major university. I’m proud to be a UCF Knight. I run Camping World Stadium and we have a bowl game every Jan. 1. This year is the first year I’ve missed it in 14 years. I chose to go to Atlanta. My boss allowed me to. That’s how important UCF is to me.”
1. “It’s always thrilling to be back in a classroom—and it makes me wish I could be a college student all over again. If that wish were ever to come true, the college experience would look very different—and better—at an innovative institution like UCF.” — Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates) in a recently penned entry on his blog site, gatesnotes.
2. UCF picked up its third American Athletic Conference championship trophy of the 2017-18 athletics season over the weekend. The rowing team joined football and women’s soccer (regular season) as squads to bring home the hardware this year. For rowing, the championship marked the team’s fourth-straight title, and in effect, the Knights became the second women’s program in The American to win four straight titles in the five-year history of the league. The Knights join UConn Women’s Basketball as the only two squads with four or more conference titles.
3. From athletics to the arts, there are plenty of summer camps for learning and play affiliated with UCF that can help keep students busy during the summer break. UCF employees are offered a discount on camp rates, so be sure to sign up early to take advantage of this benefit.
4. The Orlando Sentinel featured the new senior living community affiliated UCF, which is in the works and set to open in mid-2020. Legacy Pointe at UCF will reside about 2 miles away from UCF’s main campus and across from the Econ River Wilderness Area. Legacy Pointe residents will be able to attend any class for free as long as it’s not full. Transportation to and from the community will be provided for them. And they can use campus amenities, such as the library, study halls and the gym.
5. The names of four officers from Central Florida, including Lt. Debra Clayton ’98 ’02MS and Deputy First Class Norm Lewis ’04, were added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C. City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer along with law enforcement officers from Orlando, Kissimmee and Orange County visited the nation’s capital to pay their respects at the National Police Week vigil.
1. More than 8,100 UCF graduates joined the UCF Alumni family over the weekend, including Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Jaha Dukureh. The renowned activist and United Nations goodwill ambassador earned her master’s degree through UCF’s online nonprofit management program. She studied the field to better understand how to run her own nonprofit organization, which she started to help put an end to female genital mutilation. Read her incredible story
3. The 2018 ChargeOn Tour has its first stop scheduled for Tuesday, May 8, at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville for the Jumbo Shrimp’s game against the Tennessee Smokies. Head coaches Josh Heupel, Katie Abrahamson-Henderson and Johnny Dawkins along with Vice President and Director of Athletics Danny White will be all be part of the program, which starts at 6:15 p.m. at the Sea Best Shrimp Deck. Purchase your ticket, which also includes an all-you-can-eat picnic package.
4. The UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter is hosting a panel of five outstanding UCF alumni on May 15 at 6 p.m. In addition to sharing their personal stories, the panelists from organizations including Walt Disney Company, Universal and the Orlando Magic will discuss themes like leadership, career development and achieving professional success. Register Now
5. Just a friendly reminder that Teacher Appreciation Day is Wednesday, May 8. Did a UCF professor make an impact on your life? Consider taking a few moments out of your day to send them a note telling them what they mean to you!