On March 3, the UCF College of Sciences and its alumni chapter hosted their second annual Outstanding AlumKnights awards ceremony. The college’s dean, Michael Johnson, hosted this year’s festivities, which took place in the Grand Ballroom of the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, where guests enjoyed music, cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres and a photo booth, in addition to the award presentations.
Congratulations to all of this year’s Outstanding AlumKnights!
The 2016 awardees were:
Anthropology | Amanda Groff, Ph.D.,’03, ’05, ’07, lecturer, UCF Department of Anthropology
Biology | David Breininger, Ph.D., ’09, lead wildlife biologist, NASA Ecological Programs, Kennedy Space Center
Chemistry | Robert DeVor, Ph.D., ’03, ’08, scientist/principal investigator, Vencore Inc.
Communication | Marci Gonzalez, ’05, reporter, ABC affiliate, New York
Mathematics | Robert Muise, Ph.D., ’88, ’90, ’03, senior staff systems engineer, Lockheed Martin
Physics | Howard Bender III, Ph.D., ’97, ’98, R&D program manager, National Security Technologies LLC
Political Science | Carol Lawrence, ’71, attorney at law, Carolyn J.B. Lawrence P.A.
Psychology | Diane Robinson, Ph.D., ’06, ’10, program director, Cancer Support Community/Integrative Medicine Department, UF Health Cancer Center, Orlando Health
Autumn (Gill) Chouinard, ’11 | Deputy First Class, Orange County Sheriff’s Office
By Angie Lewis, ’03
It was 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, just 10 days before Christmas, when Deputy First Class Autumn (Gill) Chouinard, ’11, pulled out of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office police substation on Lake Underhill Road in Orlando, with me riding shotgun. It was my first squad car ride-along, and it began just as I’d hoped — speeding through traffic, lights on and sirens blaring (aka “running code”), to get to our first call.
We were responding to a transient fight in a camp behind a local Winn-Dixie. However, when we arrived, the man who was injured had already left the scene, and, after speaking to a woman who explained the events that led up to the altercation, there was nothing Autumn or the other deputies could do, so everyone went on their way.
It wasn’t quite the outcome I’d expected after our rush to the scene (nobody was arrested?!), but, as the night went on, I would discover anticlimactic endings are pretty typical.
From the transient fight location, we made our way over behind a CVS, where Autumn called a young woman to start a report on her stolen iPad. Once she got all of the information, two other deputies met us at the alleged thief’s home, but no one answered the door. So, the case was put on hold until she could make contact.
We responded to a few more calls — a panhandler at a local Publix, a claim of parental sexual assault at an area middle school, and shoplifters at a nearby Walmart — before we found ourselves back on University Boulevard near campus. As we were chatting more about her job, a young man in a Mazda sedan ran a stop sign right in front of us, so Autumn “lit him up” and pulled him over.
Since the man admitted to his mistake, had all of his appropriate documents and didn’t have any outstanding issues on record, Autumn let him go with a warning, reminding him how many people ride bicycles down the sidewalk on that street, and told him to be more careful.
By then, it was about 8:30 p.m., so we took a break and met a couple of Autumn’s fellow deputies for dinner at a local Panera. We got to hear about some of their cases that evening, as well as stories from previous cases, and I learned how often the police have to “Baker Act” the people they’re responding to help. (The Baker Act allows for involuntary examination by law enforcement, or other authorities, of possible mental illness.)
The other deputies told us about a call they’d had earlier in the evening, during which a young woman refused to put her clothes on after neighbors reported her for public nudity. She even kicked one of the deputies, which prompted them to have her taken in for a mental health evaluation.
We barely finished our meals before a call came through about an 8-month-old boy who nearly lost a finger pulling a game console off an entertainment center. After running code to the house, we found firefighters already on the scene, wrapping the baby’s hand as he sobbed in pain on his crying mother’s lap. Then, paramedics showed up and put him inside the ambulance, where his distraught mom accompanied him for the ride to Arnold Palmer Hospital. Since the incident appeared to be an accident, and everything was under control, we left the scene.
We didn’t even make it out of the neighborhood when a possible burglary call yet again sent us running code through Orange County’s moonlit streets. A mother at home with her kids reported hearing noises that sounded like someone was in their house. When we arrived, Autumn joined several other deputies as they searched the area around the house, which turned out to be fully secured.
Taking advantage of a quiet period, Autumn started tackling the mountain of reports she would have to complete by her shift’s end at 2:30 a.m. So, we pulled into the median on University Boulevard, where she said she can keep a better eye out in case anyone should approach the car.
As she typed up the repetitious lists of stolen items from the Walmart shoplifters’ call earlier that night, I jokingly said, “So, this must be your favorite part of the job?” Her answer, of course, was a sarcastic “Oh, yeah.”
After what seemed like an eternity, watching her type up reports on her laptop, we received a call to respond to a house where a 26-year-old woman was arguing with her elderly parents. When we got there, we learned the parents were angry that the daughter kept turning down the air conditioning. Yep, the police were called to settle an argument about an electric bill.
After the daughter took her kids and left the house for the night, we were pulling away when Autumn got a call to respond to an attempted home invasion and car theft. So, once again, it was lights and sirens all the way! Before pulling up to the location, Autumn turned off her lights to avoid possibly scaring the suspect away, and told me to stay in the car. She was the first deputy on the scene, and quickly jumped out of the patrol car, flashlight in hand, and began searching the area. Within seconds, another deputy joined in the search. After a few minutes, they knocked on the door of the house from which the call came.
It wasn’t long before Autumn came back to the car and told me I could get out. By that time, several other deputies had arrived, and a police helicopter was circling the sky above.
As I observed the situation, it was obvious that the “victim” who called 911 was inebriated. She first claimed a black man had kicked in her door, grabbed her car keys out of her hand, and tried to steal the Mustang that was in the driveway. She said her boyfriend was able to stop him (the boyfriend said that didn’t happen), and explained how she got into a physical altercation with the man, showing some scrapes on her arm.
Paramedics arrived shortly after and tended to the woman’s arm with some peroxide and Band-Aids (you would’ve thought they were cutting off her arm with her over-reactive screaming!). In the meantime, a K9 unit had arrived on scene to help look for the suspect.
However, as the deputies continued to try to get more details about what happened, the woman’s story kept changing — from a black man to a Hispanic man, from the man kicking in the door after she got home to her hearing someone at the door and going to check it out with her car keys in her hand. The whole thing was fishy, and the deputies knew it. So, after a little more questioning by deputies, the woman ended up finding her car keys in her purse. She’d made up the whole scenario and, apparently, gotten into a fight with herself.
So, all of those resources — the deputies on scene, the county’s helicopter in the air, the arrival of the K9 unit and the paramedics showing up to treat some scrapes — were wasted on a drunk woman who’d imagined the whole thing. I asked one of the other deputies if they could arrest her for making the false claim, which cost the county several thousand dollars — but, he told me it really wouldn’t do much good, because they’d never recoup the money anyway.
As Autumn’s shift neared its end, we made a quick stop at the Knights Library on University Boulevard. It was about 1 a.m. on the last day of finals before winter break, so we thought things might be getting a little rowdy. After we pulled up and got out of the car, we walked toward the entrance of the bar, where Autumn spotted one of the bouncers she knows. The two chatted for a few minutes, as he told her there hadn’t had any major issues that evening, then was excited to show her a news clip of one of the bar’s former bouncers who’s now a police deputy in Brevard County. Apparently, his recent chase and arrest had made headlines.
Since all else was calm, we headed back to the substation, where she had to finish the rest of her paperwork — a stark contrast to the way her shift began!
Did you know that anyone (as long as you pass the background check) can request to go on a ride-along? Contact your local sheriff’s office or police department for more information.
I went through:
Orange County Sheriff’s Office
Sector II Substation – East Orange County
11000 Lake Underhill Road
Orlando, FL 32825
It takes many hands to smoothly and effectively run the second-largest university in the nation. Busy students often don’t realize where our school’s resources come from, so the UCF Student Philanthropy Council started spreading the word of philanthropic giving with Project ’63.
The mission of Project ’63 is to remind students of the importance of philanthropy and its impact on higher education. To accomplish this, the SPC is hosting its third annual Student Philanthropy Week, bringing the spirit of giving back to campus.
This year’s celebration takes place Feb. 22-25, and includes the following daily events to inspire tradition:
Monday – Education Day
Students host a table outside the Student Union and play educational/trivia games.
Tuesday – Appreciation Day
Students sign a “Thank You” banner for young alumni donors, which helps stewardship with donors and gives students a better appreciation for and understanding of how philanthropy impacts their education.
On both Monday and Tuesday, the Student Philanthropy Council also introduces Philanthropy Cab, like the TV show “CA$H CAB,” where members pick up students and drive them to their classes on a golf cart, all the while testing their knowledge and school pride!
Wednesday – Participation Day
Students focus on peer-to-peer solicitation to cultivate donations in anticipation of launching a senior giving program.
Thursday – Celebration Day
The week concludes with all of the previous days’ activities, plus the Student Philanthropy Symposium, featuring a panel of some of the UCF Alumni Association’s 30 under 30 award winners.
“Student Philanthropy Week is one of the first opportunities many students have to learn about the impact of philanthropy on their education,” says Danielle Warren, coordinator of the UCF Fund. “Facilitating experiences through which students might recognize that many academic, scholarship and programmatic opportunities are funded by donations cultivates the spirit of philanthropy on campus — an important step toward assuring the future of private support at UCF.”
For more information about the Student Philanthropy Council and Student Philanthropy Week, contact Danielle at 407.882.1254.
An intrusion into the University of Central Florida’s computer network has resulted in unauthorized access to certain personal information of some current/former students and employees.
UCF has established a web page — www.ucf.edu/datasecurity — with details about the incident, including the groups of current/former students and employees involved, and recommendations for those impacted. UCF also has established a call center, available at 877.752.5527 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Those impacted by the incident will be notified via letters, which should be received the week of Feb. 8.
UCF is also offering a free year of credit monitoring and identity protection services to those impacted.
“Safeguarding your personal information is of the utmost importance at UCF,” President John C. Hitt says. “To ensure our vigilance, I have called for a thorough review of our online systems, policies and training to determine what improvements we can make in light of this recent incident.
“Every day, people and groups attempt to illegally access secure data from institutions around the world. Higher education institutions are popular targets.
“UCF will continue to work diligently to protect this important information from those who would break the law to get it.”
The UCF Alumni Association collects thousands of dollars each year to give right back to students through its many scholarships.
Senior Erica Chu received the alumni association’s UCF Alumni Legacy Scholarship — a $1,500 award for outstanding students with parents who graduated from UCF — to make her dreams of attending UCF possible.
“I was ecstatic when I found out I won the scholarship,” the biomedical sciences major says. “Every little thing counts when you’re paying for college.”
Chu says receiving the scholarship has not only helped her financially, but has also increased her networking with alumni, including those who selected her to win the scholarship.
“It’s great to meet people who graduated from UCF, and are now so successful and want to give back,” she says. “That’s something I want to do when I graduate.”
The alumni association awards 25 scholarships annually, including scholarships from alumni chapters and clubs.
“Last year, we had a good year in our endowments, and we were able to increase the majority of the scholarships by $500,” explains Carla Cordoba, associate director of alumni and student relations.
In fact, in 2015, the alumni association awarded more than $55,000 in scholarships to UCF students.
Heather Junod, director of the UCF Fund, says there are many ways the alumni association receives the money to fund these scholarships.
The UCF Fund utilizes e-solicitation, direct mail, phone campaigns, faculty/staff campaigns and a student philanthropy program to reach out to potential donors. Staffers prefer more face-to-face solicitation rather than phone calls because it often garners better results. For example, the average donation is $86 on the phone, $270 for e-solicitation and $130 by mail, but face-to-face gifts are much larger — sometimes in the millions.
Junod says the UCF Fund asks every alumnus and alumna with up-to-date information to donate, which is more than 226,000 Knights. Of this, about 7,000 donate, or a little more than 3 percent of alumni.
“At our call center, students like to talk to alumni about donating to scholarships because the student callers are often on scholarships,” Junod explains.
To apply for alumni scholarships, students must fill out the applications on their myUCF account. If a student is eligible for an alumni scholarship, it will automatically appear in his/her scholarship listing. Most scholarships also require an essay, recommendation letter and activities summary.
“Scholarships aren’t going to come to you — you have to look for them,” Chu says. “The alumni association does a great job advertising the scholarships. People just have to take the next step and actually apply.”
She also says it is important for students to be themselves when writing application essays.
“They can tell in your writing if you’re being fake or lying,” she says. “Stand out and have a personal story that they can connect to.”
In Chu’s application, she wrote a personal essay about how UCF has opened so many doors for her father. She also described how the university has already given her innumerable opportunities, such as research and networking.
After the applications are submitted, the four-month-long reviewing process begins.
“We want to make sure we are being diligent in reading everything and paying attention because students took the time to submit their applications,” Cordoba says.
A team of student assistants first checks the applicants’ eligibility to make sure they meet all of the necessary criteria for the scholarship, and then the applicants are scored using a point system.
“For example, if you’re a member of a club, you get so many points. If you’re an officer, you get more points,” Cordoba explains. “Everybody gets the same formula applied to them across the board.”
Once the applicants have been rated, a selection committee of alumni, faculty and staff reviews the top five to 10 students. The committee then gives its recommendations and a staff committee selects the final winners.
Reaching out through email, postcards and banner advertisements, there’s been an increase in students who have been applying for the alumni association’s scholarships.
“We had more than 500 applications in 2015, which is a third more than we had the year before,” Cordoba says. “Students are taking advantage of the scholarships!”
However, with more applicants comes more competition.
“The caliber of students who are applying is amazing,” Cordoba says. “We’re choosing from the top echelon of students who are extremely involved with their university and in their communities.”
Alumni who wish to contribute can name a scholarship for $10,000, or they can endow a scholarship for $25,000, which gets invested and earns appreciation.
“The idea is to keep building the endowment so it lives on in perpetuity,” Cordoba says.
How to apply for UCF Alumni Association scholarships:
Over the next year, the UCF Alumni Association staff has pledged to make its workplace, the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, a more sustainable building, as part of a Green Office Certification pilot program.
This “GreenUP UCF” campaign, which lasts from Jan. 29, 2016, through Jan. 31, 2017, is part of a partnership between the alumni association, UCF Sustainability Initiatives and UCF Utilities & Energy Services.
Once completed, the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center will be the first existing building on campus to earn the Green Office Certification, and will serve as a model for other buildings to follow in its (no carbon) footsteps.
The effort is part of a commitment President Hitt made nine years ago for UCF to become climate neutral by the year 2050. Since then, existing buildings now use 38 percent less energy, and new construction is designed to the highest standards of efficiency from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
By implementing the Green Office Certification pilot program at the alumni center, we’ll be doing our part to create a more sustainable environment on campus, and in the Central Florida community.
In the coming months, we hope you’ll join us, as we share our progress, along with tips you can incorporate in your home.
Led by President John C. Hitt and trustee Alex Martins, University of Central Florida leaders have made personal contributions totaling more than $1 million for the UCF Downtown campus.
President Hitt and first lady Martha Hitt contributed $100,000, as did trustee Alex Martins, a UCF alumnus and CEO of the Orlando Magic, and UCF Foundation Board of Directors member Dick Nunis. Other leading personal contributors include trustee Robert Garvy and Phyllis Klock, chairwoman of the Foundation Board of Directors.
The commitments from UCF’s leadership include gifts from trustees, deans, vice presidents, and members of the UCF Foundation and Alumni Association boards of directors.
“Our university’s leaders are making generous personal investments in UCF Downtown because they know the campus will greatly expand educational opportunities for students,” said Mike Morsberger, vice president for alumni relations and development. “Their support, along with the commitments from our community partners, is vital to make this innovative campus a reality.”
Earlier in January, the Orlando Magic and CFE Federal Credit Union each pledged $1.5 million toward the construction of the new academic building that UCF would share with Valencia College.
Orange County commissioners voted unanimously to contribute $3 million, and Valencia College will contribute $2 million.
Additionally, the value of in-kind contributions of land and infrastructure by the City of Orlando and the developers of Creative Village is approximately $75 million.
Pending approvals, the campus will open in fall 2018. UCF Downtown will offer students an innovative learning environment within walking distance of a wide array of internship and job opportunities in fields such as digital media, communication, public service and health-related programs. UCF will share the campus with Valencia College, which will offer programs in digital media, health information technology and culinary and hospitality, including workforce training and other certificates to increase access to education in the immediate downtown area.
The new academic building at UCF Downtown will complement a renovated Center for Emerging Media building where UCF’s nationally ranked graduate video gaming school, the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, is located. One-third of the new building will be funded by private donations. The university also is contributing $20 million from its resources and asking the state for an additional $20 million.
While guests mingled with other professionals from a multitude of diverse fields, Dean Paul Jarley (business), Dean Michael Georgiopoulos (engineering) and Dean Michael Johnson (sciences) each addressed the group of Knights, speaking on the importance of networking, mentorship and advancement.
It was a great Networking Knight to kick off 2016!
Charles Gray, founding director of GrayRobinson, played an instrumental role in the history of the University of Central Florida. Gray was honored by the UCF Alumni Association in October with the 2015 Champions Award for his continuous support and advocacy for the university.
A pair of Knights fall head-over-heels for education — and each other — at UCF
Will Furiosi II, ’13, ’14 & Jessica Ortega, ’13 | Teachers, Oviedo High School
By Angie Lewis, ’03
Fascinated with infectious disease and pathogenic bacteria, Will Furiosi, ’13, ’14, had dreams of working at the Centers for Disease Control. But, during his senior year of pre-med classes at UCF, he decided that teaching science might be more fun.
So, after completing his bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences (with a minor in business administration) in 2013, he continued his education at UCF, on a full scholarship, graduating with his master’s degree in teacher education in 2014. Now, instead of wearing head-to-toe protective garb in a lab every day, he only needs to slip on a pair of safety glasses when conducting experiments with his AP biology and chemistry students at Oviedo High School.
And, in case he has any accidents, his emergency contact, fellow Knight and bride-to-be Jessica Ortega, ’13, is just a few hallways away, teaching AP art history and honors humanities.
To call this couple of Knights ambitious is an understatement.
During their time at UCF, both were active members of The Burnett Honors College and the President’s Leadership Council.
In addition, Furiosi was a recipient of the 2013 Order of Pegasus (the most prestigious and significant award a student can attain at UCF) and graduated top of his class in the College of Medicine, as well as Summa Cum Laude from the university. And, to get in some physical exercise (and fun!), he also played four years on the university’s Ultimate Frisbee team.
When asked about the proudest moment of his life so far, he says it was the near flawless execution of his engagement plan that was six months in the making, but, he adds that a close second is a toss-up between finishing with perfect 4.0s as valedictorian of his high school and finishing top of his class at UCF.
“While there is more prestige accompanying the UCF distinction, completing the feat in high school showed that I could set my mind to something years in advance and achieve it,” he says.
Why did you choose to attend UCF? JO: My family made an unexpected pit stop on the way to a ski trip on President’s Day weekend senior year and I applied to UCF that night. I felt just like Dorothy (in “The Wizard of Oz”) coming home the moment I stepped onto the campus. I knew I couldn’t go anywhere else after that moment.
Do you have any hidden talents? WF: I can play multiple musical instruments — bassoon (it’s been a while for this one), flute and saxophone — and, I have a knack for taking musical tunes and making my own lyrical renditions.
If life were a song, what would the title be? WF: I’m going to take a different spin on this and choose a good song for life: “Warning” by Incubus. It’s about a warning that you shouldn’t let life pass you by. Instead, you should live life to the fullest because everything could be gone in an instant. JO: “I’m On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons, because that’s how I try to feel every day, especially in front of 100-plus high school students!
Most embarrassing moment? WF: I’m sure I’ve had more embarrassing moments, but … I ripped my pants, right in the center of my butt, right in the middle of the school day earlier this school year.
What were you most surprised to learn after becoming a teacher? WF: I was most surprised to hear how much unsubstantiated or biased research is used to influence educational policy and how much time and money is wasted in constantly trying to reinvent the educational wheel. JO: That kids (or anyone for that matter) never listen to you the first five times you say something. It drives me nuts having to repeat what I already have written on the board a million times a day. I seriously waste at least a few minutes a class period repeating myself and that adds up!
What kind of life advice do you give to your students? WF: I encourage students to continue to learn as much as possible, get involved in activities to determine their interests, and become financially literate (something we should do more of in public school). JO: Figure out your passions and pursue them regardless. These students have too many people telling them what they “should” do with their lives. They need more quiet time to just sit there and thing about what THEY want to do, not what their parents, counselors, friends or teachers think is best for them. They’re too afraid of making the “wrong” choice, but I tell them that if they learned something for the experience, it can never be a “wrong” choice.
By Jeana Capra
UCF Alumni Association Student Intern
Congratulations, Class of 2015 fall graduates! You’re an official UCF AlumKnight, which means you’re now part of a family that’s more than 250,000 strong!
Your connection to UCF and your Knights pride don’t end just because your senior year did. The UCF Alumni Association connects all Knights with the university and each other through social, cultural and professional development events. Now that you’re a part of the family, you should know what it entails.
The UCF Alumni Association is a dues-free organization, which means there’s no annual membership fee to take advantage of all it has to offer. You’re already a part of the alumni association just by graduating!
Remember that key card you got when you picked up your cap and gown? Think of that as your golden ticket. It’s what identifies you as an AlumKnight. Show that card to participating benefit providers for alumni discounts, and use it as your pass into alumni-hosted events, like our annual Indoor Tailgate parties during football season.
The UCF Alumni Association hosts events across the nation, so you can keep connected no matter where life takes you after college. There are countless ways to stay involved, whether it’s on campus or in your new community, through our chapters and clubs program. College-based and regional chapters and clubs help you build of a network of new friends who share your UCF experience.
And, as a brand new graduate, you naturally fit into the Young Alumni Council, a network or more than 60,000 Knights under the age of 30. This community of alumni is a powerful way to help you stay connected to social, career and community events as you begin to conquer “the real world.”
Leaving campus doesn’t have to mean losing touch with your alma mater. Follow the UCF Alumni Association on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep up with all of the latest and greatest UCF news and events, and be proud of the university that made you who you are!
Congratulations again, graduates! You’re the future of the UCF Knights Nation, and we look forward to seeing all of the amazing things you’re going to do!
Go Knights! Charge On!
P.S. Jazz up your Facebook profile: Show off your #UCFalumni pride and download one of 10 cover photos. We even made two for your proud parents. :)