7 Questions with Todd Robbins, ‘11

7 Questions with Todd Robbins, ‘11
Todd Robbins, ’11 (right), Director of Operations and Facilities at North Shore Day Camp–TLC Family of Camps, Long Island, New York with former Secretary of State and presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Todd Robbins, ’11 has had quite a journey since graduation just five years ago, from working in Orlando’s nightlife scene to planning events for a presidential candidate. In his own words, he shares how his undergraduate experience prepared him to conquer change and new challenges.

Can you describe your career journey since graduating from UCF’s Rosen College?

I’ve been keeping busy since graduating in 2011! During my last semester of college and the following year, I worked as the assistant general manager of a bar/club on the east side of Orlando where I met my wife, Jessi, who also worked there and is a 2013 graduate of UCF’s Rosen College. Shortly thereafter, I got a job as a front desk agent at Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel. Shingle Creek is a great stepping stone for all Rosen College students. While working at the hotel, I was contracted to manage the artist and press-only yacht at Ultra Music Festival 2013. Now, that was an experience!

As time went on, I needed a change; a big one might I add. I resigned from my position at Shingle Creek, and Jessi and I packed up and moved to New York together. We both took summer job positions at Tyler Hill Camp in the Pennsylvania Poconos. That summer, I worked as the assistant food service director, helping oversee food service for 800+ people for the 51-day season. Without being aware, the position at Tyler Hill turned into the interview of a lifetime. My every move that summer was part of the “interview process.” I was introduced to Tyler Hill’s executive director midway through the summer while I was on a visit to Timber Lake Camp, his home base. We had a quick conversation and once the summer was over, I went in for a formal interview. A few months later, I accepted a position working full-time at North Shore Day Camp and have been there ever since.

I have been able to utilize the many skills that I learned in my communication and management classes at Rosen and apply them daily when talking to parents, staff and campers, along with overseeing different departments at camp. Almost three years into the position, I’ve had the privilege of planning many events for our “off-season” business. Among those events were several fundraisers for former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of which I am currently in the process of planning. The event is expected to host more than 500 guests, including high-ranking political officials, celebrities and fortune 500 CEOs.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve been able to do so far in your career?

It’s hard to choose a favorite. I truly enjoy each and every part of my job! I think one of my favorite things so far in my career is to be able to walk around the property and reflect, “I had something to do with that project” or “Wow, that was a great thing I was a part of.” As we continue to build and update our property, it’s great to see what changes have been implemented since I’ve been on board. Every change allows for a better summer for each and every one of our campers, which is what matters most!

How did your experience at Rosen College prepare you for the industry and your current role?

I began my first year and a half at UCF as a Finance major with a minor in Marketing. I’m glad I made the switch. As a hospitality student and employee, you are given the opportunity to put a smile on people’s faces. This is something I just couldn’t resist.

Learning from professors with 15+ years of first-hand experience at great companies, such as Disney and Universal, is also a plus. I was exposed to topics that I never thought I would need to know or use in everyday life, but that was proven untrue. I keep the tools from Rosen close to my heart; they helped me grow as an individual and gave me the tools needed to work in the hospitality industry.

What was your favorite part about attending Rosen College?

One of my fondest memories is driving to and from UCF’s main campus with my friends listening to music and enjoying the beautiful weather. In all seriousness, my favorite thing about Rosen College was the small, tight-knit classes and community. You feel that everyone cares from the first time you step on campus. Unlike a lot of my friends at other colleges across the country, I had the ability to talk to my teachers whenever I needed something. They gave feedback on a more personal level rather than via e-mail or office hours. I liked that. I enjoyed that the professors knew my name and I also enjoyed having classmates who were similar, like-minded individuals who were there to learn about the hospitality industry.

Do you think your degree gives you a competitive advantage compared to your peers? How so?

I really do believe that having completed courses like hospitality communications, hospitality finance, restaurant management and even the sanitation course gave me an upper hand. I was able to understand how to communicate more effectively with individuals in the business world as opposed to someone who went to school for accounting and learned solely the art of accounting. I was able to take many of the tools I learned at Rosen College and implement them into my job.

What advice would you give to current and potential Rosen College students?

I would tell them not to take it for granted. Not one bit of it. If you get the great opportunity to go to Rosen, you are putting yourself in a great place. Rosen was recently listed as one of the top five hospitality programs in the WORLD. The school deserves it. As I said before, the administrative staff and professors genuinely care about each and every student. UCF is a phenomenal university, so be sure you support its athletics and go to class. It will only help the school continue to grow and develop into an even better institution than it already is!

Favorite quote:

“Do it now. Later may become never.”

– Unknown

To meet other Rosen College alumni and find out what they’ve been doing since graduation, please visit hospitality.ucf.edu/our-alumni.

Alumni Chapters/Clubs Participate in Knights Give Back 2015

KGB-Chicago
As part of this year’s Knights Give Back day of service, the Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter prepared and served dinner
to families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.

Since 2007, students, alumni, faculty and staff have served more than 22,000 hours at UCF’s annual day of service, Knights Give Back, making a lasting impact on the Central Florida community that will continue to grow, and saving Orlando nearly $600,000.

As part of Knights Give Back this year, many of our regional alumni chapters and clubs participated in service projects across the nation:

  • The Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter prepared and served dinner to local families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
    PHOTOS
  • The Dallas/Ft. Worth UCF Alumni Club held a clothing and food drive benefiting The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
    PHOTOS
  • The Denver UCF Alumni Chapter held a canned food drive to benefit the Denver Rescue Mission.
  • The Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club collected school supplies and non-perishable food items for the John E. Ford K-8 School and Ft. Caroline Elementary during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
    PHOTOS
  • The Ocala UCF Alumni Club held a children’s book drive, which benefited Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection, during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
  • The Palm Beach UCF Alumni Chapter collected items supporting the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
    PHOTOS
  • On Oct. 25, the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter will be cheering on runners, manning water stations and helping to collect new/used running shoes to donate to local nonprofits at the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon.
  • On Nov. 21, the Southeast Florida UCF Alumni Chapter will be sorting through food before it gets donated to local food pantries through Feeding South Florida.
  • The Tallahassee UCF Alumni Club collected non-perishable food items to benefit the Big Bend Homeless Coalition.
    PHOTO
  • The Volusia/Flagler UCF Alumni Club partnered with UCF Daytona to paint the PACE Center for Girls, which provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy.
  • The Washington D.C. Alumni Chapter sorted through food, donated by local farmers’ markets, for the Arlington Food Assistance Center, and helped organize bundles for local families.
    PHOTOS

In addition, the UCF College of Sciences Alumni Chapter helped the efforts of Pegasus Professor Linda Walters, Ph.D., to restore degraded shorelines and oyster reefs at the Indian River Lagoon.
PHOTOS/VIDEO

The UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter also helped out at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, a nonprofit animal shelter that takes in owner-relinquished pets. Through Pet Alliance, each animal is ensured to have a good quality of life and is provided with enrichment activities, socialization and exercise.
PHOTO

Plus, UCF Alumni Relations hosted a clean up at Orlando’s historic Greenwood Cemetery, where volunteers cleaned headstones, grave markers and memorials, removing debris, as well as doing some painting and landscaping.


Volunteers now have a new way to make an even greater impact, with a grants program called “Dollars for Doers,” in which some employers will honor your work as a volunteer by “matching” your efforts with a charitable donation of their own, often to the organization of your choice!
LEARN MORE

UCF Alumni Honors 2015 Jefferson Award Recipients

JeffersonAwards-Blue+Buit+Ayala
Three of this year’s UCF Jefferson Award recipients included (left to right) Mark Blue, ’89, ’08, ’10, College Chapter Volunteer of the Year; Crystal Buit, ’06, Constituent Chapter Volunteer of the Year; and Matthew Ayala, ’11, Regional Club Volunteer of the Year.

On June 12, the UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception celebrated its eighth year recognizing some of the UCF Alumni Association’s most active volunteers for their countless acts of generosity and numerous volunteer hours. Hosted by the UCF Community Volunteers Alumni Chapter, these awards focus on public service and the importance of giving back.

The event kickstarted the alumni association’s Chapter and Club Council Meeting weekend, during which alumni chapter and club volunteers from across the nation gathered to discuss plans for the upcoming year.

Todd Bowers, ’77, a graduate of the College of Business Administration, who serves on the college’s Dean’s Advisory Council, the UCF Athletics Association Board of Directors, the UCF Foundation Finance Committee and the UCF Inclusive Education Team, was the evening’s master of ceremonies. Anthony Jenkins, Ph.D., UCF’s senior associate vice president and dean of students, was also in attendance as a guest speaker for the festivities.

Congratulations to this year’s recipients:

Regional Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Ivette Herald, ’04, Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter

Ivette has been chair of the Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter for the past four years. With her leadership, the chapter grew from 10 active members to nearly 50, and its Facebook page has increased to more than 400 followers.

“Our chapter’s mission is to create a home away from home for alumni, and I stress the importance of making those connections during every board meeting and through my actions,” she says. “It’s important that we make alumni feel welcome. I think that passion is what has helped our club evolve into a chapter in one year, and keeps alumni coming to our monthly events and watch parties.”

The other nominees included: Eric Braga, ’00, Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter; Chris Brown, ’05, Tampa Bay UCF Alumni Chapter; Samantha Malone, ’04, Denver UCF Alumni Chapter; Thomas Marron, ’86, New York UCF Alumni Chapter; and Sara Singer, ’10, Southeast Florida UCF Alumni Chapter

Regional Club Volunteer of the Year—
Matthew Ayala, ’11, Southwest Florida UCF Alumni Club

Matthew just completed his third year as chair of the Southwest Florida UCF Alumni Club. Under his guidance, the club has seen a significant increase in its watch party attendance, as well as its Senior Sendoff event, after which other clubs now model their Senior Sendoffs.

“I look at this as a job,” he says. “Every day is another opportunity to enhance UCF’s brand, and I try to do something for the club each and every day.”

The other nominees included: Bakari Dowdell, ’14, Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club; and Becky Koziuk, ’03, Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club

Association Committee Volunteer of the Year—
Dan Ward, ’92, UCF Alumni Board of Directors/PR Committee

After serving a six-year term on the UCF Alumni Association Board of Directors, Dan returned this year to chair the public relations committee, developing strategies to increase awareness and relevance of the association and the Knights it serves.

“We’ve brought additional structure to the PR committee this year, and added a team of dedicated volunteers who give of their time and help us promote the association,” he says.

College Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Mark Blue, ’89, ’08, ’10, UCF College of Engineering & Computer Science Alumni Chapter

Mark currently serves as vice chair of the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter. Along with a fellow chapter member, he championed the college’s new Career Kickoff, which became a signature event for the chapter.

“I believe in direct engagement between students and alumni for the benefit of both,” he says. “As alumni, we can provide great insight, skills, training, guidance and contacts for the students. In return, the students infuse us with passion and energy for our university and our profession.”

The other nominees included: Tom Alexander, ’03, UCF Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Chapter; and Tiffany Carrion, ’08, UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter

Constituent Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Crystal Buit, ’06, UCF Community Volunteers Chapter

This past year, Crystal served as chair of the UCF Community Volunteers Chapter. Like other volunteer leaders, she says she wanted the year to be a success and had a passion for outreach and engagement, being sure to personally connect with as many alumni as she could at each event, letting them know she was thankful for their participation and welcomed their future involvement.

“I hope I have positively impacted the association by creating opportunities for alumni to reconnect with one another, while reminding those in the community of UCF’s tremendous and generous alumni presence and base,” Crystal says.

The other nominee was: Justina Oldehoff, ’09, UCF Young Alumni Chapter 

Student Volunteer of the Year—
Jill Dutmers, 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassador

Jill has been a 4EVER Knights Ambassador for the past three years. During her junior year, she served as secretary of the 4EK officer board. She also chaired Knights of Legend, 4EK’s annual networking event for students and alumni. This past year, she served as the student alumni association’s president.

“As an ambassador, I’m only required to work 50 hours’ worth of events,” Jill says. “Yet, I attend everything — every meeting, every event, every social gathering — regardless of whether I need the hours. It’s not that I don’t have coursework or law school applications or family obligations waiting for me at home. It’s just that I want to be the kind of outstanding leader who inspires those who follow through my actions rather than my words.”

The other nominee was: Mackenzie Chase, 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassador 

In addition, three alumni were honored with Shining Armor Awards, recognizing their chivalry to the 4EVER KNIGHTS program and the 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors by donating their time and talent to help 4EK succeed.

Those recipients were:

Peter Cranis, ’84, ’88

Mike Griffin, ’84

Tiffany Payne, ’97

Congrats to all!

VIEW EVENT PHOTO GALLERY

UCF Alumni Hosts 2015 Chapter & Club Council

CCC-awards-3
During the annual AlumKnights of the Roundtable: 2015 Chapter & Club Council, chapter and club chairs were presented with
framed photos of the Reflecting Pond as a token of thanks for all of their hard work and dedication to the UCF Alumni Association.

On Saturday, June 13, following the previous evening’s 8th Annual UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception, nearly 60 regional, college and special interest chapter and club alumni volunteers — from Central Florida and across the nation — attended the UCF Alumni Association’s AlumKnights of the Roundtable: 2015 Chapter & Club Council at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

The morning began with a keynote address and Q&A by Anthony Jenkins, Ph.D., UCF’s senior associate vice president and dean of students.

Next, alumni staff presented this year’s Chapter & Club Awards, which included:

  • The College Chapter Challenge Award tasked college-based alumni chapters to engage in professional development activities within their chapters that add value to their degrees and make meaningful connections back to the university. This year’s winner hosted an evening to provide alumni with a tool that’s invaluable in the industry in which they work — customer service training, provided by best-selling author Tim Miles. Congratulations to the Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter!
  • The Regional Chapter/Club Challenge Award tasked regional chapters with executing events with a strong university connection — which isn’t always easy when you’re not in Orlando! However, this year’s winner impressed the selection committee by working on events with local businesses in their community, while also working with the UCF regional campus closest to them on their signature event, Starry Knights. Last year, Starry Knights raised more than $6,000 for scholarships and, after this year’s event in July, they will be one step closer to their goal of endowing their chapter’s scholarship. Congratulations to the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter!
  • The Constituent Chapter Challenge Award tasked special interest chapters with creating opportunities to create meaningful connections with our student population. Chapter volunteers participated as panelists for the 4EVER KNIGHTS Alumni Speaker Series and served as mentors in the 4EK Connect program. Their signature professional development conference, PRO CON, raised $8,000 this year and allowed the chapter to engage with students in various stages of the UCF experience. Congratulations to the UCF Young Alumni Chapter!
  • The Chapter or Club of the Year Award was presented to the overall chapter or club that covered all of the bases in not only event programming, but in communicating with alumni and building meaningful connections. The selection committee was impressed by the winning group, not only for their philanthropic events — participating in multiple events through the year in addition to UCF’s annual day of service, Knights Give Back — but also in the goals they set and how they reached them. They’ve grown their LinkedIn following from just 10 members to nearly 300, while becoming a chapter only two years ago. The judges were thoroughly impressed! Congratulations to the Denver UCF Alumni Chapter!

Chapter and club leaders then participated in breakout sessions on the alumni association’s strategic plan goals of communication, engagement, relevance and funding. After lunch, they continued with roundtable discussions on board management, social media, student engagement, professional development/career-focused events, and partnerships.

Before wrapping up the day-long conference with a catered happy hour and UCF Bookstore merchandise sales, attendees got to meet and participate in a Q&A with Mike Morsberger, the new vice president for alumni relations and development, and CEO of the foundation.

Thank you to all of our dedicated alumni volunteers! Go Knights! Charge On!

VIEW EVENT PHOTO GALLERY

Transforming Bithlo

College of Health and Public Affairs hosts symposium on creating healthy communities

Bithlo

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Ask Central Floridians what comes to mind when they think of Bithlo, and you may hear words like “trailer park,” “Podunk” or “poor.” But, to the residents of this 10.9-square-mile town, it’s the place they call home.

Now, it’s transforming into a healthier community, thanks to some help from Orange County, United Global Outreach, Florida Hospital and Volunteer UCF.

On April 22, during a health care symposium hosted by the College of Health and Public Affairs, a panel of five guest speakers addressed the town’s residents, answering questions about the challenges they’ve faced, and how the community’s partners have addressed those challenges, as part of a Creating Healthy Communities initiative focused on improving quality of life in Central Florida.

Those panelists included Bithlo resident Enrique “Kiki” Lopez, former Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty, Tim McKinney from United Global Outreach, Verbelle Nielsen-Swanson from Florida Hospital and Anna Eskamani from Volunteer UCF.

McKinney explained that they asked residents of East Orlando’s Avalon Park — Bithlo’s more affluent neighbor — the following questions: “Is it OK for you to have brown water?” “Would you be OK with having an illegal dump in your backyard?” “Is it OK for your neighbors to deal with these problems?” And, each time, their answer was “no.”

“No zip code or neighborhood should determine your likelihood to succeed or fail,” McKinney says. “We’re trying to start a movement where neighbors care about neighbors, and friends care about friends … where the residents of Bithlo have an equal opportunity to succeed.”

Get Involved

Volunteer UCF
COHPA Alumni Chapter

2015 College of Business Hall of Fame

A formally dressed Knightro posed on the red carpet with his buddies, "24K" Kevin Smith, former Knights' running back,  and Jessica Reo, senior associate athletics director.
A formally dressed Knightro posed on the red carpet with his buddies, former Knights’ running back, “24K” Kevin Smith, 
and Jessica Reo, UCF senior associate athletics director, at the 2015 UCF College of Business Hall of Fame.

On Thursday, Feb. 26, alumni, faculty and friends walked the red carpet for a Hollywood-themed evening honoring three successful business grads, who were inducted into the 2015 College of Business Administration Hall of Fame.

Guests arrived at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel to camera-wielding “paparazzi,” and got to pose for pictures with a tux-clad Knightro. VIP guests and sponsors were treated to a special cocktail party before everyone headed into the main ballroom for hors d’oeuvres and networking.

Business students dressed as Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and Audrey Hepburn were on hand for more photo ops, which also included the iconic DeLorean and another student dressed as Doc Brown from the “Back to the Future” movie series. In addition, guests could take to the virtual skies in an Occulus Rift flight simulator before enjoying dinner and the awards ceremony.

The College of Business Administration Hall of Fame recognizes business alumni who have demonstrated exceptional professional success in their career fields. This highest honor is given to those who have been in the industry for at least 20 years and have brought notoriety to their alma mater through their professional achievements.

This year’s inductees included:

cba-hof2015-gearhartTherese Gearhart, ’85 | President, Southern Africa Business Unit, The Coca-Cola Company

Prior to her current role, Gearhart served as group marketing and commercial and customer director for the Eurasia and Africa Group, the most diverse operating group of The Coca-Cola Company, encompassing more than 90 countries.

cba-hof2015-lessMitch Less, ’86 | Partner, Grant Thornton LLP

Less is an audit partner with 25 years of experience with Grant Thornton, a global accounting and consulting firm. His professional experience includes serving clients in auditing and financial reporting, as well as consulting, with particular emphasis in large, privately owned businesses. In addition to being a client-service partner, he has held leadership roles in the Florida practice and is currently partner in charge of recruiting, and serves on the National Privately Held Business Initiative.

cba-hof2015-schmidJohn Schmid, ’92 | President, Schmid Construction

In 2002, Schmid activated his CGC license and started his own business in land development and commercial construction with the formation of Schmid Construction and Development Inc.

A hall of fame committee selected all of the evening’s awardees, which also included:

Partnership Awards

These awards are given to organizations that have initiated successful partnerships with, or on behalf of, the UCF College of Business Administration, resulting in the advancement of the college’s academic offerings or public outreach. These organizations embody the spirit of collaboration and are recognized for their initiative, leadership and involvement in the betterment of business education.

Entrepreneurial Alumni Awards

These awards are given to UCF alumni from any discipline who exemplify commitment, vision, calculated risk-taking and growth potential. In their professional careers, these Knights demonstrate perseverance in the face of adversity, and overcome obstacles. 

Notable Knights Awards

These awards are given to UCF business alumni who have displayed promise and excellence early on in their respective career paths.

In addition, a special recognition award was chosen by Dean Paul Jarley:

Lifetime of Service Award

  • Tom Messina, ’84 | Former Executive Director, UCF Alumni Association, and 2006 CBA Hall of Fame Inductee

After the evening of awards, many attendees hit the links on Friday morning for the college’s annual golf tournament, which took place at the Shingle Creek Golf Club. Proceeds from the tournament benefit UCF business student scholarships and alumni initiatives.

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners! Go Knights! Charge On!

View photo galleries:
CBA HALL OF FAME
CBA GOLF TOURNAMENT

View list of PAST CBA HALL OF FAME WINNERS.

Engineering the Magic

Engineering alumna gives fellow Knights a behind-the-scenes look at Walt Disney World’s four theme parks

cecs-disney

AlumKnights at Work | CECS Alumni Chapter

By Sarah Dillon, ’06

The UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter launched its new AlumKnights at Work series on Nov. 13, when 30 CECS alumni gathered at Walt Disney World’s Design & Engineering offices to meet UCF alumni working within Disney’s engineering departments and learn how they’re putting their degrees to work.

CECS alumna Katie Kelly, ’06, a mechanical engineering graduate, led the charge for the evening’s program and introduced alumni to Disney engineers.

Jeff Gloudeman, manager within architectural and facilities engineering, demonstrated the unique challenges that Disney engineers are faced with including limited attraction downtime and the uniqueness of each facility and attraction on property.

Mike Labonge, director of ride and show engineering, discussed the Disney workflow process and how Disney engineers are required to work with the creative team to develop innovative guest experiences.

Jerold Kaplan, director of projects and show systems, showed the group a four-year, time-lapse video of the new Fantasyland expansion, which recently opened at the Magic Kingdom Park, and discussed how civil, mechanical, electrical and control engineers were used in the building of the project.

Michael Tschanz, director of technology and analysis, demonstrated how computer simulation is changing the way that the Walt Disney Company is building its theme parks.

After hearing about how each department plays its part, the group adorned safety glasses and headed to the Walt Disney World’s Central Shops, to see where the magic of Disney is made and maintained. Alumni guests had the opportunity to see the building and refurbishing processes of many of the resorts’ attractions and show pieces, including those used at Space Mountain, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the Jungle Cruise. Disney engineers also discussed the importance of the refurbishments in continuing to provide guests with amazing experiences year after year, as well as how the operating design of each vehicle is designed specifically for each ride.

More Info

The AlumKnights at Work is a new professional development series created to spotlight UCF CECS alumni and their professions. The events look to explore the many ways our alumni are putting their degrees to work. CECS AlumKnights will host other alumni guests for event programs that will contain the technical applications used in their everyday work, as well as insider information on what’s new and interesting with their companies. Walt Disney World Design & Engineering was the first in the series. The second event will take place at Kennedy Space Center in spring 2015.

Mission: Mental Health for Veterans

Workshop targets trauma issues experienced by members of the military

Col. Jeffrey Yarvis (center in uniform) with School of Social Work Director Bonnie Yegidis (left in front row) and veterans who participated in the workshop
Col. Jeffrey Yarvis (center in uniform) and School of Social Work Director Bonnie Yegidis (left in front row) gathered with veterans who participated in the Subtleties of Trauma Spectrum Disorders workshop at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.
Veterans Reintegration Workshop | COHPA Alumni Chapter

By Karen Guin

United States Army Col. Jeffrey Yarvis drew from decades of experience in military social work to describe the challenges faced by returning veterans during an information-packed and deeply personnel presentation at UCF.

Yarvis is a decorated officer, a published scholar with a doctorate and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He currently serves as chief of the Department of Social Work at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, Texas.

Approximately 75 military veterans, students, and social work alumni and practitioners gathered to hear him speak at the “Subtleties of Trauma Spectrum Disorders” workshop offered Nov. 6 by the School of Social Work and College of Health and Public Affairs Alumni Chapter.

Yarvis shared data and statistics on U.S. veteran populations, and he showed video clips to illustrate changes in attitudes toward soldiers who are traumatized or grieving. He spoke extensively about the impact of war-related stress on veterans and their families.

“About 80 percent of returning veterans will exhibit some changes in behavior,” Yarvis said. “Those who are deployed more than once have a greater chance of a clinical diagnosis.”

Some returning veterans experience symptoms commonly associated with traumatic stress, such as fear, anxiety, grief, depression and sleep disturbance. A smaller number exhibit Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which may include physical symptoms and always includes these symptoms: 1) re-experiencing trauma, such as nightmares and flashbacks; 2) avoidance, such as feelings of numbness and detachment; and 3) arousal, such as anger and hypervigilance.

“These are very complex issues for mental health care givers to negotiate,” Yarvis said. “It’s hard to quantitate these symptoms, and they manifest themselves differently in different people.”

Yarvis described his own behavioral changes when he returned home from deployment. He exhibited risky and aberrant behavior, became easily frustrated, and turned to alcohol to deal with his insomnia. Several participants said they found his candidness quite helpful.

“He spoke your language,” said UCF student Lyndon Ortiz, a senior in social work and U.S. Marines veteran who served in Iraq until he was injured.

Yarvis is encouraged to see military social work coming into its own as a profession. “I love that UCF has a military program,” he said, referring to UCF’s Graduate Certificate in Military Social Work program, which prepares master’s degree-level social workers to help veterans and their families.

Social work senior Kristopher Vite plans to enroll in the program while pursuing his master’s degree in social work at UCF. He is a U.S. Army veteran, and like Ortiz he served in Iraq until he was injured. Both Vite and Ortiz aim to become Licensed Clinical Social Workers so they can work with veterans like themselves.

U.S. Air Force veteran and UCF alumnus Charlie Antoni (B.S.W., ’95) is already on the front lines, working as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and palliative care coordinator for the Orlando VA Medical Center. He is educating local physicians and nurses, and he is developing networks of community support that he will help place at the new VA hospital in Lake Nona.

Also on the front lines is U.S. Army veteran Richard Whitten, who works as a peer-support specialist at the Daytona Beach Vet Center. “A lot of the homeless vets I meet have PTSD symptoms, but it’s hard to convince them to come in for help,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot today that I can take back with me.”

Yarvis concluded his nearly three-hour presentation by commending the participants. “What you are doing is incredibly important,” he said. “You are helping veterans grieve and return to their lives.”

Marketing Wizard

Magical marketing behind Universal’s “Harry Potter” attraction casts alumna in 2014 Nicholson Alumni Hall of Fame

Former Nicholson School of Communication Hall of Fame inductees (left to right) Roger Pynn, ’73 (2000); Michele Cooper, ’83 (2002); Dan Ward, ’92 (2011); Heissam Jebailey, ’00 (2012); Kim Strong, ’93 (2006); and Peter Cranis, ’84 (2003), were happy to welcome 2014 inductee, Donna Mirus Bates, ’93 (center), to their elite group. (PHOTO: Shaloni Prine, '07)
Former Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame inductees (left to right) Roger Pynn, ’73 (2000);
Michele Cooper, ’83 (2002); Dan Ward, ’92 (2011); Heissam Jebailey, ’00 (2012); Kim Strong, ’93 (2006); and Peter Cranis, ’84 (2003), were happy to welcome 2014 inductee, Donna Mirus Bates, ’93 (center), to their elite group.
(PHOTO: Shaloni Prine, ’07)
Donna Mirus Bates, ’93 | Senior VP, Marketing Communications & Content Development, Universal Orlando Resort

Lightning never strikes twice — except in the case of Donna Mirus Bates, ’93, who worked on the marketing opportunity of a lifetime, then created an encore marketing campaign to reignite global excitement for a theme park expansion of infinite magnitude.

Bates and her team first helped to launch The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort in 2010. Following its success, Bates and her team partnered with Warner Bros., the “Harry Potter” cast and filmmakers, author J.K. Rowling, and a team of creative geniuses to once again capture the world’s imagination, bringing Diagon Alley to life for the devoted fans of the books and movies.

On Thursday, Nov. 6, Bates was celebrated for her successes, as well as her continued involvement at the university, becoming the 31st inductee in the UCF Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame, which was established in 2000.

Tom Alexander, ’03, chair of the NSC Alumni Chapter, emceed the luncheon, which was held at the Citrus Club in downtown Orlando. He was joined by Robert Chandler, NSC director and professor, who presented Bates with her award.

“Through all of her actions and efforts, Donna truly exemplifies integrity, community, creativity and excellence, making her a remarkable Knight,” Chandler said.

Fellow NSC Hall of Fame inductees, and members of the NSC Alumni Chapter and UCF Alumni Association, as well as Bates’ co-workers were in attendance to congratulate her.

“I’m incredibly proud to be a graduate of the Nicholson School of Communication at UCF,” Bates said. “I love seeing the high caliber of candidates our program is producing, and I’m so honored to be a member of the NSC Alumni Hall of Fame.”

UCF Nicholson School of Communication Director and Professor Robert Chandler presents 2014 Hall of Fame inductee, Donna Mirus Bates, '93, with her award.
Donna Mirus Bates, ’93, 2014 Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame inductee,  receives her award from Robert Chandler, NSC director and professor.

Know When to Hold ’em…

Legal Knights & Friends Alumni Chapter hosts annual Casino Knight

CasinoKnight-web

UCF alumni and friends from the Central Florida legal community mingled at Ember in downtown Orlando for a fun night of blackjack, craps, roulette and poker at the Legal Knights & Friends Alumni Chapter‘s annual Casino Knight on Oct. 29.

Beginners and high rollers alike enjoyed fine wines, craft beers and hors d’oeuvres, while pressing their luck with the house.

Proceeds from the event will benefit scholarships for students in pre-law programs.

“Since this organization started, we’ve always focused ourselves on providing UCF students aspiring to go to or are already in law school with something many different lawyers in our local community didn’t have while in school: Perspective and the opportunity to help fund the start of their careers,” says Mike Mendez, ’04, immediate past chair of the Legal Knights & Friends Alumni Chapter. “I’ve met all of the recipients of the scholarships we’ve awarded throughout the years, and there’s no better feeling than seeing the difference we’ve made for these hard-working students.”

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