Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – June 25, 2018

Photo of John and Martha Hitt

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!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – June 18, 2018

Graphic of UCF Football

1. Some scheduling news out of UCF Football: When the Knights host South Carolina State in week two of the 2018 college football season, kickoff at Spectrum Stadium will be 6 p.m. on ESPN3. UCF also announced it has finalized its non-conference slate for the 2019 season with the addition of FAMU as its season-opening matchup.

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.

Family Guy: Alumnus Unites Local Dads With Inclusive Fatherhood Group

Photo of Marlon Gutierrez and his daughter
Marlon Gutierrez ’11 was inspired to start a local fatherhood support group after his daughter, Isabella, was born in 2016

By Jenna Marina Lee

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.

Better Together
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.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – June 11, 2018

Photo of President Hitt and Knightro1. 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.

Photo of Pulse mural at UCF
A mural, located on the Student Union, memorializes Juan Ramon Guerrero and Christopher Andrew “Drew” Leinonen ’07 ’09MA, two Knights killed on June 12, 2016.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – May 21, 2018

UCF Football Game Time Graphic

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.

4. The first game time of the 2018 football season has been set. UCF’s Sept. 15 road trip to North Carolina will be played at noon in Chapel Hill. The matchup between the Knights and the Tar Heels will be broadcast on either ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU, with the exact network to be named at a later date. Complete 2018 Schedule

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.

Five Tips From Hospitality Pros That Apply To Any Job

Photo of Hospitality Knight Panelists
(From right to left): Panelists Allen Johnson ’81, Michelle Jenkinson ’07, Marylouise Fitzgibbon ’94 and moderator Tom Hope ’09MBA take a selfie with Hospitality Knight audience

By Jenna Marina Lee

Event Photo Gallery

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.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – May 14, 2018

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.

 

Photo of UCF Rowing championship
The rowing team won its fourth conference championship in a row over the weekend.

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.

 

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – May 7, 2018

Photo of Jaha Dukureh
Jaha Dukureh (Photo by UCF Knight News)

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


2. Speaking of graduation, the spring class was the last for President John C. Hitt, who will be retiring from the presidency in June. Since its inception, the university has awarded 318,000 degrees, 82 percent of them while Hitt was president.

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!

P.S. Go buy your mom a card and some UCF gear from Barnes & Noble  — Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13.

2018 NFL Draft: Brought To You By UCF Alumni

Photo of UCF alumni Brandon Naidus and Eric DeSalvo
Brandon Naidus ’12 (left, Arizona Cardinals) and Eric DeSalvo ’09 (right, UCF Knights) are social media managers who covered every big moment of the 2018 NFL Draft.

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 30, 2018) – While four Knights fulfilled lifelong dreams of hearing their names called during the 2018 NFL Draft, another pair of Knights were working behind the scenes to capture every moment.

Alumni Eric DeSalvo ’09 and Brandon Naidus ’12 are the maestros of the social media accounts for their respective teams.

DeSalvo, who majored in interpersonal/organizational communication within the College of Sciences, is the assistant athletics director for #content within the UCF Athletics brand advancement office.

Naidus, a management alumnus from the Burnett Honors College, is the social media manager for the Arizona Cardinals and previously worked with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ social media department for four years.

Photo of UCF alumni Eric DeSalvo and Brandon Naidus
Eric DeSalvo (left) and Brandon Naidus (right) during ChargeOn Tour

The two share more than a similar job. In fact, Naidus was an undergraduate student intern for UCF Athletics Communications when DeSalvo took his first job out of graduate school in 2011 as the UCF assistant director of communications for the baseball and volleyball teams.

They keep in touch often, and that was certainly the case over the weekend as they both worked to churn out quality content worthy of viral numbers.

DeSalvo and UCF were one of the select college brands whose digital content teams were invited to the draft at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Meanwhile, Naidus and his department covered the draft remotely from the media conference room in the Arizona Cardinals facility.

They still might be slightly sleep deprived from the big weekend, but they took some time to share a glimpse into the strategy, the creativity and the heart it takes every day to do their jobs.

You both have covered drafts before in some capacity. How did you apply what you’ve learned from those experiences and adapt your strategy for success this year?
DeSalvo: “The first draft I was really involved with was when Blake Bortles was drafted in 2014 and went third overall. We had a template created for a graphic that allowed us to interchange the team he was drafted to. It also had the round and the overall pick. People might not remember, but I screwed that up. I put he was taken sixth overall because I had put that in the template as a placeholder, and when he was picked third, I forgot to change it and didn’t realize it until about three minutes after I tweeted it. A coworker spotted it, and I had to delete the tweet with well over 100 retweets. I fixed it and put it back out and all was OK.

“That actually happened again the following year when Breshad Perriman went in the first round. It said the 25th pick when he was the 26th. So, we have learned, you don’t worry about rounds and picks. It’s all about what team the the guy is going to. After that, I measure our success on how much original, on-site content we can get and if we can get video or photos straight from the guys to show that these lifelong dreams that came true. We knew we were going to have our stuff prepared, but success in my mind, was getting more of the stuff that hits the hearts of our fans and the NFL team’s fans.”

Naidus: “My first draft I was wide-eyed, not sure what to expect. I was in charge of updating the website and handling all social media postings for the Jaguars in 2013 when I was an intern. In 2014, I still did that and that was the year they took Blake and Storm (Johnson). This year was the sixth draft I have been a part of, and I was responsible for leading the charge of what kind of social content we created and put out there. It’s interesting to see how things evolve. In 2013, I was preparing headshots for the website. Now I’m preparing graphics and tweets that can be shared by our current players to welcome our draft picks to the team – which a few years ago wasn’t even a thought. We want to be informative and engaging. Our fans have a lot of outlets they can go to for news, but we want them to come to us first.”

What kind of preparation do you need to do before a big event like the draft?
DeSalvo: “Twitter is always going to be first because it’s the immediate news. Before the draft, we uploaded 32 versions of a highlight video for each player, for each team they could potentially go to. We had seven guys who could have been drafted. So seven guys multiplied by 32 possible teams meant we uploaded 224 into the back end of Twitter, before the draft, with the message of the post already crafted. I had Megan Herboth in the communications department send that out from Orlando because I was on site in Dallas. I don’t ever want to jeopardize connectivity because every second is precious when it comes to getting this post out. People can’t wait to celebrate big news. Having it out immediately and accurately is the biggest part to our success when it comes to those big numbers.”

Naidus: “I basically looked at every mock draft and said ‘OK, what are positions of need for our team?’ and created content based on the top few players at every single position. You try and do as much work on the front end to save yourself on the back end to keep from getting trampled. We had a whole list of content with all the pieces we planned on putting out leading up to the draft; the days of the draft; and the day after the draft. All the graphics, all the video elements. Could they pick someone we didn’t anticipate them to pick? Sure. But you prepare as best you can and then I assigned responsibilities to our social team so everyone knew what they were responsible for handling.”

Many have said they expect that this year’s draft will forever be known as the year of Shaquem Griffin. Eric, what was it like to be there to experience it?
DeSalvo: “It was pretty incredible to see the amount of coverage he got. He was a day-3 pick that received top-5 pick coverage. It was a roller coaster because he initially wasn’t there to hear his name called. He was with his family at the hotel. So, I was determined to get crowd reaction from whatever team he went to. Seattle had two really close picks back to back in the fifth round, so I figured it would be his time more than ever, hedged my bet and waited by their section in the stadium. Sure enough, when he got picked they went crazy. Being able to get a different angle – that in-the-moment reaction – was awesome to capture. When he did get to the stadium, it was really neat just being able to see everybody yelling his name as he was riding in his golf cart to go to the ESPN and NFL Network sets. Everyone from security guards to producers wanted to say hi and congratulate him. A lot of people congratulated his mom. So being able to experience that and just see the love he received from every single person first hand was pretty incredible. ”

What does the average person not know about your job?
DeSalvo: “The amount of people you collaborate with. They don’t understand how many people are contributing to what we’re putting out there. The amount of edits that can happen. The amount of stuff that’s done on the fly. You have to be so reactionary in this business. You always have to be on. I mean, I had no idea when Alabama was giving their rings to their players, and all of a sudden, we’re getting bombarded by people, including Alabama players, tagging us in pictures of their rings. I’m flattered they are thinking about us, but to be able to pivot on the fly and come up with some replies to people, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not just a job. There’s a lot more to it than just having fun and posting messages, and sometimes it’s very tough to turn it off. Social media can consume your life. Shout out to my wife, Jessica, for putting up with me in this field. I know she enjoys seeing me love what I do, but I can’t appreciate her enough.”

Naidus: “Probably the amount of hours that go into it. I’ve had drafts where I’ve worked over 50 hours in three days. The preparation that goes into it from a content perspective – how prepared you have to be on the front end in order to succeed as everything is happening. It’s not just grabbing a cool video as a guy walks by. I would be shocked if any team has a heads up on who their picks are. I had no idea who we were taking this year. In the six years I’ve done this, I’ve only had a heads up once for a first-round pick. People probably think, ‘Oh if he works for the team, he probably knows.’ Not really. It doesn’t really work like that.”

Your role means you’re often the voice of your team. How do you feel about having that responsibility?
DeSalvo: “I’m in a unique position because I’m an alumnus of the school I work for. People give back to their alma maters in different ways: monetarily, service and by working there. I feel like this is the biggest way I’ve been able to give back to UCF – a school that’s been a part of my life since day one with my dad graduating from the Class of ’75. I’m able to utilize my passion on a daily basis because I’m a fan, too. Whenever we’re putting out messages and we’re ‘yelling’ in all caps, it’s because we feel that way. I’m not just putting that out to fake emotion. It’s real. And that’s what awesome because there are so many people who work here and graduated from here who feel the same way. Being at the controls of us in our golden years right now, that’s something that I wouldn’t change for the world. It’s my way of giving back to my alma mater in maybe one of the most unique ways possible.”

Naidus: “There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of pressure, so it’s a little nerve-wracking, but it’s exciting, too, and it has offered me a lot of unique opportunities. Last year we drafted Haason Reddick, and I was sitting at the press conference next to his mother, who was crying because her son realized his dream. In that moment, it’s hard not to get choked up. Being a part of such a special day for people who have worked their whole lives toward something, it’s really cool to be a part of that.”

Share your most memorable behind-the-scenes moment from this year’s draft.
DeSalvo: “I think it was riding in the freight elevator with the Griffin family and getting the picture where I said, yup you guys broke twitter. It was just so quiet. Nobody was really talking, and they decided to go through their phones and check social media really quick. I’ve always wanted a picture like that because I was envisioning in my head it would look cool in black and white. Weirdly, two of the top moments of my career have happened in a freight elevator. The other was my first trip to New York City last year and riding in the freight elevator at Madison Square Garden standing next to Johnny Dawkins. I remember thinking to myself, he’s probably ridden in this elevator so many times, and knowing the kind of people who have gone through this elevator. So it came full circle again this weekend. That moment was definitely up there.”

Naidus: “The coolest aspect for me was how quickly and efficiently our social media team produced content. The person that leads our efforts with social media videos, Jesse, was working his first NFL Draft. While this was the second draft for our social graphics guy, Jackson, this was the first time he was responsible for creating the bulk of our graphics for the draft. Over the three days, there is so much information and so much content, it can get overwhelming at times. I thought they handled it incredibly well. Their sense of accomplishment after the last pick was made was a great moment. I thought our entire broadcasting/digital department, which we fall under, churned out great content pieces for various mediums leading up to and during the NFL Draft.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – April 23, 2018


1. UCF’s Shaquem Griffin ’16 will attend the NFL Draft at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium in Texas on April 26-28, as he looks to join his brother Shaquill ’16 (Seattle Seahawks) in the league. Griffin was featured on Monday’s TODAY show on NBC.

2. The UCF programming team finished first place in North America and 10th worldwide in the Association of Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Contest held in Beijing. UCF defeated teams from Harvard, MIT and Stanford, among others, en route to earning the program’s highest finish in more than three decades of competition.

3. Renovation of the Reflecting Pond is nearly complete, and the iconic spot on campus is expected to be back in action by April 30. The Reflecting Pond was drained in October after Spirit Splash and has been undergoing an extensive renovation ever since. Pro tip for graduates looking to snap some photos: in order to maintain the pond’s beauty and functionality, please do not throw glitter in the pond.

4. Everyone’s favorite Jeopardy! contestant, UCF sophomore Hannah Sage, finished third in the game show’s College Championship finals, collecting $25,000. Sage received a resounding welcome from fans in Spectrum Stadium at the UCF football team’s Spring Game.

5. Although there are still sports to be played throughout the spring, UCF clinched the War on I4 trophy against rival USF for the second year in a row. The women’s golf team’s runner-up performance at the American Athletic Conference Championship last week sealed the deal, giving the Knights bragging rights for another year. #ChargeOn