Tips from A to Z for your #UCFiesta Trip to AZ!

Out of 292,117 UCF alumni, 148, 572 do not live in Central Florida. Imagine shopping in Target and seeing someone else’s hometown team represented instead of yours. Upsetting, right? This is the life over half of our alumni population must lead. But thanks to our UCF Alumni chapters and clubs, a common bond is found, Watch Parties are hosted and UCF pride is reaching far beyond the 32816 area code.

One of the spots it has spread to is Phoenix, AZ. (Hey! That’s where the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl is!)

Chris Fleming ’06, who moved out to Arizona for work in February of 2016, is the current chair of the Phoenix UCF Alumni Club.

“Getting involved with the alumni group out here is actually one of the first things I did when I found out I was moving,” Chris explains. “I wanted to figure out if there was a group because if there wasn’t I was going to start one.”

Chris is really passionate about the importance of alumni chapters and clubs. He’s also really helpful as a guide for us longtime Floridians that don’t really know what to expect when planning a trip to Arizona. So we asked him about both!

What was it like for you when you first got involved with the Phoenix UCF Alumni Club?

My wife and I moved here after the 0-12 season, so our Alumni group had kind of been getting kicked around. We had some bad luck before I got here, it seemed like every restaurant we went to got closed down the next year. But my goal was and is to make this the best alumni group in the country. For last year’s season, we had our first kickoff for a game at 4 o’clock on a Thursday. We had found a bar called Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers — which is a great name for a place and the food is amazing — we asked if we could start coming as an alumni group. That first game was just my wife and I, and Adam, who was the chair before me. Now we’re somewhere between 20-30 people on a Saturday. But according to LinkedIn there are 500 alumni in Phoenix! My goal is the group keeps growing.

Why do you think it matters that alumni far and wide be a part of community together?

We already have a common bond and that’s the hardest thing about a community. In so many neighborhoods across the country, people close their garage doors, go inside and don’t ever talk to each other. So when we were building this community, we knew we already had something in common. Honestly, at a lot of our Watch Parties there’s a lot of not-watching going on. It’s more of catching up with each other.

Let’s talk Fiesta. What was your response when you found out that was the bowl game UCF was heading to?

It’s good to have it close to the west coast. I know it’s a lot harder for people to travel from the east coast, but there are a lot of hungry fans who couldn’t make it last year to the Peach Bowl from places like San Francisco, Vegas, Seattle…and now they can come and see their team play. Plus, Phoenix is probably one of the most friendly cities I’ve ever been to. It’s a really cool town.

What’s the food situation?

First off, right next to the airport there’s a place called Speedy Street Tacos. Whenever someone comes to town, that’s where I take them. It’s a little shipping container that they cut out a restaurant in and they cook all the steak and chicken outside on a charcoal grill. And Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers is a great spot to get together and they definitely deserve some of our business for being as great to the Alumni group as they are. There’s really good food across the board. There’s a big influence from Chicago and the Midwest, so there’s a lot of really good deep dish pizza.

Besides the game, what should people do when they’re in town?

As far as things to do in the valley, golfing is a big one. I think we have more golf courses than McDonald’s. There’s a cool little course in north Phoenix called Rancho Manana that I always take people to when they come to town. It’s up and down the side of a mountain. It’s a real outdoor city, so Camelback Mountain is great. There’s a lot of ability to hike this time of year because it’s 70 degrees and gorgeous outside.

Let’s pretend I’m a lifelong Floridian who doesn’t understand enough about geography to know how to pack for a trip to Arizona. What advice would you give me?

Well, there’s no humidity. So bring chap-stick and lotion. It does get down in the low 50s, high 40s this time of year, so at night you are going to need a jacket. It’s the opposite of Florida, with the mountains and the ability to be outside and hike — it’s a different atmosphere.


We know a lot of you are heading out to the Phoenix area for the first time ever and are clamoring for more tips for how to spend your time. We’ve gotten some great feedback through friends on social media that we thought we’d pass along!


Cartel Coffee and Jasmine Jo – Jay Veniard

You have to go to Dutch Bros. Super popular, several locations and there’s a secret online menu! Also, Snooze for breakfast and coffee. The pancakes are amazing -Jessica Combest


Watch basketball! There are a couple Phoenix Suns games happening right around the day of the Fiesta Bowl, so catch one.

Taste it Tours. It’s a food tour with a 5-star rating on Trip Advisor and exposes guests to 5-6 of the not-tourist trap restaurants in Scottsdale, Phoenix and Gilbert. – Jay Veniard

Must check out Old Town Scottsdale. Great shopping off Main Street, Old Town also has free trolleys you can jump on and off. A lot of people like the Musical Instrument Museum. I recommend going to Sedona, it’s breathtaking. -Jessica Combest



Barrio Queen. Order the green chili pork appetizer, the pollo and chorizo taco and the cochinita pibil taco, along with a house margarita. And Cornish Pasty. Everything on their menu is amazing and made from scratch. I like their salmon pasty and Pilgrim pasty. You also have to try the tomato soup! – Jay Venierd



Peach Bowl Weekend: Tips To Live Like An ATL Local

Atlanta UCF Alumni Chapter

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 21, 2017) – When news broke that the UCF football team was headed to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Jan. 1, perhaps no one was more overjoyed than the Atlanta UCF Alumni Chapter.

With roughly 4,200 UCF graduates living in the Atlanta metro area, it’s one of the largest hot spots in the country for alumni.

“I was bombarded with messages. Everyone was so excited,” said Falini Shah ’14, chair of the Atlanta chapter. “I know we’re going to leave our mark here, and everybody is going to enjoy their time in Atlanta.”

Atlanta’s group is one of 25 active UCF Alumni chapters or clubs around the country.

Shah recently moved to Atlanta from Denver, where she served as the chair-elect for one year. The regional chapter and club program has helped her network and create new friendships as she has started her career in healthcare. She is a big advocate for getting involved with the chapter and club program as a way to grow professionally and stay connected to UCF.

“If there’s any hesitation, I’ve found it’s related to time commitment. A lot of people say, ‘I already work 50-60 hour weeks and I have a family and I like to travel a lot, I just don’t think I’m going to be as available.’ But it’s really what you make it,” she said. “So any sort of involvement you’re able to give back to a university that has given so much to you, I would say take up that opportunity. You just never know who you’re going to meet at these events.”

The group has been helping prepare the city transform into #Knightlanta. Shah and several devoted members of the chapter recently traveled around the city hanging UCF flags at local establishments to help make UCF fans feel more at home when they arrive on bowl weekend.

“When I was going around to these places asking them to hang up our flags, all I had to say was we were able to sell out our allotment of 13,000 tickets in less than a day, and everyone I talked to was like, ‘Yeah, put up some flags! We’re happy to have you guys!’” Shah said. “We’ve done so well for ourselves this year, and it shows in how strongly Knight Nation supports UCF.”

The chapter also has some tips to share with fellow Knights who are traveling to its city. Read on for Shah’s local guide to Atlanta.

>Where is the best place for a cup of coffee that’s not Starbucks?
Dancing Goats Coffee Bar. They have a few locations around the city, and in addition to their specialty coffees, they have a lot of great pastries that they make on site.

>I’ve been to Six Flags, the Coca-Cola Factory and the Georgia Aquarium. What are some other sites I shouldn’t miss?
Ponce City Market. During the day it’s all retail shops and food. There’s a winery, a brewery, a couple of small plate restaurants of any cuisine you can think of. On Friday and Saturday nights they turn the entire roof into a mini amusement park with a putt-putt golf course and carnival games. They also have an ice skating rink right now through the holidays.
Atlanta has a lot of history and we have several museums. One of my favorites is called the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. The Atlanta Botanical Garden is also something I’d recommend for everyone, especially during the holidays. They have special light displays.

>Where can I go to get a jump on my New Year’s resolution to exercise more?
The BeltLine. Also, the Chattahoochee River Trails. You can walk, bike or run on various trails and there are beautiful views year round. It’s great for all ages.

>When it’s any weekend but the Peach Bowl, where can I hang out with fellow Knights in Atlanta?
The hardest part about Atlanta is that it’s so big. Our watch parties are held at The Bird Rotisserie & Sports, which is in between the metropolitan area and the suburbs, and my goal has been to make sure that we have events in different parts of Atlanta so everyone can be involved in one way or another.


Welcome, AlumKnights! (What New Graduates Need to Know)


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. :)

Alumni Chapters/Clubs Participate in Knights Give Back 2015

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

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.

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!

UCF Alumni Honors 2015 Jefferson Award Recipients

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!


UCF Alumni Hosts 2015 Chapter & Club Council

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!


Knights Jam to Knights at SunFest

Many alumni musicians took part in the SunFest Music Festival in Palm Beach, Fla., including Jonnie Morgan Band members  Jeremy Adams, '12 (far left); Corey Paul, '13 (second from left); Jonnie Morgan, '10 (front, center); and Brandon Sollins, '11 (far right).  (Photo:
Many alumni musicians took part in the SunFest Music Festival in Palm Beach, Fla., including Jonnie Morgan Band members
Jeremy Adams, ’12 (far left); Corey Paul, ’13 (second from left); Jonnie Morgan, ’10 (front, center); and Brandon Sollins, ’11 (far right).

By Angie Lewis, ’03

The Palm Beach UCF Alumni Chapter gathered April 30 to rock out to fellow Knights in FELICITY, the Jonnie Morgan Band, and Kasson, all of whom performed during the SunFest Music Festival, which hosts 50 bands on three stages over five days at the West Palm Beach waterfront.

Damien Fagiolino, ’14, is the vocalist for American Hard Rock band FELICITY. Their first single, “Gold,” was selected by the Remix Your Future company to be put on the “Best of the City: Orlando Edition” album, and has has more than 70,000 streams.

Four of the six members of horn-infused modern rock band, the Jonnie Morgan Band, are alumni, who include Jonnie Morgan, ’10, vocalist and rhythm guitarist; Brandon Sollins, ’11, lead guitarist; Jeremy Adams, ’12, bassist; and Corey Paul, ’13, trombonist. JMB headlined the 2013 Florida Music Festival and opened up for Cheap Trick in West Palm Beach, as well as played at the House of Blues Orlando, and UCF Homecoming in 2012.

Jordan Telesca, ’14, is the guitarist, saxophonist and vocalist for Kasson, which plays rock/gritty pop mixed with influences of indie/alternative. They’ve performed at The Big Orlando Festival and Warped Tour, playing alongside bands like Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Yellowcard, Anberlin (with frontman Stephen Christian, ’05), Paramore, and more.

Rock on, Knights!

UCF Professors Lead Boston Alumni on Exploration of Ancient Maya Civilization

The Boston UCF Alumni Club and UCF College of Sciences presented A Knight at the Museum on Friday, April 10, 2015,
during which Pegasus Professors and archaeologists Diane and Arlen Chase (center) spoke with alumni about some of the artifacts they excavated for the largest Maya exhibit in the nation.

By Barbara LeBlanc
Freelance Writer, UCF Foundation Inc.

Thousands of people have visited “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” since the exhibition premiered at the Science Museum of Minnesota in 2013. But on Friday night, only UCF alumni were lucky enough to be guided through the exhibit by the very archaeologists who excavated many of the artifacts on display.

Pegasus Professors Arlen and Diane Chase were at the Boston Museum of Science to lead about 70 UCF alumni on a special viewing of the largest Maya exhibit ever mounted in the United States. Michael Johnson, dean of the UCF College of Sciences and a Boston native, was also on hand.

Only a portion of the full exhibit is on display in Boston, as it travels around the country, but it includes ample materials unearthed by the Chases and the UCF students who dig alongside them in Belize. The husband-and-wife team have been leading excavations of Maya treasures there since 1979, first at Santa Rita Corozal and since 1985 at Caracol.

The Chases, who came to UCF in 1984 to establish a program in Maya archaeology, work only with UCF students or graduates at Caracol, which at 200 square kilometers is the largest known Maya site. The couple was fresh off their 2015 digging season when they traveled to Boston to point out exhibit highlights for alumni and answer their questions. The Chases consulted heavily on the exhibit.

“We read every label and proofed them,” said Diane of the displays of their work. She serves as UCF’s vice provost for academic program quality. Arlen is an associate dean in the College of Sciences.

“I already had tickets to come to this exhibit, so I was planning to come anyway,” said Roberto Santamaria ’09, deputy director of public health for the town of Framingham, Mass. “But it’s unbelievable that we can be with the people who actually did the archaeology. It’s a little surreal.”

Ariel Shapiro ’11, a behavior therapist for Southbay Mental Health, said she never thought she’d see a UCF alumni event in Massachusetts. “I thought I’d have to go to Florida,” she said. She was so pleased when she heard of the Museum of Science event, she immediately decided to attend.

Santamaria is Costa Rican, and was thrilled to see his own culture and heritage presented in such depth. And the fact that professors from his alma mater were involved? “That makes it even better,” he said.


More Info

Palm Beach Chapter Provides Valentine’s Dinner with Love


By Angie Lewis, ’03

On Feb. 11, the Palm Beach UCF Alumni Chapter made its second visit to the Quantum House, which lessens the burdens for families with children receiving treatment in Palm Beach County for serious medical conditions.

This time, chapter volunteers prepared a Valentine’s Day-themed meal, complete with heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches, organic tomato soup and a salad bar with heart-shaped tomatoes. After dinner, the kids got to decorate cupcakes, brownies and chocolate-covered strawberries with a variety of red and pink icing and candies. (The groceries were provided by Loggerhead Marina.)

“Our group left feeling inspired,” says Brittany Miller, ’07, chair of the Palm Beach UCF Alumni Chapter. “Many of our volunteers were asking how they can stay involved with the Quantum House on their own time.”

The chapter participates in many different volunteer projects throughout the year. It’s previously worked with Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Boys Town South Florida, Big Heart Basket Brigade and Paint Your Heart Out/United Way.

Miller adds, “It’s great being able to connect our UCF alumni with these organizations, broadening the impact we have in the Palm Beach community.”


Mascot Marathon

Knightro and the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter join forces for a run in the sun

Although Knightro was light on his feet, he just wasn't as fast as Florida Tech's Pete the Panther,  who took first place in the Melbourne Music Marathon Weekend's Mascot Marathon.
Although Knightro was light on his feet, he just wasn’t as fast as Florida Tech’s Pete the Panther,
who took first place in the Melbourne Music Marathon Weekend’s Mascot Marathon.

On Saturday, Jan. 31, Knightro joined other mascots, including Eastern Florida State College’s Titan, the Brevard County Manatees’ Manny the Manatee, Astronaut High School’s War Eagle, and Dunkin’ Donuts’ Cuppy and Sprinkles, in a 262-foot run that took place before the start of the Florida Today 5K.

Although Florida Tech’s Pete the Panther took first place in the mascot race, all of the characters, including Knightro, and the UCF Cheerleaders, stayed to cheer on the 5K runners.

In addition, the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter hosted a tent for the day’s festivities, providing water and participant support to racers.

More Info

Read the Florida Today story, which includes more photos and videos from the race.

PHOTO: Melbourne Music Marathon Weekend