Dean’s Sendoff Surprise

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 20, 2017) – As the first member of her family born in America, Melonie Sexton ’07 was a first generation student at UCF when she received an email from Dean Alvin Wang about participating in a research project.

Before she graduated, Wang encouraged her to attend graduate school and continued to be her mentor, even when she moved to Tennessee to pursue a doctoral psychology program at Vanderbilt University.

Sexton, who now teaches at Valencia College, said over the last decade Wang has become more than a mentor to her. She considers him a friend.

So when she heard that the Burnett Honors College was honoring Wang’s service to the university with an endowed scholarship in his name, she knew immediately she wanted to contribute to it.

“He’s the first person outside of my family to tell me that I could actually do anything with my life. Your parents are supposed to say, ‘Yeah you’re going to be a doctor, a lawyer.’ But hearing it from a dean was the push I needed,” she said. “He deserves having a scholarship in his name. I think that’s what he embodies. It makes perfect sense to me.”

Wang announced in fall 2016 that he would be stepping down as dean by August 2017 to focus his time in the classroom as a psychology professor. At the time, the Burnett Honors College staff collaborated on the idea of a proper parting gift.

At Wednesday’s celebration of his tenure, the Burnett Honors College surprised him with the Alvin Y. Wang Endowed Scholarship, which has grown to nearly $38,000 in commitments and will support undergraduate research candidates in the honors college.

Of the 74 donors who contributed, 31 are alumni.

“This has been a great surprise. Thank you for making a gift like this to our students possible,” Wang said. “I always ask myself this question – how did someone like me, who aspired to become faculty and a professor, end up becoming a dean? The reason why I was able to stay in an administrative role for 16 years and enjoy it all the time was because of the people I was able to work with. It begins with my wonderful staff. It certainly includes the students. Meeting the talented, the interesting, the inquisitive student at Honors makes my day. It’s a very enriching, positive experience that I would never want to replace.”

Wang became a member of UCF’s faculty in 1987 and later joined the Burnett Honors College in fall 2001 as an associate dean. He served as interim dean for one year in 2005 before officially being named to the position in fall 2006.

Over the last 12 years under his leadership, the Burnett Honors College has flourished. In that time, 42 students have received national awards, including one Rhodes Scholar and 35 Fulbright Scholars.

In fall 2016, 289 National Merit Scholars were enrolled in the honors college, marking a university record and the second-most among Florida state universities that year.

Wang implemented the Burnett Honors College Medical Scholars Program, which reserves a spot for undergraduates in UCF’s College of Medicine provided that the students meet all the eligibility and performance criteria included in the program.

To enhance learning for honors students, he initiated international study abroad programs, developed service-learning opportunities and led highly successful philanthropic efforts to support new programs. In fact, three service learning trips to Nicaragua, South Africa and Mexico are slated for later this spring.

“I think Alvin would agree that the most important measures of success are the enriched academic experiences and support given to our nearly 5,500 university honors and honors in the majors student that have graduated while he’s been dean. Their dreams and accomplishments have been shaped in part by their time here at the honors college,” said Martin Dupuis, associate dean of the Burnett Honors College. “He supports everyone to excel at what they do. He established a very high professional standard by example, and those of us who have worked with him are better for it.”

Perhaps the most telling sign of his influence are those students, like Sexton, who have a pursued a path as educators themselves, following in his footsteps. Sexton said the biggest lesson she learned from him was to pay it forward.

“Be a role model and pay it forward. That’s what I try to live by,” she said. “If just one of my students said ‘Dr. Sexton said I can do it, and so I can,’ then I feel like I’ve truly paid it forward.”

Contributions are still being accepted for the Alvin Y. Wang Endowed Scholarship. Visit www.ucffoundation.org/alvinwang

Knight’s Legacy Lives On Through Scholarships

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 6, 2017) – Before her death, Kailyn Jones was on the path to becoming a second-generation UCF alumna. She wanted to help people, especially children, as a physical therapist someday.

Although her own dream will tragically remain unrealized, two other students will have help achieving theirs thanks to a scholarship established in Jones’ name.

“Kailyn was such a good person. She loved to do good. I think she would be absolutely honored to do this for someone else,” said Ricardo San Jose, Kailyn’s uncle, a UCF alumnus and a current student in UCF’s family nurse practitioner program. “She saved a couple lives with her organ donation. Her heart is still beating in another right now.”

A scholarship was set up in memory of Kailyn Jones, a student at UCF who died in a car accident in June 2016.

Jones was killed in a car accident on Jun. 12, 2016 — the same date as the Pulse nightclub shooting. She was on her way home from babysitting family members at her grandparents’ house when another car drove into on-coming traffic.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the driver hit a concrete barrier near a traffic circle at Maitland Summit Boulevard and Pembrook Drive, flipped and landed on top of Jones’ Honda Civic, records show.

San Jose, who works as an emergency room nurse, awoke early the next morning to find at least a dozen missed calls from his sister Lillian San Jose, Kailyn’s stepmother.

San Jose’s partner, Chris Blackwell, who is an associate professor at UCF, had known Kailyn for seven years and was as heartbroken as the rest of her family.

“I’ve worked in the ER, trauma, I’ve seen everything. But when it happens to you, there’s nothing that can prepare you for that,” he said. “It’s this instant sense of loss.”

At her funeral everyone wore purple for lupus awareness, a condition she was diagnosed with. Person after person spoke about Jones’ impact on their life and what a light she was to them. Blackwell felt compelled to do something.

When it was mentioned in her eulogy that she was going to join fellow family members as an alumna of UCF, Blackwell said the idea to do a scholarship clicked for him. He made a $1,000 donation and his family’s foundation, the Gary L. Blackwell Family Foundation, also made a $1,000 donation. These funds were used to support two student scholarships during the spring semester.

“I thought it would be a nice honor for her family to create a scholarship. Not only because it’s their alma mater, but maybe it would give them some comfort to see that somebody is pursing the same steps that their daughter would have pursued, and will have a somewhat easier way to do that,” Blackwell said.

On April 4, Jessica Recio, a nursing student who was awarded one of the scholarships, met Jones’ parents at the College of Nursing’s annual scholarship luncheon where students are invited to meet their donors for the first time. Blackwell and San Jose felt it was appropriate for Jones’ parents to attend in their place.

Kailyn Jones’ family members, Maurice Jones (purple shirt) and Lillian San Jose (black and white dress), met one of the scholarship recipients, Jessica Recio (right of San Jose).

Recio is a part-time graduate student in the middle of her second semester in UCF’s family nurse practitioner program. She has worked full time as a nurse at Orlando Regional Medical Center for the last year. She hopes to pursue a career in pediatrics after she graduates in 2019.

Recio said when she first applied for the scholarship, she wasn’t aware of the meaning behind it but has learned more about Jones over the last few months.

“It makes me sad but at the same time I’m really honored. I hope that I can make their family happy and proud,” Recio said. “I still have student loans from getting my nursing degree in the first place, so I am grateful to have help with this degree.”

Cami Osier, a physical therapy student and the other scholarship recipient, earned her bachelor’s degree in sports and exercise science as a Burnett Honors Student in 2015. She is currently pursuing a doctorate at UCF and hopes to one day become a pediatric physical therapist, just like Jones.

Jones will be one of the 18 students whose lives will be honored on April 11 at the Eternal Knights Memorial Service, an annual day of remembrance for the UCF community, family and friends for the lives of those lost in the past 12 months.

San Jose and Blackwell both said that Jones was a connector for their family and her friends, and they acknowledged she is still finding ways to do that, even after her death.

“She could walk into a room and just brighten everyone’s life. Full of humor, could make the grumpiest person laugh,” her uncle said. “It’s still difficult knowing that she’s gone. And it always will be I think. I think our family is dealing with it in healthy ways, and she would be proud of us.”

 

To learn more about supporting student scholarships at UCF, please visit ucffoundation.org.

Salute to Steven Sotloff

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Adam Manno, the first scholarship recipient of the The Steven Sotloff Memorial Endowed Fund

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct. 20, 2016) – Shirley and Art Sotloff believe that their son, Steven, found his true calling while he was a student at UCF from 2002-04.

It’s that connection that prompted them to help create a scholarship in his name when Steven was killed after being taken hostage as a freelance journalist by terrorist group ISIS in 2014.

Recently, the Sotloffs visited campus to commemorate the first awarded scholarship from The Steven Sotloff Memorial Endowed Fund to senior Adam Manno.

“Knowing that our son’s name lives on, and that the endowment will touch the lives of students with similar interests as his own, truly touches our entire family,” Shirley said.

Manno is expected to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in political science. He was born in the Dominican Republic but attended high school in South Florida, where he got his first taste of journalism while working for his school newspaper.

He chose UCF because it encompassed everything he was looking for: a big school in an interesting and vibrant city, a well-renowned journalism department and a financial aid offer “thanks to UCF’s vision of education for all.”

“That’s one thing I really love about the school – it makes sure everyone who wants an education can get one,” he said. “It’s been very good to me.”

Manno was a sophomore at the time of Sotloff’s tragic death. He attended the vigil that was held on campus a day after the news broke worldwide. Manno said it both saddened and mobilized him.

“I just want to write and shed light on the stories that deserve to be told,” he said. “Like Steven did.”

Before Steven died, he managed to smuggle out a letter to his parents. They said that he wrote of his desire to give back.

After his death, the Sotloffs helped start the fund, which provides scholarship support to UCF students majoring in journalism as well as funding for symposia, lectures and other programming to advance journalism and journalism education.

Manno was honored to be chosen as the first recipient and understands the significance it carries.

“This is a scholarship directly tied to someone’s sacrifice for my profession. He was a former UCF student out there pursuing his life’s work. That’s all he was doing, and that’s what led to his death. It means more to me than just the money,” Manno said. “It means that I have to work hard to prove myself worthy of it. It’s an incentive that comes with a big responsibility.”

The fund still has room for growth. The Nicholson family, benefactors of the Nicholson School of Communication, pledged to match every dollar given up to $25,000.

Sonja and Tony Nicholson have spent time getting to know the Sotloffs and didn’t hesitate to extend their heartfelt support.

“They want their son’s name to live on. We felt that was a very small gesture on our part. We can’t ease that pain for them, but we can help carry his name on,” she said. “We just feel like [giving back is] so important because it touches so many lives, and we care about the students.”

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Art (left) and Shirley (middle) Sotloff along with College of Sciences Dean Michael D. Johnson

Those interested in donating can do so by visiting: https://www.ucffoundation.org/sotloff.

While on campus, the Sotloffs told Steven’s story to a room of College of Sciences scholarship recipients and their donors. There were some tears and a nod to Steven’s presence, who they believed was looking down with gratitude.

“The years he spent here, he really enjoyed, especially the rugby team. That was his passion and his love,” Art said.

As the Sotloffs said their goodbyes, Shirley looked back and said quietly, “our hearts are here.”

In Her Own Words: How Scholarships Changed My Life

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Lisa Kauffman is a dual major (radio television; political science) in the College of Sciences and expects to graduate in December 2016. She is this year’s recipient of the Sonja Rose Nicholson Endowed Scholarship and the Margaret Gerow/Daniel J. May Communications Scholarship. She currently interns within the Orange County Government Communications Division and hopes to pursue a career in the field.

“I began my journey at UCF as an 18-year-old freshman. I was a pretty naïve kid who didn’t know what I wanted to study or what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what I was good at, and I wasn’t really confident in myself or my abilities. But I was excited to learn and I was ready for the adventure.

“It was a few years ago when I applied for scholarships through the College of Sciences. I remember the day when I was notified I received my first scholarship very clearly. It was one of the last days of final exams. I had just finished a three-hour exam and I was exhausted. I had way more caffeine than sleep in me at this point. I had my last exam just 30 minutes after this final was completed. I was dreading it. I was on my way to the exam and I decided to check my email. I opened it up and saw I was awarded a scholarship. I was elated. Suddenly all of my exhaustion lifted out of me, and I was motivated to ace that exam and finish the semester strong. That motivation, that inspiration didn’t leave me when I completed that exam. It didn’t leave me the next day or months. It stayed with me for years.

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Lisa Kauffman met the Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dogs at her internship with the Orange County Government Communications Division

“Knowing that someone read over your degree audit and saw how hard you worked in your classes, or saw your resume or read about your passions and goals in the essay you wrote when you applied, and said, ‘This student has potential. I’m going to invest in this student,’ — that is one of the most inspiring and motivational moments for a student. By recognizing our potential, you’re helping us recognize the potential within ourselves. You give us motivation and the confidence in our abilities to pursue our passion.

“Through my past internships, campus involvement and confidence in my abilities, I am leaving UCF knowing the path I want to pursue. For me, my passion is political and government media and communications. I am currently interning at Orange County Government in the Communications Division. I know my journey wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for my donors and the incredible support and inspiration they provided me with. As I said, I started college as a naïve freshman who was unsure of myself. I am leaving college as someone who recognizes my own potential and who is confident in my passion and my abilities. I will never lose that excitement to learn. I love UCF. I love going here. So thank you, donors. Thank you for investing in us and helping us recognize our own potential. I truly hope and plan to one day be in your seats and help students see their own potential.”

Spread Of Support

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By College of Sciences Communications

ORLANDO, Fla. (Sept. 14, 2016) – There are diehard Knights, and then there are Carol Lawrence, ’71, and her husband, Jim, ’70.

Their lives are so entwined with UCF that John T. Washington, UCF’s first African-American faculty member and for whom a campus building is named after, officiated their wedding in 1972.

Carol and her husband have remained active with UCF as philanthropists and proud Knight fans over the last four decades. In early August, the Lawrences established the Jim and Carol Lawrence Funds, making a generous donation to UCF.

“UCF is the reason we have been married almost 44 years so we wanted to acknowledge its contribution to our relationship,” Carol said. “Also, because we benefited greatly from our FTU educations, we felt it would be appropriate to give back to UCF by leaving it a portion of our estate.”

These funds will support departments, clubs and organizations across the university for which Jim and Carol maintain a passionate advocacy. Seventy percent of the gift will support six different academic departments and initiatives, with half of their gift allocated to the Department of Psychology and the Department of Political Science – Jim’s and Carol’s majors, respectively.

The fund will also create an endowed fund in sociology, coastal research, public administration and Africana studies. This support will be used for scholarships, resources, faculty salaries and grants. In addition, the funds will provide operational support for the UCF Equestrian Club and UCF Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving.

As unwavering Knight Fans, the Lawrences also designated 25 percent of the fund to support UCF Athletics to establish student-athlete scholarships.

Due in part to her continued partnership with UCF, her accomplishments as a professional and her extensive community engagement, Carol was honored by the College of Sciences this year with the Outstanding AlumKnight award.

“I am honored to count Carol Lawrence as our AlumKnight,” said Kerstin Hamann, Ph.D., Pegasus Professor and chair of the Department of Political Science. “Carol embodies UCF values through her professional success, community involvement, and her enduring dedication to UCF. She is a wonderful role model for our students and we are delighted to present her the award.”

The Lawrences attended UCF when it was still Florida Technological University, just a few years after FTU welcomed its inaugural class.

Jim graduated in 1970 with his undergraduate degree in psychology before earning his master’s degree in psychology from Middle Tennessee State University and doctoral degree in psychology and child development from the University of Kansas.

Carol graduated with her undergraduate degree in political science/public administration in 1971.

“That graduating class was so small, maybe 400 or less,” Carol recalled. “The graduation ceremony was held off campus.”

After graduating from UCF, Carol earned her master’s degree in public administration from Florida Atlantic University and went on to work as a research associate at the FAU-FIU Joint Center for Environmental and Urban Problems. There, she worked with the late Dr. John M. DeGrove, the architect of Florida’s 1985 landmark growth management legislation.

Carol left the center in 1976 to work as a budget analyst and lobbyist for the Miami-Dade County State Legislature. The couple moved back to central Florida in 1980 where both found success as licensed real estate brokers. They remain active brokers of their 32-year old RE/MAX office.

However, after more than 25 years since leaving UCF, Carol decided in 1998 that being owner and manager of a company wasn’t her only end goal and enrolled in the University of Orlando School Of Law, now known as Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law.

“I was 56 years old when I enrolled,” Lawrence said. “That’s an age when most people are contemplating retirement, and I set out to fulfill the dream of being an attorney that I had since I was 14 years old.”

Upon passing the exam in 2002, Lawrence was sworn in as a member of the Florida Bar. After years of working only for herself, she described the move to start her own law firm as a natural progression.

She opened her law firm in 2003 and a title insurance agency in 2006, both of which she still owns and operates today in addition to her role as an owner and broker of her and Jim’s RE/MAX franchise.

Although she now works up to 13 hours per day at three different jobs and volunteers for numerous community activities, Carol has no intention of giving up her dynamic life.

“When someone asks me why I haven’t retired, I have a go-to reply,” she said. “‘Retire? Why, I’m just getting started.’”

Knights Participate in Third Annual
Student Philanthropy Week

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It takes many hands to smoothly and effectively run the second-largest university in the nation. Busy students often don’t realize where our school’s resources come from, so the UCF Student Philanthropy Council started spreading the word of philanthropic giving with Project ’63.

The mission of Project ’63 is to remind students of the importance of philanthropy and its impact on higher education. To accomplish this, the SPC is hosting its third annual Student Philanthropy Week, bringing the spirit of giving back to campus.

This year’s celebration takes place Feb. 22-25, and includes the following daily events to inspire tradition:

Monday – Education Day
Students host a table outside the Student Union and play educational/trivia games.

Tuesday – Appreciation Day
Students sign a “Thank You” banner for young alumni donors, which helps stewardship with donors and gives students a better appreciation for and understanding of how philanthropy impacts their education.

On both Monday and Tuesday, the Student Philanthropy Council also introduces Philanthropy Cab, like the TV show “CA$H CAB,” where members pick up students and drive them to their classes on a golf cart, all the while testing their knowledge and school pride!

Wednesday – Participation Day
Students focus on peer-to-peer solicitation to cultivate donations in anticipation of launching a senior giving program.

Thursday – Celebration Day
The week concludes with all of the previous days’ activities, plus the Student Philanthropy Symposium, featuring a panel of some of the UCF Alumni Association’s 30 under 30 award winners.

“Student Philanthropy Week is one of the first opportunities many students have to learn about the impact of philanthropy on their education,” says Danielle Warren, coordinator of the UCF Fund. “Facilitating experiences through which students might recognize that many academic, scholarship and programmatic opportunities are funded by donations cultivates the spirit of philanthropy on campus — an important step toward assuring the future of private support at UCF.”

For more information about the Student Philanthropy Council and Student Philanthropy Week, contact Danielle at 407.882.1254.

UCF Alumni Association Aids Students with Scholarships

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By Isabelle D’Antonio
Contributing Writer, Central Florida Future

The UCF Alumni Association collects thousands of dollars each year to give right back to students through its many scholarships.

Senior Erica Chu received the alumni association’s UCF Alumni Legacy Scholarship — a $1,500 award for outstanding students with parents who graduated from UCF — to make her dreams of attending UCF possible.

“I was ecstatic when I found out I won the scholarship,” the biomedical sciences major says. “Every little thing counts when you’re paying for college.”

Chu says receiving the scholarship has not only helped her financially, but has also increased her networking with alumni, including those who selected her to win the scholarship.

“It’s great to meet people who graduated from UCF, and are now so successful and want to give back,” she says. “That’s something I want to do when I graduate.”

The alumni association awards 25 scholarships annually, including scholarships from alumni chapters and clubs.

“Last year, we had a good year in our endowments, and we were able to increase the majority of the scholarships by $500,” explains Carla Cordoba, associate director of alumni and student relations.

In fact, in 2015, the alumni association awarded more than $55,000 in scholarships to UCF students.

Heather Junod, director of the UCF Fund, says there are many ways the alumni association receives the money to fund these scholarships.

The UCF Fund utilizes e-solicitation, direct mail, phone campaigns, faculty/staff campaigns and a student philanthropy program to reach out to potential donors. Staffers prefer more face-to-face solicitation rather than phone calls because it often garners better results. For example, the average donation is $86 on the phone, $270 for e-solicitation and $130 by mail, but face-to-face gifts are much larger — sometimes in the millions.

Junod says the UCF Fund asks every alumnus and alumna with up-to-date information to donate, which is more than 226,000 Knights. Of this, about 7,000 donate, or a little more than 3 percent of alumni.

“At our call center, students like to talk to alumni about donating to scholarships because the student callers are often on scholarships,” Junod explains.

To apply for alumni scholarships, students must fill out the applications on their myUCF account. If a student is eligible for an alumni scholarship, it will automatically appear in his/her scholarship listing. Most scholarships also require an essay, recommendation letter and activities summary.

“Scholarships aren’t going to come to you — you have to look for them,” Chu says. “The alumni association does a great job advertising the scholarships. People just have to take the next step and actually apply.”

She also says it is important for students to be themselves when writing application essays.

“They can tell in your writing if you’re being fake or lying,” she says. “Stand out and have a personal story that they can connect to.”

In Chu’s application, she wrote a personal essay about how UCF has opened so many doors for her father. She also described how the university has already given her innumerable opportunities, such as research and networking.

After the applications are submitted, the four-month-long reviewing process begins.

“We want to make sure we are being diligent in reading everything and paying attention because students took the time to submit their applications,” Cordoba says.

A team of student assistants first checks the applicants’ eligibility to make sure they meet all of the necessary criteria for the scholarship, and then the applicants are scored using a point system.

“For example, if you’re a member of a club, you get so many points. If you’re an officer, you get more points,” Cordoba explains. “Everybody gets the same formula applied to them across the board.”

Once the applicants have been rated, a selection committee of alumni, faculty and staff reviews the top five to 10 students. The committee then gives its recommendations and a staff committee selects the final winners.

Reaching out through email, postcards and banner advertisements, there’s been an increase in students who have been applying for the alumni association’s scholarships.

“We had more than 500 applications in 2015, which is a third more than we had the year before,” Cordoba says. “Students are taking advantage of the scholarships!”

However, with more applicants comes more competition.

“The caliber of students who are applying is amazing,” Cordoba says. “We’re choosing from the top echelon of students who are extremely involved with their university and in their communities.”

Alumni who wish to contribute can name a scholarship for $10,000, or they can endow a scholarship for $25,000, which gets invested and earns appreciation.

“The idea is to keep building the endowment so it lives on in perpetuity,” Cordoba says.

How to apply for UCF Alumni Association scholarships:

  1. Visit ucfalumni.com/scholarships. (The application window opens Feb. 1 and closes Feb. 28 each year.)
  2. Read all scholarship criteria and complete all required supporting documents.
  3. Log on to myUCF.
  4. Select “Student Self Service.”
  5. Click on “Scholarship Application” > “Home Page” > “Add New Scholarship.”
  6. Complete and submit application(s).

Questions?

Read the Scholarship FAQ, or contact Carla Cordoba at 407.823.3453.

This story appeared Dec. 4, 2015, in the Central Florida Future online. It has been updated and edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article.

Battling PTSD at the UCF RESTORES Clinic

With an intensive new approach to exposure therapy, UCF clinicians and graduate students are finding remarkable success in helping veterans master traumatic memories. But the Department of Defense grant that funds their work runs out next year.

Just reading the labels on the rows of little jars seems like enough to trigger a traumatic memory: CORDITE, DIESEL FUEL, BURNING TRASH, BODY ODOR, GUNPOWDER, BURNT HAIR. And if it doesn’t, the carefully concocted scents inside — delivered to patients’ nostrils with precision fans while they “see” corresponding visuals inside high-tech headsets — almost certainly will.

But that’s exactly the idea behind this kind of exposure therapy — to deliberately return  patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, via virtual reality, to the scenes and situations that haunt them. “If we do this repeatedly,” says UCF psychology professor Deborah Beidel, “say, ‘okay, take me through what happened to you,’ while the memory may remain, it loses its ability to elicit anxiety and allows them to once again function in the world.”

It’s by no means an easy process though. With virtual reality headsets, audio equipment, scent machines and even a pad underfoot to simulate the vibration of explosions, Beidel and her colleagues and graduate students can recreate with almost disturbing fidelity the exact traumatic events that patients remember. On occasion, the responses have been intense enough that patients have vomited during therapy.

Still, it works, as it did for Marine First Sergeant Doug Hester, who came to UCF RESTORES — an on-campus clinic for active duty personnel and veterans who developed PTSD as a result of serving in the Iraq and/or Afghanistan conflicts — struggling with anxiety and hypervigilance and growing steadily more isolated from his former life and the people in it.

After a 17-week program of virtual reality exposure therapy to address anxiety, combined with carefully designed group therapy to address anger, social isolation and depression, Hester says he’s back to his old self. “We got in there and addressed the issue,” he says, which was exactly what he wanted to do, instead of more traditional talk therapy or medication.

In fact, that combination of intense exposure therapy with targeted group therapy works for a remarkable number of patients. At the end of the treatment — either the 17-week program Hester did or an intensive, three-week program — more than 60 percent of patients no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.

The problem, to put it very simply, is there are too many Hesters and not enough Beidels. The $5 million Department of Defense grant that allowed Beidel to establish the clinic in 2011 only covers treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, not those from other conflicts. Nor does it allow Beidel and her colleagues to treat other groups, like first responders, who actually suffer from PTSD at a higher rate than the military. “We turn away a lot of people,” she says.

Even among the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that UCF RESTORES is funded to treat, the clinic is hardly able to scratch the surface of the overwhelming need for care. Patients — who are referred from all over the country by Veterans Administration personnel, private clinicians and on-base psychologists — go through treatment in groups of four to six at a time, which doesn’t do much to defray the long waits — sometimes over a year — for PTSD treatment from the VA.

The only realistic answer, of course, lies in exponentially increasing the number of clinicians trained in this new kind of treatment. “A lot of clinicians are afraid to do exposure therapy with people with combat-related PTSD,” says Beidel. “They don’t know how to do it, and they believe the myths. We have data to show that even in this intensive program, people don’t increase alcohol use, don’t become more suicidal. None of those things that people think should happen, happen.”

So, alongside treating as many patients as possible, another of Beidel’s primary objectives is training as many clinicians as possible. The way she sees it, her graduate students will leave campus and establish their own practices or clinics, or join the faculty at other universities, where they’ll not only treat more patients but also train more clinicians, who in turn will train more, creating a ripple effect that has the potential to make a real difference.

Additionally, Beidel hopes to bring postdoctoral fellows, medical students, practicing clinicians and others to the clinic to train them in the same interventions. The demand is already there, she says, just not the funding, since current grants don’t cover training.

That crucial Department of Defense grant runs out soon, and at the point, absent some additional funding source, Beidel and her colleagues will essentially shut the doors. They’ll continue their research, of course, and continue training graduate students, but there won’t be any more money to pay for the costs of treatment — equipment, supplies, and the licensed clinicians required to keep the doors open. “You can’t run a project with people with this level of emotional distress with graduate students,” Beidel says, “because they can’t be available for emergencies, they can’t take on the number of participants that are in need of treatment, they can’t keep a clinic open 40 hours a week, which is what we need.”

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UCF RESTORES

Swinging for Scholarships

UCF alumna puts on her dancing shoes to help raise money for nursing students

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Joyce DeGennaro, ’03, practices with dance partner Tony Sterling for Femmes de Coeur’s “Let Us Entertain You” competition
to help raise money for UCF nursing scholarships. (Photo: Zack Thomas, UCF Foundation)

By Angie Lewis, ’03

When Joyce DeGennaro, ’03, decided to apply for the College of Nursing’s accelerated B.S.N. program, she needed some assistance to help ease the financial burden of pursuing another degree. After all, she was a little older, and had a 6-month-old baby and mortgage at the time. That’s when she discovered the Femmes de Coeur scholarship, for which she applied and was awarded, helping her to pay for tuition and books, and graduate without student-loan debt in 2009.

Femmes de Coeur (Women of Heart) is an Orlando-based, not-for-profit volunteer organization that regularly hosts fundraising events to support numerous local community projects, including nursing scholarships at UCF, Valencia College, Seminole State College and the Florida Hospital’s Adventist University of Health Sciences.

Becoming a nurse wasn’t DeGennaro’s original plan, however. She grew up thinking she wanted to become a counselor or forensic psychologist, which is why she earned her first UCF bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in criminal justice, in 2003. But, it was her work in Florida Hospital’s inpatient placement program that inspired her to go back to school to become a nurse.

Forever thankful for her opportunity to follow her passion, DeGennaro recently had the opportunity to participate in Femmes de Coeur’s annual dance competition, “Let Us Entertain You,” which raises money for exact scholarship that helped put her through nursing school.

She had no previous dance experience before the competition, but was in good hands with her 19-year dancing veteran and partner, Tony Sterling. The pair practiced twice a week since March, and took the stage June 14 in the ballroom at Church Street Station, dancing the West Coast Swing to Florida-Georgia Line’s “Cruise.” While they didn’t take the top prize, they did place third, which means about $10,000 in nursing scholarships for UCF.

JoyceDeGennaro-dance2

“It was my way of being able to give back to something that helped me.” DeGennaro says.

She also gives back daily, in a different way — helping to educate future nurses in the College of Nursing, where she was hired as a permanent nursing instructor in January.

Her journey from practical to practicum began while she was working as a nurse in the multisystem-transplant ICU at Florida Hospital South, where she became a certified preceptor and discovered a love for teaching. So, once again, DeGennaro re-enrolled at UCF — this time in the nurse educator master’s program, from which she graduated in 2013.

“I love being a nurse,” she says. “I love caring for people. [But,] as a nurse educator, I’m able to impart my knowledge and experience into my students. Every time they help or care for someone, I feel as though I’m a part of it. So, in essence, I’m able to touch more people’s lives than ever before!”

While she’s not planning to make a career out of dancing, DeGennaro is planning to continue her UCF education, beginning her Ph.D. in summer 2016, with plans to do research in critical care.

UCF Welcomes New Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development

MichaelMorsberger

By Chad Binette
UCF News and Information

Michael J. Morsberger, the University of Central Florida’s new vice president for alumni relations and development, has achieved record-breaking successes at the George Washington University, Duke University, the University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins University.

Most recently, under Morsberger’s leadership, George Washington received the two largest gifts in its 190-year history, a total of $80 million to address public health challenges. The university also doubled the amount it raised for financial aid to more than $35 million last year.

“Mike’s leadership has produced transformational gifts that continue to change lives at some of our nation’s leading institutions and around the world,” UCF President John C. Hitt said. “He excels at motivating his staff members, donors, administrators and faculty members to dream big for the benefit of students and the community.”

Morsberger, who was selected following a national search, will begin working at UCF on June 1. He will serve as CEO of the UCF Foundation and lead all fundraising activities for the university, and he will oversee the university’s relationships with its 250,000 alumni through the UCF Alumni Association. The Foundation and Alumni Association combined have nearly 120 staff members.

Morsberger served for nearly five years as George Washington’s vice president for development and alumni relations. He resigned in October 2014 for family reasons.

Previously, he was vice president for development and alumni affairs at Duke Medicine. Morsberger also worked as associate vice president of development and alumni relations for the University of Virginia’s Health System and executive director of the UVa Health Foundation.

He served at Johns Hopkins for nine years, starting as a major gifts officer and rising to chief development officer of the medical center’s renowned cancer center. He was associated with what was then the largest gift in Johns Hopkins’ history, a $150 million pledge to rename the comprehensive cancer center by philanthropist Sidney Kimmel.

Morsberger, the first in his family to attend college, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Radford University and a master’s degree in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. He and his wife, Marybeth, were college sweethearts, and they have two grown children, Courtney and Allison.

“I am honored to accept this important role and serve the vast UCF community,” Morsberger said. “It is clear to me that the University of Central Florida at age 50 is at an inflection point in its remarkable history — and the next decade will surely prove to be very exciting.”

Morsberger joins the UCF Foundation in the midst of a fundraising campaign that aims to raise $500 million by 2018. Those donations support student scholarships, faculty positions, new facilities and more.