2. In case you missed it, big news from everyone’s favorite big man, Tacko Fall, who chose to forego this year’s NBA Draft and return to UCF for his junior season in 2017-18. Read his heartfelt letter to fans about his decision.
3. As the Orlando community prepares for the one-year mark of the Pulse tragedy, UCF has several events scheduled to honor and remember the 49 lives taken on June 12, 2016. The public is encouraged to come together at blood drive, remembrance ceremony and art exhibit all scheduled to take place on campus June 8.
4. After graduating May 6 with her bachelor’s degree in political science, Burnett Honors College alumna Rebecca Fate almost aced the LSAT and is headed to Harvard. And how sweet is this – she credits an elementary school teacher for her success. Good luck Rebecca, and we expect to see you sporting black and gold around Harvard Yard!
5. UCF’s rise to national prominence under the direction of President John C. Hitt is featured in the latest edition of Florida Trend magazine, which hit stands over the weekend. “Strength in Numbers” is the cover story in the June edition that focuses on higher education in the state.
ORLANDO, Fla. (May 26, 2017) – Years ago, when anyone asked biology alumna Anai Colyer ’14 what she wanted to be when she grew up, she dreamed of a life as a wildlife documentarist.
She didn’t view it as a practical choice – rather, a choice of the heart. A self-taught photographer, Colyer’s hobby has led to an Instagram portfolio filled of magical moments underwater in the springs outside of Gainesville; endangered Key deer in Key West; Wyoming moose and hugging monkeys.
“What I’ve learned from this experience is never underestimate yourself,” she said. “If you have a passion for something and really want to do something, do it. Don’t hold back. Just go for it.”
Colyer’s love of wildlife and the world began when she was 8 years old. Her father took her underwater for the first time, sharing his tank with her, when they two spotted a pack of dolphins.
Colyer still remembers trying to reach out to the pack as they clicked sounds to communicate. From that moment, she was hooked.
A few years later, she became fascinated with photography after picking up a camera spontaneously to photograph dolphins jumping in the wake of her aunt’s boat.
“I got addicted to capturing that moment,” she said. “I wanted to share that experience and what I was seeing and maybe get people to get outside themselves and witness it.”
After graduating in 2014, she struggled to find the first open door to a full-time job and a career. So she started working part time at a local dive shop and kept snapping photos.
This past February, a friend called her to suggest she enter herself in National Geographic’s WILD TO INSPIRE filmmaking contest. The grand prize was a trip to Africa to document wildlife for “Nat Geo WILD” viewers.
Disheartened about her struggle to find a job, she did not feel confident about entering the contest.
“I was reluctant. I told him, ‘You’re out of your mind. I’ve never done a film in my life. I don’t know what I’m doing. There’s only two weeks left to submit,’” she recalled. “He was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, you’re right. You don’t need to go to Africa. Just forget about it.’”
In those two weeks, a sleep-deprived Colyer filmed everything she could while she also learned how to edit audio and video and create a script for her short film.
As she considered storyline options, she connected with one friend’s piece of advice: “The only story you’re going to be able to tell well is the story that you know.”
“That really hit home,” she said. “I thought, well, the story I know is I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never done this before.”
When she learned she was one of three finalists in the contest, her immediate reaction ranged from tears to pure joy to wondering if the message she received was a mistake.
Two weeks later at the 2017 Sun Valley Film Fest in Idaho, she heard her name called as the first female winner in the 4-year-old competition.
“My whole world opened up,” she said.
She won’t know where she is headed in Africa until two to four weeks ahead of her trip. She does know for sure she wants to extend her time there and take in as much as possible.
“I probably won’t come back,” Colyer somewhat joked of her first trip overseas.
Until then she is continuing to practice her film-making skills and still always dreaming of what lies ahead.
“I don’t want to go through my life, look back and say, ‘What if?’ At this stage of life, I just want to travel. I want to experience things,” she said. “It’s the beauty and the awe of nature that keeps me going.”
2. With wildlife photography, my No. 1 tip is to study the subject and learn to predict its behavior so you’re ready to capture the “wow moment” when it happens.
3. With underwater photography, my No. 1 rule is to get close to your subject. Rule No. 2: get closer. Rule No. 3: when you think you’re close enough, you’re not! Get closer! Water reduces color, contrast and sharpness. So to achieve a better photo reduce the space between you and your subject as much as possible.
4. Every photographer, no matter how good they are, still encounters missed shots and gear malfunctions. The key is to never give up.
1. Congrats to the UCF baseball team and first-year head coach Greg Lovelady who hit it out of the park over the weekend with their series win over nationally ranked USF for the Knights’ first conference championship since 2004. UCF clinched the No. 1 seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament in Clearwater and will face East Carolina on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. For complete championship information, including how to buy tickets — we’re looking at you Tampa Knights – please visit theamerican.org.
2. If you know a young alumnus or young alumna doing great work, we want to hear about it! Nominations for UCF Alumni’s 30 Under 30 are now open until May 28. FYI, those nominated must be age 30 or under on June 30, 2017, and self-nominations are not considered.
3. Just when you thought graduation was over… we bring you the graduating class of the College of Medicine! Congrats to the 113 M.D. students who received their degrees over the weekend, including this former Broadway actor.
4. UCF Alumni is hosting several Freshman Welcome events around the state in June and alumni are welcome to attend to support our newest Knights! These free events with light hors d’ouvres and beverages are a great opportunity to share your black and gold bond with the next generation. Check for events in your area:
*Southwest Florida – June 3, 2-4 p.m.
*Jacksonville – June 4, 1-3 p.m.
*Southeast Florida – June 8, 6-8 p.m.
*Tampa — June 28, 6-8 p.m.
1. The ChargeOn Tour begins Tuesday and will feature UCF head coaches Scott Frost (football) and Johnny Dawkins (men’s basketball), Director of Athletics Danny White and other Knights coaches over five stops from May 16-18. Here are the full details – including RSVP links – for the events.
2. In case you missed it, the Central Florida community came together last week to break ground on the new downtown campus that is expected to serve 7,700 students from UCF and Valencia College when it opens in 2019.
3. Shout out to the UCF rowing team for earning its third-straight American Athletic Conference trophy over the weekend! With the win, these Knights join the UCF women’s golf and indoor track and field teams as league champions this year.
Speaking of conference championships — the baseball team has a chance to clinch its first crown since 2004. And they are about to go head-to-head against USF for all the marbles this Thursday-Saturday at home in the final series of the regular season. You won’t want to miss this. Buy tickets
4. The U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence will look to UCF for training and research support as a result of a new memorandum of understanding. UCF is qualified to provide the training because of its status as a designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by both the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
5. A group of UCF students who make up the Lunar Knights Mining Club will compete this month in NASA’s national Robotic Mining Competition that was developed to help in the exploration of Mars. The competition is designed so NASA can be presented with outside ideas of how to mine on Mars, a goal of future space exploration.
ORLANDO, Fla. (May 12, 2017) – The groundbreaking of the UCF Downtown campus on Thursday had a little extra pop of flavor thanks to local businessmen and brothers, Brandon ’10 and Adam Chandler.
The owners of Pop Parlour, a gourmet popsicle and coffee shop, crafted the Partnership Pop of a strawberry, mango and chocolate mashup to commemorate the special occasion. The three flavors symbolize the school colors of Valencia and UCF, which will share the new campus in Parramore that is expected to serve 7,700 students from both institutions when it opens in 2019.
The Chandler brothers were eager to be involved in the historic day and were excited about the blend of flavors.
“We wanted to make sure above anything it tasted the best it could. Black isn’t an easy color to do, but the chocolate is pretty close and it’s delicious. This year, the strawberries and mangos have been the best fruits I’ve ever gotten. It really came together nicely,” said Brandon, who graduated from UCF with an accounting degree. “Doing things like this is a really good way to be in the community, and it’s a city and a school I love.”
Pop Parlour will continue selling its stock of the Partnership Pop in both its downtown and UCF locations for at least the next several weeks. Although strawberry season is ending soon, Brandon said that they will incorporate the pop in their menu as much as possible.
It’s the latest inspiration in a string of unforeseen circumstances that have helped grow their brand.
“[The business has] taken a life that I’m really proud of, but I didn’t see coming four years ago,” Brandon said.
When Brandon graduated from UCF in 2010, he had several self-proclaimed terrible business ideas, from purchasing a bankrupt amusement park to buying a soccer team in England.
His mom, Babette, talked him out of it each time. When he mentioned popsicles, he got her approval and that was good enough for him to leave his full-time steady income job to pursue the venture.
Given their family history, it’s not a surprise.
The name of the Chandler brothers’ business, Pop Parlour, is an ode to their grandfather, Joseph, whom they called PopPop.
Joseph returned to the States after World War II and interviewed for a job at Rieck’s Dairy in Pittsburgh (later to become Sealtest). Apparently, he impressed the interviewer so much that he invited Joseph to come to his house for dinner to meet his daughter. That is how he met Brandon and Adam’s grandmother.
Joseph made ice cream at the dairy until it closed in the 1970s.
“There was never a day with PopPop that we didn’t go get ice cream,” Adam said. “It was always kind of there.”
They opened their store in 2013, months before their grandfather passed away. He was proud to see his grandsons’ dream realized, even if he was a little apprehensive about their potential for a profitable future.
“He told Brandon not to quit his day job. He thought we were a little nuts because back in his day popsicles were like 5 cents, and we told him we were going to charge $3.50. So he thought we were crazy, but he said, ‘If you can get it, good for you!’” Adam said with a laugh.
Now, they deliver their popsicles to companies all over the country. Their popular boozy pops are always in demand even though they were never in the original business plan. Cigar City Brewing came in their store on their second day of business and asked if it could be done.
Coffee was never in the plans either, but when the UCF storefront offered more space than they typically used, they decided to try it out. Now, they’re planning to expand their coffee services in their downtown location off Lake Eola by this summer.
Brandon has been grateful that the Orlando community makes an effort to shop local. As the two brothers handed out popsicle after popsicle at the groundbreaking, Brandon said hopes that they can one day serve the Parramore community, too.
“It’s an area we’re excited to get involved in if we can. We live right here,” he said. “I think it’s important to support these local businesses. It means a lot to us. My brother and I are in the stores working every day, and I don’t think we’d want to do anything else.”
ORLANDO, Fla. (May 10, 2017) – With a name like Exploding Bacon, it’s hard to believe that the moniker was the second choice for a local youth robotics team led by alumna Elise Cronin-Hurley ’90 ’94MPA.
Organized Chaos was voted as the winner – conceptualized by a random name generator – but when the mother of the lead mentor doodled a pig riding a rocket as a potential logo, the team knew it needed to reverse its decision.
Now, 12 years since that day, Exploding Bacon is coming off its largest win in team history as a Chairman’s Award finalist at the 2017 Houston FIRST World Championships.
FIRST was founded nearly 30 years ago to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. The Chairman’s Award is FIRST’s most prestigious award and is given to the teams that best represent a model for others to emulate.
“We are very proud because it’s definitely not just this year’s Exploding Bacon team who won that award. It’s built on a lot of people’s sweat and tears and a lot of effort and just a passion and a heart for it,” Cronin-Hurley said. “We’re very close knit group. Once you’re bacon, you’re always bacon.”
Cronin-Hurley had never heard of Exploding Bacon when she drove her son, Zachary, to the team’s headquarters for the first time in 2011. Unsure of what her teenager was signing up for, she wanted to learn more about the program, so she stuck around that first practice and has been there ever since.
Zachary, now a mechanical engineering major, is one of three current UCF students who volunteer with the team and said he has incorporated lessons and textbook materials from his coursework at UCF into his role as a mentor for Exploding Bacon.
Over the years, Cronin-Hurley’s role has also changed. She worked her way from serving as a volunteer parent to the lead of the FIRST Robotics Club program.
The political science, organizational communication and public administration alumna owns a freelance graphic and web design business. She said she never envisioned working with students or becoming a teacher. Yet, the relationships she has built over the years has kept her coming back.
“You really care about their individual progression and what they’re able to accomplish, and you want to help them,” she said. “I work all day on a computer for 8-10 hours and then I come here for 2-5 hours a night. This is what feeds me. Working with them feeds me.”
Dominic Canora, who attends Lake Highland Prep, is co-president of the 30-member team this year and will attend UCF in the fall as a freshman, choosing the university over Georgia Tech.
His fellow team members hail from 12 different schools or home school. They span five different counties, and some drive one hour each way to attend a four-hour practice session weekdays during competition season.
In a six-week span, the 30-member team builds and programs an industrial-size robot to play a difficult field game against more than 15,000 students from around the world.
In addition to its annual competition, Exploding Bacon established the #FIRSTLikeAGirl video campaign to share the stories of the women and girls on the team to inspire and encourage girls everywhere to pursue their interests in STEM.
Alexis Bishop is a UCF student and a mentor on the team who has eagerly helped develop the program.
“I take pride in being a role model for girls on the team,” she said. “It’s been a really great thing to be a part of. It’s really important to me that they know if I can do this, they can definitely do this.”
Exploding Bacon also participates in an average of 30-40 demonstrations and outreach events each year, and in this year alone has totaled 1,130 volunteer hours.
The team holds STEM summer camps and has created an international outreach program that provides Spark science kits with reusable experiments and instructions for students with few resources to help them develop problem solving skills in their own communities.
“We’re trying to figure out how to make the world be a better place,” Cronin-Hurley said. “Everybody needs to pitch in, so if we can help spark those problem solving skills in kids in their own countries, then maybe we can help build everything from the ground up.”
1. The UCF Alumni Giving Challenge is closing in on its goal, and it needs your help. Here are three key questions answered: a. What is the Alumni Giving Challenge?
It’s a giving challenge inspired by the Class of 2017, who saw more than 500 student donors make gifts to support UCF’s future. Now they are challenging the alumni community to do the same. b. When is the UCF Alumni Giving Challenge?
The campaign started May 1 and has been extended through May 15. c. How do I participate?
Visit ucfalumni.com/challenge to make a gift.
2. Nearly 7,900 University of Central Florida students earned their diplomas May 4-6 at spring commencement ceremonies on campus. UCF has awarded more than 302,000 degrees since classes began in 1968, and it’s evident that graduation is just the beginning because we all know Knights go on to change the world!
3. The ChargeOn Tour begins next week and will feature UCF head coaches Scott Frost (football) and Johnny Dawkins (men’s basketball), Director of Athletics Danny White and other Knights coaches over five stops from May 16-18. Here are the full details – including RSVP links – for the events.
4. Lake Nona is about to get beautified by artwork courtesy of some Knights. A team of UCF engineering and computer science students designed a solar-powered art sculpture that was selected by the Orlando Utilities Commission and Tavistock Development to be built in the innovative, master-designed Lake Nona community later this year.
5. The groundbreaking ceremony for UCF’s downtown campus is scheduled to take place on Thursday and the UCF community is invited to attend the festivities at the UCF Center for Emerging Media, 500 W. Livingston St., with partners from Valencia College, the City of Orlando, Dr. Phillips Charities, the Parramore Kidz Zone and many more. Local food trucks will be on location for fun lunch options and people are encouraged to stay after the event to sign UCF’s interactive wall.
ORLANDO, Fla. (May 2, 2017) – When hundreds of elementary school aged runners crossed the finish line at Saturday’s Run for the Trees Jeannette Genius McKean Memorial 5k presented by Track Shack and held in Winter Park, some of their biggest cheerleaders were their coaches – all UCF alumnae who are also educators from Orange or Seminole county public schools.
Over the last two and a half years, at least 26 alumnae have been involved in coaching Girls on the Run teams, according to the organization’s research. Eight of those coaches were involved in the spring 2017 season that culminated in Saturday’s race.
“Having UCF here in Orlando and UCF graduates as part of team of volunteers helps us honor one of our core values – finding strength in our connectedness,” said Karen Allen, executive director of Orlando’s Girls on the Run. “Our girls are making meaningful connections with UCF alumni who make positive contributions in the girls’ lives. We want girls to be familiar with our local university because it might be part of their pathway to fulfilling their limitless potential.”
Girls on the Run was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. With the help of over 55,000 volunteers, the Girls on the Run program is now serving over 130,000 girls in more than 200 cities across North America each year, according to its website.
Meeting twice a week, teams of an average 15 members are taught life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The lessons and physical activity are used to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness and build self-confidence.
Katie Heriot ’16 and Heidi Bedrossian ’06 ’09MEd, who are both language arts teachers at Oviedo’s Stenstrom Elementary, said they weren’t really sure what to expect before starting the program and thought that mustering motivation to run would be their biggest hurdle with their team. Their experience has been quite the opposite.
“I think they turned it into something really cool. They’ve taken it and made it fun,” Heriot said. “It’s really hard to be confident as a girl, and at this age, it’s awkward and a lot of them are going through it by themselves. It’s been really cool to see how they’ve developed as a person and found their voice.”
Topics include dealing with self-image and the media, resisting peer-pressure, making healthy decisions and contributing to the community.
Fifth-grader Alexandria Geremiah, 11, enjoyed running with her dad prior to joining the Dover Shores Elementary team with her friends. She said being part of the program has fostered her passion for running, and she tries to live by what she has learned from her weekly practices.
“Gossiping doesn’t help anybody. Being a bully is just letting off your steam on other people. Commercials are not always about making you pretty or the real thing. They can be fake,” she said.
Geremiah’s coach, Jessica Richards, graduated from UCF in 2002 and knew she wanted to start a Girls on the Run program at her school when she saw the organization’s booth as a runner in a local race.
She is already looking forward to the fall 2017 season’s 5K because it will be held at her alma mater on Dec. 9.
Richards said that she loves the strong sense of community she feels by working and living in the city where she graduated from college and tries to instill the importance of education not only with her Girls on the Run team, but also in her classroom.
“I have UCF stuff all over my classroom, and I’m always promoting the idea that college starts at kindergarten. Everything you do, even in elementary school, is leading you to college and to more choices in your life,” she said. “I work at a Title I school, so we have a lot of kids whose parents haven’t gone to college, and I try to stress to them that education is the key to turning their passions into careers and possibilities for the future. That can happen with Girls on the Run, too, getting that confidence and seeing the importance of making your way toward college.”
1. The UCF Alumni Giving Challenge launches today. Here are three key questions answered: >What is the Alumni Giving Challenge?
It’s a week-long giving challenge inspired by the Class of 2017, who saw more than 500 student donors make gifts to support UCF’s future. Now they are challenging the alumni community to do the same before the end of their commencement week. >When is the UCF Alumni Giving Challenge?
The campaign runs from May 1 through May 7. >How do I participate?
Visit ucfalumni.com/challenge to make a gift.
2. Another UCF alumnus is headed to the NFL. Former UCF defensive back Shaquill Griffin became the 36th Knight to hear his name called in the NFL Draft on Friday when he was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round, with the 90th overall pick. He is now the third highest UCF defensive back draftee, coming in behind only Josh Robinson (66th) and his position coach, Travis Fisher (64th). Griffin earned a bachelor’s degree in human communications in December.
3. UCF alumna Emily Kramer ’14PhD was honored when an asteroid was named after her to recognize her contributions to planetary science research. Asteroid 10282, aka 1981 ET46, is now officially named Emilykramer. Kramer is a scientist at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and earned her doctorate in physics at UCF in 2014.
4. About 7,900 UCF graduates will earn their degrees later this week at CFE Arena. Welcome to the fam, fellow alumni! If you’ve got a cool cap to set you apart from the rest, we want to see it. Check out our #UCFGrad cap contest rules and you can score yourself a cool prize for your creativity.
5. Danny White talks the lazy river, priorities for 2017-18 and highlights of year one as UCF’s athletic director in this lengthy Q&A by the Orlando Sentinel.
*If you’re graduating and picking up your cap and gown this week, make sure you keep reading because we’ve got five more things especially for our newest alumni!
1. USA Today gave a shoutout to UCF football assistant coach Jovan Dewitt for an app he produced to help with recruiting. Dewitt, a math and physics double major during a two-time Division II all-America career at Northern Michigan in the late 1990s, considers the app a side project – so he’ll still be coaching up the linebackers and special teams come Fall.
2. Staff, alumni and friends of the Burnett Honors College raised nearly $38,000 to establish the Alvin Y. Wang Endowed Scholarship to honor the longtime dean’s service to the university. They surprised him with the news late last week at a celebration of his tenue. Dean Wang plans to step down and focus on teaching in the classroom, so luckily he’s still sticking around.
3. Hot air balloon rides, a rocking concert, food comas and a friendly battle on the gridiron – the UCFastival and spring game was a rousing success. And UCF has all the coverage you could possibly want, complete with videos, recaps and photo galleries.
4. The Orlando Sentinel featured 10 people who make Orlando great, and we’re happy to say we recognize some names as Knights! Chris Castro (Class of 2010) of IDEAS For Us; Mary Palmer, a former professor and the former Dean of the College of Education; and Ryan Rivas (Class of 2005), publisher at Burrow Press, all made the list – and here’s why they did.
5. Just in time for Earth Day, a UCF chemistry professor just found a way to trigger the process of photosynthesis in a synthetic material, turning greenhouse gases into clean air and producing energy all at the same time. The process has great potential for creating a technology that could significantly reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change, while also creating a clean way to produce energy. Score one for science!
Five More Things – Graduation Style
To our newest alumni, we’ve got nothing but love for ya this week. Here are some need-to-knows about graduation that includes opportunities for free swag! Also, if you’ve got any questions about graduation, chances are, the answers lie here.
1. The #UCFGrad cap Instagram contest is in full swing and four prizes are up for grabs, including a legacy brick on Knights Terrace at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. Here’s how to win:
> Decorate your grad cap
> Post it to Instagram
> Tag UCF alumni in the photo & use #UCFGrad in your caption!
2. Speaking of grad caps, the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center is hosting a decorating party all week. Visit us between 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. any day this week and get your hands on all the decorating materials you need to stand out in the crowd on graduation day. Plus, we’ve stocked a candy bar to give you the energy you need to get your cap on point.
3. Need some tunes to commemorate the occasion? Here’s a Spotify playlist made especially for the Class of 2017 by the members of the class themselves! Happy listening!