Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Nov. 26, 2018

1. We’re not completely certain, but we have a feeling the word “bittersweet” was created to describe days like last Friday. As you likely know, McKenzie Milton went down in the second quarter of the game against USF this weekend. Knight Nation has since offered an outpouring of support for #10, and we at UCF Alumni send him our best and wish him a speedy recovery. As for our Knights on the field, they were emboldened to give it all they had and win over the Bulls 38-10. That win bumped us up to #7 in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll.

We’re proud as ever for the ways our team rallied and showed the nation what we all already knew — to be a Knight is to be a part of a devoted family that supports each other, laughs together and keeps on charging on.

2. To show our support for McKenzie and just how grateful we are to be a part of his #10hana, Knights will be sporting leis this upcoming weekend for our American Athletic Conference Championship game against Memphis. If you’re in Orlando and want to show your solidarity for our team, join us for the Indoor Tailgate Dec. 1 at the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center at 12:30. If you can’t be in Orlando, find out details for Watch Parties here (and don’t forget to stock up on leis!).

3. If you’re looking for other ways to support Knight Nation this week, you’re in luck! Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, the worldwide day of charitable giving. You’ve eaten all the Thanksgiving turkey your stomach could hold, taken advantage of all the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday deals your heart desired, and tomorrow is the day to exercise your generosity and give.

With 68,00 current students, there has never been a more important time to support your alma mater. We encourage you to check our post Five Things Knights Need to Know About Giving Tuesday at UCF to learn more about how you can be a part of all the undefeated athleticism, unmatched academia and unwavering momentum at UCF.

4. “I love baseball so much and that’s the only sport I wanted to get involved with. Back then, I didn’t think I would ever become a world champion, but the dream was to get there someday.” We get pretty excited when a UCF student’s dream becomes a UCF alum’s achievement! Kiyoshi Momose ’00MS, who is the sports and conditioning coach for the Boston Red Sox, can now add a check-mark next to the bucket list item of winning the World Series in Dodger Stadium. We’re proud to call you a part of the #UCFamily, Kiyoshi! Read more here.

5. With Thanksgiving in our collective rear-view mirror, it’s officially not out-of-bounds to start prepping for December holidays and there’s no better way to do so than to pretend that Florida is colder than it really is and attend Light Up UCF! There’s ice-skating, light shows and even a Ferris Wheel. Get into the holiday spirit and be there.

Five Things Knights Need to Know About Giving Tuesday at UCF

Giving Tuesday at UCF
You can make a #GivingTuesday gift as early as today.

Falling on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday puts its own philanthropic spin on days like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

On November 27, people all over the world will celebrate generosity by giving their time, talent and treasure. We encourage our Knights to consider UCF when participating in Giving Tuesday this year.

In fact, here are five things Knights should know about Giving Tuesday at UCF:

1. This year Giving Tuesday is on Tuesday, Nov. 27, but you can #GiveToUCF as early as today!

2. Last year, 700 donors raised $71,000 to support programs at the university on Giving Tuesday. From First Generation Scholarships, to the UCF Football Excellence fund, to gifts that enabled the Knights Pantry to provide meals for students, each and every dollar donated has already made a lasting impact on our UCF family.

3. Our goal is to surpass last year’s success , but we need your help to make it happen. Every gift matters, whether it’s $5, $10 or $50; it makes a collective impact when we all work together.

4. If you have a passion, we can find a fund at UCF that deserves your support. If you simply can’t decide where to donate, consider making a gift to UCF’s Area of Greatest Need. By doing so, the university can direct your gift to a program or department that needs support, and therefore will offer the greatest impact.

5. All giving matters – whether it’s a financial gift, your time or your talent. Here are some other ways to show your support: Volunteer with your local alumni group; become a social media ambassadorKnight Your Ride; cheer loud and proud at the next UCF sporting eventmentor current UCF studentshire a Knightattend an event; and most importantly, share your story. Tell everyone what it means to be a Knight and why you love UCF!

Together, we can power the future of this great university. Go Knights, Charge On!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Nov. 19, 2018

  1. As if you could have possibly missed it with all the (well-deserved) hype, it was a very, VERY big weekend for UCF.

The ESPN College GameDay crew made their first-ever appearance on campus Saturday morning and Knights came out in full force to show the nation what UCF is all about. Memory Mall hosted more than 20,000 UCF fans — including Lee Corso who, decked out in complete Knightro garb, picked our Knights to win against Cincinnati.

Speaking of winning against Cincinnati… Image result for check mark emoji.

And in front of the second-largest crowd Spectrum Stadium has ever seen! If you were one of the 47,795 fans in attendance Saturday night, you already know how electric the stadium felt and how amped our fans were to cheer our team to a 38-13 win over the Bearcats, earning us the AAC East Division Championship trophy, a 23-game winning streak and a rise to No. 8 in the polls.

All in all, Saturday was a really great day to be a Knight. But, then again, so is every day.

  1. Somewhere in between the stare-down kid and Maria Taylor having a staring contest on GameDay and that incredible blocked field-goal-attempt by Joey Connors, we hosted our Indoor Tailgate at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. We had all the necessary ingredients for a great Indoor Tailgate: the UCF spirit team, Knightro, the sweet smell of Bubbalou’s BBQ wafting throughout the room and a whole lot of alumni ready to cheer the Knights on to victory.

Were you there and are looking for your pictures? Or were you not there and are looking for pictures of what you missed out on? We’ve got you covered.

Don’t forget to mark your calendar for our next Indoor Tailgate on Dec. 1 as we gear up to take on the to-be-determined AAC West division winner.

  1. Just in case the feel on campus last week wasn’t joyful enough, Light Up UCF opened to the public on Friday. The Winter Wonderland will run through Jan. 1 and offers ice skating, a world-class choreographed light show sponsored by Duke Energy, free holiday movies, live entertainment, a Ferris Wheel, and an excuse for alumni to throw on their favorite black-and-gold hoodie and come visit campus! Find all the details you’re looking for right here.
  2.  We’re trusting you already know Thanksgiving is this week, but did you know Giving Tuesday is coming up too? After all the turkey on Thanksgiving Thursday and shopping on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is the worldwide national day of giving. Our alumni showed up big last year and we (along with current students and other friends of the university) were able to raise over $71,000 toward scholarships, athletics and academic programs at UCF. We’re looking forward to another year of generosity and giving from our most loyal of Knights. If you’re looking for more information and ideas for how you can help the next generation of Knight Nation, head to our Giving Tuesday Facebook event.

UCF College of Nursing Bears Campaign

  1. Our Give Thanks, Give a Bear campaign is wrapping up next week and we’d love for you to be a part of it. A gift of $50 sends a bear to a child in one of our six pediatric partner hospitals. These limited-edition bears are even wearing a replica of the scrubs worn by UCF nursing students, which means they’re very cute and are pretty much guaranteed to bring a smile to a child’s face. All funds raised in the campaign go toward funding priority areas within the College of Nursing.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Nov. 13, 2018

College GameDay at UCF

1.Unless you’ve been off the grid for the past 72 hours, you’ve heard that ESPN’s iconic college football preview show, ESPN College GameDay, will make its first-ever appearance at UCF this Saturday. We are PUMPED!

The ESPN College GameDay set will be positioned in the southeast corner of Memory Mall, as identified in the photo below. For details on all things GameDay, follow along with UCF Knights on Twitter for the latest news and updates.

College GameDay at UCF location

Speaking of Saturday, our Knights kick off against Cincinnati at 8 p.m. in front of a SOLD OUT crowd at Spectrum Stadium! If you can’t be there for this prime-time matchup, the game will be aired on ABC, so find a UCF Watch Party near you.

2. In other football related news, two of our favorite #BuiltByUCF Seahawks got some love this weekend on 60 Minutes. On Sunday night, CBS aired a feature on Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin‘s childhood pact to succeed together, all the way to the NFL. Spoiler alert: they made it, against all odds.

3.  Last week, thirteen UCF alumni were honored at the Orlando Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Awards. OBJ’s 40 Under 40 is an annual celebration that recognizes successful professionals who have created a big impact within their industry and in the local community. You have to check out this stellar slate of alumni who are making an impact in Orlando. Congratulations, Knights!

UCF College of Nursing Bears Campaign

4. This holiday season, Give Thanks, Give A Bear! The UCF College of Nursing’s “Give A Bear” campaign offers the opportunity to sponsor pandas in custom UCF scrubs that will be distributed to children in local hospitals during the week following Thanksgiving. All funds raised from the campaign help fund priority areas within the College of Nursing, including student scholarships, faculty research and medical mission trips.

5. We’ve had a really fun season of Indoor Tailgates so far, and are looking forward to our next one this Saturday from 5-7 p.m. at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center! Did you make it to last week’s tailgate? Find photos from the event in our online photo gallery.

 

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Nov. 5, 2018

UCF College of Nursing Bears Campaign

1.The bears are BACK!  In its second and final year, the “Give Thanks, Give a Bear” fundraiser enables the public to sponsor one – or an entire unit – of limited-edition bears wearing UCF nursing scrubs. The bears will be delivered to children in Central Florida-area hospitals the week following Thanksgiving.

Sponsoring a bear starts at $50. All funds raised from the campaign help fund priority areas within the College of Nursing, including student scholarships, faculty research and medical mission trips

2. It’s officially Homecoming week! If you’re hoping to take part in Comedy or Concert Knight, you can find details and ticket information on the UCF Homecoming website.

3. Good news for fans of Spirit Splash: it will be streamed LIVE on Friday! Rumor has it that a certain UCF President might find his way into the pond this year, so you don’t want to miss out! Details on watching LIVE will be available soon – stay tuned.

4. If you’re headed back to campus to watch our Knights take on Navy this Saturday, join us for our Indoor Tailgate ahead of the game! The Indoor Tailgate opens at 9 a.m. and will close at 11 a.m. to give fans enough time to make it to Spectrum Stadium for the Noon kickoff. You know the drill: food, drinks, kids’ room, a DJ and tons of fun. Hope to see you there!

Can’t make it? Then find a UCF Watch Party near you to watch the game and cheer on our Knights to a Homecoming victory!

5. Speaking of Indoor Tailgates, if you joined us for the UCF vs. Temple Indoor Tailgate last Thursday, check out the tailgate photos and game gallery on the UCF Alumni website!

Happy Homecoming, Knights. Charge On!

Alex Cascio ’15: A Passion for Storytelling

UCF Alumnus Alex Cascio
Photo courtesy Vibrant Media Productions, LLC

By Azela Santana

Alex Cascio ’15 grew up hearing his mother, Jeri Cascio ’87, retelling tales of her commute between Daytona and to the University of Central Florida, where she earned her finance degree. A generation later, Alex found himself attending his mother’s beloved alma mater.

Cascio has always had a passion for film and capturing special moments that told a compelling story, but it wasn’t until he attended UCF that he realized he could parlay this hobby into a career path. While taking classes in marketing, advertising and accounting, he asked himself, why not combine business and storytelling? He switched his major from business administration to human communication/digital media, and forged his own path. This life-changing decision allowed him to go back to the creative space he loved so much, which eventually led to a successful career path in digital media.

During his time as a student, Alex worked full-time as a salesperson for a web design company and also developed his own start-up company, Vibrant Media Productions (VMP). Knowing that he could earn money to pay for expensive production-level equipment and gear that he needed for his start-up provided the motivation he needed to succeed at his commission-only sales position.

“Starting up VMP was quite challenging while being a full-time student,” Cascio recalls. “Taking the plunge and fully committing to my company forced me to grow the business. I can remember countless times having to step outside of the classroom to take conference calls with clients and pretending to be in ‘my office.’”

VMP has seen substantial growth in the few years since Cascio’s graduation, and Cascio, in partnership with his father, has worked with well-known clients like Microsoft, AT&T and Twitter. Cascio was even able to reconnect with UCF through a project with the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities.

“On this shoot, we had the opportunity to collaborate with UCF on producing short interview segments, highlight films, instructor presentation videos, and photos,” said Cascio. “These events focused on subjects such as active learning and accelerating transfer success for students.”

Cascio credits his professional and personal successes to his experience at UCF and support of his fiancée and UCF alumna, Chloe Piersall ’15. His advice for current students is “try to absorb the information from the classes you’re taking, because you would be surprised how helpful the information can be in your professional life.” He also emphasized the importance of networking both on and off campus, which, in his experience, led to different and exciting professional projects.

In 2018, Cascio launched the VMP Student Filmfest to help provide winning student films with a cash award that can go toward the student’s continued education and help pay for production equipment. Alex hopes that the VMP Student FilmFest will give students an opportunity to showcase their work, but also allow them to set themselves apart when interviewing for jobs or internships.

The VMP Student Filmfest deadline has been extended to Nov. 24.

“Our VMP Filmfest was created to help give students a platform to showcase their creativity,” stated Reuben Rogak ’14, chief editor of VMP. “Alex understood firsthand what it was like as a digital media student and the financial burden of equipment costs and he is excited to play a role in offering an opportunity to current Knights to help with their financial costs.”

With every project that Cascio works on, he always remembers advice he received from his father: “Never compromise quality. If you truly want your work to stand out from the competition, you have to put in the time and maximum effort.” Charge on, Alex Cascio!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Oct. 29, 2018

UCF Alumni Indoor Tailgates

1.No. 9 UCF Football is back this Thursday, fresh off of a successful BYE week. The Knights face Temple at home, so you know what that means: it’s Indoor Tailgate time! Join us at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center this Thursday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. for food, fun and football. As always, admission for UCF Alumni and their guests is FREE!

If you’re not local, we’ve got you covered. Find a UCF Watch Party near you to cheer on our Knights in the company of fellow black and gold faithful.

2. At Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the UCF Lake Nona Medical Center, Wendy Brandon, the hospital’s new CEO, announced a $3 million gift to hire a renowned cancer scientist to lead UCF’s cancer efforts. The HCA Endowed Eminent Scholar Chair in Oncology will provide funding for UCF to hire a nationally recognized, academic expert in cancer research.

3. Friendly reminder for registered voters in Orange County: UCF is serving as an early voting location! Cast your ballot at the Live Oak Event Center at Ferrell Commons any time from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Sunday, Nov. 4. Parking is available in Garage B across Gemini Boulevard from the Recreation and Wellness Center. The general election at polling places is Nov. 6.

4. From Atlanta to New York, Theatre UCF alumna Jerusha Cavazos ’14 made her Broadway debut in The Prom, a new musical comedy about acceptance and love.

5. Finally, a special shout out is in order for our Dallas/ Ft. Worth UCF Alumni Club! They took advantage of the BYE week and spent their Saturday restocking a local food pantry in their area. We’re so proud to have AlumKnights who see opportunities to make a positive impact in their communities. Charge On, DFW Knights!

From Atlanta to New York, Theatre UCF alumna makes her Broadway debut in new musical The Prom

Theatre UCF alumna on Broadway
Jerusha Cavazos ’14 is making her Broadway debut in The Prom, a new musical comedy about acceptance and love.

The annual springtime tradition of prom is already a big deal – a crucial over-the-top social milestone for most high school students. Some students fuss over cummerbund choices, others fret about dinner plans – and some worry if their choice of a date will be met with acceptance, or conflict. The new musical The Prom opening on Broadway this fall follows the story of a lesbian student who just wants to take her girlfriend to prom in a small, close-minded town that won’t allow it – and the band of Broadway stars who try to make it happen.

Musical theatre alumna Jerusha Cavazos ’14 first had a role on the show Atlanta on FX in April, performed in Jesus Christ Superstar in Chicago through May, and is now making her Broadway debut in The Prom surrounded by industry greats. Even with such a successful whirlwind year, she stopped by the Performing Arts Center to give new Musical Theatre students a masterclass and take a moment to reflect on her roles, her journey, and her own prom.

Congratulations on your Broadway debut! How does it feel to be getting ready to take the stage?

I have so many mixed emotions right now. I am so grateful and excited … literally bursting with joy. At the same time, I’m nervous and still in shock that I get to go on a journey that I’ve been dreaming about since I was 10. There are days I walk to the theatre and ring the stage door buzzer with tears in my eyes. I’ve walked past many Broadway stage doors dreaming of what it would be like to enter it as an artist performing on that stage. I get to do that now. It feels surreal and I’m trying to be present in every moment, taking it all in, with so much gratitude.

Tell us about the show and the role you’re playing.

The show is called The Prom. In a nutshell, it’s about acceptance and love. This story will have you laughing so hard you can’t breathe – and then, it will have you crying. It is moving, honest and relevant. I play one of the high school kids in the show, in the ensemble.

Are there any memories from your own prom that inspired you in this production?

In high school, prom was SUCH a big deal. Finding the perfect dress, the date, how you were going to arrive, the after-party, etc. I remember going to so many different dress stores with my mother. My best friend and I planned out a party bus to pick up all our friends, and we went all out. These memories really help me with my character … when I remember just how important prom was to me then, it’s easy to really tap into the brain of a high school teen who just wants to have the best senior year and make memories.

What’s the most exciting thing about being in a new, original Broadway production?

There are so many exciting things about being in a new Broadway show, it’s hard for me to choose just one! So, I’ll make a quick list:

  • Meeting and working with the writing team – this is so rare, and it’s so special to be part of.
  • Working with Casey Nicholaw and his team. I can’t express how amazing it is to watch this team work together. It’s pure magic!
  • Recording the original cast album – a bucket list item for sure!
  • Working with designers. Getting to look at costume sketches that were designed with me in mind is just out of this world. Trying on wigs that were made for me is amazing. The design team are incredibly talented people.
  • And, there are also about 13 people making their Broadway debuts. This is so special. The energy backstage and on-stage is electric. The Broadway vets are so excited for us and I am thrilled that I am experiencing this life-changing moment with this group of people.

You recently had a part on FX’s Atlanta. How is being on the screen different than being on the stage?

I LOVED WORKING ON ATLANTA. Donald Glover is a genius and so generous, kind and very collaborative!

When I was shooting Atlanta, we would be on set for about 12 hours a day. The biggest difference is that in TV, you have to nail your action perfectly once, but you’re exhausted once the day is done because you’ve worked on scenes for 12-14 hours. Once you get the shot you can move on to the next. In theatre, you have to recreate those moments every night, eight times a week. This requires a discipline that is individual to each actor. How you maintain and balance energy, keep moments fresh and honest, preserve your voice and body, etc. is unique to each actor.

How did your time at UCF prepare you for your career as an actor?

I’m so grateful for my experience at UCF. I think that any program you enter as an actor becomes what you make of it. And I made the most out of my time at UCF. I took advantage of the many resources that UCF has. I did independent studies with professors and worked on perfecting skill sets I knew I needed to make it. Here’s the great thing about UCF: if you really want it, the professors are there to help guide you to do so. You just have to show up.

Do you have any advice for someone pursuing an acting career?

Just do it! Don’t let anyone or anything deter you. My dad always told me, “If you feel you have something to say, say it; if not, get off the stage!” I’ve tried to live by that. It’s challenging because our business is so overwhelming at times and it can look impossible. But if you have any amount of talent and technique mixed with some good old-fashioned courage, you can make it. And it doesn’t matter where that happens. That’s the beauty of our business – there are many places where we can make that happen: New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville and Orlando. Just go out there and do it! Also, don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. What’s meant for you is yours and cannot be taken away.

Broadway’s new musical comedy with issues,” The Prom begins previews October 23 and opens November 15 at Longacre Theatre in New York. Tickets, information and more at theprommusical.com.

Five Things Alumni Need To Know this Week – Oct. 22, 2018

1.Another weekend, another win for UCF Football. Despite winning twenty games in a row and championing the nation’s longest winning streak, our favorite football team isn’t getting any love from the polls. In fact, AD Danny White weighed in on Twitter last night, calling college football “a subjective popularity contest” with a Tweet directed at College GameDay.

Speaking of College GameDay…they’ll be in Jacksonville this weekend. Our Jacksonville UCF Alumni Chapter is determined to make a strong showing of black and gold pride, so if you want to join them, follow along with the Chapter on Twitter and in their Facebook group to be in the know!

2. Starting today, UCF’s main campus will serve as an early voting location for faculty, staff, students and other registered Orange County voters as part of the “Charge Your Vote” campaign.

3. UCF alumnus and president/founder of O’Dang Hummus Jesse Wolfe ’15 is at the front of Walmart’s latest marketing campaign. From UCF to Shark Tank to the world’s largest retailer, O’Dang Hummus is now one of the faces of Walmart’s “Made in the USA” initiative.

4. History alumnus Phil Zoshak’s after-school program, Hero Spark, uses strategic card, board and role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons to help 11-to-18-year-olds improve their self-esteem and hone their social skills.

5. The UCF College of Arts and Humanities is leading a cross-disciplinary effort to create digital stories representing the diverse narratives of UCF through the I Am UCF Digital Storytelling Initiative, and alumni are invited to participate! Learn more about this initiative at https://iamucf.cah.ucf.edu/.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Oct. 15, 2018

1.There’s still time to join us for A Breakfast with UCF President Dale Whittaker in Atlanta this Wednesday! RSVP in advance to enjoy an enhanced continental breakfast in the company of university leaders and fellow Knights.

2. Our favorite football team won in a nail-biter against Memphis on Saturday, increasing the nation’s longest winning streak to #Knighteen games! Our Knights take on ECU this Saturday at 7 p.m. ET, so if you need a spot to watch the game, find a UCF Watch Party near you.

3. The U.S. Department of Education has awarded UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education five grants that will help address a range of challenges in public schools, from enhancing special-needs education to improving math instruction in at-risk schools.

4. UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management is now ranked among the top 10 nationally for two of its most sought-after programs: the hospitality management online master’s program and the entertainment management undergraduate program.

5. The Rosengren Trauma Clinic at UCF RESTORES has opened a new clinic at UCF’s regional campus in Cocoa. This marks RESTORES’ second trauma clinic since it was established on UCF’s main campus in 2011 to treat veterans with PTSD.