Colleges of Business, Engineering and Sciences Host Joint Networking Knight


Nearly 70 UCF alumni gathered for an evening of professional networking on Jan. 21. Alumni chapter volunteers from the College of Business Administration, College of Engineering and Computer Science, and College of Sciences partnered to host the event, which took place at the law offices of GrayRobinson in downtown Orlando.

While guests mingled with other professionals from a multitude of diverse fields, Dean Paul Jarley (business), Dean Michael Georgiopoulos (engineering) and Dean Michael Johnson (sciences) each addressed the group of Knights, speaking on the importance of networking, mentorship and advancement.

It was a great Networking Knight to kick off 2016!


Charles Gray, founding director of GrayRobinson, played an instrumental role in the history of the University of Central Florida. Gray was honored by the UCF Alumni Association in October with the 2015 Champions Award for his continuous support and advocacy for the university.

Events Honor National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

(PHOTO: Nick Russett)

By Aileen Perilla

The UCF community will remember the lives of domestic violence victims during its 8th annual Light Up the Night event Monday, Oct. 12, at 6 p.m. in the Pegasus Ballroom of the Student Union.

The event, which coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, is meant to encourage people to talk about the taboo subject of domestic violence and get a better idea of the impact this crime has not only on the victims, but the entire community.

“Relationship abuse affects everyone,” says Sarah Laake, assistant director of UCF Victim Services, which sponsors the event each year. “It could be a professor, someone in your study group, a relative, the person next to you in the library. We encourage anyone and everyone to join us at Light Up the Night to learn how abuse impacts our community and honor Knights who have lost their lives to intimate partner violence.”

During the program, attendees will see a ceremony called “An Empty Place at the Table,” set up to honor at least seven people with UCF ties who have died as a result of intimate partner violence. It’s meant to shine light on the deadly effects of abuse and memorialize domestic violence victims, Laake says.

Attendees also will hear from two survivors of domestic violence, as well as from Tomas Lares, founder of Florida Abolitionist. The organization’s mission is to end all forms of human trafficking in the U.S. Lares will speak about intimate partner violence and its close relation to human trafficking. Orlando Police Officer William Powell will speak about the use of technology in relation to stalking and how police respond to domestic violence calls.

More than 13 campus and community organizations that serve victims of domestic abuse will also have tables at the event to answer questions and provide resources.

UCF Light up the Night is just one of several events planned this month to keep the conversation about domestic violence going. Others include:

  • The Clothesline Project, a national effort to give survivors of domestic abuse an opportunity to express their emotions by decorating a T-shirt. Everyone is encouraged to decorate T-shirts as a way to show their support of domestic violence prevention. Tables with decorating supplies will be available at Victim Services’ Market Day booth in front of the Student Union every Wednesday this month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the shirts will be hung inside the Student Union throughout October.
  • Paint it Purple, hosted by UCF Victim Services and SafeHouse of Seminole, will take place Wednesday, Oct. 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the Student Union. A “Purple Party” booth will be set up to provide information and freebies to students, as well as to raise awareness about intimate partner violence.
  • My Costume is Not My Consent, also hosted by UCF Victim Services, is happening Wednesday, Oct. 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the Student Union. This event is intended to start a conversation with students and to remind everyone that, no matter how revealing a Halloween costume may be, it’s not an invitation to skip out on consent.

UCF partners, Harbor House of Central Florida, SafeHouse of Seminole and Help Now of Osceola, also are hosting domestic violence awareness month events across our community. Visit their websites to learn more.

UCF Victim Services provides 24/7 support for those impacted by crime or abuse. Speak with an advocate at any time by calling its hotline, at 407.823.1200.

This story was published Oct. 9, 2015, on UCF Today. It has been edited. See original article. 

Students ‘Take Back the Night’ to End Sexual Violence

UCF students "signed" a banner with their handprints as part of a pledge to help end sexual violence.
UCF students “signed” a banner with their handprints as part of a pledge to help end sexual violence.

By Alissa Smith
Contributing Writer, Central Florida Future

Somebody in America is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds, according to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. With that statistic, among others, on their hearts, the UCF chapter of the National Organization for Women spoke out against sexual assault Thursday night [March 26, 2015] on campus.

The “Take Back the Night” event was organized by Sarah Siraj, a junior at UCF, to bring awareness to sexual assault and support victims of sexual violence. Siraj was personally motivated to bring this event to UCF after a close friend was sexually assaulted numerous times.

“I saw the impact the event had on people around me,” said Siraj, a psychology major. “I saw putting on this event as my way of standing with her.”

According to a report released by the World Health Organization in 2013, more than a third of women will suffer from sexual violence in their lifetime. The UCF Police Department’s recently released Uniform Crime Report shows that there was a 27.3 percent increase in forcible rape from 2013 to 2014.

The event traditionally includes speeches, guest speakers, a march and a memorial to protest sexual violence. The event showcased key speakers such as Coretta Cotton, UCF alumni and Victim Services advocate, and Dr. Maria Cristina Santana, an associate women’s studies professor and adviser to the UCF NOW chapter.

“It’s so important that you don’t be quiet bystanders: If you see something, say something,” Cotton said.

Cotton stressed the importance of going out in groups, having a code word to warn friends when to leave dangerous situations and never blaming the victim.

“I don’t care if you had something to drink, what you had to wear, how late you were out, or if you gave consent before — no one is allowed to touch you unless you give your permission,” Cotton said.

Santana pointed out that feminist ideals are not pro-women, but pro-people. She said that Take Back the Night creates solidarity between victims and their advocates, and explained how there needs to be a sense of responsibility between the two.

“Do not look the other way, this is why we are in this state in this country — because people look the other way and say it’s none of my business,” Santana said. “It is your business.”

More than two dozen people participated in the march against sexual violence and the vigil to honor those who had lost their lives trying to rebuild after an assault. A large banner proclaimed “these hands are not made for hurting,” which people signed with their handprints. The march, comprised of men and women chanting emotionally charged verses, began at the Reflecting Pond, circled the Student Union and ended with a vigil held outside the John C. Hitt Library.

The event ended on a somber note with attendees recalling their experiences with sexual violence. Among the people who came forward was one woman whose pink shoes shone brightly in the setting sun as she explained how her first experience with sexual assault happened before the age of 10. She requested to not be named.

The overall message of the event was one of perseverance and preemptive action.

“You’re here. You’re intelligent. Make a difference,” Santana said.

Take Back the Night originated in Philadelphia in 1975 as a protest of Susan Alexander Speeth’s death. Speeth was a microbiologist who was stabbed to death walking home one evening. This event began as an all-women march meant to bring awareness to the terrors that haunted women after dark.

The inclusion of men in this traditionally all-women event has increased as modern feminists actively champion the rights of all genders. Siraj conveyed feminism includes all genders, races, and those who don’t identify with a gender, and invited those interested to NOW’s meetings on Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. in room 222 of the Student Union.

This article was republished from a March 30, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future. See original article.