Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—May 8

 

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!

Check out this special Exposure Gallery featuring the newest members of the alumni family.

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.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—April 17

1. Not much of a surprise — UCF Football announced last week the name change of Bright House Networks Stadium to Spectrum Stadium. The first event to be held in the building under the Spectrum Stadium name will be UCF’s annual Spring Game, which is taking place Saturday at 6:30 p.m. There is a full day of events surrounding Spectrum Stadium prior to the Spring Game, with the second UCFastival slated to get started at 11 a.m. Learn more about the UCFastival lineup.

2. The city of Orlando’s newly created Creative Village Development Review Committee on April 11 approved UCF’s plan for the $60 million Dr. Phillips Academic Commons, which will house programs for both UCF and Valencia College and more. It has been described as what will become “the heart of UCF Downtown.” A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for May 11 and construction likely will start this summer. Here’s where you can find more information about the plans.

3. Keep an eye on UCF’s women’s golf team, who is ranked No. 28 in the nation. The Knights are currently in the lead on day two of the American Athletic Conference Championship after setting a tournament record with a combined score of 284 (-6) Sunday. UCF captured the crown in 2015 and hopes to reclaim it Tuesday.

4. UCF’s first patent application was filed 30 years ago this month, and since then, the university has made a name for itself nationally in regards to innovation. Learn more about the history of patents at UCF and goals for the future in this story.

5. Shoutout to Keith Sutliff ’10, who premiered his film “The Mason Brothers” in Hollywood last week. Sutliff graduated with a degree in criminal justice and his credits for the film include writer, director, actor and producer. Check out the trailer below.

Holiday Helpers

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By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 14, 2016) — The Knights Helping Knights Pantry found allies in the UCF Parent & Family Philanthropy Council and UCF College of Business Alumni Chapter this holiday season.

Related: Photo Gallery

Eight members of the parent council, which is newly formed this year, sorted professional clothing and packed 50 bags of roughly 270 pounds of food and supplies on Dec. 9. The bags of food are meant to help students get through winter break when the pantry is closed from Dec. 13 to Jan. 9.

“They’ve provided for at least 50 students, who are now going to be able to eat this holiday season. That’s what it comes down to,” Knights Pantry manager Jessica Roberts said. “I’m so glad we could work together. Knowing they didn’t just want to make a donation and have that be the end of it, but that they wanted to come in, work with the pantry, find out what we’re about, means a lot to me.”

The Knights Helping Knights Pantry has grown over the last seven years from a closet in the Student Union to its own mini market that provides food, clothes and toiletries to students in need. The bag-packing was the parent council’s first hands-on service project – one that applies to an issue not just at UCF, but nationwide.

In early December, CNN featured a new report that found 48 percent of more than 3,000 students surveyed from 34 colleges experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days. At UCF, a study done by Dr. Amy Donley in the UCF Sociology Department showed that 23.2 percent of the 902 student respondents have experienced or are experiencing homelessness.

Parents like Monica Green spent an hour packing bags of food and supplies and also sorting through donated professional clothing from the College of Business Alumni Chapter. Green was compelled to get involved with the parent’s council because she felt a duty to find a way to support the university that was a second home for her two children.

“You have to give back to the community,” Green said. “This was a great opportunity to help, but my heart breaks for the kids. I’m glad that the university as a whole has recognized the need and is doing something, and we can help to meet that need.”

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The council’s idea to help the pantry was first formed in October when Hurricane Matthew shut down campus operations for 48 hours. Members of the council wondered how students were getting the resources they needed.

The university executed its emergency plan for Hurricane Matthew, but when the group learned of the pantry’s closure for the winter break, the parents wanted to find a way to help. Their efforts were bolstered by the College of Business Alumni Chapter, which contributed 250 pieces of clothing to stock the pantry’s professional wardrobe choices.

Marketing alumna Roslyn Antoniazzi ’08, who serves as vice chair of the College of Business Administration Alumni Board, said she was glad that she could rally together support from alumni to take care of current students.

“I was absolutely thrilled to see there is support for the students and that there’s an option to not have to choose between buying that book or something to wear for an interview,” she said. “It’s helping to drive the university’s mission to set up students for success post-graduation.”

Students can pick up bags from the Student Care Services office until Dec. 22, and again starting Jan. 3.

How You Can Help
The pantry hopes to revolutionize its day-to-day operation by purchasing a commercial refrigerator. Thanks to donations already generously given and a matching gift pledge by Publix, the Pantry is $1,000 shy of its fundraising goal. Help make a difference, Give Today.

Olympic Knights: Bronze or Bust

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UCF alumna Aline Reis (center, black jersey) has a chance at the bronze medal on Aug. 19.

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug. 18, 2016) – A chance at a bronze medal is on the line for one Knight at the Summer Olympics.

UCF alumna Aline Reis ’11 and her native Brazil will face Canada in Friday’s bronze-medal soccer match at noon. WATCH

If Brazil wins, Reis will join an elite group of UCF alumni who have stood on the podium at the Summer Olympics. Michelle Akers ’89 won gold with Team USA’s 1996 soccer team, and Phil Dalhausser ’02 brought home gold from the 2008 Beijing Games in beach volleyball.

Dalhausser, a three-time Olympian, was also competing at this year in Rio but unfortunately exited the games early with a loss to top-seeded Brazil on Monday’s quarterfinals. He thanked his fans, sponsors, family and friends via Instagram for the support he received. Dalhausser thanks

Reis, who earned her degree in interdisciplinary studies, was called up to Brazil’s National Team Camp in February with no guarantees of a spot on the Olympic roster. She secured a role as the reserve goalkeeper on the 18-member roster.

Her shining moment occurred on Aug. 9 when she received a starting nod, played all 90 minutes in goal and came up with two great saves to earn a shutout in a 0-0 tie against South Africa.

She was featured in an Aug. 16 article by Sports Illustrated  after Brazil lost a heartbreaking match in penalty kicks to Sweden that — had they won — would have advanced them to Friday’s gold medal game.

“The coolest thing is it’s not only the typical soccer fan that’s supporting us,” Aline said in the story by Grant Wahl. “We have senior citizens, women of all ages watching us and sending us messages, wanting to take pictures with us. So I think that’s the biggest accomplishment we can have, even more important than a gold medal. We want to change the face of women’s soccer in Brazil. And if we can continue to do that through the media and the soccer that we’re playing on the field, that’s our biggest accomplishment.”

During her career at UCF, Reis earned All-American, all-region and all-conference honors and helped UCF win two conference championships. She was also recognized as a scholar All-American.

Lasting Impact

 

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Aug. 17, 2016

Christal Peterson was an All-American sprinter and conference champion for the UCF track and field team before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences (pre-clinical) in Summer 2015. She also served as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President. This fall, Peterson will start the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at UCF.

Peterson recently returned from a week-long service-learning trip to Panama with the UCF Athletics-based group Knights Without Borders. Since 2013, KWOB has aimed to provide cross-culture experiences in developing a sense of world unity. In addition to this trip, Peterson has also served on KWOB journeys to Costa Rica and Ireland. The group of 30 who traveled to Panama built a multi-purpose sports court with Courts for Kids in the town of Tucuecito in the province of Coclé.

Below is a first-hand account of the experience.

“Knights Without Borders is something I look forward to every summer because it is almost like a reset button on my life. For a whole week I am forced to have no communication to the outside world, and I am okay with that. I think sometimes you need an experience that makes you evaluate your life and your priorities, not taking anything or anyone for granted.

My connection to UCF is even more important now as an alumna than it was as an undergrad. UCF is on the rise, and it’s important to continue to contribute to its legacy. I was not the only post-grad former student-athlete on the trip, and I honestly believe that helped because we are all in the same boat right now; some of us are going straight to grad school while others are taking some time off to figure out if grad school is the right fit for them. So it was kind of cool to connect with them and realize that I was not alone in my feelings of closing an important chapter on my life (sports) and taking on a new one – in my case, being an adult and graduate assistant for the student-athlete welfare and development office.

crop workIn terms of the day-to-day work, we did not have a cement mixer, so all of our cement for the court needed to be made by hand, which I thought was absolutely crazy. But after the first batch, I realized that it was something that could be done. Since I’m so used to being a helping hand, I just assumed that I could help mix the cement. That was a big fat NO with every shovel I tried to put into the mix. I slowly realized my place in the system.

Inauguration day for the court was a beautiful thing. Seeing the people of Tucuecito come together as a community to see the finished product was simply amazing. What really stuck out to me the most was that the townspeople all prayed over the court, almost like they were christening it. They prayed that the court stays around for generations to come, and that it also brings the community together as one. Then they prayed for the hands that built the court. It was really an honor.IMG_7146

What I’ve learned on these trips is that you just appreciate the value of time because it is not promised for anybody. It is truly a blessing to be able to connect with people on a deeper level, beyond the basic information.

Our individual journeys are unique, and there are reasons for everything at the end of the day. I learned that my life is no longer my own anymore. It is to serve others, and I will continue to do that. I want to thank UCF for all the opportunities I have been granted. Never in my life did I think I would be traveling the world and helping people while doing it. I am extremely blessed to have participated on my third KWOB trip. The power of sports is such a universal language that can literally inspire and change the world. That’s why every day I live by the quote: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’”

-Christal Peterson ’15

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Burnett Honors College Alumna Wins “Jeopardy!”

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By Brittany Pigott, The Burnett Honors College

ORLANDO Fla. (Aug. 8, 2016) — On an average day, Latin and sports do not go together in the same sentence. Unless, perhaps, you’re a contestant on “Jeopardy!”

Luckily for UCF and The Burnett Honors College alumna Courtney Paulson, she is well educated in both.

Paulson ’11 won the July 29 airing of America’s favorite quiz show, “Jeopardy!” thanks to her successful guess on this final question: This Catholic university gets its name from the Latin words for “new” and “house” and was in the news in Spring 2016.

“I had taken Latin in high school, and the first school I thought of was Notre Dame, and knew the Latin word for new was nova by watching a taping of Jeopardy earlier that day, but I couldn’t think of a school that had nova at the end,” she said. “Until I remembered watching the last March Madness game when Villanova had won. I’m a huge sports fan.”

Paulson, originally from Minnesota, attended UCF as a National Merit Scholar. She graduated in 2011 with her Bachelor of Science in statistics while receiving recognition for completing both University Honors and Honors in the Major. Outside of Honors, Paulson was also a part of the math club, athletics tutoring program, physics society, astronomy club, Marching Knights and completed a college work experience internship with Lockheed Martin.

“Once I visited UCF I was sold and made my decision to attend the day we got home,” Paulson said. “It’s so hard to pick a highlight when you get to spend four years in Orlando, Florida, but I loved everything about UCF and was so sad to leave.”

She then decided to further her education after receiving a full ride into the business statistics Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California.

“I was able to bypass getting my master’s since I already had the research experience by completing a thesis through the Honors in the Major program,” Paulson explained.

She is currently enjoying a two-week break after completing eight years of continuous schooling before she moves to Maryland to start her professional career as both a researcher and professor in Statistical Regressions and Business Analytics at the University of Maryland.

“I grew up doing trivia leagues in high school and was also a part of the Honors College bowl team, so I always knew I wanted to be on ‘Jeopardy!’ I actually took the online test periodically and auditioned back in high school for their teen tournament,” Paulson said.

After nailing the timed online 50 question quiz, she was then invited to an in-person audition. The audition consisted of another quiz and a mock version of the game, as well as a personality interview. After passing the online quiz and feeling very confident in the face-to-face audition, she was put into the contestant pool where she could be called anytime within the next 18 months.

After going through the process a few times, she finally got the call to put her trivia skills to the test.

“I had no idea what to expect. You spend the day doing practice rounds and watching the other people compete. You basically have a whole day of free jeopardy trivia, answering daily double and final answer questions, where you get to stand up in front of the podium and ring the buzzer,” Paulson said. “It’s the ultimate nerd experience.”

Paulson’s episode was taped the last week of April and aired on July 29. Although there were many rigorous questions about U.S. Code, women authors, word origins, scary sounding animals, battleships, musicians and traveling Ireland, she came out as the champion with a total prize of $11,700.

Paulson returns to “Jeopardy!” on Sept. 12 when she will look to defend her title.

Want to be the next “Jeopardy!” contestant? Click here to start your journey. 

Olympic Knights: Dalhausser Dreams of Recapturing Gold

6-11-16 Phil Dalhausser celebrates vs Gibb Patterson quarterfinals
Photo courtesy of FIVB

 

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — UCF alumnus Phil Dalhausser is back at it again for Team USA. The 2002 business graduate and beach volleyballer is set to compete in his third Summer Olympics this month as the Rio Games kick off Friday.

Dalhausser is one of three UCF alumni who will participate in the Olympics this year. He is striving for another gold medal (he was crowned champion at the 2008 Beijing Games) and is joined by Aline Reis ’11 (Brazil, soccer) and Ricardo Gouveia ’14 (Portugal, golf), who are making their first Olympic Games appearances.

Dalhausser was introduced to beach volleyball at Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School where his coach liked to have his team practice on the sand to give the squad an advantage in the indoor game. His fondness for the game grew at UCF where he played club indoor volleyball and found ways to get extra practice on sand.

“They had sand courts on campus and Orlando had a nice little volleyball community and almost every night those courts were packed. So I would be at the courts probably more often than when I was in class,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. “Any time I could get a game in, I’d be down there playing. I guess you could say I was obsessed with it.”

In his first Olympics appearance in 2008, he not only won gold but was also named Most Outstanding Player for beach competition. He was honored as USA Volleyball’s Beach Team of the Year in 2015 with his partner Nick Lucena. The teammates promoted the Road to Rio on NBC’s The Today Show in April.

In addition to his many career highlights, he is a Michelle Akers Award winner (2009), which is the university’s highest honor given to alumni who have brought international, positive attention to UCF through their accomplishments.

Dalhausser, 36, and a father of two, has publicly said he expects these Games to be his last, so he has his heart set on making them unforgettable.

“There’s never been a male player who’s won two gold medals on the beach side, so I’d like to be the first to do that. That’d be pretty sweet,” he told the Daytona Beach News Journal.

Beach volleyball is set to compete at Copacabana Beach from Aug. 6 until Aug. 18. Dalhausser’s first match is scheduled for Aug. 7 against Tunisia at 3:30 p.m. and will stream live on www.nbcolympics.com.

Second Time Around

Kim Hardiman

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — When Kim Hardiman first realized she needed to go back to school, she resisted. She already possessed bachelor’s and master’s degrees plus years of teaching experience on her resume.

Now with graduation day in sight and a second master’s degree under her belt, she views her decision to come to UCF as a blessing.

“As an older teacher, you think you know it all and you don’t,” she said. “The teachers here at UCF are the best I’ve ever had in my life. I value this master’s degree more than the first one I got.”

Hardiman was born in Hong Kong and was an orphan for the first five years of her life until a couple from New York adopted her. She said she was lucky that her parents wanted an older child.

“Most children in the orphanage, they end up working in the factories,” she said. “I was very blessed. Every adversity [I faced], there was a twist or a turn that something good happened over it.”

Her upbringing in New York introduced her to people from all cultures and backgrounds. As she got older and started traveling overseas to places like the Middle East, Thailand, South America and Europe, she grew to love those cultures even more.

“I just realized there is so much to learn. It’s not just from the textbook,” she said. “When you’re in another country and speaking to someone in another language, it comes alive.”

She studied art at Stony Brook University and earned her master’s in fine arts from Hunter College in the 1980s. She remained in New York, living as an artist and a dancer. She picked up traditional Chinese ribbon dancing to reconnect with her heritage.

Sept. 11, 2001, changed things for her. She used to ride the subway into the World Trade Center frequently and said she was supposed to perform a dance there the day of the attack. She didn’t feel well that morning and decided not to go.

The galleries that displayed her artwork shut down while the city began rebuilding. She felt she needed a change and eventually moved to Florida.

Her passion for interacting with the international community prompted her to return to school to pursue teaching. She completed her Teaching English as a Foreign Language graduate certificate at UCF in 2005 before spending the next decade at Embry Riddle Language Institute. She also served as Embry Riddle’s Asian Student Union advisor.

When teaching requirements changed, Hardiman needed to earn a second master’s degree if she wanted to continue her career. So she returned to UCF 11 years after earning her original certificate.

She juggled three classes a semester while also teaching two courses as a graduate assistant. Although she said it was a lot to handle, she excelled and was selected as the 2016 Sunshine State Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) of Florida Outstanding Educator Award.

“I value what I do with my education because now I can help other people. I want to ignite the passion [in them] to go back to school. Don’t ever say no to education,” she said. “That’s my message as an alumni. Take the risk. Try something new. Try a class you don’t know. Even work with teachers you hate because you learn the most from the teachers you had the hardest time with.”

Summer Graduate Makes It Count

Consuelo and daugter Yuri
Consuelo Rodriguez ’16 and daughter Yuridia

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — Seven-year-old Yuridia Rodriguez sat next to her mother, Consuelo, and watched as her nickname Yuri was spelled out in gold stickers on a black graduation cap.

Her brother’s name, Alex, age 2, was placed down next.

“I just figured that since they’ve had to sacrifice also, I’m going to put my kids on here,” said Consuelo Rodriguez, an accounting graduate. “I’m going to put the Mexican and American flags. I’m going to put something UCF. A little bit of everything just to show what we’ve been through.”

Rodriguez, a resident of Lake County, started at UCF in 2005. When she had her daughter, she took time off but made it a priority to go back to school, even if it took her years to finish her degree.

She said she has taken one class a semester while still juggling a full-time job and taking care of her family. Rodriguez said there were times she was on campus until 3 a.m. studying or working on assignments and would then have to drive an hour home.

“I’ve been doing it more for them to show them that it’s possible and they can do it,” she said as she looked at Yuridia. “When they grow up and it’s their turn, they can see that I did it. They need to go above what I did.”

She hopes to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in accounting. Her parents, husband, children and three siblings will all be in attendance to watch her cross the stage at CFE Arena on graduation day.

“It just feels awesome. I thought it was never going to finish,” she said. “Our family doesn’t have a lot of graduates. It means a lot to everybody.”

Dog Days of Summer Graduation

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Amanda Overend ’16 and dog-in-training Ridley

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — Amanda Overend takes pride in propagating what has become a life motto: “Help is a four-legged word.”

The Orlando native associates her college experience with volunteering – a passion she found five years ago.

Her most recent philanthropic endeavor has been helping raise puppies for Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs.

UCF is the first public university in Florida to have an agreement with the organization and allow dogs to be raised on campus. Overend has trained three dogs: Deacon, Asland and her current golden-lab mix, Ridley.

“It’s had a huge impact on me,” she said.

So much so that she included the dogs’ names on her cap and will have Ridley in the audience on graduation day along with her parents and best friend since middle school.

Overend said it took her 11 years to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology. In finding her way, she moved across the country and back, and changed degree paths several times from web design to biology to marketing and nursing before finally landing on psychology.

“When I switched to psychology, I fell in love once I found classes that I actually enjoyed,” she said. “UCF is home. My aunt went here, and I actually felt a part of the school of psychology.”

Although she calls it a long journey, she values her experience at UCF and encourages others to use their time in college to explore who they are and what is important to them.

“It’s really not a race,” she said. “Just go at your own speed and find a degree that you truly feel passionate about. Not just one that is going to be easy.”