Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 11, 2016

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. UCF Head Coach Scott Frost continues working to rebuild the football program, last week announcing the arrivals of Erik Chinander, former outside linebackers coach at Oregon, who will take over as the Knights’ defensive coordinator; Greg Austin, former assistant offensive line coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, who will lead the Knights’ offensive line; and Marcus Castro-Walker, former director of player personnel for Arizona State, who will serve as UCF football’s director of player development. (Hear from Frost and Chinander in the video above.)
  2. The UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management has partnered with the United States Tennis Association to offer a new B.S. degree in professional tennis management.
  3. Thanks to a $1.5 million grant, UCF researchers could shed new light on undetected pollution lurking beneath the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
  4. The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators recognized UCF Multicultural Academic & Support Services with the Excellence Award Bronze Certificate.
  5. For the third-consecutive year, the UCF women’s flag football team claimed the national title! Way to go, ladies! (Plus, check out the newest inductees into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame.)

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Dec. 21, 2015

Former Olympian and UCF alumna Michelle Akers (left) hosted the latest delivery of a Limbitless Solutions arm in Powder Springs, Ga., to Lila Brooks Pearson (right front) of South Carolina.
Former Olympian and UCF alumna Michelle Akers (left) hosted the latest delivery of a Limbitless Solutions arm in Powder Springs, Ga., to Lila Brooks Pearson (right front) of South Carolina.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. More than 5,000 students joined the UCF alumni family this past weekend during three fall commencement ceremonies. Congratulations, Class of 2015! Here are some things all new grads should know.
  2. A team of UCF students delivering bionic arms to make 12 children’s Christmas wishes come true was featured Dec. 13 on NBC’s “TODAY Show.” Limbitless Solutions, the UCF-based nonprofit organization that provides 3D-printed bionic arms and hands to children at no cost to their families, started its 12 Arms for Christmas campaign with a special delivery to a 5-year-old South Carolina girl, which included the help of UCF alumna and Olympic gold-medalist Michelle Akers, ’89.
  3. UCF is working hard to secure funding for its planned downtown campus, which would create 2,000 new jobs and have an annual economic impact of $205 million, including $90 million in wages.
  4. A UCF College of Medicine resident was honored with the nation’s top residency research award for his study of a unique heart attack victim he met in the emergency room.
  5. Need a break from all the holiday stress this week? Come out to the CFE Arena on Tuesday and support the UCF Women’s and Men’s Basketball teams! The ladies take on Oklahoma State at 1 p.m., and the guys take on Bethune Cookman at 7 p.m. Go Knights! Charge On! Also, now through Jan. 3, you can catch a performance of “Peter and the Starcatchers” at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

This is our last “Five Things” list for 2015. See you in again in 2016! Happy Holidays, Knights!

UCF Student-Athletes Crush the Competition

UCF Football, Men’s Basketball, Softball earn AAC Team Academic Excellence Awards

AAC-Team-Excellence-Awards-2015

By Andy Seeley
UCFKnights.com

UCF student-athletes are continuing to excel in the classroom, as well as in competition. Three Knights programs were honored Tuesday, July 28, as the American Athletic Conference announced its Team Academic Excellence Awards for 2014-15.

The American Athletic Conference Team Academic Excellence Awards recognize the team in each conference sport with the highest GPA for that academic year. UCF’s football, men’s basketball and softball programs each earned that distinction this year.

“I’m very proud of our student-athletes for their hard work and success in the classroom,” interim Director of Athletics George O’Leary said. “We have a culture of academic success at UCF.”

For Coach O’Leary’s football program, it marks the fourth straight season the Knights have been honored as the best academic team in their conference. The Knights have brought home the Team Academic Excellence Award twice in the two-year existence of the American Athletic Conference. In addition to the last two AAC honors, the football program also brought home the Conference USA Sport Academic Award in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

The Knights are the two-time defending American Athletic Conference champions on the gridiron to go along with the Academic Team Excellence Awards.

Head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie led her softball squad to a school-record 50 wins last season. The Knights were the American Athletic Conference Champions in both the regular season and postseason tournament and advanced to the NCAA Regional Final. The Black and Gold accomplished those feats while also fielding the strongest academic squad in the conference.

Meanwhile, men’s basketball head coach Donnie Jones leads a squad that posted a school-record Academic Progress Rate score in the most recent NCAA release, to go along with his team’s AAC Team Academic Excellence Award.

Academic accolades have become the norm at UCF.

As a department, the Knights rank No. 1 in the nation in NCAA Graduation Success Rate among all public institutions. At 95 percent in the most recent GSR report, UCF trails only private institutions Notre Dame, Stanford, Duke and Northwestern. The Knights’ GSR is 11 points above the national average. UCF’s football, volleyball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer and rowing programs are all tops among The American in Graduation Success Rate.

In the most recent NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) report, the Knights improved for the 10th consecutive year. Two Knights programs — volleyball and women’s tennis — have had multiple perfect scores in APR, while the department average of 981 is a school record. Twelve of the Knights’ 16 sports are at or above the national average for APR.

This story was posted July 28, 2015, on UCFKnights.com. It has been slightly edited in accordance with alumni association style guidelines. See original article.

4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors Receive Order of Pegasus

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While attending a 4EVER KNIGHTS meeting in March, two of this year’s Order of Pegasus awardees, seniors Gerald Richardson and Jill Dutmers, posed for a photo in front of the Knights for Life wall at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

Jill Dutmers and Gerald Richardson, two of the UCF Alumni Association’s 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors, were awarded the 2015 Order of Pegasus — the university’s most prestigious and significant award a student can attain.

The Order of Pegasus recognizes exemplary performance by UCF bachelor’s degree students in the areas of academic achievement, outstanding university involvement, leadership and community service. Master’s degree students, doctoral, professional or M.D. students are selected separately based on academic achievement, professional or community service, leadership, and publication or research experiences.

  • Jill Dutmers is an undergraduate majoring in English literature in the College of Arts and Humanities, and is a student in The Burnett Honors College. She’s a member of the Honors Congress and President’s Leadership Council, and has participated in numerous service projects for the UCF community. Dutmers also serves as president of 4EK. She’s currently deciding which law school she’d like to attend. (She’s been accepted into seven.)

“My four years at UCF has afforded me incredible opportunities and experiences that have shaped not only how I view the world, but also how I view myself,” Dutmers says. “The education I received and leadership skills I gained have me a stronger, more polished, more confident Knight.”

  • Gerald Richardson is an undergraduate majoring in biomedical sciences in the College of Medicine. He’s a third-generation Knight. He’s involved with the Student Undergraduate Research Council and the President’s Leadership Council. Richardson also gives free, private tutoring, was a member of the 2014 UCF Homecoming Court, and participates in countless community service activities.

“At UCF, I have been afforded the unique opportunity to serve as a university ambassador, contribute to the well-being of the Central Florida community, and explore my passion for research, all while acquiring the scientific foundation necessary to pursue a career in medicine,” Richardson says. “I owe all of my success and professional maturity to the unwavering support that UCF and The Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences have displayed for my academic and extracurricular endeavors.”

The 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors are a group of student leaders, chosen to serve as the liaisons between students and alumni. They operate as an extension of the UCF Alumni Association and oversee the programming and benefits for 4EK general membership. These student ambassadors uphold UCF traditions and leave a lasting legacy.

Two former 4EK Ambassadors have also been awarded Order of Pegasus: Todd Currie, who won it this year, and Jamie Gregor, ’13, who won it during her junior year, in 2012.

Congratulations to these exceptional Knights!

More Info

4EVER KNIGHTS Student Alumni Association
4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Theatre alumna reprises Off-Broadway role she originated at Orlando theatre

Michelle Knight, '02, poses in front of her Snow White billboard in Times Square.
Michelle Knight, ’02, poses in front of her Snow White billboard in Times Square.
Michelle Knight, ’02 | Performer

Michelle Knight, ’02, stars as Snow White in the Off-Broadway production of “DISENCHANTED!” — a not-for-the-kiddies musical comedy that’s anything but Grimm. Forget the princesses you think you know. Fairy tales will never be the same! The show runs for a limited engagement Nov. 26 through Jan. 25 at the Theatre at St. Clement’s in New York City.

Knight originated the role of Snow White in “DISENCHANTED!” in 2011 at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, and reprised the role (for which she received a Daily Beast Best Actress award) at the Orlando Shakespeare Festival’s Goldman Theater, as well as the Peter Jay Sharp Theater and Don’t Tell Mama Cabaret Theater, both in New York City.

She’s performed on Broadway in “Jersey Boys,” as well as in the first national tour in Chicago and Las Vegas. Her other national tours include “Grease” and the 30th anniversary tour of “Annie.”

Knight is often a starring performer with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, including leads in “My Fair Lady,” “Carousel,” and “Guys and Dolls.” She can also be seen in “Finding Nemo, The Musical” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and with the Voices of Liberty at Disney’s Epcot.

More Info

Visiting NYC during the holidays? Get tickets to see Michelle Knight in “DISENCHANTED!”

Marketing Wizard

Magical marketing behind Universal’s “Harry Potter” attraction casts alumna in 2014 Nicholson Alumni Hall of Fame

Former Nicholson School of Communication Hall of Fame inductees (left to right) Roger Pynn, ’73 (2000); Michele Cooper, ’83 (2002); Dan Ward, ’92 (2011); Heissam Jebailey, ’00 (2012); Kim Strong, ’93 (2006); and Peter Cranis, ’84 (2003), were happy to welcome 2014 inductee, Donna Mirus Bates, ’93 (center), to their elite group. (PHOTO: Shaloni Prine, '07)
Former Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame inductees (left to right) Roger Pynn, ’73 (2000);
Michele Cooper, ’83 (2002); Dan Ward, ’92 (2011); Heissam Jebailey, ’00 (2012); Kim Strong, ’93 (2006); and Peter Cranis, ’84 (2003), were happy to welcome 2014 inductee, Donna Mirus Bates, ’93 (center), to their elite group.
(PHOTO: Shaloni Prine, ’07)
Donna Mirus Bates, ’93 | Senior VP, Marketing Communications & Content Development, Universal Orlando Resort

Lightning never strikes twice — except in the case of Donna Mirus Bates, ’93, who worked on the marketing opportunity of a lifetime, then created an encore marketing campaign to reignite global excitement for a theme park expansion of infinite magnitude.

Bates and her team first helped to launch The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort in 2010. Following its success, Bates and her team partnered with Warner Bros., the “Harry Potter” cast and filmmakers, author J.K. Rowling, and a team of creative geniuses to once again capture the world’s imagination, bringing Diagon Alley to life for the devoted fans of the books and movies.

On Thursday, Nov. 6, Bates was celebrated for her successes, as well as her continued involvement at the university, becoming the 31st inductee in the UCF Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame, which was established in 2000.

Tom Alexander, ’03, chair of the NSC Alumni Chapter, emceed the luncheon, which was held at the Citrus Club in downtown Orlando. He was joined by Robert Chandler, NSC director and professor, who presented Bates with her award.

“Through all of her actions and efforts, Donna truly exemplifies integrity, community, creativity and excellence, making her a remarkable Knight,” Chandler said.

Fellow NSC Hall of Fame inductees, and members of the NSC Alumni Chapter and UCF Alumni Association, as well as Bates’ co-workers were in attendance to congratulate her.

“I’m incredibly proud to be a graduate of the Nicholson School of Communication at UCF,” Bates said. “I love seeing the high caliber of candidates our program is producing, and I’m so honored to be a member of the NSC Alumni Hall of Fame.”

UCF Nicholson School of Communication Director and Professor Robert Chandler presents 2014 Hall of Fame inductee, Donna Mirus Bates, '93, with her award.
Donna Mirus Bates, ’93, 2014 Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame inductee,  receives her award from Robert Chandler, NSC director and professor.