Adventure is Out There

By Jenna Marina

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.

Now, she’s about to get the summer adventure of a lifetime after winning a National Geographic short film contest with the first film she ever produced.

“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.”

Photography by Anai Colyer ’14

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.”

Anai’s pro tips for your own photography:
1. If you’re new to photography, you can only learn so much from the internet. The best way to learn is to get out there and practice, practice, practice.

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.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — March 7, 2016

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Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The UCF College of Sciences hosted its second annual Outstanding AlumKnights awards ceremony on Thursday, honoring 10 Knights from each of the college’s nine departments, as well as the Nicholson School of Communication.
  2. Pegasus Magazine was delivered to mailboxes and inboxes last week. Read a digital copy, or download the Pegasus Magazine iPad app.
  3. Hear ye, here ye! The Orlando Shakespeare Theater, in partnership with UCF, presents performances of “The Tempest” through March 27 staring UCF alumna, Gracie Winchester, ’14, and “The Adventures of Pericles” through March 26.
  4. Did you know UCF has a student belly dancing club? The Shimmy Knights are dedicated to promoting positive body image and teaches students who want to learn the art of belly dancing!
  5. Looking for ways to get involved? View the UCF Alumni events calendar to find a local event near you!

College of Sciences Recognizes its Newest Group of Outstanding AlumKnights

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On March 3, the UCF College of Sciences and its alumni chapter hosted their second annual Outstanding AlumKnights awards ceremony. The college’s dean, Michael Johnson, hosted this year’s festivities, which took place in the Grand Ballroom of the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, where guests enjoyed music, cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres and a photo booth, in addition to the award presentations.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Outstanding AlumKnights!

The 2016 awardees were:

  • Anthropology | Amanda Groff, Ph.D., ’03, ’05, ’07, lecturer, UCF Department of Anthropology
  • Biology | David Breininger, Ph.D., ’09, lead wildlife biologist, NASA Ecological Programs, Kennedy Space Center
  • Chemistry | Robert DeVor, Ph.D., ’03, ’08, scientist/principal investigator, Vencore Inc.
  • Communication | Marci Gonzalez, ’05, reporter, ABC affiliate, New York
  • Mathematics | Robert Muise, Ph.D., ’88, ’90, ’03, senior staff systems engineer, Lockheed Martin
  • Physics | Howard Bender III, Ph.D., ’97, ’98, R&D program manager, National Security Technologies LLC
  • Political Science | Carol Lawrence, ’71, attorney at law, Carolyn J.B. Lawrence P.A.
  • Psychology | Diane Robinson, Ph.D., ’06, ’10, program director, Cancer Support Community/Integrative Medicine Department, UF Health Cancer Center, Orlando Health
  • Sociology | Monica Mendez, Ph.D., ’02, ’08, executive director, Dress for Success Pittsburgh
  • Statistics | Tiffany Wills, ’06, assistant vice president/actuary, Hannover Life Reassurance Company of America

VIEW PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 25, 2016

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The UCF College of Nursing is one of just 60 nursing schools in 33 states to receive funding to participate in this year’s white coat ceremony, which promotes humanistic, patient-centered, compassionate care among future generations of registered nurses. (See No. 2 below.)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Oviedo High School teachers Will Furiosi, ’13, MAT14, and Jessica Ortega, ’13, fell head-over-heels for each other — and education — at UCF. READ MORE
  2. On Jan. 10, nearly 200 students from the UCF College of Nursing ceremoniously began their clinical practice with an inaugural white coat ceremony and joined a nationwide initiative to promote compassionate care.
  3. UCF freshman Nick Drivas has been invited to perform with Grammy Award-nominated entertainer Michael Feinstein as part of the “Michael Feinstein: A Sinatra Centennial” concert Jan. 29 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
  4. On a career break and thinking of returning to work? Unsure about what you want to do and where to start? Interested in changing career paths? Join UCF alumni and other returning professionals for an information-packed, half-day program that includes return-to-work strategies, and tactics on resumes, interviews and job searches.
  5. Running through Jan. 31, Theatre UCF, in collaboration with the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, presents “Spunk and the Harlem Literati,” an adaption of the play “Spunk” by Zora Neale Hurston. The production is part of the 27th annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities.

There’s No Place Like … a Classroom

A pair of Knights fall head-over-heels for education — and each other — at UCF

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Will Furiosi II, ’13, ’14 & Jessica Ortega, ’13 | Teachers, Oviedo High School

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Fascinated with infectious disease and pathogenic bacteria, Will Furiosi, ’13, ’14, had dreams of working at the Centers for Disease Control. But, during his senior year of pre-med classes at UCF, he decided that teaching science might be more fun.

So, after completing his bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences (with a minor in business administration) in 2013, he continued his education at UCF, on a full scholarship, graduating with his master’s degree in teacher education in 2014. Now, instead of wearing head-to-toe protective garb in a lab every day, he only needs to slip on a pair of safety glasses when conducting experiments with his AP biology and chemistry students at Oviedo High School.

And, in case he has any accidents, his emergency contact, fellow Knight and bride-to-be Jessica Ortega, ’13, is just a few hallways away, teaching AP art history and honors humanities.

To call this couple of Knights ambitious is an understatement.

During their time at UCF, both were active members of The Burnett Honors College and the President’s Leadership Council.

In addition, Furiosi was a recipient of the 2013 Order of Pegasus (the most prestigious and significant award a student can attain at UCF) and graduated top of his class in the College of Medicine, as well as Summa Cum Laude from the university. And, to get in some physical exercise (and fun!), he also played four years on the university’s Ultimate Frisbee team.

When asked about the proudest moment of his life so far, he says it was the near flawless execution of his engagement plan that was six months in the making, but, he adds that a close second is a toss-up between finishing with perfect 4.0s as valedictorian of his high school and finishing top of his class at UCF.

“While there is more prestige accompanying the UCF distinction, completing the feat in high school showed that I could set my mind to something years in advance and achieve it,” he says.

Educating Q&A

Why did you choose to attend UCF?
JO: My family made an unexpected pit stop on the way to a ski trip on President’s Day weekend senior year and I applied to UCF that night. I felt just like Dorothy (in “The Wizard of Oz”) coming home the moment I stepped onto the campus. I knew I couldn’t go anywhere else after that moment.

Do you have any hidden talents?
WF: I can play multiple musical instruments — bassoon (it’s been a while for this one), flute and saxophone — and, I have a knack for taking musical tunes and making my own lyrical renditions.

If life were a song, what would the title be?
WF: I’m going to take a different spin on this and choose a good song for life: “Warning” by Incubus. It’s about a warning that you shouldn’t let life pass you by. Instead, you should live life to the fullest because everything could be gone in an instant.
JO: “I’m On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons, because that’s how I try to feel every day, especially in front of 100-plus high school students!

Most embarrassing moment?
WF: I’m sure I’ve had more embarrassing moments, but … I ripped my pants, right in the center of my butt, right in the middle of the school day earlier this school year.

What were you most surprised to learn after becoming a teacher?
WF: I was most surprised to hear how much unsubstantiated or biased research is used to influence educational policy and how much time and money is wasted in constantly trying to reinvent the educational wheel.
JO: That kids (or anyone for that matter) never listen to you the first five times you say something. It drives me nuts having to repeat what I already have written on the board a million times a day. I seriously waste at least a few minutes a class period repeating myself and that adds up!

What kind of life advice do you give to your students?
WF: I encourage students to continue to learn as much as possible, get involved in activities to determine their interests, and become financially literate (something we should do more of in public school).
JO: Figure out your passions and pursue them regardless. These students have too many people telling them what they “should” do with their lives. They need more quiet time to just sit there and thing about what THEY want to do, not what their parents, counselors, friends or teachers think is best for them. They’re too afraid of making the “wrong” choice, but I tell them that if they learned something for the experience, it can never be a “wrong” choice.

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Professional Achievement Award
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College of Sciences Dean Michael Johnson presented the college’s 2015 Professional Achievement Award to James Rosengren, ’81.
James Rosengren, ’81 | Founder/Chairman/CEO, Heritage Health Solutions Inc.

The UCF Alumni Association and College of Sciences presented their 2015 Professional Achievement Award to James Rosengren at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in biology from UCF, Jim went on to earn his master’s degree in healthcare administration at Baylor University in 1991. 

Before becoming the chairman and CEO of Heritage Health Solutions Inc., he was the vice president of political and government relations for Health Net Federal Services Inc. He also served in the U.S. Army, earning multiple medals, the Legion of Merit Award and Congressional Veteran Commendation.

Jim is a fellow at the American College of Healthcare Executives, and is a member of several veterans and military organizations.

Learn more about Jim:

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Oct. 12, 2015

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, UCF is hosting several events this month to encourage people to talk about domestic violence and learn more about the impact this crime has not only on the victims, but the entire community.
  2. The UCF Communications Disorders Clinic opened its doors to the public on Friday, showcasing its new state-of-the-art facility in Central Florida Research Park.
  3. The UCF Alumni Association is giving Knights an inside look at ways to help your children prepare for one of the most important decisions of their lives — applying for college! Join us this Wednesday from 6:30-8 p.m. at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center for our Legacy Admissions Workshop.
  4. Thirteen UCF Alumni chapters and clubs participated in this year’s Knights Give Back, the university’s annual day of service.
  5. The UCF RESTORES clinic is helping veterans combat PTSD, but it needs your help to continue its vital work!

Alumni Chapters/Clubs Participate in Knights Give Back 2015

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As part of this year’s Knights Give Back day of service, the Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter prepared and served dinner
to families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.

Since 2007, students, alumni, faculty and staff have served more than 22,000 hours at UCF’s annual day of service, Knights Give Back, making a lasting impact on the Central Florida community that will continue to grow, and saving Orlando nearly $600,000.

As part of Knights Give Back this year, many of our regional alumni chapters and clubs participated in service projects across the nation:

  • The Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter prepared and served dinner to local families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
    PHOTOS
  • The Dallas/Ft. Worth UCF Alumni Club held a clothing and food drive benefiting The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
    PHOTOS
  • The Denver UCF Alumni Chapter held a canned food drive to benefit the Denver Rescue Mission.
  • The Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club collected school supplies and non-perishable food items for the John E. Ford K-8 School and Ft. Caroline Elementary during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
    PHOTOS
  • The Ocala UCF Alumni Club held a children’s book drive, which benefited Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection, during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
  • The Palm Beach UCF Alumni Chapter collected items supporting the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League during its UCF at Tulane Watch Party.
    PHOTOS
  • On Oct. 25, the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter will be cheering on runners, manning water stations and helping to collect new/used running shoes to donate to local nonprofits at the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon.
  • On Nov. 21, the Southeast Florida UCF Alumni Chapter will be sorting through food before it gets donated to local food pantries through Feeding South Florida.
  • The Tallahassee UCF Alumni Club collected non-perishable food items to benefit the Big Bend Homeless Coalition.
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  • The Volusia/Flagler UCF Alumni Club partnered with UCF Daytona to paint the PACE Center for Girls, which provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy.
  • The Washington D.C. Alumni Chapter sorted through food, donated by local farmers’ markets, for the Arlington Food Assistance Center, and helped organize bundles for local families.
    PHOTOS

In addition, the UCF College of Sciences Alumni Chapter helped the efforts of Pegasus Professor Linda Walters, Ph.D., to restore degraded shorelines and oyster reefs at the Indian River Lagoon.
PHOTOS/VIDEO

The UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter also helped out at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, a nonprofit animal shelter that takes in owner-relinquished pets. Through Pet Alliance, each animal is ensured to have a good quality of life and is provided with enrichment activities, socialization and exercise.
PHOTO

Plus, UCF Alumni Relations hosted a clean up at Orlando’s historic Greenwood Cemetery, where volunteers cleaned headstones, grave markers and memorials, removing debris, as well as doing some painting and landscaping.


Volunteers now have a new way to make an even greater impact, with a grants program called “Dollars for Doers,” in which some employers will honor your work as a volunteer by “matching” your efforts with a charitable donation of their own, often to the organization of your choice!
LEARN MORE

College of Sciences Presents Inaugural Outstanding AlumKnights Awards

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On Feb. 5, the University of Central Florida College of Sciences and its alumni chapter hosted the inaugural Outstanding AlumKnights award reception at the Orlando Science Center.

COS Dean, Dr. Michael Johnson welcomed the crowd, and faculty representatives from each of the college’s 10 departments and school presented the awards to their respective recipients.

The 2015 awardees were:

  • Anthropology | Keith Edwards, ’10, ’11, president, Medstar Medical
  • Biology | Alice Bard, ’86, ’89, environmental specialist II, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Division of Recreation & Parks, Bureau of Parks, District 3
  • Chemistry | Jennifer McKinley, ’94, ’96, co-founder and chief operating officer, IRradiance Glass
  • Nicholson School of Communication | Clay McMillan, ’90, president, CMI Production Services
  • Mathematics | Aicha Elhor Gillespie, Ph.D., ’00, senior vice president of Citi Shared Services Global Re-engineering
  • Physics | Clara Rivero-Baleine, Ph.D., ’01, ’03, ’05, mechanical engineer, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control
  • Political Science | Ybeth Bruzual, ’05, morning news/political coverage anchor/moderator, News 13
  • Psychology | Kristin Chase, ’03, director of organizational development department, Universal Orlando
  • Sociology | Nicholas Guittar, Ph.D., ’01, ’05, ’11, assistant professor of sociology, Valdosta State University
  • Statistics | Stephanie Urdahl, ’05, assistant vice president and actuary, Financial Solutions Pricing Department, Hannover Re

Not only did the event honor the college’s most outstanding alumni, but it also raised money for scholarships through a silent auction.

Guests had fun interacting with exhibits at the science center, including a hands-on liquid nitrogen demonstration that had everyone jumping at the explosion of an expanding balloon! They also enjoyed live music, while sipping drinks and snacking on hors d’oeuvres — including the crowd-favorite flaming donuts. To finish off the evening’s festivities, awardees and their families dressed up in UCF props and captured their Knight pride in the photo booth.

VIEW PHOTOS