Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – April 9, 2018

Statewide Job Fair Infographic

1. UCF will be hosting the Statewide Job Fair on Thursday, May 10, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at CFE Arena. The Statewide Job Fair is an opportunity for employers to recruit students and alumni from 10 of Florida’s state universities. For more information about the job fair, please contact UCF Career Services at 407-823-2361 or [email protected] You may also visit the Florida Career Centers website.

2. Don’t miss UCF sophomore Hannah Sage in the Jeopardy! College Championship beginning Monday, April 9, during kickoff for the quarterfinal competition. Representing one of only three public universities in the competition, the Burnett Honors College student says she is thrilled to share her love for UCF on a national scale.

3. UCF was featured in the Orlando Sentinel for a culinary medicine course, a class that’s becoming more common in U.S. medical schools in order to combat the obesity epidemic and other chronic diseases. UCF’s a four-week elective is a collaboration between Nemours Children’s Hospital and UCF College of Medicine, Rosen College of Hospitality Management and YMCA of Central Florida.

4. Over the weekend, a group of UCF students showcased its oil-cleanup invention at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington D.C. The students’ high-tech sponges clean up ocean oil spills by soaking up oil but repelling water, leaving behind no toxic byproduct. It’s a green solution with a bonus – the oil could be recycled for future use. Now that’s BIG!

5. All this week you can catch UCF’s Celebrates the Arts showcase at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts in downtown Orlando. The festival consists of free or low-cost presentations by the School of Visual Arts & Design and the School of Performing Arts. Many events feature collaborations across the university and community partners. Full Schedule of Events

Veteran’s Day Salute: Joseph Rogan ’11

Burnett Honors College alumnus Joe Rogan ’11 (right) served eight years in the Military Police Corps of the U.S. Army Reserve.

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (Nov. 9, 2017) – Jacksonville-based lawyer and UCF alumnus Joseph Rogan ’11 approaches everyday with the same mentality: Put the mission first. Never accept defeat.

Whether those tenets apply to his career or his relationships, the U.S. Army’s Warrior Ethos are something The Burnett Honors College graduate has carried with him since he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve at the age of 17.

“It really was just a calling,” said Rogan, who served eight years in the Military Police Corps.

Rogan grew up in South Florida and chose to join the Army Reserve before his senior year of high school.

His parents were supportive but hesitant. In fact, Rogan’s paperwork sat on the table for two weeks without until one day he came home to find the missing component completed: his mother’s signature.

“I found out years later that my brother had persuaded her to sign it,” he said.

In the summer between his junior and senior years of high school, he traveled to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for basic training. He called it a maturing experience and unlike anything he had ever endured.

“I think you learn a lot about values and reasons to trust and work with people,” he said.

He arrived on campus in 2008 after finishing military police school as a first-generation college student and ended up double majoring in political science and psychology. He joined ROTC for that first year and, of course, he was still committed to the Army Reserve, training with his unit regularly.

After his first year at UCF, his unit got activated and was deployed to Iraq.

For 10 months, before he had reached the age of 21, Rogan was responsible for mentoring, advising and training the Iraqi police, some of whom had been officers for decades.

Rogan said the experience helped him find his calling as a lawyer.

“When we were there, the Iraqis were still operating under Saddam Hussein’s penal code. But it was in a democracy. You can imagine there are some really big problems with that,” he said. “Since then, they’ve rewritten the penal code, but at the time, my job was to explain how to treat people in what we view as norms in a democratic society.”

Rogan returned to the United States, and about a week later, he was back in classes at UCF. The transition was understandably a major adjustment.

“It was a difficult time going from holding a gun one day to sitting in class with a pencil the next,” he said.

In addition, he withstood several injuries while overseas, including a traumatic brain injury from a vehicle explosion. Other injuries required surgeries upon his return.

But as he adjusted to studying full-time again, he found ways to apply what he had learned from the military to his everyday life.

His work ethic yielded exemplary grades in his classes. His professors, especially in courses like Middle Eastern politics, saw value in his real-life experiences for class discussions.

Rogan credits Director of Honors Advising Rex Roberts ’00 ’03MA for helping him integrate back into a routine schedule and UCF’s community.

Rogan went on to attend Georgetown Law and spent time working in Washington D.C., where he got involved with UCF Alumni’s chapter and eventually rekindled a friendship that later blossomed into a marriage with alumna Ashley Noland ’10.

“There can be a perception with a university like UCF that because we’re large, it’s not a community. That it’s like a factory. That was never my experience,” he said. “It was very much the opposite.”

His double-life in college and the Army Reserve helped lead him to his career as an associate for Smith Hulsey & Busey focusing in business litigation. His drive hasn’t gone unnoticed as he was selected as one of UCF Alumni’s 30 Under 30 this year.

At its center, that drive is all about putting the mission first and never accepting defeat. So as the United States prepares to commemorate its 63rd annual Veterans Day on Nov. 11, Rogan knows first-hand and respects the depth of duty and commitment of those who serve.

“Everybody who serves, no matter their branch or if they are active or reserve or whether they’ve ever been deployed, everybody who serves has sort of written a blank check to the country,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that they agree with any particular war or that they even want to go, but all those people, by signing on the dotted line, have agreed that they will. And they know that there’s a possibility you could be injured or killed. I have the upmost gratitude for everybody who has signed that line at all stages and all branches.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – Nov. 6, 2017

1. The UCF police department added a new member to its team Monday: its first therapy dog. Her name is Paisley, and she will help ease stress and comfort victims of violent crime during interviews and interactions with police. Her partner is UCFPD detective Matt Scott ’07 ’11MS. The idea came from a program that was implemented in the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office by three-time UCF alumnus Jessie Holton ’10 ’12MS ’15EdD.

2. The Student Nurses’ Association at UCF is collecting supplies to send to Puerto Rico. Check out the full list of high-demand items and bring your donation to room 300 on the third floor of UCF’s College of Nursing located at 12201 Research Parkway.

 

3. The Burnett Honors College has a new dean. Meet Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres. She will be taking over from Martin Dupuis, who has served as interim dean since August when Alvin Wang stepped down to return to the faculty. Dupuis will be returning to his previous role as associate dean of the college.

4. It will be a big weekend on campus for sports fans. Basketball season officially tips off with a doubleheader for the women’s and men’s teams at CFE Arena on Friday starting at 5:30 p.m. The nationally ranked football team holds one of its two final home games of the regular season on Saturday at noon against UConn. And the American Athletic Conference champion women’s soccer team will find out at 4:30 p.m. Monday if they are hosting any rounds of this year’s NCAA Tournament. Check out UCFKnights.com for all the details about this weekend’s lineup.

5. Two Puerto Rican high school students who came to Orlando to escape the destruction from Hurricane Maria were surprised Thursday with scholarships from Valencia College and UCF. Both recipients, 17 years old, enrolled at Colonial High School to finish their senior years and left behind plans they already had in place to attend college in Puerto Rico. Neither of them know at this point if they can or will return to the island.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—May 30

1. Today we’re talking NCAA postseason for UCF Athletics – and there’s a lot to cover.

For the first time since 2012, the No. 22 UCF baseball team will be heading to an NCAA Regional tournament. The Knights will be the No. 2 seed in the Tallahassee Regional and will match up against No. 3 seed Auburn at noon on June 2.

For the ninth straight season, the UCF track and field program will be represented at the NCAA Championships after the 4×100 relay team was among the top 12 at the NCAA East Preliminary Round to advance to Eugene, Oregon. The NCAA Outdoor Championship takes place from June 7-10 at historic Hayward Field.

Two other teams wrapped up their seasons among the top 25 in the country over the weekend. The three-time American Athletic Conference champion rowing team posted its highest finish in program history, closing out the NCAA Championship in 18th place. Meanwhile, the men’s golf team finished in a tie for 14th at the NCAA Championship, marking the Knights’ best finish since 2009.

2. In case you missed it, big news from everyone’s favorite big man, Tacko Fall, who chose to forego this year’s NBA Draft and return to UCF for his junior season in 2017-18. Read his heartfelt letter to fans about his decision.

3. As the Orlando community prepares for the one-year mark of the Pulse tragedy, UCF has several events scheduled to honor and remember the 49 lives taken on June 12, 2016. The public is encouraged to come together at blood drive, remembrance ceremony and art exhibit all scheduled to take place on campus June 8.

4. After graduating May 6 with her bachelor’s degree in political science, Burnett Honors College alumna Rebecca Fate almost aced the LSAT and is headed to Harvard. And how sweet is this – she credits an elementary school teacher for her success. Good luck Rebecca, and we expect to see you sporting black and gold around Harvard Yard!

5. UCF’s rise to national prominence under the direction of President John C. Hitt is featured in the latest edition of Florida Trend magazine, which hit stands over the weekend. “Strength in Numbers” is the cover story in the June edition that focuses on higher education in the state.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week MEGA EDITION—April 24

*If you’re graduating and picking up your cap and gown this week, make sure you keep reading because we’ve got five more things especially for our newest alumni!

1. USA Today gave a shoutout to UCF football assistant coach Jovan Dewitt for an app he produced to help with recruiting. Dewitt, a math and physics double major during a two-time Division II all-America career at Northern Michigan in the late 1990s, considers the app a side project – so he’ll still be coaching up the linebackers and special teams come Fall.

2. Staff, alumni and friends of the Burnett Honors College raised nearly $38,000 to establish the Alvin Y. Wang Endowed Scholarship to honor the longtime dean’s service to the university. They surprised him with the news late last week at a celebration of his tenue. Dean Wang plans to step down and focus on teaching in the classroom, so luckily he’s still sticking around.

3. Hot air balloon rides, a rocking concert, food comas and a friendly battle on the gridiron – the UCFastival and spring game was a rousing success. And UCF has all the coverage you could possibly want, complete with videos, recaps and photo galleries.

4. The Orlando Sentinel featured 10 people who make Orlando great, and we’re happy to say we recognize some names as Knights! Chris Castro (Class of 2010) of IDEAS For Us; Mary Palmer, a former professor and the former Dean of the College of Education; and Ryan Rivas (Class of 2005), publisher at Burrow Press, all made the list – and here’s why they did.

5. Just in time for Earth Day, a UCF chemistry professor just found a way to trigger the process of photosynthesis in a synthetic material, turning greenhouse gases into clean air and producing energy all at the same time. The process has great potential for creating a technology that could significantly reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change, while also creating a clean way to produce energy. Score one for science!

Five More Things – Graduation Style
To our newest alumni, we’ve got nothing but love for ya this week. Here are some need-to-knows about graduation that includes opportunities for free swag! Also, if you’ve got any questions about graduation, chances are, the answers lie here.

1. The #UCFGrad cap Instagram contest is in full swing and four prizes are up for grabs, including a legacy brick on Knights Terrace at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. Here’s how to win:
> Decorate your grad cap
> Post it to Instagram
> Tag UCF alumni in the photo & use #UCFGrad in your caption!

2. Speaking of grad caps, the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center is hosting a decorating party all week. Visit us between 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. any day this week and get your hands on all the decorating materials you need to stand out in the crowd on graduation day. Plus, we’ve stocked a candy bar to give you the energy you need to get your cap on point.

3. Need some tunes to commemorate the occasion? Here’s a Spotify playlist made especially for the Class of 2017 by the members of the class themselves! Happy listening!

4. Planning on taking a much needed vacation after all that hard work and walking across the stage with diploma in hand? Consider checking out UCF’s worldwide travel packages.

5. Still need to make your class gift? You haven’t missed your chance. Help out future UCF students and be a part of a lasting legacy by making a gift of $20.17.

Dean’s Sendoff Surprise

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 20, 2017) – As the first member of her family born in America, Melonie Sexton ’07 was a first generation student at UCF when she received an email from Dean Alvin Wang about participating in a research project.

Before she graduated, Wang encouraged her to attend graduate school and continued to be her mentor, even when she moved to Tennessee to pursue a doctoral psychology program at Vanderbilt University.

Sexton, who now teaches at Valencia College, said over the last decade Wang has become more than a mentor to her. She considers him a friend.

So when she heard that the Burnett Honors College was honoring Wang’s service to the university with an endowed scholarship in his name, she knew immediately she wanted to contribute to it.

“He’s the first person outside of my family to tell me that I could actually do anything with my life. Your parents are supposed to say, ‘Yeah you’re going to be a doctor, a lawyer.’ But hearing it from a dean was the push I needed,” she said. “He deserves having a scholarship in his name. I think that’s what he embodies. It makes perfect sense to me.”

Wang announced in fall 2016 that he would be stepping down as dean by August 2017 to focus his time in the classroom as a psychology professor. At the time, the Burnett Honors College staff collaborated on the idea of a proper parting gift.

At Wednesday’s celebration of his tenure, the Burnett Honors College surprised him with the Alvin Y. Wang Endowed Scholarship, which has grown to nearly $38,000 in commitments and will support undergraduate research candidates in the honors college.

Of the 74 donors who contributed, 31 are alumni.

“This has been a great surprise. Thank you for making a gift like this to our students possible,” Wang said. “I always ask myself this question – how did someone like me, who aspired to become faculty and a professor, end up becoming a dean? The reason why I was able to stay in an administrative role for 16 years and enjoy it all the time was because of the people I was able to work with. It begins with my wonderful staff. It certainly includes the students. Meeting the talented, the interesting, the inquisitive student at Honors makes my day. It’s a very enriching, positive experience that I would never want to replace.”

Wang became a member of UCF’s faculty in 1987 and later joined the Burnett Honors College in fall 2001 as an associate dean. He served as interim dean for one year in 2005 before officially being named to the position in fall 2006.

Over the last 12 years under his leadership, the Burnett Honors College has flourished. In that time, 42 students have received national awards, including one Rhodes Scholar and 35 Fulbright Scholars.

In fall 2016, 289 National Merit Scholars were enrolled in the honors college, marking a university record and the second-most among Florida state universities that year.

Wang implemented the Burnett Honors College Medical Scholars Program, which reserves a spot for undergraduates in UCF’s College of Medicine provided that the students meet all the eligibility and performance criteria included in the program.

To enhance learning for honors students, he initiated international study abroad programs, developed service-learning opportunities and led highly successful philanthropic efforts to support new programs. In fact, three service learning trips to Nicaragua, South Africa and Mexico are slated for later this spring.

“I think Alvin would agree that the most important measures of success are the enriched academic experiences and support given to our nearly 5,500 university honors and honors in the majors student that have graduated while he’s been dean. Their dreams and accomplishments have been shaped in part by their time here at the honors college,” said Martin Dupuis, associate dean of the Burnett Honors College. “He supports everyone to excel at what they do. He established a very high professional standard by example, and those of us who have worked with him are better for it.”

Perhaps the most telling sign of his influence are those students, like Sexton, who have a pursued a path as educators themselves, following in his footsteps. Sexton said the biggest lesson she learned from him was to pay it forward.

“Be a role model and pay it forward. That’s what I try to live by,” she said. “If just one of my students said ‘Dr. Sexton said I can do it, and so I can,’ then I feel like I’ve truly paid it forward.”

Contributions are still being accepted for the Alvin Y. Wang Endowed Scholarship. Visit www.ucffoundation.org/alvinwang

Mentor With A Smile

Dr. Sophia Parpia, ’91, got involved with the UCF Parent & Family Philanthropy Council and found a way to help dental students.

By Melanie Brown, UCF Career Services

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug. 30, 2016) – Dr. Sophia Parpia, ’91, has been practicing dentistry since 1995 and has always aspired to help others enter the field, especially students at her alma mater.

She and her husband, Amman Parpia, opened a local dental practice in 1999 in Altamonte Springs. Since then, she has helped high school and college students take a hands-on approach to exploring the field of dentistry.

“I’m willing to help whenever anyone asks,” Parpia said.

She gives students an opportunity to visit her practice, get accustomed to various dental instruments, interact with patients and observe different procedures.

Recently, the UCF Pre-Dental Student Association (PDSA) participated in two all-day workshops with Parpia that went beyond observation. Students had the chance to prepare extracted teeth for composite restoration (fillings) and take impression molds on their peers.

“You never know if this is what you want to do until you try it. You can end up in dental school and realize that you don’t like working in someone’s mouth,” explained Parpia, who wasn’t as fortunate to gain real-world experience prior to entering dental school.

Parpia is a first-generation dentist and was one of the only students in her graduating class to not come from a family of dentists.

“I felt I was at a disadvantage. I didn’t have a lot of the hands-on practice that many of my peers entered school with,” Parpia said. “I want to help students know what to expect before they get to school.”

The Parpias have two daughters that attend UCF – Gabriela, a biomedical sciences sophomore, and Aleena, a freshman studying health sciences-pre clinical.

Gabriela is a member of the Burnett Honors College and was a National Merit Scholarship finalist coming out of Seminole High School. She intends to follow in her mother’s footsteps and now works part-time as a dental assistant at her parents practice.

“I feel very fortunate to get to do this. It’s great experience. I feel more on my feet and will be ready for dental school [when the time comes],” Gabriela said.

In September 2015, the Parpias learned of the UCF Parent and Family Philanthropy Council while touring the Burnett Honors College. The council is in its inaugural year at UCF, and they felt compelled to join.

The primary mission of the Parents Council is to engage parents and family members who lend their talents and provide support for vital student programs. Through engagement with the council, Dr. Parpia connected to the PDSA and other students at UCF.

“This is so important to me, and I’m so proud to help so many students,” said Parpia, who has now helped a few alumni do more than just gain experience prior to dental school.

Andreina Alacrón, ’10, shadowed Parpia while studying at UCF and went on to graduate from the University of Colorado’s School of Dental Medicine in May.

Alacrón first came to Parpia’s practice to obtain observation hours and was soon hired as a dental assistant due to “good work-ethic and enthusiasm about dentistry.” Parpia helped her through her application process, and now that Alacron has graduated from dental school, she will return on Aug. 18 as the practice’s newest practitioner.

Another UCF alumna, Aamna Zaidi, ’16, pursued a similar path in working with Parpia, who wants to hire Zaidi once she is finished with school. Parpia aspires to help more women get into dentistry.

Andrew Bertot, a Burnett Honors College student and the vice president of the PDSA, is thankful to be able to shadow professionals in his field.

“It’s a great opportunity when a dentist opens up their office and lets us figure out if this is what we want to do,” Bertot said.

A number of PDSA students will be first-generation dentists, just like Parpia.

“What Dr. Parpia is doing to help our students advance in their field is extraordinary,” said Neal Robinson, assistant director of leadership annual giving at UCF Alumni. “Career Services invites alumni, parents and friends of the university to host students for short-term job shadowing experiences through the department’s job shadowing program.”

The UCF Externship Program is a 1-5 day job shadow program open to all UCF students. Twenty-four percent of students who completed the 2015 Winter Externship program received a job offer.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Oct. 26, 2015

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Ericka Dunlap, ’04, performed the National Anthem during the 2015 Black & Gold Gala awards ceremony on Thursday night.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The UCF Alumni Association celebrated the achievements of 16 Knights who have “Reached for the Stars” during its 2015 Homecoming Black & Gold Gala on Thursday evening. In addition to 11 Professional Achievement Awards, the association presented awards for Distinguished Student, Distinguished Alumnus, and Service to UCF, as well as the Michelle Akers Award and Champions Award. (Individual articles will continue to be posted throughout the coming weeks.)
  2. After the Knights fell 59-10 to No. 21 Houston during Saturday’s Homecoming game — the eighth straight loss this season — Head Football Coach George O’Leary announced his immediate retirement late yesterday.
  3. This week’s alumni events include a College of Business Administration Alumni and Student Networking Knight tonight, and the UCF San Diego Alumni Club’s Knight at the Museum tomorrow night.
  4. Concluding LGBTQ+ History Month, UCF will host Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” actress Lea DeLaria (“Carrie”), who will serve as keynote speaker during the closing ceremony tomorrow afternoon.
  5. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) congratulated UCF’s two-time national champion Cyber Defense Competition Team in a Senate floor statement on Oct. 20.

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

Robin-Canine-Companions
(PHOTO: newdogworld.com)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. On Wednesday, the UCF College of Sciences will host its Distinguished Speakers Series, featuring “Archaeology from Space,” presented by Dr. Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic Society Fellow and associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
  2. On Saturday, Sept. 26, the UCF Alumni Association will host a family-friendly black and gold tailgate party in South Carolina, before the Knights take on the Gamecocks.
  3. Engineering students repaired the “Wind Dancer” sculpture of Pegasus, located outside the Burnett Honors College, which was vandalized after the first home football game. UCF alumnus Jeff Douglass, ’02, who contributed significantly to the cost of the sculpture in 2007, offered to cover the cost of the repairs, which were minimal, thanks to the engineering students’ work.
  4. UCF is the first public university in Florida to allow Canine Companions for Independence dogs in training to live in dorms. Robin, a 5-month-old yellow, lab is the first on-campus resident, and lives with her student trainer, sophomore Morgan Bell.
  5. The UCF Recreation and Wellness Center now has an adaptive-climbing rock tower that allows wheelchair-bound students to experience the freedom of new heights.

Engineering Students Repair Vandalized Pegasus Sculpture

Engineering students, from left, Anthony Defilippo, Cullen Fitzgerald and Jennifer Ambrose repair the damaged "Wind Dancer" sculpture of Pegasus, which lies hobbled on its back in the Manufacturing Lab at the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Engineering students, from left, Anthony Defilippo, Cullen Fitzgerald and Jennifer Ambrose repair the damaged “Wind Dancer” sculpture of Pegasus, which lies hobbled on its back in the Manufacturing Lab at the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

By Mark Schlueb

A group of engineering students are repairing a sculpture of Pegasus vandalized two weeks ago.

The “Wind Dancer” sculpture of Pegasus that sits in front of the Burnett Honors College was damaged on Sept. 3 after UCF’s first football game of the season. Security camera video captured a man trying to climb atop the winged horse, which was left bent and staring skyward. Despite the offer of a reward, police have not yet caught the vandal.

Burnett Honors College alumnus Jeff Douglass, ’02, founder and CEO of Cybis Communications who contributed significantly to the original cost of the sculpture in 2007, has offered to cover the cost of repairs. As it turns out, those costs should be minimal.

College of Engineering and Computer Science Professor Ali Gordon recruited several seniors majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering to repair the sculpture. Students Jennifer Ambrose, Anthony Defilippo, Cullen Fitzgerald and Chad Robinson removed it from its base on Tuesday and moved it to the Manufacturing Lab at the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the same lab where the Limbitless team produces 3D-printed arms and hands for children.

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The students found that the vandal’s rough treatment of the relatively delicate aluminum sculpture had sheared off its mount and caused several pieces of its “mane” to come loose.

On Wednesday, Ambrose, Defilippo and Fitzgerald designed a new mount for the sculpture and used a machine lathe to begin forming it. They expect to weld the aluminum sculpture where needed on Thursday, with the hope of having it back in place before the next home football game this Saturday.

Defilippo says it should be much sturdier after they make the repairs and modifications.

This story appeared Sept. 17, 2015, on UCF Today. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article.