By Jeana Capra
UCF Alumni Association Student Intern
Congratulations, Class of 2015 fall graduates! You’re an official UCF AlumKnight, which means you’re now part of a family that’s more than 250,000 strong!
Your connection to UCF and your Knights pride don’t end just because your senior year did. The UCF Alumni Association connects all Knights with the university and each other through social, cultural and professional development events. Now that you’re a part of the family, you should know what it entails.
The UCF Alumni Association is a dues-free organization, which means there’s no annual membership fee to take advantage of all it has to offer. You’re already a part of the alumni association just by graduating!
Remember that key card you got when you picked up your cap and gown? Think of that as your golden ticket. It’s what identifies you as an AlumKnight. Show that card to participating benefit providers for alumni discounts, and use it as your pass into alumni-hosted events, like our annual Indoor Tailgate parties during football season.
The UCF Alumni Association hosts events across the nation, so you can keep connected no matter where life takes you after college. There are countless ways to stay involved, whether it’s on campus or in your new community, through our chapters and clubs program. College-based and regional chapters and clubs help you build of a network of new friends who share your UCF experience.
And, as a brand new graduate, you naturally fit into the Young Alumni Council, a network or more than 60,000 Knights under the age of 30. This community of alumni is a powerful way to help you stay connected to social, career and community events as you begin to conquer “the real world.”
Leaving campus doesn’t have to mean losing touch with your alma mater. Follow the UCF Alumni Association on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep up with all of the latest and greatest UCF news and events, and be proud of the university that made you who you are!
Congratulations again, graduates! You’re the future of the UCF Knights Nation, and we look forward to seeing all of the amazing things you’re going to do!
Go Knights! Charge On!
P.S. Jazz up your Facebook profile: Show off your #UCFalumni pride and download one of 10 cover photos. We even made two for your proud parents. :)
“It’s been quite a busy year in the alumni career services office,” explains its coordinator, Leah Goldson.
The partnership between UCF Career Services and the UCF Alumni Association was formed one year ago to assist alumni in need of career guidance. And, it’s been incredibly successful, Goldson says.
Partnership initiatives have included:
Individual career counseling appointments — either in person, via phone or Skype — for more than 600 alumni, with workshops and outreach impacting an additional 450 alumni
Resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile critiques in real time on drop-in Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center
Monthly job search strategy workshops/group career counseling sessions offered the first Tuesday of every month, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center
Workshops, such as “How to Start a Business,” and alumni career panels
“Looking toward the future, we’re excited about creating programming for career changers and those out of the workforce for prolonged periods of time,” Goldson says. “Virtual networking is also a hot topic, as there are 260,000 UCF alumni, and it’s important to make sure all who need assistance are reached.”
UCF Career Services is an office in the Division of Student Development and Enrollment Services.
On Saturday, June 13, following the previous evening’s 8th Annual UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception, nearly 60 regional, college and special interest chapter and club alumni volunteers — from Central Florida and across the nation — attended the UCF Alumni Association’s AlumKnights of the Roundtable: 2015 Chapter & Club Council at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.
The morning began with a keynote address and Q&A by Anthony Jenkins, Ph.D., UCF’s senior associate vice president and dean of students.
Next, alumni staff presented this year’s Chapter & Club Awards, which included:
The College Chapter Challenge Award tasked college-based alumni chapters to engage in professional development activities within their chapters that add value to their degrees and make meaningful connections back to the university. This year’s winner hosted an evening to provide alumni with a tool that’s invaluable in the industry in which they work — customer service training, provided by best-selling author Tim Miles. Congratulations to the Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter!
The Regional Chapter/Club Challenge Award tasked regional chapters with executing events with a strong university connection — which isn’t always easy when you’re not in Orlando! However, this year’s winner impressed the selection committee by working on events with local businesses in their community, while also working with the UCF regional campus closest to them on their signature event, Starry Knights. Last year, Starry Knights raised more than $6,000 for scholarships and, after this year’s event in July, they will be one step closer to their goal of endowing their chapter’s scholarship. Congratulations to the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter!
The Constituent Chapter Challenge Award tasked special interest chapters with creating opportunities to create meaningful connections with our student population. Chapter volunteers participated as panelists for the 4EVER KNIGHTS Alumni Speaker Series and served as mentors in the 4EK Connect program. Their signature professional development conference, PRO CON, raised $8,000 this year and allowed the chapter to engage with students in various stages of the UCF experience. Congratulations to the UCF Young Alumni Chapter!
The Chapter or Club of the Year Award was presented to the overall chapter or club that covered all of the bases in not only event programming, but in communicating with alumni and building meaningful connections. The selection committee was impressed by the winning group, not only for their philanthropic events — participating in multiple events through the year in addition to UCF’s annual day of service, Knights Give Back — but also in the goals they set and how they reached them. They’ve grown their LinkedIn following from just 10 members to nearly 300, while becoming a chapter only two years ago. The judges were thoroughly impressed! Congratulations to the Denver UCF Alumni Chapter!
Chapter and club leaders then participated in breakout sessions on the alumni association’s strategic plan goals of communication, engagement, relevance and funding. After lunch, they continued with roundtable discussions on board management, social media, student engagement, professional development/career-focused events, and partnerships.
Before wrapping up the day-long conference with a catered happy hour and UCF Bookstore merchandise sales, attendees got to meet and participate in a Q&A with Mike Morsberger, the new vice president for alumni relations and development, and CEO of the foundation.
Thank you to all of our dedicated alumni volunteers! Go Knights! Charge On!
Guest Service and Attractions Executive, Cinecittà World
Current location: Rome, Italy
By Kathy Dorf
Rosen College Public Relations
For Nicole Cutrufo, ’13, it all started with a childhood dream. After journeying from Europe to the United States to prepare for a career in theme parks, her passions led her home.
Can you describe your career journey since graduating from UCF’s Rosen College? I graduated with my Master of Science in Hospitality Management in May 2013. It was a great accomplishment for me coming directly from Europe to study and work in the capital of hospitality in Orlando. After working at Disney as a guest service manager, I gained some great operations management experience. I then had the opportunity to continue my leadership journey at Universal Orlando as an attractions supervisor. After I graduated, I was selected to be part of the leadership group for Halloween Horror Nights.
Eventually, I decided to move back to Europe to continue my career and bring home the great lessons I learned in the states. I was offered some interesting industry roles in Europe and decided to accept a position for the opening of a brand new park, Cinecittà World. Today, I’m a guest service and attractions executive, opening a new park, inspiring, recruiting and training new staff members and creating a theme park culture. I’m involved in writing the attractions’ procedures for the very first time, designing tools, evacuation routes, standards of service, etc. It’s a great challenge, but also a great honor.
How did your experience at Rosen College prepare you for the industry and your current role? I have always been a great theme park enthusiast ever since I can remember. I studied at the best business school in Italy, but there weren’t any classes to develop leadership skills in the theme park industry. The first time I came to Orlando was as a Disney International College Program participant working at Animal Kingdom. I then moved back to Europe to continue my career at Disneyland Paris and obtained the Hospitality Management Certificate from Rosen College while studying at Disney University. I was later accepted into Rosen College’s Master of Science in Hospitality Management degree program. I also served as a guest service manager in Future World Epcot operations thanks to an internship program at Rosen College.
I was blessed to have great professors from the industry supporting my development, believing in me as an international participant and giving me the knowledge, strength and hope to pursue my goals while realizing my childhood dream. As an international student and woman, my experiences at UCF and in the United States exposed me to a culture of women in business. It may be typical for an American student; however, it’s not where I come from. I will always remember the women I met in leadership positions in our industry and I will try to inspire other young women here in Italy to ask for more, to study, to be their selves in a world where there are not as many women in leadership positions.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve been able to do so far in your career? Opening a brand new park! I had assisted the operations team in opening the Test Track area in Epcot and the new expansion of Krusty Land at Universal Orlando, but I never had the opportunity to open a brand new theme park like Cinecittà World. We recently opened the park and it was so emotional seeing the staff members welcoming and loading our guests. I felt honored to be part of that moment, going to work and remembering where it all started: my Rosen College education and my American dream.
What was your favorite part about attending Rosen College? My favorite part about attending Rosen College was to be in the global tourism center learning from professors from all around the world and studying with students from many interesting industry backgrounds. Career Services was also an incredible tool. Without the help of Rosen College’s professional advisors, I wouldn’t be the leader I am today; I wouldn’t have found my path or have been able to identify and work on my weaknesses. They helped me focus on being a positive example in the industry and working with passion and dedication. My professors taught me what professionalism is and today, they are my mentors and examples in my everyday life. During my morning briefings to my team members, I often mention my days at Rosen College and I hope that many international participants will have the same chance to study at UCF.
Do you think your degree gives you a competitive advantage compared to your peers? How so? My degree prepared me with an in-depth knowledge of our industry. It also gave me the capacity to think strategically and analyze figures rather than think about new ideas without structure. I enjoyed the practical classes like Hotel Management and Food & Beverage Management, as well as Finance in the Hospitality Industry and Research Methods. Without this structure, I would not be competitive in a world of decisions. Decisions must always be supported by numbers and quantified. This is the best knowledge I brought home with me, in addition to the importance of teamwork.
What advice would you give to current and potential Rosen College students? Serve as much as you can. During your university experience, apply for as many frontline jobs as you can and then use your hospitality experience in your research and studies at Rosen College. Many professors can help you link your everyday work experience to your studies. These teachings are the best competitive advantage you will have. Our industry needs prepared professionals and professionalism starts with service. Take advantage of being in the heart of the hospitality industry and find as many occasions to experience small things like open a ride early in the morning, complete a checklist, explain a map to a guest or smile as you say goodbye to every single guest at the end of the day. These things, together with your degree from Rosen College, will make you a leader.
What’s your favorite quote? “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” —Mother Teresa
Internships with the Vans Warped Tour, the Starbucks VIA Taste Tour, and Super Bowl XVIII appeared to place former event management and hospitality management double major Jennifer Garcia’s, ’09, career trajectory on a crash course with success after college. However, after Garcia initially graduated from the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, the alumna couldn’t even find employment as a hostess due to the economic recession in the United States.
Fast forward nearly four years later, when Garcia returned to her alma mater to inspire current hospitality students with her story of resiliency, as she went from unemployed college grad to assisting with multi-million dollar celebrity weddings and now a new career in professional sports.
“After I graduated, I wanted to work in the event industry,” Garcia said. “I was applying everywhere, but, at the time, everyone was cutting back and I literally couldn’t even get hired as a hostess. It was extremely discouraging, considering that I just graduated from a prestigious hospitality college and had such great internship experience. But, I refused to give up on my career. When you give up, you’re giving your opportunity away to someone else.”
Garcia’s relentless pursuit of employment eventually paid off after months of job hunting, when in January 2010, she was hired by a Miami-based event designer.
“I ended up getting hired by Nuage Designs, where I began working in luxury weddings,” Garcia recalled. “I didn’t realize the experience that I would be gaining from this job until one day, my boss put me on a plane to New York, where I found myself delivering table linens for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.”
Over the course of her three and a half years of employment with Nuage Designs, Garcia opened an office in New York, created partnerships for destination weddings, and assisted with several celebrity nuptials, including Grammy Award-winner Carrie Underwood and reality TV star Kim Zolciak, whose wedding appeared on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
“I learned a lot from this job opportunity, but I knew I needed to leave the wedding industry to chase my dream job,” Garcia said. “My goal is to one day become the events director for the NFL.”
Garcia again faced adversity in finding employment, as many professional sports recruiters refused to hire her, as she had no previous professional experience within the industry.
“It was extremely frustrating,” Garcia said. “How was I supposed to start gaining industry experience when no one was willing to hire a person without previous experience?”
But, again, Garcia refused to give up on her goal, as the alumna continued to submit her resume and attend networking functions.
Her resiliency paid off again, as the alumna ultimately received job offers from at least two professional sports teams, and recently accepted a position with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, as a group sales manager.
“I came back to Rosen to speak with students about facing adversity,” Garcia said. “I know that some of these students will face the same employment challenges that I did and I wanted to tell them what happens when you don’t give up.”
Two UCF alumnae were honored at a special Salute to Everyday Heroes luncheon on March 19, 2015. Nancy Ellis, ’07, and Sarah Goldman, ’14, were among those who have made a difference in their Central Florida communities. Last year, both were featured on News 13’s Everyday Heroes segment, which airs on Mondays.
Ellis, the director for the Center for Community Partnerships in the UCF College of Health and Public Affairs, helped to create The Hub, a center at the Evans Community School that includes after-school tutoring, a career center and a health clinic that will benefit the entire community.
Goldman, who has cerebral palsy, is proving people wrong, working as an advocate for the disabled. While she was still a student at UCF, she launched the Student Advocates Reaching for Awareness and Hope Project, also known as the S.A.R.A.H. Project, on Facebook, dedicated to educating people about disability rights.
Networking Knight | Business + Engineering/Computer Science
About five dozen alumni from the UCF College of Business Administration and UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science alumni chapters mingled during a joint Networking Knight at the University Club on Jan. 21.
Many of the evening’s attendees included alumni who graduated with degrees from both colleges, as well as recent graduates attending their first alumni event.
Guests heard from both college alumni chapter chairs, as well as Paul Jarley, dean of the UCF College of Business Administration.
The group also heard from Jeff Ostlie, the University Club’s membership chair, who discussed the club’s history and gave a tour of the space.
According to UCF Alumni’s career services coordinator, Leah Goldson, ’04, networking is the No. 1 way to gain employment. It’s a tactic she consistently promotes to alumni, but some are overwhelmed and intimidated by the act of networking.
During the “Journey to Success” workshop she hosted Jan. 6, she shared the “How to Work a Room” handout, above, which walks through how to navigate a networking event step by step. VIEW FULL SIZE IMAGE
With these tips, you can become an expert networker in any room!
Need help with your career?
Let Leah help you with your resume, work on your interview skills, and more! Call 407.823.1965 to schedule an appointment.
Join us Tuesday, Jan. 13, from 5-7:30 p.m., at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, for our “Knight to Knight” career panel, featuring human resources professionals from Florida Hospital, Lockheed Martin, Enterprise Holdings and Siemens Corporation. LEARN MORE
Jessica Lomasson, ’12 | Senior Copywriter, Geometry Global
Alumni association student intern Daniela Marin sat down with advertising-public relations alumna Jessica Lomasson, ’12, when she spoke to the UCF Ad Club in November, discussing the importance of networking with fellow Knights, how she stays involved with her alma mater, her advice to students for breaking into the advertising industry, and more. WATCH THE VIDEO
Students’ start-up company gets first taste of big success
UCF is one of 15 colleges and universities in the Blackstone LaunchPad network, a co-curricular, experiential campus program designed to introduce entrepreneurship as a viable career path and develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets through individualized coaching, idea and venture-creation support.
At the end of October, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation held its inaugural Blackstone LaunchPad Conference and Demo Day in New York City, for which UCF students Jesse Wolfe and Ryan Atkins were chosen to participate and ultimately took home the $15,000, second-place award for their business venture, O’Dang Hummus.
A few months ago, Phil Santos, venture coach and community manager for UCF’s Blackstone LaunchPad, spoke to O’Dang’s founder for the UCF Starters blog (ucfstarters.org) to get the story behind Wolfe’s sensible, smooth snack. Here’s how the conversation went:
Q. Tell me a little bit about O’Dang Hummus.
A. With O’Dang Hummus, we’re really trying to revolutionize the hummus industry. Hummus has been such an ethnic dish that hasn’t changed in forever. The major players in the market right now are all doing the exact same flavors. We don’t want to do your classic, traditional hummus. Our idea is to be the rebels, the disruptive kids of hummus. We’re the guys who are coming out with the crazy color schemes, the funky logos and the fun ads. We’re making hummus fun and exciting. Our whole goal is to familiarize hummus across the United States, and then to go global.
Q. What’s your history with hummus?
A. I never really knew what hummus was until three years ago. I had my wisdom teeth pulled out, and I had my cheeks all swollen at home. I got tired of eating milkshakes and soups and that stuff, so I started eating Sabra [hummus]. And, that’s when it hit me that there are only four or five flavors of this stuff. So, I started going into the kitchen and whipping up my own hummus just to get me through the week.
My girlfriend at the time was taking it to work. She worked at a higher-end fashion store, and all those girls she worked with ate hummus regularly and said, “this is ridiculously good.”
Then, you know, its funny… Pam [Hoelzle, associate director for UCF’s Blackstone LaunchPad] substitute taught one of my classes here at UCF, and she gave us a pitch on joining the The Joust. I had 36 hours to submit an entry form. Fast-forward to the end of The Joust, and we end up placing third. We took home $4,000 in prize money, and it was validation. I thought, ‘Hey I’ve got nothing to lose. Let me run with this.’
Our idea is to be the rebels, the disruptive kids of hummus.
Q. How did your perception of O’Dang change over time?
A. The Joust was really what opened my eyes how big this really was. At first, I thought I could just do it as a hobby. You know, sell it to some people locally. But, I didn’t expect it to be the monster that we’re sitting on now. When you see something you’ve worked so hard at being picked up and people love it… We actually had one lady buy 18 tubs of hummus in one shot to give to co-workers, and friends and family.
Q. Have there been any struggles along the way?
A. Oh yeah. Struggle No. 1, just out of the gate, was actually getting into a farmer’s market. Lake Eola had a two-year waiting list. It’s crazy, and they’re very cut-throat. They should do a documentary on it — I’ll put it that way.
I’m a very persistent person. I was sending emails, sending emails — nothing back. So, I decided to be a little risky. I packed a lunchbox full of hummus, and I went down to the farmer’s market when they were doing it. I gave the guy changing trash $25 cash and said, “Take me to the person that’s in charge of this.” He took me over to this nice lady and I convinced her to try it. She was like, “Wow, this is really good.” That was Sunday. Monday at 3 p.m., I got the email from them saying I could start the following Sunday. And that was the biggest break we had, because in the farmer’s market world, Lake Eola is like the Superbowl.
Q. What’s your major? Have your UCF classes helped you out while going through this?
A. My major is business management with an entrepreneurship track. I found out early in college that I wanted to do entrepreneurship. I put so much of my major to use every day. Right now, I’m the head honcho — I do the marketing, the finance, the bookkeeping, I do all of the development, the packaging. I wear a lot of hats as a new start-up. I really can’t think of a class I haven’t utilized.
Q. What’s the outlook for O’Dang Hummus right now?
A. We’re in three farmer’s markets right now. I’ve got a crew of three employees. We’re in a huge commercial kitchen, which, I never thought I’d be in this size of a kitchen in a year, let alone four months. Going forth, I want to be in a showcase right next to Sabra. They’re so huge and corporate. We want to give them a run for their money because no one’s doing it.
Our goal is to get as many purchase orders as we can, with a main focus on Whole Foods, and to get investor money. We need to scale quickly to make an impact and to be the forerunners in this niche.
In the farmer’s market world, Lake Eola is like the Superbowl.
Q. Do you have any parting words for the starters reading this?
A. Network, network, network. I can’t express that enough. Just talk to people. Ask for advice. I’ve met so many people by just asking, “What’s your name? What do you do?” at events, and some of them are CEOs of major companies and you never would have guessed it.