UCF Alumni Building A More Sustainable Orlando

Alumni Chris Castro and Brittany Sellers
UCF alumni Chris Castro and Brittany Sellers lead the Green Works initiatives for City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Photo courtesy of City of Orlando

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 19, 2018) — The sounds of construction can be heard on the third floor of Orlando City Hall. The building is being retrofitted with energy efficient technology as part of the City of Orlando’s sustainability initiatives.

It’s one of the many projects currently underway and supervised by sustainability director Chris Castro ’10 and sustainability project manager Brittany Sellers ’13MA ’16PhD. From the moment the UCF alumni step in their offices, they are literally surrounded by the results of their labor of love.

Their daily mission, especially on April 22’s Earth Day, is to transform Orlando into one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the country. That’s not exactly easy to do when one of the world’s top tourist destinations is also Forbes’ fourth-fastest growing city in America for 2018.

“When you look at Orlando from a long-term sustainability standpoint, 30-40-50-plus years from now, the amount of energy, the amount of water we’re consuming, the amount of waste that we are generating, is unsustainable,” Castro says. “At a certain point, our economy could become impacted negatively if we don’t start proactively paying attention to that.”

Easy Being Green
Castro and Sellers have been paying attention for quite a while.

Castro, the son of palm tree farmers in Miami, arrived at UCF in 2007 as an undeclared major. In his first year, he enrolled in a class taught by Penelope Canan, a nationally recognized professor for her environmental and sociology research. After taking her environmental sociology course, he knew he wanted to dedicate his life and career to sustainability.

He jumped in immediately by starting IDEAS for UCF, a sustainability-focused student organization. The group welcomes students of all majors and interests, and it focuses on originating solutions to make UCF’s campus more sustainable.

One of its first major achievements was receiving a commitment from President John C. Hitt and UCF to become a carbon neutral campus by 2050. IDEAS worked on programming and policies to help make strides toward that goal.

“I saw UCF as this unbelievable opportunity. For me, it was the best Petri dish that any student could ever imagine,” Castro says. “Everything I was doing through campus, I’ve now tried to expand it and take it to real life and the municipal government.”

One of the group’s programs, the Kill-A-Watt energy conservation competition, challenged students living in dorms to compete against each other in energy consumption reduction.

Sellers heard about the project as a human factors psychology doctoral student and wanted to study the challenge Castro helped implement as part of her dissertation.

She examined the project with a behavioral lens. How were students living in older dorms competing against students in newly constructed dorms? What if students couldn’t easily access sockets to unplug electronics? Did they know what the challenge on campus meant in the bigger picture of impacting climate change globally?

“Information does not equal action. People can know to do the right thing but there are all these other factors, and we need to look at what that means. What are the elements that can make it more possible?” Sellers says. “My transition to the department of sustainability at the city was pretty seamless even though I had come in as a psychology researcher. It might not seem like the most logical jump. But from the interdisciplinary approach I had in my education, it all made sense. A lot of that was fostered at UCF.”

People, Planet and Prosperity
Castro joined City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s sustainability department full time in 2014, and Sellers joined soon after in 2015 before graduating with her doctorate a year later.

The two have brought their expertise to Dyer’s Green Works initiative, which began in 2007. Every day, these Knights and their team – which includes energy project manager Ian LaHiff ’09, sustainability associate Joe England ’09 ’12MA and public outreach coordinator Daniel Friedline ’13 – are shaping the policies and actions that make Orlando and Central Florida a more livable, vibrant and sustainable place to live.

“Sustainability is about changing that mindset to get people looking at people, planet and prosperity. It’s about the triple-bottom line: social, economic and environment,” Castro says. “The fact is, we won’t have an economy if our people are dying and are sick. We won’t have an economy if the natural resources in our environment that we depend on aren’t there. So what cities are positioning to do in our office and our roles is to figure out how we can change our operations internally, and externally, how we can change our culture to embrace the triple-bottom line.”

The first phase of the Green Works program focused internally on city operations. The city knew it needed to buy in to what it was asking of its residents, so it began upgrading municipal building features to minimize energy consumption. It lowered water usage, diverted waste and transitioned its fleet vehicles to alternative fuels.

In 2013, Green Works took what it learned from its internal changes and applied its success outward to the community to foster a culture that embraced sustainability.

To keep from getting overwhelmed, Castro and Sellers focus on making progress in six key areas: energy and green buildings; local food systems; solid waste; livability (planting trees, pedestrian and bicycle trails, expanding parks); transportation; and water. Within each area are policies and actions needed to make their goals happen by 2040.

There are measures like developing plans for solar generation on rooftops in support of Orlando’s 100 percent renewable energy commitment – one of 50 cities in the country to undertake such a monumental task. Or transforming all downtown LYMMO buses into all electric zero-metric buses. Or adding electric motorcycles for the Orlando Police Department. Or addressing food insecurity with farmers markets that accept SNAP benefits. Or fleet farming, exactly like the food being grown in plant beds outside of UCF’s Student Union.

“We could be here all day,” Sellers says as Castro and she list one example after another.

Castro and Sellers estimate their office juggles 40-50 projects simultaneously at any given time, and even though the work is demanding, Sellers says she is excited to be part of the team and takes prides in the work they accomplish every day, especially in the city where her alma mater is located.

While some may say they’re ‘saving the world,’ she prefers to look at it from a slightly different perspective.

“I like when we go out and do good things, you see that light spark in other people. You ignite that desire to do the right thing, the good thing. So I like to frame that as ‘amplifying the good that already exists in the world,’” she says. “Sometimes we’re changing hearts and minds and there’s an evolution, but at the same time, for a lot of people, this already lies within them, and we’re just kind of empowering and enabling that in them.”

Power of One
While they are certainly leading the charge, they want everyone to understand the role each individual can play in helping the city’s progress toward a better future for Orlando.

Castro points to a phone call he received recently from a concerned citizen about an oak tree that was scheduled to be cut down because of development. The individual asked if something could be done to stop trees like the oak from being cut down in the future.

Now, Castro’s team along with the parks and planning teams will collaborate on exploring ways to improve tree ordinances and protect Orlando’s urban forest.

“That all happened because of one individual. That voice goes an extremely long way,” Castro says.

They’ve made it a priority to provide tools and information to the public on their website www.cityoforlando.net/greenworks as well as host community forums to encourage others to use their voices.

Castro and Sellers both agree that the single biggest aspect about sustainability that people do not realize is the effect one individual can have in making a difference.

“Changing out your light bulbs, changing one degree in your home [thermostat], unplugging appliances, changing your diet, carpooling or ride sharing or alternative modes of transit,” Castro says, “little by little, these actions in a collective sense, make a huge global impact.”

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.

Olympic Knights: UCF Soccer Alumna Gooooooes to Rio

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By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — UCF women’s soccer alumna Aline Reis ’11 dared to believe she could participate in this August’s Summer Olympics, even though she hadn’t played in years. When she proudly parades through Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã Stadium during the opening ceremony Friday, she’ll do so in front of her home country.

Reis is one of three UCF alumni who will participate in the Olympics this year. She along with Ricardo Gouveia ’14 (Portugal, golf) are making their first Olympic Games appearances while three-time Olympian Phil Dalhausser ’02 will look to recreate some magic from the 2008 Beijing Games when he won gold for Team USA in beach volleyball.

Reis was an All-American goalkeeper for the UCF women’s soccer team from 2007-11 before graduating with a degree in interdisciplinary studies (minors in coaching and health sciences).

After a brief stint playing overseas, Reis got into coaching and spent the past two years on UCLA’s women’s soccer staff as a volunteer goalkeeper coach, but she said she felt a desire to play again after watching the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015.

She was called up to Brazil’s National Team Camp in February with no guarantees of a spot on the Olympic roster. She had never competed in a match for Brazil’s National Team before, so she was overjoyed when she claimed one of the two coveted goalkeeper slots on the 18-member roster.

Reis posted this on her personal Facebook account on July 12, the day she learned she made the cut:

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Aline Reis (black ring) will compete for her home country of Brazil in the Rio 2016 Games

“Last Fall I decided to put my gloves back on again, fight for a shot at the National Team and earn a spot on the Olympic roster.

So I trained my butt off, packed my bags and left a fine life behind to go back home to pursue the dream.
Today I’m so thrilled to announce that I made the Brazilian Olympic Roster for Rio 2016. While I’m thankful for my faith and courage to go after my passion, I’m far more grateful for the tremendous amount of support and encouragement I received along the way from all those who surround me. I’m blessed!

But the dream is far from over… and I won’t rest until my teammates and I have a gold medal on our chest!”

Olympic soccer matches will be played throughout Brazil from Aug. 3-19. Brazil’s first match is scheduled for today against China at 3 p.m. and will stream live on www.nbcolympics.com.

Reis knows she has the support of her home country and her fellow Knights.

“So many people have reached out to me and made sure I knew they are sending me good vibes and cheering for me. It is absolutely awesome to have my fellow Knights supporting me!” she told UCFKnights.com. “My years at UCF were crucial at shaping the person and the player I am today.”

Olympic Knights: Ricardo’s Road to Rio

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By Jenna Marina

Orlando, Fla. — If anyone knows the true meaning of “timing is everything,” it is UCF alumnus Ricardo Gouveia ’14. By qualifying for the Summer Olympics in Rio, the former men’s golf standout will be part of history as the sport returns to the Games after a 112-year hiatus.

Golf was first played at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900, only to be removed after 1904. It was voted back in seven years ago by the International Olympic Committee, setting in motion Gouveia’s road to Rio where he will represent his home country of Portugal.

“It feels great,” Gouveia told UCFKnights.com. “It’s one of those sporting events that you dream to be a part of at least once in your life. It’s going to be special being in Rio where the native language is Portuguese.”

Gouveia is one of threRicardo-tweete UCF alumni who will participate in the Olympics this year. He along with Aline Reis ’11 (Brazil, soccer) are making their first Olympic Games appearances while 2008 gold medalist Phil Dalhausser ’02 (USA, beach volleyball) is set for his third and potentially final appearance.

Gouveia was a two-time all-region and All-America honorable-mention honoree as a Knight from 2011-14. He turned pro after graduating with a degree in interdisciplinary studies with a business administration minor.

“The whole experience that I had at UCF was crucial to reach the level of play and the stability that I have right now,” he told UCFKnights.com. “I learned so much from a lot of people while attending school. I can’t thank them enough.”

Gouveia competed in his first PGA event in 2016 when he was invited to join the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla.

He is ranked 34th of the 60-man field. Gouveia will tee off Aug. 11-14 on the Olympic Golf Course. The opening ceremony is slated for Friday, Aug. 5, and the Games last until Aug. 21.

UCF Alumni Honors 30 under 30

Alumni association recognizes 30 young, successful Knights during inaugural awards dinner

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By Angie Lewis, ’03

The UCF Alumni Association was proud to host its inaugural 30 under 30 awards dinner Friday, Nov. 20, honoring the outstanding achievements of 30 successful Knights.

Young alumni currently make up one-third of UCF’s alumni population, making them the university’s largest constituent base. The 30 under 30 awards program allows the UCF community to celebrate the achievements of these young alumni and the impact they’ve made in the areas of business, research, leadership, arts, community, education or philanthropy.

Awardees were chosen based on nominations submitted by fellow Knights, friends, families and co-workers.

Many of this year’s recipients — most of whom traveled back to campus from locations across the country — were also recognized on the field during the UCF vs. ECU football game Thursday night, alongside the UCF Alumni Association’s 2015 Distinguished Student Award winner, Yudeysis Cores, and 2015 Michelle Akers Award winner, UCF’s Limbitless Solutions.

The following evening, alumni, families and friends, as well as members of university administration, advancement staff, and academic and volunteer leadership, and the evening’s host, UCF alumnus Todd Woodard, ’95, gathered for the awards celebration, held in the Grand Ballroom of the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

This year’s 30 under 30 inaugural class included:

Joshua A. Andone, Esq., ’11

Attorney, Hale, Hale & Jacobson
College of Business Administration

Stephanie C. Bolyard, MSENVE12

Graduate Research/Teaching Assistant, UCF
College of Engineering and Computer Science

Keith Brawner, ’08, MSCPE10, PhD13

Adaptive Tutoring Scientist, United States Army Research Laboratory
College of Engineering and Computer Science

Naomi Brownstein, ’08

Assistant Professor, Florida State University College of Medicine
The Burnett Honors College & College of Sciences

Janelle N. Burrowes, ’13

Service Director, Boys & Girls Club
College of Arts and Humanities

Shelby J. Campbell, ’08

Doctor of Audiology, My Family ENT
College of Health and Public Affairs

Amanda N. Castro, ’12

Anchor/Reporter, 41NBC/WMGT
College of Sciences

Chris Castro, ’10

Program Manager, Office of Sustainability & Energy/Senior Energy Advisor to Mayor Buddy Dyer, City of Orlando
College of Undergraduate Studies

Brett R. Chiavari, ’07

Owner & President, BC Restaurant Group
College of Business Administration

Aaron Dietz, MA13, PhD14

Research Associate, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
College of Sciences

Reshad D. Favors, Esq., ’10

Attorney & Fellow, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation/United States Congress
College of Business Administration

Julie Frost, ’12

Performer, Comfort Crew for Military Kids
The Burnett Honors College & College of Arts and Humanities & College of Sciences

Christopher R. Frye, ’13

Physics Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University
The Burnett Honors College & College of Sciences

Andre Garcia, ’08

Human Factors Engineer, Northrop Grumman Corporation
College of Sciences

Lindsay C. Gartrell, ’10

Corporate Training Manager, The Kessler Collection Inaugural Class
Rosen College of Hospitality Management

Adam J. Giery, ’08, MA11

Principal, Strategos Group
College of Education and Human Performance

Jen Glantz, ’10

Founder and CEO, Bridesmaid for Hire
College of Arts and Humanities & College of Sciences

Kristin Harris, ’11

Associate Celebrity Editor & Talent Relations, Buzzfeed
College of Sciences

Jake Junot, MBA11

Vice President of Global Accounts, C3Research
College of Business Administration

Bridget D. Keefe, ’09, MPA11

Executive Director, Downtown Orlando Partnership
Rosen College of Hospitality Management & College of Health and Public Affairs

Jamile M. Kitnurse, ’08, MBA10, MSBM11

Regional Marketing Manager, Diamond Resorts International
College of Business Administration

Stephanie Ann Koszalka, MSW12

Director of Human Trafficking Victim Services, Florida Abolitionist Inc.
College of Health and Public Affairs

Albert C. Manero, ’12, MSAE14

Lab Director, The Limbitless Project
The Burnett Honors College & College of Engineering and Computer Science

Lauren Niederhiser, ’12

Assistant Project Manager, Walt Disney Imagineering
The Burnett Honors College & College of Engineering and Computer Science

Gregory A. Pearlman Jr., ’08

Financial Advisor, Northwestern Mutual
College of Business Administration

Leigha Audrey Proctor, ’10

Director of Business Development, Transperfect Translations
College of Sciences

Aubree A. Rider, ’10

Co-founder & Owner, The Heroes Group
College of Business Administration

Danny A. Rivera, ’12, MPA14

Special Assistant to Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Government
College of Health and Public Affairs

Colton J. Tapoler, ’12

Instructional Lead, Florida Virtual School
College of Arts and Humanities & College of Education and Human Performance

Victoria Vighetto, ’10, MNM13

Executive Director, March of Dimes Central Florida Division
College of Health and Public Affairs

Congratulations to all! Go Knights! Charge On!