UCF Alumni Honors 2015 Jefferson Award Recipients

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Three of this year’s UCF Jefferson Award recipients included (left to right) Mark Blue, ’89, ’08, ’10, College Chapter Volunteer of the Year; Crystal Buit, ’06, Constituent Chapter Volunteer of the Year; and Matthew Ayala, ’11, Regional Club Volunteer of the Year.

On June 12, the UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception celebrated its eighth year recognizing some of the UCF Alumni Association’s most active volunteers for their countless acts of generosity and numerous volunteer hours. Hosted by the UCF Community Volunteers Alumni Chapter, these awards focus on public service and the importance of giving back.

The event kickstarted the alumni association’s Chapter and Club Council Meeting weekend, during which alumni chapter and club volunteers from across the nation gathered to discuss plans for the upcoming year.

Todd Bowers, ’77, a graduate of the College of Business Administration, who serves on the college’s Dean’s Advisory Council, the UCF Athletics Association Board of Directors, the UCF Foundation Finance Committee and the UCF Inclusive Education Team, was the evening’s master of ceremonies. Anthony Jenkins, Ph.D., UCF’s senior associate vice president and dean of students, was also in attendance as a guest speaker for the festivities.

Congratulations to this year’s recipients:

Regional Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Ivette Herald, ’04, Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter

Ivette has been chair of the Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter for the past four years. With her leadership, the chapter grew from 10 active members to nearly 50, and its Facebook page has increased to more than 400 followers.

“Our chapter’s mission is to create a home away from home for alumni, and I stress the importance of making those connections during every board meeting and through my actions,” she says. “It’s important that we make alumni feel welcome. I think that passion is what has helped our club evolve into a chapter in one year, and keeps alumni coming to our monthly events and watch parties.”

The other nominees included: Eric Braga, ’00, Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter; Chris Brown, ’05, Tampa Bay UCF Alumni Chapter; Samantha Malone, ’04, Denver UCF Alumni Chapter; Thomas Marron, ’86, New York UCF Alumni Chapter; and Sara Singer, ’10, Southeast Florida UCF Alumni Chapter

Regional Club Volunteer of the Year—
Matthew Ayala, ’11, Southwest Florida UCF Alumni Club

Matthew just completed his third year as chair of the Southwest Florida UCF Alumni Club. Under his guidance, the club has seen a significant increase in its watch party attendance, as well as its Senior Sendoff event, after which other clubs now model their Senior Sendoffs.

“I look at this as a job,” he says. “Every day is another opportunity to enhance UCF’s brand, and I try to do something for the club each and every day.”

The other nominees included: Bakari Dowdell, ’14, Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club; and Becky Koziuk, ’03, Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club

Association Committee Volunteer of the Year—
Dan Ward, ’92, UCF Alumni Board of Directors/PR Committee

After serving a six-year term on the UCF Alumni Association Board of Directors, Dan returned this year to chair the public relations committee, developing strategies to increase awareness and relevance of the association and the Knights it serves.

“We’ve brought additional structure to the PR committee this year, and added a team of dedicated volunteers who give of their time and help us promote the association,” he says.

College Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Mark Blue, ’89, ’08, ’10, UCF College of Engineering & Computer Science Alumni Chapter

Mark currently serves as vice chair of the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter. Along with a fellow chapter member, he championed the college’s new Career Kickoff, which became a signature event for the chapter.

“I believe in direct engagement between students and alumni for the benefit of both,” he says. “As alumni, we can provide great insight, skills, training, guidance and contacts for the students. In return, the students infuse us with passion and energy for our university and our profession.”

The other nominees included: Tom Alexander, ’03, UCF Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Chapter; and Tiffany Carrion, ’08, UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter

Constituent Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Crystal Buit, ’06, UCF Community Volunteers Chapter

This past year, Crystal served as chair of the UCF Community Volunteers Chapter. Like other volunteer leaders, she says she wanted the year to be a success and had a passion for outreach and engagement, being sure to personally connect with as many alumni as she could at each event, letting them know she was thankful for their participation and welcomed their future involvement.

“I hope I have positively impacted the association by creating opportunities for alumni to reconnect with one another, while reminding those in the community of UCF’s tremendous and generous alumni presence and base,” Crystal says.

The other nominee was: Justina Oldehoff, ’09, UCF Young Alumni Chapter 

Student Volunteer of the Year—
Jill Dutmers, 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassador

Jill has been a 4EVER Knights Ambassador for the past three years. During her junior year, she served as secretary of the 4EK officer board. She also chaired Knights of Legend, 4EK’s annual networking event for students and alumni. This past year, she served as the student alumni association’s president.

“As an ambassador, I’m only required to work 50 hours’ worth of events,” Jill says. “Yet, I attend everything — every meeting, every event, every social gathering — regardless of whether I need the hours. It’s not that I don’t have coursework or law school applications or family obligations waiting for me at home. It’s just that I want to be the kind of outstanding leader who inspires those who follow through my actions rather than my words.”

The other nominee was: Mackenzie Chase, 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassador 

In addition, three alumni were honored with Shining Armor Awards, recognizing their chivalry to the 4EVER KNIGHTS program and the 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors by donating their time and talent to help 4EK succeed.

Those recipients were:

Peter Cranis, ’84, ’88

Mike Griffin, ’84

Tiffany Payne, ’97

Congrats to all!

VIEW EVENT PHOTO GALLERY

BOD Spotlight: Monica Thorsen

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Monica Thorsen, ’02 | Treasurer, UCF Alumni Board of Directors

By Angie Lewis, ’03

As a sales representative for Brenntag Mid-South, Monica (Smith) Thorsen, ’02, sells chemicals used to manufacture products such as personal care items, food, paints, drinking and waste water treatment, and many others. Since graduating, Monica has volunteered with and served as chair of the UCF College of Business Administration Alumni Chapter, helped create a mentorship program within the college, and has volunteered with the UCF Community Volunteers Alumni Chapter. In addition, she created a scholarship for military veterans with her husband, John “Jack” Thorsen, ’07. Working in sales means she knows her numbers, which makes her a perfect treasurer for the UCF Alumni Board of Directors.

10 Questions with Monica

Q. Why do you do what you do?
A. I like not being tied to a desk and getting to spend time with different customers every day.

Q. Most memorable experience on the job?
A. It’s a tie between my first time in a factory, seeing how my products were used, the production lines and packaging, and making it on the President’s Council (top sales people in the company) for 2013.

Q. What did you want to be when you grew up?
A. A pediatric dentist. I job shadowed my dentist in high school, but after seeing one tooth pulled, I had to rethink my career path.

Q. How has your UCF degree helped you in your career?
A. I learned so many great things in the professional selling class taught by Karl Sooder. It truly has helped me get where I am today. In sales, there is a fine balancing act where you want to gather information and close a sale, but not be too pushy. His class taught me how to focus on relationships and walk that line. Having a UCF degree has also opened doors to creating relationships with many of my customers who are alumni.

Q. Why do you serve on the UCF Alumni Association Board of Directors?
A. As a student, I worked full time to pay for school and rent, so I didn’t have time to participate in many events on campus. This is my chance to give back to the school that has done so much for me, and to be a voice for students and alumni.

Q. How do you hope your leadership will affect the future of the alumni association and the university?
A. I like to lead by example and hope that I can inspire others to become active and serve on any board within UCF. We can all make an impact in the lives of students and alumni by helping create better programming, creating greater recognition of our impact in the community and further increasing the value of our degrees.

Q. If you could have front-row seats to any concert, which would you choose?
A. Journey! I actually have this on a wish list hanging on my fridge.

Q. If you could eat only one food the rest of your life, what would it be?
A. I am obsessed with cookies — maybe even more so than the Cookie Monster.

Q. What/who makes you laugh out loud?
A. My husband, Jack. We’ve been married 11 years, and our house is always filled with laughter.

Q. Last thing you Googled?
A. Chemicals. I bet Homeland Security has me on its list. I am constantly looking up chemical names, data sheets and synonyms for what my customers are looking for.