Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 4, 2016

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(From No. 5 below:) Palmer Vorkapich, a 6-year-old patient at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, lights up during a visit from Ion, a therapy dog owned by UCF College of Medicine student Christa Zino.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Knights had much to be proud of last year! Check out just a few of them in this list from UCF Today of the “15 Moments that Made Your Heart Burst with Knight Pride in 2015.”
  2. With $20 million needed in community support for the UCF Downtown campus, alumnus and CEO Alex Martins, ’01, and the Orlando Magic stepped up, contributing $1.5 million toward the project. And, just this morning, it was announced that the CFE Federal Credit Union has committed its own $1.5 million. Keep up with all the latest developments on the UCF Downtown campus at ucf.edu/downtown.
  3. UCF economist Sean Snaith says Florida’s economic future is merry and bright, with the state’s housing market continuing to improve, and job growth forecasted to continue to outperform the U.S. labor market.
  4. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected a UCF team to receive a P3 Award — a first in UCF history — which recognizes student projects that benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet by using environmental solutions that move the nation toward a sustainable future. The winning project focuses on ways to make algae biofuel easier and less expensive to produce.
  5. To help cheer up patients at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, UCF second-year medical student Christa Zino regularly brings her therapy dog, a 2-year-old boxer named Ion, for visits.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Nov. 16, 2015

UCF students, from left, Heather Lawrence, Carrie Chenicek, Austin Sturm and Jonathan Haas compete in CyberSEED. Photo courtesy CyberSEED
UCF students (left to right) Heather Lawrence, Carrie Chenicek, Austin Sturm and Jonathan Haas
won more than $25,000 in prize money competing in CyberSEED,
a cybersecurity conference hosted by the University of Connecticut.
PHOTO: Courtesy of CyberSEED

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Later this morning, the UCF Nicholson School of Communication Hall of Fame will induct Michael Griffin, ’84, vice president of public affairs for Florida Hospital. And, on Wednesday, UCF’s College of Business and Rosen College alumni chapters will host a joint Networking Knight, with both colleges’ deans as special guests.
  2. Last week, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center! Whether you attended an event in the building, gave to the Manny Rodriguez ’75 Endowment or have been a sponsor, we sincerely thank everyone who has supported the alumni center during its first decade.
  3. This month also marks the 10th anniversary of DirectConnect to UCF, which guarantees students’ admission to the university with an associate’s degree from one of the university’s partner colleges. Happy anniversary, DirectConnect!
  4. UCF’s teams of cybersecurity experts cleaned up at another cyber competition, bringing home more than $25,000 in prize money and besting Ivy Leaguers from Yale and Brown universities, the Air Force Academy and others. Go Knights!
  5. On Friday, Light Up UCF returned to campus for its eighth season. The family-friendly activities — including ice skating, rides and holiday attractions — continue through Jan. 3.

Alumnus’ Passion for Entrepreneurship Inspires Upcoming Rosen College Competition

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By Kathy Dorf
Rosen College Public Relations

Every business starts with a great idea, but connecting and networking with the entrepreneurial community is what gets it off the ground. That’s what Julien Meyer, ’14, hopes students will take away from the Rosen College Entrepreneurship Competition, an idea he originally brought to the college, which officially launches in January. Meyer studied hospitality and event management at UCF while running his own startup company, but, since graduation, his newest venture has really picked up speed.

Meyer is currently CEO of BlurtBox, a mobile app that helps customers voice their complaints about a business, and allows owners and managers to address customers in real time. While the technology sector may seem crowded, BlurtBox has already racked up a list of impressive achievements, surpassing 10,000 downloads in the Google Play and Apple App stores since its Aug. 25 launch, raising $125,000 in funding and averaging more than 200 new business customers weekly. Meyer and Blurtbox show no signs of slowing down as they seek a second round of financial support to hire employees and grow the company.

At the age of 23, Meyer clearly has a lot on his plate, but he finds time to pursue another passion besides his business — helping others realize their entrepreneurial dreams, too. As a recent graduate, he’s now a member ofRosen College’s Hospitality Management Industry Advisory Board, which is how he initially introduced the idea of an entrepreneurship competition. His experience at UCF inspired him to become an entrepreneur, which is why he believes it’s important to expose students to all the resources the university community has to offer.

“UCF provided me with a network of friends, alumni, professors and mentors who made my ventures possible,” Meyer says. “Entrepreneurship is a very scary and lonely path to take, and I believe it’s only made possible when you’re surrounded by people and institutions that support you. UCF gave me that ecosystem and those people.”

The Rosen College Entrepreneurship Competition will be an opportunity for students to take an idea for a hospitality-related product or service and develop a plan to bring it to market. Students may enter as individuals or teams, and at least one person must be currently enrolled at Rosen College. Participants will compete for cash prizes that can assist with startup costs and help make their dreams a reality.

“Competitions like this allow students to use the creative side of their brains and do something which is seemingly impossible: to turn an idea into a business,” Meyer says. “My hope is that students will gain both insight and connections into the world of entrepreneurship and learn more about the ecosystem that exists for entrepreneurship here in Orlando. Win or lose, these competitions open incredible doors and make building a business 100 times easier.”

Full details about the Rosen College Entrepreneurship Competition will be announced in early January.

See original article on UCF Today. For more information about hospitality education at Rosen College, please visit hospitality.ucf.edu.

Aca-Perfect!

UCF’s all-female a cappella group claims top prize in national competition

(Photo courtesy of Alexis Planer)
(Photo courtesy of Alexis Planer)

By Rachel Stuart
News Editor, Central Florida Future

UCF’s KeyHarmony didn’t need more than its vocals and support to prove itself as the favorite all-female a cappella group in the nation.

The group made it to the top three in the national Schick “Aca-Battle” Sweepstakes to promote the movie “Pitch Perfect 2,” and was selected as the winning group on May 26.

Among the other two finalists, Main Squeeze from Syracuse University, and The Sedoctaves from the University of Florida, KeyHarmony received the most votes for its personalized music video to the Schick “Ready, Shave, Shine” Regimen Song, and was awarded the winning prize of $10,000.

“KeyHarmony is so thankful for everyone that voted endlessly on this contest,” KeyHarmony member Kyrstin Walker said. “We couldn’t have done it without all the love and support, and we just want everyone to know that we really do appreciate all the help.”

The group’s genuine, raw vibe has proved to be one of the biggest assets that has distinguished it from other a cappella groups, the junior health sciences pre-clinical major said.

“The quality that helped us in winning was definitely our ability to have fun while recording for this contest. Our group’s sense of humor is pretty much as unique as it gets, which is what definitely helped us in the long run.”

KeyHarmony’s TC Skowronek, a senior music, sociology and business major, said she thinks the a cappella group stands out from others because the members treat each other like a family. No matter what, she said they are always there to support each other.

With the $10,000, the group is planning to finish purchasing a sound system and then save the rest of the money for future plans.

KeyHarmony’s president Keani Knight said the group will also put some of the money toward a conference it’s hosting this fall, called Orlando Soundwave.

“We really try to put everything into our performances,” the sophomore legal studies major said. “Our main goal is always to make the audience feel something and to connect with them.”

Through the recognition from this contest, Knight said the group will gain a bit of notoriety and people will be more familiar with them at the conference.

Walker agreed that this win for KeyHarmony is really going to advance them even further and help the group get its name out there.

“This $10,000 will help us accomplish our goals we agreed on for the upcoming year, which in return will move us forward in the amazing light of the collegiate a cappella world.”

Watch KeyHarmony’s winning video:

More Info

@KeyHarmonyUCF

This article appeared in a June 3, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original story.