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

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Professional Achievement Award
The Burnett Honors College

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The Burnett Honors College Dean Alvin Wang presented the college’s 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Susan Rozelle, ’94.
Susan D. Rozelle, ’94, J.D. | Associate Dean for Faculty and Professor of Law,
Stetson University College of Law

The UCF Alumni Association and The Burnett Honors College presented their 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Susan Rozelle at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

After teaching at Capital University, Seattle University, and the University of Oregon, Susan joined the faculty at Stetson University in 2009. Her primary research interests are in the areas of criminal responsibility and death qualification.

She’s presented at scholarly conferences across the country, from Georgetown University Law Center to the University of California at Berkeley. She’s also been a legal commentator in the popular press, appearing on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX evening news, as well as on NPR and FOX News Radio.

Susan comes from a family of Knights, which includes her late father, Samuel Gross, ’89, and brother, Alan Gross, ’91. She graduated summa cum laude from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

Learn more about Susan:

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — July 20, 2015

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Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Congratulations to Mary Lou Sole, a longtime UCF professor and administrator, who was named as the new dean of the College of Nursing! (Also, see the Orlando Sentinel article.)
  2. The superheroes at Limbitless Solutions have done it again! This time, they partnered with the Orlando City Soccer Club to donate a 3-D printed arm to a 6-year-old Brazilian boy.
  3. Things may be a little quiet around UCF this time of year, but our regional alumni chapters and clubs — including Austin, Jacksonville and Boston — are keeping busy!
  4. Speaking of travel, did you know that the alumni association has partnered with many different companies to offer great benefits, including discounts on rental cars, hotels and even LEGOLAND? Visit our benefits page to check out all of the awesome discounts you can take advantage of as a UCF Knight!
  5. ICYMI: The Blackstone Launchpad at UCF is helping to propel students toward their entrepreneurial dreams. Read about three such Knights who have started their own unique companies.

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