1. The UCF baseball team earned the No. 5 seed in the 2018 American Athletic Conference Tournament at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. The Knights will play the first game of the tournament on Tuesday at 9 a.m. against the No. 4 seed ECU. (The game was originally schedule for 3 p.m. but due to the threat of inclement weather, the game was moved up) For more information about the tournament, including tickets, please visit The American’s championship central page.
2. Good news for UCF’s cutting edge RESTORES clinic, which helps people coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. The program has been awarded a $10 million grant to expand its work.
3. Professionals from Walt Disney World, the Orlando Magic and City of Orlando — all UCF alumni — shared some of their wisdom and experiences at a career enhancement panel, and we’re loving their five career tips. The panel was part of Hospitality Knight hosted by UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter. For more chapter and club events on the horizon, take a look at the alumni events calendar.
5. A former Air Force fighter pilot; a 4-foot-2 woman who refused to let a rare genetic disorder keep her from pursuing her dreams; a 27-year-old cancer survivor; and a couple who are both active duty Army officers were all part of the 2018 graduating class from the College of Medicine. Read about them all in this Orlando Sentinel feature article.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Samantha Ogden was sitting on a patio looking out at nature in her hometown of Sorrento, Florida, when she got the email. The email from UCF that stated she was graduating this summer with her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in psychology.
“I closed my phone, and I cried,” she said. “Nobody in my family has gone on to higher education.”
Ogden is from a two-stoplight town on the outskirts of Mount Dora. The population from the 2010 Census was listed at 861.
“It’s the town everyone passes through to get gas,” she said.
Ogden came to UCF as a DirectConnect student from Lake-Sumter State College. Just before earning her associate’s degree, she was brought to UCF’s campus for the first time by a friend who was a Knight.
They walked from the education building to the Reflecting Pond, and Ogden thought they had covered campus and the tour was done.
“I was like, ‘This is it? Cool.’ He said, ‘Oh no. Come with me,’” she recalled. “We walked and we walked and we walked, and we stopped in front of COHPA (College of Health and Public Affairs). He said, ‘You see that down there? The Arena? There’s more. All of these are classrooms. And this is your college.’ I was so intimidated by it.”
Ogden had her heart set on a criminal justice degree ever since the fourth grade when her school held career week. She said it is an accomplishment in Sorrento to graduate from high school, let alone college.
Her mother, Jodi, was a driving force behind Ogden’s desire to achieve more.
Ogden took her mother to campus for the first time last week to pick up her gown and cap, which they decorated together with a ‘Country Bumpkin’ theme. It’s the nickname her co-workers gave her.
“She’s the only person I want going with me to do this,” Ogden said. “She has been so hard on me to complete it and do it. All she’s been talking about for the last year is me graduating. She should be here. She should get to enjoy it.”
Jodi was diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis C while Ogden was in school at UCF. She went through treatment for three months.
“I was stuck in bed, and she was always there. She continued school and we carried on,” Jodi said. “I’ve been a single mother for 18 years. I raised three kids. We all know how to pull together, work together.”
Ogden not only helped care for her mother and continued school, she started her own wallpaper company, Water Lilly Construction.
Ogden developed a deep interest in set design and carpentry in her spare time, which led to her professional endeavor. She plans to continue growing her business after graduation.
She said the biggest takeaway from her college experience was embracing the transformation that comes along with the journey.
“There’s a big world out there and this (college) is how you get there,” she said. “The purpose of the university is to expand your mind. Along with change comes friction and difficulty and dissonance in yourself. You’re going to feel discouraged or like it’s too much pressure. But every time things get really difficult, you have to remember that’s a sign that something is happening, something is changing, and you’re going to crest over that hill.”
ORLANDO, Fla. — UCF alumnus Phil Dalhausser is back at it again for Team USA. The 2002 business graduate and beach volleyballer is set to compete in his third Summer Olympics this month as the Rio Games kick off Friday.
Dalhausser is one of three UCF alumni who will participate in the Olympics this year. He is striving for another gold medal (he was crowned champion at the 2008 Beijing Games) and is joined by Aline Reis ’11 (Brazil, soccer) and Ricardo Gouveia ’14 (Portugal, golf), who are making their first Olympic Games appearances.
Dalhausser was introduced to beach volleyball at Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School where his coach liked to have his team practice on the sand to give the squad an advantage in the indoor game. His fondness for the game grew at UCF where he played club indoor volleyball and found ways to get extra practice on sand.
“They had sand courts on campus and Orlando had a nice little volleyball community and almost every night those courts were packed. So I would be at the courts probably more often than when I was in class,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. “Any time I could get a game in, I’d be down there playing. I guess you could say I was obsessed with it.”
In his first Olympics appearance in 2008, he not only won gold but was also named Most Outstanding Player for beach competition. He was honored as USA Volleyball’s Beach Team of the Year in 2015 with his partner Nick Lucena. The teammates promoted the Road to Rio on NBC’s The Today Show in April.
In addition to his many career highlights, he is a Michelle Akers Award winner (2009), which is the university’s highest honor given to alumni who have brought international, positive attention to UCF through their accomplishments.
Dalhausser, 36, and a father of two, has publicly said he expects these Games to be his last, so he has his heart set on making them unforgettable.
“There’s never been a male player who’s won two gold medals on the beach side, so I’d like to be the first to do that. That’d be pretty sweet,” he told the Daytona Beach News Journal.
Beach volleyball is set to compete at Copacabana Beach from Aug. 6 until Aug. 18. Dalhausser’s first match is scheduled for Aug. 7 against Tunisia at 3:30 p.m. and will stream live on www.nbcolympics.com.
ORLANDO, Fla. — When Kim Hardiman first realized she needed to go back to school, she resisted. She already possessed bachelor’s and master’s degrees plus years of teaching experience on her resume.
Now with graduation day in sight and a second master’s degree under her belt, she views her decision to come to UCF as a blessing.
“As an older teacher, you think you know it all and you don’t,” she said. “The teachers here at UCF are the best I’ve ever had in my life. I value this master’s degree more than the first one I got.”
Hardiman was born in Hong Kong and was an orphan for the first five years of her life until a couple from New York adopted her. She said she was lucky that her parents wanted an older child.
“Most children in the orphanage, they end up working in the factories,” she said. “I was very blessed. Every adversity [I faced], there was a twist or a turn that something good happened over it.”
Her upbringing in New York introduced her to people from all cultures and backgrounds. As she got older and started traveling overseas to places like the Middle East, Thailand, South America and Europe, she grew to love those cultures even more.
“I just realized there is so much to learn. It’s not just from the textbook,” she said. “When you’re in another country and speaking to someone in another language, it comes alive.”
Sept. 11, 2001, changed things for her. She used to ride the subway into the World Trade Center frequently and said she was supposed to perform a dance there the day of the attack. She didn’t feel well that morning and decided not to go.
The galleries that displayed her artwork shut down while the city began rebuilding. She felt she needed a change and eventually moved to Florida.
Her passion for interacting with the international community prompted her to return to school to pursue teaching. She completed her Teaching English as a Foreign Language graduate certificate at UCF in 2005 before spending the next decade at Embry Riddle Language Institute. She also served as Embry Riddle’s Asian Student Union advisor.
When teaching requirements changed, Hardiman needed to earn a second master’s degree if she wanted to continue her career. So she returned to UCF 11 years after earning her original certificate.
She juggled three classes a semester while also teaching two courses as a graduate assistant. Although she said it was a lot to handle, she excelled and was selected as the 2016 Sunshine State Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) of Florida Outstanding Educator Award.
“I value what I do with my education because now I can help other people. I want to ignite the passion [in them] to go back to school. Don’t ever say no to education,” she said. “That’s my message as an alumni. Take the risk. Try something new. Try a class you don’t know. Even work with teachers you hate because you learn the most from the teachers you had the hardest time with.”
ORLANDO, Fla. — Seven-year-old Yuridia Rodriguez sat next to her mother, Consuelo, and watched as her nickname Yuri was spelled out in gold stickers on a black graduation cap.
Her brother’s name, Alex, age 2, was placed down next.
“I just figured that since they’ve had to sacrifice also, I’m going to put my kids on here,” said Consuelo Rodriguez, an accounting graduate. “I’m going to put the Mexican and American flags. I’m going to put something UCF. A little bit of everything just to show what we’ve been through.”
Rodriguez, a resident of Lake County, started at UCF in 2005. When she had her daughter, she took time off but made it a priority to go back to school, even if it took her years to finish her degree.
She said she has taken one class a semester while still juggling a full-time job and taking care of her family. Rodriguez said there were times she was on campus until 3 a.m. studying or working on assignments and would then have to drive an hour home.
“I’ve been doing it more for them to show them that it’s possible and they can do it,” she said as she looked at Yuridia. “When they grow up and it’s their turn, they can see that I did it. They need to go above what I did.”
She hopes to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in accounting. Her parents, husband, children and three siblings will all be in attendance to watch her cross the stage at CFE Arena on graduation day.
“It just feels awesome. I thought it was never going to finish,” she said. “Our family doesn’t have a lot of graduates. It means a lot to everybody.”
The UCF Alumni Association collects thousands of dollars each year to give right back to students through its many scholarships.
Senior Erica Chu received the alumni association’s UCF Alumni Legacy Scholarship — a $1,500 award for outstanding students with parents who graduated from UCF — to make her dreams of attending UCF possible.
“I was ecstatic when I found out I won the scholarship,” the biomedical sciences major says. “Every little thing counts when you’re paying for college.”
Chu says receiving the scholarship has not only helped her financially, but has also increased her networking with alumni, including those who selected her to win the scholarship.
“It’s great to meet people who graduated from UCF, and are now so successful and want to give back,” she says. “That’s something I want to do when I graduate.”
The alumni association awards 25 scholarships annually, including scholarships from alumni chapters and clubs.
“Last year, we had a good year in our endowments, and we were able to increase the majority of the scholarships by $500,” explains Carla Cordoba, associate director of alumni and student relations.
In fact, in 2015, the alumni association awarded more than $55,000 in scholarships to UCF students.
Heather Junod, director of the UCF Fund, says there are many ways the alumni association receives the money to fund these scholarships.
The UCF Fund utilizes e-solicitation, direct mail, phone campaigns, faculty/staff campaigns and a student philanthropy program to reach out to potential donors. Staffers prefer more face-to-face solicitation rather than phone calls because it often garners better results. For example, the average donation is $86 on the phone, $270 for e-solicitation and $130 by mail, but face-to-face gifts are much larger — sometimes in the millions.
Junod says the UCF Fund asks every alumnus and alumna with up-to-date information to donate, which is more than 226,000 Knights. Of this, about 7,000 donate, or a little more than 3 percent of alumni.
“At our call center, students like to talk to alumni about donating to scholarships because the student callers are often on scholarships,” Junod explains.
To apply for alumni scholarships, students must fill out the applications on their myUCF account. If a student is eligible for an alumni scholarship, it will automatically appear in his/her scholarship listing. Most scholarships also require an essay, recommendation letter and activities summary.
“Scholarships aren’t going to come to you — you have to look for them,” Chu says. “The alumni association does a great job advertising the scholarships. People just have to take the next step and actually apply.”
She also says it is important for students to be themselves when writing application essays.
“They can tell in your writing if you’re being fake or lying,” she says. “Stand out and have a personal story that they can connect to.”
In Chu’s application, she wrote a personal essay about how UCF has opened so many doors for her father. She also described how the university has already given her innumerable opportunities, such as research and networking.
After the applications are submitted, the four-month-long reviewing process begins.
“We want to make sure we are being diligent in reading everything and paying attention because students took the time to submit their applications,” Cordoba says.
A team of student assistants first checks the applicants’ eligibility to make sure they meet all of the necessary criteria for the scholarship, and then the applicants are scored using a point system.
“For example, if you’re a member of a club, you get so many points. If you’re an officer, you get more points,” Cordoba explains. “Everybody gets the same formula applied to them across the board.”
Once the applicants have been rated, a selection committee of alumni, faculty and staff reviews the top five to 10 students. The committee then gives its recommendations and a staff committee selects the final winners.
Reaching out through email, postcards and banner advertisements, there’s been an increase in students who have been applying for the alumni association’s scholarships.
“We had more than 500 applications in 2015, which is a third more than we had the year before,” Cordoba says. “Students are taking advantage of the scholarships!”
However, with more applicants comes more competition.
“The caliber of students who are applying is amazing,” Cordoba says. “We’re choosing from the top echelon of students who are extremely involved with their university and in their communities.”
Alumni who wish to contribute can name a scholarship for $10,000, or they can endow a scholarship for $25,000, which gets invested and earns appreciation.
“The idea is to keep building the endowment so it lives on in perpetuity,” Cordoba says.
How to apply for UCF Alumni Association scholarships:
An alumna’s traumatic past hasn’t kept her from pursuing her dreams
Sarah Sacra, ’13 | Graduate Student, UCF
By Angie Lewis, ’03
Sarah Sacra, ’13, has always been intrigued by human behavior, so she didn’t have to give much thought to her undergraduate major: psychology.
“I enjoyed when friends came to me to tell me something — picking up on their body language and how they spoke, in combination with their personalities. It was very interesting,” she says.
At age 23, Sacra already has an impressive resume, which includes a 4.0 GPA, working as a teaching assistant for several UCF professors, participating in faculty research, being published, giving more than a half dozen presentations, racking up countless awards, being part of numerous honor societies and professional groups, and volunteering from the time she was a teen.
Her ambitions continue as she pursues her UCF master’s degree in applied sociology, with a criminology/deviance specialization. After graduating in August 2015, she plans to keep going, to earn her third UCF degree — a doctorate in sociology.
“My ultimate goal in my professional life is to create partnerships between research universities and law enforcement agencies to reduce crime — particularly murders,” she says. “To accomplish this, I would like to be a tenured university professor who researches crime with the intention of favorably changing public policies.”
Her interest in criminology stems from true-life crime shows, like “Forensic Files,” “Dr. G: Medical Examiner,” “Dateline NBC” and “America’s Most Wanted.” She remembers talking to her stepmother about how awesome it would be to do criminal investigations, but that interest was placed on the back burner since she had no idea how to get into the field.
“Now that I’m in sociology and study under advisors who specialize in crime, I can take my hidden passion, bring it to the forefront, and turn it into my career.”
Because her successes and goals are so impressive, it’s hard to imagine the trauma she had to overcome to achieve them all.
For nearly two years of her adolescent life, she was sexually and emotionally abused by her stepfather, and emotionally abused and neglected by her mother.
“While the abuse was going on, I had a feeling it wasn’t something ‘normal’ that others experienced,” she explains. “But, I didn’t know for sure because, other than going to school, I was barricaded from the social world. My stepfather confessed to my mother that he had sexually abused me after the first incident, however, even with this knowledge and my affirmation, my mother stayed with him and continued to live life as normal.
In November of seventh grade, my grandfather, whom I was very close with, passed away. My mother did not allow me to go to his funeral, and left me at home with my stepfather. After yet another incident with my stepfather, I decided that I was tired of living in fear. I sought peer counseling from school on the basis of my grandfather passing. After about two weeks, I confided in my peer counselor about the real truth, and the school and law enforcement took matters into their own hands from there.”
Sacra’s stepfather and mother were eventually arrested, and she went to live with her father and stepmother, to whom she attributes her “triumph.”
“She was the one who started the process of removing me from my mother’s custody after she found out my mother knew about the abuse, did nothing about it, and continued to have me under her care,” she explains. “She provided the loving and supportive environment that I needed to heal and grow into the person I am today.”
Q. You sound like a very busy girl! What do you do for fun?
A. For fun, I like to go to UCF football games and watch NFL games on TV with my friends. Otherwise, I enjoy relaxing, listening to music, and catching up on sleep.
Q. What music do you listen to when you want to tune out the world?
A. I have a very eclectic taste in music, so it would depend on my mood. Typically, old hip hop/R&B or old-school rap with a good amount of bass will do it. Otherwise, upbeat stuff like Reggaeton and newer hip hop.
Q. Pet peeves?
A. When people drive and do not use their turning signals. It’s the WORST!
Q. Any hidden talents?
A. Something most people don’t know is that I’m a black belt in Taekwondo.
Q. Last book you read?
A. Excluding books for class, “I Am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai. GREAT book.
Q. Favorite reality TV show?
A. “Say Yes to the Dress!!!”
Q. What movie can you quote word for word?
A. When I was younger, I would watch “Home Alone 2,” “Dennis the Menace” (1993) and “Hook” on repeat, so I have those down pretty well. Otherwise, I love to quote “Stepbrothers,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Dark Knight.”
Q. If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A. Bread in any form
Q. Most embarrassing moment?
A. One summer at Wet ’N Wild, I was with a group of my friends waiting to get on a ride. Everyone was picking on me for one reason or another. I tried to come back at them stating that I’m not that silly or clumsy. As I was talking, I walked right into a pole. It didn’t feel great, nor did it help prove my point.
Q. Do you have any regrets?
A. I really don’t have any regrets. Anything that could be regrettable, I view as learning points and therefore do not regret experiencing them.
Q. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
A. I would want to learn how to sing. Being a musician, I love music. I can play my heart out on my trombone or some steel drums, but if my life depended on me singing something that is remotely pleasant to the ear, you’ll probably never hear from me again!
Q. What’s the happiest/proudest moment of your life so far?
A. I feel most happy when my stepmother is proud of me and what I have accomplished. She knows every struggle that I’ve faced, so when she sees me conquer something meaningful, I can tell she’s proud of me, which is the greatest feeling.
Q. What advice would you give to others who are going through or who have gone through traumatic situations like yours?
A. For those who are currently going through something like this, speak up. It will probably be the most difficult thing you will do, but it’s the key to ending the nightmare. Additionally, during and after the abuse, I felt ashamed, like somehow it was my fault that the abuse occurred, or that it’s my fault my mother and stepfather went to jail. But, it wasn’t and never will be. I think that’s a very important piece of information. It’s not your fault. Although something like this is a very private and personal thing to most people, it’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. We are not victims, we are survivors.
If you or someone you know is suffering from abuse, please seek help. Here are a few resources:
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline | 800.4.A.CHILD
The National Domestic Violence Hotline | 800.799.7233
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) | 800.656.HOPE