Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – May 7, 2018

Photo of Jaha Dukureh
Jaha Dukureh (Photo by UCF Knight News)

1. More than 8,100 UCF graduates joined the UCF Alumni family over the weekend, including Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Jaha Dukureh. The renowned activist and United Nations goodwill ambassador earned her master’s degree through UCF’s online nonprofit management program. She studied the field to better understand how to run her own nonprofit organization, which she started to help put an end to female genital mutilation. Read her incredible story


2. Speaking of graduation, the spring class was the last for President John C. Hitt, who will be retiring from the presidency in June. Since its inception, the university has awarded 318,000 degrees, 82 percent of them while Hitt was president.

3. The 2018 ChargeOn Tour has its first stop scheduled for Tuesday, May 8, at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville for the Jumbo Shrimp’s game against the Tennessee Smokies. Head coaches Josh Heupel, Katie Abrahamson-Henderson and Johnny Dawkins along with Vice President and Director of Athletics Danny White will be all be part of the program, which starts at 6:15 p.m. at the Sea Best Shrimp Deck. Purchase your ticket, which also includes an all-you-can-eat picnic package.

4. The UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter is hosting a panel of five outstanding UCF alumni on May 15 at 6 p.m. In addition to sharing their personal stories, the panelists from organizations including Walt Disney Company, Universal and the Orlando Magic will discuss themes like leadership, career development and achieving professional success. Register Now

5. Just a friendly reminder that Teacher Appreciation Day is Wednesday, May 8. Did a UCF professor make an impact on your life? Consider taking a few moments out of your day to send them a note telling them what they mean to you!

P.S. Go buy your mom a card and some UCF gear from Barnes & Noble  — Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13.

Once In A Generation

Samantha and mom Jodi_2
By Jenna Marina

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.”

Second Time Around

Kim Hardiman

By Jenna Marina

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.”

She studied art at Stony Brook University and earned her master’s in fine arts from Hunter College in the 1980s. She remained in New York, living as an artist and a dancer. She picked up traditional Chinese ribbon dancing to reconnect with her heritage.

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.”

Summer Graduate Makes It Count

Consuelo and daugter Yuri
Consuelo Rodriguez ’16 and daughter Yuridia

By Jenna Marina

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.”

Dog Days of Summer Graduation

Amanda and Ridley
Amanda Overend ’16 and dog-in-training Ridley

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. — Amanda Overend takes pride in propagating what has become a life motto: “Help is a four-legged word.”

The Orlando native associates her college experience with volunteering – a passion she found five years ago.

Her most recent philanthropic endeavor has been helping raise puppies for Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs.

UCF is the first public university in Florida to have an agreement with the organization and allow dogs to be raised on campus. Overend has trained three dogs: Deacon, Asland and her current golden-lab mix, Ridley.

“It’s had a huge impact on me,” she said.

So much so that she included the dogs’ names on her cap and will have Ridley in the audience on graduation day along with her parents and best friend since middle school.

Overend said it took her 11 years to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology. In finding her way, she moved across the country and back, and changed degree paths several times from web design to biology to marketing and nursing before finally landing on psychology.

“When I switched to psychology, I fell in love once I found classes that I actually enjoyed,” she said. “UCF is home. My aunt went here, and I actually felt a part of the school of psychology.”

Although she calls it a long journey, she values her experience at UCF and encourages others to use their time in college to explore who they are and what is important to them.

“It’s really not a race,” she said. “Just go at your own speed and find a degree that you truly feel passionate about. Not just one that is going to be easy.”

Welcome, AlumKnights! (What New Graduates Need to Know)

graduation-fall2015

By Jeana Capra
UCF Alumni Association Student Intern

Congratulations, Class of 2015 fall graduates! You’re an official UCF AlumKnight, which means you’re now part of a family that’s more than 250,000 strong!

Your connection to UCF and your Knights pride don’t end just because your senior year did. The UCF Alumni Association connects all Knights with the university and each other through social, cultural and professional development events. Now that you’re a part of the family, you should know what it entails.

The UCF Alumni Association is a dues-free organization, which means there’s no annual membership fee to take advantage of all it has to offer. You’re already a part of the alumni association just by graduating!

Remember that key card you got when you picked up your cap and gown? Think of that as your golden ticket. It’s what identifies you as an AlumKnight. Show that card to participating benefit providers for alumni discounts, and use it as your pass into alumni-hosted events, like our annual Indoor Tailgate parties during football season.

The UCF Alumni Association hosts events across the nation, so you can keep connected no matter where life takes you after college. There are countless ways to stay involved, whether it’s on campus or in your new community, through our chapters and clubs program. College-based and regional chapters and clubs help you build of a network of new friends who share your UCF experience.

And, as a brand new graduate, you naturally fit into the Young Alumni Council, a network or more than 60,000 Knights under the age of 30. This community of alumni is a powerful way to help you stay connected to social, career and community events as you begin to conquer “the real world.”

Leaving campus doesn’t have to mean losing touch with your alma mater. Follow the UCF Alumni Association on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep up with all of the latest and greatest UCF news and events, and be proud of the university that made you who you are!

Congratulations again, graduates! You’re the future of the UCF Knights Nation, and we look forward to seeing all of the amazing things you’re going to do!

Go Knights! Charge On!

P.S. Jazz up your Facebook profile: Show off your #UCFalumni pride and download one of 10 cover photos. We even made two for your proud parents. :)

UCF Research Earns Big Bucks

UCF-Reflecting-Pond-sunset

UCF Ends Fiscal Year with $133.4 Million in Research Funding

Researchers at UCF received $133.4 million in research funds during the past fiscal year.

The funding totals reflect a rise in federal funding over the previous year, from $72.2 million to $74.2 million, and a continued national affirmation of UCF’s strengths in research and innovation. Researchers also received $47.5 million from industry sources and $11.7 from the state and local governments.

READ MORE


University Innovation Alliance Receives $8.9 Million Grant from DOE

The U.S. Department of Education has announced that the University Innovation Alliance, of which the University of Central Florida is a member, was selected as the recipient of the First in the World competition to encourage innovation among institutions of higher education. Georgia State University, on behalf of the alliance, was awarded $8.9 million to conduct a four-year research study on the group’s 11-member campuses around the nation to evaluate the effectiveness of advising in increasing retention, progression, and graduation rates for low-income and first-generation students.

READ MORE


Air Force Awards $5.87 Million Laser-Research Contract to UCF

A $5.87 million contract has been awarded by the Air Force to optics researcher Martin Richardson and his University of Central Florida team to develop new concepts for high-power fiber lasers. The contract is the one of the largest made by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to a single university for development of fiber lasers.

READ MORE

Nearly 10-percent Increase in College Grad Hires

job-hunting
Orlando is the fastest-growing metro area in the country, with more than 4 percent in job growth.
(Photo: Deanna Ferrante, Central Florida Future)

By Deanna Ferrante
Senior Staff Writer, Central Florida Future

You’ve turned in your last assignment, taken your last test and walked across the stage at graduation. But, there’s still one thing to do: Find a job.

Employers are planning to hire 9.6 percent more college graduates than they did last year, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Sean Snaith, director of UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness, said it seems to be a high percentage — even though Orlando is the fastest-growing metro area in the country, with more than 4 percent in terms of job growth. That’s well over the state’s rate of growth at around 3 percent and twice the national rate, which is just above 2 percent.

“We’re now in the seventh year of this economic recovery,” Snaith said. “I think hiring has been improving not rapidly, but improving steadily.”

Lynn Hansen, executive director of UCF Career Services, said it’s a combination of the economy and the university’s location that makes Orlando an advantageous area for graduates.

“I think we’re fortunate that we’re located where we’re located,” she said. “With the history of technology companies, transportation, health care and hospitality here, I think we have a lot going for us.”

Big-name corporations, such as Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Target, Lockheed Martin, Yelp, Yahoo and even the CIA, have all come to UCF to recruit students. Hansen said employer recruitment on campus has seen a significant increase. In spring, Career Services was actively working with 1,077 employers — an increase from 563.

“To me, that’s an indication that the demand is up for talent,” she said.

In a 2013-14 Career Services survey of 8,658 graduating students, 71 percent said they were seeking full-time or part-time employment. Of that number, 42 percent were already in the workforce or had accepted job offers, and 8 percent had been offered positions.

Students who were already employed or had received a full-time job were in the hospitality services and health care industries. Education and engineering were other popular choices.

Also in 2013, the Florida Department of Education found that out of the 12,047 UCF fall graduates, 68 percent of those who found jobs in Florida were still employed a year after graduation.

But, these statistics aren’t the whole picture, Hansen said.

There are plenty of students who get jobs out of state or in other countries who aren’t counted as part of these totals.

Hansen said students who do fall in the employment statistics can improve their chances of being hired by joining campus organizations, volunteering with clubs, conducting undergraduate research, finding internships or getting part-time jobs.

“Those things help build that student into a person … that the working world is looking for,” she added.

For graduating students looking for work, it all comes down to planning.

“It’s never too early to begin the process,” Hansen said. “Finding that great job after graduation isn’t like picking up your cap and gown on the way to the commencement ceremony.”

This article appeared in a July 16, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with the AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original story. 

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Commencement Through the Years

250K-grad

With UCF’s summer graduation ceremony just around the corner, on Aug. 8, the Summer 2015 issue of Pegasus Magazine took a look back at 45 years of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

From the first commencement ceremony in 1970, to the array of distinguished speakers over more than five decades, to the 250,000th graduate, Daniel Berreth, ’15, UCF continues to charge its unique path through history.

TAKE A LOOK…

With groundbreaking new programs, the addition of more faculty members, and UCF Downtown on the horizon, the Knights of tomorrow have much to look forward to!

 

Former Homeless Man Earns Degree from UCF

SantosMaldonado

By Bailey Myers
Bay News 9

Santos Maldonado, ’15, was living on the streets years ago, struggling to find shelter and food. But, May 9, he graduated from the University of Central Florida.

Maldonado first moved to Orlando in 2001 and he said he fell on hard times, and very quickly was out of money and living on the streets.

For years he struggled with homelessness. Until, one day, he reached a breaking point.

“I thought I was near death,” he says. “I mean that literally. I did not see any hope on the horizon.”

Through the help of of local programs, like the Second Harvest Food Bank, Maldonado got back on his feet. He began taking classes at Valencia College and later attended classes at UCF. After 10 years of studying, the 61 year old earned his degree.

“Without the stability or type of organization [like Second Harvest Food Bank], I wouldn’t be here today,” he explains. “God knows where I would be.”

Now, Maldonado works for the organization that helped him get back on his feet.

“It’s like the icing on the cake. It just proves that you can be different and still make a difference.”

This story was published May 9 on baynews9.com. It has been slightly edited for style. See original article.