Small World Moment for Knights in Texas

Alumna Shelby Shankin mentors current UCF student Justin Tejada, whom she met by chance in Austin, Texas, at his summer internship

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 13, 2017) – Nearly four years ago, UCF alumna Shelby Shankin ’13 found herself in Austin, Texas, for the first time in her life to work on mega festival South by Southwest.

Justin Tejada is a current first-generation student who has made it his mission to grasp every opportunity he finds at UCF. That’s how he ended up in Austin, Texas, for the first time in his life this year for a summer internship.

Tejada said it’s unusual for an out-of-state candidate to be selected to intern at marketing agency George P. Johnson, which has worked with clients such as American Express, Google, Lexus, Under Armour and Samsung. So when the powers-that-be at the company found out Tejada was a UCF student, they knew exactly who his mentor should be — one of its event logistics managers, Shelby Shankin.

“From the moment I met her, I could tell she was super excited and eager to help me learn,” he said. “It was just because of that connection of UCF. That was awesome.”

Although Shankin recently accepted a job with a historical boutique hotel, Hotel Ella, she intends to keep in contact with Tejada well after his internship ends in August. While he is in Texas, the two meet for an hour once a week and discuss his internship as well as general questions he has about life, career and his upcoming senior year at UCF.

“As a first generation student, I’m super nervous about what’s to come. I’m always worried about, am I going to get a job? That’s something I wanted to work on myself this summer – putting that aside and focusing on the now and enjoying the present,” he said. “I think she has helped me understand that I need to worry about the future, but not as much as I do.”

The two are somewhat of kindred spirits. When Shankin was studying at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, she gained valuable experience in several internships, working for companies like Universal Orlando and the Orlando Science Center. She even studied abroad in France for a semester.

She moved to Austin after graduation as a contracted event coordinator for High Beam Events and flip flopped with the company and George P. Johnson in different positions before accepting her newest venture as a venue event coordinator for Hotel Ella.

“Whenever a good opportunity has come up I just say yes. I just like to try everything,” she said.

Tejada’s resume reads with that same philosophy.

He worked as an external relations assistant for the College of Business Administration; interned for UCF Athletics, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando; served as public relations director of Children Beyond Our Borders and is currently the marketing director of CAB, the UCF campus activities board.

An advertising-public relations major who is also minoring in political science, Tejada is studying for the LSAT and thinking about law school. Like Shankin, he has tried different opportunities to see how they fit for him and knows he has Shankin in his corner to help him along the way.

“He’s seeking as much information as he can and trying to get as much out of this experience and life as possible. No matter where he ends up, I see him being very successful because he wants it,” Shankin said. “I’ve encouraged him to try everything. Take as much advantage of senior year as possible. I don’t think there’s anything wrong from having that urge to try everything. I think that’s where you learn so much. You just don’t know where life can take you.”

Rosen College Grad Takes Event Management Talents to the White House

Rosen College Dean Abraham Pizam with Jade Tate, '14
Rosen College Dean Abraham Pizam with Jade Tate, ’14

By Kathy Dorf
Rosen College Public Relations

Jade Tate, ’14, spent this spring as a White House intern in the Office of the First Lady in Washington, D.C. Using skills gained from internships and a bachelor’s degree in event management from UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, Tate assisted with a variety of events, from press conferences, dinners and receptions to bill signings, national championship team visits and movie screenings.

She credits her professors for preparing her not only to excel in this prestigious internship program, but also for supporting her during the competitive application process. Although Tate’s internship ended on May 1, she already secured a full-time job in the events industry as a sales assistant at The Jefferson, Washington, D.C.’s finest, small historic hotel.

For the benefit of other students considering the program, Tate shared details about her experience as a White House intern and what it took to get there:

Why did you decide to apply for a White House internship?
As my graduation date approached, I began to realize the Orlando area is highly saturated with hospitality seeking professionals specializing in the hotel industry. I knew that I wanted to work in the events field and only the events field, so I needed to place myself in a city where I felt I would thrive. Quite frankly, I knew that I would be in a highly vulnerable and transitional phase of my life and wanted to put myself in a position to succeed. A few months before [the White House Internship application deadline], my active duty Air Force parents were notified they were going to be stationed in the National Capital Region. I researched internships in the Washington D.C. area and came across the White House Internship Program and saw that the Social Office within the Office of the First Lady was an option. I realized I would have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself and gain invaluable experience and exposure to event planning in a highly visible office. Additionally, I would be able to depend on my family for emotional, spiritual and financial support.

What was the application process like and how did you prepare?
As with any major decision in life, conducting research is very important! Just like any application, I started off with researching the White House Internship Program and previous events conducted by the Social Office within the Office of the First Lady, my primary office of interest. As I gathered more information about the possible office I could be selected for, I definitely fell more in love with the positions and that helped fuel my desire to complete the application to the best of my ability.

This program is highly competitive. Why do you think you were chosen? What do you think made you stand out?
Yes, definitely highly competitive! It was something that kept ringing in my head when I was applying. Washington, D.C. is the political epicenter of the United States and as an event management major with no political experience or involvement, it scared the living day lights out of me! Interns however come from a wide variety of academic and professional backgrounds. Coming from a hospitality background, I knew I would be a different type of candidate, but nonetheless very useful in the Office of the First Lady. Throughout my college career, I was constantly involved in the event industry, from internships to catering to my starting my own business. I made sure I was constantly getting a wide variety of experience.

Describe a typical day as a White House intern.
First, when planning events, no day is typical…ever! In my office, when I arrive at work, I do my morning rounds to make sure everything is set for my supervisors that day. E-mails are always the second thing I do because they give me a sense of what is happening in the office that day; I also respond to any outstanding event requests we receive. As interns, we help things flow more smoothly for the event directors. Personally, I handle a lot of photos from events – processing and staying in contact with the right people to make sure those who come to our events receive their photos. On event days, I assist the event’s point of contact with any last minute details that need to be finished (photo cards, announcement cards, seating card placement, interoffice communications) before doors open for the event.

What kinds of events are you assisting with?
One of my favorite things that attracted me to this internship and has proven to still be one of my favorites is the varied event experience I’ve received. We do movie screenings, dinners, receptions, message events, The First Lady’s Let’s Move! or Reach Higher initiative events, bill signings, national championship team visits (pro-sports) and press conferences. Every day is a new adventure and each event has its own personality.

What’s the best or most memorable experience you’ve had so far?
The best experience I had so far would definitely be our African American History Month Reception. For this specific event, I helped bring in a youth orchestra from the local D.C. area to play. It’s fulfilling to know that it was more than simply putting on an event; it also touched lives.

Do you feel Rosen College prepared you for this opportunity? Are there any skills or lessons you learned that you’ve been able to apply to your work at the White House?
Rosen College provided so many opportunities to grow as an event professional! The professors are honestly the most influential part. In an industry where experience and working in the field are where you gather the most information and knowledge, the staff is what makes the difference. Don’t get me wrong, the education behind the industry has helped me prevent myself from making mistakes that ignorance could have caused and helped me gain a worldly perspective on the industry that I love to be a part of, but there is no comparison to the professors/mentors that I have gained through my time at Rosen College. Ms. A’Rion Raymond — I took every one of her classes that I could — was one of the most inspiring and down to earth professors. She graciously wrote one of my letters of recommendation for this internship. Ms. Deborah Weissberg was a gem from my first Intro to Hospitality class in my first semester at Rosen College to my senior year Communications class. She was such an inspiration and a driving force behind my confidence to apply. She also edited my resume before I submitted my internship application. I cherish the professors so much and the education they are willing to instill in their students — they truly love us.

What’s next for you after the internship ends? What are your plans?
I recently accepted a full-time position as a sales assistant at The Jefferson, a luxury hotel in D.C. I am currently applying to graduate schools and public relations programs to complement my Event Management degree. In addition, I am taking this time to really enjoy this new phase of life and being back home with my family. The possibilities are endless in D.C. and honestly, that is one of the most invigorating feelings.

See original story on UCF Today. To learn more about event management education at Rosen College, please visit hospitality.ucf.edu.

The Producer

Communication alumna calls shots for one of the world’s news leaders

Victoria_Moll-Ramirez-web

Victoria Moll-Ramirez, ’09 | Cross-Platform Associate Producer, CNN

By Julia Anderson, ‘14

Victoria Moll-Ramirez, ’09, says her bachelor’s degree in radio-television from UCF has meant everything to her in her career. Her best memories at UCF include hours spent in the Nicholson School of Communication’s Knightly Newsroom.

“Every meltdown, every slice of pizza and every soda I had in that newsroom is so fondly remembered,” she says. “The countless times we all looked at each other and asked, ‘Why are we doing this?!’ Totally worth it.”

Although it was challenging at the time, she thanks her experience in the RTV broadcast journalism track for her success.

Shortly after she graduated, Moll-Ramirez started working as an assignment editor at WKMG-Local 6 News Orlando, where she had previously interned. She left WKMG in 2011 after being the first UCF alumna chosen for the NBC News Associate Program in New York City. Out of more than 1,500 applicants she was one of seven chosen for the prestigious program.

In 2012, NBC News promoted her to bureau coordinator of its Miami office. At NBC, she helped generate content for all of their platforms, including NBCNews.com, “The Today Show,” “NBC Nightly News,” MSNBC and NBCLatino.com.

After an incredible three years at NBC News, she moved on to become a cross-platform associate producer at CNN, which is based out of Atlanta.

Moll-Ramirez answered some questions about her time at UCF, the difficulties and rewards of being in the news industry, and shared advice for students and alumni.

Q&A in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Q. Why did you choose to attend UCF?
A. It’s going to sound a little silly, but the reason I chose UCF is because it was the university that sent me the most promotional mail. One day I just thought to myself, “Well, if these people want me so bad, let me check this out.”

Q. How has your UCF degree helped you in your career?
A. My UCF degree has been essential in my career. All of my jobs have required a degree in journalism. Over time, I’ve also realized how great the RTV broadcast journalism program was. I’ve had colleagues who went to Columbia, Northwestern, USC, Berkeley, you name it. Not once have I ever felt like I fell behind.

Q. Favorite thing about your job?
A. No two days are ever the same — coming into work every day and not knowing what’s going to happen. Not realizing the moment you walk in through those doors, you may be a few moments away from informing the world about a certain historical event, good or bad, is invaluable.

Q. Most memorable experience on the job?
A. I’d have to say it was the 10th anniversary of September 11th. I was working for NBC at the time in New York City and got to be a part of the team that covered it. When the names of the fallen were being called and I looked at my colleagues, many of whom covered the actual attacks, with tears down their cheeks, it was so real. Seeing the fountains from high up and knowing that’s where so many lives were lost — the hurt was palpable.

Q. What piece of advice would you give to current UCF students, as well as fellow Knights?
A. To current students, UCF is becoming a bigger and bigger name. Don’t underestimate it. A degree is what you make of it. Not having a degree is a lot tougher than having one. Be proud, always. Oh, and INTERN! INTERN, INTERN, INTERN! It’s more important than most of your classes!

For alumni, let’s be friends! I love UCF for all the doors it opened for me. A strong alumni association makes a huge difference.

Now, for some fun questions. Moll-Ramirez shared some personal info to help us get to know her better:

Q. Do you have any special/hidden talents?
A. When in top cardio shape, I’m pretty great at jumping rope. Bizarre, I know. But I actually became obsessed with it while at UCF. They used to have a half-hour class at the recreation center and I started taking it. The rest is history.

Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I love trivia nights and playing kickball. Yes, kickball — don’t judge. I also listen to Pitbull and Romeo Santos (a Spanish language singer) way too much. Also, the regular stuff like hanging out with friends, traveling and watching the news.

Q. What’s the most generous or thoughtful gift you’ve ever received?
A. The most thoughtful gift I ever received was really more like a gesture. On my last day at NBC News, my colleagues threw a huge surprise party for me. My desk was decorated — with pictures of Sanjay Gupta and Wolf Blitzer included — there were balloons, they made posters with pictures of all of my favorite things, they ordered food, I got flowers and even a crown! It was like my Quinceañera all over again! I didn’t expect it and it was above and beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined.