Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 25, 2016

CON-white-coat
The UCF College of Nursing is one of just 60 nursing schools in 33 states to receive funding to participate in this year’s white coat ceremony, which promotes humanistic, patient-centered, compassionate care among future generations of registered nurses. (See No. 2 below.)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Oviedo High School teachers Will Furiosi, ’13, MAT14, and Jessica Ortega, ’13, fell head-over-heels for each other — and education — at UCF. READ MORE
  2. On Jan. 10, nearly 200 students from the UCF College of Nursing ceremoniously began their clinical practice with an inaugural white coat ceremony and joined a nationwide initiative to promote compassionate care.
  3. UCF freshman Nick Drivas has been invited to perform with Grammy Award-nominated entertainer Michael Feinstein as part of the “Michael Feinstein: A Sinatra Centennial” concert Jan. 29 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
  4. On a career break and thinking of returning to work? Unsure about what you want to do and where to start? Interested in changing career paths? Join UCF alumni and other returning professionals for an information-packed, half-day program that includes return-to-work strategies, and tactics on resumes, interviews and job searches.
  5. Running through Jan. 31, Theatre UCF, in collaboration with the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, presents “Spunk and the Harlem Literati,” an adaption of the play “Spunk” by Zora Neale Hurston. The production is part of the 27th annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 18, 2016

UCFCheerleading-2016nationals
UCF Cheerleading claimed the runner-up position at this weekend’s national championships! (PHOTO: Chris Schubert)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The UCF Cheerleading squad was the runner-up at this weekend’s College Cheerleading National Championships at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. This was the Knights’ 11th-straight top-four finish. Congratulations to all of these amazing student-athletes! Go Knights! Charge On!
  2. U.S. News & World Report ranked UCF’s online programs as among some of the best in the nation, including the university’s online bachelor’s programs, which jumped from No. 50 last year to No. 20 this year.
  3. Two teams of UCF students are each designing a subsystem for passenger pods, which would be part of a 760 mph “Hyperloop” transportation system proposed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors. The system could transport passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in just 30 minutes.
  4. UCF is partnering with LinkedIn to launch a new app focused around students entering the workforce. The app will allow students to network with employers and search for jobs from both LinkedIn- and UCF-specific platforms, such as KnightLink.
  5. Nine-year-old Alvin Garcia Flores is the latest recipient of a 3D-printed bionic arm from UCF’s Limbitless Solutions. Flores was surprised with the “Star Wars”-themed belated Christmas gift on Thursday, when Darth Vader himself presented it to Flores in front of his classmates at Gateway Elementary in Omaha, Neb.

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 — Dec. 21, 2015

Former Olympian and UCF alumna Michelle Akers (left) hosted the latest delivery of a Limbitless Solutions arm in Powder Springs, Ga., to Lila Brooks Pearson (right front) of South Carolina.
Former Olympian and UCF alumna Michelle Akers (left) hosted the latest delivery of a Limbitless Solutions arm in Powder Springs, Ga., to Lila Brooks Pearson (right front) of South Carolina.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. More than 5,000 students joined the UCF alumni family this past weekend during three fall commencement ceremonies. Congratulations, Class of 2015! Here are some things all new grads should know.
  2. A team of UCF students delivering bionic arms to make 12 children’s Christmas wishes come true was featured Dec. 13 on NBC’s “TODAY Show.” Limbitless Solutions, the UCF-based nonprofit organization that provides 3D-printed bionic arms and hands to children at no cost to their families, started its 12 Arms for Christmas campaign with a special delivery to a 5-year-old South Carolina girl, which included the help of UCF alumna and Olympic gold-medalist Michelle Akers, ’89.
  3. UCF is working hard to secure funding for its planned downtown campus, which would create 2,000 new jobs and have an annual economic impact of $205 million, including $90 million in wages.
  4. A UCF College of Medicine resident was honored with the nation’s top residency research award for his study of a unique heart attack victim he met in the emergency room.
  5. Need a break from all the holiday stress this week? Come out to the CFE Arena on Tuesday and support the UCF Women’s and Men’s Basketball teams! The ladies take on Oklahoma State at 1 p.m., and the guys take on Bethune Cookman at 7 p.m. Go Knights! Charge On! Also, now through Jan. 3, you can catch a performance of “Peter and the Starcatchers” at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

This is our last “Five Things” list for 2015. See you in again in 2016! Happy Holidays, Knights!

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

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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. :)

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Nov. 9, 2015

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Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The UCF Alumni Association and Career Services is hosting a Virtual Networking Hour tomorrow from 4-5 p.m., where participants can connect with fellow Knights working in different industries in their own backyards and around the world.
  2. To commemorate Veterans Day on Wednesday, UCF is honoring and remembering veterans during a special, month-long series of events.
  3. Kenyatta Rivers, ’88, ’90, Ph.D., associate professor in the UCF Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the College of Health and Public Affairs, is teaching students how to help children, adolescents and adults acquire effective speech, language and communication skills.
  4. Once again, UCF student-athletes are graduating at a higher rate than any other NCAA Division I FBS public institution in the nation, with a sixth-best mark overall.
  5. The UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management’s Knight-Thon team partnered with Pet Rescue by Judy to bring 14 shelter dogs to the Rosen campus for a Rent-a-Pup fundraiser that brought in more than $500 toward the team’s $3,000 goal, benefiting the Greater Orlando Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Nov. 2, 2015

Congratulations to former UCF catcher Drew Butera on his World Series win!
Congratulations to former UCF catcher Drew Butera on his World Series win!

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. On Sunday, the Kansas City Royals’ Drew Butera, former catcher for UCF, became the first Knight to win a World Series!
  2. The UCF Alumni Association and Career Services will hold a job search strategy workshop Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 5:30 p.m. —MORE EVENTS
  3. Alumnus Julien Meyer, ’14, CEO of BlurtBox, has created a Rosen College Entrepreneurship Competition, which will begin in January.
  4. Valencia College’s Board of Trustees decided the college will contribute $2 million to UCF’s $60 million proposed downtown campus plan.
  5. For the fourth year in a row, UCF received a Tree Campus USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Sept. 14, 2015

family-weekend-2015

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Those interested in UCF doctoral, master’s, specialist or certificate programs can attend Tuesday’s Grad Fair, which will guide prospective students through admission options and the transition to graduate school.
  2. On Wednesday, the College of Engineering and Computer Science will host its 3rd Annual Career Kick-Off Workshop, which helps CECS alumni connect with CECS students, to provide guidance on career paths, resumes and interviews.
  3. The “The Understudy,” an exploration of the existential vagaries (and comedy) of show business and life, opens at the UCF Theatre on Thursday evening.
  4. This Saturday’s football game against Furman is UCF’s Family Weekend! There’s much to see and do over the weekend, including the alumni association’s 4EVER KNIGHTS’ Family Weekend Tailgate on Saturday, so be sure to plan ahead!
  5. UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year, and has a series of commemorative events planned for FIEA alumni and students.

Nearly 10-percent Increase in College Grad Hires

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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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Vacation Dreamers, Meet the Doers

Six Rosen College grads working at Florida’s most luxurious resorts share what it really takes to make dream vacations come true

Rosen-six
(Top from left to right:) Ron Emler, director of human resources,
Four Seasons Resort Orlando; Meagan Strout, ’12;
Valeria Rivera-Florez, ’14; and Kristina Rosar, ’08
(Bottom from left to right:) Tricia Taylor, general manager, The Breakers; Hetul Patel, ’10; and Kathryn Shook, ’09

By Kathy Dorf
Rosen College Public Relations

Ever wondered what it takes to keep the world’s most luxurious resorts running smoothly? The answer is a lot of hard work, dedication and very special people. Because they work where everyone wants to vacation, these individuals are charged with a unique yet challenging mission: to make vacation dreams come true.

Six Rosen College graduates working at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando and The Breakers, two world-renowned luxury brands, offer an inside perspective on how the hospitality industry’s finest resorts create unforgettable and unparalleled guest experiences every day.

Four Seasons Resort Orlando:

  • Valeria Rivera-Florez, ’14, golf retail supervisor
  • Meagan Strout, ’12, sales administrative assistant
  • Sarah Staub, ’09, assistant director of spa
  • Kristina Rosar, ’08, Ravello restaurant and lounge assistant manager

The Breakers:

  • Kathryn Shook, ’09, reservations manager
  • Hetul Patel, ’10, guest services manager

What attracted you to joining Four Seasons Resort Orlando/The Breakers and becoming part of their team?

Rivera-Florez: What really attracted me the most was the fact that I get to be a part of history in Orlando with the first Four Seasons in the area. In the future, I want to be able to open hotels and be a part of new teams and experiences and this job has given me that opportunity.
Strout: I always wanted to be a part of Four Seasons and an opening team, and it was a bonus that this hotel was in Orlando – an area that was not only familiar to me, but also in the hospitality mecca. Orlando is such an amazing city because you are surrounded by the most amazing talent and have the opportunity to experience guests from all around the world. I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity!
Staub: I wanted to be a part of the best hotel and team in Orlando, and I wanted to learn from the best!
Rosar: Whether things are positive or negative, an organization finds its destiny with the attitude and drive of its leadership. In this case, the passion and love for the industry from the leadership, along with their positive attitudes keep associates happy and motivated!
Shook: From the age of 16, I recognized what The Breakers had was truly special.  The team’s passion for what they do and the family culture they’ve created exudes from each employee.
Patel: Our General Manager Tricia Taylor came to speak at Rosen College in the fall of 2010. During her presentation, she really stressed the family culture at The Breakers. Company culture was always the most important thing for me when I was looking for a job. It was The Breakers’ culture, history and brand reputation that influenced my decision to choose the team.

How do you think the luxury travel segment is different from others from the perspective of a hospitality professional? Does it require different skills or strengths?

Rivera-Florez: Guests in this segment of travel really expect a level of service that has to be perfectly executed and that is definitely a skill by itself. Employees have to be extremely knowledgeable about their job and property.
Patel: The luxury segment is all about creating lasting memories for our guests through personalized, proactive service and focusing on the small details. The segment is always leading the way, introducing new and innovative ideas to serve guests. In order to succeed, you need a team that is familiar with all industry segments and can demonstrate high attention to detail, exhibit creativity and adapt to constant change.
Strout: Any hotel can make a bed properly or have clean dishes, a nice pool and more, but what sets apart the luxury segment from the rest of the industry are the driven, passionate, empathetic individuals that make up the team and work tirelessly every day to create unforgettable experiences for our guests. Our guests not only expect to have a clean room, a delicious meal and a flawless experience from check-in to check-out, but also expect to feel an emotional connection with the hotel, which comes from experiencing warm, genuine and anticipatory service from our employees.
Rosar: I believe that those who work for luxury hotels have a “sense of pride” to ensure their guests stay is the best one they’ve ever had. The passion and compassion these associates have for making someone’s day better is incomparable. To get up and go to work every day, knowing you can and will make a difference in someone’s life by allowing them to fully relax is worth the hours that we put in.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve been able to do in your job?

Strout: I was lucky enough to be one of the first employees on property, back when the hotel was still under construction and I had to wear a hard hat and construction boots to work every day. The best part of being one of the first team members is that there really aren’t procedures in place. I had the opportunity to create policies and procedures, train new employees, design collateral and play a big part in how the Sales Team operates every day.
Shook: Being a member of our Community Relations team has been something that has been especially meaningful to me.  We have been encouraging our 2,000 team members to volunteer in our community and give back in many ways. Last fiscal year, we recorded 13,058 hours!
Rivera-Florez: Taking charge and ownership of the new golf store and retail business in the hotel. It has definitely shown me the business [aspect] of retail [as it relates] to the guest experience. We work closely with buyers and make sure that all the product that we have is the right product to deliver the best service that we can.

What are the key lessons you’ve learned so far from working in the luxury travel segment?

Shook: I’ve learned that every detail in making a guest’s experience special goes a long way, from a simple “Happy Birthday,” to arranging an extravagant excursion.
Strout: It’s sometimes better ask a guest if you can take the time to investigate an issue and get all of the answers for them so you can come up with the best solution than to hastily give them an answer or compensation that doesn’t solve the problem. The key is to fully understand the problem so you can do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future!
Rivera-Florez: Smile. It is the most important lesson and advice you can learn and give. You can’t teach anyone to smile, but if they do it naturally, it’s the most rewarding thing you can give as part of the guest experience.
Rosar: Always have multiple alternatives for the guest if you cannot complete their initial request. When people have choices, they feel as if they are in control.

How did your experience at Rosen College prepare you for working in the luxury travel segment and your current role?

Rivera-Florez: The best lesson that Rosen College gave us is that most of our professors are still working in the industry and keeping up with all the changes that hospitality is going through. It is a [constantly] changing industry and employees, as well as the company, need to keep everything updated as the market evolves. Professors really speak from real experience and not a book lesson.
Shook: Rosen College prepared me for my career at The Breakers by giving me the opportunity to have hands-on, real-life experiences. The tools that I learned in each of my classes have carried through into every aspect of my job. I am better educated in several revenue management practices and am able to pick up new responsibilities quickly as a result of my time at Rosen College.
Staub: My experience at Rosen prepared me for my role because of the opportunities that were available. From the career fairs to internships and planning real events…Rosen really put things into perspective.

What was your favorite part about attending Rosen College?

Patel: My favorite part about attending Rosen College was the ability to speak with professors for advice and guidance. Smaller class sizes and a separate campus made professors accessible and easy to meet with.
Rivera-Florez: Being able to have such a big family in the industry. When you start working in hospitality, you notice how many people you know in all the hotels around the area and around the world. In the future, you are going to be able to network easier and be a part of a new generation of the hospitality industry.

What advice would you give to current and potential Rosen College students interesting in entering the luxury travel segment?

Rosar: I would ensure they understand that hospitality is not only a career, but a lifestyle. It is fun, exciting and ever-changing. There are many opportunities that will allow you to travel around the world, grow within organizations very quickly and meet incredible people that could potentially turn into lifelong friends. I would also encourage all students to delve deep into the things they find interesting while they have time before they enter their career role, i.e. if you are interested in working in restaurants, work on enhancing your knowledge of wine and food.
Staub: I would advise them to intern at a luxury property or to look into a Management Training program. Don’t burn bridges!  The person sitting next to you could help you get the job or be your future employer.
Patel: Gain as much experience as possible prior to graduation. The luxury segment requires you to have knowledge of all areas of hospitality and having experience in a variety of positions will give you the competitive advantage.
Shook: My advice would be to not be afraid to work your way up through the business and to step outside of your comfort zone. By limiting yourself to only accepting management roles right out of college, there are key components to your growth and development that are missed. You never know what is going to end up being your niche until you open yourself up to all opportunities.
Strout: A colleague of mine sent out this great quote that I think sums it up: Your smile is your logo. Your personality is your business card. How you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes yourtrademark.

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