UCF Alumni Association Aids Students with Scholarships

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By Isabelle D’Antonio
Contributing Writer, Central Florida Future

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:

  1. Visit ucfalumni.com/scholarships. (The application window opens Feb. 1 and closes Feb. 28 each year.)
  2. Read all scholarship criteria and complete all required supporting documents.
  3. Log on to myUCF.
  4. Select “Student Self Service.”
  5. Click on “Scholarship Application” > “Home Page” > “Add New Scholarship.”
  6. Complete and submit application(s).

Questions?

Read the Scholarship FAQ, or contact Carla Cordoba at 407.823.3453.

This story appeared Dec. 4, 2015, in the Central Florida Future online. It has been updated and edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Nov. 23, 2015

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Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. On Friday evening, the UCF Alumni Association honored 30 young alumni (see photo above), for their outstanding achievements, during its inaugural 30 under 30 awards dinner.
  2. C-SPAN network’s Campaign 2016 mobile newsroom visited the UCF campus on Wednesday to broadcast an interview with psychology Professor Deborah Beidel about her studies of anxiety, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, and provided an opportunity for students and others to board the bus and learn about the public affairs’ network’s political coverage and other programs.
  3. Last Monday, UCF journalism students got to hear from the parents of Steven Sotloff, a former UCF journalism student who lost his life at the hands of ISIS. In his honor, his family has established the Steven Sotloff Memorial Endowed Fund. (Plus, his legacy lives on in UCF students.)
  4. UCF hired The State University of New York at Buffalo’s Danny White as its new athletics director. “Danny is one of the nation’s rising stars in college athletics, and his talent, determination, energy and creativity will guide our program to a bright future,” UCF President John C. Hitt says.
  5. UCF’s Programming Team won its fourth-consecutive “Battle of the Brains” competition, a super-contest of computer programming. Three UCF computer science students dominated over their competitors from universities in the Southeast, advancing them to the World Finals, representing the best of 10,000 computer programming teams from 90 countries.

UCF Mascot Bears Legacy of Influential Knight

Before UCF’s mascot was established, “Sir Knight” was making an impact by shielding students from the Vietnam War draft.

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Friends and family gathered to remember the life of Ed Knight Jr.
(PHOTO: Daniela Marin, Central Florida Future)

By Daniela Marin
Entertainment Editor, Central Florida Future

On Aug. 22, nearly 40 years after graduating from UCF, a group of Kappa Sigma alumni brothers reunited to remember the man who may have saved their lives.

Before the university’s name was changed from Florida Technological University to the University of Central Florida, and before the school’s mascot was established, one Knight — dubbed by students as “Sir Knight” — was making an impact by shielding students from the draft during the Vietnam War.

Isaac “Ed” Knight Jr. died Aug. 16 at the age of 93, after retiring from a 20-year career as UCF’s director of records and registration. However, the university’s mascot, which was elected by students in his honor, is proof of Knight’s lasting legacy.

“The school was growing from its infancy, and when it came time to choose a mascot, we decided we’d get behind the name ‘Knights,’ said John Voelpel III, ’73, the Kappa Sigma faculty advisor at the time, who was impacted by Knight. “The whole fraternity did. The student body ended up voting for ‘the Knights,’ and not everyone knew why, but it was because of Ed Knight and what he did for us.”

At the time, men in the U.S. had three options: volunteer to serve a tour in Vietnam, get drafted or maintain a student deferment.

Voelpel, who attended the university from 1969 to 1973 for business administration, said classes at the time were limited and capacity was tight, but “Sir Knight” was an instrumental force in ensuring that male students were placed in the classes they needed to maintain their deferment.

“We weren’t draft dodgers, we weren’t burning our cards, [and] we weren’t running off to Canada, but we would have preferred not to go,” Voelpel said. “He was a very large influence in a very vulnerable time in our lives.”

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Former Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers hold an old copy of the Future — now known as the Central Florida Future — featuring Ed Knight Jr., who impacted students in his time at UCF. (PHOTO: Daniela Marin, Central Florida Future)

Knight’s friends and loved ones, including people he hadn’t seen for years, gathered at the Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home in Altamonte Springs last Saturday to celebrate his life. There, Voelpel and other fraternity brothers shared Knight’s impact.

“I have to tell you, personally, I would have been in Southeast Asia,” he told the crowd. “I’m clumsy. I would have tripped on a tripwire or something and died the first day I was there. I would have never met my wife, never had my children, wouldn’t be standing with these gentlemen today, if it wasn’t for Ed.”

After not seeing him for 10 years, Gracia Muller Miller, ’76, also attended the service and spoke on Knight’s impact. Miller, who was a music student and worked as an assistant in the registrar’s office, shared how Knight became a father figure for her amid racial tensions.

“It was a very lonely time when I first started going to school, and a lot of times I would hang out in the office just because that’s where I felt safe,” she said. “And, Mr. Knight was the one who set that climate. The racial movement was part of my growing up, and Mr. Knight was different — he was a Bulldog, but he was not a hater. There were other people around me that I knew didn’t necessarily like me, but the climate at the registrar’s office didn’t allow them to act out against me.”

At 6 feet tall, Knight was a former University of Georgia basketball player with a U.S. Air Force career of more than 20 years. He quickly became known on campus as a gentle giant and father figure, all while raising a family of his own.

“My dad, he liked the youth, he liked the young people and he saw potential in everyone,” said Brigitt Berry, Knight’s youngest daughter. “That’s who he was, he was the encourager. He liked helping people set goals in life and helping them realize them.”

Despite his commitment to the community, Berry said that didn’t stop her dad from being “the best father in the whole wide world.”

“My parents were always there for me,” she said. “He always came home and spent time with us. He didn’t bring work home with him. He’d come home and play with us. And he absolutely adored my mom, so with those two traits, how could he not have been the best role model?”

And Miller, who went on to become a guidance counselor for Seminole County Public Schools for 20 years, said Knight inspired her to become a positive influence herself.

“I believe that because of Mr. Knight, I was also able to make some impact at UCF,” she said. “I didn’t think of dreaming bigger, but Mr. Knight taught me to dream bigger. He was a man who gave himself to others every day.”

The man to register the first student at UCF is now gone, but his legacy to the university and the lives he touched is lasting.

“I think he’d be very proud of where the school stands today, and he’d be proud of where all the kids he helped get through college stand today,” Voelpel said.

Knight is survived by his children Deborah Knight, Ed Knight III and Brigitt Berry, son-in-law Kip Berry, and two grandchildren.

This story was published in an Aug. 26, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

Endowed Fund Created to Honor Life of Journalist and UCF Alumnus Steven Sotloff

By Marina Guerges
Central Florida Future

Nearly nine months after the Islamic State group beheading of former UCF student and journalist Steven Sotloff, UCF has established a fund to commemorate his life.

The Steven Sotloff Memorial Endowed Fund at UCF, created by Sotloff’s family, was made not only to honor his life, but to preserve his work.

“His family wanted to establish a legacy for Steven,” said College of Sciences’ Director of Development Ray Allen.

Allen said he interacted with Sotloff’s family at UCF, where they came up with a way to remember the former Knight.

Through donations, the fund aims to provide scholarship support to UCF students majoring in journalism. The fund was also established to advance journalism education, as well as endowments for lectures and programming.

“We have set up the memorial fund to invite other donors to support this fund in Steven’s honor,” Allen said.

Longtime UCF donors Tony and Sonja Nicholson — after whom the Nicholson School is named — have committed to match donation gifts to the fund.

“Every dollar will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $25,000 matched,” Allen said.

Contributors can visit www.ucffoundation.org/sotloff, where they will be directed to fill in their donation amount, billing information and add whether they want this donation to be a one-time gift, recurring or a series of installments.

“While Steven was in captivity, he managed to smuggle out a letter to us stating he wanted to give back. We would like to continue Steven’s legacy for generations to come by working with UCF to establish a fund in Steven’s honor,” said his parents Shirley and Arthur Sotloff in a statement on the donation page.

Sotloff attended UCF from 2002 to 2004, where he studied journalism. He then left to focus on working as a Middle East correspondent, wanting to travel to war zones like Libya and Syria.

Sotloff was abducted by the Islamist extremist group and held in captivity.

In September 2014, in an attempt to send “A Message to America,” the Islamic State group beheaded Sotloff in a distributed video as a way to reach President Barack Obama.

UCF students from the athletics fan group “The Gauntlet,” UCF’s Syrian American Council and the UCF chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists joined together to host a vigil that same month to honor Sotloff.

Along with UCF’s contribution, Sotloff’s parents established a fund at his high school, Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire.

The Steven Sotloff ’02 Fund aims to inspire Kimball students to follow Sotloff’s passion: seeing the world through a different lens, while following global and cultural awareness.

The Legacy of Trevor Colbourn

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The UCF community is in mourning after its second president, Trevor Colbourn, passed away on Jan. 13, at age 87.

Colbourn became the university’s president in 1978, when it was still known as Florida Technological University. It was upon his suggestion that the university was renamed to the University of Central Florida the same year.

He also established UCF’s football program, as well as the College of Arts and Sciences (now the College of Arts and Humanities, and the College of Sciences), the Office of Undergraduate Studies and the Honors program, among many others.

During his presidency, the campus increased in size with the building of the Wayne Densch Sports Center, the establishment of Greek Park, a library expansion, growth in residential housing, and the construction of new buildings for Fine Arts (later renamed Colbourn Hall), the College of Business and the College of Engineering. The arena, student union and Barbara Ying Center also went into planning.

After retiring as president in 1989, he returned to teaching history full time at the university. In 1990, he earned the title President Emeritus, and he assumed the role of university historian in 1991.

READ MORE about the legacy Trevor Colbourn created at UCF.

A Legacy of Higher Education

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Alumni Legacy Program | Admissions Workshop

The UCF Alumni Association, in partnership with the UCF Office of Undergraduate Admissions, hosted its annual Legacy Admissions Workshop on Oct. 7.

This free information session gives UCF alumni an inside look at ways to help their children prepare for one of the most important decisions of their lives — applying for college! It’s geared toward alumni parents of any level students (although, it’s most useful for alumni with children in sixth through 12th grades), and emphasizes the special planning necessary to maximize opportunities in a highly competitive admissions market.

Elizabeth Costello, director of UCF’s undergraduate admissions, served as this year’s guest speaker, discussing topics that included setting an admissions timetable, the application process, and essays and extracurricular activities.

The evening also included a Q&A session, and was simulcast online. Parents are encouraged to come back each year as their children advance through school.

Have a school-aged child and want to be invited to next year’s workshop? Or, would you like more information about this special program? Email [email protected].

Family Tradition

For one alumna and nine of her family members, black and gold runs in their blood.

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Alisha Kissee, ’09 | Black & Gold Family

Front row (left to right): Connie Kissee, Alisha Kissee, Julie (Kissee) Sneed; back row (left to right): Madelyn Shafar, Donnie Shafar, Jennifer Kissee, George Sneed, Ashley (Sneed) Monnier, Courtney Sneed, Alyson Shafar

By Angie Lewis, ’03

After going to many homecomings as a child and watching four of her family members attend, Alisha Kissee, ’09, knew UCF was the school for her — so much so, that it was the only one to which she applied.

“Tradition is a big part of our family, and it’s an honor to be a part of our legacy,” she says.

The family of Knights includes Alisha’s uncle George Sneed, ’83; aunt Jennifer Kissee, ’96; aunt Julie (Kissee) Sneed, ’98; cousin Ashley (Sneed) Monnier, ’08; mom Connie Kissee, ’10; cousin Donald Shafar III, ’11; and cousin Courtney Sneed, ’12. Plus, cousins Alyson Shafar and Madelyn Shafar will graduate in 2014 and 2017, respectively.

With several of the family members in school at the same time, sharing a class was bound to happen at some point. Cousins Courtney and Donald shared a chemistry class together. And, for Alisha, it was biology with her mom.

“Most people wouldn’t dare think to take a class with their parents, but I was quite the opposite and found it to actually be fun,” Alisha says. “We used each other as resources, and she was a great study partner.”

Alisha says their mother-daughter relationship grew stronger because they had the opportunity to see each other in a role that they would probably have never seen had they not taken a class together. “We had much respect for one another.”

They were also able to help each other with tougher classes.

“At the time, we were also taking pre-calculus together, [but], in the middle of the semester, I ended up withdrawing because of my workload and the fact that math never was my strong point,” Alisha explains. “On the other hand, math was my mom’s strongest subject. So, she was able to help me in math, while I was able to help her in biology, because that was one of my stronger subjects. It worked out well and, as a result, we now have a closer relationship and can look back on those great times.”

But, what happens when a family of Knights comes together outside the classroom? They celebrate games and birthdays in UCF attire, of course. In fact, Alisha’s cousin, and current UCF student, Alyson’s 21st birthday was a UCF tailgating party.

To top it off, Alisha’s mom Connie adds, “We even celebrate Christmas in UCF fashion, with black and gold Christmas decorations.”

No matter how different their majors or professions (see “Family Resumes” below), this spirited group will always have one thing in common: Knight pride.

Family Resumes

Although they all attended the same university, their degrees and professions are plenty varied. Take a look:

Alisha: advertising/public relations, psychology (minor); marketing assistant for the Orlando Regional Realtor Association and co-owner of Prime Processing LLC
George: marketing; teacher/athletic director for Leesburg High School in Leesburg, Fla.
Jennifer: elementary education + curriculum and instruction (master’s); 3rd grade teacher for Orange County Public Schools
Julie: nursing education manager for Cornerstone Hospice
Ashley: public administration, urban and regional planning (minor); civilian in the Department of the Navy
Connie: early childhood education; special needs teacher
Donald: criminal justice; border patrol agent in Casa Grande Station, Ariz.
Courtney: social science education; 8th grade American history teacher

Family Successes

We asked the family’s eight alumni how they felt their UCF education prepared them for life after graduation. Here’s what each said:

Alisha: My degree has helped me find a position in my chosen career path. The marketing field is very competitive to enter, and I feel UCF helped me break into the industry.
George: U Can Finish!
Jennifer: It prepared me to be the best teacher I can be.
Julie: The B.S.N. program is geared toward leadership in nursing. And, I am in a leadership position.
Ashley: I was fortunate to be able to attain a job in my career field right after graduation.
Connie: The school and classes helped me prepare for becoming a teacher and working with students.
Donald: I felt that the education was significant, however, the internship with the U.S. Marshals was invaluable to my current successful position.
Courtney: UCF’s education program is incredible. I was able to start teaching immediately after graduation, and was able to work on the same level with my peers.