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!

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Michelle Akers Award

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UCF President John Hitt presented the UCF Alumni Association’s 2015 Michelle Akers Award to Limbitless Solutions’ executive director, Albert Manero, and the rest of his team.
Limbitless Solutions

The UCF Alumni Association honored Limbitless Solutions with its 2015 Michelle Akers Award at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

Limbitless Solutions, which manufactures personalized bionics and solutions for disabilities, is a nonprofit organization founded by UCF students, which is dedicated to building a generation of innovators who use their skills and passion to improve the world around them.

This is the first time the Michelle Akers Award has been presented to students, and to a group. It’s the university’s highest award given to alumni who have brought international, positive attention to UCF through their accomplishments.

Previous winners include:

  • Olympic gold-medalist volleyball player Phil Dalhausser, ’02 (2009)
  • “Curb Your Enthusiasm” actress Cheryl Hines, ’90 (2008)
  • Miss America 2004 Ericka Dunlap, ’05 (2004)
  • “Blair Witch Project” creators, Robin Cowie, ’93; Gregg Hale, ’95; Mike Monello, ’92; Dan Myrick, ’93; and Ed Sanchez, ’93 (1999)
  • 1991 & 1999 Women’s World Cup champion soccer player Michelle Akers, ’89 (1996)

The alumni association recognized the Limbitless Solutions team for its life-changing, innovative solutions it has provided to children.

With the help of actor Robert Downey Jr., they presented then 6-year-old Alex Pring with an “Iron Man”-themed bionic arm — a video (view in “Other Videos” below) that has more than 53 million views. And, the team’s work has brought about media opportunities in more than 150 countries, totaling more than three billion impressions on social and conventional media for Limbitless Solutions and UCF.

The team plans to bring 75 bionic limbs, and books, to displaced Syrian children this year, but that’s just the beginning of what they hope will be a broad-based, global, humanitarian effort.

Learn more about Limbitless Solutions:

Other Videos:



UCF Joins Harvard, MIT and Stanford among Nation’s
“Most Innovative Schools”

reflecting-pond

By Chad Binette
Assistant Vice President, UCF Communications and Marketing

The University of Central Florida ranks alongside Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Duke among the most innovative universities in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2016 guide.

University presidents, provosts and admissions deans around the nation selected the institutions they credit with making the most innovative improvements in curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities.

UCF was tied as the 13th “Most Innovative School” along with Georgia Tech and the University of Southern California. This is the first year the category has been included in the magazine’s annual rankings.

“We added this ranking so that college officials could pick schools that the public should be watching because of the cutting-edge changes being made on their campuses,” according to the magazine.

In the magazine’s overall rankings, UCF moved up four places on the Best Colleges listing of national institutions, from 173rd to 168th, and eight places among public universities, from 99th to 91st.

A total of 1,376 colleges and universities are included in the rankings.

The “Most Innovative Schools” list included three of UCF’s partner institutions in the University Innovation Alliance. The alliance consists of 11 top public research universities working together to help more low-income and first-generation students earn college degrees.

Alliance member Arizona State University ranked No. 1 in the nation for innovation, while Georgia State University placed No. 5 and Purdue University ranked No. 21.

UCF also was tied for 50th for online degree programs and 131st for best business programs. The university also is listed among the nation’s best colleges for veterans.

The print edition of the “Best Colleges 2016” guidebook will be available on newsstands Sept. 29.

This story originally appeared Sept. 9, 2015, on UCF Today.

Aca-Perfect!

UCF’s all-female a cappella group claims top prize in national competition

(Photo courtesy of Alexis Planer)
(Photo courtesy of Alexis Planer)

By Rachel Stuart
News Editor, Central Florida Future

UCF’s KeyHarmony didn’t need more than its vocals and support to prove itself as the favorite all-female a cappella group in the nation.

The group made it to the top three in the national Schick “Aca-Battle” Sweepstakes to promote the movie “Pitch Perfect 2,” and was selected as the winning group on May 26.

Among the other two finalists, Main Squeeze from Syracuse University, and The Sedoctaves from the University of Florida, KeyHarmony received the most votes for its personalized music video to the Schick “Ready, Shave, Shine” Regimen Song, and was awarded the winning prize of $10,000.

“KeyHarmony is so thankful for everyone that voted endlessly on this contest,” KeyHarmony member Kyrstin Walker said. “We couldn’t have done it without all the love and support, and we just want everyone to know that we really do appreciate all the help.”

The group’s genuine, raw vibe has proved to be one of the biggest assets that has distinguished it from other a cappella groups, the junior health sciences pre-clinical major said.

“The quality that helped us in winning was definitely our ability to have fun while recording for this contest. Our group’s sense of humor is pretty much as unique as it gets, which is what definitely helped us in the long run.”

KeyHarmony’s TC Skowronek, a senior music, sociology and business major, said she thinks the a cappella group stands out from others because the members treat each other like a family. No matter what, she said they are always there to support each other.

With the $10,000, the group is planning to finish purchasing a sound system and then save the rest of the money for future plans.

KeyHarmony’s president Keani Knight said the group will also put some of the money toward a conference it’s hosting this fall, called Orlando Soundwave.

“We really try to put everything into our performances,” the sophomore legal studies major said. “Our main goal is always to make the audience feel something and to connect with them.”

Through the recognition from this contest, Knight said the group will gain a bit of notoriety and people will be more familiar with them at the conference.

Walker agreed that this win for KeyHarmony is really going to advance them even further and help the group get its name out there.

“This $10,000 will help us accomplish our goals we agreed on for the upcoming year, which in return will move us forward in the amazing light of the collegiate a cappella world.”

Watch KeyHarmony’s winning video:

More Info

@KeyHarmonyUCF

This article appeared in a June 3, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original story.