Five Things Alumni Need to Know — June 15, 2015

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The UCF Alumni Association hosted the chairs of its college, regional and special interest chapters and clubs during the annual AlumKnights of the Roundtable: 2015 Chapter & Club Council meeting on Saturday.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception took place Friday evening at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, where nine Knights were honored, and many others recognized, for their countless acts of generosity and numerous volunteer hours to the alumni association.
  2. On Saturday, the UCF Alumni Association hosted its annual Chapter & Club Council meeting, where nearly 50 chapter and club alumni volunteers — from Central Florida and across the nation — gathered to discuss the alumni association’s strategic plan, as well as many other important topics.
  3. The next UCF MedTalk takes place this Wednesday at the Downtown PourHouse, where Dr. Griffith Parks will discuss “The Upshot on Viruses and Vaccines.” The MedTalk series allows participants to learn about current and innovative issues in medicine in a casual setting. This informative and interesting evening is open to everyone.
  4. Sonya Baumstein, ’09, the UCF alumna who was attempting to row solo across the Pacific Ocean was rescued over the weekend due to mechanical issues and bad weather.
  5. UCF students will attempt another Guinness World Record on Thursday — this time, for the World’s Largest Swim Lesson. The attempt is part of a worldwide campaign to promote swimming lessons to save lives.

UCF Alumna to Row Pacific Solo

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With 900 packages of dehydrated food and 180 drink supplements, UCF alumna Sonya Baumstein is set to row across the Pacific Ocean.
(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy of Samantha Berry)

By Amelia Truong
Central Florida Future

Earth’s largest ocean does not intimidate UCF alumna Sonya Baumstein, ’09.

Baumstein, 30, will attempt to be the first woman to successfully row across the Pacific Ocean solo.

According to her website, she wants this to be a female endeavor to show that strength is not defined by gender.

There have only been two successful attempts at rowing across the Pacific, west to east: one by Gerard d’Aboville in 1991, and the other by Emmanuel Coindre in 2005, according to The Ocean Rowing Society.

The Pacific is known to have complex weather patterns, which could affect Baumstein’s mission. But, she is confident that she won’t have much to worry about. Her main focus right now is to keep an eye on the typhoons that are currently hitting the coast of Japan.

Once the coast is clear, and after three consecutive days of permitting weather, Baumstein will be able to start her departure from Choshi, Japan, to San Francisco — a total of 6,560 miles.

During her trip, she will row for three hours on and three hours off, multiple times each day. She has put together 900 packages of dehydrated food and 180 drink supplements. Electricity and fresh water usage will have to be rationed and protected from the elements.

The 23-foot-long, 5 7/10-foot-wide carbon boat was designed by Baumstein herself and a team at the America’s Cup. The boat, named Icha, means “once we meet, we’re brother and sister” in Japanese. It weighs less than 700 pounds and is equipped for science.

Every 10 seconds, samples of salinity, temperature, depth, wind speed and GPS location will be taken and sent back via satellite every hour throughout the entire journey.

The samples are taken as part of a partnership with NASA’s Aquarius Mission to help scientists compare and validate data that they’ve collected by the Aquarius satellite.

The project is a labor of love for Baumstein and her crew, having worked toward this for the last three years. She said everything from its conception, to building the boat, to now waiting on the coast to clear has been a culmination of blood, sweat and tears.

A self-proclaimed “citizen scientist,” Baumstein said she is proud to be a part of a contingency of what she considers modern-day explorers who are helping out different areas of science. She considers it the driving factor in her journey.

Before attending UCF — where she got her master’s degree in non-profit management — Baumstein got her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, where she had an active collegiate rowing career.

She encourages students to not get deterred if their original plans fall through.

“This is a job, but it’s a job that I love,” she said. “There may be other routes to get to what you want to do, and, if it’s not exactly as you thought, don’t give up and ride it out. I never thought I would be doing this the way that I am, and it’s not always perfect.”

She credits her current position and status to the network of people around her, including her family, friends and the community.

Samantha Berry, Baumstein’s director of communications, calls her the most determined person she has ever met.

“You really don’t question, when you know her, whether she can do something or not,” Berry said.

In 2011, Baumstein rowed the Atlantic Ocean, from the Canary Islands to Barbados. In March 2012, she tour biked from the Mexican border to Seattle, and in June 2012, she kayaked the inside passage from Seattle to Alaska. In August 2013, she became the first person to stand-up paddle the Bering Strait from Big Diomede to the Alaskan mainland.

“She reminds me that if there is something that you want, you can get it,” Berry said. “It may be exhausting in the process, but determination and hard work does pay off.”

This article appeared in the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited for style. See original story.