With a win for No. 18 UCF Football and the wild success of our first Indoor Tailgate of the season, it was quite the weekend for Knights fans! If you had as much fun as we did, see if you can find yourself in our photo gallery – and don’t forget to mark your calendar for the next Indoor Tailgate on Sept. 21.
2. Another day, another ranking! U.S. News & World Report ranked UCF at No. 10 most innovative in its annual list of best colleges – above Harvard, Princeton, Duke and Johns Hopkins.
3. Is Pluto a Planet? New research from planetary scientist and UCF alumnus Philip Metzger suggests that it is! The debate is on, and we’re backing our guy in black and gold.
1. Thursday is a BIG day on campus. First up, UCF Day of Giving encourages people to make a gift to what they love at UCF. The goal is to reach 1,000 donors in 24 hours. Whether you’re a first-time donor or a loyal annual donor, we need your support to achieve this ambitious goal that will help to ensure a strong future for UCF.
The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the 12-member State University System, is scheduled to interview Provost and Executive Vice President Dale Whittaker and hold a confirmation vote for the president-elect on March 29, and UCF Football will also hold its pro day.
2. UCF Athletics is hosting a yard sale prior to the Spring Game on April 21. Each of UCF’s 16 sports programs will have items available for sale, including polos/golf shirts, T-shirts footwear (cleats and other athletic shoes) and game jerseys.
3. Speaking of the Spring Game, the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center will host its first-ever Spring Game Indoor Tailgate on April 21 from 3-5 p.m. in celebration of our first-year head coach Josh Heupel! Just like the regular season tailgates, all UCF alumni (with driver’s license or valid ID) and their guests are welcome to attend this free event!
In honor of President John C. Hitt’s 26 years of service to UCF, we are also encouraging Knights to submit their best Hitt-selfies and well-wishes before his retirement from the presidency in June. Visit ucfalumni.com/greatesthitts to submit your heartfelt regards and photos, which will be shared with the man, myth and legend himself.
4. Last week, UCF announced the names of two new colleges and a new interdisciplinary, inter-college school, which are part of an academic reorganization. The new names of the colleges and school are: College of Health Professions and Sciences; College of Community Innovation and Education; and Nicholson School of Communication and Media.
5. The university’s faculty and staff believe in UCF, so much so that 1,870 of them donated to this year’s annual fundraising campaign during the month of February. Campaign results were announced last week. They raised nearly $71,000 in support of first-generation scholarships alone and also contributed to areas such as Knights Helping Knights Pantry, WUCF TV and the student emergency fund.
Bonus: Were you born to be a superhero? Take a 2-minute break this Monday and find out from this quiz. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
1. On March 29, the UCF community — alumni, parents, students and friends — will come together and give generously to the academic or athletic programs most meaningful to them. UCF Day of Giving is the day to support what YOU love about UCF, too.
At UCF we dream BIG, so we’ve set a goal to reach 1,000 donors in 24 hours. Whether you’re a first-time donor or a loyal annual donor, we need your support to achieve this ambitious goal that will help to ensure a strong future for UCF.
2. If you’ve been keeping tabs on Shaquem Griffin ’16 at the NFL Combine, then you’ll know the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Defensive MVP ran away the competition — quite literally. Here’s a recap of Griffin’s record-breaking performance.
3. It’s March, so bring on the madness! Post-season basketball is already in full swing with the women’s basketball team set to face USF in the American Athletic Conference semifinals at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut today at 4:30 p.m. on ESPNU. The winner of the matchup will advance to face either UConn or Cincinnati on Tuesday for the league title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, the UCF men’s basketball team clinched the sixth seed in its conference tournament, which will be held in Orlando at the Amway Center starting Thursday, March 8. The Knights will tip off against ECU at 9 p.m.
If you’re planning on heading to Amway to cheer for the Knights, stop by Ember for a reception from 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by alumni organizations from the American Athletic Conference. This event will offer drink specials, first-come-first-serve appetizers and best of all, is free to attend! UCF fans should register online and check in on site with UCF Alumni for an opportunity to win a special prize pack, including two tickets to the Knights’ opening round game against the Pirates later that night. You can also buy game tickets through UCF.
4. The UCF College of Nursing is accepting nominations for its Outstanding Alumni Awards Program. Through this program, five distinguished alumni and one student will be presented an award at the 2018 UCF Alumni All-Class Nursing Reunion on April 14. Applicants and recipients of these awards have demonstrated remarkable work in the field of nursing in one of six categories: Community Service, Education, Innovation, Mentorship, and/or as an outstanding UCF College of Nursing faculty member, or Senior Noble Knight.The deadline for nominations is Friday, March 16.
5. The UCF Board of Trustees aims to select the university’s president-elect this Friday. Three of the four finalists are on campus this week for their interviews – Matthew Wilson, JD, president of Akron University, was the first to complete his visit on Friday, March 2. Once the trustees makes their selection on March 9, the Florida Board of Governors will vote on the decision March 28 or 29.
1. UCF’s Presidential Search Committee selected four finalists for UCF’s next transformational leader, and each finalist will visit UCF to meet with students, faculty, alumni, donors and community partners and also will give a presentation at an open forum. The campus community and public are invited to attend presentations by each of the candidates scheduled for March 2 and March 6-8. Attendees will be able to provide feedback. Visit www.ucf.edu/presidentsearch to learn more about the finalists and their soon-to-be scheduled visits.
2. DUUUVAL! Former UCF football great Blake Bortles signed a contract extension over the weekend with the Jacksonville Jaguars to lead the team through the 2020 season. “This is definitely the place I wanted to be,” the quarterback said, also citing personal reasons such as Jacksonville being close to his hometown of Oviedo, Florida.
3. Radio-TV alumna and former Order of Pegasus recipient Kaitlyn Chana ’13 overcame three eating disorders from the time she was in middle school until she was ready to get help in college. Now, she’s using her experience to help others and raise awareness for mental health. Check out this National Eating Disorders Week spotlight
4. UCF has brought in 1,575 new football season ticket accounts since Jan. 1, its highest amount since the stadium first opened in 2007. Season ticket renewals are also around 90 percent sold. Shannon Green breaks down all the rewards from the best football season in school history in this Orlando Sentinel article.
5. FAIRWINDS Credit Union will fund a new $1.1 million endowed professorship for a proposed UCF FinTech program, the first of its kind in the State University System. The gift to benefit financial-technology education, to be fulfilled over the next eight years, was announced Feb. 20.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 24, 2017) – On Dec. 31, 2011, Sarah Dodson ’01 knew New Year’s Eve would never hold the same meaning to her again. After five years of treatment, her 8-year-old daughter Marlie, who dreamed of becoming a UCF cheerleader and nurse, died of a brain tumor (Pineoblastoma).
In 2012, Dodson and her family established a new tradition with the hope that they could re-channel their feelings about the day into a positive experience. As a tribute to Marlie’s life, the family has sponsored a Share-A-Meal each year at the Ronald McDonald House at Orlando’s Arnold Palmer Medical Center.
This year, they’re expanding their efforts to Atlanta where the family of Knights fans will be to support the undefeated UCF football team in its Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl appearance on Jan. 1 against Auburn.
“We were moved by memorializing Marlie for this event, but ultimately it was representing UCF in a community that we’ve been invited to be a part of with this bowl game,” Dodson said. “That was a big piece of it for me – how cool is it that we can represent UCF and give back to this community on something that we’re all so passionate about? What an honor it is to represent UCF in addition to Marlie’s memory.”
The idea to extend the Share-A-Meal to Atlanta was planted at the American Athletic Conference Championship Game on Dec. 2.
A longtime supporter of the football team, Dodson was sitting in the stands at Spectrum Stadium before the last play when her sister turned to her and said, “They’re going to win this game. What are you going to do? I guess you’re going to have to have the Share-A-Meal in Atlanta.”
Dodson said she laughed it off as an unrealistic possibility. She was already committed to their annual meal in Orlando, but the idea stuck with her.
She researched the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and learned of its reputation as college football’s most charitable bowl and its commitment to education and the community’s children. As an educator herself with Club Z! In-Home Tutoring Services, it struck a chord.
She also learned the bowl is celebrating its 50th year – it’s golden season. Gold also happens to be the color for childhood cancer awareness. And “forever golden” is how Dodson’s entire family refers to Marlie.
Dodson felt there were too many signs to ignore. Her friends and support system at home told her they would take over the Orlando meal this year and encouraged her to go to Atlanta.
“This has almost been like a movement for Team Marlie. Now we know we can do this anywhere,” she said. “We can have multiple groups travel to any city because we’re so supported. It’s so perfect that it worked out and our first city will be Atlanta, and we’ll be there because of UCF.”
Dodson connected with the Ronald McDonald Family Room at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorder Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Scottish Rite. They’ll be serving meals to the patients, families, nurses, doctors and hospital staff.
Although Dodson can only bring three helpers onto the floor with her to serve the meals, her entire regular tailgate crew of 12 will help in the preparation.
“Meals are very important for the families who visit the family room. Most families do not want to leave their child’s bedside even if that means going downstairs to the cafeteria, so having a place where they can eat as a family moments away from their hospital room and worry free of cost, is a special treat,” said April Smith, family support services manager for Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities. “Families have expressed how grateful and appreciative they are to have groups and individuals volunteer their time to provide and serve warm prepared meals. I was happy to hear Sarah wanted to continue her volunteer work while visiting in Atlanta.”
They also plan to distribute sparkling apple cider and champagne flutes to help create a festive New Year’s Eve atmosphere in the children’s rooms.
Dodson said experiences like these are always a balance of excitement and compassion. Inevitably there will be some tears, but she is looking forward to the opportunity to honor her daughter’s memory on a weekend she knows her little cheerleader would have been thrilled to be a part of.
“This season was something that we’ve all been waiting for. The thing about Marlie was win or lose, she was a fan. I know her pride for this team would be through the roof,” she said. “If I was able to put to words what Marlie might feel, looking down on us, I think mostly she would be excited that we were living life and embracing another community and another group of children. She taught us to live life and to find happiness and love in everyone you come across. Continuing to be her voice and share that passion, I think she’d be excited we have smiles on our faces and are enjoying the experience.”
The countdown is on: Giving Tuesday is less than 24 hours away! Putting its own spin on days like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, the global day of giving always falls on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. So if you’re looking for ways to spread some positivity and embody the true meaning of the holiday season, consider making a gift to UCF.
Here are a few ways your generosity and passions can align to help Knights students and transform lives through the power of education:
1. UCF Athletics. Whether its big-time wins or setting the standard in the classroom among Division I FBS public institutions with a nation’s best 94-percent graduation rate, the Knights never cease to inspire us. To maintain their competitive excellence, they need our support in the areas of facilities, proper nutrition and scholarships.
2. First Generation Scholarships. Interested in really making an impact? Consider this: for every dollar you donate, the state of Florida offers a dollar-for-dollar match. One in four students at UCF is the first in his or her family to attend college, and they all could use a little help in ensuring the bright future they dream of.
3. College Excellence Funds. Did a certain professor make a difference for you? Did you love your time at UCF? Did your major set you up for success in your professional life? This fund helps support scholarships and programs offered within each of UCF’s 13 colleges.
4. Study Abroad. Open up someone’s world. This fund is specifically designed to help make study abroad programs accessible to students with documented financial need.
5. Knights Helping Knights Pantry. It’s simple: This student-run organization’s No. 1 priority is to keep hungry Knights fed. It also offers other services like blazer rentals for job interviews, recipe inspiration, a partnership with the on campus arboretum and basic needs like toiletry products, clothing and blankets for any student.
This year, we hope to hit two major milestones on Giving Tuesday: 350 donors and $40,000. Please be one of the first to step up to join the mission and support something you believe in at UCF.
ORLANDO, Fla. (June 22, 2017) – When long-time friends Alvin Cortez ’08 and Richard Manuel connected with the UCF Business Incubation Program to foster growth for their travel nurse staffing agency, they were asked a simple question: Why would somebody choose you rather than the company next to you?
They had a simple answer. They were in the business of making business personal.
Travel nurses typically work 13 week periods in one area, and move around the country depending on where they are needed. Nurses First Solutions provides those nurses to facilities in need of professional workforce. Manuel is a nurse. So is his wife. So is Cortez’s wife, Jessiccalou ’08 ’14BSN.
They knew about the job demands first-hand – the long hours, the life-saving work and the comfort that nurses provide to their patients. They also knew there were gaps in the industry, specifically for traveling nurses when it came to retirement plans, health care insurance, paid time off and life insurance.
So they decided to do something about it.
“We treat them like family,” Manuel said. “They won’t be treated like a number. They can call the company president and speak to him directly. It’s more transparent in our company.”
Echoed Cortez: “We wanted to give back, so we started the company – hence the name Nurses First.”
After incorporating in 2014, Cortez and Manuel hooked up with their third partner Ronnie Elliott and the UCF Business Incubation Program, which Cortez learned about when he studied interpersonal communication at UCF.
For nearly 20 years, the Incubation Program has been helping early-stage companies develop into financially stable, high-impact enterprises by providing resources and services that facilitate smarter, faster growth.
The duo credit site manager Carol Ann Dykes as the instrumental force that has pushed their business forward since joining the incubator. After they started at the incubator in April 2016, their company expanded from three employees to a dozen and their revenue grew from $300,000 to $6 million.
“It takes grit on our part, but at the same time it’s good to have guidance along the way,” Cortez said. “They hold us accountable to having a structure. If you have questions, they’ll connect you to the right types of people.”
All the while, they have remained steadfast in their mission to put nurses first. They offer competitive benefits, paid time off, life insurance and retirement plans. They also follow through on personal touches like sending flowers when their contracted nurses’ family members are sick or welcome boxes for new hires.
“People ask, does that eat up your profit? For us, it just makes sense,” Cortez said. “We’d rather give it back to the nurses. It’s ingrained in us to want to give back and do a little bit better for the people around us.”
They recently took that philosophy one step further by establishing the Nurses First Solutions Endowed Scholarship in April to support the undergraduate members of the Student Nurses Association within the College of Nursing.
Their office is located next to the College of Nursing, and after sponsoring some events, they became interested in setting up a scholarship. That interest turned into action after they attended a scholarship luncheon and heard directly from nursing students about how scholarships impacted their lives.
“We wanted to plant the seed for these students – there are resources, there are opportunities out there. They have a wide array of opportunity ahead of them if they are truly passionate about nursing,” Manuel said. “The scholarship puts more back into the community and students that want to make a difference in people’s lives.”
ORLANDO, Fla. (April 6, 2017) – Before her death, Kailyn Jones was on the path to becoming a second-generation UCF alumna. She wanted to help people, especially children, as a physical therapist someday.
Although her own dream will tragically remain unrealized, two other students will have help achieving theirs thanks to a scholarship established in Jones’ name.
“Kailyn was such a good person. She loved to do good. I think she would be absolutely honored to do this for someone else,” said Ricardo San Jose, Kailyn’s uncle, a UCF alumnus and a current student in UCF’s family nurse practitioner program. “She saved a couple lives with her organ donation. Her heart is still beating in another right now.”
Jones was killed in a car accident on Jun. 12, 2016 — the same date as the Pulse nightclub shooting. She was on her way home from babysitting family members at her grandparents’ house when another car drove into on-coming traffic.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the driver hit a concrete barrier near a traffic circle at Maitland Summit Boulevard and Pembrook Drive, flipped and landed on top of Jones’ Honda Civic, records show.
San Jose, who works as an emergency room nurse, awoke early the next morning to find at least a dozen missed calls from his sister Lillian San Jose, Kailyn’s stepmother.
San Jose’s partner, Chris Blackwell, who is an associate professor at UCF, had known Kailyn for seven years and was as heartbroken as the rest of her family.
“I’ve worked in the ER, trauma, I’ve seen everything. But when it happens to you, there’s nothing that can prepare you for that,” he said. “It’s this instant sense of loss.”
At her funeral everyone wore purple for lupus awareness, a condition she was diagnosed with. Person after person spoke about Jones’ impact on their life and what a light she was to them. Blackwell felt compelled to do something.
When it was mentioned in her eulogy that she was going to join fellow family members as an alumna of UCF, Blackwell said the idea to do a scholarship clicked for him. He made a $1,000 donation and his family’s foundation, the Gary L. Blackwell Family Foundation, also made a $1,000 donation. These funds were used to support two student scholarships during the spring semester.
“I thought it would be a nice honor for her family to create a scholarship. Not only because it’s their alma mater, but maybe it would give them some comfort to see that somebody is pursing the same steps that their daughter would have pursued, and will have a somewhat easier way to do that,” Blackwell said.
On April 4, Jessica Recio, a nursing student who was awarded one of the scholarships, met Jones’ parents at the College of Nursing’s annual scholarship luncheon where students are invited to meet their donors for the first time. Blackwell and San Jose felt it was appropriate for Jones’ parents to attend in their place.
Recio is a part-time graduate student in the middle of her second semester in UCF’s family nurse practitioner program. She has worked full time as a nurse at Orlando Regional Medical Center for the last year. She hopes to pursue a career in pediatrics after she graduates in 2019.
Recio said when she first applied for the scholarship, she wasn’t aware of the meaning behind it but has learned more about Jones over the last few months.
“It makes me sad but at the same time I’m really honored. I hope that I can make their family happy and proud,” Recio said. “I still have student loans from getting my nursing degree in the first place, so I am grateful to have help with this degree.”
Cami Osier, a physical therapy student and the other scholarship recipient, earned her bachelor’s degree in sports and exercise science as a Burnett Honors Student in 2015. She is currently pursuing a doctorate at UCF and hopes to one day become a pediatric physical therapist, just like Jones.
Jones will be one of the 18 students whose lives will be honored on April 11 at the Eternal Knights Memorial Service, an annual day of remembrance for the UCF community, family and friends for the lives of those lost in the past 12 months.
San Jose and Blackwell both said that Jones was a connector for their family and her friends, and they acknowledged she is still finding ways to do that, even after her death.
“She could walk into a room and just brighten everyone’s life. Full of humor, could make the grumpiest person laugh,” her uncle said. “It’s still difficult knowing that she’s gone. And it always will be I think. I think our family is dealing with it in healthy ways, and she would be proud of us.”
To learn more about supporting student scholarships at UCF, please visit ucffoundation.org.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2017) — Children spending Valentine’s Day week at Nemours Children’s Hospital got a special treat on Monday: Seven UCF College of Nursing students, dressed in their scrubs, visited their hospital rooms and brought along a new soft, cuddly bear.
In all, 88 ‘Knight Nurse’ teddy bears — also wearing UCF scrubs — arrived at Nemours as part of a larger fundraising campaign spearheaded by the college, and meant to brighten the day of hospitalized children.
Soon-to-be 13-year-old Karina, who has a closet of strategically placed stuffed animals at her Melbourne home, eagerly awaited her bear delivery before her chemotherapy treatment. When she was greeted by the nursing students, they immediately started discussing how to accessorize the bear with her favorite color, purple.
“It’s super, super soft. It’s the softest bear I think I have. It feels kind of like my unicorn,” Karina said. “Everyone is so nice here. Everyone’s just trying to make all the kids here feel better.”
In January, the college debuted its “Give a Bear, Warm a Heart” fundraiser that enabled the public to sponsor one – or an entire unit – of teddy bears wearing UCF nursing scrubs. The college partnered with MorUniversity, the college’s exclusive scrub provider, to create limited-edition bears outfitted in an exact replica of the scrubs worn by UCF nursing students.
Donations were still coming in as of late last week, but the college estimated that roughly $14,000 was raised in the inaugural campaign. All money raised will help support priority areas in the UCF College of Nursing, including student scholarships, faculty research and medical mission trips.
Although the college is finished taking orders for this year’s distribution of bears, it intends to make this an annual event.
On Thursday and Friday, students will deliver more bears to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Florida Hospital for Children. In totally, roughly 225 bears will be delivered this year.
“I just love working with the kids. They have this incredible spirit, so any opportunity that I get to interact with them and to make them smile is just what makes it so special for me,” said Orlando native Hayley Boyle, who is in her last semester of UCF’s undergraduate nursing program and hopes to become a pediatric nurse. “These bears have such an impact. They’re just a beautiful thing to do.”
Eight members of the parent council, which is newly formed this year, sorted professional clothing and packed 50 bags of roughly 270 pounds of food and supplies on Dec. 9. The bags of food are meant to help students get through winter break when the pantry is closed from Dec. 13 to Jan. 9.
“They’ve provided for at least 50 students, who are now going to be able to eat this holiday season. That’s what it comes down to,” Knights Pantry manager Jessica Roberts said. “I’m so glad we could work together. Knowing they didn’t just want to make a donation and have that be the end of it, but that they wanted to come in, work with the pantry, find out what we’re about, means a lot to me.”
The Knights Helping Knights Pantry has grown over the last seven years from a closet in the Student Union to its own mini market that provides food, clothes and toiletries to students in need. The bag-packing was the parent council’s first hands-on service project – one that applies to an issue not just at UCF, but nationwide.
In early December, CNN featured a new report that found 48 percent of more than 3,000 students surveyed from 34 colleges experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days. At UCF, a study done by Dr. Amy Donley in the UCF Sociology Department showed that 23.2 percent of the 902 student respondents have experienced or are experiencing homelessness.
Parents like Monica Green spent an hour packing bags of food and supplies and also sorting through donated professional clothing from the College of Business Alumni Chapter. Green was compelled to get involved with the parent’s council because she felt a duty to find a way to support the university that was a second home for her two children.
“You have to give back to the community,” Green said. “This was a great opportunity to help, but my heart breaks for the kids. I’m glad that the university as a whole has recognized the need and is doing something, and we can help to meet that need.”
The council’s idea to help the pantry was first formed in October when Hurricane Matthew shut down campus operations for 48 hours. Members of the council wondered how students were getting the resources they needed.
The university executed its emergency plan for Hurricane Matthew, but when the group learned of the pantry’s closure for the winter break, the parents wanted to find a way to help. Their efforts were bolstered by the College of Business Alumni Chapter, which contributed 250 pieces of clothing to stock the pantry’s professional wardrobe choices.
Marketing alumna Roslyn Antoniazzi ’08, who serves as vice chair of the College of Business Administration Alumni Board, said she was glad that she could rally together support from alumni to take care of current students.
“I was absolutely thrilled to see there is support for the students and that there’s an option to not have to choose between buying that book or something to wear for an interview,” she said. “It’s helping to drive the university’s mission to set up students for success post-graduation.”
Students can pick up bags from the Student Care Services office until Dec. 22, and again starting Jan. 3.
How You Can Help
The pantry hopes to revolutionize its day-to-day operation by purchasing a commercial refrigerator. Thanks to donations already generously given and a matching gift pledge by Publix, the Pantry is $1,000 shy of its fundraising goal. Help make a difference, Give Today.