Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – May 21, 2018

UCF Football Game Time Graphic

1. The UCF baseball team earned the No. 5 seed in the 2018 American Athletic Conference Tournament at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. The Knights will play the first game of the tournament on Tuesday at 9 a.m. against the No. 4 seed ECU. (The game was originally schedule for 3 p.m. but due to the threat of inclement weather, the game was moved up) For more information about the tournament, including tickets, please visit The American’s championship central page.

2. Good news for UCF’s cutting edge RESTORES clinic, which helps people coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. The program has been awarded a $10 million grant to expand its work.

3. Professionals from Walt Disney World, the Orlando Magic and City of Orlando — all UCF alumni — shared some of their wisdom and experiences at a career enhancement panel, and we’re loving their five career tips. The panel was part of Hospitality Knight hosted by UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter. For more chapter and club events on the horizon, take a look at the alumni events calendar.

4. The first game time of the 2018 football season has been set. UCF’s Sept. 15 road trip to North Carolina will be played at noon in Chapel Hill. The matchup between the Knights and the Tar Heels will be broadcast on either ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU, with the exact network to be named at a later date. Complete 2018 Schedule

5. A former Air Force fighter pilot; a 4-foot-2 woman who refused to let a rare genetic disorder keep her from pursuing her dreams; a 27-year-old cancer survivor; and a couple who are both active duty Army officers were all part of the 2018 graduating class from the College of Medicine. Read about them all in this Orlando Sentinel feature article.

Five Tips From Hospitality Pros That Apply To Any Job

Photo of Hospitality Knight Panelists
(From right to left): Panelists Allen Johnson ’81, Michelle Jenkinson ’07, Marylouise Fitzgibbon ’94 and moderator Tom Hope ’09MBA take a selfie with Hospitality Knight audience

By Jenna Marina Lee

Event Photo Gallery

ORLANDO, Fla. (May 17, 2018) – The hospitality industry is known for prioritizing customer service above all, and that is certainly the case for Michelle Jenkinson ’07 and her team within the fan experience and operations department for the Orlando Magic.

So when a fan who had gotten engaged two days prior to attending a Magic game lost her ring underneath the bleachers, Jenkinson’s team sprang into action. An operations staff member knew of a crevice in the floor and located the ring, where he hooked it with his pinky finger and safely retrieved it.

“Those are the moments that we teach our employees about at the Amway Center,” Jenkinson said. “If you think back to your favorite moment of a sporting event, do you remember the score? It’s more likely you remember who you went with. Or the fact that the usher bent down and talked to your child and got them a foam finger and made them feel special. We want to create legendary experiences for our fans.”

Anecdotes like this and other motivational takeaways were shared at a career enhancement panel hosted by the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter on May 15.

Jenkinson along with two alumni who have gone on to become prominent professionals at Walt Disney World and City of Orlando shared their insights and experiences at a networking and social event held on Rosen’s campus.

Below, we share some of the panel’s top tips that apply to any job.

A snapshot of the panelists:
Marylouise Fitzgibbon ’94, Regional General Manager for Walt Disney World
Michelle Jenkinson ’07, Director of Fan Experience and Operations for the Orlando Magic
Allen Johnson ’81, Chief Venues Officer of Orlando Venues
•  Moderator: Tom Hope ’09MBA, UCF Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives

1: An effective leader leads with kindness.
Marylouise Fitzgibbon:
“We’re still making really smart business decisions and still working on smart strategies and forming tactical plans, but in every decision we make, people make all the difference. It’s not just something, it’s everything. Leadership is all about relationships. When I was in school, I think that concept sounded nice to have, but now that I’m further along in my career, it’s a differentiator. The reason we all got into this business is that we wanted to make a difference in the world. For me, that difference starts with one person, one employee, one guest, one peer. That’s something I’ve tried to hold onto all these years. There’s so much data that shows that leaders who have a style of kindness are more effective. Those are the people you want to work for. Those are the people I want to work for.”

Michelle Jenkinson: “Some leaders want to lead with fear or want to lead with being aggressive. It just doesn’t work. Lead by being part of a team. A lot of times, the leaders I’ve admired and something that I try to emulate now, is having the mindset that I’m no different than the greeter on the club level checking tickets. It’s all about the fan experience, the guest experience and making sure you are part of your team. You just have to get your hands dirty, whatever it takes to get the doors open and the lights turned on. You’re not above it.”

Allen Johnson: “I agree that kindness is one of the most important qualities of a leader. Qualities that I look for in a leader is No. 1: listening. No. 2: know your people. Know their names. And if you know their wife’s and their husband’s or companion’s name or their kids’ names, you’re golden. There’s four words I tell everyone you have to learn. The first two are ‘thank you.’ The last two will get you through life on everything: ‘I’m sorry.’

2: Prioritizing work-life balance (or integration) is necessary for career longevity.
Marylouise Fitzgibbon:
I have two sets of twins, it’s sort of my claim to fame. At one point I had four kids under the age of five. I used to get asked the question about work-life balance a lot. Choose your spouse, your companion really careful. The only reason I can do what I do is because I have an amazing husband who gets me. I joke that I don’t know the name of my kids’ dentist, I never have, but their very perfectly capable father does and takes them. I don’t say that with pride, but I also don’t say it with embarrassment either. I’ve stopped using the term work-life balance because it doesn’t exist. I like thinking about work-life integration. You aren’t two separate people, as much as you try. Be aware that the people who work for you are dealing with the same issues that maybe you are, so I work a lot with my team on integrating our personal and professional lives.

Michelle Jenkinson: I have three small children, 6 and under. Balancing that on top of 45 games a year — on a game day I’m there at 9 a.m. and typically don’t leave until 11-12 o’clock at night. So what does that look like? I have to have an awesome team at home as well as an awesome team at work. We know when we need to pick up the slack for one another. It’s important to have fun in the office and do things as a work family. I love every single one of them. The other key is to take the down time when you have it. If you get a day that it’s slow in the office, take it off. Realize that work is always going to be there.

Allen Johnson: I know everyone struggles with this, even more so in this industry. I consider the time I spend with my family special. Whatever we are doing, I try to make it special. Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking them to the library because that’s what they like doing. But everyone needs to find what their happy place is. My degree is in psychology and I’m big on mindfulness. I learned how to meditate when I was in high school and I do that a lot when I’m in a stressful situation. It’s up to you to find the things that work for you to help balance.

3: It’s all in the details.
Michelle Jenkinson: When it comes to events, a lot of people have this idea of what it’s about. They think weddings, the Grammys and you have an unlimited budget and life is good. Let me tell you, that’s .02 percent of the events industry. Every event has the same components though – attention to detail. We’ll go on walk-throughs on a game day, and I’m worried about a scuff on the terrazzo. That seems ridiculous, but if we don’t do that, those scuffs add up. That’s maintenance on your building. So it’s easier to take care of those little things. As for the job, you plan as much as you can, but also know that nothing in events goes to plan. Be able to adapt to that and be flexible. Keep that mindset because it will get you further in this industry.”

4: Don’t wait for the perfect job.
Marylouise Fitzgibbon: “Stop trying to find the perfect job right out of college. Get something. Your degree will pay off big, but it’s probably not that very first job. It won’t be long to set yourself apart. Don’t get caught up with titles. Just get a job.”

Allen Johnson: “You have to start somewhere. I think Marylouise is absolutely correct. People are impatient when they first graduate because you want to be us up here on this panel. It’s a long road. What I look for when I’m hiring someone: If I have two candidates and one has the most perfect background, education, experience, everything, and the other candidate as the best attitude, I will hire the best attitude every time. It’s the only thing that you can control.”

5: No matter what year you graduate, it’s *always* a good time to be a Knight.
Marylouise Fitzgibbon: “I chose UCF because in my small graduating class, a lot of my peers got into UF, FSU but they did not get into UCF. So when I got the acceptance letter from UCF, I chose it truly out of spite (laughs). I know that’s a bad reason, and I’m embarrassed to tell you that, but we’re all friends here. I graduated in 1994, and back then even, it was a big deal to get chosen to attend UCF. Now, being out in the world and being an employer, the reputation that this university has is so phenomenal and powerful. It’s a proud moment when I’m sitting in recruiting meetings and people are actively trying to find UCF students and I’m the one in the room who whispers, you know I went to school there (smiles).”

Michelle Jenkinson: “I was born and raised in Florida in Merritt Island. I had a lot of friends that went to UCF. I would come visit them. I loved Orlando, loved campus. I honestly didn’t apply anywhere else. Orlando had a good mix of bigger city but that excitement of college life. UCF was growing quite quickly. I’m extremely proud to be a UCF Knight. Even since I’ve graduated, I love to be a part of the success the university has had.”

Allen Johnson: “It’s weird, I started at a school called FTU and graduated from UCF. I don’t know how that happened (laughs). I’m third-generation Central Floridian. I was born in Kissimmee, raised in St. Cloud. I fell in love with UCF and a girl. UCF gave me an opportunity to experience college life on a scale that is much bigger now, as we all know, but back then it was still a major university. I’m proud to be a UCF Knight. I run Camping World Stadium and we have a bowl game every Jan. 1. This year is the first year I’ve missed it in 14 years. I chose to go to Atlanta. My boss allowed me to. That’s how important UCF is to me.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – May 7, 2018

Photo of Jaha Dukureh
Jaha Dukureh (Photo by UCF Knight News)

1. More than 8,100 UCF graduates joined the UCF Alumni family over the weekend, including Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Jaha Dukureh. The renowned activist and United Nations goodwill ambassador earned her master’s degree through UCF’s online nonprofit management program. She studied the field to better understand how to run her own nonprofit organization, which she started to help put an end to female genital mutilation. Read her incredible story


2. Speaking of graduation, the spring class was the last for President John C. Hitt, who will be retiring from the presidency in June. Since its inception, the university has awarded 318,000 degrees, 82 percent of them while Hitt was president.

3. The 2018 ChargeOn Tour has its first stop scheduled for Tuesday, May 8, at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville for the Jumbo Shrimp’s game against the Tennessee Smokies. Head coaches Josh Heupel, Katie Abrahamson-Henderson and Johnny Dawkins along with Vice President and Director of Athletics Danny White will be all be part of the program, which starts at 6:15 p.m. at the Sea Best Shrimp Deck. Purchase your ticket, which also includes an all-you-can-eat picnic package.

4. The UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter is hosting a panel of five outstanding UCF alumni on May 15 at 6 p.m. In addition to sharing their personal stories, the panelists from organizations including Walt Disney Company, Universal and the Orlando Magic will discuss themes like leadership, career development and achieving professional success. Register Now

5. Just a friendly reminder that Teacher Appreciation Day is Wednesday, May 8. Did a UCF professor make an impact on your life? Consider taking a few moments out of your day to send them a note telling them what they mean to you!

P.S. Go buy your mom a card and some UCF gear from Barnes & Noble  — Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – April 9, 2018

Statewide Job Fair Infographic

1. UCF will be hosting the Statewide Job Fair on Thursday, May 10, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at CFE Arena. The Statewide Job Fair is an opportunity for employers to recruit students and alumni from 10 of Florida’s state universities. For more information about the job fair, please contact UCF Career Services at 407-823-2361 or [email protected] You may also visit the Florida Career Centers website.

2. Don’t miss UCF sophomore Hannah Sage in the Jeopardy! College Championship beginning Monday, April 9, during kickoff for the quarterfinal competition. Representing one of only three public universities in the competition, the Burnett Honors College student says she is thrilled to share her love for UCF on a national scale.

3. UCF was featured in the Orlando Sentinel for a culinary medicine course, a class that’s becoming more common in U.S. medical schools in order to combat the obesity epidemic and other chronic diseases. UCF’s a four-week elective is a collaboration between Nemours Children’s Hospital and UCF College of Medicine, Rosen College of Hospitality Management and YMCA of Central Florida.

4. Over the weekend, a group of UCF students showcased its oil-cleanup invention at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington D.C. The students’ high-tech sponges clean up ocean oil spills by soaking up oil but repelling water, leaving behind no toxic byproduct. It’s a green solution with a bonus – the oil could be recycled for future use. Now that’s BIG!

5. All this week you can catch UCF’s Celebrates the Arts showcase at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts in downtown Orlando. The festival consists of free or low-cost presentations by the School of Visual Arts & Design and the School of Performing Arts. Many events feature collaborations across the university and community partners. Full Schedule of Events

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Sept. 25

1. Thank you to all alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff and friends of UCF who donated to help restock the shelves at Knights Helping Knights Pantry. In just over a week, 459 of you have combined to raise more than $84,000 in addition to hundreds of non-perishable food items that were generously dropped off.

Anyone interested in joining the cause, click here.

2. The UCF football team is coming off a big win at Maryland, and the Knights want to #SelloutSpectrum for their conference opener against Memphis this Saturday at 7 p.m.

If you are watching from afar but wish you could be there in person, consider sending someone to the game in your place. UCF Athletics is encouraging fans to donate tickets for first responders, National Guard members, law enforcement officers and power company employees as a thank you for their efforts during and after Hurricane Irma. To donate tickets, click here.

P.S. Shoutout to the New York UCF Alumni Chapter for representing the Black and Gold proudly on ESPN’s “College GameDay” in Times Square on Sept. 23!

3. UCF Athletics announced last week that the Oct. 14 Homecoming football game will be dubbed the “Space Game” and will honor the university’s long-time ties to the United States space program. Fans will be encouraged to wear black with white shirts among them, giving the illusion of stars in the night sky. Mission Patch T-shirts are currently available at the UCF Bookstore or on online.

4. UCF is making heads turn. The university was recently recognized by “U.S. News & World Report” as one of the top innovative institutions in the country. UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management has been ranked No. 2 in the world as a hospitality and hotel management school, according to “CEOWORLD Magazine.”

5. UCF alumnus Albert Manero ’12 ’14MS ’16PhD knocked it out of the park with his TEDx Talk about prosthetics and Limbitless Solutions earlier this month. See for yourself:

Small World Moment for Knights in Texas

Alumna Shelby Shankin mentors current UCF student Justin Tejada, whom she met by chance in Austin, Texas, at his summer internship

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 13, 2017) – Nearly four years ago, UCF alumna Shelby Shankin ’13 found herself in Austin, Texas, for the first time in her life to work on mega festival South by Southwest.

Justin Tejada is a current first-generation student who has made it his mission to grasp every opportunity he finds at UCF. That’s how he ended up in Austin, Texas, for the first time in his life this year for a summer internship.

Tejada said it’s unusual for an out-of-state candidate to be selected to intern at marketing agency George P. Johnson, which has worked with clients such as American Express, Google, Lexus, Under Armour and Samsung. So when the powers-that-be at the company found out Tejada was a UCF student, they knew exactly who his mentor should be — one of its event logistics managers, Shelby Shankin.

“From the moment I met her, I could tell she was super excited and eager to help me learn,” he said. “It was just because of that connection of UCF. That was awesome.”

Although Shankin recently accepted a job with a historical boutique hotel, Hotel Ella, she intends to keep in contact with Tejada well after his internship ends in August. While he is in Texas, the two meet for an hour once a week and discuss his internship as well as general questions he has about life, career and his upcoming senior year at UCF.

“As a first generation student, I’m super nervous about what’s to come. I’m always worried about, am I going to get a job? That’s something I wanted to work on myself this summer – putting that aside and focusing on the now and enjoying the present,” he said. “I think she has helped me understand that I need to worry about the future, but not as much as I do.”

The two are somewhat of kindred spirits. When Shankin was studying at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, she gained valuable experience in several internships, working for companies like Universal Orlando and the Orlando Science Center. She even studied abroad in France for a semester.

She moved to Austin after graduation as a contracted event coordinator for High Beam Events and flip flopped with the company and George P. Johnson in different positions before accepting her newest venture as a venue event coordinator for Hotel Ella.

“Whenever a good opportunity has come up I just say yes. I just like to try everything,” she said.

Tejada’s resume reads with that same philosophy.

He worked as an external relations assistant for the College of Business Administration; interned for UCF Athletics, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando; served as public relations director of Children Beyond Our Borders and is currently the marketing director of CAB, the UCF campus activities board.

An advertising-public relations major who is also minoring in political science, Tejada is studying for the LSAT and thinking about law school. Like Shankin, he has tried different opportunities to see how they fit for him and knows he has Shankin in his corner to help him along the way.

“He’s seeking as much information as he can and trying to get as much out of this experience and life as possible. No matter where he ends up, I see him being very successful because he wants it,” Shankin said. “I’ve encouraged him to try everything. Take as much advantage of senior year as possible. I don’t think there’s anything wrong from having that urge to try everything. I think that’s where you learn so much. You just don’t know where life can take you.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—June 26

UCF student Cole Kolasa is kayaking 800 miles this summer

1. The Rosen College of Hospitality Management is getting a new food service lab thanks to a $1.5 million commitment from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. Construction is expected to be completed by 2019. By the way, Rosen is ranked among the top five hospitality management programs in the world, enrolling more than 3,700 students and offering five undergraduate and two graduate degrees, in addition to a doctorate in hospitality management.

2. UCF stands for opportunity, and that’s true of a recent study of head coaches nationally. UCF was the only school to earn an ‘A’ for racial and gender hiring practices for women’s teams’ head coaches in a new report released June 23 that examined 94 schools from eight different conferences. Charge On!

3. Two alumni walk into an Italian restaurant… no joke here. UCF Alumni Board member Dean Caravelis ’02 ’03MBA recently sat down for a Q&A with co-founder and CEO of RIP-IT Jason Polstein ’02 ‘03MS to discuss successful startups, career challenges and life as an entrepreneur. Here’s a snippet of the full interview:

“The people who really stand out during interviews are the people who show up and say, ‘Hey, this is my skill set. I can show you in the past how I move x to y, I can tell you how I did it, and by the way, this is my 90-day roadmap of how I can create value for your company once you hire me.’ That really shows that this person hasn’t only done something in the past that’s of value, but spent the time to try and understand our business and came to the interview prepared in pitching themselves in how they’re going to generate more value for our company.”
— Jason Polstein ’02 ’03MS, co-founder and CEO of RIP-IT

4. UCF has received a silver rating for its sustainability by a program within the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. UCF’s ranking is credited to numerous categories including its energy-efficient buildings, how campus is used as a living laboratory and its commitment to diversity.

5. Cole Kolasa, a UCF environmental engineering major, is making waves as he paddles nearly 800 miles down Florida’s Gulf Coast this summer. Why? He hopes to raise $10,000 to support artificial reefs in Hernando County. Follow along with his journey.

Five Ways Philanthropy Impacted UCF This Year

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Image taken as part of the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group’s permitted research

1. Research
Thanks to donor support for more than three decades, UCF’s Marine Turtle Research Group has played an integral role in sea turtle recovery on Central Florida beaches. Last year, UCF’s section of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge – which was created in 1991 because of UCF research – counted a record 14,905 green turtle nests. In comparison, there were less than 50 nests when UCF first started monitoring the area in the early 1980s. And they are seeing growth in other turtle populations, too — this year saw 17,192 loggerhead nests (second highest since 1982) and 55 leatherback nests (highest since 1982).

History was made in July when UCF and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reached an agreement to establish a permanent conservation research facility along the Brevard County coastline. The new agreement allows UCF to build a new facility at the refuge that will not only protect research equipment and house workers overnight, but also foster collaborations with visiting scientists and international research partners.

UCF must raise $5 million within the next five years to construct the new buildings. Want to help? Here’s how.

2. Resources for Student-Athletes
In order to achieve their level of success on the field and in the classroom, UCF’s teams need a team of their own to support them. This year, several members of their team stepped up to the plate in a big way.

Thanks to John Euliano’s $1.5 million gift, the baseball team is on its way to having a state-of-the-art facility. This facility will not only benefit the student-athletes, coaches and fan experience, it will also provide an edge in recruiting.

Of equal importance for the student-athletes is ensuring a quality education. Northwestern Mutual worked with UCF Athletics to develop the Northwestern Mutual Everyday Champions Scholarship Program, which will fund three student-athletes’ scholarships per year over the next three years. In total, this will provide nearly $150,000 in student-athlete scholarship support.

3. Experience Learning
Students and faculty from UCF’s medical, nursing, physical therapy and social work schools provided free care to nearly 200 Apopka-area farmworkers back in July. The team’s philanthropic spirit fueled their mission, allowing UCF students to render care to people who really needed it while learning invaluable experience along the way. Faculty helped by outfitting the clinic’s facilities while the College of Medicine held a bake sale to pay for medication and food they provided to the farmworkers on the day of care.


It’s just one of the many service contributions that Knights participate in worldwide every year, allowing them to apply lessons learned in the classroom and simultaneously fulfilling one of the university’s primary missions: Impacting our society positively. Here are a couple more service learning programs at UCF funded by donations:
The Burnett Honors College
Knights Without Borders

4. Giving Lives Back
This year, alumnus Jim Rosengren ’81 gave a generous gift of $1 million to UCF RESTORES, allowing the PTSD clinic to have a fighting chance of keeping its doors open and continuing to treat veterans with uniquely effective techniques (and train new therapists in those techniques).

“After three weeks of treatment, 67 percent of veterans no longer have PTSD — and more importantly, at follow-up six months later, we haven’t seen them relapse,” said Deborah Beidel, a UCF Pegasus Professor of psychology who leads the UCF RESTORES clinic.

The $5 million Department of Defense grant that allowed Beidel to establish the clinic in 2011 only covers treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, not those from other conflicts. Nor does it allow Beidel and her colleagues to treat other groups, like first responders, who actually suffer from PTSD at a higher rate than the military.

To continue its mission and work, the clinic needs to rely on private philanthropy to fund the program’s annual costs. You can be the difference: Donate Now. (Be sure to click the designation drop down and select UCF RESTORES)

5. A New Partnership for Rosen, Arts and Humanities

rosen-and-elias

Gregory Elias, a Curacao-born lawyer and businessman, had never stepped foot on campus when he donated $5 million to establish the Gregory Elias Entertainment Management Program, a partnership between the Rosen College of Hospitality Management and College of Arts and Humanities.

Thanks to his generosity, nearly 200 students are pursuing an education they are passionate about, which aligns with Elias’ goals.

“It’s not about money, it’s about love,” he told them when he visited UCF for the first time in September. “If you don’t have the love for what you are doing, you cannot succeed and be happy.”

 

 

 

Life Below Zero

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By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Nov. 4, 2016) — When Tracey Mertens ’92 was a hospitality management student at UCF in the early 1990s, she never envisioned a life where she would be professionally trained in night vision goggles usage. Or winter hazard protection.

Yet, today she lives in Kodiak, Alaska, well-educated in both thanks to her auxiliary public affairs specialist role with the U.S. Coast Guard. She has immersed herself within the team, learning anything she can, to better reflect the Coast Guard’s impact through her writing, photography and social media duties.

Merten credits UCF for giving her the foundation she needed to forge her own path to success that led her to opening her own seven-bedroom specialized rental property, managing a public relations and marketing firm and volunteering more than 4,500 volunteer hours over the last three years with the U.S. Coast Guard.

“It’s an exceptional school. You can tell the difference between someone who has had that good college foundation and who hasn’t,” said Mertens, one of the first recipients of the Harris Rosen Hospitality Management Scholarship. “Finding your place in the world has everything to do with using that experience at UCF to reach out, touch, talk to and traverse as many pieces as you can.”

Over the last two decades of her professional career, Mertens has accumulated an extensive list of varied experiences. She worked on a ranch in Wyoming. Trained with an equestrian center. Sampled many professional roles at Arabian Nights. Was part of the team that set up the dinner show attraction American Gladiators Orlando Live. Served as domestic violence counselor. Worked within child protective services. Owned a consulting company.

“I have a weirdo resume. It’s got parts and pieces on it that people go, ‘You did what?! How did you get there?’” she said.

Tracey Mertens '92 (photographer) on the job for the U.S. Coast Guard
Tracey Mertens ’92 (photographer) on the job for the U.S. Coast Guard

She did it by following her passions, and that’s the message she wants to make sure she passes on to other soon-to-be Rosen graduates. That’s why despite the 5,000-plus miles between Kodiak, Alaska, and Orlando, Mertens is a mentor with the college.

The mentor program launched in 2011 and has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Mertens and her mentee, Erinn Drury, are one of 165-and-counting matches within the program this year.

Their match seems dictated by fate. Drury can’t stop thinking about moving to Alaska after graduation.

Drury, a Satellite Beach native, was a freshman in 2013 when she attended a career fair for Rosen. There, she met a representative from Princess Cruises who served routes in Alaska. She was intrigued and proceeded to spend last May through October working at a lodge south of Denali.

She spent eight weeks of fall away from campus, juggling online classes with limited internet access and pulling off straight As by the end of the semester.

erinn-drury-her-mentee2
Like her mentor, Erinn Drury wants to live in Alaska after graduating Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

“Never seeing mountains, never seeing snow, never experiencing the 22 hours of daylight or darkness, it was completely life-changing for me. When I left, I never stopped thinking of Alaska,” she said. “When you test the limits and get outside your comfort zone, it’s when happiness happens.”

When Drury applied for a mentor, she wasn’t sure who she would end up with. So she was thrilled that Mertens was someone she could relate to so easily. Their first phone conversation lasted two hours.

“I could hear in her voice the passion that she has,” Drury said. “How you get from UCF business hospitality to the Coast Guard is incredible. [She showed me] you don’t have to keep yourself within the boundaries of what the norm is. You can push yourself.”

In addition to running her PR business and award winning rental property, Guardian Landing, Mertens has been designated as the Kodiak Air Station’s official photographer and social media spokesperson.

Her photos have been published in various publications and even on the national U.S. Coast Guard Instagram’s account.

Her work to provide community awareness has been well received. She claimed second place in the national 2014 JOC Alex Haley Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement, the Coast Guard’s highest recognition in public affairs. Additionally, she earned the national Coast Guard History Foundation 2013 Heritage Award for Individual Achievement.

Photo by Tracey Mertens '92
Photo by Tracey Mertens ’92

“The search and rescue team’s mission is such a nice, clean line of positive intent to serve humanity. I’m very honored to be a part of that,” she said.

As for Drury, she can’t wait to move to Alaska and start her own professional adventure. And she hopes to meet Mertens in person one day.

IGNITE Campaign Announced

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By UCF Today

ORLANDO, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2016) — Before a crowd of nearly 600 top donors, the University of Central Florida celebrated the public launch of a $500 million fundraising campaign on Sept. 16 supporting students, faculty members and special projects such as UCF Downtown.

The IGNITE campaign, the largest in UCF’s history, started in 2011 and seeks to reach the $500 million milestone by June 2019. More than 66,000 people have contributed $274.3 million to date, with much of the support coming from the generous benefactors invited to Friday’s gala.

“It shows an outpouring of support for the university that’s really going to help move us forward in the years ahead,” President John C. Hitt said. “I want to thank each of the donors very sincerely from my heart of hearts for their generosity.”

Philanthropy is critical to the university’s vitality and impact in the community. Investments in students, faculty and game-changing projects lift Central Florida’s economy – in everything from hospitality to medicine – and transform lives and families across our region.

The IGNITE campaign supports three priorities:

  • Student success, including scholarships, study abroad and career readiness
  • Academic excellence, including efforts to recruit and retain top faculty members
  • Special growth and opportunity projects

Gifts recognized at Friday’s gala include:

  • A $7 million gift from Dr. Phillips Charities for UCF Downtown increases total community support for the campus to $21 million. This means UCF can now access the $20 million in state funding to construct a new academic building for about 7,700 UCF and Valencia College students.
  • A $1 million gift from Jim Rosengren,’81, supports UCF RESTORES, a clinic directed by UCF psychology professor Deborah Beidel that successfully treats military veterans and active duty personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder – and provides that treatment for free. Rosengren is a disabled veteran who began his 23-year career as an Army medic, and his son served two tours in Iraq and returned home with PTSD.
  • Hundreds of engineering students will be able to use industry-standard product design and manufacturing software thanks to a major in-kind grant from Siemens. The software, with a commercial value of $68 million, is used in more than 140,000 global companies involved in the design and manufacturing of sophisticated products for energy and power generation, automotive, aerospace, machinery and high-tech electronics.
  • A $1 million gift from Glenn Hubbard, ’79, establishes the Kenneth White and James Xander Professorship in Economics. Hubbard is dean of the Columbia Business School, and he previously was an advisor to President George W. Bush and the Federal Reserve. He grew to love economics as a UCF student thanks to classes with White and Xander, two professors who inspired him.
  • A $5 million gift from Gregory Elias, a Curacao-born lawyer and businessman, establishes the Gregory Elias Entertainment Management Program, a partnership between the Rosen College of Hospitality Management and College of Arts and Humanities
  • A $1.5 million gift from John Euliano will help UCF expand and renovate the baseball stadium. A Winter Springs resident, Euliano has a family connection to UCF and a long-time love for baseball. The expansion will include a 300-seat premium club section that will include outdoor seating and an air-conditioned lounge.

The university also honored Orlando hotelier and philanthropist Harris Rosen for his lifetime of giving to UCF. In addition, Harris Corporation and Texas Instruments were recognized for their support for the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

The campaign chair is Rick Walsh, a 1977 graduate and former chair of the UCF Board of Trustees.