Olympic Knights: Ricardo’s Road to Rio

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By Jenna Marina

Orlando, Fla. — If anyone knows the true meaning of “timing is everything,” it is UCF alumnus Ricardo Gouveia ’14. By qualifying for the Summer Olympics in Rio, the former men’s golf standout will be part of history as the sport returns to the Games after a 112-year hiatus.

Golf was first played at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900, only to be removed after 1904. It was voted back in seven years ago by the International Olympic Committee, setting in motion Gouveia’s road to Rio where he will represent his home country of Portugal.

“It feels great,” Gouveia told UCFKnights.com. “It’s one of those sporting events that you dream to be a part of at least once in your life. It’s going to be special being in Rio where the native language is Portuguese.”

Gouveia is one of threRicardo-tweete UCF alumni who will participate in the Olympics this year. He along with Aline Reis ’11 (Brazil, soccer) are making their first Olympic Games appearances while 2008 gold medalist Phil Dalhausser ’02 (USA, beach volleyball) is set for his third and potentially final appearance.

Gouveia was a two-time all-region and All-America honorable-mention honoree as a Knight from 2011-14. He turned pro after graduating with a degree in interdisciplinary studies with a business administration minor.

“The whole experience that I had at UCF was crucial to reach the level of play and the stability that I have right now,” he told UCFKnights.com. “I learned so much from a lot of people while attending school. I can’t thank them enough.”

Gouveia competed in his first PGA event in 2016 when he was invited to join the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla.

He is ranked 34th of the 60-man field. Gouveia will tee off Aug. 11-14 on the Olympic Golf Course. The opening ceremony is slated for Friday, Aug. 5, and the Games last until Aug. 21.

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!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Dec. 14, 2015

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Wondering what this pic is all about? Check out No. 5 on our list!

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. For only the second time in its history, all three branches of UCF SGA’s Senate are led by women. The 48th Student Senate’s executive branch is led by Student Body President Cait Zona, the legislative branch is led by Speaker of the Senate Meghan Kircher, and the judicial branch is led by Chief Justice Taylor Scimeca. Congratulations, ladies!
  2. Throughout final exams week, which finally comes to an end tomorrow, the Student Union, Student Academic Resource Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, and UCF Police’s Safe Escort Patrol Service have been helping students ease some of the stress that can come with test taking (and the holidays).
  3. UCF chemistry Ph.D. candidate David Nash, ’11, MS14, and his team, which is developing a smartphone-based handheld drug system for law enforcement applications, was selected to further advance their innovation at the national level through the National Science Foundation I-Corps program.
  4. Last week in Tallahassee, Florida Gov. Rick Scott presented the Champion of Service Award to UCF mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate Albert Manero, ’12, MSAE14, for his work with Limbitless Solutions.
  5. A group of student-athletes is spreading Christmas cheer with the help of Mariah Carey, some jolly dance moves, and a video that’s making its way around the Internet.

These Guys Know what they Want for Christmas

A group of UCF student-athletes is spreading Christmas cheer with the help of Mariah Carey, some jolly dance moves, and a video that’s making its way around the Internet.

When seven Knights, including four UCF cheerleaders and a former UCF baseball player who met through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, posted the above video to YouTube, they had no idea it would attract more than 20,000 views in less than a week!

“We honestly just wanted to make a fun Christmas video for something to look back at when we have kids one day, and be like, ‘Hey, look, your dad was cool!'” explains UCF junior Joshua Gicker. “We’re all single, so, maybe before it’s over, we could meet our future wives through this!”

Guess you never know! Happy holidays, Knights!

This information was originally published Dec. 10, 2015, by Brigitte Snedeker on KnightNews.com. It has been edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original post.

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.

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Distinguished Alumnus Award

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The UCF Alumni Association presented its 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award to Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins, ’01.
Alex was unable to accept his award in person due to an NBA owners’ meeting in New York.
(PHOTO: UCF Today)
Alex Martins, ’01 | CEO, Orlando Magic

The UCF Alumni Association honored Alex Martins with its 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest annual accolade given to a UCF graduate, in recognition of his career achievements, at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

With 25 years in professional sports management, Alex rejoined the Magic in June 2005 and was promoted to CEO in December 2011. He previously served as president for more than a year, and was the team’s chief operating officer from 2006-2010.

As CEO, he led the development of Orlando’s state-of-the-art sports and entertainment arena, working tirelessly for eight years with community leaders on the massive project, which has been ranked one of the best of its kind in the world. During the same time period, the business of the Orlando Magic thrived, building the largest season ticket base in franchise history, and setting countless new records for sales.

Alex has also given much of his time and energy to serving his alma mater since graduating with his master’s degree from the UCF College of Business Administration, currently as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Counsel for the college, and as chairman of the critical Finance and Facilities Committee for UCF’s Board of Trustees. He was inducted into the College of Business Hall of Fame in 2008, and was honored that same year with the opportunity to serve as a summer commencement speaker.

Learn more about Alex:

UCF Student-Athletes Crush the Competition

UCF Football, Men’s Basketball, Softball earn AAC Team Academic Excellence Awards

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By Andy Seeley
UCFKnights.com

UCF student-athletes are continuing to excel in the classroom, as well as in competition. Three Knights programs were honored Tuesday, July 28, as the American Athletic Conference announced its Team Academic Excellence Awards for 2014-15.

The American Athletic Conference Team Academic Excellence Awards recognize the team in each conference sport with the highest GPA for that academic year. UCF’s football, men’s basketball and softball programs each earned that distinction this year.

“I’m very proud of our student-athletes for their hard work and success in the classroom,” interim Director of Athletics George O’Leary said. “We have a culture of academic success at UCF.”

For Coach O’Leary’s football program, it marks the fourth straight season the Knights have been honored as the best academic team in their conference. The Knights have brought home the Team Academic Excellence Award twice in the two-year existence of the American Athletic Conference. In addition to the last two AAC honors, the football program also brought home the Conference USA Sport Academic Award in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

The Knights are the two-time defending American Athletic Conference champions on the gridiron to go along with the Academic Team Excellence Awards.

Head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie led her softball squad to a school-record 50 wins last season. The Knights were the American Athletic Conference Champions in both the regular season and postseason tournament and advanced to the NCAA Regional Final. The Black and Gold accomplished those feats while also fielding the strongest academic squad in the conference.

Meanwhile, men’s basketball head coach Donnie Jones leads a squad that posted a school-record Academic Progress Rate score in the most recent NCAA release, to go along with his team’s AAC Team Academic Excellence Award.

Academic accolades have become the norm at UCF.

As a department, the Knights rank No. 1 in the nation in NCAA Graduation Success Rate among all public institutions. At 95 percent in the most recent GSR report, UCF trails only private institutions Notre Dame, Stanford, Duke and Northwestern. The Knights’ GSR is 11 points above the national average. UCF’s football, volleyball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer and rowing programs are all tops among The American in Graduation Success Rate.

In the most recent NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) report, the Knights improved for the 10th consecutive year. Two Knights programs — volleyball and women’s tennis — have had multiple perfect scores in APR, while the department average of 981 is a school record. Twelve of the Knights’ 16 sports are at or above the national average for APR.

This story was posted July 28, 2015, on UCFKnights.com. It has been slightly edited in accordance with alumni association style guidelines. See original article.

From Unemployment to Celebrity Weddings and Professional Sports

UCF Rosen College alumna Jennifer Garcia, '09, recently returned to her alma mater to offer career advice to students.
Rosen College alumna Jennifer Garcia, ’09, returned to her alma mater to offer career advice to students.

By Michael Weiss

Internships with the Vans Warped Tour, the Starbucks VIA Taste Tour, and Super Bowl XVIII appeared to place former event management and hospitality management double major Jennifer Garcia’s, ’09, career trajectory on a crash course with success after college. However, after Garcia initially graduated from the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, the alumna couldn’t even find employment as a hostess due to the economic recession in the United States.

Fast forward nearly four years later, when Garcia returned to her alma mater to inspire current hospitality students with her story of resiliency, as she went from unemployed college grad to assisting with multi-million dollar celebrity weddings and now a new career in professional sports.

“After I graduated, I wanted to work in the event industry,” Garcia said. “I was applying everywhere, but, at the time, everyone was cutting back and I literally couldn’t even get hired as a hostess. It was extremely discouraging, considering that I just graduated from a prestigious hospitality college and had such great internship experience. But, I refused to give up on my career. When you give up, you’re giving your opportunity away to someone else.”

Garcia’s relentless pursuit of employment eventually paid off after months of job hunting, when in January 2010, she was hired by a Miami-based event designer.

“I ended up getting hired by Nuage Designs, where I began working in luxury weddings,” Garcia recalled. “I didn’t realize the experience that I would be gaining from this job until one day, my boss put me on a plane to New York, where I found myself delivering table linens for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.”

Over the course of her three and a half years of employment with Nuage Designs, Garcia opened an office in New York, created partnerships for destination weddings, and assisted with several celebrity nuptials, including Grammy Award-winner Carrie Underwood and reality TV star Kim Zolciak, whose wedding appeared on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

“I learned a lot from this job opportunity, but I knew I needed to leave the wedding industry to chase my dream job,” Garcia said. “My goal is to one day become the events director for the NFL.”

Garcia again faced adversity in finding employment, as many professional sports recruiters refused to hire her, as she had no previous professional experience within the industry.

“It was extremely frustrating,” Garcia said. “How was I supposed to start gaining industry experience when no one was willing to hire a person without previous experience?”

But, again, Garcia refused to give up on her goal, as the alumna continued to submit her resume and attend networking functions.

Her resiliency paid off again, as the alumna ultimately received job offers from at least two professional sports teams, and recently accepted a position with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, as a group sales manager.

“I came back to Rosen to speak with students about facing adversity,” Garcia said. “I know that some of these students will face the same employment challenges that I did and I wanted to tell them what happens when you don’t give up.”

See original story on UCF Today.

Rosen College Alumna to Lead Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce

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By Kathy Dorf
Rosen College Public Relations

At just 30 years old, UCF graduate Katie Worthington, ’05, will be the new chief executive of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, bringing a fresh perspective to a budding area of Central Florida. Like most success stories, Worthington’s was neither predictable nor planned, but for her, it started at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

After graduating from Rosen College with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, Worthington left her job working at the front desk of the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, a hotel she helped open, and relocated to Polk County. After brief stints in financial services working for State Farm Insurance and SunTrust Bank, she spent several years as the director of reception, public relations and customer service for a local medical clinic.

In 2011, she joined Clark/Nikdel/Powell , an integrated marketing strategy firm located in Winter Haven, where she currently serves as media and account director for clients such as Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing, the Central Florida Development Council, Enterprise Florida and Fantasy of Flight. She also volunteers for various community organizations, including the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, founded the Winter Haven Young Professionals Group, organized the first Polk Emerging Leaders awards ceremony and received the 2013 Leadership Winter Haven Distinguished Alumnus Award.

“Because I’m a tourism nerd, I tried to get involved in anything I could do volunteer-wise within my clients’ business areas, the Chamber of Commerce and economic development,” Worthington said. “Over about six or seven years, I did of a lot of volunteering and became very familiar with the Chamber and all of Polk County.”

As her local reputation and professional brand grew, people started to take notice of Worthington’s talents and passion. When current Chief Executive Bob Gernert decided to retire after a 17-year career that saw CSX and Legoland Florida arrive in Winter Haven, she was encouraged to apply. Following a national search, Worthington was named to lead the Chamber on January 17, 2014, and will officially assume the role on March 1.

Worthington credits her education and experience at Rosen College for making her well-rounded in various aspects of business, including customer service, operations, marketing and public relations, a foundation that translates across industries. She also benefited from learning about the economic impact of tourism and how it can transform communities.

“I think having that holistic view of the economic impact of tourism is probably what’s prepared me most,” she said. “I think of restaurant management and even thought I never wanted to own a restaurant, knowing the challenges of running one makes me much more prepared since many of the chamber members are small business, family-owned restaurants. I certainly have an appreciation for them since I had to come up with a business plan for a restaurant, do a financial analysis and learn about operations in class.”

Worthington hopes to guide Winter Haven through what she calls a pivotal point in the city’s history as community leaders work to formulate a strategic plan for the future. She points to Winter Haven’s strengths as both a tourism and residential destination with its traditions, natural assets and potential to attract young professionals to live and work.

As she reflects on the journey to her new leadership post, she advises students to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible whether it’s through volunteering, shadowing professionals, doing internships or getting involved in student organizations. Also, never underestimate the value of hospitality education to various industries.

“A hospitality management degree is, in my opinion, great because it teaches you the business element as well as customer service, public relations and marketing,” she said. “There’s an emphasis on customer service, which in reality, is the real reason businesses succeed, no matter what industry you’re in.”

See original story on UCF Today.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — May 11, 2015

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Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. On May 9, College of Business Administration Dean Paul Jarley presented a bachelor’s degree in marketing to Daniel Berreth, ’15, UCF’s 250,000th graduate (see photo above).
  2. Last week, the UCF Student Government Association announced plans for a new way to tailgate this football season. Knights on the Mall gives fans an opportunity to reserve spaces on Memory Mall, as well as enjoy live music, cooling zones, and more.
  3. The UCF Foundation named its new vice president for alumni relations and development on May 8. Michael Morsberger, the vice president for development and alumni relations at George Washington, will officially take on his new role June 1.
  4. The next UCF MedTalk is May 13 at the Downtown PourHouse, where Dr. Sampath Parthasarathy will discuss “Wine, the Sun and Food: Keys to a Long Life.” Join this informal talk, hosted by the UCF College of Medicine and UCF Alumni Association, and learn something new!
  5. Looking for a job? Head over to the CFE Arena on Thursday, May 14, for a statewide job fair.