Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—August 28

1. Congrats to this year’s 30 Under 30 award winners, who were recognized in a special ceremony at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center over the weekend. View the gallery highlighting this outstanding group who is making its alma mater proud.

2. The countdown to college football is over! UCF Football is back in action this Thursday at 6 p.m. at home against FIU. Check out some new, exciting things the team has going on this year, and don’t forget to stop by UCF Alumni’s Indoor Tailgate, which kicks off at 3 p.m. Thursday at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

Out of town and in need of a watch party? Visit ucfalumni.com to find the most up-to-date information on locations for official watch parties nation-wide.

3. The UCF women’s soccer team knocked off No. 4 North Carolina on Friday in double overtime with a 2-1 win. To put it in the simplest terms: it’s a BIG deal. Read more about the historic win, and trust us, you’re going to want to watch this video:

4. The UCF College of Sciences Distinguished Speaker Series is back this September with six UCF faculty who are experts in topics relevant to the natural, computational, social or behavioral sciences and the developments in their respective fields. The 2017-18 series will be held monthly at Tuscawilla Country Club at 6 p.m., from September 2017 to April 2018 (excluding November and December).

5. Save the date for this year’s film fall showcase hosted by UCF School of Visual Arts and Design. Some of the finest examples from the previous year’s crop of student films will be brought together for a single night of celebration on Sept. 8 from 7-9:30 p.m.

Wise Words

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 10, 2017) — UCF Celebrates the Arts, now in its third year, hosted a panel April 9 featuring four alumni who discussed how to “Go Far with a Degree in the Arts.”

We share some of the lessons learned in the two-hour panel that was held at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and live streamed on UCF’s official Facebook page.

First, get to know the panelists.

(L to R): Christopher Walker, Georginia Hurge, Randy Hurt, Elissa Cordero Hansen

Elissa Cordero Hansen ’10 works in Los Angeles as a stereoscopic artist (stereo-what? Stereoscopy is a technique for creating or enhancing the illusion of depth in an image, often used to create a 3D-effect). The digital media alumna currently works at Walt Disney Animation Studios and has collaborated on feature films such as “Big Hero 6,” “Zootopia” and “Moana.”

Georginia Hurge ’12, a film alumna, is project manager and in-house producer at the Orlando-based company Strong Films, which focuses on the experience of a brand or product. Strong Films has worked with companies such as Disney, Universal and Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, and is responsible for the viral video The Thank You Project.

Christopher Walker ’08 is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and member of the production company and filmmaking collective, No Weather Productions, based in New York City. His directorial debut “Welcome to Leith” premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Starting out as an editor, the cinema studies alumnus has cut films on subjects including street dance, the War on Drugs and white supremacy.

Randy Hunt ’05, who earned his degree in art with a specialty in graphic design, is vice president of design at Etsy, where he leads a team of designers, researchers, writers and artists creating the end-to-end brand and product experience, both online and off. Etsy was honored with the National Design Award in 2014.

Lesson 1: A career in the arts is hard but not impossible.

“A lot of people ask me why I chose to pursue a career in the arts. It can be a really tough industry. To me, it never really felt like a choice. It’s really important to have that passion because that’s what is going to drive you to work hard and keep trying even when you fail.” – Elissa Cordero Hansen

“My time at UCF gave me the tools that allowed me to do what I’m doing. It’s not easy, at all. I don’t want to sugar coat it. But if you really believe in what you’re doing, it’s easy to start doing it.” – Christopher Walker

Lesson 2: Be resourceful and find great mentors.

“Luckily, I’ve got really great mentors at Disney that are always there to answer my dumb questions. I make it a habit to write everything down so I never ask the same question twice. For me, I’ve found that fear is a really good motivator. If I needed to, I would stay late on my personal time and figure out how to do things. I would give myself a time limit. If I can’t figure this out in one hour, I’m going to ask for help.” – Elissa Cordero Hansen

Lesson 3: Even if you aren’t a classic “creative type,” you can pursue the arts.

“I wouldn’t necessarily classify myself as creative but it’s always exciting to be around creative energy and around those kind of people. I think what’s important for me that I’ve learned is there is space for you being in a creative environment even if you’re not typically what people consider as creative or an artist. Take what you are good at and hone those skill sets. You can contribute to help make something beautiful.” – Georginia Hurge

Lesson 4: Get by with a little help from your friends.

“A lot of people that we work with at Stronger Films are people we went to school with or people that we know. You know that you can trust their quality of work and who they are. They’re going to give their best effort because you have a relationship with them. You trust each other, you respect each other not only as friends but as colleagues. That’s huge, especially if you’re a small business and you’re trying to build and grow. You want to have people in your corner who respect your craft and can also help you achieve the things that you need to get done.” – Georginia Hurge

“When we started a marketplace business, the first software developer we hired was a person I had a high school job with. He was also a competent software engineer (laughs) but the reason I knew he existed was because he had been friends. … Building relationships with professional colleagues, peer colleagues – we use each other for all sorts of information and problems we might need to solve.” – Randy Hunt

“When I started individual language, I instantly connected with everyone in my class because we had so much in common and that had never happened to me before. I feel like that’s what kind of made me find my voice. When you have to create art and show it to your whole class, it can be really scary, so having a group that you’re comfortable with, it pushes you to experiment with things and you’re less afraid to be vulnerable and to show them things that might suck, but they don’t care because they’re your friends and won’t judge you for it. Everywhere I’ve worked, the thing I’ve taken away with me the most is the friendships that I’ve made.” – Elissa Cordero Hansen

Lesson 5: Take risks.

“My advice is to take advantage of every opportunity that you get to learn and grow and give it all of your effort. Don’t feel like you have to have the perfect portfolio or reel before you take those risks because chances are as an artist, you’re never going to feel 100 percent ready and you could miss out on some incredible opportunities.” -– Elissa Cordero Hansen, who knew nothing about stereoscopy (her current field) when she applied to an entry level position at Digital Domain, a prestigious visual effects company. Spoiler alert: she got the job.

“I wouldn’t worry about the fact that ‘I’m studying the arts and I need to get a job.’ Your educational experience will prepare you for things in life whether or not you’re in that space. That pressure to make it be something really specific, I think, can block you from discovery of new things.” – Randy Hunt

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Feb. 22, 2016

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UCF student Joshua Gicker organized a special Valentine’s Day/birthday surprise for campus shuttle driver Maurice Mosby, raising more than $400 for the man who, Gicker says, takes the time to learn his passengers by name and delivers them a “good morning” every day. (See No. 4 below.)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Twenty students (out of UCF’s 63,000) were named as recipients of the 2016 Order of Pegasus, the university’s most prestigious student award.
  2. UCF Celebrates the Arts — a free festival of music, performances and visual displays — reprises its second season April 8-16 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the performing arts in downtown Orlando, with an extended program of student and faculty presentations and collaborations. The university’s annual spring dance concert kicks off the nine-day festival, which also includes many displays from the School of Visual Arts and Design. For a complete schedule and ticket information, visit arts.cah.ucf.edu.
  3. This Thursday, expand your network and connect with fellow Knights! Mingle with alumni working in the nonprofit community during a joint Networking Knight at Bar Louie (UCF) from 6-8 p.m., hosted by the UCF School of Public Administration and UCF College of Health and Public Affairs Alumni Chapter. Or, join the College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter for an alumni and student Networking Knight in the Engineering II building atrium from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  4. UCF students showed some love to their favorite campus shuttle driver, Maurice Mosby, as they surprised him with more than $400 in gift cards in honor of Valentine’s Day last week, which also happened to be Mosby’s birthday.
  5. Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Pentatonix brings its World Tour 2016 to the CFE Arena on April 14!

UCF Alumni Association Aids Students with Scholarships

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By Isabelle D’Antonio
Contributing Writer, Central Florida Future

The UCF Alumni Association collects thousands of dollars each year to give right back to students through its many scholarships.

Senior Erica Chu received the alumni association’s UCF Alumni Legacy Scholarship — a $1,500 award for outstanding students with parents who graduated from UCF — to make her dreams of attending UCF possible.

“I was ecstatic when I found out I won the scholarship,” the biomedical sciences major says. “Every little thing counts when you’re paying for college.”

Chu says receiving the scholarship has not only helped her financially, but has also increased her networking with alumni, including those who selected her to win the scholarship.

“It’s great to meet people who graduated from UCF, and are now so successful and want to give back,” she says. “That’s something I want to do when I graduate.”

The alumni association awards 25 scholarships annually, including scholarships from alumni chapters and clubs.

“Last year, we had a good year in our endowments, and we were able to increase the majority of the scholarships by $500,” explains Carla Cordoba, associate director of alumni and student relations.

In fact, in 2015, the alumni association awarded more than $55,000 in scholarships to UCF students.

Heather Junod, director of the UCF Fund, says there are many ways the alumni association receives the money to fund these scholarships.

The UCF Fund utilizes e-solicitation, direct mail, phone campaigns, faculty/staff campaigns and a student philanthropy program to reach out to potential donors. Staffers prefer more face-to-face solicitation rather than phone calls because it often garners better results. For example, the average donation is $86 on the phone, $270 for e-solicitation and $130 by mail, but face-to-face gifts are much larger — sometimes in the millions.

Junod says the UCF Fund asks every alumnus and alumna with up-to-date information to donate, which is more than 226,000 Knights. Of this, about 7,000 donate, or a little more than 3 percent of alumni.

“At our call center, students like to talk to alumni about donating to scholarships because the student callers are often on scholarships,” Junod explains.

To apply for alumni scholarships, students must fill out the applications on their myUCF account. If a student is eligible for an alumni scholarship, it will automatically appear in his/her scholarship listing. Most scholarships also require an essay, recommendation letter and activities summary.

“Scholarships aren’t going to come to you — you have to look for them,” Chu says. “The alumni association does a great job advertising the scholarships. People just have to take the next step and actually apply.”

She also says it is important for students to be themselves when writing application essays.

“They can tell in your writing if you’re being fake or lying,” she says. “Stand out and have a personal story that they can connect to.”

In Chu’s application, she wrote a personal essay about how UCF has opened so many doors for her father. She also described how the university has already given her innumerable opportunities, such as research and networking.

After the applications are submitted, the four-month-long reviewing process begins.

“We want to make sure we are being diligent in reading everything and paying attention because students took the time to submit their applications,” Cordoba says.

A team of student assistants first checks the applicants’ eligibility to make sure they meet all of the necessary criteria for the scholarship, and then the applicants are scored using a point system.

“For example, if you’re a member of a club, you get so many points. If you’re an officer, you get more points,” Cordoba explains. “Everybody gets the same formula applied to them across the board.”

Once the applicants have been rated, a selection committee of alumni, faculty and staff reviews the top five to 10 students. The committee then gives its recommendations and a staff committee selects the final winners.

Reaching out through email, postcards and banner advertisements, there’s been an increase in students who have been applying for the alumni association’s scholarships.

“We had more than 500 applications in 2015, which is a third more than we had the year before,” Cordoba says. “Students are taking advantage of the scholarships!”

However, with more applicants comes more competition.

“The caliber of students who are applying is amazing,” Cordoba says. “We’re choosing from the top echelon of students who are extremely involved with their university and in their communities.”

Alumni who wish to contribute can name a scholarship for $10,000, or they can endow a scholarship for $25,000, which gets invested and earns appreciation.

“The idea is to keep building the endowment so it lives on in perpetuity,” Cordoba says.

How to apply for UCF Alumni Association scholarships:

  1. Visit ucfalumni.com/scholarships. (The application window opens Feb. 1 and closes Feb. 28 each year.)
  2. Read all scholarship criteria and complete all required supporting documents.
  3. Log on to myUCF.
  4. Select “Student Self Service.”
  5. Click on “Scholarship Application” > “Home Page” > “Add New Scholarship.”
  6. Complete and submit application(s).

Questions?

Read the Scholarship FAQ, or contact Carla Cordoba at 407.823.3453.

This story appeared Dec. 4, 2015, in the Central Florida Future online. It has been updated and edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article.

Visual Artists Use Computers, Other Objects as Canvas

Ambitious and passionate, three Knights are pushing the limits of animation and projection mapping

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(Left to right:) Joe Rosa, ’11, Heather Knott, ’11, and Chris Brown, ’11, are masters in digital animation.

By Angie Lewis, ’03

During his senior year at UCF, Joe Rosa, ’11, knew he didn’t want to be just another name on a resume, which could easily end up being filed away or thrown in the trash. So, in September 2010, he asked classmates Heather Knott, ’11, and Chris Brown, ’11, if they wanted to start a digital media company with him, and Ninjaneer Studios LLC was born.

The trio specializes in 3-D animation and projection mapping content, encompassing all stages of the design process, from projection conception to final product.

While the threesome works cohesively as a team, their individuality is distinct.

For example, when you ask the designers what their favorite projects have been so far, you’ll get three notably different answers. Rosa is especially proud of the team’s first large-scale projection mapping for the Art & Algorithms Digital Arts Festival, while Knott fondly remembers their “Holidays in Space” presentation at the Kennedy Space Center, and Brown appreciates the innovation and challenges of the Corrosion exhibit at the Orlando Science Center.

Take a look:



In addition, while their interest in digital media began in their childhoods, they all found themselves inspired by different life experiences.

Rosa was born a Navy brat in the mid-’70s on the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. His late grandfather passed down his love for film and animation, teaching Rosa how to draw Disney characters when he was just 5 years old. And, when “TRON” hit theaters in 1982, Rosa found himself captivated by computer-generated imagery.

“My grandfather always wanted to work for Disney when he retired from the Army after World War II, but became a truck driver instead to support his family,” Rosa explains. “In some ways, I feel that I’m carrying on his dream through me, along with my own.”

Knott grew up in Orlando, training in traditional drawing and sculpting early on, and even attending the Theatre Magnet Program at Dr. Phillips High School. She earned a B.S. in interior design from Florida State before continuing her education at UCF.

“As I got older and tried new mediums, it inspired me to see if there was a way that I could combine all of my favorite things from each medium into one,” Knott says. “Animation does that in spades.”

Following the death of the family TV to a lightning storm, Brown started telling stories at a young age. To keep himself entertained, he listened to collections of short stories on tape, which eventually transitioned into an interest in cinematic video games when he reached his teen years.

“It’s a never-ending source of problems to solve, and new technologies to experiment with, which has always been what I love about working in digital media,” Brown says.

In 10 years, Rosa hopes they will have a well-established company and a foothold in the animation industry, with more than 50 employees working on feature-length films and hybrid versions of projection mapping and augmented reality.

He advises current digital media students to: “See how far you can push yourself, and learn where your breaking point is. I think people would be surprised at how much they can take on. Phil Peters’ class alone was perhaps the most mentally intensive class I have ever taken. It was incredibly draining at the start, but I gradually learned how to compartmentalize, and it gave me a better work ethic now because of that experience. I attribute half of my gray hair to him!”

Knott’s advice is to: “Be proactive with your education. There’s only so much you can be taught in a classroom, so if you’re truly dedicated to this path, learn everything you can. I’m five years out of college, and I still make it a point to try to learn something new every day.

And, Brown says, “Google everything. Never be satisfied with what you know how to do already, or what you know a program is capable of automatically. Sooner or later, you’ll have to do something out of the box, and the more you understand in depth, the more ammunition you will have to throw at the problem.”

Animated Q&A

Q. Dream project?
Joe Rosa (JR): My two dream projects would be to produce and direct a feature-length animated film for theaters, and to have the opportunity to work with Universal Studios on projects stemming from their new partnership with Nintendo.
Heather Knott (HK): My dream project is to create digital sets for a production on Broadway. You can take the geek out of the theatre, but not the theatre out of the geek.

Q. What’s one thing about your job that people would be surprised to learn?
Chris Brown (CB): When working in a team of artists, a not-too insignificant number of creative differences can be settled by Nerf guns.

Q. If you had to choose another career, what would it be?
JR: Restoration of old, classic, muscle cars
HK: I’d love to be a photographer for National Geographic. Traveling the world, exploring and recording it for posterity would be quite an adventure.
CB: Lion tamer. Although, if you gave me a stern look and forced me to consider my skill set, probably computer sciences or IT. I’ve always had an interest in data visualization.

Q. Last thing you Googled?
JR: Black holes and quantum mechanics. Can’t read enough about black holes and how incredibly fascinating they are.
HK: The architectural history of Bamberg, Germany
CB: Optical tracking with OpenCV

Q. Do you have any other artistic abilities?
JR: Wood working and glass blowing. I’ve always been able to build things from scratch with little to no plans or drawings.
HK: I draw mostly. I’ve dabbled in sculpting, painting, photography and mixed media.
CB: A distinct lack thereof, actually. It was dramatically clear to me from an early age that I was rubbish at drawing. Why do you think I started working with computers instead?

Q. What’s your spirit animal?
JR: Well, according to spiritanimal.info, my spirit animal is an owl. And, this whole time, I was thinking it was a dragon!
HK: Jack Skellington
CB: Turtle

Q. Favorite website?
JR: thisiscolossal.com
HK: google.com
CB: shadertoy.com

Q. Best way to decompress?
JR: Spending time with my wife and children. It’s always fun to come home from a long day at work and play robots, wrestle on the floor, watch a good movie with them, and laugh.
HK: Depending on the amount of stress, either a quiet night with a book and a glass of wine, or a solid couple of hours killing things on my Xbox
CB: Video games, a good side project, a cold beer, or, ideally, a combination of the three

Q. What’s one thing you always bring with you to work?
JR: Passion. I love the company we three have created, the work we do, and the industry we’re in. Failure is a word that is not in our vocabulary at Ninjaneer Studios.
HK: Water and snacks. I have a tendency to hyperfocus on a project, so I regularly forget to eat or drink if it’s not sitting right next to me.
CB: A pen that can write on my arm. I’ve had one in my pocket almost continually since I was 17.

Q. If you could offer your 13-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
JR: To stay passionate about what you want to do and be in life. Half way along my journey, I had not lost the passion to do what I’m doing today, but I encountered many road blocks and setbacks. Never lose focus of where you want to be in life, and keep that fire and passion burning.
HK: Don’t be afraid to be yourself. It took me a long time to be comfortable with myself, and I think I let some experiences pass me by because of it.
CB: Provided he would listen, which I sort of doubt, it would be that the things you think are a big deal right now probably won’t matter too much down the road. Just relax, and focus on the things that really interest you, and, one day, if you play your cards right, people will pay you to explore them.

More Info

NinjaneerStudios.com
Demo reel:

More videos on YouTube