Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – May 14, 2018

1. “It’s always thrilling to be back in a classroom—and it makes me wish I could be a college student all over again. If that wish were ever to come true, the college experience would look very different—and better—at an innovative institution like UCF.” — Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates) in a recently penned entry on his blog site, gatesnotes.

 

Photo of UCF Rowing championship
The rowing team won its fourth conference championship in a row over the weekend.

2. UCF picked up its third American Athletic Conference championship trophy of the 2017-18 athletics season over the weekend. The rowing team joined football and women’s soccer (regular season) as squads to bring home the hardware this year. For rowing, the championship marked the team’s fourth-straight title, and in effect, the Knights became the second women’s program in The American to win four straight titles in the five-year history of the league. The Knights join UConn Women’s Basketball as the only two squads with four or more conference titles.

3. From athletics to the arts, there are plenty of summer camps for learning and play affiliated with UCF that can help keep students busy during the summer break. UCF employees are offered a discount on camp rates, so be sure to sign up early to take advantage of this benefit.

4. The Orlando Sentinel featured the new senior living community affiliated UCF, which is in the works and set to open in mid-2020. Legacy Pointe at UCF will reside about 2 miles away from UCF’s main campus and across from the Econ River Wilderness Area. Legacy Pointe residents will be able to attend any class for free as long as it’s not full. Transportation to and from the community will be provided for them. And they can use campus amenities, such as the library, study halls and the gym.

5. The names of four officers from Central Florida, including Lt. Debra Clayton ’98 ’02MS and Deputy First Class Norm Lewis ’04, were added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C. City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer along with law enforcement officers from Orlando, Kissimmee and Orange County visited the nation’s capital to pay their respects at the National Police Week vigil.

 

2018 NFL Draft: Brought To You By UCF Alumni

Photo of UCF alumni Brandon Naidus and Eric DeSalvo
Brandon Naidus ’12 (left, Arizona Cardinals) and Eric DeSalvo ’09 (right, UCF Knights) are social media managers who covered every big moment of the 2018 NFL Draft.

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 30, 2018) – While four Knights fulfilled lifelong dreams of hearing their names called during the 2018 NFL Draft, another pair of Knights were working behind the scenes to capture every moment.

Alumni Eric DeSalvo ’09 and Brandon Naidus ’12 are the maestros of the social media accounts for their respective teams.

DeSalvo, who majored in interpersonal/organizational communication within the College of Sciences, is the assistant athletics director for #content within the UCF Athletics brand advancement office.

Naidus, a management alumnus from the Burnett Honors College, is the social media manager for the Arizona Cardinals and previously worked with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ social media department for four years.

Photo of UCF alumni Eric DeSalvo and Brandon Naidus
Eric DeSalvo (left) and Brandon Naidus (right) during ChargeOn Tour

The two share more than a similar job. In fact, Naidus was an undergraduate student intern for UCF Athletics Communications when DeSalvo took his first job out of graduate school in 2011 as the UCF assistant director of communications for the baseball and volleyball teams.

They keep in touch often, and that was certainly the case over the weekend as they both worked to churn out quality content worthy of viral numbers.

DeSalvo and UCF were one of the select college brands whose digital content teams were invited to the draft at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Meanwhile, Naidus and his department covered the draft remotely from the media conference room in the Arizona Cardinals facility.

They still might be slightly sleep deprived from the big weekend, but they took some time to share a glimpse into the strategy, the creativity and the heart it takes every day to do their jobs.

You both have covered drafts before in some capacity. How did you apply what you’ve learned from those experiences and adapt your strategy for success this year?
DeSalvo: “The first draft I was really involved with was when Blake Bortles was drafted in 2014 and went third overall. We had a template created for a graphic that allowed us to interchange the team he was drafted to. It also had the round and the overall pick. People might not remember, but I screwed that up. I put he was taken sixth overall because I had put that in the template as a placeholder, and when he was picked third, I forgot to change it and didn’t realize it until about three minutes after I tweeted it. A coworker spotted it, and I had to delete the tweet with well over 100 retweets. I fixed it and put it back out and all was OK.

“That actually happened again the following year when Breshad Perriman went in the first round. It said the 25th pick when he was the 26th. So, we have learned, you don’t worry about rounds and picks. It’s all about what team the the guy is going to. After that, I measure our success on how much original, on-site content we can get and if we can get video or photos straight from the guys to show that these lifelong dreams that came true. We knew we were going to have our stuff prepared, but success in my mind, was getting more of the stuff that hits the hearts of our fans and the NFL team’s fans.”

Naidus: “My first draft I was wide-eyed, not sure what to expect. I was in charge of updating the website and handling all social media postings for the Jaguars in 2013 when I was an intern. In 2014, I still did that and that was the year they took Blake and Storm (Johnson). This year was the sixth draft I have been a part of, and I was responsible for leading the charge of what kind of social content we created and put out there. It’s interesting to see how things evolve. In 2013, I was preparing headshots for the website. Now I’m preparing graphics and tweets that can be shared by our current players to welcome our draft picks to the team – which a few years ago wasn’t even a thought. We want to be informative and engaging. Our fans have a lot of outlets they can go to for news, but we want them to come to us first.”

What kind of preparation do you need to do before a big event like the draft?
DeSalvo: “Twitter is always going to be first because it’s the immediate news. Before the draft, we uploaded 32 versions of a highlight video for each player, for each team they could potentially go to. We had seven guys who could have been drafted. So seven guys multiplied by 32 possible teams meant we uploaded 224 into the back end of Twitter, before the draft, with the message of the post already crafted. I had Megan Herboth in the communications department send that out from Orlando because I was on site in Dallas. I don’t ever want to jeopardize connectivity because every second is precious when it comes to getting this post out. People can’t wait to celebrate big news. Having it out immediately and accurately is the biggest part to our success when it comes to those big numbers.”

Naidus: “I basically looked at every mock draft and said ‘OK, what are positions of need for our team?’ and created content based on the top few players at every single position. You try and do as much work on the front end to save yourself on the back end to keep from getting trampled. We had a whole list of content with all the pieces we planned on putting out leading up to the draft; the days of the draft; and the day after the draft. All the graphics, all the video elements. Could they pick someone we didn’t anticipate them to pick? Sure. But you prepare as best you can and then I assigned responsibilities to our social team so everyone knew what they were responsible for handling.”

Many have said they expect that this year’s draft will forever be known as the year of Shaquem Griffin. Eric, what was it like to be there to experience it?
DeSalvo: “It was pretty incredible to see the amount of coverage he got. He was a day-3 pick that received top-5 pick coverage. It was a roller coaster because he initially wasn’t there to hear his name called. He was with his family at the hotel. So, I was determined to get crowd reaction from whatever team he went to. Seattle had two really close picks back to back in the fifth round, so I figured it would be his time more than ever, hedged my bet and waited by their section in the stadium. Sure enough, when he got picked they went crazy. Being able to get a different angle – that in-the-moment reaction – was awesome to capture. When he did get to the stadium, it was really neat just being able to see everybody yelling his name as he was riding in his golf cart to go to the ESPN and NFL Network sets. Everyone from security guards to producers wanted to say hi and congratulate him. A lot of people congratulated his mom. So being able to experience that and just see the love he received from every single person first hand was pretty incredible. ”

What does the average person not know about your job?
DeSalvo: “The amount of people you collaborate with. They don’t understand how many people are contributing to what we’re putting out there. The amount of edits that can happen. The amount of stuff that’s done on the fly. You have to be so reactionary in this business. You always have to be on. I mean, I had no idea when Alabama was giving their rings to their players, and all of a sudden, we’re getting bombarded by people, including Alabama players, tagging us in pictures of their rings. I’m flattered they are thinking about us, but to be able to pivot on the fly and come up with some replies to people, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not just a job. There’s a lot more to it than just having fun and posting messages, and sometimes it’s very tough to turn it off. Social media can consume your life. Shout out to my wife, Jessica, for putting up with me in this field. I know she enjoys seeing me love what I do, but I can’t appreciate her enough.”

Naidus: “Probably the amount of hours that go into it. I’ve had drafts where I’ve worked over 50 hours in three days. The preparation that goes into it from a content perspective – how prepared you have to be on the front end in order to succeed as everything is happening. It’s not just grabbing a cool video as a guy walks by. I would be shocked if any team has a heads up on who their picks are. I had no idea who we were taking this year. In the six years I’ve done this, I’ve only had a heads up once for a first-round pick. People probably think, ‘Oh if he works for the team, he probably knows.’ Not really. It doesn’t really work like that.”

Your role means you’re often the voice of your team. How do you feel about having that responsibility?
DeSalvo: “I’m in a unique position because I’m an alumnus of the school I work for. People give back to their alma maters in different ways: monetarily, service and by working there. I feel like this is the biggest way I’ve been able to give back to UCF – a school that’s been a part of my life since day one with my dad graduating from the Class of ’75. I’m able to utilize my passion on a daily basis because I’m a fan, too. Whenever we’re putting out messages and we’re ‘yelling’ in all caps, it’s because we feel that way. I’m not just putting that out to fake emotion. It’s real. And that’s what awesome because there are so many people who work here and graduated from here who feel the same way. Being at the controls of us in our golden years right now, that’s something that I wouldn’t change for the world. It’s my way of giving back to my alma mater in maybe one of the most unique ways possible.”

Naidus: “There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of pressure, so it’s a little nerve-wracking, but it’s exciting, too, and it has offered me a lot of unique opportunities. Last year we drafted Haason Reddick, and I was sitting at the press conference next to his mother, who was crying because her son realized his dream. In that moment, it’s hard not to get choked up. Being a part of such a special day for people who have worked their whole lives toward something, it’s really cool to be a part of that.”

Share your most memorable behind-the-scenes moment from this year’s draft.
DeSalvo: “I think it was riding in the freight elevator with the Griffin family and getting the picture where I said, yup you guys broke twitter. It was just so quiet. Nobody was really talking, and they decided to go through their phones and check social media really quick. I’ve always wanted a picture like that because I was envisioning in my head it would look cool in black and white. Weirdly, two of the top moments of my career have happened in a freight elevator. The other was my first trip to New York City last year and riding in the freight elevator at Madison Square Garden standing next to Johnny Dawkins. I remember thinking to myself, he’s probably ridden in this elevator so many times, and knowing the kind of people who have gone through this elevator. So it came full circle again this weekend. That moment was definitely up there.”

Naidus: “The coolest aspect for me was how quickly and efficiently our social media team produced content. The person that leads our efforts with social media videos, Jesse, was working his first NFL Draft. While this was the second draft for our social graphics guy, Jackson, this was the first time he was responsible for creating the bulk of our graphics for the draft. Over the three days, there is so much information and so much content, it can get overwhelming at times. I thought they handled it incredibly well. Their sense of accomplishment after the last pick was made was a great moment. I thought our entire broadcasting/digital department, which we fall under, churned out great content pieces for various mediums leading up to and during the NFL Draft.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – March 26, 2018

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.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – Feb. 26, 2018

Blake Bortles will suit up for the Jacksonville Jaguars through 2020

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.

UCF Grad’s Life With Knightro

Michael Callahan ’05 ‘09MBA ‘17EdD , center, has served as Knightro’s head coach for more than a decade (photo courtesy of Chris Schubert ’92)

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 14, 2017) – When Michael Callahan ’05 ’09MBA ’17EdD graduates this weekend with his third degree from UCF – a doctorate in higher educational leadership – those in the audience at CFE Arena likely won’t notice any difference between him and the others receiving their diplomas.

And that’s exactly what he has been accustomed to in his double life as Knightro’s head coach and a former mascot.

“You walk out of the tunnel on game day, and people are screaming Knightro. I walk into a building and people ignore me. It’s night and day difference,” Callahan said. “When you get that much attention, I have seen through this program that one individual has the ability to make change if they want to.”

Before his senior year of high school, the Massachusetts native was visiting his grandmother in Leesburg, and she encouraged him to visit “this college that’s in the newspaper.” After touring UCF and learning more about its affordability and academic programs, Callahan knew he had found his school.

His decision led to one of the longest relationships of his life: Knightro.

After seeing the beloved mascot perform at some football games, Callahan thought it looked like a fun job and tried out for the team in the spring. He said he made the cut not because he had the best skillset, but because the coach believed in his dedication.

“He saw something in me from a work ethic standpoint that he just couldn’t turn me away,” Callahan said. “That changed my life for the future.”

Michael Callahan as Knightro in his undergraduate days

Now he’s the one in charge of selecting the talent and team that brings Knightro to life.

He has had to juggle his career as the director of information systems with the Burnett Honors College; his personal life as a husband and father of three (including 3-year-old twins!); and years of classes and coursework in his pursuit of master’s and doctoral degrees.

But he’s been showing up every day, without fail, for the last 12 years – ever since UCF’s spirit program head coach Linda Gooch ’85 asked him to come say a few inspirational words to the team and offer some advice. When he showed up to practice, she introduced him to the group as Knightro’s new head coach.

“That’s when it hit me, ‘Huh, I’ve taken on a coaching responsibility,’” he said.

Gooch laughed playfully: “I have my ways.”

In her defense, she knew he was the man for the job. Gooch said one of the most challenging aspects of serving as Knightro’s head coach is finding the right team of student performers.

“The interesting thing about selecting a mascot is if you were in a room with them, you might pick out the guy who is the cut up or who seems really funny. But a lot of these kids are reserved and quiet in person. And then you put that head on them, and they transform. He’s able to see those qualities that we need,” she said. “His true gift is empowering the people who are part of the program to be able to work together as a team. It is truly a labor of love for him, no question about it.”

Their weekly routine consists of two practices a week. They work on skits for game day and practice flag waving, his walk and his signature. They discuss scheduling for the most popular guy on campus. And over the years, they’ve had to implement social media strategies or learn the latest dance crazes.

On game days, in addition to critiquing the student’s performances, Callahan is in charge of maintaining Knightro’s minute-by-minute schedule from tailgate appearances to his on-field antics.

“During tryouts, the first thing I preface to everyone, when you think about it logically with other sports it makes sense: the football team plays for three hours on Saturday, but how much time do they spend in the weight room and practice and video and everything else?” he said. “This is no different than any other sport. You have meetings. You have to do costume repair and practice and planning. You will spend more time outside of costume to get ready for that one-hour event or game day.”

While it is exciting to be part of the game day atmosphere and athletics’ daily life, Callahan said his favorite aspect of the job has always been the community involvement.

Gooch recalled that when he was a student, Callahan made a personal goal to log 100 events in the community in one year in addition to his responsibilities and duties at athletic events.

“When you think about it, you’re basically doing an event every three days,” she said. “He was an awesome guy. So dedicated and really helped us to develop the program as a mascot himself.”

His longstanding history of love and commitment to Knightro has even resulted in a children’s book called “Hello, Knightro!” which was published in 2013. Callahan credits his wife, fellow alumna Lauren, for making the book a reality.

Michael and his wife, Lauren, wrote the children’s book “Hello, Knightro!”

“Everybody who is a UCF fan that sees it thinks it’s the coolest thing out there. It’s a good feeling to know you’re touching people in the community and making a positive change. Hopefully in a few years the children who grew up reading the book will want to come here,” he said.

Perhaps some future Knightros will be among those children. For Callahan, that’s what it all comes back to – the students.

“Working with all the students is a great reward, and I’m only able to do it because of what UCF has done for me,” Callahan said. “It’s my way of saying thank you.”

Five Funds Alumni Need to Know For Giving Tuesday

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.

 

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—June 13

1. A mural was painted in the heart of campus as a tribute to two Knights who died at Pulse Nightclub in honor of the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. It was designed by artists Michael Pilato and Yuriy Karabash and features UCF student Juan Ramon Guerrero and two-time alumnus Christopher Andrew “Drew” Leinonen.

2. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and author of the bestseller “Lean In,” will be on campus June 27 at 7:30 p.m. to take part in a conversation with alumnus George A. Kalogridis, president of the Walt Disney World Resort. Tickets for the event are available through Eventbrite.com, and in addition to a guaranteed seat, all ticket holders will also receive an autographed version of Sandberg’s new book, “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.”

3. You may have heard that tickets to TEDx Orlando – featuring two Knights – are SOLD OUT, but we’ve got you covered. If you didn’t claim a ticket to this coveted event, join us for a LIVE simulcast of TEDx Orlando at the Pop Parlour UCF location on June 24 at 2 p.m. RSVP here.

4. It was a record-setting year in fund-raising for UCF Athletics as the Knights have received more than $10 million in cash gift revenues from fund-raising in the 2016-17 fiscal year and strive to reach $10.5 million by the end of June. Learn more.

5. Here’s a heartwarming story just in time for Father’s Day. Yina Wu ’14 and her husband, fellow UCF doctoral student Qing Cai, thanked UCF engineer professor Mohamed Abdel-Aty for his role in the start of their relationship by naming their son after him. Abdel-Aty said he was surprised and honored that the 3-month-old was named after him, and a picture of the baby and himself sits on his desk alongside one of Cai and Wu’s wedding.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—March 6

1. UCF Athletics basically won everything last week. Here’s a rundown of what happened from Feb. 27 (when we last posted Five Things) to today:
• Feb 28: Baseball trounced the No. 2 Florida Gators, 11-2, in front of the third-largest crowd (3,852) to see a game at the UCF Baseball Complex
• March 1: Softball picked up a road win at Florida Gulf Coast.
• March 2: Men’s basketball wrapped up the fourth seed and a first-round bye in the American Athletic Conference Championship thanks to the Knights’ win at USF in the regular season finale. The Knights now lead the Bulls in the War On I4 rivalry series, 30-15.
• March 3-5: Baseball swept Stony Brook over the weekend with three-straight wins to improve their season record to 11-1. The team currently ranks among the top five in the nation for win-loss percentage (.917).
• March 3-5: Softball kept momentum rolling with three wins over the weekend against Providence and Florida Gulf Coast – two of which came off walk-off homers.
• March 5: Rowing collected five first-place finishes in six events to open the spring season and clinch its seventh-straight Robin Yeuell Trophy at the 37th annual Metro Cup in Winter Park.
• March 4: Women’s basketball won its first American Athletic Conference Tournament game in program history to advance to the semifinals.
• March 5: Men’s tennis topped Davidson, 6-1, at the USTA National Campus.
• Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams earned their 20th victories of the season. More than 90 percent of Division I schools can’t claim the same feat in 2016-17.

2. Three alumni were inducted into the College of Business Hall of Fame recently: Sonya Dixon ’96 ’98MBA, chief financial officer and senior vice president at Holiday Inn Club Vacations; Antonio “Tony” Moreno Jr. ’91, managing partner/financial consultant, MPC Wealth Management; and Michael O’Donnell ’09, executive/entrepreneur for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCF. The Hall of Fame is the highest honor given by the college to graduates who have been in the industry for at least 20 years and have brought notoriety to the university through their professional achievements.

3. UCF Theatre alumnus Desmond Newson ’05 snagged a coveted spot in the national tour of the Tony-award winning Broadway musical, “Hamilton.” The tour of “Hamilton” will begin in San Francisco in March, followed by a 21-week run in Los Angeles, with more cities follow, including Orlando, for the 2018-2019 season.

4. The UCF Alumni family grew by two last week when John C. Hitt and his wife, Martha, received the Honorary Alumni Award at the celebration of the president’s 25th anniversary on March 1. It’s a fitting recognition — Hitt has conferred more than 80 percent of all degrees since UCF’s founding in 1963.

5. Recent film grad Dana Pellerin ’16 walked around spreading love around campus while creating an eye-catching video. It seems like a good way to start off the week – check it out for yourself!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Nov. 21

1610soc103-giving-tuesday_facebook-promo

1. Save the date for Giving Tuesday! A wonderful counterpoint to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday began five years ago as a grassroots initiative to remind us all of the true meaning of the holiday season. On Nov. 29, UCF will encourage donations of all sizes to support students in their greatest areas of need. Follow along via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or by using the hashtag #GivingTuesday.

2. It was a busy week for UCF Athletics, so here’s the breakdown:

      • Be proud of UCF student-athletes because they take care of business on and off the field. For the third year in a row, they boast the best graduation rate in nation among public universities.
      • In his first year as head coach, Scott Frost is as been named a national semifinalist for Coach of the Year. The list includes a field of 16 candidates, and the winner will be announced on Dec. 29.
      • Speaking of football coaches, UCF honored retired coach George O’Leary at the last home game of the season on Saturday, unveiling a statue and presenting him with a commemorative football on the field.
      • It’s rivalry week! The War on I-4 matchup against USF is set for noon Saturday on CBS Sports Network. The football trophy was revealed Sunday, and fans can view it first-hand and take pictures with it before Saturday’s game in the Bulls Zone, located near stadium Lot 6 outside of the south end zone. For those keeping tally at home, the Knights currently lead the Bulls, 15-9, for bragging rights in the year-long rivalry competition involving 14 sports. The winning university will take possession of the season-long trophy to display on its campus for the following year.

tacko-award

  • UCF Men’s Basketball big man Tacko Fall was unstoppable against defending national champion and nationally ranked Villanova in the Gildan Charleston Classic Championship game Sunday night. Fall was selected to the All-Tournament Team after he tied the school record for field goal percentage in a game, sinking all 10 of his shot attempts – by the way, the record was last set in 1980 – to finish with 20 points and 13 rebounds.

3. The Knights Helping Knights Pantry expanded its services to include rentable blazers. The blazer-rental service joins other clothing resources offered at KHK Pantry. Students also can pick out to keep five donated business attire items and enough donated casual attire items to meet their need. For those interested in donating food, toiletries or clothing, donations can be dropped off at the Pantry in Ferrell Commons or at donation boxes located around campus.

4. Happy 40th Anniversary, School of Public Administration! On Nov. 14, both Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer proclaimed it “UCF School of Public Administration Day.” Throughout the past 40 years, the School of Public Administration has produced multiple generations of public service professionals. Read more about this wonderful program here.

5. Knights have been making headlines recently in the Orlando Sentinel:

UCF Student-Athletes Crush the Competition

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

AAC-Team-Excellence-Awards-2015

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.