1. Thursday is a BIG day on campus. First up, UCF Day of Giving encourages people to make a gift to what they love at UCF. The goal is to reach 1,000 donors in 24 hours. Whether you’re a first-time donor or a loyal annual donor, we need your support to achieve this ambitious goal that will help to ensure a strong future for UCF.
The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the 12-member State University System, is scheduled to interview Provost and Executive Vice President Dale Whittaker and hold a confirmation vote for the president-elect on March 29, and UCF Football will also hold its pro day.
2. UCF Athletics is hosting a yard sale prior to the Spring Game on April 21. Each of UCF’s 16 sports programs will have items available for sale, including polos/golf shirts, T-shirts footwear (cleats and other athletic shoes) and game jerseys.
3. Speaking of the Spring Game, the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center will host its first-ever Spring Game Indoor Tailgate on April 21 from 3-5 p.m. in celebration of our first-year head coach Josh Heupel! Just like the regular season tailgates, all UCF alumni (with driver’s license or valid ID) and their guests are welcome to attend this free event!
In honor of President John C. Hitt’s 26 years of service to UCF, we are also encouraging Knights to submit their best Hitt-selfies and well-wishes before his retirement from the presidency in June. Visit ucfalumni.com/greatesthitts to submit your heartfelt regards and photos, which will be shared with the man, myth and legend himself.
4. Last week, UCF announced the names of two new colleges and a new interdisciplinary, inter-college school, which are part of an academic reorganization. The new names of the colleges and school are: College of Health Professions and Sciences; College of Community Innovation and Education; and Nicholson School of Communication and Media.
5. The university’s faculty and staff believe in UCF, so much so that 1,870 of them donated to this year’s annual fundraising campaign during the month of February. Campaign results were announced last week. They raised nearly $71,000 in support of first-generation scholarships alone and also contributed to areas such as Knights Helping Knights Pantry, WUCF TV and the student emergency fund.
Bonus: Were you born to be a superhero? Take a 2-minute break this Monday and find out from this quiz. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
1. UCF’s Presidential Search Committee selected four finalists for UCF’s next transformational leader, and each finalist will visit UCF to meet with students, faculty, alumni, donors and community partners and also will give a presentation at an open forum. The campus community and public are invited to attend presentations by each of the candidates scheduled for March 2 and March 6-8. Attendees will be able to provide feedback. Visit www.ucf.edu/presidentsearch to learn more about the finalists and their soon-to-be scheduled visits.
2. DUUUVAL! Former UCF football great Blake Bortles signed a contract extension over the weekend with the Jacksonville Jaguars to lead the team through the 2020 season. “This is definitely the place I wanted to be,” the quarterback said, also citing personal reasons such as Jacksonville being close to his hometown of Oviedo, Florida.
3. Radio-TV alumna and former Order of Pegasus recipient Kaitlyn Chana ’13 overcame three eating disorders from the time she was in middle school until she was ready to get help in college. Now, she’s using her experience to help others and raise awareness for mental health. Check out this National Eating Disorders Week spotlight
4. UCF has brought in 1,575 new football season ticket accounts since Jan. 1, its highest amount since the stadium first opened in 2007. Season ticket renewals are also around 90 percent sold. Shannon Green breaks down all the rewards from the best football season in school history in this Orlando Sentinel article.
5. FAIRWINDS Credit Union will fund a new $1.1 million endowed professorship for a proposed UCF FinTech program, the first of its kind in the State University System. The gift to benefit financial-technology education, to be fulfilled over the next eight years, was announced Feb. 20.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
On June 12, the UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception celebrated its eighth year recognizing some of the UCF Alumni Association’s most active volunteers for their countless acts of generosity and numerous volunteer hours. Hosted by the UCF Community Volunteers Alumni Chapter, these awards focus on public service and the importance of giving back.
The event kickstarted the alumni association’s Chapter and Club Council Meeting weekend, during which alumni chapter and club volunteers from across the nation gathered to discuss plans for the upcoming year.
Todd Bowers, ’77, a graduate of the College of Business Administration, who serves on the college’s Dean’s Advisory Council, the UCF Athletics Association Board of Directors, the UCF Foundation Finance Committee and the UCF Inclusive Education Team, was the evening’s master of ceremonies. Anthony Jenkins, Ph.D., UCF’s senior associate vice president and dean of students, was also in attendance as a guest speaker for the festivities.
Ivette has been chair of the Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter for the past four years. With her leadership, the chapter grew from 10 active members to nearly 50, and its Facebook page has increased to more than 400 followers.
“Our chapter’s mission is to create a home away from home for alumni, and I stress the importance of making those connections during every board meeting and through my actions,” she says. “It’s important that we make alumni feel welcome. I think that passion is what has helped our club evolve into a chapter in one year, and keeps alumni coming to our monthly events and watch parties.”
The other nominees included: Eric Braga, ’00, Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter; Chris Brown, ’05, Tampa Bay UCF Alumni Chapter; Samantha Malone, ’04, Denver UCF Alumni Chapter; Thomas Marron, ’86, New York UCF Alumni Chapter; and Sara Singer, ’10, Southeast Florida UCF Alumni Chapter
Matthew just completed his third year as chair of the Southwest Florida UCF Alumni Club. Under his guidance, the club has seen a significant increase in its watch party attendance, as well as its Senior Sendoff event, after which other clubs now model their Senior Sendoffs.
“I look at this as a job,” he says. “Every day is another opportunity to enhance UCF’s brand, and I try to do something for the club each and every day.”
The other nominees included: Bakari Dowdell, ’14, Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club; and Becky Koziuk, ’03, Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club
After serving a six-year term on the UCF Alumni Association Board of Directors, Dan returned this year to chair the public relations committee, developing strategies to increase awareness and relevance of the association and the Knights it serves.
“We’ve brought additional structure to the PR committee this year, and added a team of dedicated volunteers who give of their time and help us promote the association,” he says.
Mark currently serves as vice chair of the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter. Along with a fellow chapter member, he championed the college’s new Career Kickoff, which became a signature event for the chapter.
“I believe in direct engagement between students and alumni for the benefit of both,” he says. “As alumni, we can provide great insight, skills, training, guidance and contacts for the students. In return, the students infuse us with passion and energy for our university and our profession.”
The other nominees included: Tom Alexander, ’03, UCF Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Chapter; and Tiffany Carrion, ’08, UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter
Constituent Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Crystal Buit, ’06, UCF Community Volunteers Chapter
This past year, Crystal served as chair of the UCF Community Volunteers Chapter. Like other volunteer leaders, she says she wanted the year to be a success and had a passion for outreach and engagement, being sure to personally connect with as many alumni as she could at each event, letting them know she was thankful for their participation and welcomed their future involvement.
“I hope I have positively impacted the association by creating opportunities for alumni to reconnect with one another, while reminding those in the community of UCF’s tremendous and generous alumni presence and base,” Crystal says.
The other nominee was: Justina Oldehoff, ’09, UCF Young Alumni Chapter
Jill has been a 4EVER Knights Ambassador for the past three years. During her junior year, she served as secretary of the 4EK officer board. She also chaired Knights of Legend, 4EK’s annual networking event for students and alumni. This past year, she served as the student alumni association’s president.
“As an ambassador, I’m only required to work 50 hours’ worth of events,” Jill says. “Yet, I attend everything — every meeting, every event, every social gathering — regardless of whether I need the hours. It’s not that I don’t have coursework or law school applications or family obligations waiting for me at home. It’s just that I want to be the kind of outstanding leader who inspires those who follow through my actions rather than my words.”
The other nominee was: Mackenzie Chase, 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassador
In addition, three alumni were honored with Shining Armor Awards, recognizing their chivalry to the 4EVER KNIGHTS program and the 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors by donating their time and talent to help 4EK succeed.
As UCF Football prepares for its final game of the season, facing the N.C. State Wolfpack in the 2014 Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26, it also prepares to say goodbye to 21 seniors, who helped the team win back-to-back AAC championships and earn three consecutive bowl invitations.
While fans may know each player’s number and position, and be familiar with his performance on the field, what they may not know is how each got there.
One of those seniors is the Knights’ No. 19 wide receiver, Josh Reese, ’14, from Miami Central High School, whose energizing 30-yard reception, followed by Quarterback Justin Holman’s keeper, helped to briefly put UCF ahead of Penn State in the last two minutes of Ireland’s Croke Park Classic on Aug. 30.
“He’s really the one guy who sticks out as being the leader of the receiving group,” says UCF Wide Receivers Coach Sean Beckton, ’93. “He’s the one guy you can count on to go out and do everything right.”
In addition to his physical abilities, part of Reese’s success is also thanks to his First Generation Scholarship. He’s one of about 75 UCF student-athletes who receive financial assistance to help them succeed as the first person in their families to attend college.
“Having a First Generation Scholarship helped me get to college in general,” Reese says. “It also made it possible for me to go to a bigger and better college like UCF, and not only play football, but achieve a degree.”
Reese completed his bachelor’s degree in sport and exercise science this past summer.
“Everything that he’s gotten thus far, as far as the recognition here, he’s deserving of it, because he’s worked extremely hard,” Beckton says.
And, Reese isn’t the only UCF student-athlete who works hard on the field and off. The graduation rate of UCF’s student-athletes is 95 percent — the highest rate in the country among public institutions and fifth overall.
The graduate rate for UCF Football, specifically, is 90 percent, which is 10th overall among football programs and second among public institutions. The program has also won the Academic Excellence Award for having the highest GPA in the conference for the past three years.
“It’s always good to give back to people who may not have opportunities to go to college and beyond,” Reese says. “Never count out anyone.”