Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—April 17

1. Not much of a surprise — UCF Football announced last week the name change of Bright House Networks Stadium to Spectrum Stadium. The first event to be held in the building under the Spectrum Stadium name will be UCF’s annual Spring Game, which is taking place Saturday at 6:30 p.m. There is a full day of events surrounding Spectrum Stadium prior to the Spring Game, with the second UCFastival slated to get started at 11 a.m. Learn more about the UCFastival lineup.

2. The city of Orlando’s newly created Creative Village Development Review Committee on April 11 approved UCF’s plan for the $60 million Dr. Phillips Academic Commons, which will house programs for both UCF and Valencia College and more. It has been described as what will become “the heart of UCF Downtown.” A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for May 11 and construction likely will start this summer. Here’s where you can find more information about the plans.

3. Keep an eye on UCF’s women’s golf team, who is ranked No. 28 in the nation. The Knights are currently in the lead on day two of the American Athletic Conference Championship after setting a tournament record with a combined score of 284 (-6) Sunday. UCF captured the crown in 2015 and hopes to reclaim it Tuesday.

4. UCF’s first patent application was filed 30 years ago this month, and since then, the university has made a name for itself nationally in regards to innovation. Learn more about the history of patents at UCF and goals for the future in this story.

5. Shoutout to Keith Sutliff ’10, who premiered his film “The Mason Brothers” in Hollywood last week. Sutliff graduated with a degree in criminal justice and his credits for the film include writer, director, actor and producer. Check out the trailer below.

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 this Week—April 10


Courtesy of Tony Firriolo
1. Season tickets for the 2017 UCF Football campaign are now on sale. Several new seating options are available to fans for the upcoming season. Included in the new offerings are a family plan, a number of sections now available in the south end zone, an even lower price for access to the Carl Black & Gold Cabana and a new Stadium Club.

Don’t forget, the 2017 UCFastival and Spring Game are around the corner on April 22.

2. Other news out of Athletics: The Knights will face off annually against a new league foe. Wichita State will join the American Athletic Conference in men’s and women’s basketball and Olympic sports beginning July 1.

3. UCF Celebrates the Arts got a thumbs up in the Orlando Sentinel. The team’s production of “Oklahoma!” was praised for its collaboration. Read the story here.

4. Flags will be at half-staff and a remembrance ceremony will take place Tuesday in the Pegasus Ballroom of the Student Union for an Eternal Knights Memorial Service honoring 18 students who passed away in the past 12 months. One of those students is Kailyn Jones, whose legacy is living on through scholarships.

5. A group of UCF students is working to develop a robot that could revolutionize the medical industry. The robot is intended to assist doctors in performing precise medical procedures. Doctors will input start and endpoint markers on the human body, and the robot will follow instructions. “We have outstanding students, and I think they are the future workforce,” said Zhihua Qu, a professor who is leading the group. “And while they’re studying, they can already make a contribution.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—April 3

1. UCF Celebrates the Arts, an annual showcase featuring an interactive exhibition of student artwork, starts Friday at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. To get your ready for your days at the theatre, read this alumni spotlight on Desmond Newson, who scored a role in the national tour of “Hamilton,” which began in San Francisco in March.

Also, check out the complete UCF Celebrates The Arts schedule.

2. The Board of Governors approved the UCF Lake Nona Medical Center late last week. Construction is pending a final state agency approval but could begin as early as 2020. This will mark a new era for our community, our students, our faculty and our researchers. Read more here.

3. The next time you settle in for a night of Netflix-ing, consider watching “The Discovery.” The new release featuring Robert Redford, Jason Segel and Rooney Mara was written by film alumnus Justin Lader ’06.

4. Do you know someone in need of some financial help for college? UCF Alumni awards more than $50,000 in scholarships every year. The deadline for scholarship applications is April 5. Learn more about how to apply, criteria, etc. at

5. Baseball won its conference-opening series against No. 11 Houston over the weekend. The Knights are back in action at home on Wednesday against Stetson at 6:30 p.m before heading to Tampa this weekend for the War On I4 against USF.

Speaking of the War On I4, UCF added to its commanding lead, 36-15, thanks to the No. 39 men’s tennis team’s 4-2 win over No. 26 USF on Saturday’s Senior Day. USF is the fourth top-30 opponent that the Black and Gold has knocked off this season.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Feb. 20

1. Five alumni recently won regional Emmy awards of excellence for their work in television this past year. Among the accomplished group is Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame inductee Marla Weech ’79.

2. UCF partnered with Orange County Fire Rescue to launch two lifesaving apps, PulsePoint Respond and PulsePoint AED, late last week. The apps support first-responding agencies like Orange County Fire Rescue by encouraging CPR-trained citizens to respond to sudden cardiac arrest incidents as emergency crews are en route. Both applications are available as free downloads on mobile devices.

3. SAVE THE DATE for UCF Celebrates The Arts. The university’s annual showcase of student and faculty presentations will return April 7-14 to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando. The eight days of music, performances and visual displays are open to the public for free. For a sneak peek of the lineup of events, click here.

4. ICYMI, students from UCF’s College of Nursing delivered one-of-a-kind teddy bears to hospitalized children to make the week of Valentine’s Day a little sweeter. Although the college is finished taking orders for this year’s distribution of bears, it intends to make this an annual event. Take one look at this picture, and you’ll see why:

5. The College of Sciences Distinguished Speaker Series resumes this week with a talk on “2015 Homicide Rise and the ‘Ferguson Effect.’” The event, which is open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Tuscawilla Country Club (1500 Winter Springs Blvd., Winter Springs, FL 32708).

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

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
  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!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 4, 2016

(From No. 5 below:) Palmer Vorkapich, a 6-year-old patient at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, lights up during a visit from Ion, a therapy dog owned by UCF College of Medicine student Christa Zino.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Knights had much to be proud of last year! Check out just a few of them in this list from UCF Today of the “15 Moments that Made Your Heart Burst with Knight Pride in 2015.”
  2. With $20 million needed in community support for the UCF Downtown campus, alumnus and CEO Alex Martins, ’01, and the Orlando Magic stepped up, contributing $1.5 million toward the project. And, just this morning, it was announced that the CFE Federal Credit Union has committed its own $1.5 million. Keep up with all the latest developments on the UCF Downtown campus at
  3. UCF economist Sean Snaith says Florida’s economic future is merry and bright, with the state’s housing market continuing to improve, and job growth forecasted to continue to outperform the U.S. labor market.
  4. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected a UCF team to receive a P3 Award — a first in UCF history — which recognizes student projects that benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet by using environmental solutions that move the nation toward a sustainable future. The winning project focuses on ways to make algae biofuel easier and less expensive to produce.
  5. To help cheer up patients at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, UCF second-year medical student Christa Zino regularly brings her therapy dog, a 2-year-old boxer named Ion, for visits.