How to be One of “Thirty Under Thirty”

Last week was a killer. The College hosted ten events that required my attendance, including two in Tampa. To make matters even more challenging I had four different engagements on Friday, including two dinners. (If you’re not careful, you can gain a lot of weight on this job.) Yet, I ended up spending Friday night at an event that wasn’t our own: The UCF Alumni Association’s ” Thirty Under Thirty” Awards Dinner.

The event recognizes UCF’s rising stars. We had seven award winners, the most of any school. That should have been enough motivation for me to attend, but to be perfectly honest I went to share a table and celebrate with one of my favorite people: Bridget Downes Keefe. The College bought a table too, so I could invite some ambassadors along to network with our most successful young alums. 

Bridget is a Rosen College alum and did her graduate work in public administration at UCF. When I arrived in 2012, she was a junior development officer in the College who was transitioning to a role in alumni relations: development I was told by others, just wasn’t her thing. After I shook some things up staff wise, Bridget got to work with Tiffany Hughes on our 50th Anniversary celebration. It’s not easy to live up to Tiffany’s standards: she either kills you or makes you stronger. Some administrative assistants have run off screaming. Bridget blossomed. Her enthusiasm became contagious. People wanted to be around her. Alumni relations rocked. She was constantly coming to me with new ideas and working tirelessly to make them a success.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before she outgrew the job. Alumni relations is one of those areas with limited upward mobility. To move up, you have to move out. So Bridget got out of her comfort zone and used the extensive professional network she had built while Director of Alumni Relations to land a job as Executive Director of the Downtown Orlando Partnership. Not only did Bridget’s network help her transition to a new job, that same network is one of her best assets in her new role as primary promoter of downtown. Bridget reports to a 17 member board, has grown the organization’s membership, and has built her own support staff. Yes, Bridget now has people. With all those new and long-standing connections (she thanked seven mentors and had 121 likes on her Facebook post about the award) to go with her record of accomplishments, I’m guessing it won’t be long before opportunity knocks on her door again.

So, I’m sure it was extra sweet for Bridget to be honored by the very group that gave her a path to early success. And, despite my killer week there wasn’t any other place I wanted to be that night. I hope the ambassadors in attendance took note: the path to success is rarely traveled alone. To use Bridget’s words from her Facebook post, “it’s filled with mentors and cheerleaders” who help you along the way. Being awesome, contagious, and results-oriented doesn’t hurt either. You keep going girl, the stars are just the beginning.