Charge On New Knights

Every semester at UCF we send a group of newly-minted Knights into the world to do battle.   Like our student body as a whole, our Ambassadors arrive here from very different paths.  They have different expectations about what they want from a college experience and different aspirations about where they want to go.  The experience of being an Ambassador changes them and gives them a different perspective as they leave us to embrace their next challenge.  Before they go, Jennifer and I want to share some observations on the five students that are graduating Friday.

Jordan Less –  Both Jennifer and I have seen a great deal of growth with Jordan.  Things didn’t always come easy for him as a student but he persevered and has reached his goal of graduating with an Accounting degree.  Next semester he starts the MSA program.   We have no doubt that he will make a fine CPA. Jordan has a great deal of pride in the Ambassador program and believes in the culture of engagement we have here in the College.  He rose to be chair of the group this semester and has served for two years on the committee charge with recruiting the next group of Ambassadors.  During new ambassadors interviews this semester, he was asked what he likes most about the program and he said, “it’s fun, I honestly enjoy coming to each meeting and it was never a burden to serve.  This group has become my friends”.

Michael Silverman – Most student enjoy the Ambassador program because they want to make an impact. All you really need to know about Micheal, can be summed up in one story Jennifer shared with me:  During The Invitational– an event where students meet potential employers,  Micheal gave up time to network, so that he could personally escort a blind student around to meet employers.  The student received a job and is doing exceptionally well.   Michael is going into real estate and would like to be an entrepreneur…   There may be few houses to flip as he begins his journey.

Valerie Chidester – Jennifer describes Valerie as her strong and steady ambassador.  She stepped outside her comfort zone and rose to every occasion we asked of her.  Valerie is accountable, coach-able,  hard-working and committed. She will be very valuable to any team.  We can’t wait to see where she begins her career, maybe marketing, possibly recruiting.

Jane Tarasionak – Jane took over Ambassador relations and kept the morale up in the group during a challenging semester with lots of different perspectives and points of view.  Accountability is important to her and she stayed on track and remained committed to the program.  Jane brought a lot of new ideas and was always there to offer recommendations or the student perspective.  She is keeping her next move a secret for now, but I’m sure we will know soon.

Geoffrey Amankwah – He made being an international student look easy.  He was our most dapper ambassador, who was always well-dressed for any occasion.  Geoffrey made himself available to mentor students and be a guide to students who are struggling to make their way at the college. Geoffrey,  “Got to the One”  with Verizon, after doing an internships there for the past 7 months, he was offered a full time position.

As these students go their separate ways, it is my hope that each of them carry with them the key lessons of being an ambassador–that diversity of perspective and experience in groups is a strength, that leading requires you to get out of your comfort zone, that the hardest thing to do as a leader is to get people to see the value in a future they have yet to experience, that being engaged always matters and that the friends you make in college are an asset you can draw on for the rest of your life.  Lastly, don’t forget to come back and visit us.  You are, and shall always be, a UCF Knight.  Charge On.


We celebrated the end of our failure competition Friday. Congrats again to Michele Crockett for sharing her story and winning the competition.

The failure competition came about because of an interview on Mike & Mike with Gary Player, a well-known golfer. Mike Greenberg asked Player about the mindset of a champion. Player said something like this: “I would get up every morning look in the mirror and tell myself that I would make some bad shots today. And that some of those bad shots would happen when Tiger Woods was sinking a birdie and everyone was cheering.” He went on to explain that he did this because, then when the bad shots actually happened, they were no big deal. He expected them and his recovery from the bad shot was much better. I thought this was genius.

Saturday night at Spectrum Stadium the Knights showed this same mentality. They made some bad shots in the first half. They gave up more yards than anyone had seen in a half of football. They couldn’t stop the run. They fumbled. And they were behind big. Without McKenzie, many people thought the streak had ended. They were wrong: The team did not panic in the face of adversity. They made some adjustments at halftime. They remained focused, knew what they could do and executed. They were, in a word, resilient– just like Gary Player and Michele Crockett.

So, if you are entering finals week having made a few bad shots this semester, take a lesson from your favorite football team.. Bad shots happen to everyone. Remain focused. Make some halftime adjustments in your game plan. Have confidence in what you can do and execute.

Who Won our Fall 2018 Failure Competition

Poll closes at 5 pm.


Failure Finalist 3: Tommy Pastor

In high school, I knew UCF was my dream school. I applied, and thankfully I was accepted. I was then also invited to join the LEAD Scholars Academy and the Burnett Honors College.

I decided to not commit to joining the Burnett Honors College, but I did decide to accept a position as a member in the LEAD Scholars Academy.

From this opportunity, many others came up. I applied, and each one lead to success.

I applied to be a part of the SGA Student Government Leadership Council (SGLC) and was accepted and later moved into the Executive Leadership Council where I worked with executive officers on different initiatives and events. When I was in this program, there was a position as Relay for Life Captain that my 60 peers within the program unanimously voted for me to serve as.

I applied to be a Resident Assistant and Orientation Team Leader. I was told from the start, that I couldn’t do both, but I was determined and was offered both positions and accepted both.

All of these successes made me feel very determined and eager to do more. I decided to run for an executive position in SGA, which ended up being my first “no” or failure at UCF, and the first big failure in my life really. I then decided to possibly go through the Orientation Team process again as a Student Orientation Coordinator, but also was not given the position, resulting in another “failure”, or so I thought.

Confused, lost, and losing motivation, I didn’t know what to do to keep me engaged and busy. But then one day, I saw a flyer that has already changed my life so much.

I was on Facebook, which I try to stay away from and not spend too much time on, but an online flyer caught my eye.

It was for recruitment events for a business professional fraternity, which I have come to know and love as, Delta Sigma Pi.

I went to my first recruitment event, which was an info session about the fraternity. I told my fellow friend and RA coworker about it and he came too. In that moment, I decided I had made the right choice because the speakers were warm and welcoming and talked about many opportunities that the fraternity had for professional development and more.

I came out to every recruitment event afterward, and convinced another friend to come out as well, and truly enjoyed talking with the brothers and faculty initiates I had met through the process.

Little would I know then that I would be given a bid to pledge for the fraternity. Not only that, but I would become the pledge class president of the Epsilon Theta pledge class.

On top of that, I would grow so close with 20 other students in the College of Business that had been selected to pledge the fraternity. I would be given a big that was always there for me and supported me throughout the entire process, and be placed in a family/brotherhood that truly cared and inspired me to always strive to be the best version of myself.

During recruitment I had many friends at UCF, but not many in the college of business. Deciding to pledge this fraternity connected me with many incredible students in the college of business.

I was also given the opportunity to interview faculty and get to know professors that I will be having in my future courses.

I learned how to network and become more professional in a variety of ways. I revamped my LinkedIn and began renovating my resume and elevator pitch.

My eyes were opened. I had finally found a permanent niche here at UCF that felt like home, with people that feel like family. I had found some of my now best friends who support me and are literally the types of friends I had always dreamed of.

The lesson that can be learned from my story, can be summed up by its title “Failure Leads to a Better Future”. That’s right. Something that feels like a failure in the moment, can lead to a path that was much better for yourself than you could have ever imagined. Remember to learn from failures, and stay focused and determined that the best is yet to come. Some of the greatest leaders and successful people that come to our minds endured many failures to get where they were, and now I can see why. You gain more from failure than you will ever gain from any success.

Failure Finalist 2: Michele Crockett

“Do you plan on even finishing high school?” This was the question I was asked when I found out I was pregnant my Senior year in high school with only 3 months until graduation. With a 3.96 GPA and college offers flooding in the mail daily including Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, Ohio State, and several other colleges, this was considered the failure of my life. My parents were disappointed; my friends shocked; and I was left with a huge question mark as to what my future would hold. Instead of taking my Senior year graduation vacation in Hawaii, I was growing physically and losing perspective mentally.

I decided to take a customer service job at an insurance company owned by Prudential, so I would have insurance to cover the cost of my pregnancy and for my daughter that was soon to make her appearance. Over the next several years I took jobs that were stepping stones to make money to cover my needs and gradually teach me small aspects of different industries from Chase Bank to the Department of Defense. None of these jobs were what I desired to do and certainly not what I thought I would be doing after graduation. There was no fulfillment in my career, just money to get by.

Fast forward twenty years to January 2013 when I took my daughter, Brianna, to her college orientation session to register her for college. It was the day I never had. This was a proud moment for me to see my baby girl start college. As I sat and listened to all the offerings of the college, I thought, “Look at what I missed.” This is when I took a very uncomfortable, life changing step. I enrolled in college at the age of 38 and started that term pursuing a degree in Business Management.

It was not easy. I scheduled classes around my work schedule and my children’s schedules. I sat and did homework with my three children daily. I think they thought is was cool mom was in school but also knew it took up a great deal of time they desired. I was usually the oldest person in the class surrounded by students that were my daughter’s age. At times, I did not relate to their conversations, life goals or outlook. That intimidation caused me to be silent and not say anything on occasions. A degree was the goal so I kept on studying and pushing to the finish line.

One day a professor challenged me to step outside of this silent box and become the President of a new club they were chartering for business students. I was reluctant but interested. With her as an advisor, we grew the club and took several students to Regional and National conferences to learn business acumen, networking skills and how to present themselves in a professional manner. Soon I was speaking in front of the ALPFA Orlando Professional chapter to report the growth of our chapter and learning from professionals with high ranking jobs at New York Life, BNY Mellon and Deloitte to name a few. Through this experience I have gained a great mentor who is a Senior Partner at New York Life in Orlando and became the Director of Academic Affairs for the professional chapter.

Now as I am set to graduate in less than a month, I reflect upon all the great stepping stones that have been laid before me in my unexpected path in life: the challenge of college which pulled me out of my comfort zone; the Entrepreneurship classes which gave me the courage to think outside the box and inspired me to start my own company (Thank you, Dr. Cameron Ford!); and all those that thought I would never be anything but a girl who got pregnant in high school and flushed her opportunities down the toilet. All these experiences have molded me to be the confident business woman that I am today. Also they have helped me be the example to my four children that college is important and can be done at any age. You must simply have the goal, put in the work and never stop being challenged to step out of the box.

On Friday, November 2nd, I signed a strategic alliance with a national company that will partner with my start up business, Kentarus Group Inc. The office building will be ready December 1st and business is already coming in before we officially open our doors. As a building contractor and roofer, we will help those in Central and North Florida keep Orlando beautiful by restoring and building their homes and businesses. The business skills I have learned while at the University of Central Florida have been used to get me to this amazing place in business. I will always be grateful to all those that have given me the skills and knowledge to be where I am today…and I’ll be forever a Knight.

Failure Finalist 1: Gabriel Zayas

In Fall of 2012, I was one semester away from graduating with a BA in Finance. I only had 3 classes left. I was taking a full course load and was ready to finally graduate from college after a long journey that began in 2006.

Unfortunately, Spring 2013 wasn’t my last semester and I didn’t graduate with a Bachelors in Finance. That December, after grades were posted, I received an email informing me that I had been dismissed, not only from the Finance program, but also the College of Business. Initially, I felt shock – that dreadful feeling in the pit of your stomach, followed by anxiety and anxiety. I thought “No, how could this happen.” “What are my parents going to think.”

In the months, that followed, I had little time to stress or fret over what had happened. I was a mixture of depression, regret, anger and bitterness while also redirecting my course at UCF, which involved declaring a new major. I chose Psychology as my new major. I had taken extra Psychology classes at Valencia and figured even a couple classes ahead would be better than starting from square one. I remained in school up until Summer 2014 when I dropped out, moved to Maitland and began working a dead end job, barely affording to get by. I was even more depressed and miserable.

At the end of my rope, I bit the bullet moved back home with my parents, took a part time job and enrolled back in school in 2016.

That summer I ran into a friend from ALPFA who told me that a new RSO had just started up and they were looking to recruit members to be apart of the board. It was then I realized that it was what I missed most. Being involved and helping others make the most of their time at UCF.

This semester I’ll be (finally) graduating with a Bachelors of Psychology, I’ll be stepping down after a year of serving as President of Prospanica UCF and I’m in contention for becoming President of the professional chapter here in Orlando and, of course, looking at different career opportunities.

Last semester, I finally opened up and shared my failure story during an internship panel that Prospanica UCF hosted. I told students about how you really can’t fail bigger than that in college. I told them even though I was devastated, I continued on. I told them that they didn’t have to be perfect to achieve their goals – I surely wasn’t. I told them that they aren’t defined by their failures but by what they learn from them. I told them that in that failure, I found purpose. That I wanted to be the person that I wished I had – someone that would provide guidance and advice for students struggling. I didn’t notice at first, but I looked around the room and everyone’s eyes were locked on me. I had resonated with students in a way I never did before. My story spoke to them, to the struggles of being a college student and the fear of failure.

My mission going forward is to share my story with as many students as possible and to hopefully help students who were just like me – lost and directionless, and in need of some guidance. If I can at least help one student find some direction, then everything I’ve been through won’t be in vain.

Finally, some advice to students on the path to graduation. Get comfortable with failing. It’s a natural part of life. Failing allowed me to be okay with not being a perfectionist, okay with making mistakes and knowing that things might go wrong. That’s okay. Life goes on. Failing forward allows you to progress more than ruminating on those failures and remaining paralyzed. Get out of your comfort zone, put yourself in uncomfortable situations, and fail forward.

Failure Competition Finalists

I don’t think our failure competition finalists got their notice because none of them met the Sunday deadline to submit their videos. So, I’m going to post their stories Tuesday through Thursday with a vote on Friday for the winner. Our finalists are:

Tommy Pastor

Michele Crockett

Gabriel Zayas

Good luck to all our finalists!

It’s Probably Not What You Think

A lot of employers come to the college looking for talent. Most of them are not Google, Amazon, or Disney. They are well established companies with good jobs that students don’t think much about either because they operate outside the realm of their personal experience or because the see only a small part of the overall operations.

These companies know they need to build awareness among students if they are going to meet their recruiting goals. So, they make a commitment to come to the college for a whole day to network and show students the opportunities they have and how those opportunities can help launch students’ careers in ways they did not think about. If you are a student who is unsure of their career path, looking for an internship that will let them explore a career in a certain industry, or are near graduation and still need a job, these day-long events give you plenty of opportunities to explore your options. Think about it, it’s the one time in your life, employers come looking for you! You shouldn’t pass that up.

Tuesday, we host City Furniture. It is one of the fastest growing companies in Central Florida. And, no they all don’t sell furniture on the store floor. Come see what they have to offer… it’s probably not what you think.