What is your current job title and responsibilities (please make sure we know your College, Department, etc.)?
Office Manager for the UCF Arboretum, Instructor in the Department of Biology, College of Sciences
What is your history at UCF? (past job titles, responsibilities)
After graduating high school, I first came to UCF in the summer of 2002 as an undeclared undergraduate student. After taking a class with Ms. DeLaine Priest, I decided I would major in Liberal Studies (now Interdisciplinary Studies) focusing on biology, behavioral & social sciences, and Spanish. After obtaining my bachelor’s degree in 2006 and taking advantage of various environmental internships, I had the pleasure of joining the UCF Arboretum in May of 2008 as an OPS employee. I started at 20 hours and by the end of the first week I was working 40! After a year and a half, I became Office Manager which allowed me to oversee volunteers, lead guided tours, and plan projects and events. In 2010, while still working full time, I began to work part time towards my Professional Science Master’s degree in Conservation Biology. In August of 2013 I completed the degree and have since begun teaching for the Biology Department and continuing to grow the program at the Arboretum!
What is your favorite UCF memory?My favorite UCF memory was when I was challenged with organizing the commencement of the UCF Arboretum Community Garden. I’ll never forget the first day, February 21st 2009. We had over 80 students and community members join us to work the land and plant the crops! Since then I have had so many great memories in the garden, have learned so much, and, for that, I am forever grateful.
If you could change one thing at UCF, what would it be? ($ and time no object)
If I could change one thing at UCF, I would make all students complete at least 30 hours of volunteering to graduate. Volunteering is a form of civic engagement that builds community, facilitates learning, and contributes to our wealth in social capital. Volunteering is something I believe in and strive to do regardless of how busy I am; that is why I think all students should be obligated to experience what it means to volunteer.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with your colleagues?
Kindness matters. Even when you have had a bad day or a rough patch and things aren’t going as you may have expected or planned, be fair. As role-models for the students and our community, it is important that we strive to be kind and fair in our everyday lives.
What is your favorite restaurant or food?
Food is so important to me! The reason why I began gardening was because I love to eat, cook and have fresh food around all the time. This is a very hard question because like a mother loves all her children- equally- I love various foods for different reasons. That being said, my favorite foods are fresh, local, in season, and cooked to perfection.
If UCF was going to name something in your honor, what would you like it to be and why?
I would be beside myself if UCF would honor me by naming a new Arboretum facility after me. The Arboretum program has always tried to make the most out of our portable trailer and we are so thankful for all the progress we have made inside of that office. However, a new facility would enhance exposure, learning, and grow the program. Such a facility, built in my honor, would be a huge milestone in my life.
If you could have lunch with anyone at UCF (who you do not normally eat lunch with), who would you choose and why?
If I could have lunch with anyone at UCF I would choose to eat with the President of the Student Government Association because I genuinely care about the concerns of students. I would want to know the initiatives they are working on, in what manner they are representing the student body, and why they chose to run for SGA president.
Who at UCF would you like to thank for your success?
For my success, I thankful to so many people! To name a few: My family, friends, and boyfriend, Leon; the students for challenging me and giving me drive, Dr. Rani Vajravelu for inspiring me, Dr. Ross Hinkle, Ms. Jennifer Elliott, Dr. David Jenkins, Dr. Patrick Bohlen, Ms. Catherine Bowman, Dr. Laurence VonKalm, Dr. Linda Walters, Dr. Peter Jacques, Mr. Frank Logiudice, and the late Mr. Martin Haux. All these people and so many more have contributed to my success, thank you so much for all you do!
Name and describe a teacher or researcher from your past who truly inspired you and why.
Dr. Rani Vajravelu is an amazing botanist, professor, photographer, and all around great woman. Her classes are challenging, the content is dense, but she makes it fun and exciting. When I took her ethnobotany course during my undergraduate degree I was so excited to learn about plants. I always had a passion for nature and the environment, but in her class I really began to grasp the profound diversity that exists in nature, and that truly inspired me! I have had the pleasure of continuing to work with Dr. Rani in many capacities and will forever use the skills and lessons she has taught me.
What undergraduate or graduate class/program/experience inspired you the most and why?
To complete my master’s degree, I interned with the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) and wrote a research report. The internship had many facets, however focused on adding specimens to the University of South Florida ATLAS plant database. This database is used by botanists world-wide, is very reputable, and provides key information about plants. However, there are is a grave need for biologists to contribute reliable information and specimens collected from the field. Participating in this project enabled me to use my existing skills, but inspired me because it allowed me to learn so much, make connections in the community, and immerse myself in the field of botany.