20 Knights selected for UCF's highest honor
Today, 20 students were announced as the 2016 recipients of the Order of Pegasus, UCF’s most prestigious award.
The nominees, who were selected from among 80 candidates, comprise nine LEAD Scholars, 12 President’s Leadership Council members, five SGA leaders, 10 Burnett Honors College students, 6 Greek members and one current and one former student athlete, according to a press release from UCF.
Each year, undergraduate students are chosen for the award based on outstanding achievement in academics, university involvement, leadership and community service. Graduate students are chosen based on the same characteristics, as well as publication or research experience.
Winners of the Order of Pegasus will be honored at a ceremony, and their names and photos will be added to the wall on the second floor of the Student Union that showcases past and present recipients. The nominees will also receive medals, scholarships from SGA and a lifetime membership to the UCF Alumni Association, according to the release.
The following list of award recipients appeared in the UCF press release:
• Amy Bonilla Torres, College of Business Administration. Bonilla Torres is majoring in finance, with a minor in international business and leadership. She has already put that education to work as a student coordinator for UCF’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, where she supervises a staff of 15. Bonilla Torres is a founding student ambassador for the College of Business Administration, and serves on the President’s Leadership Council.
• James Briggs, College of Engineering and Computer Science. Briggs is majoring in industrial engineering and minoring in engineering leadership. During his time at UCF, Briggs, an Eagle Scout, has been a tutor in the Office of Academic Services for Student-Athletes and a student government senator. He is a member and former president of Sigma Pi fraternity and the former vice president for recruitment of the UCF Interfraternity Council. Briggs is a member of the President’s Leadership Council.
• Kamillia Crawford, College of Health and Public Affairs. Crawford, who is majoring in legal studies and minoring in business, aerospace studies and leadership studies, plans to attend law school. She is a member of the Air Force ROTC, and hopes to serve as a judge advocate general in the Air Force. Crawford is also a member of the President’s Leadership Council at UCF.
• Julie Deslauriers, College of Sciences. Deslauriers is majoring in biology with a minor in business administration and a certificate in leadership studies. She hopes to be a veterinarian. Deslauriers is a student leader for LEAD Scholars and serves on the President’s Leadership Council. She is vice president of the Pre-Veterinary Society at UCF, and co-founded a registered student organization that promotes pet adoption.
• Getasha Doobay, College of Medicine. Doobay is in the pre-professional track in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, with a minor in chemistry. Doobay is conducting stem cell research on heart disease in the lab of Dr. Dinender Singla. She is a LEAD Scholar, a longtime volunteer at Shepherd’s Hope Clinic and a member of the Pre-Professional Medical Society and the American Medical Student Association. Doobay already has been accepted into five medical schools.
• Casey Field, College of Business Administration. Field is majoring in finance and economics. She’s participated in the LEAD Scholars program, and served on the President’s Leadership Council. She chairs the College of Business Ambassadors, implemented a student-run speaker series within the College of Business, and was accepted to the Clinton Global Initiative University. Field founded the SCARF Society, an organization that encourages women to become involved, mentor, share their stories and become agents of social change.
• Elaine Gerlt, College of Nursing. Gerlt is pursuing a bachelor’s of science in nursing. She participated in the LEAD Scholars program and serves on the President’s Leadership Council. Gerlt is a member of Chi Omega sorority and the Panhellenic Council. She is a member of the Student Nurses Association and the UCF Student Conduct Board, and is a member and former president of Sigma Alpha Pi National Honor Society. Gerlt hopes to work as a registered nurse in labor and delivery, and to pursue a graduate degree as a nurse midwife.
• Paulina Le, College of Medicine. Le is majoring in biomedical sciences in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, with minors in statistics and psychology. She also is a student in The Burnett Honors College, where she’s an officer of Honors Congress, its official student organization. Le is a teaching assistant, a member of the President’s Leadership Council, and an ambassador and charter member of the UCF Foundation’s Student Philanthropy Council. She has been accepted at several medical schools.
• Amy Maitner, College of Sciences. Maitner is majoring in advertising and public relations, with a minor in women’s and gender studies. As part of the LEAD Scholars program, Maitner created the Purple Ribbon Program, an eating-disorder certification course for faculty and students. She is president of an eating-disorders awareness organization, Project HEAL, and runs biweekly support groups. Maitner is a member of Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity, and serves on the UCF Women’s and Gender Studies Advisory Board and the Student Development and Enrollment Services Advisory Council.
• Alex Carciente Moreno, College of Sciences. Moreno is majoring in political science – international relations with a minor in emergency management and homeland security. As a member of LEAD Scholars, Moreno became the founding president of Knights Go Pink, an organization that raises awareness and money for victims of breast cancer. Moreno’s interest in politics led him to serve as a student government senator at UCF, and as a legislative scholars intern working on the staff of Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. Moreno is a member of Chabad Jewish Student Group, Hillel at UCF and Knights for Israel, and is a legislative student assistant in the office of University Relations.
• Michael Scimeca, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences and College of Arts and Humanities, is majoring in biomedical sciences and the Spanish language. He is a member of The Burnett Honors College as well as a member of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, the President’s Leadership Council and the Honors Congress. When he’s not working as a resident assistant at UCF, he’s volunteering his time to translate for patients and doctors at Shepherd’s Hope Clinic, a free clinic open to low income families. Because he wants to give back, he also dedicates his time to helping undergraduate students taking Biology I and as a Provost Scholar mentor.
• Arjun Watane, College of Engineering and Computer Science, is majoring in computer science and hopes to attend medical school. Watane is a scholar working on medical imaging research, an artist who plays the piano to help keep patients’ spirits high at ORMC and an athlete dominating the tennis court. Watane also understands that children need role models, so he works hard in the classroom and on the court to show children how important it is to stay in school. Through LEAD Scholars and the Student-Athlete Advisory Council he helps organized trick or treat events for Boys & Girls Clubs as well as helping with Relay for Life and a Special Olympics Winter Formal. His efforts are not limited to the United States. Watane joined Knights Without Borders on a trip to Costa Rica where he constructed a multipurpose sports court for children.
• Gabriela Wolk, College of Arts and Humanities and College of Sciences, is majoring in English Literature and Political Science with a minor in Russian studies. In addition to demanding coursework in two distinct areas, Wolk is a member of the Russian Club and holds a seat on the Senate Leadership Council. She is the Honors Congress secretary and vice chair for the operations and reviews committee in the Student Government Association Senate. When she is not working to improve the campus, she’s volunteering her time to Give Kids the World nonprofit organization.
• Brian Zagrocki, College of Education & Human Performance, is majoring in social science education. He holds multiple leadership positions in the Student Government Association Senate, Greek Week executive board and President’s Leadership Council. He served as Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity’s philanthropy chair where he helped organize various events that benefit local children. He also joined Best Buddies and served as a mentor for an individual with a disability, who Zagrocki said taught him to cherish life and the value of human decency. He has also conducted research into the limits of standardized testing.
• Caitlyn Zona, College of Sciences, is majoring in political science and spends a lot of her time trying to improve the UCF and broader community through many volunteer activities. She is the Student Government Association president, a member of the UCF Board of Trustees and is a member of the Creative School for Children advisory board. Among her many accomplishments – she served on the President’s Leadership Council and was the director for Volunteer UCF Youth and Mentoring. She also has volunteered for Second Harvest Food Bank and traveled to Haiti on a service trip.
• Swetha Barkam, College of Engineering and Computer Science, is pursuing a doctorate in material science and engineering. She has already co-authored 10 scientific papers in the area of nanotechnology. Her work focuses on investigating sustainable and inexpensive health care solutions for underprivileged populations in developing countries. Her research focus is on the interaction and application of nanoparticles in biology and potential sensors. She is a graduate research assistant and serves as a mentor for undergraduate students through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. She’s won several awards and is a member of several professional societies.
• Christin Giordano, College of Medicine, is earning her medical degree. She is an active member of several academic societies and has also mentored other students pursuing medicine. She’s been a chief peer academic coach, and serves as a member of the medical school’s admissions committee. She has also co-authored six journal articles. She has also earned he Academic Excellence Award, the Excellence in Clinical Skills Award and took first place in the Florida American College of Physicians’ medical student poster competition.
• Sarah Gitto, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, is a senior Ph.D. graduate student in the cancer biology division, where she has worked on myriad research projects studying diseases including pancreatic, ovarian and breast cancer, glioblastoma; diabetes, ALS and chlamydia. At the Burnett School, Gitto has been a mentor to undergraduate students, and a graduate teaching assistant. She also was instrumental in launching a science day for students at Maitland Middle School, organizing a field trip so they could spend a day in a research laboratory. To build a sense of community at the Burnett School, Gitto launched an annual student vs. faculty kickball game and picnic. She is the current vice president and former secretary of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student Association, for which she helped create an annual career symposium. She has spent more than 1,000 hours volunteering as a counselor at Camp Boggy Creek, which serves chronically ill children. Gitto wants to become a medical researcher.
• Joseph “Joey” Grant, College of Business Administration. Grant was a four-year starting letterman for the UCF football team, playing center on the offensive line and serving as team captain. He enrolled as a freshman with the goal of graduating with enough time to complete a master’s degree during his athletic career. He earned his baccalaureate degree in three years and was accepted into the DeVos Sports Business Management graduate program. Grant earned two graduate degrees in December: a Master of Business Administration and a master’s in sports business management. Grant served two years on both the student-athlete advisory committee and the Leadership Institute in Athletics.
• Melissa Westbrook, College of Health and Public Affairs. Westbrook is in the dual master’s program for nonprofit management and public administration, where her research focuses on humanitarian policies, particularly the stimulation of fair trade within international economic markets. Westbrook has shown her commitment to public service: She was Student Government Association president from 2013-14, a Global UCF ambassador, a campus ambassador for the Peace Corps, an advisor for Volunteer UCF, an intern with Feeding Children Everywhere, and held student leadership roles at the Multicultural Student Center. Westbrook is a member of the President’s Leadership Council, former president of the Greek Council and former vice president of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She hopes to work for the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs to advocate for the people of impoverished countries.
Rosie Reitze is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @rosie_ucf or email her at RosieR@centralfloridafuture.com.