UCF’s selection to compete in the Military Bowl is quite fitting for a university known as the nation’s top talent pipeline for students to work in the defense industry, as a leader in military partnerships in modeling and simulation, and for innovative PTSD treatments benefiting veterans and military personnel nationwide.

UCF has a long history of welcoming and supporting student veterans — including more than 1,400 who are currently enrolled — and partnering with all branches of the military as well as the defense industry.

The The Office of Military and Veteran Student Success’s  goal is always to make veterans’ transition to civilian and academic life as smooth as possible.

The Office of Military and Veteran Student Success has been serving a growing student veteran population since 2011. The resource center offers support and a sense of community to students, faculty and staff veterans on campus. Students use the space for studying and homework, and it’s also where they receive guidance on the use and benefits of the GI Bill. 

UCF has received the Purple Heart University designation from the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The designation reflects a commitment to help student veterans succeed from enrollment to employment, recognition of student veterans on campus, efforts to preserve the stories of military veterans and the innovative aid rendered to veterans through UCF RESTORES.

UCF has also been recognized as a top 10 best online bachelor’s program for veterans by U.S. News & World Report; one of the Best Colleges for Veterans by College Factual; and “Military Friendly” by Military Friendly Schools.

Fueling the Talent Pipeline

Students looking to pursue careers in defense will find an ideal home at UCF. They learn from world-class faculty members and benefit from UCF’s strong connections with industry partners as well as our location in Orlando, which is a hub for leading employers in modeling, simulation and training; optics and photonics; and engineering.

For nearly a decade, Aviation Week Network has ranked UCF as the top supplier of graduates to the aerospace and defense industries. UCF also ranks as the industry’s second-most preferred supplier, behind Georgia Tech.

Nationwide, Lockheed Martin employs more UCF graduates than alumni of any other university.

Locally, 27% of Lockheed Martin employees in Orlando are UCF graduates, as are 20% of Siemens employees.

This year, UCF signed a partnership agreement with the new U.S. Space Force to help the agency develop technology and an agile workforce. UCF also partners with the National Security Innovation Network to give students real-world experiences solving problems related to U.S. national security challenges.

With its strong computer science and engineering programs, UCF fields many of the best student cyber defense teams in the nation, with frequent victories in collegiate competitions sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency and others. Last month, teams from UCF took first and second place in the CyberForce Competition, led by the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

Strengthening National Security

In Central Florida Research Park adjacent to campus, UCF scientists are collaborating with researchers from the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force and Marine Corps to protect and prepare military personnel and to help them work effectively in teams.

The U.S. Department of Defense awarded UCF $21.55 million in 2021-22 for research projects, the second-highest funding source after the U.S. National Science Foundation.

The largest portions of that involve optics and photonics and engineering and computer science.

UCF’s School of Modeling, Simulation and Training also has worked with military partners on developing simulation platforms for nearly 30 years. Some of the research projects designed to help keep military personnel well trained and ready focus on strengthening technology, while others are related to helping teams work more effectively together. Partners include the Army, Navy, Air Force and Defense Health Agency, among many others.

Innovative Treatments Help Those with PTSD Regain Their Lives

Over the past decade, UCF RESTORES has provided treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to active-duty military, first responders and other survivors of trauma, helping to change the way PTSD is understood, diagnosed and treated. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime.

UCF RESTORES has helped more than 1,400 veterans and active-duty military personnel, first responders, survivors of mass casualty events and sexual assault, and others regain their lives with innovative treatments.

UCF RESTORES’ unique approach to treatment — combining exposure therapy, emerging technology, as well as individual and group therapy sessions — has resulted in 76% of participants no longer meeting the diagnostic criteria for PTSD following three weeks of intensive treatment. The program’s virtual reality treatments include scenarios designed to look like foreign war zones, and they also include realistic smells such as gasoline and gunfire.

Funding for UCF RESTORES has included $19 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Defense and support provided by the Florida Legislature. Most of the services provided at UCF to veterans and military personnel are free to participants, including hotel rooms for those traveling from out of town.

UCF RESTORES also treats active-duty military personnel at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia, and Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia.

Caring for Veterans

Every UCF medical student spends part of their education caring for military veterans — an experience they say helps them better understand and appreciate the sacrifices of our nation’s heroes.

During their third-year clerkships and fourth-year electives, medical students receive training in specialties including surgery, internal medicine, neurology and psychiatry at the Orlando VA Medical Center next door to the College of Medicine in Lake Nona and Bay Pines VA Healthcare system in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It was a really humbling experience serving men and women vets with such interesting stories, and to be able to give back to those who have done so much for our country,” says Gary Saloman, a third-year UCF medical student.

The Orlando VA Medical Center opened in 2015 and is one of the nation’s largest VA hospitals, serving the region’s 400,000 veterans.

It also houses the VA’s state-of-the-art SimLEARN National Simulation Center, where physicians can train using simulated robotic patients.

Students say they are particularly struck by how willing veterans are to share their medical and life experiences to help the learners become better physicians. Andrew Taitano, a surgeon at the Orlando VA and associate professor of surgery at the College of Medicine, says he isn’t surprised.

“It speaks to the character of the veterans,” Taitano says. “They are happy to be getting care and want to help students learn to help others in the future.”

Collecting Veterans’ Stories

Launched in the fall of 2010, the Community Veterans History Project honors American war veterans by giving them the opportunity to share their stories so that future generations will better understand the realities of conflict. The project, which is ran by UCF’s Department of History, collects, preserves and makes accessible digitally to the public the experiences of Central Florida’s veterans before they are forgotten.

The project, which is comprised of students majoring in history and student veterans, is a collaborative endeavor led by Barbara Gannon, an associate professor of history, who is a veteran herself. She has trained and worked with students to conduct interviews with veterans for more than a decade. More than 700 veterans have been interviewed to date, with some now housed in the Library of Congress.

If you are a veteran living in Central Florida and would like to be interviewed about your time in the military, call 407-823-0242 or register here.

Preparing the Next Generation of Military Leaders

The UCF campus is home to two Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs that train students to become commissioned officers in the U.S. Armed Forces.

This year, UCF Air Force ROTC Detachment 159 marked 50 years of partnership with UCF.

Roughly 170 cadets are currently enrolled in the officer commissioning program, led by nine active-duty cadre members. An estimated 1,500 UCF graduates have become lieutenants in the Air Force and Space Force through this Air Force-UCF program.

The UCF Army ROTC Fighting Knight Battalion was established on the university campus in 1986. There are 160 cadets currently enrolled, and roughly 850 officers have been commissioned since the program’s inception.