When retiring, some measure their impact at UCF by the number of years — but not Patti MacKown, associate vice president for Student Development and Enrollment Services. She measures her impact by the various name badges she has collected from UCF, each documenting her time at the university, starting with her first position as director of Student Legal Services in 1979 to her current position.
MacKown’s roots at UCF run deep. She was a member of the 1972 graduating class back when UCF was known as Florida Technological University. It was the first class to go through all four years of college at UCF. She spent her first few years after graduation serving in the Peace Corps, teaching Micronesian children English while staying with a family and sleeping on a table. From there she took a job in Iran teaching middle school.
After Iran, she fueled her passion for law and returned to UCF to pursue a master’s degree in political science. As fate would have it, when she stood in line at the Registrar’s Office she noticed a job posting seeking a student to establish Student Legal Services on campus as part of SGA’s services. MacKown interviewed with then SGA president Mark O’Mara, who became an Orlando lawyer who successfully defended George Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges. She was offered the job and a $1,500 budget to accomplish it. MacKown was with Student Legal Services for 20 years when the opportunity came up in SDES to be the director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
“I wanted to change the way conduct was done,” said MacKown. “It needed a formal process, one that entitled students to be heard.”
It is in the student-conduct arena that MacKown really hit her stride and spent the next 15 years of her career helping students who got into trouble or were struggling.
“Somewhere along the line I realized that I was not going to change the world in a huge way as I originally thought I would,” MacKown said. “But rather I would make a bunch of smaller impacts with each student I came across. The change I make is more impactful for a person than the world as a whole.”
MacKown has witnessed UCF transform from a small family-type of environment “where everyone knew everyone” to the vibrant campus it is today.
“I walk around campus and remember when different things were in different buildings,” she said. “It’s grown by leaps and bounds but there are still memories everywhere for me.”
One of those memories is in her office. Back when she and her husband were dating, they etched their initials into some freshly poured sidewalks in Ferrell Commons.
“When I saw them chiseling up the concrete in order to put in the new brick pavers, I told the man that I was going to miss passing that sidewalk every day. Sure enough he saved it for me,” she said.
The physical environment on campus has change greatly during the past 35 years, a fact that MacKown remembers each and every day as she exits her car in the Millican Hall parking lot. “This parking lot was the only pavement on the whole campus,” MacKown said. Odd as it may seem, she said, that reminder makes the parking lot her favorite spot on campus.
First on MacKown’s retirement agenda is a three-month trip to Spain where she and her husband will participate in a 150-mile walk in Portugal and Spain, known as the Way of St. James.
“I needed something very intentional,” she said. “I couldn’t just leave and go home.”