More than 2,000 votes were cast to select the top University of Central Florida stories from the 2000s, a remarkable “Decade of Opportunity” for the university. First on the list was UCF opening the doors to its College of Medicine in 2009, the culmination of an opportunity that had been years in the making.

In 2003, Al and Nancy Burnett donated $10 million to support the creation of the Burnett College of Biomedical Sciences, which provided the foundation the university needed to pursue a medical school.

Two years later, the Tavistock Group donated $12.5 million and 50 acres of land at Lake Nona as a site for UCF’s College of Medicine and health sciences campus. UCF received state approval for the College of Medicine in 2006 and broke ground at Lake Nona in 2007.

“The effort to bring medical education to Central Florida was truly region wide,” President Hitt said at the August 2009 White Coat Ceremony welcoming the students. “This effort brought Central Floridians together as few other initiatives have done before, and the community’s united voice was heard from Miami to Tallahassee.”

In 2007, Dean Deborah German, M.D., announced her ambitious plan to provide full scholarships to every student in the charter class. Less than a year later, the scholarships were funded by $7 million in broad-based community donations from across the region.

The American Association of Medical Colleges says UCF is the first U.S. medical school to provide four-year full scholarships to an entire class. NBC Nightly News profiled UCF’s med school and the state-record 4,300 applications it received in early 2009.

In addition to making history with their scholarships, the charter class members boasted the highest average MCAT score (32.2) and GPA (3.8) of any incoming class of medical students in the state in 2009.

“With the best and brightest students, faculty members, researchers and health care partners, we will build the model medical school for the 21st century,” German said.

An economic impact study found that the College of Medicine and Lake Nona “medical city” could create more than 30,000 local jobs, have an economic impact of $7.6 billion and generate nearly half a billion dollars in additional tax revenues for the state.

In a speech in late 2008, President Hitt said the Lake Nona “medical city” and UCF College of Medicine are “a powerful demonstration of our cities, counties, and state partnering with an entrepreneurial public university for the public good.”

No. 2 Story: UCF’s Growth With Quality

No. 3 Story: Bright House Networks Stadium Opens

No. 4 Story: UCF Surpasses $100M Milestone in Annual Research Funding

No. 5 Story: U.S. News Ranks UCF as Top 5 ‘Up-and-Coming School’

About the “Decade of Opportunity”

The top five stories of the 2000s demonstrate how the university is fulfilling its promise that “UCF Stands For Opportunity.” A panel of UCF experts developed a list of the 10 most significant university stories from the 2000s. From Nov. 25 to Dec. 11, the Central Florida community cast votes for the top five.

“The outstanding accomplishments of this ‘Decade of Opportunity’ have been due in large part to the strong, unwavering support of the Central Florida community and the wonderfully generous contributions of our many university donors,” President Hitt said. “That so many people invested their time, treasure and confidence in our university is testimony to our institution’s high quality and the strength of our regional partnerships.”

A multitude of thrilling events has powered UCF’s transformation during the past 10 years — much of it fueled by the university’s first-ever capital campaign, which raised $366 million and concluded in 2006. The campaign exceeded its initial goal by more than $200 million, and it was an integral part of ongoing efforts by the UCF Foundation and its many partners to inform and inspire the community to support a great university committed to the highest levels of education, research and service.

Donors responded to university leaders’ vision of improving classroom and laboratory facilities and enriching the quality of academic programs. Their efforts helped UCF open the College of Medicine; build the new Rosen College of Hospitality Management; expand College of Business Administration programs; and build Bright House Networks Stadium, the UCF Arena, Wayne Densch Sports Center, the Nicholson Field House and much more.

UCF has experienced quality growth throughout the decade with faculty members excelling in the classroom and in their research labs. Students have provided Central Florida schools and nonprofit organizations with millions of hours of service-learning activities and community service and dozens of substantive, mutually beneficial partnerships have enriched both the university and surrounding communities.

“This has been an extraordinary decade for UCF,” Hitt said. “As I look back, I am reminded of how far we have come, but also know our best years are ahead of us. There has never been a better time to be a Knight, and I look forward to what the next ‘Decade of Opportunity’ has in store for our university.”

UCF Stands For Opportunity: The University of Central Florida is a metropolitan research university that ranks as the 3rd largest in the nation with more than 53,500 students. UCF’s first classes were offered in 1968. The university offers impressive academic and research environments that power the region’s economic development. UCF’s culture of opportunity is driven by our diversity, Orlando environment, history of entrepreneurship and our youth, relevance and energy.