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. Placing fifth on the list was U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” guide lauding UCF as a top 5 national university watch in 2009.

UCF, which ranked No. 7 on the list in 2008, was the only Florida school listed in the category “Top Up-and-Coming Schools.” This category recognizes national universities that “recently made the most promising and innovative changes in academics, faculty, students, campus or facilities.”

“This recognition is a tribute to UCF’s talented students and staff and faculty members, who are the foundation of our university’s success,” UCF President John C. Hitt said at the time. “Our innovative classrooms, laboratories and partnerships help us continue to recruit outstanding faculty members, attract the best-and-brightest students and strengthen our regional and state economies.”

The magazine also featured UCF in a special “Road Trip” feature on Florida schools.

UCF will unveil one winner a day this week, with the “Decade of Opportunity” celebration culminating Dec. 18, Commencement Day, when the top story from this exciting first decade of the 21st century will be revealed. The No. 4 story will be announced Dec. 15.

The winners will be announced first on Facebook and Twitter, and then will be posted to the university’s Web site.

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,” 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 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.