Seher “Sissi” Tas learned to find her voice at UCF. As a future filmmaker, she has decided to dedicate the next chapter of her life to lifting the voices of others.

Tas grew up in Turkey’s capital city, Ankara, as the daughter of a Chinese mother and Turkish father. She says her Chinese name, Xīxī (pronounced “she-she”), means to wish or to hope, and for the final year she lived in Turkey before moving to Florida, she hoped for the ability to enact change.

“Bombs would go off and that was kind of an everyday part of life. My parents and teachers would warn me about avoiding crowds and suicide bombers and it was just normalized,” she says. “I would cry myself to sleep, thinking why do I not have any power? Why can’t I do anything to make things better? At the time I was 16 and I was like how do I get to where I say something and people listen? How can I help anyone?

“Now I try to help people as best as I can.”

Charting New Territory

She moved to the United States in 2016 as a senior in high school after her father accepted a position as a research professor at UCF. At the time, her family expected the move to be temporary. But when a coup attempted happened in Turkey, they decided to make their stay more permanent.

While she was grateful for the opportunities America offered, Tas says immigrating to a new country during your senior year of high school is less-than-ideal timing. She desperately needed to improve her English, struggled to find friends and lost all her confidence.

“I became really anxious because I didn’t want to make any mistakes,” she says. “I wanted to fit in but there were already friend groups established and I wasn’t in any of them.”

With the encouragement of her parents, college was always a goal and proved to be another fresh start that she needed.

She earned her associate’s degree in one year from Seminole State College and enrolled at UCF as a Burnett Honors Scholar. She overcame her insecurities by getting involved in different student organizations, including Tau Sigma National Honor Society and Delta Phi Lambda, Inc. sorority, eventually assuming leadership positions within the groups.

She felt particularly passionate about improving the transition experience for transfer students to UCF and advocated for reinstating the Transfer Center.

“Seher, along with the rest of her board members, did everything within their power to better the experiences of not just their members but of all transfer students at UCF,” says Lashay Vazquez, career counselor at UCF Career Services who got to know Tas while serving as an advisor for Tau Sigma. “It’s apparent in everything that Seher does that she cares about those around her. She also is very determined. If she wants something, she will tirelessly work until she achieves it.”

Power of Film

Tas also became actively involved within her major — film, which she was drawn to from the time she was a young girl, enlisting her younger sister to play all the roles in her homemade movies.

“I just really loved how you can empower someone through film,” she says. “I was inspired by how they made me feel — I would see someone Asian and I would be really excited about it because I didn’t have anyone like that around me growing up. It hit me in high school when I was like, I really enjoy this. Why can’t it be my career?”

Now that she’s earning her diploma, she is one step closer to realizing her goal. She knows that breaking into the film industry isn’t easy, but she is committed to making it happen and one day starting her own production company that highlights the stories of underrepresented populations.

“I want to contribute to breaking the glass ceiling and empower younger girls to show them you have the power to do this if you’re passionate about it,” she says. “I didn’t know if I could make that change in the world that I wanted. Now I have a lot more confidence because I have more skills in film and I have this network of people at UCF who supported me. So I believe that in the future I will be able to make some positive change.”