Writers on the inaugural UCF Forum panel have shared their opinions and personal observations about community improvements, world affairs, sociological issues, life lessons and a host of other topics.

The columnists from all corners of the university agreed to be a part of the project for one year, writing weekly columns on a rotating basis. But now their terms have ended, and a new batch of writers will begin sharing their ideas Wednesday.

The columns started as a web feature posted on UCF Today every Wednesday. During the year, the columns also began to be published either online or in print in a variety of publications, both local and afar – the Huffington Post, Florida Voices, Orlando Sentinel, Brevard Business News and others. In addition, the columns broadcast on WUCF-FM (89.9) at 9:01 a.m. Sunday.

Many of this past year’s columns raised questions, and others offered solutions. But mostly, they made us pause to think.

So, for all their contributions to the UCF Forum this past year, thank you to columnists Lisa Barkley, Richard Crepeau, David Houghton, Alexandra Pittman, Carla Poindexter, Hugh Potter, Denver Severt, Eileen Smith, Linda Walters and Heather Waymouth. (Columns are archived on UCF Today and as podcasts at WUCF-FM).

The incoming panel of writers is bringing all new backgrounds and different viewpoints to the UCF Forum. Their diverse experiences are in political science, education, women’s studies, business and other fields. They are a mixture of faculty, staff and one student; some have been at UCF for many years, and others are fairly new.

So, for the next 12 months, here are the writers who will share their opinions through the UCF Forum:

Nathan Holic teaches in the Department of Writing & Rhetoric and serves as the graphic narrative editor at The Florida Review. He is the author of the novel American Fraternity Man (Beating Windward Press) and the campus history The University of Central Florida (Arcadia), and the editor of the annual anthology 15 Views of Orlando (Burrow Press), a literary portrait of the city featuring short fiction from 15 Orlando authors. He can be reached at Nathan.Holic@ucf.edu.

Maritza Martinez is director of the UCF Community Relations department with more than 10 years of experience in community and public relations in higher education. She is involved with many local organizations, serving on the boards of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, Valencia College’s Take Stock in Children, and Florida Blue’s Statewide Multicultural Advisory Council. She represents UCF as a volunteer with several nonprofit organizations. Martinez received her bachelor’s, master’s and MBA from UCF. She was named the Orlando Business Journal’s 2012 Woman to Watch and listed this month as one of Orlando Magazine’s 12 people to watch. She enjoys running and biking. She can be reached at Maritza.Martinez@ucf.edu.

Rebekah McCloud is director of the PRIME STEM/Student Support Services Program, which provides academic and support services to students who are low-income, first generation or have disabilities. She came to UCF’s College of Education in 1995 to work with pre-service and veteran teachers and also served as director of minority programs. She was associate director of the Office of Diversity Initiatives, authored or co-authored four books, is former editor of the Florida English Journal, and is on the editorial review board for Signal Journal. She has made more than 150 presentations, designed workshops and facilitated numerous training sessions. She has an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction, an M.S. in business management, an M.Ed. in educational leadership, and a B.A. in communication/journalism. She can be reached at Rebekah.McCloud@ucf.edu.

Erin O’Flaherty is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting and one day hopes to use her business skills to own and operate a retail boutique. Erin is a titleholder in the Miss America Organization as the current Miss University of Central Florida. She is an ambassador for both the Children’s Miracle Network and her personal platform of suicide prevention. She loves world traveling, kayaking and playing soccer, and has been a farmhand and livestock judge. She is a student-athlete and human-rights activist, and aspires to instill in others a sense of appreciation for and celebration of diversity in all aspects of life. She can be reached at eoflaherty@knights.ucf.edu.

Bob Porter is executive director of downtown Orlando’s Executive Development Center, part of the College of Business Administration. Porter also is director of Management Insights, a consulting firm that specializes in management development and organizational strategy. He completed his Ph.D. in business at UCF with a concentration in strategy, earned an Executive MBA from the Crummer School of Business at Rollins College, and a bachelor’s degree in Engineering from UCF. Before working at UCF he had a varied corporate career with General Electric, NCR and AT&T, working around the United States and in Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. He helped found a community bank, is a board member on several foundation and nonprofit organizations, and enjoys cycling and outdoor activities with his family. He can be reached at RPorter@bus.ucf.edu.

Leandra Preston-Sidler is an instructor of Women’s Studies. Teaching women’s studies allows her to focus on two of her passions: gender issues and the relationship between academics and social justice. She has taught for more than 10 years at UCF, where she was originally an English instructor, and she is writing her dissertation for a Ph.D. in texts and technology. She is an activist focused on domestic-violence advocacy and in 2007 founded Animal Safehouse of Brevard County, a foster network for pets of women in domestic-violence shelters. She lives in Cocoa Beach, where she occasionally finds time to soak in the sun and salt air and spend time with her family and two dogs. She can be reached at Leandra.Preston-Sidler@ucf.edu.

Mark Routhier is an assistant professor of directing and acting at UCF and director of new play development at Orlando Shakespeare Theater, a partnership with the university. He previously was associate artistic director at Southern Rep and is an ensemble member of the NOLA Project, both in New Orleans. Routhier, who earned his MFA in dramatic writing at New York University, served as the literary chair and vice president on the executive committee of the National New Play Network for five years. At the Orlando Shakespeare Theater he has directed productions of Sense and Sensibility, God of Carnage, Opus and Charlotte’s Web. He directed Bachelorette in the 2013 Orlando Fringe Festival, which was cast completely with UCF graduates. He can be reached at markr@orlandoshakes.org.

Rich Sloane is director of community relations for the College of Education and Human Performance. He attended New York City public schools and upon graduation from Boston University began a career in the Navy spanning 27 years. His service included numerous shipboard assignments, positions in training and education, and a combat tour in Vietnam. He served as director of the USO of Central Florida and the Oviedo Chamber of Commerce prior to coming to UCF in 1999. Sloane and his wife, Margaret, live in Oviedo and have two daughters. He can be reached at Rich.Sloane@ucf.edu.

Kurt Young is an associate professor of political science and African-American studies. He was born in Belize City, Belize, and grew up in Jersey City, N.J., and Tampa. He attended the University of Florida, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in history. At Clark Atlanta University he received his master’s in African and African-American Studies, and Ph.D. in political science. Young has researched the subject of Pan-Africanism, and his additional areas of specialization are Africana political thought, Africana political movements, African-American politics, and African and Caribbean political economy. In 2011, he served as guest editor for the Journal of African Studies’ commemorative edition on Martinique philosopher and revolutionary Frantz Fanon. He can be reached at Kurt.Young@ucf.edu