Exceptional students from each of UCF’s colleges were honored for their dedication to excellence in academics, leadership and community service during the annual Founders’ Day ceremony today.

College of Arts and Humanities

Irina Pidberejna is a visual arts and emerging media management major. She also holds Seat 4 on the Student Government Senate representing the College of Arts and Humanities. Pidberejna has presented her research paper “Impact of Culture on Students’ Motivation in Acquiring a Second Language” at multiple conferences. She is currently a team leader in the U.S. Department of State “U.S. – Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program,” working with blind and visually impaired Russian students. She’s working on two volunteer projects: Project HOPE (Helping Out People Everywhere), which focuses on hunger and homelessness in Tampa; and another developing educational and outreach program for Haitian immigrants. She is president of the Russian Club at UCF. Over summer 2013, she completed a Russian Language and Culture program at Moscow State University and St. Petersburg University. She speaks Ukrainian, Russian and basic Spanish. She works as a resident assistant, Russian language tutor and translator. Pidberejna also taught in a first-grade class as a volunteer with UCF Junior Achievement. She expects to graduate in May.

College of Business Administration

Brittany Lark is a marketing major, with minors in international business and mass communications. Lark is also a member of The Burnett Honors College. As a student ambassador for the College of Business Administration, she has helped plan and execute networking events, competitions, speakers and award ceremonies. Lark studied abroad at Institut Commercial de Nancy in Metz and Nancy, France, earning a certificate in European Business and Political Studies. She is a member of Collegiate DECA, the Society for Marketing Professional Services, Honors Congress, Phi Beta Lambda, The Advertising Club and Quotes, the PR Club at UCF. She has conducted marketing analysis and research for Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, and consumer behavior research for CareerSource Central Florida. Lark is expected to graduate in August 2016.

College of Education and Human Performance

Cavel Austin is an English language arts education major. She is also a student of The Burnett Honors College and has successfully defended her undergraduate thesis, “The Representation of Poverty in Great Depression American Literature,” for which she was awarded the Honors in the Major Scholarship for spring 2015. She also presented her thesis at the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Findings, is expected to present at the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence, and participated in The International Conference on Poverty, Globalization, and Schooling: A Holistic Approach. Austin has maintained her position on the President’s Honor Roll since spring 2014 and was on the Dean’s List in fall 2013. She founded and coordinates the Honors in the Major Mentors Program, and is president of Sigma Alpha Pi, the National Society of Leadership and Success. She serves on the Professional Development Committee in the Education Student College Council and is a member of several honors societies, including Phi Kappa Phi, The Golden Key and Phi Theta Kappa. As a volunteer, Austin prepares and serves meals at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, chaperones elementary-age students for The Burnett Honors College’s Achieving a College Education Day, and tutors high school students. Austin is expected to graduate in December.

College of Engineering and Computer Science

Ivette Carreras is a computer engineering major, with a minor in mathematics. She has interned in software development for Microsoft and Texas Instruments. In addition, Carreras has worked in the Computer Vision Lab at UCF and the Computer Research Lab at Miami Dade College. She is a member of the UCF chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, Women in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Tau Beta Pi. As part of that participation, Carreras often encourages girls in middle and high school who are beginning to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. She has also worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant in Discrete Mathematics. In her spare time, Carreras enjoys salsa and merengue dancing, and is interested in photography. She is expected to graduate in May. In July, she’ll begin working for Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., as a software engineer, and plans to pursue a master’s degree while working.


College of Health and Public Affairs

Sydney Alexander is a legal studies major with a minor in writing and rhetoric. She researched, wrote and defended an Honors in the Major thesis, “A Solomon-like Decision: Child Custody Laws in Florida for Same-Sex Couples Following Divorce or the Dissolution of Relationships.” Alexander is a member and former president of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women. She sits on the executive board of Knight-Thon, the largest student-run fundraiser at UCF, serving first as fundraising director and most recently as event manager. She serves on the President’s Leadership Council, and is former executive vice president of the Panhellenic Council. Alexander was a regional competitor on UCF’s Moot Court Team, competing at the South Atlantic Moot Court Tournament. She has held several positions with Student Government Association, including Senate Leadership Council, vice chair of elections and appointments, senator representing College of Health and Public Affairs Seat 4, and Justice Seat 2. Alexander was named 2014 Greek Woman of the Year, and she’s a recipient of the Pi Beta Phi Outstanding New Member Award, the Most-Spirited Individual at Knight-Thon scholarship and the Pi Beta Phi Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship in 2013 and 2014, and the Pegasus Bronze scholarship. Alexander is expected to graduate in May.

Rosen College of Hospitality Management

Taylor Dudley is majoring in event management. She is a member of The Burnett Honors College, and a LEAD Scholar alumna. Dudley has served as an executive board member of the Campus Activities Board, where she directed the Mr. and Miss UCF competition and assisted with concerts, speaking engagements and other campus events. She is president of MPI Knights, a UCF chapter of a professional organization for event professionals; and co-founded Knights Special Events Society, a special-events organization for students at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, for which she has served as president and vice president. She has interned with PTE Productions, InfoComm International, the Orange County Convention Center and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge. Dudley is expected to graduate in May.

College of Medicine    

Jeremy Tran is a biomedical sciences major in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. He’s been involved in research at UCF, participating in the Research and Mentoring Program, Honors in the Major, and the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Tran has made several research poster presentations statewide, including a 1st place in Life Sciences at the UCF Showcase for Undergraduate Research. He is coauthor on a national journal article related to cancer, epigenetics and hypomethylation. Tran chaired the Outreach Committee of the Student Undergraduate Research Council. He participated in the school’s PILOT Program combining teaching experience with research; leadership activities as a member of the Student Advisory Council of the LEAD Scholars Program; and as a peer ambassador and an education program team captain for The Burnett Honors College. He served as research director, director of medical relations and director of public relations for the Pre-Medical American Medical Student Association. At Burnett, he counsels peers experiencing academic and personal hardships. In the community, he volunteered for the AVID Program, encouraging elementary students to attend college; and at Orlando Regional Medical Center in the emergency department, surgical recovery unit and information desk. Tran is expected to graduate in May, and has been accepted to multiple top medical schools, including Harvard University.

College of Nursing

Katherine Basquill-White is a nursing major with a minor in military science. After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in September and undergoing multiple surgeries and a radiation treatment, she has invested her time to study the disease and raise awareness about cancer by becoming a member of the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association and Relay for Life. Despite her cancer battle and the recent death of her father, Basquill-White has stayed on track with help from a support system of family, friends and professors. Basquill-White is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and the Student Nurses’ Association. She received an Army ROTC four-year scholarship out of high school, which has allowed her to be part of a humanitarian trip to Tanzania, participate in joint-field training exercises throughout Florida and Puerto Rico, complete summer training at Fort Lewis, Wash., and intern as part of the Nurse Summer Training Program in the emergency department at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas. She has also been active in intramural sports, including basketball and soccer, and has been a recipient of the President’s Honor Roll and Dean’s List.

College of Optics and Photonics

Christopher Beck is a photonic sciences and engineering major, with a minor in chemistry. He is both a National Merit Scholar and a member of The Burnett Honors College. Beck has been accepted into several honors societies, including Phi Theta Kappa, Sigma Alpha Pi and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. In addition, he has been on the President’s Honor Roll, and has received several other academic awards from UCF and the community college where he was dual-enrolled. He is currently employed at Academic Services for Student Athletes, where he tutors the student athletes of UCF in math and science. He is expected to graduate in December 2016.

College of Sciences

Lucien Charland is expected to graduate in May, earning a dual degree in international and global studies, and economics, with double minors in Spanish and leadership studies. Charland established a shade-house hydroponic agricultural project in St. Kitts and Nevis, for which he received a grant and fellowship from Clinton Global Initiative University. He wrote and defended an Honors in the Major thesis, “Structural Causes of Social Conflict in Africa.” He has presented on the same topic at a conference of the Midwest Political Science Association, and presented to several conferences his research on the threats to the United States and Caribbean presented by sea level rise. He founded the International Relations Club; serves as student representative on the University Honors Committee; is a national scholars peer mentor; and a member of Theta Chi fraternity. Charland has served as a LEAD Scholar, an SGA senator, and vice president of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Among other things, he has volunteered with Knight-Thon; as a teaching assistant at the Creative School for Children; and as a Spanish-to-English translator between patients and doctors at Shepherd’s Hope medical clinics.

Undergraduate Studies

Rebecca Williams is an Interdisciplinary Studies major with concentrations in physical, biological and behavior sciences, with a minor in education. She plans to use this degree to prepare her for a profession in animal husbandry and public education, as well as to provide a base from which to move forward toward a doctorate in veterinary medicine. She has interned with several veterinary clinics, gaining experience caring for a wide range of animals including domestic pets, large animals, exotics and wildlife. Most recently, Williams interned at Hands On Wildlife in Christmas, where she assisted with the care and handling of animals and helped guide educational tours and wildlife encounters for zoo guests. She also has helped guide therapeutic horseback riding classes for physically and mentally handicapped children and adults. Williams participated in the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence and the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Findings, where she received the Peer Choice Award and second place overall for her undergraduate research study. She is vice president of the Interdisciplinary Studies Student Association and an active member of the UCF Pre-Veterinary Society. She is expected to graduate in May 2016.