Despite the dynamic challenges of 2020, students, faculty, staff and alumni pursued excellence and earned notable achievements. In recognition of those efforts, here are some of this year’s major accomplishments recognizing the academic and inclusive excellence.
Awards, Grants and Rankings
The Aerospace Human Factors Association’s presented Professor of Psychology Peter Hancock with its 2020 William Collins Award. This is the second time Hancock has received this award for his scholarly work in the area of human factors.
The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences selected Professor of Criminal Justice Catherine Kaukinen for a 2020 Coramae Richey Mann Leadership Award and Professor of Criminal Justice Lee Ross a 2020 Becky Tatum Excellence Award.
The American Counseling Association selected Glenn Lambie — Robert N. Heintzelman Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and a professor of counselor education — for the 2020 Thomas Hohenshil National Publication Award.
The American Physical Society selected Pegasus Professor Peter Delfyett for its prestigious Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science for his role in developing the fiber optic communications that form the basis for programs such as FaceTime and Zoom.
The Association of Counselor Education and Supervision selected UCF’s Counselor Education program to receive the Robert Frank Outstanding Doctoral Program Award.
The Association for Science Teacher Education selected Professor of Teacher Education Malcolm Butler for its 2020 Outstanding Longtime Service Award.
The Association of University Technology Managers selected UCF’s Technology Transfer Office for the inaugural Better World Project Award for the office’s role in bringing a new water cleaning technology to the world market.
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation awarded two UCF students highly competitive scholarships: Rishi Basdeo, a Burnett Honors Scholar and mechanical engineering and biomedical sciences double major, and Emma Shafer, an aerospace engineering major.
Aviation Week Network named UCF the No. 1 supplier of graduates to the aerospace and defense agencies, for the sixth year in a row. The university was also named the most preferred supplier in Florida and ranked No. 2 in the nation.
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awarded Gary Hoppenworth and Ashley Santana Goldwater Scholarships, marking the first time two UCF students have qualified for the honor in the same year. Hoppenworth is a Burnett Honors Scholar and computer science and mathematics double major. Santana is a McNair Scholar and biomedical sciences and biotechnology double major.
CBS selected film graduate Mike Diaz ’06 ’10MFA from a pool of more than 1,500 applicants to be one of only six to participate in the esteemed CBS 2019-2020 Writers Mentoring Program. The eight-month mentoring program pairs writers with CBS executive mentors, and Diaz has been working with Pamela Soper, senior vice president of current programming.
CEOWorld magazine ranked UCF No.4 among the best hospitality and hotel management schools in the world, marking the fourth consecutive year the school has placed in the top 5.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education selected Michael J. Morsberger, chief executive officer of the UCF Foundation and vice president of Advancement, as one of two recipients of its Commonfund College and University Foundation Award. The award, one of the fundraising industry’s most prestigious national honors, recognizes valuable contributions through best practices, distinguished service and leadership.
The Council for Accreditation of Healthcare Simulation Programs and the Society of Simulation in Healthcare accredited UCF’s nursing simulation program.
Cyberdegreesedu.org ranked UCF among the top 30 colleges for cybersecurity programs in the nation.
The Downtown Orlando Partnership presented UCF Downtown with a Golden Brick Award of Excellence for the new campus’ extraordinary achievements and broad-reaching contributions to the local community.
Education Reform Now ranked UCF No. 2 in the nation among four-year colleges for social mobility impact. The report stated that “UCF enrolls 55% more Pell Grant students by itself than the twelve Ivy Plus universities combined.”
Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation selected DeVos Sport Business Management graduate program Director Richard Lapchick for this year’s Dan Rooney Lifetime Achievement Award for his work to increase the NFL’s diverse- and inclusive-hiring practices.
The Hispanic Outlook on Education magazine ranked UCF the No. 5 university in the nation for granting bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics and 22nd for master’s degrees.
INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine named UCF a 2020 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award recipient along with 90 other schools. The award recognizes U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. This is the sixth year UCF has been a recipient.
The International Astronautical Federation selected materials science doctoral student Elizabeth Barrios for the Luigi G. Napolitano Award for her work in developing new thermoelectric materials.
Microsoft awarded Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Subith Vasu with its inaugural Investigator Fellowship, worth $200,000.
NASA selected UCF researchers for several recognitions, including:
- Estela Fernández-Valenzuela, a preeminent post-doctoral researcher at the Florida Space Institute, was received a highly competitive NASA grant to study little-understood trans-Neptunian objects.
- Material science and engineering doctoral student Yuen Yee Li Sip received a three-year fellowship to support her research project on improving the durability of metals in space.
- Conservation biology doctoral student Alexander Sacco received one of 62 national Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology
- Physics doctoral candidate Brian Ferrari ’18 was awarded a three-year, $165,000 NASA OSE fellowship, and doctoral candidate Katie Slavicinska received a $135,000 NASA FINESST grant. Both students work in the Astrochemistry Lab under Assistant Professor Christopher Bennett.
The National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association ranked UCF 29th among public universities in the nation and 65th in the world for securing patents. It also inducted Mubarak Shah, UCF Trustee Chair professor of computer science and director of the Center for Research in Computer Vision, as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors — the highest professional accolade given to academic inventors.
The National Academy of Kinesiology ranked UCF No. 1 ranking in Florida and 9th in the nation for its doctoral program in kinesiology.
The National Center for Simulation Hall of Fame inducted UCF Pegasus Professor of Computer Science Charlie Hughes. He is the seventh UCF-affiliated individual with the honor.
The National Educational Telecommunications Association selected WUCF for its Community Engagement – National Project Award for its Summer of Space campaign. The NETA Awards honor public television’s best work in community engagement, content, education and marketing/communications.
The National Endowment for the Arts named English lecturer Micah Dean Hicks a 2020 Creative Writing Fellow. He earned the competitive honor for his second novel, Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones, and is one of 36 fellows selected out of 1,700 applicants.
The National Institutes of Health selected Assistant Professor Kyu Young Han for its Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award for early-stage investigators. The five-year, $1.7 million grant is intended to provide stable funding so recipients can pursue ambitious challenges. Han is the first to receive it from UCF.
The National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association awarded the RWC’s Assistant Director of Risk Management, Sport Clubs and Inclusive Recreation Andrea Snead the Leaders in Collegiate Recreation Juliette Moore Distinguished Leadership Award. The award recognizes individuals who best exemplify the hard work and dedication that goes into continuing the creation of a diverse and inclusive community.
The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties presented Assistant Professor Frank Guido-Sanz with a 2020 Outstanding Researcher Award. His most recent contributions to nursing science include using innovative technologies and simulation in acute care and combat casualty care settings.
The National Science Foundation selected UCF researchers for several awards, including:
- 12 researchers received CAREER Awards, leading the state and ranking sixth in the nation for the number of recipients.
- 15 UCF students were named Graduate Research Fellows, which honors outstanding students who have demonstrated significant achievements in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Opera America awarded Pegasus Professor of visual arts and design and Trustee Chair Stella Sung and Opera Orlando a $10,000 grant to promote female composers.
The Peace Corps ranked UCF No. 24 among the top 25 volunteer-producing universities and colleges, marking the first time the university has made the list.
The Princeton Review included UCF in the following publications:
- A Best Value College
- Best 386 Colleges
- Green Colleges
The Princeton Review and PC Gamer magazine ranked UCF’s graduate game-design program No. 1 in North America.
The Pulitzer Prize Board selected Burnett Honors Scholar and political science grad Michael Schwirtz ’03, a New York Times staffer, as a 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner for international reporting.
ShanghaiRanking included two UCF programs in its Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2020, including:
- 1 in the nation and No. 2 in the world for hospitality and tourism program
- 5 in the nation and No. 29 in the world for transportation science and technology
The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded Assistant Professor of Chemistry Xiaohu Xia a $490,000 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant to create technology that can detect food fraud.
The U.S. Department of Criminal Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women awarded a team of UCF researchers a five-year, $1 million grant to study transitional housing effectiveness for survivors of domestic violence. The team includes Bethany Backes, an assistant professor of criminal justice and social work and the project’s principal investigator; Julia O’Connor, an assistant professor of social work and co-investigator of the study; Alison Cares, sociology associate professor; Erica Fissel, criminal justice assistant professor; Jacqueline Woerner, social psychology assistant professor; Amy Donley ’02 ’04MA ’08PhD, sociology associate professor; Boon Peng Ng, nursing assistant professor.
The U.S. Department of Defense selected UCF researchers for several awards, including:
- 3 Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grants, totaling more than $7.5 million over the next five years. UCF was the only university in Florida to receive the awards, which were presented to Professor of Optics and Photonics Ayman Abouraddy, UCF Pegasus Professors Demetri Christodoulides and Aristide Dogariu, and Assistant Professor of Physics Madhab Neupane.
- $1 million grant to advance cutting-edge work in the area of machine vision learning (artificial intelligence) and develop a system to thwart attacks on such systems. It was awarded to Mubarak Shah, UCF Trustee Chair professor of computer science and director of the Center for Research in Computer Vision.
- Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Subith Vasu was selected for the prestigious Director’s Fellowship by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, one of just 12 researchers nationally to earn the research grant.
- Associate Professor Debashis Chanda received a $2.5 million U.S. Department of Defense grant to continue his research to conceal and manipulate the energy that materials emit.
- Professor Ayman Abouraddy was awarded the Newton Award for Transformative Ideas during the COVID-19 pandemic. Abouraddy’s research will focus on his revolutionary work on spacetime particle-wave packets, a new class of matter in motion.
- Three UCF researchers were awarded more than $1.3 million as part of the Fiscal Year 2021 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program: Professor of Optics and Photonics Ayman Abouraddy, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Brian Kim, and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Subith Vasu Sumathi.
The U.S. Department of Energy selected UCF researchers for several awards, including:
- Four awards totaling $9.64 million — $7 million from the DOE and $2.64 million in matches from UCF — from the Solar Energy Technologies Office. This was the most of any university this year and include the following principal investigators: Wei Sun, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and director ofSiemens Digital Grid Lab; Kris Davis, assistant professor of materials science and engineering; Hubert Seigneur ’01 ’03MS ’07MS ’10PhD, associate research scientist in Solar Technologies Research at FSEC Energy Research Center; Jayanta Kapat, Pegasus Professor of mechanical engineering, trustee professor, and director of the Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Energy Research (CATER).
- Assistant Professor of Physics Li Fang received an Early Career Research Award, which includes a $785,000 grant, for her work that may lead to new developments for ultrafast detectors and sensors, storing and moving energy, and controlling chemical reactions.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognized second-year medical student David Gittess with an Excellence in Public Health Service Award for his work with clinics that serve Apopka farmworkers and downtown Orlando’s homeless population.
The U.S. Department of State selected 11 UCF current students and recent graduates for 2020 Fulbright awards, setting the university’s new single-year record. Two faculty members also received Fulbright Research Awards: Health Management and Informatics lecturer Yara Asi ’07MA ’15PhD and Professor of Social Science Education Scott Waring both received Fulbright U.S. Scholar awards. Su-I Hou, professor and interim chair at the Department of Health Management and Informatics, is continuing her work as a Fulbright Specialist (2019-2023) by conducting mixed-methods research training workshops at multiple universities overseas.
U.S. News & World Reports included UCF on several of its annual rankings, including:
- 16 most innovative in the nation. This is the fifth time UCF has been recognized in this ranking, tying for 16th with Cornell this year.
- 16 for best undergraduate online programs. This is the third consecutive year UCF has ranked in the top 20 in this category.
- 27 UCF graduate programs among the top 100, including top 5 honors for the master’s in emergency management and nonprofit management programs.
- 12 for best online bachelor’s programs for veterans
- 17 for best online graduate criminal justice programs
- 31 for best graduate online nursing programs
- The university is also among the nation’s top performers for social mobility, as well as undergraduate engineering and computer science programs.
Washington Monthly magazine ranked UCF as the 40th best university in the nation, 9th “Best Bang for the Buck” in the southeast, and one of the best for student voting among the top public educational institutions.
National and International Competitions
UCF’s cheer team won the 2020 College Cheerleading National Championship. The program has placed in the top 10 of the championship 25 times in the past 27 years under head coach Linda Gooch ’85, including UCA national titles in 2003 and 2007.
UCF’s Collegiate Cybersecurity Competition team, known as Hack@UCF, placed in national competitions this year, including:
- Taking second place in the U.S. Department of Energy’s fifth annual CyberForce Competition after winning the regional matches at Argonne National Laboratory.
- Placing second at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, marking the third year in a row they’ve earned the honor.
- Digital forensics graduate student, Michael Roberts ’19 took second place at this year’s U.S. Department of Energy’s CyberForce Competition, beating more than 450 students from across the nation for the spot.
The Esports Club at UCF won its first national title and received $20,000 as part of the prize at the 2020 CS:GO Collegiate StarLeague.
UCF’s programming team earned bronze at this year’s North American Championship of the International Collegiate Programming Contest. They advanced to the international competition, which was postponed due to the pandemic.
A research team with UCF’s Center for Research in Computer Vision won the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology’s worldwide Activities in Extended Video Challenge for 2020.
UCF Wrestling Club member and psychology major Clay Perry claimed the gold medal in the 174-lb. weight class at the annual National Collegiate Wrestling Association Championships.