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UCF Forum to Begin 4th Year with New Columnists

Nine new columnists will join the UCF Forum opinion series Wednesday to start sharing their weekly views on social issues, national and international affairs, community trends, technology, life lessons and other topics.

The columnists will take turns writing for the series during the next 12 months, replacing the faculty and staff members and one student who have provided food for thought the past year.

Columns are posted each Wednesday on the UCF Today website as a project of UCF News & Information. The columns also appear on other platforms both local and afar – places such as the Huffington Post, Context Florida opinions website, and other print and online outlets. The columns are also broadcast on WUCF-FM (89.9) on Sunday mornings between 7:50 and 8 a.m.

For all their contributions to the UCF Forum this past year, thank you columnists Alaina Bernard (Landscape & Natural Resources), Melody Bowdon (Faculty Center for Teaching & Learning), Rick Brunson (Communication), Todd Dagenais (Athletics), Anthony Major (Africana Studies and School of Visual Arts & Design), Richard Lapchick (DeVos Sport Business Management and Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport), Vanessa Lopez-Littleton (School of Public Administration), Vu Tran (anthropology graduate student), and Laurie Uttich (English Department).

One of the columns by Brunson won a national 2015 Circle of Excellence gold award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. The column, “As Migrant Crisis Hits U.S. Border, Texas Town Keeps it Classy [1],” won the Writing for the Web category.

The incoming columnists will bring new experiences and viewpoints to the UCF Forum. Their diverse backgrounds are in political science, marketing, performing arts and other fields. Some are fairly new to UCF and others have been at the university many years.

So, here are the columnists who will be sharing their opinions the next 12 months through the UCF Forum:

Michael Bass

Michael Bass is a professor emeritus of optics at CREOL (Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers) in UCF’s College of Optics & Photonics. He previously served as the university’s vice president for research from 1987 to 1992. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics at Carnegie-Mellon University and his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. Before coming to UCF, he worked at the University of Southern California and the Raytheon Co. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Laser Institute of America, National Academy of Inventors, and Optical Society of America, which awarded him the R.W. Wood Prize in 2014. He has written several books and hundreds of journal publications, and presented numerous lectures at international conferences.

Traci Evison

Traci Evison, benefits coordinator in Human Resources, has worked at UCF eight years and has been an HR professional 13 years. She has a background in journalism and anthropology, holds a Professional Human Resources certification, and is a Society of Human Resources Certified Professional. She is a member of the UCF Student Conduct Review Board and UCF Downtown Communication Committee, and is chair of the HR Communication Committee. She said she has an affinity for felines, meditation and Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream.

Terri Susan Fine

Terri Susan Fine is a professor of political science and associate director of the Lou Frey Institute. She also is content specialist for the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship and a Brandeis University Schusterman Center fellow. Her primary research and teaching interests focus on American political participation and political communication including public opinion, voting and elections, voting rights and voting systems. Her publications have appeared in several academic journals and as chapters in books. She is co-principal investigator of multiple federal and state civic-education grants, including recruiting and training poll workers and interviewing former members of Congress for a free online resource to support the College Board Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics course.

Yolanda Hood

Yolanda Hood is the head of the Curriculum Materials Center, a branch of the John C. Hitt Library. The center is housed in the UCF Education Complex and provides materials such as books, models, maps, DVDs and other items for faculty, staff, students and the community to use in prekindergarten through 12th grade classrooms. Hood has been at UCF about three years and has worked in academia 13 years. She also teaches young adult literature in the College of Education & Human Performance. Before coming to UCF, she was the youth librarian at the University of Northern Iowa, where she also taught in the First Year Program and the College of Education. When not busy, she said she reads – more than 150 books a year.

Barry Jason Mauer

Barry Jason Mauer is an associate professor in the Department of English and teaches in the Texts and Technology Ph.D. program. He has worked at UCF since 1999 and his published works focus on developing new research practices in the arts and humanities. His latest research is about citizen curating. He also publishes online comics about delusion and denial, particularly as they affect the realm of politic, and is a songwriter and recording artist. He completed his graduate studies at the University of Florida in the Department of English. He lives in Orlando with his wife and daughter, dog, cat, and two chickens.

Heather Gibson

Heather Gibson has been marketing director for the School of Performing Arts in the College of Arts & Humanities for four years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English at Pennsylvania State University. After a brief stint in advertising in San Francisco, she moved to Aspen, Colo., where she pursued her passion for arts administration at the Aspen Music Festival and School and the historic Wheeler Opera House. She was a member of the advisory committee for UCF Celebrates the Arts 2015 and is pursuing her MBA. When not working or studying, she is chasing after her toddler, Huck.

Michael Preston

Michael Preston, at UCF since 2011 as director of the Office of Student Involvement, changed jobs this month, becoming executive director of the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities based at UCF. The consortium was formed last year by Florida’s three largest urban research universities (UCF, USF and Florida International) to work together to help more students graduate while boosting the state’s economic development. He previously was director of student life at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and worked nearly 20 years in student affairs. He also teaches in UCF’s Higher Education Program on the subject of Organization and Administration in Higher Education. Preston is a first-generation college student and earned his bachelor’s degree in English at East Carolina University, his master’s degree in higher education at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and his Ed.D. at Texas A&M at Commerce. He and his wife, Nicole, have one daughter, Caroline.

Elizabeth Santiago

Elizabeth Santiago is a junior from Cape Coral who moved to Orlando to major in psychology at UCF. She recently was selected to be a member of the President’s Leadership Council, and is president of the Chi Upsilon Sigma sorority and the Diversified Greek Council. She is involved in Legacy Scholars and is a former LEAD Scholar, completing the Leadership Enrichment and Academic Development program. She said she hopes one day to pursue a law career to help those who cannot afford proper representation. She said helping others has always been her interest, and she is fortunate to be able to give back to others through involvement in various organizations on campus.

William Steiger

William Steiger is an instructor and marketing consultant in the College of Business and coordinator of the college’s Professional Selling Program. He joined the UCF faculty in 2009, the same year he earned his MBA at the university. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at the University of Illinois. Before coming to UCF, he was a vice president of Orlando Sentinel Communications and began his advertising career at the Chicago Tribune. Steiger has served on the board of governors of Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce and the board of directors for Florida’s Blood Centers, Orlando Science Center, and Orlando Lutheran Academy. He also is an adjunct instructor in the Professional Master of Business Administration program at the Florida Institute of Technology. He and his wife, Beverly, live in Maitland. They have two sons and two grandsons.