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Snakes, Knightro and Yoga

Snakes, Knightro and yoga — just a few of the  animals, mascots and activities one can enjoy during Faculty and Family Fun Sundays, a monthly fall get-together for the UCF faculty in the Arboretum Park.

This free event was the idea of Linda Walters, director of the Center for Success of Women Faculty and a 2012 Pegasus Professor in the College of Sciences, and Fran Ragsdale, administrative assistant at the center. The first event, Sept. 11, drew about 75 people. The next event is scheduled from 12:30 to 3 p.m.  Nov. 13 in the Arboretum.

“We spend a lot of time in meetings together or passing each other on our way back and forth to classes, but I don’t think a lot of faculty feel like they are part of something bigger,” Walters said. “Our goal was to help build a community of UCF faculty beyond our workday commitments.”

Walters’ vision was to provide an experience that blended both the professional and personal lives of the school’s faculty. She said too often professors and staff are forced by the time-intensive nature of university life to choose between their scholarship, family and friendships, often leading to a sense of disconnection with the larger UCF community.

At the first event, themed “Everything UCF,” several faculty and staff members shared talents that don’t necessarily come into play at work. One College of Sciences administrator played guitar and sang, a College of Education & Human Performance professor taught yoga, and an assistant vice provost spent the day painting faces, which Walters said was a hit with children.

Three members of the men’s basketball team dropped by to teach kids how to dribble basketballs, and the UCF Police Department demonstrated its canine unit.

Knightro also made an appearance and was quickly bedecked with snakes, courtesy of the biology department.

“One of the researchers, Christopher Parkinson in biology, works on venomous snakes, so there were live venomous snakes in cages,” Walters said. “But there were a number of very large, nonvenomous snakes, and anybody and everybody who wanted to learn about these animals and to hold them were able to.

“That’s the kind of thing we were going for. You’re sharing your research at whatever level is appropriate. The kids played and took selfies with the snakes, and the faculty had the opportunity to talk with Chris about the genetics of snake venom.”

Walters had planned a second event for October, but Hurricane Matthew delayed those plans until November. This month’s event is a “Salute to our Oceans” and “UCF Innovations” and will feature marine touch tanks, oyster-mat making, a fishing-skills workshop for all ages and a sea turtle biology display, courtesy of Professor Kate Mansfield.  Innovations displays will include Limbitless Solutions and their bionic arms and a theatre workshop for children among many other opportunities. Food will also be available for purchase.

“We had a really, really good day,” Walters said. “I think everyone who came left with a better appreciation for UCF. Faculty met and shared experiences with colleagues, , their kids had fun while seeing a little bit of what mom or dad did at work, and everybody had a good time.”