Reaching for the Stars through Graduate Studies
When Dr. Charles Millican chose Reach for the Stars as the official motto for Florida Technical University (FTU) more than 50 years ago, the university’s first president hoped the phrase would inspire students, faculty, and staff at the fledgling institution to fulfill lofty dreams.
Could Dr. Millican have anticipated that 50 years later Nicole Stott, an Engineering Management MS graduate, would actually fly toward the stars as an astronaut? Could he have imagined that Physics PhD graduate Kevin Stephenson would help discover a planet as part of his doctoral research? While he may not have dreamt of these exact things, the accomplishments of UCF’s graduates, students, faculty, and staff have elevated the status of the university beyond the stars.
FTU’s primary goal at its founding was to serve as an incubator for training Florida’s space industry workers. But not long after its founding, FTU’s leadership realized that the university could offer more than just technical education and by the end of its first decade, FTU became the University of Central Florida to reflect a broader educational focus.
Graduate programs in various disciplines from the engineering and science degrees needed to support the space industry to programs in arts and humanities, business, and education have been offered since the second year of classes in 1969. Graduate education became an even greater focus a year later in 1970 when Dr. Leslie L. Ellis, Jr. became the first Director of Research and Graduate Studies, an office that would later become the Division of Graduate Studies and eventually the College of Graduate Studies.
The first graduate students to walk across the commencement stage did so in 1971 when Mildred Warren, Georgina McEwen, and C. Gilbert Rowe received their master’s degrees in Elementary Education. Ali Reza Hurson became the first candidate to receive a doctoral degree (Computer Science PhD) in December 1980. Since the first graduating class, more than 40,000 graduate degrees have been conferred.
Over the years graduate-level research and education has been fostered in numerous ways, such as with the founding of the Institute for Simulation and Training in 1982. Much of this unit’s human-centered modeling and simulation research is conducted by graduate students and faculty. In 2004 when the School of Optics became the College of Optics and Photonics, it was the first college dedicated to this research focus in the country and it also became UCF’s first college to offer only graduate-level degrees.
Two of UCF’s more recent and well-publicized successes in graduate education have included the founding of a College of Graduate Studies in 2008 and the opening of a medical school in 2009, but these accomplishments would not have been possible without many earlier achievements paving the way. Join us as we celebrate 50 years of UCF through graduate studies.
To read more special articles about the College of Graduate Studies please visit our Grad News at www.gradnews.graduate.ucf.edu.
Portions of information used in this article are the courtesy Records of the University of Central Florida Office of Research and Graduate Studies, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida.
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