In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and National Hispanic Serving Institutions Week, the UCF Foundation recently hosted local education and business leaders to announce exciting new initiatives in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
Rodney M. Grabowski, CFRE, Senior Vice President for Advancement & Partnerships and CEO of the UCF Foundation, Inc. expressed his appreciation to attendees for helping UCF continue to foster excellence related to programs focused on the specific needs of — and the barriers that are faced by — our Hispanic students.
“We know that diversity includes all of us, all the time,” Grabowski says. “And as we recognize and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we also know that we are building upon our culture of diversity that embraces all of Knight Nation – everyone from our students, faculty and staff to our alumni, business partners and the Central Florida community and beyond.”
Andrea Guzmán, UCF Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion led a presentation that included recognition of Angela Albán ’04MSCpE, President and CEO of SIMETRI, for her creation of the SIMETRI Dream and Achieve Endowed Scholarship. Many of SIMETRI’s employees are Knights and Albán and her husband, Bill Reuter, are longtime supporters of the university.
“Ever since I graduated from UCF, my role has really been to be an advocate in the community for the university,” says Albán. “During Hispanic Heritage Month, I think it’s great to celebrate UCF’s many Hispanic American students who are, in some cases, first-generation college students, and the incredible richness of the university’s cultural diversity.”
Guzmán hopes that the meeting will be the first of many discussions to engage Hispanic members of the community to develop new strategies and programs that continue to elevate all of UCF. In her presentation, she outlined a new initiative of the Ginsburg Center for Inclusion and Community Engagement that will bring together a portfolio of initiatives and unify the center’s mission to develop compassionate leaders and responsible global citizens.
“UCF students have the capacity for appreciating various viewpoints and lived experiences,” says Guzmán, and she hopes that UCF will help them to further develop their critical thinking skills and protect their cultural identities. But, she added, “it is also important to lean into the incredible human resources in the community that can assist our students.”
Among the attendees at the event was Mel Martinez, a retired United States Senator and former mayor of Orange County. Martinez is the first Cuban American to serve in the Senate.
“I think it’s very important, especially for UCF, as we teach young people values and help them to understand and have pride in their heritage, that cultural identity is highlighted in a positive way,” says Martinez.
Alumnus Gonzalo Sauri ’18 says he was honored to “come together with other like-minded people to help plan for the future and how we can grow.” He was recently instrumental partnering with his company, Accenture, to form the Vamos Knights Fund. The fund helps develop scholarship and fellowship opportunities for students and provides faculty and staff resources to better serve our students through research activity and other professional development programs.
“The Vamos Knights Fund is very new, but very important,” Sauri says. “Not only does it offer a monetary benefit to UCF students, but it also gives peace of mind to them, just knowing that they are being taken care of at UCF.”
“I hold Hispanic values very dear to my heart,” says Victor Diaz ’82, an attorney and shareholder at Starfield and Smith, and a member of the UCF College of Arts and Humanities Dean’s Executive Council. “There has never been a lack of Hispanic student participation at UCF. I am glad there is a continued emphasis in making sure that the student body remains diverse and that all are afforded the best educational opportunities.”
If you’d like to support UCF’s initiatives in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, please contact Renzo Martorella, Director for Advancement, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, at [email protected].