By Rachel Williams ’15 ’20MA April 25, 2023 (Published in UCF Today)
UCF, a top-tier public research university renowned for driving innovation and delivering broad-based prosperity, continues to distinguish itself in the latest U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings. In these influential 2023-24 rankings, nine College of Engineering & Computer Science graduate programs rank in the top 75 in the nation in their respective fields. A total of 21 UCF graduate programs rank in the top 100 of their fields, with four programs in the top 25 and nearly a dozen showing marked advancement.
“These rankings highlight UCF’s longstanding commitment to student success and academic excellence,” says President Alexander N. Cartwright. “Our outstanding graduate programs provide students with opportunities to earn high-quality advanced degrees in vital and impactful fields of study that improve the quality of life for our region and have a positive impact on society.”
“Our latest rankings underscore UCF’s unwavering focus on advancing the quality of our academic programs as we prepare students to excel in the global marketplace,” says Michael D. Johnson, UCF’s provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “I am grateful for our faculty’s focus on excellence and commitment to continuously elevating our scholarship, research, and societal impact.”
UCF is a public research university invested in unleashing the potential within every individual, enriching the human experience through inclusion, discovery, and innovation, and propelling broad-based prosperity for the many communities it serves. Ultimately, these rankings represent the drive, effort and dedication of our students, faculty, staff, and leaders to positively change the world.
A History of Excellence in Emergency Management
As a hub for excellence, UCF has consistently demonstrated its prowess in the Master of Emergency and Crisis Management program, which ranks No. 2 nationally — placing in the top 10 for the sixth consecutive year. This top-tier homeland security program enables students to navigate increasingly complex man-made and natural disasters with ethical and culturally competent leadership. Faculty in the program contribute to national research and regional solutions related to crises. Last year, Endowed Professor of Environmental Science and Public Administration Christopher Emrich led a team of researchers across the country to develop an online tool that provides disaster readiness reports for 13.3 million homes across Florida and parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas — aiding millions of homeowners and renters along the Gulf of Mexico.
“One of the things that makes us a top program is the mix of scholars that are doing research and teaching in the program,” Emrich says. “We have theoretical scholars that are looking at the roots of emergency management and understanding. Then we also have applied researchers like myself, Dr. Claire Knox, Dr. Abdul-Akeem Sadiq and others who are doing things that have real world impact, and I think that has high value for students who are looking for more applied futures.”
Many emergency managers, firefighters and law enforcement officers leverage expertise within UCF’s emergency management program to take their work to the next level, which is another aspect that sets UCF’s program apart from some others, Emrich says. One such example is Lauren Gros ’22MECM, who after earning a master’s in emergency and crisis management, is now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where she advises on policy relating to emergency management.
Significant Gains and New Graduate Program Recognitions
Eleven UCF degree programs jumped significantly in the rankings. The part-time Master of Business Administration (MBA) program climbed a staggering 51 spots to No. 76, while the College of Community Innovation and Education saw a 12-spot increase to No. 46.
“It is exciting to see our programs jump significantly in the rankings. I would say our secret to success is our students,” says Keri White Kozlowski, a lecturer of law, business and tax. “They come to in-person classes engaged and ready to debate real business issues in an environment where it is safe to make mistakes. Students and faculty alike bring our best efforts into the classroom. Each of our part-time MBA cohorts become a family during the program and often remain personal and professional connections for life.”
The Best Education Schools category includes graduate educator preparation programs, such as Teacher Education, School Psychology, Educational Leadership, and Curriculum and Instruction, which are offered in the College of Community Innovation and Education. For Student Counseling and Personnel Services, UCF is ranked at No. 12 — up one spot from its latest ranking in 2021. Collectively, these programs are critical to addressing the shortage of teachers and administrators in schools.
This year alone, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $3.85 million in grants to UCF to support its efforts in addressing areas of critical need in schools. These grants will train more special education teachers, school psychologists and culturally competent teachers who can meet the needs of the influx of students whose primary language is not English.
“We are honored to be ranked among the nation’s top graduate education programs,” says Grant Hayes, dean of UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education. “This recognition is a testament to our faculty and staff’s dedication to addressing the critical needs of the education workforce and reflects our commitment to academic excellence and student success.”
Other jumps in this year’s rankings include:
- Nursing Practice (DNP) – up nine spots to No. 43
- Public Finance and Budgeting – up six spots to No. 24
- Aerospace Engineering – up five spots to No. 50
- Civil Engineering – up five spots to No. 64
- Mechanical Engineering – up four spots to No. 71
- Public Management and Leadership – up three spots to No. 26
- Emergency and Crisis Management – up one spot to No. 2
With its academic strength and commitment to excellence, UCF ranks in two new categories for the first time this year, including Biomedical Engineering/Bioengineering at No. 112 and Earth Sciences at No. 155.
While diverse in their teachings, UCF degree programs have key things in common: Renowned faculty, strong talent pipelines that help satisfy workforce shortages and job growth across the country, and innovative research and technology that guide the continued development of industries.
Research That’s Out of This World
For the seventh consecutive year, UCF engineering ranks in the top 75, with the latest ranking of No. 73 for Best Engineering Schools. It’s no surprise when faculty and students regularly research and invent groundbreaking methods for traveling the country, and even space. UCF ranks No. 50 for Aerospace Engineering on U.S. News & World Report’s latest rankings.
For instance, Kareem Ahmed, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, studies hypersonic speeds and advanced propulsion. His research, with the help of graduate students, explores aircraft-engine technology that’s capable of propelling travelers from New York to London in less than 10 minutes. The technology has big implications for space travel, too, which is why Ahmed leads more than $5.5 million worth of research grants from organizations like NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, General Electric and Siemens.
Ahmed is influencing the next generation of engineering pioneers through the graduate students he mentors and as the faculty advisor of UCF’s American Society of Mechanical Engineers chapter.
“UCF is a dynamic university with an energetic student population. It’s a central hub of innovation that’s forward-thinking and rapidly growing, and that drives my presence here,” Ahmed says.
UCF’s strength in aerospace stretches even further, with the university being the first in the country to have a lab that bears the name of the late, world-renowned physicist, Stephen W. Hawking. He chose UCF for this honor because of its passion for science and building the next generation of students and researchers who, beginning in UCF’s lab, will advance microgravity research, explore safe means for space travel, and research how to inhabit Mars and the moon.
UCF has long been recognized as the top supplier of aerospace and defense talent, according to Aviation Week Network. UCF graduates make up 29% of employees at Kennedy Space Center. These graduates often make their first connection to the NASA space center through internship and research experiences while at the university.
Five other engineering programs also rank in the top 75:
- Industrial Engineering – No. 41
- Materials Engineering – No. 51
- Computer Engineering – No. 57
- Electrical Engineering – No. 58
- Environmental Engineering – No. 68
Growing Orlando’s Job Market
Located in one of the nation’s major metropolitan cities, UCF connects students with countless internships and jobs, including in the ever-growing healthcare industry.
Ranking at No. 43 in Doctor of Nursing Practice, UCF graduate programs in the College of Nursing are helping meet growing national demand for nurse practitioners — a profession that is expected to nearly double in this decade. The college offers pathways for bachelor-level students to earn their Doctor of Nursing Practice degree for adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioner and family nursing practitioner.
“Our steadfast focus on excellence in education, practice and research has propelled UCF to the forefront of the best graduate nursing programs in the nation,” says Mary Lou Sole, dean of the UCF College of Nursing. “Thanks to the dedication of our faculty experts, we continue to provide a quality education that prepares the advanced providers, advocates and leaders that our communities desperately need.”
The UCF College of Nursing has long provided skilled, compassionate nurses to the Central Florida workforce and beyond, with more than 85% of its 14,000 alumni living and working in Florida. Graduates of UCF’s nursing programs continually exceed state and national averages on the first-time pass rate on the nursing licensure and board certification exams, and the college’s programs are nationally accredited and internationally recognized for innovative work with simulation in education. In fact, UCF is one of just nine in the world to earn the Healthcare Simulation Standards Endorsement from the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning.
To meet growing demand — and thanks to a generous investment of $29 million from the 2022 Florida Legislature, the college is slated to open a new building with double the amount of learning space at the UCF Academic Health Sciences Campus in Lake Nona in the 2025-26 academic year.
A National Leader, Through and Through
These 2024 graduate rankings are in addition to other recent accolades from U.S. News, including No. 20 in the nation — the highest in Florida — in its 2023 Most Innovative Schools category; No. 64 for Public Schools, the university’s highest ranking yet in this category; and No. 8 in the nation for overall Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.
Other 2023-24 UCF Graduate Rankings include:
- Nonprofit Management – No. 18
- Public Affairs – No. 46
- Healthcare Management – No. 47
- Computer Science – No. 70
- Chemistry – No. 119
- Mathematics – No. 125