What’s Next Integrative Learning Scholarship Student Highlights

This year, the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) offered the What’s Next: Integrative Learning Scholarship to undergraduate students for the first time. This annual scholarship offers up to $1,000 for students who demonstrate excellence in high-impact integrative learning such as undergraduate research, internships, peer mentoring, living learning communities, etc., and who were able to demonstrate their ability to connect the skills learned from these experiences to other contexts and situations both inside and outside the classroom. A total of 93 students applied, and 37 students across 11 colleges were selected to receive the scholarship for the 2017–2018 academic year.

We asked a few of our scholarship winners to tell us about their integrative learning experiences. Students were asked to reflect on their most meaningful experiences in and beyond the classroom as well as on how these experiences shape what they want to do after college. Their most impactful experiences range from undergraduate research and study abroad to starting their own company and working with a faculty mentor. Some people were inspired by interactions with their family and friends while others were drawn to their major by curiosity and the desire to learn something new. These interviews reflect the diversity and range of interests within our student body at UCF and the influential convergence of people, places, and experiences on these students’ lives as they work towards achieving their goals. The programs and resources offered at UCF have a significant impact on the path our students choose to take after college.

Below, 2017 Integrative Learning Scholarship recipients Rafaela Frota, Emily O’neill, and Bolivar Perez reflect on their experiences:


Why did you choose your major?

Rafaela Frota (Junior), Photonic Science and Engineering:

Light is such a fundamental and defining force of our existence, that when presented with a career field that allowed for its manipulation, it seemed like I could be part of something much greater than myself and capable of impacting the future in many more ways than one.

Emily O’neill (Junior), Art Education:

I chose my major because since I was a little girl, I always loved watching painting videos with Bob Ross with my dad. In kindergarten, my best friend taught me how to draw my first rose. As I got older, I began to draw more and develop a deeper appreciation for art. My deciding factor was my high school art teacher. Mrs. Adkins helped me learn about art and assisted me with pushing my talent to greater depths. Art has always been a part of me. I hope to share knowledge on the importance of art and encourage creativity.

Bolivar Perez (Sophomore), Civil Engineering:

Growing up in Miami, I often admired the larger than life skyscrapers and architectural diversity the city has to offer. Similar to UCF, the city always seems to be under construction, so I was able to witness many projects built from the ground up. This always fascinated me and I dreamed that one day I could play a part in building these impressive structures. This, along with my passion for math, made majoring in Civil Engineering an easy choice.


What has been your most meaningful academic experience so far and why? What skills did you develop and how have they helped you with your other experiences?


Since joining UCF, I have taken part in four research groups, and I am currently involved in three of those groups respectively focusing on artificial intelligence, solar energy, and health-tech focused behavioral studies. The higher-level thinking, research, and team interactions resulting from being part of a research group makes it one of the most incredible academic experiences I have had so far. This level of engagement and professional commitment is one that increased my awareness in these topics and helped me grow as a student and professional.


The most meaningful academic experience I have had has been my drawing and painting classes. These classes really helped push me to my limit, strengthen my art skills, but also teach me discipline and patience. I learned that trial and error is good and that art is infinite. I became more disciplined in time management and focus. My painting class helped me learn what art movements interested me most and how to give and receive feedback. This has helped me with my positions on campus as Front Desk Team Lead in the Office of Student Involvement/Student Government Association and as an Orientation Leader. In both positions, I must be patient, disciplined, have great time management, and be able to improve and give/receive feedback.


My most meaningful academic experience so far has been participating in the UCF L.E.A.R.N. Program. Through this program, I had the opportunity to conduct research studying the vibrations of the heart, VCG signals, and presented my own research proposal studying the impacts of structural vibrations on VCG signal collection. Along with this research experience, the L.E.A.R.N. program also allowed me to enroll in two research courses and become lab certified. Being exposed to research as a freshman allowed me to grow immensely as a student and taught me discipline. Also, presenting my research enhanced my communication skills and mastery of the subject.


What has been your most impactful experience outside of the classroom and why? What skills did you develop from this experience? How have you applied these skills in other areas of your life?


Outside of the classroom, I have developed my startup, Wawwe. Wawwe is a virtual food assistant that makes it easy to have a happy and normal lifestyle by providing on-demand and personalized suggestions when grocery shopping, looking at recipes, eating out at restaurants, or ordering meal deliveries. The user’s dietary preferences and restrictions are used to curate a hub of eating options and also allow the user to track their eating habits, engage with others, and raise their nutritional awareness.

The founding of Wawwe has allowed me to wear many hats and develop skillsets that perhaps otherwise I would not have been able to attain. I have spoken to CEOs, investors, and media outlets. I also had the chance to manage teams and explore the realms of executive and creative roles.


The most impactful experiences outside of the classroom I’ve had are working at the Office of Student Involvement/Student Government Association and being an Orientation Leader. While working for OSI/SGA I have learned how to use my resources to help guests, answer inquiries, multi-task, and communicate with others. I developed my leadership skills after I was promoted to team lead. As an o-teamer I have learned to manage a group of students and speak to parents, flexibility, and public speaking skills. In both positions, I have learned time management, conflict resolution, and the importance of working as a team. I have used these skills to build relationships, network, and open more opportunities. These are all valuable skills I will use as a future art educator.


My most impactful experience outside of the classroom so far has been participating in internships with Hub Steel and Optimus Structural Design. While in these internships, I was able to get a firsthand look into the construction and structural design industries, and apply lessons learned in the classroom to real-world experiences. Between looking through numerous construction plans, responding to RFIs, using advanced 3D modeling software, purchasing steel plates, and frequently conducting on-site inspections, the lessons and experiences I have acquired are invaluable. These internships have allowed me to develop necessary skills that will contribute to a promising career in structural design.