UCF Faculty Excellence chooses 31 UCF women to honor throughout Women’s History Month each year. For 2019, 10 of the 31 faculty members are from the College of Arts and Humanities. These women have helped shape the university from its beginnings until today.
The honorees from CAH, with their nominators’ remarks on the ways they are visionary women, are:
- Cheryl Briggs
Associate Professor | School of Visual Arts and Design, College of Arts and Humanities
“Cheryl Briggs is the most influential individual I have ever had the pleasure to know, and I am honored to nominate her for the University of Central Florida’s 2019 Women’s History Month. I have known her for 10 years and have witnessed her dedication to her students and her calling stretching far beyond the halls of UCF.
With her extensive teaching and industry experience in storytelling and character animation, Cheryl has inexorably changed the landscape of the Character Animation program by elevating it to one of the highest nationally ranked animation programs in the country under her leadership. She cultivated a curriculum that provides real-world experience housed within an inclusive team framework, challenging her students and colleagues to think beyond the accepted norms. This progressive mindset has encouraged her students to reevaluate gender representation in film, resulting in animated shorts with dynamic female characters.
Continuing her mentorship long after graduation, Cheryl has cultivated a network of former students in the industry that spans two decades. While this personally affords her the opportunity to stay current on the ever-changing technologies and techniques, this personal connection also opens doors to her current students within a notoriously clique-based industry. She extends this further by inviting alumni to visit the classroom and share their experiences from within the industry, providing invaluable first-hand knowledge to young animators.
Cheryl’s latest pursuit, the planning, approval, and implementation of the new Emerging Media Animation and Visual Effects Master of Fine Arts program, is already nationally ranked. Its growth has increased exponentially and is incredible considering the program is now accepting applications for only its third cohort. She manages the program, acts as a thesis advisor, and teaches within it.
Beyond the educational sphere, Cheryl is a sought-after public speaker, sharing her hard-won knowledge at local, regional, and international conferences. She was specifically invited to a program in Taiwan to mentor young female technical creatives, providing them a living role model for a traditionally male-dominated field.
If all of this wasn’t enough, Cheryl is also a published author. Noticing a deficiency in practical guides for character rigging, storytelling, and self-promotion within the animation sphere, she took it upon herself to author guides that are actively being used in classrooms around the world.
I am consistently inspired by her work ethic, her inexhaustible pursuit of knowledge, and her single-minded focus on the betterment of those around her. Recognized in 2018 with the UCF Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award and in 2017 with the UCF Teaching Incentive Program Award, she is engaging, intelligent, and gently challenging, pushing everyone to be the best person they can be. I frankly would not have started a business or returned to UCF to pursue my MFA if it wasn’t for her mentorship. Out of every educator I’ve encountered, she dedicates the most time to those under her tutelage and she genuinely cares about the success of everyone around her. There is no other woman I know that deserves recognition as much as Cheryl Briggs.”
- Lisa Danker
Assistant Professor | Film and Mass Media, Nicholson School of Communication and Media, College of Arts and Humanities
“Professor Lisa Danker is consistently placing the enrichment of her students at the forefront of her work. I have taken several classes with Professor Danker as well as an independent study. She always makes sure to teach students beyond the standards of the course. She encourages her students to work at a level that will produce individual growth and accomplishments that carry over outside of the classroom setting. Outside of classes Professor worked with film students to establish Sunspots Experimental Film Club in Fall 2018. This club started with less than 10 members and by Spring 2019 has doubled. Danker saw that there was no class offered for students to create, collaborate and develop video art installations meant for gallery environments and since forming Sunspots Experimental Film Club students have now been given the chance to do exactly that. In January 2019 Sunspots Cinema Collective curated their first video art installation gallery at the Henao Contemporary center. The UCF film department has no gallery space of their own and Lisa Danker supervised and helped facilitate a place without creative boundaries for students to present their work alongside other faculty members, in a public space. This faculty member does so much to push students academically and individually but on top of all that she interacts with students in an uplifting, positive way that encourages us to go further than even our own self-expectations.”
- Nora Lee Garcia
Associate Professor | Performing Arts, Music, College of Arts and Humanities
“Nora Lee Garcia is one of the most highly regarded flutists in the concert world today. She is the founder and director of Flute at UCF, a program that includes the Flute at UCF Masterclass Series, the UCF Flute and Piccolo Summer Institute, and the UCF Flute Boot Camp. Her studio is consistently full and producing very high calibre musicians that go on to great success. Those are the facts.
I nominate her because she is a true mentor to many students and understands the value of rigor. She is a very successful musician herself and shares selflessly her ambition, her discipline and her joy of music with very receptive students. Her students respect her immensely because she is demanding and knows how to translate her experience and talent into the art of teaching. She is very active in the department and contributes to many committees and supports our initiatives.
Nora is truly an inspiration. “
- Shannon Lindsey
Director of UCF Art Gallery/Lecturer | School of Visual Arts and Design, College of Arts and Humanities
“Shannon is an inspiration to her staff and students. Her presence at the UCF Art Gallery and as a professor of the School of Visual Arts and Design has positively impacted the curriculum of SVAD, as well as the success of the UCF Art Gallery. In the past year and a half, she has increased the gallery’s numbers in visitors, as well as increased the productivity of the inner workings of the gallery. She has provided students with external opportunities to display and sell their work, and brought national attention to the gallery.”
- Holly McDonald
Associate Lecturer | Performing Arts, Theatre, College of Arts and Humanities
“Professor McDonald is a huge advocate for women at the University. She has been very active with collaborative projects with Women’s Studies, Victim Services, and United Faculty of Florida to enhance the quality of life at UCF for women faculty and students. She is an advocate for interdisciplinary projects between female professors, and has participated actively in various projects through the Women’s Studies and Film Departments. She has been a member of the Cultural Diversity and Inclusion track for Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning conferences the past five years, with a specific focus on diversifying women’s roles at the University. She also has been a very active proponent of hiring more women of color at UCF in both staff and faculty positions. Her work through the FCTL conferences led to creation of an online course in Women in Theatre, an online course that explores the roles of women in the history of theatre. It is available to all UCF students and is one of our most popular online courses offered in our department. Professor McDonald is an outstanding role model for our students, both female and male. She has been instrumental in helping our students understand a broader view of the world, especially issues dedicated to women in our department, the College of Arts and Humanities, and the University as a whole. I am inspired by her work every single day!”
- Kelly Miller
Associate Professor | Performing Arts, Music, College of Arts and Humanities
“Kelly Miller, Associate Professor of Music, is one of our most prolific and outstanding faculty members. She started and leads the UCF Women’s Chorus, composed of 80+ students from all areas of the university. She is an advocate for our students in all areas. She runs the music education program and is a one-women force of nature. She has built the program to the point of bursting, and is one of the leading programs of its kind in the nation. Kelly goes above and beyond every day, and is a true mentor to so many women in our student body. She recently was awarded tenure. In her capacity of leading the Bachelor of Music in Education, she has built the program from a fledgling one to one admired by many. We have almost a 100% placement rate due to Kelly’s work with educators throughout he Florida region. I highly recommend her.”
- Anne Prucha ’11MA
Associate Instructor | Modern Languages and Literatures, College of Arts and Humanities
“Anne Prucha is the epitome of what it means to be an exceptional educator and colleague. In my 13 years at UCF, I have watched Anne mentor colleagues, graduate students, as well as undergraduates with an unceasing energy and optimism. She is a true innovator, jumping at any chance to broaden her knowledge of pedagogy and best practices, while continuing to revolutionize and renovate courses and content for her students and their best interests.
On a personal level, not only did Anne hire me, but I have also participated with her on many of the aforementioned initiatives. Together we have participated in numerous FCTL Summer Conferences and focus groups.
We created the Journey Cuba spring break study abroad program at the University of Central Florida and subsequently the Cuba: History, Culture, and Society summer study abroad program, both the first of their kind at UCF. This culminated in the creation of a course, receiving final approval for the catalog just this semester for LAS 3026, Cuba: A Collective Portrait.
We were both founding members of the UCF-Hillcrest Foreign Language Club organizing UCF volunteers in French and Spanish to lead a language club and the only Orange county magnet school for Foreign Language. Only this month she spearheaded a professional development opportunity for Hillcrest faculty on our campus with a morning of related speakers and an open dialogue between UCF students and K-12 foreign language educators.
For our most recent endeavor together, we participated together in a course redesign project, creating our course content for Elementary Spanish Language and Civilization I & II using only open educational resources (OER) and Realizeit software, a personalized adaptive learning system, and the list goes on.
Anne also received an M. A. in TESOL from UCF, making herself invaluable to our department as she offers expertise in two fields. Due to her extensive work with CDL and the online teaching community, she has expressed an interest in pursuing a graduate certificate in Instructional Design. Her thirst for knowledge and self-betterment is a definitive constant.
It is my sincere pleasure to nominate my colleague Anne Prucha for recognition as one of UCF’s best and brightest among our stellar women faculty.”
- Anastasia Salter
Assistant Professor | Games and Interactive Media, Nicholson School of Communication and Media, College of Arts and Humanities
“Dr. Salter is a strong scholar and leader in her field. Her groundbreaking work has garnered considerable recognition – she was a UCF Luminary Scholar – and she has led the Games and Interactive Media program through considerable transition. Much of Anastasia’s work focuses on gender in gaming and pushes forward the discourse in this space. She is incredibly deserving of this recognition.”
- Kacie Tartt
Associate Instructor | Modern Languages and Literatures, College of Arts and Humanities
“Kacie Tartt deserves to be honored for her innovation in curriculum and program development in the undergraduate Spanish program at UCF. From fall 2014 to spring 2017 she served as the coordinator for Modern Languages and Literatures first-year Spanish program, which serves over 3,000 students a year. In her role as coordinator she oversaw the implementation of a new textbook and learning management system and designed course templates in Canvas that were used by more than 20 faculty members each semester (professors, instructors, adjuncts and GTAs) in all teaching modalities: face-to-face, reduced-seat time (W) and fully online (WWW).
Ms. Tartt is the first member of her department to incorporate personalized adaptive learning in foreign language courses. She worked closely the Center for Distributed Learning using the software application RealizeIt, an adaptive learning system that allows students to progress at their own pace through a learning path that is created and adapted for each student throughout the course progression. This innovation led to her selection as a participant in the Pegasus Innovation Labs Course Redesign Initiative, funded by UCF’s Board of Trustees, to redesign the entire first-year Spanish curriculum incorporating personalized adaptive learning using RealizeIt and Open Educational Resources, essentially creating courses from the ground up. These courses are currently being piloted during the spring 2019 semester.
Ms. Tartt is co-creator and co-faculty director of UCF’s first study abroad program in Cuba, now in its third year. It consists of a 3-credit course taught in spring and an 8-day cultural immersion trip to Cuba over spring break. She developed the course with her colleague, who is co-creator and co-faculty director of this program, and it is now part of the UCF course catalog offerings. The course — LAS3930 Cuba: A Collective Portrait — is an overview of Cuban history, culture and society. This study abroad program is truly cross-disciplinary, attracting students from across the university with majors in Engineering, Music, Art, Biomedical Sciences, Psychology, History, Political Science, Spanish, and others. During the spring 2019 course and trip, the program is inaugurating a virtual study abroad component: some students in the class will travel to Cuba and others will not. These cohorts will collaborate before, during and after travel to Cuba and their work will include projects with synchronous and asynchronous activities to take place during the time of the trip. These projects will be housed in a digital repository in the UCF library and will be accessible to the University community. During the Summer A 2019 semester Ms. Tartt will also lead a new four-week summer study abroad program in Cuba, offering UCF students a longer immersion opportunity and the chance to earn credits toward their degree while taking class in Cuba.
The passion with which Ms. Tartt infuses her work has benefited UCF students and colleagues alike. She is a true innovator who is worthy of recognition and I believe she deserves to be honored during Women’s History Month for her dedication and excellence.”
- Vandy Wood
Associate Professor | Performing Arts, Theatre, College of Arts and Humanities
“Vandy Wood is a visual artist and theatrical designer from Central New York. She is currently an associate professor of design and the coordinator of the MFA design and TYA programs for the theatre department at the University of Central Florida. Vandy has been designing professionally for theatre and video since 1986. Recent creative activities include scenic and lighting designs for Theatre UCF, The Orlando REP, and Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, and directing and designing touring productions for IBEX Puppetry.
Last year she was nominated for the world-class Drama Desk Award in New York City for her outstanding puppet design for a production in New York. She has been a leader in the movement to integrate puppetry as a discipline in theatrical design and as a result UCF is a leader in that movement. She has designed dozens of shows at UCF, The Orlando Shakespeare theatre, The Orlando Repertory Theatre and other theatres nationwide. She worked extensively with Jim Henson’s daughter in her company doing shows all over the world.
A great example of her passion: Earlier this year, our UCF grad students were doing a production of Jungle Book at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. Without any compensation, she went down there and helped them build fantastical puppets for their production because she wanted the students to have that experience. She is a true philanthropist with time and money, to insure that the theatrical design arts are central to our student designer’s experiences.
She is a real gift. “