The Kinsley scholarships have inspired a new generation of leaders in STEAM fields.
Ariel Figueroa has always wanted to be a graphic designer. “When I was young and we got our first computer, I imprinted on it like a little duckling,” she remembers. As she sharpened her skills in photo editing and graphic design, she started creating posters, t-shirts and banners for her high school theatre class. “I knew I wanted to do it as a career.”
When Figueroa was accepted into the Emerging Media, B.F.A.: Graphic Design program, she knew she would need to apply to every scholarship she could find. Being a working mother of two young sons made it much harder to pay for classes, textbooks, equipment and lab fees, even with Pell grants.
Nursing undergraduate student Caitlin Cox was inspired to pursue a career caring for others from her mother-in-law who is a nurse. “The only reason I am able to attend college is through the generosity of those who see the potential that I possess,” said Cox who had received several scholarships from her small hometown community. But since the Nursing, B.S. student pays for college on her own, she still has to work while in the intensive program.
Fortunately for Figueroa and Cox, a Knight was ready to help the two women achieve their dreams of higher education and continue on the path to success. Just like the alumna herself.
Help from a Knight trail blazer
A trail blazer and pioneer in computer science, Kate Kinsley ’83 was the first female graduate of the computer science Ph.D. program at UCF. Kinsley and her husband, Joe, established the Kinsley Family Endowed Scholarship in Digital Media in 2014 and the Ida Kinsley Endowed Memorial Nursing Scholarship as a memorial to Joe’s mother in 2005.
“When I came to UCF – then FTU (Florida Technological University) – there were six buildings. Nobody knew who UCF was,” recalls Kinsley. “The Computer Science Department was on the fourth floor of the Fine Arts building and had about 12 faculty and 12 graduate students.” Kinsley enjoyed and appreciated the interaction of the two approaches. That cross-disciplinary collaboration between the arts and sciences has been at the forefront of her work ever since.
Kinsley is an advocate for gender equality in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) disciplines. “It has to start early in the schools,” stresses Kinsley who encourages middle and high school girls to explore math, science and coding – anything that encourages problem solving. “You need it in every discipline.”
Founder of the computer consulting firm Datawise, Kinsley has made it her business to be knowledgeable about emerging fields in technology and digital media. As a business leader, she used tactics that crossed sciences with art to better understand clients. “The relations between STEM disciplines and the arts continue to grow with new innovations,” she said. “Just look at the next frontiers of AI, computer simulation and training. Graphics and illustrations are an important part.”
Figueroa and Cox are just two of the students the Kinsley scholarships have helped. Throughout their long-standing history of support for UCF, the Kinsleys have awarded scholarships to 23 . But Kinsley knows the scholarships are just the beginning for the students.
Persevering to be a leader
She wants to see more big things from UCF and her scholarship winners. “I want them to be a pioneer and leader in their field,” she says. “It takes incredible perseverance to be a leader. You have to be smart, you have to be creative, but mostly you have to persevere. If you don’t, you’re never going to finish anything – no matter how smart or creative you are.”
Figueroa and Cox both have demonstrated perseverance in their pursuit of an education, and are already on the path to being a leader in their respective fields.
A few months into the program and Figueroa’s portfolio is already robust and she has earned all A’s in her classes. “UCF has high expectations for their students, which helps prepare us for the professional world,” she reflects. “It makes me a better designer, student and worker.” And someday, just like Kate Kinsley, Ariel Figueroa hopes to pay it forward.
Cox hopes to continue her nursing education to become a nurse practitioner and eventually serve as the director of an Emergency Department in a rural hospital. “I love the fast-pace of the emergency room and how immediately you can see the impact you have on someone’s life,” she said. Already a leader at UCF, Cox has served as secretary of the Libra Area Council, committee member of the Volunteer UCF Health Committee and has mentored at inner city schools in Chicago through the Volunteer UCF Alternative Break Program.
Working together to make the biggest impact
As for Kinsley’s future, it’s a reflection of UCF. Just like in her career blending the arts and sciences, Kinsley knows the value of collaboration to make the greatest impact.
“UCF has achieved a lot, earning accolades and an excellent reputation. What helped make that happen is the people supporting it, and I want the university to continue to succeed,” Kinsley affirms. “Every success UCF has reflects on me because it makes my degree more valuable. And every success that I have reflects on UCF.”
She calls on her fellow UCF Alumni to give back to the university and its programs. “Alumni need to understand that UCF’s successes help their degree. Give to what you’re passionate about.”
To donate to the College of Arts and Humanities, visit www.ucffoundation.org/givetocah.