Carissa Baker was inducted into Order of Pegasus, marking the first time a Texts and Technology doctoral program student has received the university’s most prestigious recognition. Baker, who graduated May 3, also successfully defended her dissertation, “Exploring a Three-Dimensional Narrative Medium: The Theme Park as ‘De Sprookjessprokkelaar,’ the Gatherer and Teller of Stories” in March.
Order of Pegasus is the most prestigious and significant award a student can attain at the University of Central Florida, recognizing exemplary performance by UCF students in the areas of academic achievement, outstanding university involvement, leadership, and community service. The 2018 class inducted 22 students, including three from the College of Arts & Humanities: Porsha Dossie of the Department of History, Ana Beltran of the School of Visual Arts & Design, and Baker of the Texts and Technology doctoral program.
After receiving her bachelor of arts from Chapman University and her master of arts from UCF, both in literature, Baker began the Texts and Technology doctoral program to pursue her current research focusing on theme parks as unique narrative mediums. Her most recent publication is on Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter as an expression of contemporary media concepts. The interdisciplinary nature of the Texts and Technology doctoral program was the “only fit” for Baker’s research and approach: “T&T expanded my horizons with its interdisciplinary perspective and supportive faculty,” she said.
Baker felt inspired and challenged by the coursework taught by Rudy McDaniel, J.D. Applen, Melody Bowdon, Barry Mauer and Anastasia Salter, as well as Duncan Dickson from the Rosen College of Hospitality Management. “The requirement for cross-college collaboration was particularly valuable and enriched my dissertation research,” Baker commented on her independent study work with Dr. Dickson on theme park storytelling. “This program helped me find my passion and showed me the path for becoming a contributor in an emerging field. It truly allowed me to soar.”
Her foundations in the English Master of Arts program also contributed to her success. “I traveled to UCF from across the country and found a forward-facing, creative institution. I entered the master’s program as a first generation college graduate with a background of adversity – I lacked confidence, but UCF quickly set me up for success with great resources, subject matter knowledge, conference preparation, and educator training.” Baker cites the benefits being a University Writing Center tutor, graduate teaching coursework, and of Dr. Lynn Casmier-Paz’s theory course with a mock conference setup, her first opportunity to compose and present a conference paper. “All of these things helped me prepare for to be an instructor and an academic,” she commented.
Last year, Baker was a visiting scholar at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, where she taught theme park design and management students in addition to giving workshops for students in the Efteling Academy talent development program. She also is a Professor of English at Seminole State College of Florida, where she teaches literature, composition, and honors humanities courses focused on popular culture like Disney and Harry Potter. For three years, Professor Baker directed the Read to Succeed quality enhancement plan for accreditation, which included embedding reading strategies across the curriculum and encouraging reading outside of the classroom. She was instrumental in bringing the LGBTQ Ally program to the campus and was a founding (and current) member of the LGBT Scholarship Committee.
“I have loved my experience at UCF,” Baker remarked. “I respect the innovative nature of the institution, as the university, not only the students, seems to embody the ‘reach for the stars’ motto. I believe it will only continue to excel in so many areas and expand its national and international reputation. My husband graduated with his B.A. in History from UCF, and we both enjoy going to football games. We are Knights for life!”