Published August 2018
Written by Laura Henschel
With each incoming cohort of Innovation Academy students, we have noticed more and more familiar faces around the program—parents return to see their second child become an IA Gator, students in the program joyfully introduce us to their younger siblings, and supportive family members at our Catalyst and Summit events become the newest students to pursue the Innovation minor.
Recent graduate, President of IA LEAD, and Innovation Academy Ambassador, Andrea Rodriguez, will leave big shoes for her younger sister Erika to fill. She is an incoming freshman in Spring 2019. Erika was influenced by her sister’s experience in IA and thought it would be a great opportunity for finding a community at UF.
“My sister was able to become an IA ambassador and a president of an IA organization, which is also a goal of mine. [Andrea also] told me IA was a great opportunity to meet people from many different domains,” Erika said.
For her sister and all other freshmen IA students, Andrea offered some words of wisdom to the incoming class: “The University of Florida is so diverse and anyone could truly change your life at any moment. I have learned something from everyone I have met, good or bad, and I know it has shaped my experience in a unique and valuable way.”
Sisters Ashely and Olivia Stultz are likewise thrilled to be in IA together, because the program has not only developed them separately in their respective fields of Biology and Agricultural Education and Communications, but as sisters along the way. They are both heavily involved in IA Ambassadors and in IA Serve.
“It has truly been a blessing taking on this IA and UF adventure with Olivia. I can’t imagine doing UF without my sister,” Ashley said. “I feel being able to share the struggles and memories of college has made us even closer.”
Ashley and Olivia enjoy the flexibility of the Innovation minor, as it has allowed them to take the coursework out-of-order and even take classes together. “Being a STEM student at UF, my class schedule is pretty intense, and I have had to take the IA classes in a different order because of my difficult schedule,” Ashley said. “What’s good about taking the classes in an order that differs from the norm is that we actually get to take a class together for the first time!”
Olivia and many other siblings stressed the importance of getting involved on campus and within the program in order to develop professionally and personally. “To enjoy your IA experience, you really do get out of it what you put in,” Olivia said. “Join one of the five unique IA organizations, use what you learn in your Innovation minor classes to help with work experience, and take advantage of department resources like the IA Fall Local Internship Program.”
Katherine Glickman, an Innovation Academy Ambassador and recent UF graduate, and her younger brother Allan Glickman—also an Ambassador-- both enjoy the small-community feel of IA because they came from a small private high school. “[My friend in IA] loved the small community in a large community like the University of Florida,” Katherine said. “I come from a small high school in Miami-- my graduating class was only 129 students, so this was exactly what I was searching for!”
Allan feels he made the right decision in following in his sister’s footsteps and also applying for the Innovation Academy program. “My favorite memories [at UF] were created because of IA and being an IA Ambassador allowed me to give back to the organization that gave me so much. There has not been one day that I walk across the UF campus without recognizing a friend from IA and that feeling makes me feel like I am home.”
Sophomore Journalism student Mary Katherine and her incoming freshmen sister, Elizabeth Delegal had similar reasons to join IA—for the small-campus feel of the program coming from a small high school. “I’ve really felt [the tight-knit community] throughout my first two years at UF,” Mary Katherine said. She is currently an IA Ambassador, but also involved in other organizations like her sorority, Chi Omega, and UF Student Government.
For the incoming cohort, Mary Katherine offered advice on how to get the most out of college. “I would encourage IA students to get involved in things on campus that they are passionate about. It is also important to form a solid bond with the IA community, as there are so many amazing opportunities that IA provides that students do not want to miss out on.”
As far as her sister’s experience, she hopes her sister, Elizabeth will find an IA that is uniquely her own. “I think that younger siblings should always take advice from their older siblings. However, even though they take advice, they can still forge their own path and develop their own experiences.”
As Katherine Glickman’s time in the program comes to an end, she offers her final thoughts on how to get the most out of IA-- the same advice she gave to her younger brother when he joined. “Don’t be scared to ask older, seasoned students about their own experiences and advice. You learn best from asking others. I was fortunate enough to befriend older students in the program, and they guided me to ambassadors and other connections on campus. And for that I am forever grateful because my experience here at UF could not be imagined without IA. I found a family in this huge university to spend time with, to grow with, and to excel with.”