Gina Cilluffo, a general studies major and graduating senior at the Burnett Honors College, reflects on the time she's had at UCF. After graduation, Gina plans to pursue a master's degree in student affairs education at Clemson University. She hopes to help other students access opportunities that will allow them to grow academically and professionally.

How has your experience at UCF and the Burnett Honors College shaped the person you are today?

My involvement with O-Team, Marching Knights, and President’s Leadership Council sharpened my leadership skills and helped me realize that you can make a difference at any level just by being a kind problem-solver. My honors classes showed me the value of learning beyond your chosen discipline and the importance of discussion and collaboration, not just memorization. Because of the mentors I have had at UCF and the BHC who have shown me the way, I want to pursue a career in student affairs and pay their help forward to the next generation of students!

What’s your favorite hobby?

One of my favorite hobbies is exploring nature trails and parks around Central Florida. Whenever I get stressed, escaping into nature for a bit has always helped me calm down. Trees, wildlife, and fresh air are good for the soul!

How are you feeling about graduation approaching?

Graduation approaching is bittersweet. Virtual commencement is not the conclusion I was expecting, but it has helped me realize that the journey was the reward all along. Strangely, I think this semester going virtual has made me more ready to say goodbye. I love Orlando and my UCF friends and family and will miss them dearly, but this has shown that you do not have to be physically together to stay connected. The last four years have prepared me for what’s ahead and I can’t wait to visit as an alumna!

What did you discover about yourself during your time at UCF?

During my time at UCF I discovered interests in music and sustainability that I hope to maintain throughout my life. As someone who changed her major four times (graduating with lucky number five!), I learned that many career paths can be interdisciplinary and there is always a way to utilize all of your expertise. I also discovered that despite never being the loudest person in the room, I can still be an impactful leader. My mentors and supervisors helped guide me to see that what I thought was a weakness was one of my greatest strengths; that I would rather empower others than take the spotlight myself. UCF showed me how much I love helping others accomplish their goals and gave me opportunities to do it along the way!

What advice would you give to future Burnett Honors College students?  

Don’t compare your last semester of high school to your first semester of college. Remember that it likely took you 4+ years to build the connections and involvement you had at the end of high school. It will take time for you to settle in and find your place at UCF, and that’s okay. While I enjoyed my first semester, UCF didn’t feel like home until my second semester. Now, there’s nowhere else I would rather have spent four years. Get a little bit involved in an organization or two to help you meet people, talk to people in your classes, go to events even if you don’t know anyone else going (seriously, this is how I met one of my best friends first semester) and remember that every other freshman is going through the same adjustment you are!

What will you be doing after graduation? What do you ultimately want to do, and why?

After graduation, I will be pursuing my master’s degree in student affairs education at Clemson University! Ultimately, I want to work in student affairs at a university and help students succeed in any way I can. I believe pursuing an education is a tremendous time of growth that extends beyond just the classroom, and my goal is to ensure that students have access to opportunities to learn socially, academically and professionally to prepare them for their post-grad plans.