Professor Dedicates Career to UCF

Associate Professor Frank Kujawa has been a part of the University of Central Florida family for 47 years and counting. 


Associate Professor Frank Kujawa in the lecture hall where he teaches his classes.

The office of Associate Professor Frank Kujawa, Ph.D., is full of memories. The shelf space is packed with catalogs, books and miscellaneous texts spanning decades. An overhead projector sits on top of a full filing cabinet. A desk sits at the front of the room, with two recent newspapers featuring Kujawa displayed on top.  A portion of his extensive rock and geological sample collection sits in a line of display cases outside of his office.  It runs the length of the wall, about 20 feet.

Kujawa is a man who is unique in the University of Central Florida’s history. As the longest-serving professor on campus, he’s been at the university since 1969 and has seen it grow from three academic buildings and under 5,000 students to one of the largest universities in the United States today.

He remembers watching the Apollo 11 rocket take off on July 16, 1969 from the roof of the chemistry building. He and his wife Ann had just gotten married and were at UCF for his second interview in the hiring process. The chemistry building was the tallest on campus and had the best view of the shuttle launch.

Kujawa came to UCF from Baltimore the year after the university opened to students. He was hired after two interviews with the founding chair of the Department of Chemistry, Graham Baker.

Kujawa is one of three geology professors at UCF and the only that teaches in the general education program. He teaches mostly to first and second-year non-science majors.  For the past 20 years, he has also been teaching senior and graduate-level chemistry seminar courses.


Kujawa and his rock collection.

Kujawa values the wide range of students who have taken his classes over the years and thinks that it has helped him to develop his teaching style. He is regularly greeted by former students while shopping, and even received an email about the positive impact of his geology course from a student who had taken it 30 years before.

“I have stayed so long because I enjoy teaching, I’ve been given plenty of independence, and I think I’ve been making a contribution to both my students and my department,” Kujawa said.

Kujawa was involved with the United Faculty of Florida in his earlier years at UCF. He started out as the treasurer of the group, served about four years as the chapter’s president, and eventually became the statewide vice president. He’s proud to have helped resolve many issues raised by faculty members, chairs and an assistant dean.

Since 2009, Kujawa has again become active in politics beginning with the social action group at his church, then later with the Democratic Party, the Central Florida Labor Council, and the Natural Resources Action Group of the Orange County League of Women Voters (now open to men as well).

Kujawa’s primary interests when he was in graduate school were certain theoretical aspects of geochemistry. He has degrees in both geology and in chemistry from the Johns Hopkins University.  Following completion of his Ph.D., he worked for eight months in a temporary geologist position at the Smithsonian Oceanographic Sorting Center in Washington, DC.

In the early 1970’s, Kujawa taught two field geology courses in the southern Appalachians; and later took two faculty-level field courses in  the Yellowstone and Mammoth Caves areas.  He also was involved in setting up the Florida Sinkhole Research Institute at UCF, following the 1981 formation of the huge Winter Park Sinkhole.  The institute was later disbanded because of funding cuts during the 1991 recession.

Kujawa has seen growth of all kinds during his employment at UCF. One of his favorite memories is the establishment at UCF of a program called “supplemental instruction” about 18 years ago.  The university was having difficulty retaining students in math and science classes, and created a program to give struggling students additional help.

“The idea was to have somebody who had taken the course meet with students for sessions outside of class three or four times a week,” Kujawa said. “It took the students who would have been at risk and helped them meet high standards, rather than simply lowering standards to retain students. That really impressed me.”

Kujawa offers his students help sessions twice a week.  He stresses the importance of critical thinking in his classes and allows extra time on quizzes and tests so that students can think through their answers rather than just react with memorized information.

“I want students to actually think and learn from my class rather than just repeating facts and matching vocabulary terms with definitions,” Kujawa said.

Kujawa and his wife enjoy dinner while watching movies together a few times every week, mostly mysteries, nature shows and history documentaries.  Occasionally they attend an Anthropology Society lecture, see a movie or go to a play at Mad Cow Theatre or Theatre UCF. They like to take walks outdoors when the Florida heat is manageable.

Their son Michael grew up in Central Florida, graduated from UCF in 1998 in computer science, and since 2001 has been living in Boston and working as an online computer-game programmer.  While at UCF, Michael was on the computer team and worked at the Naval Air Warfare Training Center in Research Park as a naval simulation programmer.

UCF and Kujawa have matured together. He remembers UCF’s first president Charles Millican telling the faculty about the university’s potential for expansion.

“He was saying he expected the university to grow to 25,000 students, and I thought he was crazy,” Kujawa said. “Of course now, we’ve more than doubled that.”


Kujawa has been teaching at UCF for 47 years and has no plans to stop any time soon.

Comments are closed.