Alumnus Advocates for UCF, District 49, as Florida House Representative

This year, the University of Central Florida is not only celebrating its 50th anniversary, but it is extremely proud to announce that nine UCF alumni have been elected into the 2013 Florida House of Representatives.

Throughout the years, many things have changed at UCF, but one thing remains the same: Our alumni continue to make a difference in their communities. Florida native Rep. Joe Saunders, 29, is no exception. He is representing Orange County, home to UCF, in this year’s Florida legislative session. Saunders graduated from UCF in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a double minor in legal studies and women’s studies.


During his time at UCF, Saunders led student organizations like the UCF Progressive Council and UCF SAFE (Students Advocating for Equality). He says, “By leading student organizations, I gained the organizing skills that I’ve used my entire career. These same skills give me an important advantage as I advocate for UCF, the underserved and all of my constituents in Florida House District 49.”

He describes his years at UCF as “transformative.”

“Not only did it provide the foundation for my worldview and an advanced understanding of politics, policy and the interconnectivity of our economic and social lives, but it was where I first cut my teeth as an advocate.”

The UCF Creed is integrity, scholarship, community, creativity and excellence. When asked how the creed had inspired his work he says, “The UCF creed is a statement of values. These values, while pertinent and profound to academic life, reach into every aspect of our public and private lives.”

Considering Saunders’ level of involvement at UCF, one would presume that having a single memorable moment would be difficult, but there is one event that is still stands out in his memory.

“It was in the summer of 2003,” he explains. “Student activists from across the state converged at UCF for the Florida College Activist Conference. We spent time as a statewide student community learning about policies that effect the environment, working families, women, the LGBT community and minorities. My time engaging with some of Florida’s most effective young leaders had a huge impact.”

He says the event was a focal point in his career in state-level advocacy, and it sharpened his commitment to doing everything he can to improve people’s lives.

Along with his great achievements as a Knight, Saunders also is involved with the Florida Safe Schools Coalition, the Orange County League of Women Voters, Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee, Osceola Arts Complete Education Coalition and, of course, the UCF Alumni Association, just to name a few.

Saunders advises UCF students to take full advantage of their time in school. “As a student,  your voice is powerful,” he says. “You sit in an incredible place in the world. You are uniquely positioned to shape the world we live in today because you are inheriting the world that comes next. Use your power and engage.”

Quoting Ghandi, Saunders strongly believes that “You should be the change you wish to see in the world.”

UCF is always proud to highlight the achievements of its alumni. As we celebrate and reflect on the last 50 years, we look forward to the continued success of our graduates.

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