UCF’s Opportunities Open Doors for Dynamic UCF Alumna

Jennie Hayes, ’10, has never been one to take the easy road. During her time at UCF, Hayes double majored in political science and interpersonal-organizational communications, took four internships, and was involved with many extracurricular activities. After graduating from UCF, Hayes earned her Juris Doctor from Stetson University College of Law. There, she also took advantage of many existing opportunities. After interning and working in numerous attorney and legal offices, Hayes now works as a Prosecuting Assistant State Attorney in Viera, Florida. She looks back at her time at UCF with appreciation of the opportunities she was presented with. She shared important advice to alumni and students, encouraging involvement during and after college. She explained it’s not only a great way to give back but to also meet the right people who can help you along the way. “It’s so important to network — and not by just going to a luncheon and talking to some people at the table with you. I’m talking about networking like getting involved in an organization, assuming leadership, and proving yourself. You cannot teach work ethic. You can teach a person how to use an internal computer system, how to cross examine a defendant effectively, how to read someone’s non-verbal cues, but you CANNOT teach the person to stay late, care about his job, or ensure an excellent work product. That’s where references come into play and, to get references, you must get involved,” explained Hayes. Here are some questions we asked Hayes to get to know her and her time at UCF.

  • Why did you choose to attend UCF?

I grew up in Volusia County, so I had always known of UCF. My main attraction to UCF was twofold: I knew I wanted a degree in communication and I knew I wanted many internship opportunities. I wanted experience and the chance to network in a large city. Internships lead to jobs and interviews — because you meet people who can give great recommendations and you gain experience. In today’s economy, I can tell you having just gone through a four month process of trying to find a job as a prosecutor; employers want someone who can hit the ground running.

  • How has your UCF degree helped you in your career?

​Since I’ve stayed in Florida, everyone here knows UCF and, with the football program becoming a national name, more and more Americans know of UCF. However, I always pitched UCF as a large school but a great place to grow. I was involved in Student Government and, because our school was in a metropolis, local news media cared about what we were doing and what the SGA’s position was on different issues. And the internship opportunities were second to none. ​

  • What extracurricular activities were you involved in at UCF?

I was involved in many extracurricular activities, which is vital to gaining experience and networking, in my opinion! I was in the executive branch of SGA, serving as the internal affairs coordinator, my sophomore year. My junior and senior year I was one of the election commissioners for the Election Commission in SGA and my senior year served the asst. supervisor of elections. All through college I was involved with the College Republicans and volunteered on many local campaigns. I was the marketing director my senior year. ​I was the co-director of the UCF March of Dimes Collegiate Council my senior year and served as the Ad-PR chair my junior year. I was on the President’s Leadership Council my junior year, serving as the coordinator for our two charitable events: the American Heart Association’s Walk in the fall and the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in the spring. My senior year I was honored to be one of five women chosen to serve as Queen candidates for the 2009 Homecoming Court.

  • What is your best UCF memory?

Serving on Homecoming Court. It was such an honor to be chosen as a candidate because, essentially, it was a reward for the time I had put into the UCF community to date. The other nine individuals on the committee were people I had known throughout college and got to know even better during that week. The atmosphere and the festivities surrounding Homecoming Week are so fun anyways and to be a part of it, right in the thick of the action, was a blast!​

  • What is your favorite thing about your job?

​It combines all the skills I learned in college, law school, and through my internships. My communication degree is vital to knowing how to pick up on body language, for example, and my political science degree allows me to know, based on a brief conversation, what philosophy on life the person has and how best to approach the person. My law degree allows me to know how to research cases and how to best present a case to a jury.

  • What is your most memorable experience on the job?

​Well I’ve only been here since January but getting my first guilty verdict was a great moment. The person was, without a doubt, guilty and deserved his punishment for the crime he had committed. It was only my second trial as the lead prosecutor and only my second month at the office. Everyone was really happy for me and knew how hard I had worked prepping my deputy, redacting the video evidence, and arguing pretrial motions. ​ Fun Fact: I was a “friend of” Chip-n-Dale at Walt Disney World all four years I was a student at UCF. To this day, even though I left in 2010 to attend law school, I keep it on my resume because it’s the BEST conversation starter you can imagine. Everyone wants to know about the experience, if the costume was super hot (of course it was), and the tunnel system at Magic Kingdom. People at my job have asked for autographed copies of photos I have from my working days. You never know what fun fact can spark a great conversation so, if you have a unique work experience or life experience, don’t ever remove it from your resume. The interviewer will remember you based on that and remembrance is always a plus when it’s time to evaluate candidates.

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