Associate Director of Research Programs and Services
Kari Stiles, associate director of research programs and services, is celebrating her retirement after an incredible 37 years at UCF.
“I literally grew up on this campus,” she says. “It’s been my home away from home for a lot of years.”
She was 10 years old when she first stepped on campus with her dad, who took her to work with him at his job in instructional resources. Stiles accompanied her dad to UCF during any break she had during the school year, and over the summers as well.
That connection to UCF continued when she enrolled at the university, taking a job as a student assistant while she worked toward her degree. After she graduated in 1982, she worked in the Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of the President. Stiles left the university in 1985, but, missing academia and the campus environment, she returned to UCF.
Her career in research at UCF started at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, where she administered a faculty fellowship program for the Kennedy Space Center. She would eventually make an impact at the Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center, the Nanoscience Technology Center and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
“Kari and I started with AMPAC around 1997, ‘98. Kari never looked at the clock during her work; every day was the same hard-working day for her, including weekends building AMPAC, Nano and then MSE,” says Sudipta Seal, the MSE department chair. “Kari helped immensely in shaping my research and administrative career at UCF. She is a dear friend that I will miss, and I wish her the very best in her post-retirement life.”
As Stiles’ career blossomed, so did the university.
She was at its first home football game in 1979, played at the Citrus Bowl. She remembers the old road that went past the library and all the way around the Reflection Pond, which used to be part of the homecoming parade route. She recalls the excitement around campus as UCF built what was then known as Bright House Networks Stadium, which was completed in fall 2007 for first nationally-televised season opener.
Some of her most gratifying experiences in witnessing growth lied not in any campus building, but in UCF’s people, including college faculty as they grew in their careers.
“I’ve seen some of the faculty that were hired as assistant professors, and they have grown,” she says. “I’ve seen them blossom into strong researchers and full professors. I like to hope that maybe I had a little bit to do with helping them.”
What Stiles will miss most about UCF are the people she’s met during her journey as a Knight. She says she’s been fortunate enough to have met incredible colleagues and friends who have been a great influence to her over the years.
As she looks back on her career, she hopes that she was that person for others as well and was able to pay it forward.
“I always said through the years when I’ve had student assistants that worked for me, that I wanted them to have the same feeling about their experience here, and that people cared about them,” she says. “I hope in some way, I have been able to touch someone’s life and make it just a little bit better.”
As the years go by, UCF is sure to continue to grow and change. For Stiles however, one thing will always remain the same.
“I bleed black and gold,” she says. “I always will.”