Sofia Baptista, a self-proclaimed math enthusiast, is a special statistic all her own. More than 7,000 undergrads are enrolled in UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. Of those 7,000-plus, 19 student-athletes have selected engineering as a major. Of those 19 Knights, ten are female.
And Baptista, a UCF women’s tennis Senior from Portugal, happens to be one of them. She has not given a second thought to classifying her life or situation as unique.
When she was 11, she contracted mononucleosis, but doctors failed to properly diagnose her at first. Thinking it could be a number of other ailments, she underwent multiple treatments and had her tonsils removed, but she said it took roughly three years to fully recover.
She lost her muscle mass and her confidence was shaken. She grew frustrated at her weak body and losing to “lesser” competition.
“But I never gave up,” Baptista said. “I always went to practice five days a week, even when everyone told me it was not worth it and that the best thing to do was to quit tennis. And it did pay off. Finally I started improving. It was a long process but I ended up stronger than I was before. At 15, I was in the top-five of my country, and now I’m here at UCF.”
It’s a move that has worked out well for the beach lover, who knew if she was going to accept a scholarship in the States, it had to be somewhere with a tropical climate. Baptista has been interested in structures and math from an early age, so pursuing a degree in civil engineering seemed like a no-brainer to her.
During her sophomore year, to her delight, she was selected for the UCF Civil, Engineering and Construction Engineering (CECE) Department Sophomore Award for outstanding academic achievement. As an incentive, she earned a day shadowing a Disney Imagineer. She toured backstage of the Magic Kingdom and saw the inner workings of everything from ride maintenance to transportation at the parks.
Baptista said the experience was the first time she saw her future in action, not just in books and papers. Whether she ends up at the “Happiest Place on Earth” or building bridges in underdeveloped regions of Africa, Baptista is certain she is setting herself up now for a fulfilling career ahead.
Baptista stated “the respect I have for my teammates and coaches has aided my respect for my classmates and professors. I know how to work in a team environment and respect is key to success- in the classroom, on the tennis court, and in life.”