Throughout 2020, we will spotlight the extraordinary members of our UF LGBTQ+ Alumni family. There are so many fascinating individuals with equally fascinating stories to tell about their lives and their experiences as a Gator. 

We begin this series with our very own Harrison Hove. Hove, who currently resides in Gainesville, is originally from Ponte Vedra, Florida. He has quite the academic career which began at UF earning his B.A. in Political Science and a B.S. in Telecommunications in 2005. He continued his education with stops at “that school out west” where he earned a B.S. in Meteorology in 2007 and at University of Missouri-Columbia where he earned his Masters of Arts in Journalism in 2016. 

Since initially graduating from UF in 2005, Hove’s professional journal has had stops along the way including an Internet Reporter/Producer, a Meteorologist, and a News Anchor for WCMH-TV in Columbus, Oh. Hove is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration Policy at University of Florida where he also serves as Associate Chair and Lecture at the UF College of Journalism and Communications.

Hove is quite the adventurer and traveler as well, and that is where we will begin our Q&A.

How would you complete this sentence if you were asked “The one surprising fact that most people do not know about me is _____.”

I have visited all seven continents.

You were previously asked about your travels in a previous interview. Was there one that you felt was particularly challenging or eye-opening? Why? Is there one destination you have always wanted to visit? What draws you to that location?

Visiting Egypt was mentally challenging for me. Our views and preconceived notions of places are shaped, often, through western media outlets. What we know is based on the images and reports we disproportionately see from this part of the world- poverty, instability, terrorism. We should all work to broaden our experiences to be better informed about the world around us. Visiting and immersing yourself in a place first-hand is one way to do this. My experiences in Egypt were completely opposite to what I was expecting and I loved interacting with local people willing to share their stories and culture with me.

I am drawn to places that I don’t have previous experience with that fuel my curiosity. Learning through experience is really enriching and it is fun to explore. The journalist in me loves talking to people and hearing their stories to better learn about different places.

You were very involved with various activities as a Gator student, is there one in particular that you are most proud of? Why?

I was part of the original group of students that created the Freshman Leadership Council at UF. Logan Murphy conceived this idea and asked me to join his team. At the time, there was a need to help first-year students foster stronger ties to the UF involvement community. FLC filled a void by immediately developing student leadership skills and allowing new students to see what was possible in terms of involvement at this institution. The organization is where many exceptional gator leaders, including student body presidents, got their start. All these years later, the organization is still going strong.

Was there a particular class that you took as a student at UF that stands out as your most memorable? Why?

I took GEO 2200 in the Summer 2003 with Dr. Peter Waylen. I was not a geography major, just simply interested in the topic. One lecture Dr. Waylen tried to prove a point about Calcium Carbonate and started eating the chalk. In Fall 2002, I took RTV 2100 with Dr. Sid Pactor who was better known as “C+ Sid.” This course was a rite of passage if you were a telecommunication major- extremely challenging/ridiculously impossible. On the first day of class, Dr. Pactor asked students interested in being a news anchor or reporter to raise their hands. Dozens of hands went up in the large lecture hall. He then told us dozens of you will never make it. Brutal honesty, which was somewhat shocking at the moment…but he was right. 

You have had a few academic stops along the way both as a student and as a professional. First, you could have chosen a number of universities to attend, why UF? How does UF compare to other institutions you have experienced and what makes UF stand out?

I actually never planned to attend UF. However, my mother was diagnosed with cancer my senior year of high school and finances were very tight in my family. I chose to attend UF because I earned a full Bright Futures Scholarship. This allowed me to work at school and send my whole paychecks back home. 

UF is an incredibly special place. It helped make me who I am as I clarified my own identity and values. I never felt fully comfortable with my sexuality during my time as an undergraduate at UF, but I saw many versions of success that were also members of the LGBTQ community. I am still so grateful that my fellow students were willing to be open and authentic at UF at a time when being gay was not exactly accepted. Seeing that was pretty life-changing for me.

As the university rapidly advances, the quality of student is exponentially rising. I get to work with some of the best and brightest minds in the world on a daily basis. It has been an incredible privilege to nurture and elevate exceptional people. This only exists to such a high degree at a handful of institutions in the world. 

The University of Florida recently named you 2020-21 Teacher of the Year. What was your first reaction when you found out and what does it ultimately mean to you?

The process is very long and lasts several months. I had kind of moved on and forgotten about it. I actually received an email informing me I had won and read it during a zoom meeting. Needless to say, I had to turn my video off and make sure I was muted. 

This award means a lot to me because is it centered on work done in the classroom. Without student trust and buy-in, none of these achievements would be possible. I am so passionate about connecting with my students and being that voice of belief that pushes them forward. My teachers were some of the most positive forces in my life during my childhood as I struggled to accept myself. It is really gratifying and meaningful to be able to pay this favor forward…elevating, cheering on, and supporting countless others in their own journey.

You are in a position where you are leading, nurturing and preparing young Gators to be successful when they embark upon their professional lives. When they look back over the years, what do you want them to remember most about what you tried to teach them? What would you want your legacy to be from their perspective?

This is a challenging question because everyone’s lightbulb moments are different based on their own set of unique experiences. While I help students acquire technical skills, I think my legacy will be built on the life and leadership skills students cultivate while in my care. 

Students have been groomed to aspire for perfection. This is not sustainable and often misleading as no relationship, job, or news story is perfect. Instead, I champion the growth mindset and set realistic standards by asking my students to get better every day as every opportunity is an opportunity to grow. I also coach my students through short-term failures, which everyone will experience in life. Learning how to respond to the inevitable and turn it into motivation and fuel to move forward builds the resiliency needed to achieve at the highest levels.

What surprises you most about your students and do you learn from them as well? What stands out to you most about this generation of Gator students?

I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. The highest achieving classrooms are ones where every person can feel comfortable being vulnerable and embracing what we don’t know. I am not perfect or know everything…showing that vulnerable part of myself allows my students to feel more comfortable learning and embracing what they do not yet know.

This generation of gators will teach us so much. These students questions systems and don’t accept reasons like “this is the way we have always done it.” This cohort is committed to using the power and privilege of a journalism platform to elevate and highlight others, particularly marginalized communities. Students are incredibly serious about social justice. And, this cohort has been socialized with technology and know-how to utilize incredible tools to uncover information buried in data files or public records often overlooked. I just help students channel their abilities and keep the train on the tracks and they aim high. It really is an incredible time to be a gator.

From your experience, what has been the greatest, perhaps most surprising, benefit of having a degree from UF?

I do not think it is surprising after attending UF as a student, but Gator Nation is everywhere. There is something about the letters UF and the gator logo that bring millions of people together. At a time when division is so clear within society, those letters and logo can transcend the challenges (at least momentarily). The logo and letters have initiated countless conversations in far-flung places, led to job offers, random high fives. The love I have for the university remains, even in challenging times, because it brings us together. We can all coalesce for a minute around a shared experience that others outside of Gator Nation will never understand.