Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – Feb. 19, 2018

1. UCF’s Presidential Search Committee selected eight semifinalists vying to become the university’s fifth president and next visionary leader. The 15-member search committee will interview the semifinalists on Feb. 22 and 23 at the Student Union. Following the final interview, the committee will vote to bring three to five finalists to campus. Find out more about the semifinalists.

2. The UCF football team announced the date of its annual spring game: Saturday, April 21, at 6 p.m. at Spectrum Stadium. More details about activities surrounding the game will be forthcoming.

3. Three Knights are featured among Orlando Weekly’s annual selection of its “10 people making Orlando a better place to be.” College of Engineering and Computer Science alumni Ricky Ly ’08 and Albert Manero ’12 ’14MS ’16PhD along with College of Medicine alumna Rasha Mubarak ’08 all received shoutouts in the recent article.

4. This year’s recipients of the Order of Pegasus, UCF’s most prestigious student award, were announced Friday. Of the 22 honorees, four are already alumni of the university.

5. Let’s make Monday a little more fun. Take this UCF Study Abroad-inspired quiz to find out where you should travel this year!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Oct. 23

Tailgate hosted by UCF Alumni chapters from Washington D.C., New York, Boston and Baltimore

1. The UCF football team celebrated Knightro’s 23rd birthday with a win at Navy over the weekend in front of a whole bunch of traveling UCF fans to improve to 6-0 on the season and move up to No. 17 in the national polls. Starting at 7 a.m. Monday, UCF Athletics is offering a flash sale of $17 tickets for 17 hours for the Knights’ home matchup against Austin Peay on Saturday.

P.S. Since the Knights picked up their sixth win of the season, the team is officially bowl eligible. We’ll high five to that!

2. UCF can clinch its first American Athletic Conference championship title of 2017-18 on Friday. The No. 7 UCF women’s soccer team hosts USF at 7 p.m. As if the regular season trophy and a showdown with their rival weren’t enough motivation, the Knights can also earn the right to host The American Women’s Soccer Championship from Nov. 1-5.

So, who will be in the stands with us Friday at the UCF Soccer Complex?

3. UCF President John C. Hitt held his annual State of the University address last week. Throughout his remarks, Hitt discussed how scale, multiplied with excellence, maximizes UCF’s impact on students and the community. He also reviewed UCF’s big achievements from the past year.

4. For the third consecutive year, UCF has produced more graduates who get hired by aerospace and defense companies than any other university in the nation. With more than 10,000 students, the College of Engineering and Computer Science is among the nation’s top producers of those in the respective fields.

5. The City of Orlando has chosen UCF alumna, former UCF instructor and Orlando native Susan Lilley ’75 ’80MA as its first poet laureate. A poet laureate is considered the official storyteller of the city, and in her role, Lilley will perform at city events and give presentations to local students throughout her term. Read more about her in this story from the Orlando Sentinel.

Alumnus Holds Key To Big Data

Big Data Symposium’s keynote speaker Lee Odess ’99 alongside his family

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 23, 2017) – In the past, the biggest threat from a data breach was to the individual. But now with the onset of Big Data, there are much bigger threats and even bigger opportunities.

Few people, however, understand what Big Data is or how it can be used, said Lee Odess ’99, vice president of UniKey and the keynote speaker for UCF’s Big Data Symposium on Jan. 26 at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

“The goal of my presentation is, more or less, to give real life examples of what Big Data is and the impact it can have,” Odess said. “Typically you are either super smart on Big Data and have a hard time communicating it, or you are a person who has heard of it but isn’t too sure how to get started. My goal is to bridge the two.”

Practical examples of Big Data are everywhere and can be implemented by both big and small companies. For instance, a company can analyze marketing impacts via its social media reach; predictive analytics can narrow in on customers’ shopping preferences; or it can help analyze where a business should open up its next retail location.

Big Data’s role in our society is one of the reasons UCF’s Colleges of Science, Business and Engineering and Computer Science came together to host the symposium. UCF business professors Robert Porter ’81 ’10PhD and Amit Joshi, PhD; statistics professor Shunpu Zhang, PhD; and Ivan Garibay ’00MS ’04PhD, director of UCF Research Information Systems and chief information officer at the UCF Office of Research and Commercialization, are among the speakers who will talk about practical ways companies, nonprofits and individuals can tap into Big Data to benefit their communities and society.

Odess was a natural choice for the talk because of his familiarity with the use of Big Data within his own profession.

“For UniKey we didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘Hey, we need Big Data.’ We did however say, ‘Hey, we need to start understanding exactly how, when, where our customers are using the locks and mobile applications powered by UniKey,” he said. “So we put the systems and tools in place to be able to collect every bit of data we could. Then once we had it, we spent the time to come up with the algorithms and dashboards to easily digest the information. Now, with a touch of a button we are no longer guessing how, when and where customers are using the product. We are 100 percent clear on it.“

In 2012, Odess was the director of sales operations for security company Brivo Systems when he was watching “Shark Tank” on television one night and saw fellow UCF alumnus Phil Dumas ’05 pitching his smart lock. It was the first time in Shark Tank history that all five investors wanted to buy into an idea.

Odess reached out to Dumas after the show and said that given their UCF roots and similar industries, they should get to know each other. Dumas agreed.

They kept in touch over the years, and when Brivo Systems was sold in 2015, Odess wanted to join with a startup that had growth opportunity. He saw UniKey as that opportunity.

His day-to-day responsibilities as vice president include business development, human resources, participation in the overall strategy for the company and its existing customer base.

Dumas and Odess aren’t the only Knights with UniKey. Odess said 80 percent of the company’s 50 employees are alumni.

“Initially people think we’re from Silicon Valley. When we tell them we’re from Orlando, we explain to them we have some hidden gems here, one of them being the university,” he said. “We look for people that want to be in this area. We think the school does a really good job preparing the students for work. It just makes sense. There isn’t a need for us to look outside what’s in front of our face.”

Odess speaks from experience.

Born in Cleveland, he grew up in South Florida before he moved to Pittsburgh, where he graduated from high school. He considered nearly two dozen universities and picked UCF because he said it just felt right.

“There seemed to be a lot of history to be written,” he said. “I liked that.”

The day after he graduated with his bachelor’s in business, he packed up his car and started driving toward Pennsylvania, where a job with Lutron Electronics awaited him.

After eight years with Lutron, he moved to Washington D.C. and worked for a variety of companies, including several startups of his own, Fresh Confections and energy + light + control llc.

In order to become more acclimated to a new city, he rekindled his relationship with UCF by joining the D.C. alumni chapter.

Now that he’s back in Orlando, he is happy to have an opportunity to further his relationship with his alma mater by lending his time to the symposium.

“I’m proud of the fact that I have an opportunity to make a difference,” Odess said. “There’s a true partnership with the university – it has aspirations and goals, and I feel like it realizes that the people that have come out of it are going to help carry it in that direction.”

The Symposium will be held Jan. 26 from 6-8 p.m. at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. The event is free, but RSVP online is required. To learn more about the event, click here.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Sept. 19, 2016


1. The UCF community was introduced to IGNITE: The Campaign for the University of Central Florida on Sept. 16. IGNITE is the most ambitious fundraising effort in our history — an intense, focused and strategic effort to raise $500 million in philanthropic support by June 2019. More than 66,000 people have contributed donations of all sizes to reach approximately $275 million to date. Let’s keep it rolling!

2. UCF’s annual State of the Union address, delivered by President John C. Hitt, will take place on Tuesday at 3 p.m. For those unable to attend, viewing access will be available on Facebook at

3. We love to see Knights helping Knights! A UCF alumnus, who has chosen to remain anonymous, challenged UCF to match his $1,000 commitment to fight hunger in support of Knights Pantry. The Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is promoting a Skip-A-Meal-Challenge this month that encourages people to skip a meal, and instead, donate the money they would have spent. Knights Pantry is one of the food bank’s partners, so funds raised by UCF will benefit the pantry.

4. Limbitless Solutions visited the White House this week for the White House Design For All Showcase. The event is designed to highlight the ways that assistive technology breaks down barriers, reduces stigma and improves the quality of life for Americans with disabilities. We’re so proud of Albert Manero and his team at the College of Engineering and Computer Science!

5. UCF recently selected Hospital Corporation of America, the nation’s largest hospital company, as its partner to build a proposed teaching hospital next door to the College of Medicine in Lake Nona. Under the plan, HCA will pay all costs to build and operate the hospital; UCF will seek no state funds for the project. The two will share governance of the facility on a 50-50 basis.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Feb. 22, 2016

UCF student Joshua Gicker organized a special Valentine’s Day/birthday surprise for campus shuttle driver Maurice Mosby, raising more than $400 for the man who, Gicker says, takes the time to learn his passengers by name and delivers them a “good morning” every day. (See No. 4 below.)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Twenty students (out of UCF’s 63,000) were named as recipients of the 2016 Order of Pegasus, the university’s most prestigious student award.
  2. UCF Celebrates the Arts — a free festival of music, performances and visual displays — reprises its second season April 8-16 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the performing arts in downtown Orlando, with an extended program of student and faculty presentations and collaborations. The university’s annual spring dance concert kicks off the nine-day festival, which also includes many displays from the School of Visual Arts and Design. For a complete schedule and ticket information, visit
  3. This Thursday, expand your network and connect with fellow Knights! Mingle with alumni working in the nonprofit community during a joint Networking Knight at Bar Louie (UCF) from 6-8 p.m., hosted by the UCF School of Public Administration and UCF College of Health and Public Affairs Alumni Chapter. Or, join the College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter for an alumni and student Networking Knight in the Engineering II building atrium from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  4. UCF students showed some love to their favorite campus shuttle driver, Maurice Mosby, as they surprised him with more than $400 in gift cards in honor of Valentine’s Day last week, which also happened to be Mosby’s birthday.
  5. Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Pentatonix brings its World Tour 2016 to the CFE Arena on April 14!

Colleges of Business, Engineering and Sciences Host Joint Networking Knight


Nearly 70 UCF alumni gathered for an evening of professional networking on Jan. 21. Alumni chapter volunteers from the College of Business Administration, College of Engineering and Computer Science, and College of Sciences partnered to host the event, which took place at the law offices of GrayRobinson in downtown Orlando.

While guests mingled with other professionals from a multitude of diverse fields, Dean Paul Jarley (business), Dean Michael Georgiopoulos (engineering) and Dean Michael Johnson (sciences) each addressed the group of Knights, speaking on the importance of networking, mentorship and advancement.

It was a great Networking Knight to kick off 2016!


Charles Gray, founding director of GrayRobinson, played an instrumental role in the history of the University of Central Florida. Gray was honored by the UCF Alumni Association in October with the 2015 Champions Award for his continuous support and advocacy for the university.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 18, 2016

UCF Cheerleading claimed the runner-up position at this weekend’s national championships! (PHOTO: Chris Schubert)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The UCF Cheerleading squad was the runner-up at this weekend’s College Cheerleading National Championships at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. This was the Knights’ 11th-straight top-four finish. Congratulations to all of these amazing student-athletes! Go Knights! Charge On!
  2. U.S. News & World Report ranked UCF’s online programs as among some of the best in the nation, including the university’s online bachelor’s programs, which jumped from No. 50 last year to No. 20 this year.
  3. Two teams of UCF students are each designing a subsystem for passenger pods, which would be part of a 760 mph “Hyperloop” transportation system proposed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors. The system could transport passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in just 30 minutes.
  4. UCF is partnering with LinkedIn to launch a new app focused around students entering the workforce. The app will allow students to network with employers and search for jobs from both LinkedIn- and UCF-specific platforms, such as KnightLink.
  5. Nine-year-old Alvin Garcia Flores is the latest recipient of a 3D-printed bionic arm from UCF’s Limbitless Solutions. Flores was surprised with the “Star Wars”-themed belated Christmas gift on Thursday, when Darth Vader himself presented it to Flores in front of his classmates at Gateway Elementary in Omaha, Neb.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 4, 2016

(From No. 5 below:) Palmer Vorkapich, a 6-year-old patient at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, lights up during a visit from Ion, a therapy dog owned by UCF College of Medicine student Christa Zino.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Knights had much to be proud of last year! Check out just a few of them in this list from UCF Today of the “15 Moments that Made Your Heart Burst with Knight Pride in 2015.”
  2. With $20 million needed in community support for the UCF Downtown campus, alumnus and CEO Alex Martins, ’01, and the Orlando Magic stepped up, contributing $1.5 million toward the project. And, just this morning, it was announced that the CFE Federal Credit Union has committed its own $1.5 million. Keep up with all the latest developments on the UCF Downtown campus at
  3. UCF economist Sean Snaith says Florida’s economic future is merry and bright, with the state’s housing market continuing to improve, and job growth forecasted to continue to outperform the U.S. labor market.
  4. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected a UCF team to receive a P3 Award — a first in UCF history — which recognizes student projects that benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet by using environmental solutions that move the nation toward a sustainable future. The winning project focuses on ways to make algae biofuel easier and less expensive to produce.
  5. To help cheer up patients at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, UCF second-year medical student Christa Zino regularly brings her therapy dog, a 2-year-old boxer named Ion, for visits.

UCF Alumni Honors 30 under 30

Alumni association recognizes 30 young, successful Knights during inaugural awards dinner


By Angie Lewis, ’03

The UCF Alumni Association was proud to host its inaugural 30 under 30 awards dinner Friday, Nov. 20, honoring the outstanding achievements of 30 successful Knights.

Young alumni currently make up one-third of UCF’s alumni population, making them the university’s largest constituent base. The 30 under 30 awards program allows the UCF community to celebrate the achievements of these young alumni and the impact they’ve made in the areas of business, research, leadership, arts, community, education or philanthropy.

Awardees were chosen based on nominations submitted by fellow Knights, friends, families and co-workers.

Many of this year’s recipients — most of whom traveled back to campus from locations across the country — were also recognized on the field during the UCF vs. ECU football game Thursday night, alongside the UCF Alumni Association’s 2015 Distinguished Student Award winner, Yudeysis Cores, and 2015 Michelle Akers Award winner, UCF’s Limbitless Solutions.

The following evening, alumni, families and friends, as well as members of university administration, advancement staff, and academic and volunteer leadership, and the evening’s host, UCF alumnus Todd Woodard, ’95, gathered for the awards celebration, held in the Grand Ballroom of the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

This year’s 30 under 30 inaugural class included:

Joshua A. Andone, Esq., ’11

Attorney, Hale, Hale & Jacobson
College of Business Administration

Stephanie C. Bolyard, MSENVE12

Graduate Research/Teaching Assistant, UCF
College of Engineering and Computer Science

Keith Brawner, ’08, MSCPE10, PhD13

Adaptive Tutoring Scientist, United States Army Research Laboratory
College of Engineering and Computer Science

Naomi Brownstein, ’08

Assistant Professor, Florida State University College of Medicine
The Burnett Honors College & College of Sciences

Janelle N. Burrowes, ’13

Service Director, Boys & Girls Club
College of Arts and Humanities

Shelby J. Campbell, ’08

Doctor of Audiology, My Family ENT
College of Health and Public Affairs

Amanda N. Castro, ’12

Anchor/Reporter, 41NBC/WMGT
College of Sciences

Chris Castro, ’10

Program Manager, Office of Sustainability & Energy/Senior Energy Advisor to Mayor Buddy Dyer, City of Orlando
College of Undergraduate Studies

Brett R. Chiavari, ’07

Owner & President, BC Restaurant Group
College of Business Administration

Aaron Dietz, MA13, PhD14

Research Associate, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
College of Sciences

Reshad D. Favors, Esq., ’10

Attorney & Fellow, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation/United States Congress
College of Business Administration

Julie Frost, ’12

Performer, Comfort Crew for Military Kids
The Burnett Honors College & College of Arts and Humanities & College of Sciences

Christopher R. Frye, ’13

Physics Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University
The Burnett Honors College & College of Sciences

Andre Garcia, ’08

Human Factors Engineer, Northrop Grumman Corporation
College of Sciences

Lindsay C. Gartrell, ’10

Corporate Training Manager, The Kessler Collection Inaugural Class
Rosen College of Hospitality Management

Adam J. Giery, ’08, MA11

Principal, Strategos Group
College of Education and Human Performance

Jen Glantz, ’10

Founder and CEO, Bridesmaid for Hire
College of Arts and Humanities & College of Sciences

Kristin Harris, ’11

Associate Celebrity Editor & Talent Relations, Buzzfeed
College of Sciences

Jake Junot, MBA11

Vice President of Global Accounts, C3Research
College of Business Administration

Bridget D. Keefe, ’09, MPA11

Executive Director, Downtown Orlando Partnership
Rosen College of Hospitality Management & College of Health and Public Affairs

Jamile M. Kitnurse, ’08, MBA10, MSBM11

Regional Marketing Manager, Diamond Resorts International
College of Business Administration

Stephanie Ann Koszalka, MSW12

Director of Human Trafficking Victim Services, Florida Abolitionist Inc.
College of Health and Public Affairs

Albert C. Manero, ’12, MSAE14

Lab Director, The Limbitless Project
The Burnett Honors College & College of Engineering and Computer Science

Lauren Niederhiser, ’12

Assistant Project Manager, Walt Disney Imagineering
The Burnett Honors College & College of Engineering and Computer Science

Gregory A. Pearlman Jr., ’08

Financial Advisor, Northwestern Mutual
College of Business Administration

Leigha Audrey Proctor, ’10

Director of Business Development, Transperfect Translations
College of Sciences

Aubree A. Rider, ’10

Co-founder & Owner, The Heroes Group
College of Business Administration

Danny A. Rivera, ’12, MPA14

Special Assistant to Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Government
College of Health and Public Affairs

Colton J. Tapoler, ’12

Instructional Lead, Florida Virtual School
College of Arts and Humanities & College of Education and Human Performance

Victoria Vighetto, ’10, MNM13

Executive Director, March of Dimes Central Florida Division
College of Health and Public Affairs

Congratulations to all! Go Knights! Charge On!

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Professional Achievement Award
College of Engineering and Computer Science

College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean Michael Georgiopoulos presented the college’s
2015 Professional Achievement Award to Benjamin J. Patz, ’85.
Benjamin J. Patz, ’85 | Managing Director, The FAN Fund

The UCF Alumni Association and College of Education and Human Performance presented their 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Ben Patz at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

Ben co-founded Coleman Technologies Inc., which provided IT and systems engineering services to public and private organizations. In 2010, the company merged with and into Presidio Inc., a professional and managed services firm delivering advanced IT infrastructure solutions.

Prior to founding CTI, he had 15 years of experience in system analysis, design and testing for the Naval Research Laboratory, Lockheed Martin and Coleman Research Corporation.

Most recently, he established the FAN Fund in which to invest professionally managed angel capital in growth-oriented companies in the technology and life sciences sectors in Florida.

The Patz family has strong ties to UCF, including Ben’s father, Dr. Benjamin W. Patz, who was a research scientist and UCF engineering professor, and his siblings and their families:

  • Dr. Mark D. Patz, ’83, ’87, ’97
    • (wife) Donna Curley Patz, ’86
    • (daughter) Lindsey Patz, ’14
    • (son) Tyler Patz — current UCF student
  • Susan Patz Pringle, ’86 — College of Education (UCF Athletics Hall of Fame 2000 inductee)
    • (husband) Bruce Pringle, ’84
  • Amy Patz Lewellyn, ’89
    • (husband) Mark Lewellyn, ’87, ’89
  • Dr. Eric M. Patz, ’15

Ben went to UCF early, doing dual enrollment, receiving his bachelor’s degree in mathematics by the time he finished high school, and entered the graduate mathematics program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the undergraduate engineering program. He returned to UCF and earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1985.

He’s served on the Dean’s Advisory Board of the College of Engineering and Computer Science since 2009.

Learn more about Ben: