1. Five alumni recently won regional Emmy awards of excellence for their work in television this past year. Among the accomplished group is Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame inductee Marla Weech ’79.
2. UCF partnered with Orange County Fire Rescue to launch two lifesaving apps, PulsePoint Respond and PulsePoint AED, late last week. The apps support first-responding agencies like Orange County Fire Rescue by encouraging CPR-trained citizens to respond to sudden cardiac arrest incidents as emergency crews are en route. Both applications are available as free downloads on mobile devices.
3. SAVE THE DATE for UCF Celebrates The Arts. The university’s annual showcase of student and faculty presentations will return April 7-14 to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando. The eight days of music, performances and visual displays are open to the public for free. For a sneak peek of the lineup of events, click here.
4. ICYMI, students from UCF’s College of Nursing delivered one-of-a-kind teddy bears to hospitalized children to make the week of Valentine’s Day a little sweeter. Although the college is finished taking orders for this year’s distribution of bears, it intends to make this an annual event. Take one look at this picture, and you’ll see why:
5. The College of Sciences Distinguished Speaker Series resumes this week with a talk on “2015 Homicide Rise and the ‘Ferguson Effect.’” The event, which is open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Tuscawilla Country Club (1500 Winter Springs Blvd., Winter Springs, FL 32708).
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.
1. We like big data and we cannot lie. The UCF Colleges of Sciences, Business and Engineering and Computer Science are hosting a Big Data Symposium this Thursday from 6-8 p.m. in the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. The evening’s keynote speaker is Lee Odess ’99, vice president of UniKey Technologies. Although the event is complementary, space is limited. For more details and to RSVP, click here.
2. On Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons clinched their spot in Super Bowl LI. Why do we care? Because former C-USA Defensive Player of the Year and UCF alumnus Kemal Ishmael ’13 has suited up for the Falcons ever since they selected him in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He is now the 13th Knight to be listed on the roster of a Super Bowl team.
Ishmael graduated from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and minor in coaching in 2013. The Super Bowl will air on FOX on Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m.
3. Apparently, the UCF women’s flag football team is creating quite a dynasty. The Knights recently captured its fourth consecutive football national championship. This year’s squad, ‘Team Check on It,’ thumped the North Carolina A&T Aggies in the championship game, 13-2. The team was led by head coach Brandon Baroody ’13, a finance alumnus who is a member of the National Collegiate Flag Football Championships Hall of Fame.
4. Emergency physicians in training from UCF’s College of Medicine used their skills on a national stage when they staffed the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20. During the inauguration, three ER residents and two attending physicians from Osceola Regional ran a treatment and triage area adjacent to the viewing area on the National Mall, in partnership with other first responders.
5. You can help the College of Nursing brighten up the lives of children in local hospitals. The college’s “Give a Bear, Warm a Heart” fundraiser enables the public to sponsor one — or an entire unit — of teddy bears wearing UCF nursing scrubs to be delivered by nursing students the week of Valentine’s Day to sick kids at local hospitals. Learn more about how you can get involved.
1. At UCF, we know how awesome Limbitless Solutions is, so it was great to see the rest of the country learn more about the group during a feature on Sunday’s NBC Nightly News. Didn’t tune in? Don’t worry, you can watch the segment in its entirety ^above^.
2. Job hunting? UCF is hosting a career expo for students and alumni on Jan. 31 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in CFE Arena. Professional attire is required and up-to-date resumes are strongly recommended. Learn more about the expo, including a list of participating employers, by clicking here.
4. Sonya Dixon ’96 ’98MBA; Tony Moreno ’91 and Michael O’Donnell ’09MS have been selected as this year’s class for the College of Business Administration’s Hall of Fame. The group will be honored at the 18th annual banquet on Feb. 23 at Rosen Shingle Creek. Several other alumni will be recognized that evening with entrepreneurial awards and Noble Knight awards. For more information regarding the UCF College of Business Hall of Fame, visit cbahalloffame.com or email [email protected]
5. The UCF Colleges of Sciences, Business Administration and Engineering and Computer Science are hosting a Big Data Symposium on Jan. 26 from 6-8 p.m. in the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. Attendees will hear from some of the top scholars and professionals skilled in analyzing large data sets to reveal patterns, trends and associations to help determine human behavior and interactions, and meet some of the graduate students who will soon be the pioneers of data analytics and data mining for tomorrow’s leading businesses. The evening’s keynote speaker is Lee Odess ’99, vice president of UniKey Technologies.
Although the event is complementary, space is limited. For more details and to RSVP, click here.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 8, 2016) – As a UCF Alumni board member, season ticket holder, Oviedo resident and occasional guest lecturer, Ryan Vescio ’02 visits UCF’s campus more than most. And when the assistant state attorney returns, his three children are frequently in tow.
Ella, 10, Sophia, 9, and Owen, 5, are big fans of tailgating. They debate the merits of their favorite basketball players. They recently got their wish granted to eat at Knightro’s with their dad. They periodically exchange hellos with President John C. Hitt and his wife, Martha, who know them by name thanks to Owen’s habit of running into their CFE Arena suite when he was 2.
To Ella, Sophia and Owen, the idea of college is nothing out of the ordinary – almost an expected path they will one day follow. The same cannot be said for Vescio, a first-generation college student.
“We never talked about college in my house. For my parents, it wasn’t a reality. You pick a job and you go and do your thing,” he said. “It’s incredible to watch that transition of how much one generation can really change the future of a family.”
The son of a hairdresser and auto mechanic, Vescio grew up in Melbourne in a double wide trailer on the grounds of an elementary school. His father was diagnosed with renal disease when Vescio was 10. The oldest of his siblings, he learned to grow up quickly.
He aspired to be a journalist, and thanks to a persistent teacher, he was granted access to cover his first NASA space shuttle launch at the age of 14 for a middle and high school newswire service he helped start. The news story he wrote landed on the front page of Florida Today’s Sunday edition, above the fold.
With the help of Florida Bright Futures Scholarship and Pell Grants, he made his dream of attending college a reality.
After a brief stint studying journalism at the University of South Carolina, he transferred to UCF to be closer to his ailing father. He also switched gears and took an interest in political science and law.
“I think about if I wasn’t as persistent as I was, if I didn’t want better, if I didn’t have the help of other people, I would have never had the experiences that I’ve been able to have,” he said. “Our university is a little different than the others around us, and I think that that’s nothing but positive. It’s exciting to watch traditions being built, but it’s equally as exciting to not have traditions hold us back. We can do anything, we can be anywhere, we can influence anything.”
He threw himself into college life, and his influence is still part of daily activity at UCF today. He was involved in the plans that led to the Recreation and Wellness Center being built. He also was there the day they came up with the idea to rope off the Pegasus on the floor of the Student Union.
“We never thought it would last,” he said with a laugh. “I get a kick around graduation when I see on social media the big deal about taking a graduation picture with the Pegasus. It really blows my mind.”
Vescio graduated with his bachelor’s in political science one year before his father passed away and says one of his proudest life moments is knowing that his father witnessed his son’s graduation day. He went on to law school at Nova Southeastern and is now director of modernization and assistant state attorney, Office of the State Attorney, 9th Judicial Circuit.
Vescio believes in his public service role and is fueled by fighting for the truth. Most of his work entails homicide and major crime cases. He believes it is an honor to serve as a voice for people who have suffered.
His life has come full circle now as a donor, supporting UCF Athletics, UCF Alumni and first-generation students.
“Being a Knight has given me the opportunity to go out and make a positive impact on our community,” he said. “The only limitation for Knights is our own self reservation.
Why I Give Back, by Ryan Vescio:
We owe it to future students to pay it forward and help them. To me, that’s everything from being involved on the alumni board, to showing up to events, to buying football tickets, to donating money that I have. Although I can’t write a $1 million check today, I know that my donation helps to fund a scholarship. To fund a program to go out and find students. It’s so important to be involved and engaged because there are so many high school students out there right now who think of college as this thing, but they can’t conceptualize it because it’s not a reality in their family or in their neighborhood or environment. That to me is the student that comes here and works even harder because it means so much to them. That’s the student who leaves here and becomes the research scientist, the filmmaker, the lawyer.
One in four students at UCF are the first in their family to attend college. To support first-generation students like Ryan Vescio, click here.
1. The 2016 30 Under 30 class gathered to be honored Saturday at FAIRWINDS Alumni Center during the Indoor Tailgate. They then were recognized on the field at Bright House Networks Stadium during the football game. This incredible group of individuals includes CEOs, researchers, an NBA referee, teachers, medical professionals and game developers. VIEW THE CLASS.
2. If you live in Central Florida and love UCF (who doesn’t?), then you don’t want to miss an unforgettable evening this Wednesday at the Country Club of Orlando. AlumKnights and friends of UCF are cordially invited to a social reception and a special conversation with President John C. Hitt that discusses the importance of IGNITE: The Campaign for UCF’s impact on the university’s future. For more information and to register, click here.
3. UCF Football is bowl bound! Thanks to a 24-3 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday, the Knights will be heading to a bowl game for the seventh time in the last 10 years. For more information and to secure bowl game tickets, click here or call 407-823-1000. The Knights’ bowl destination will likely be announced on Dec. 4.
A big thank you again to all our service members who were honored on Military Appreciation Day! The Marching Knights put on quite a #UCFSalutes halftime show.
4. UCF political science student Amber Mariano made headlines late last week after becoming the youngest person elected to Florida’s House of Representatives. The 21-year-old’s win was one of the biggest upsets of the Florida state races. She ran against incumbent Rep. Amanda Murphy, and defeated her in a squeaker by less than 750 votes. “It’s awesome that I get to fight for my community. “I’m ready to work,” she said. Spoken like a true Knight.
5. As we gear up for football’s final home game of the season, here are some Must Knows:
– UCF Alumni Indoor Tailgate will start at 5 p.m. Here’s a look back at last week’s fun: PHOTO GALLERY.
– Gameday attire is a little trickier this Saturday: Lower Level and Student Section #UCFansWear white, Upper Level #UCFansWear black
– If you aren’t in town and need a watch party, check out our official locations. The game will air on ESPNews.
– Traffic alert: Due to Light Up UCF, part of West Plaza Drive is closed until January. Speaking of Light Up UCF, it officially opens this Friday (Nov. 18).
ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct. 20, 2016) – Shirley and Art Sotloff believe that their son, Steven, found his true calling while he was a student at UCF from 2002-04.
It’s that connection that prompted them to help create a scholarship in his name when Steven was killed after being taken hostage as a freelance journalist by terrorist group ISIS in 2014.
Recently, the Sotloffs visited campus to commemorate the first awarded scholarship from The Steven Sotloff Memorial Endowed Fund to senior Adam Manno.
“Knowing that our son’s name lives on, and that the endowment will touch the lives of students with similar interests as his own, truly touches our entire family,” Shirley said.
Manno is expected to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in political science. He was born in the Dominican Republic but attended high school in South Florida, where he got his first taste of journalism while working for his school newspaper.
He chose UCF because it encompassed everything he was looking for: a big school in an interesting and vibrant city, a well-renowned journalism department and a financial aid offer “thanks to UCF’s vision of education for all.”
“That’s one thing I really love about the school – it makes sure everyone who wants an education can get one,” he said. “It’s been very good to me.”
Manno was a sophomore at the time of Sotloff’s tragic death. He attended the vigil that was held on campus a day after the news broke worldwide. Manno said it both saddened and mobilized him.
“I just want to write and shed light on the stories that deserve to be told,” he said. “Like Steven did.”
Before Steven died, he managed to smuggle out a letter to his parents. They said that he wrote of his desire to give back.
After his death, the Sotloffs helped start the fund, which provides scholarship support to UCF students majoring in journalism as well as funding for symposia, lectures and other programming to advance journalism and journalism education.
Manno was honored to be chosen as the first recipient and understands the significance it carries.
“This is a scholarship directly tied to someone’s sacrifice for my profession. He was a former UCF student out there pursuing his life’s work. That’s all he was doing, and that’s what led to his death. It means more to me than just the money,” Manno said. “It means that I have to work hard to prove myself worthy of it. It’s an incentive that comes with a big responsibility.”
The fund still has room for growth. The Nicholson family, benefactors of the Nicholson School of Communication, pledged to match every dollar given up to $25,000.
Sonja and Tony Nicholson have spent time getting to know the Sotloffs and didn’t hesitate to extend their heartfelt support.
“They want their son’s name to live on. We felt that was a very small gesture on our part. We can’t ease that pain for them, but we can help carry his name on,” she said. “We just feel like [giving back is] so important because it touches so many lives, and we care about the students.”
While on campus, the Sotloffs told Steven’s story to a room of College of Sciences scholarship recipients and their donors. There were some tears and a nod to Steven’s presence, who they believed was looking down with gratitude.
“The years he spent here, he really enjoyed, especially the rugby team. That was his passion and his love,” Art said.
As the Sotloffs said their goodbyes, Shirley looked back and said quietly, “our hearts are here.”
ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct. 13, 2016) – Fate, and a dash of chemistry, brought together two-time alumna Cynthia McCurry and current College of Sciences student Lauren Gandy.
McCurry has supported a scholarship for the College of Sciences since 2001. Students of various science majors have received the scholarship over the years, but until this fall, it had been awarded just once to a chemistry major.
So McCurry’s day was made when she found out Gandy, this year’s George and Geraldine McCurry Endowed Scholarship recipient, shared her interest in chemistry.
“I’m just so glad that there are students coming out of the school who are making a difference,” McCurry said. “I’m especially pleased that we are turning out sciences majors who are women.”
McCurry graduated in 1980 with her bachelor’s degree in chemistry before earning her master’s in industrial chemistry two years later.
Gandy is a double major in forensic biochemistry and French. She is also pursuing two minors in chemistry and biomedical sciences. She decided to attend UCF because of its forensic science program and plans on furthering her education in a biochemical doctoral program.
One day, she would like to work within a chemical preparedness center to support safety from chemical attacks for the Department of Defense and the military.
The two talked about this and more during their first meeting in an event organized by the College of Sciences that paired donors with their recipients.
“I was fortunate to receive a scholarship last year as well but I didn’t get a chance to meet the donor. I think this year has been changed in so many ways because I’ve been able to meet her and see that chemists are supporting chemists. Engineers are supporting engineers. Just continuing that legacy,” Gandy said. “It’s so wonderful knowing there are people out there who I can look up to and who are supporting students like me.”
McCurry and her siblings set up the George and Geraldine McCurry Endowed Scholarship in honor of their parents, who she said always pushed their children to invest their time in education. All three of the McCurry children received degrees from UCF.
“We never thought of not going to school,” McCurry said. “We wanted to do the scholarship in their name. They were so happy that UCF was built here in Orlando and that we were able to attend. I try to support the school the best that I can.”
It took McCurry and Gandy less than two hours and one shared meal to form an emotional connection. As they neared the end of their conversation, they both started to tear up.
“I’m just so honored that I was able to help you in some small way,” McCurry told Gandy.
Gandy paused for a moment and replied, heartfelt: “Words can’t really express it.”
Lisa Kauffman is a dual major (radio television; political science) in the College of Sciences and expects to graduate in December 2016. She is this year’s recipient of the Sonja Rose Nicholson Endowed Scholarship and the Margaret Gerow/Daniel J. May Communications Scholarship. She currently interns within the Orange County Government Communications Division and hopes to pursue a career in the field.
“I began my journey at UCF as an 18-year-old freshman. I was a pretty naïve kid who didn’t know what I wanted to study or what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what I was good at, and I wasn’t really confident in myself or my abilities. But I was excited to learn and I was ready for the adventure.
“It was a few years ago when I applied for scholarships through the College of Sciences. I remember the day when I was notified I received my first scholarship very clearly. It was one of the last days of final exams. I had just finished a three-hour exam and I was exhausted. I had way more caffeine than sleep in me at this point. I had my last exam just 30 minutes after this final was completed. I was dreading it. I was on my way to the exam and I decided to check my email. I opened it up and saw I was awarded a scholarship. I was elated. Suddenly all of my exhaustion lifted out of me, and I was motivated to ace that exam and finish the semester strong. That motivation, that inspiration didn’t leave me when I completed that exam. It didn’t leave me the next day or months. It stayed with me for years.
“Knowing that someone read over your degree audit and saw how hard you worked in your classes, or saw your resume or read about your passions and goals in the essay you wrote when you applied, and said, ‘This student has potential. I’m going to invest in this student,’ — that is one of the most inspiring and motivational moments for a student. By recognizing our potential, you’re helping us recognize the potential within ourselves. You give us motivation and the confidence in our abilities to pursue our passion.
“Through my past internships, campus involvement and confidence in my abilities, I am leaving UCF knowing the path I want to pursue. For me, my passion is political and government media and communications. I am currently interning at Orange County Government in the Communications Division. I know my journey wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for my donors and the incredible support and inspiration they provided me with. As I said, I started college as a naïve freshman who was unsure of myself. I am leaving college as someone who recognizes my own potential and who is confident in my passion and my abilities. I will never lose that excitement to learn. I love UCF. I love going here. So thank you, donors. Thank you for investing in us and helping us recognize our own potential. I truly hope and plan to one day be in your seats and help students see their own potential.”
1. A former UCF SGA president and his longtime friend are garnering well-deserved attention with their free mobile showering service for the homeless in Palm Beach County, Florida. Chris Bentley graduated in in 2006 with a bachelor’s in legal studies and was living in New York City when he and Carlos Miller decided to start their non-profit, Live Fresh Palm Beach County. People Magazine recently featured the dynamic duo’s feel-good story.
2. The College of Sciences Distinguished Speaker Series begins this week with Wednesday’s “Evolution and the Significance of the Hobbits.” The series, which runs through April, brings renowned speakers from UCF and across the country to enrich the Central Florida community. All talks will be held at the Tuscawilla Country Club. For more information and to RSVP, visit: www.sciences.ucf.edu/dss.
3. Before UCF Football dominated FIU on Saturday, a special moment took place on the field for one UCF alumna and her family. Saturday’s game was the annual Coach to Cure MD game – an initiative that UCF has participated in every year since it began in 2008. Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a progressive muscle disorder that causes loss of muscle function and independence with a lifetime expectancy that usually falls short of one’s 30s. Alumna Colleen Labbadia is the mother of Brendan, who was diagnosed with the disorder four years ago. The family drove down to Miami so Brendan could help in the coin toss and bring more awareness to the cause. Colleen Labbadia had this to say about the experience:
“Our family remains hopefully optimistic that through programs such as Coach to Cure MD, boys like Brendan will see a brighter and better future! Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for helping us achieve that goal and for providing us with such an uplifting day full of special moments. We appreciate the entire team working alongside us to raise awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. UCF Football will always hold a special place in our hearts.”
4. UCF will celebrate World Heart Day this Thursday with a series of hands-only CPR trainings that aim to teach more than 1,000 members of the community quick, basic emergency response. Free training sessions will start every few minutes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Pegasus Ballroom inside the Student Union.
5. The UCF and USF athletic departments announced the official establishment of the War On I-4 rivalry series. The Knights and Bulls will compete for year-long bragging rights with the winners in each of 14 sports scoring toward a final tally for each program. The winning university will take possession of a large trophy shaped like the iconic I-4 road sign.