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

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(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 ucf.edu/downtown.
  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.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Dec. 14, 2015

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Wondering what this pic is all about? Check out No. 5 on our list!

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. For only the second time in its history, all three branches of UCF SGA’s Senate are led by women. The 48th Student Senate’s executive branch is led by Student Body President Cait Zona, the legislative branch is led by Speaker of the Senate Meghan Kircher, and the judicial branch is led by Chief Justice Taylor Scimeca. Congratulations, ladies!
  2. Throughout final exams week, which finally comes to an end tomorrow, the Student Union, Student Academic Resource Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, and UCF Police’s Safe Escort Patrol Service have been helping students ease some of the stress that can come with test taking (and the holidays).
  3. UCF chemistry Ph.D. candidate David Nash, ’11, MS14, and his team, which is developing a smartphone-based handheld drug system for law enforcement applications, was selected to further advance their innovation at the national level through the National Science Foundation I-Corps program.
  4. Last week in Tallahassee, Florida Gov. Rick Scott presented the Champion of Service Award to UCF mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate Albert Manero, ’12, MSAE14, for his work with Limbitless Solutions.
  5. A group of student-athletes is spreading Christmas cheer with the help of Mariah Carey, some jolly dance moves, and a video that’s making its way around the Internet.

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

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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:

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Oct. 19, 2015

(PHOTO: Steven Diaz)
Homecoming fireworks will light up the sky over campus Friday night.
(PHOTO: Steven Diaz)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. It’s time to “Come Together” and celebrate Homecoming 2015! There are plenty of activities to attend this week, including the family-friendly Kidz Carnival, Movie Knight and fireworks, in addition to all of our great alumni events. Plus, this year, for the first time, you can watch Spirit Splash live!
  2. Fewer UCF alumni give back to their alma mater than those at UF and USF. A Homecoming week campaign is hoping to change that! Stay tuned to your email and social media accounts for some inspirational videos, and let’s show those other universities who has the most alumni pride! Are you ready?
  3. Besides all of the Homecoming fun this week holds, the UCF College of Sciences will also host an important discussion on “Examining Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” presented by Deborah Beidel, Pegasus Professor of Psychology and Medical Evaluation, as part of its Distinguished Speaker Series.
  4. The UCF College of Medicine and Hospital Corporation of America are expanding their partnership to create more than 550 residency slots in hospitals across northern Florida, including communities in Orlando, Gainesville and Ocala.
  5. Did you know that UCF produces more graduates who get jobs with aerospace and defense companies than any other university in the nation? It’s true!

UCF Alumnus’ Online Booking Agency Named to
Inc. Magazine’s Fastest-Growing List

Rosen-Greg-Fisher

By Kathy Dorf
Rosen College Public Relations

Greg Fisher, ’07, has what philanthropist and hotelier Harris Rosen famously calls the “entrepreneur gene.” He saw his first business succeed and fail while still studying hospitality management at Rosen College, but persevered and eventually launched TripShock, an online booking agency for tours, attractions and lodging for the Southeastern United States. The company reported record sales of $2.4 million in 2014 and a three-year growth rate of 2,386 percent. His company recently ranked No. 173 on the Inc. 5000 List of Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America.

Fisher, who serves as TripShock’s CEO and oversees employees working remotely around the country from his Destin, Fla., headquarters, shares his advice for budding entrepreneurs and how his experience at Rosen College has played a part in his success.

Describe your career journey since graduating from UCF’s Rosen College.
I started out working in various hotels in the Destin, Fla., area for my first two years after graduating. At the same time, I had been running an online dining guide that I started while attending Rosen College. Although I enjoyed the challenge of both jobs, I was looking for something that defined my passion for tourism innovation. I was lucky enough to run into a local businesswoman for whom I had worked in the past. She needed someone with my skill set to operate a concierge business she planned to open. As most entrepreneurs do, I took a risk of leaving a safe and secure job for a startup. For the first four years, we dealt with a lot of challenges, including the BP oil spill, which nearly shut our doors. In 2014, I acquired majority ownership of the company and took on a new partner.

What inspired you to start your own business?
While attending Rosen, I started an online dining guide that entered me in the world of entrepreneurship at 20 years old. I ran the dining guide as a hobby while holding other jobs, but the success and failure of this venture prepared me for what was to come with TripShock. What intrigued me most about entrepreneurship is allows you to solve problems for consumers on a personal level. When I realized that tourists were not able to effectively find and purchase tickets for tours and attractions on the Gulf Coast, I knew I needed to provide a means for them to do this.

What makes your company stand out from others in the online booking space?
Although there are a handful of local, regional and national competitors in our space, TripShock stands out because we have not given up on the traditional aspect of the booking experience. Where most online agencies have outsourced or removed their call centers completely, we have done exactly the opposite! We have invested in local and professional agents that greatly enhance the customer experience with their knowledge of our booking destinations. In fact, more than 30 percent of our revenue has been generated from our vacation planners, which far outweighs any additional costs of hiring local.

Another reason for our growth is attributed to an experienced management team that understands seasonal pricing trends. It’s important to structure promotions and packages at the right time in order to maximize engagement. We only concentrate on the northern Gulf Coast because we have greater control of our resources. We are very thankful for the close partnerships we have made with the 130-plus suppliers in our markets.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve been able to do so far in your career?
My favorite thing I have been able to do is give back to my community, employees and colleagues, and enhance their lives in some way, shape or form — whether it be giving to a local charity, or providing assistance to an employee in need. If your desire to become an entrepreneur is to get rich and have nice things, you are in it for the wrong reasons. It will never be fulfilling until you realize that what you’re doing is helping make someone’s life (or vacation) better.

How did your experience at Rosen College prepare you to start your own business?
Although Rosen College didn’t offer many classes on entrepreneurship or online travel marketing, the faculty did a great job of inspiring students to pursue something “greater.” More than anything, I enjoyed hearing how certain professors made their mark on the hospitality industry. It made you believe that nothing can stop you from starting your own restaurant franchise or becoming the next Harris Rosen!

What was your favorite part about attending Rosen College?
There were so many great memories that it’s hard to pinpoint my favorite. I’d have to say being around like-minded individuals who equally inspire each other tops the list. Many of my peers from Rosen College are having a lot of success in their careers, which is important for the reputation of the college.

How has your degree helped you as an entrepreneur?
Although Rosen College didn’t offer many classes for entrepreneurs, a lot of faculty were current or past entrepreneurs. The stories of their success and failure were always intriguing and helpful. The degree has opened up many doors throughout the years and brought credibility to my company.

What’s next for you and TripShock?
We have a lot of exciting things in the pipeline right now. Our latest initiative is developing a cloud based app for tour and activity operators that allows them to accept online reservations from several different distribution channels, including their own websites. This project is slated to go live in October. We are also in the process of licensing our booking software to other local travel entities, so we can reach a greater audience with our products. There are no immediate plans to expand our territory since we have a lot more growth opportunity locally.

What advice would you give to current and potential Rosen College students who are interested in starting their own business?
I would say that there is never “the right time” to start a business. If you have an idea that you want to pursue, go for it. It’s OK to make mistakes and prepare to have major setbacks — it’s all part of the ride. People will tell you that “you won’t go far” and “your idea is terrible.” The worst critics will be your closest friends and family. Surround yourself with people who are highly motivated, passionate and like-minded. Most of all, lead by example!

See original article on UCF Today. For more information about hospitality education at Rosen College, please visit hospitality.ucf.edu.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Aug. 10, 2015

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UCF quarterback Justin Holman returns for the 2016 season. (PHOTO: Courtesy of UCF Athletics)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. A computer scientist at UCF has created software to help doctors locate white fat tissues in the body, and differentiate between brown — or good — fat cells that are beneficial in fighting off weight gain and can potentially slow cancer growth.
  2. UCF Interim Athletics Director and Football Head Coach George O’Leary is confident in our Knights’ ability to perform in the upcoming season.
  3. Central Florida is on its way to becoming one of the country’s premier areas for the development of innovative clean energy technologies and solutions, thanks the efforts of UCF and a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
  4. Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed two new members to the UCF Board of Trustees.
  5. Family and friends of 21-year-old UCF student Chloe Arenas, who died June 28 after her car went into a retention pond near a 408 exit ramp, are pushing for Chloe’s Law, which would require the implementation of guard rails along all bodies of water that accompany roadways in Florida.

UCF’s Limbitless Solutions Presents 3-D Printed Arm to
10-Year-Old California Girl

"Dolphin Tale" star Cozi Zuehlsdorff was part of the surprise presentation of a new arm from UCF's Limbitless Solutions.
“Dolphin Tale” star Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Winter the dolphin surprised 10-year-old Anni Emmert when UCF’s Limbitless Solutions presented her with a new, 3-D printed arm.
(Photo: Alyssa Marie Aviles)

UCF’s Limitless Solutions has done it again! The group of engineering students presented its newest 3-D printed arm to Anni Emmert, who was born without her right hand and part of her arm.

And, just as Limbitless Solutions worked with Robert Downey Jr. to surprise 6-year-old Alex Pring with his 3-D arm and Blue Man Group to surprise 10-year-old Wyatt Falardeau with his 3-D arm, they also had a big surprise in store for Anni. This time, the engineers worked with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to give Anni a VIP visit with “Dolphin Tale” stars Winter the dolphin, who has a prosthetic tail, and Cozi Zuehlsdorff.

READ FULL STORY

See the story, which aired Friday morning, June 5, on “Good Morning America.” (You may want to grab a tissue!)

Knights Take over Tallahassee!

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By Angie Lewis, ’03

During the second week of this month, a group of Knights descended on Tallahassee for the annual UCF Day at the Capitol, to meet with some of Florida’s lawmakers and discuss the university’s legislative priorities.

On April 7, Rep. Rene Plasencia, ’96, Rep. Chris Latvala, ’04, and Rep. Mike Miller thanked alumni who work in public service during an Appreciation Knight, hosted by the UCF Alumni Association. UCF Vice President of University Relations Dan Holsenbeck also addressed the group, thanking supporters for making the university look good. In addition, Mike Griffin, ’84, spoke about the alumni association’s Knights Advocates program.

On April 8, the UCF Alumni Association hosted a breakfast for the Central Florida delegation, where Keith Flannery, ’99, chair-elect for the UCF Alumni Board of Directors, thanked everyone for supporting the alumni association and university. Attorney Charlie Gray, of GrayRobinson law firm in Orlando, one of the forefathers of UCF, also spoke about the growth of both the university and Central Florida over the years. The morning was concluded by Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, who discussed the partnership between Osceola County and UCF to build the Advanced Manufacturing Research, which was funded by the Senate.

Throughout the day, alumni staff and undergraduate research scholars manned a table to talk with Knights and legislative staff about the university, while some of UCF’s Alumni Association leadership met with members of the Knights Caucus. UCF’s Student Government Association president, Weston Bayes, joined the meetings, while other members of the SGA also met with legislatures throughout the day.

That evening, UCF’s Student Government Association hosted a reception, featuring Sen. Darren Soto of Seminole County, who talked about the importance of the new UCF downtown campus.

More Info

Want to learn more about how you can affect the future of UCF? Become one of our Knights Advocates!

College of Education & Human Performance

College of Education and Human Performance Interim Dean Grant Hayes presents the college's 2014 Professional Achievement Award to Pam Stewart, '85. (PHOTO: Brandon Chestnut)
College of Education and Human Performance Interim Dean Grant Hayes presents the college’s 2014 Professional Achievement Award to
Pam Stewart, ’85.
(PHOTO: Brandon Chestnut)
Pam Stewart, ’85 | Commissioner of Education, Florida Department of Education

Professional Achievement Award 2014

Pam Stewart rose to the honored position of commissioner of education for the State of Florida after a fulfilling journey from the classroom, to administration, to the Florida Department of Education. What has remained constant, however, is her source of inspiration, which, despite her position, continues to be her desire to help students.

Learn more about Pam: