Nurses First, Scholarships Follow for Alumnus-led Startup

Alvin Cortez ’08 (left) and Richard Manual (right) of Nurses First Solutions

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (June 22, 2017) – When long-time friends Alvin Cortez ’08 and Richard Manuel connected with the UCF Business Incubation Program to foster growth for their travel nurse staffing agency, they were asked a simple question: Why would somebody choose you rather than the company next to you?

They had a simple answer. They were in the business of making business personal.

Travel nurses typically work 13 week periods in one area, and move around the country depending on where they are needed. Nurses First Solutions provides those nurses to facilities in need of professional workforce. Manuel is a nurse. So is his wife. So is Cortez’s wife, Jessiccalou ’08 ’14BSN.

They knew about the job demands first-hand – the long hours, the life-saving work and the comfort that nurses provide to their patients. They also knew there were gaps in the industry, specifically for traveling nurses when it came to retirement plans, health care insurance, paid time off and life insurance.

So they decided to do something about it.

“We treat them like family,” Manuel said. “They won’t be treated like a number. They can call the company president and speak to him directly. It’s more transparent in our company.”

Echoed Cortez: “We wanted to give back, so we started the company – hence the name Nurses First.”

After incorporating in 2014, Cortez and Manuel hooked up with their third partner Ronnie Elliott and the UCF Business Incubation Program, which Cortez learned about when he studied interpersonal communication at UCF.

For nearly 20 years, the Incubation Program has been helping early-stage companies develop into financially stable, high-impact enterprises by providing resources and services that facilitate smarter, faster growth.

The duo credit site manager Carol Ann Dykes as the instrumental force that has pushed their business forward since joining the incubator. After they started at the incubator in April 2016, their company expanded from three employees to a dozen and their revenue grew from $300,000 to $6 million.

“It takes grit on our part, but at the same time it’s good to have guidance along the way,” Cortez said. “They hold us accountable to having a structure. If you have questions, they’ll connect you to the right types of people.”

All the while, they have remained steadfast in their mission to put nurses first. They offer competitive benefits, paid time off, life insurance and retirement plans. They also follow through on personal touches like sending flowers when their contracted nurses’ family members are sick or welcome boxes for new hires.

“People ask, does that eat up your profit? For us, it just makes sense,” Cortez said. “We’d rather give it back to the nurses. It’s ingrained in us to want to give back and do a little bit better for the people around us.”

They recently took that philosophy one step further by establishing the Nurses First Solutions Endowed Scholarship in April to support the undergraduate members of the Student Nurses Association within the College of Nursing.

Their office is located next to the College of Nursing, and after sponsoring some events, they became interested in setting up a scholarship. That interest turned into action after they attended a scholarship luncheon and heard directly from nursing students about how scholarships impacted their lives.

“We wanted to plant the seed for these students – there are resources, there are opportunities out there. They have a wide array of opportunity ahead of them if they are truly passionate about nursing,” Manuel said. “The scholarship puts more back into the community and students that want to make a difference in people’s lives.”

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

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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 arts.cah.ucf.edu.
  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!

Knights Participate in Third Annual
Student Philanthropy Week

project63

It takes many hands to smoothly and effectively run the second-largest university in the nation. Busy students often don’t realize where our school’s resources come from, so the UCF Student Philanthropy Council started spreading the word of philanthropic giving with Project ’63.

The mission of Project ’63 is to remind students of the importance of philanthropy and its impact on higher education. To accomplish this, the SPC is hosting its third annual Student Philanthropy Week, bringing the spirit of giving back to campus.

This year’s celebration takes place Feb. 22-25, and includes the following daily events to inspire tradition:

Monday – Education Day
Students host a table outside the Student Union and play educational/trivia games.

Tuesday – Appreciation Day
Students sign a “Thank You” banner for young alumni donors, which helps stewardship with donors and gives students a better appreciation for and understanding of how philanthropy impacts their education.

On both Monday and Tuesday, the Student Philanthropy Council also introduces Philanthropy Cab, like the TV show “CA$H CAB,” where members pick up students and drive them to their classes on a golf cart, all the while testing their knowledge and school pride!

Wednesday – Participation Day
Students focus on peer-to-peer solicitation to cultivate donations in anticipation of launching a senior giving program.

Thursday – Celebration Day
The week concludes with all of the previous days’ activities, plus the Student Philanthropy Symposium, featuring a panel of some of the UCF Alumni Association’s 30 under 30 award winners.

“Student Philanthropy Week is one of the first opportunities many students have to learn about the impact of philanthropy on their education,” says Danielle Warren, coordinator of the UCF Fund. “Facilitating experiences through which students might recognize that many academic, scholarship and programmatic opportunities are funded by donations cultivates the spirit of philanthropy on campus — an important step toward assuring the future of private support at UCF.”

For more information about the Student Philanthropy Council and Student Philanthropy Week, contact Danielle at 407.882.1254.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Feb. 1, 2016

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Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Taking any UCF classes this fall? Want some free money? Apply for one of our many alumni scholarships! (Scroll to the bottom of the page for application instructions.)
  2. February is Matching Gift Month, which means your monetary donations may be worth double if your employer participates in the matching gift program. While we hope UCF is tops on your list of giving priorities, we encourage you to give to whichever organizations mean the most to you!
  3. The UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center is taking part in a Green Office Certification pilot program, also known as the “GreenUP UCF” campaign. Over the next year, our staff will be making changes to help our building become a more sustainable part of our beautiful campus.
  4. Looking for something to do this weekend? If you’re in the Titusville area on Saturday, join our Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter as they cheer on Knightro in the Mascot Marathon! Or, if you’re out and about in Orlando on Saturday, support our student-athletes at the UCF Baseball FanFest prior to the Knights’ basketball game against Temple (where you can enter your little one in the Second Annual UCF Baby Race during halftime)!
  5. Join the College of Sciences on Feb. 10, as it hosts its next Distinguished Speaker Series. This month’s topic is “Understanding Violence against Women in Rural Communities,” presented by Walter DeKeseredy, professor of sociology at the University of West Virginia.

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 — 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!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Aug. 24, 2015

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Entrepreneur James Wurst, ’05 (shaking hands), presented Knightro with a new ride on Friday —
a three-wheeled “skateboard” from his company, Trideck.
(PHOTO: Michael Callahan)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. New projects and construction will greet students, faculty and staff headed back to campus today. They include a Garage C expansion, UCF Health Center expansion, the Carl Black & Gold Cabana, the Wayne Densch Student-Athlete Leadership Center and the Libra Drive expansion.
  2. On Friday, UCF alumnus James Wurst, ’05, presented Knightro with a new ride — a three-wheeled skateboard from his company, Trideck (see photo above).
  3. PBS “NewsHour” premiered a segment on the Direct Connect to UCF program, which is helping more students to graduate, as well as save thousands of dollars for low-income students who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to earn a four-year degree.
  4. UCF marketing lecturer Carolyn Massiah will speak to College of Business alumni in Tampa on Tuesday about protecting their brands in the social media economy.
  5. To help students become excellent doctors with the kind of bedside manner you’d trust your elderly grandmother to, a private foundation provided the College of Medicine with a $116,225 grant that will establish the “Chapman Humanism in Medicine Initiative” at UCF.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — June 15, 2015

CCC2015
The UCF Alumni Association hosted the chairs of its college, regional and special interest chapters and clubs during the annual AlumKnights of the Roundtable: 2015 Chapter & Club Council meeting on Saturday.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception took place Friday evening at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, where nine Knights were honored, and many others recognized, for their countless acts of generosity and numerous volunteer hours to the alumni association.
  2. On Saturday, the UCF Alumni Association hosted its annual Chapter & Club Council meeting, where nearly 50 chapter and club alumni volunteers — from Central Florida and across the nation — gathered to discuss the alumni association’s strategic plan, as well as many other important topics.
  3. The next UCF MedTalk takes place this Wednesday at the Downtown PourHouse, where Dr. Griffith Parks will discuss “The Upshot on Viruses and Vaccines.” The MedTalk series allows participants to learn about current and innovative issues in medicine in a casual setting. This informative and interesting evening is open to everyone.
  4. Sonya Baumstein, ’09, the UCF alumna who was attempting to row solo across the Pacific Ocean was rescued over the weekend due to mechanical issues and bad weather.
  5. UCF students will attempt another Guinness World Record on Thursday — this time, for the World’s Largest Swim Lesson. The attempt is part of a worldwide campaign to promote swimming lessons to save lives.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — June 8, 2015

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. UCF has a unique opportunity to hear from Heather Gill-Frerking, director of science and education for the Mummies of the World traveling exhibit, on Wednesday, June 10. The exhibit — one of the largest of its kind — opens at the Orlando Science Center on June 13. (See video above.)
  2. The alumni association hosts its eighth annual UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception on Friday, June 12. The evening recognizes some of the university’s most active volunteers for their countless acts of generosity and numerous volunteer hours with the association.
  3. The UCF College of Medicine and UCF Alumni Association host their third MedTalk on Wednesday, June 17. “The Upshot on Viruses and Vaccines” will be presented by Dr. Griffith Parks, whose research interests include developing novel vaccines for viral diseases and the use of viruses for the targeted killing of tumor cells.
  4. Nearly 200 women attended last Thursday’s annual UCF Ladies Football Clinic, hosted by the athletics department. In addition to getting tours of the team’s weight room and Wayne Densch Sports Center, throwing passes and trying on equipment, the lady Knights fans also got to meet players and coaches, and chat with Coach George O’Leary.
  5. Check out some of the new expansions and renovations making their way to campus.

Meet the New Face of the Alumni Association and Foundation

Morsberger-family
Mike Morsberger is the new vice president of alumni relations and development, and CEO of the foundation.
He, his wife, Marybeth, and their daughters, Courtney and Allison, are thrilled to be part of the UCF family!

On May 8, following an intensive national search, UCF and the UCF Foundation Inc., named Michael Morsberger UCF’s new vice president for alumni relations and development, and the foundation’s new CEO.

Morsberger begins working at UCF June 1, leading all fundraising activities for the university, as well as guiding the vitally important efforts of the UCF Alumni Association to foster and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between the university and its 250,000 alumni.

“I’d really like to commit the summer to meeting as many people as I can, internally and externally, and a particular focus on the alumni,” Morsberger says. “I want to understand their stories — what makes UCF special to them. It’ll take everybody to help UCF get to that next level. It’s achieved so much, yet, I just have this feeling that it’s only scratched the surface on its full potential.”

An accomplished fundraising professional, Morsberger has achieved record-breaking successes at the George Washington University, Duke University, the University of Virginia and The Johns Hopkins University.

Most recently, under Morsberger’s leadership, George Washington received the two largest gifts in its 190-year history — a total of $80 million to address public health challenges. The university also doubled the amount it raised for financial aid to more than $35 million last year.

“Mike’s leadership has produced transformational gifts that continue to change lives at some of our nation’s leading institutions and around the world,” UCF President John C. Hitt says. “He excels at motivating his staff members, donors, administrators and faculty members to dream big for the benefit of students and the community.”

Morsberger served for nearly five years as George Washington’s vice president for development and alumni relations, until he resigned in October 2014 for family reasons.

Previously, he was vice president for development and alumni affairs at Duke Medicine. Morsberger also worked as associate vice president of development and alumni relations for the University of Virginia’s Health System and executive director of the UVa Health Foundation and served at Johns Hopkins for nine years, starting as a major gifts officer and rising to chief development officer of the medical center’s renowned cancer center.

“I am of modest means, from a family in Baltimore,” he explains. “I’m the first in my family to go away to college. Higher ed changed my life, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Morsberger earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Radford University and a master’s degree in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. He and his wife, Marybeth, were college sweethearts, and they have two grown children, Courtney and Allison.

“I am honored to accept this important role and serve the vast UCF community,” Morsberger said. “It is clear to me that the University of Central Florida at age 50 is at an inflection point in its remarkable history — and the next decade will surely prove to be very exciting.”

Morsberger joins the UCF Foundation at a pivotal moment, near the end of the leadership gifts phase of a carefully planned, multi-year campaign to raise $500 million to benefit UCF. During the leadership phase, foundation leaders work quietly to raise a significant portion of the goal before announcing off the campaign.

As state funding for public universities contracts across the country, the role of private philanthropy — and of the foundations that encourage it — grows more and more important. In the 2014 fiscal year, more than 17,500 donors made gifts and commitments totaling nearly $39 million to UCF. The university, foundation and alumni association are happy to welcome a new leader to build on that work.

—By Chad Binette, Zack Thomas and Angie Lewis, ’03

Learn more, as Mike discusses his new role at UCF: