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Alumni Spartan Spotlight

We are proud of our University of Tampa alumni and want to tell their stories and celebrate their successes. So many of our alumni stand out either for their professional accomplishments, contributions to their communities, or for being dedicated and enthusiastic ambassadors for the University. Each month, we’ll spotlight a new UT graduate. Know someone who should be featured? Email us at alumni@ut.edu.

May 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Vinny Tafuro '17

Vinny Tafuro
Vinny Tafuro '17

Vinny Tafuro graduated from UT in 2017 with a degree in Communications. Tafuro is a co-founder of the Institute of Economic Evolution, which was founded in 2019 and has been the primary focus since his graduation from the University of Tampa. The Institute of Economic Evolution is essentially a research institute to reconstruct how economics are looked at in both academia and in the private sectors, specifically the technology sector. Currently, Tafuro is collaborating with UT professors in hopes to expand the institute to other colleges and universities in the state of Florida. The goal is to bring together economic ideas that are interested in measuring social capital.

During his time at UT, Tafuro was the founder of the Conscious Capitalism: Florida Chapter and worked with SustainableUT to put on a program about the “B corporation,” which is a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. Tafuro also explained that Associate Professor of Communication, Stephanie Tripp, “was an integral part in allowing [him] the flexibility in [his] studies to actually use [his] undergraduate credits to write a book.”

When asked what he thought he would grow up to be in the 5th grade, Tafuro reflected on the stock market crash when he was that age and how he could not understand why a stock market would crash when people were supposed to all be trading in their best interest. Now, thirty years later, and he’s working to solve that problem!

Tafuro says that he would encourage current UT students to look at cross discipline, and to get outside of their major with electives. “I took a ‘Witchcraft and Magic and The Early Modern Atlantic World’ and a couple semesters of independent study in the psychology department working on what has now become a collaborative project on understanding human consciousness. I would have never dabbled in that if I hadn’t taken some of these elective courses.”

He believes that society puts an emphasis on using our educations to get a job once we obtain our degrees, but that is not all an education should be. He believes the point of educating ourselves is to participate meaningfully in society, not just at our jobs.

This month, Tafuro will be speaking in San Francisco at the Transform 2019 conference, where he will be speaking on a segment called “System Break: Evolving Economics Beyond Neoliberalism.”

April 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Casey McLean '04

Casey McLean
Casey McLean ’04

Casey McLean is the executive director and veterinary nurse at SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research (SR3), located in Seattle, WA. SR3 fills a critical gap in marine animal services in the Pacific Northwest by disentangling sea lions and whales from marine debris or fishing gear, responding to stranded or injured marine wildlife, and helping to reduce human-wildlife conflict to promote healthy marine wildlife and human communities.

After graduating from UT in 2004 with her bachelor’s degree in marine science, McLean moved around the country to various places, such as Boston, Alaska and the Florida Keys, finally landing herself in Washington. These travels enabled her to gain extensive experience working in many marine animal rehabilitation facilities with many different species. In 2010, McLean moved to Washington to establish SR3. This was a pivotal moment for her and is still the driving force behind her career. Since there are no marine hospitals in Washington, her work enables her to provide resources that save animals, that would otherwise be euthanized or left on the sea shores to die.

McLean says one thing that sticks out to her that UT did so well was “giving students a very diverse experience.” Between her studies and multiple internships at facilities such as the Florida Aquarium and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, McLean was able to diversify herself from other marine science graduates with the hands on experience she gained. Entering UT, she knew exactly what she wanted to study, so she kept her focus and was very driven to ensure that she would receive the best education possible.

Her advice to current UT students is to “never give up. There are limited jobs, so find something to support yourself while chasing your dreams, and you will get there.”

March 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Thomas Vilanova '13

Justin Grant
Thomas Vilanova ’13
Thomas Vilanova is a premium services account manager with the New Jersey Devils. He manages the retention of season ticket holders, which involves the organization of events for clients and a lot of relationship management to make sure his customers are kept happy.

After graduating from UT in 2013 with a degree in sport management, Vilanova worked for two years with many prestigious New York organizations such as the New York Yankees, Madison Square Garden, the New York Mets, the New York Rangers, the New York Knicks and the New York Liberty. With an extensive background in sports and game day operations, Vilanova finally landed one of his dream jobs with the New Jersey Devils in 2015. He says that the opportunity for further growth and the interactions with clients and organizations is what keeps him excited in his career on a day-to-day basis.

During his time at UT, Vilanova learned early on that working in the sports industry requires hard work and long days. He was a part of the Sports and Entertainment Management Society, where they would volunteer at events such as the Valspar Championship and Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He also spent part of his time on the USF campus, working with their athletic department as well as marketing department. Having all of these opportunities in front of him made it very important for him to continue with his strong work ethic. Outside of his studies, he made a great group of friends that he still keeps in touch with. Recently one of those friends asked him to come back to the Tampa Bay community to be a groomsman.

When asked what his advice was for current students, he felt confident encouraging them to “prioritize time in class to make sure you're keeping up with studies” and to “find a good group of true friends who will last a lifetime and not just four years.”

February 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Rebecca Paone '05, MBA '18

Rebecca

Rebecca Paone is a partner and co-founder with a growth hacking digital marketing company, OmniDigit, based out of Clearwater, FL. OmniDigit follows an innovative, omni-channel approach for sustainable and scalable business growth. Paone says that what keeps her most excited about her career is “being able to experience the passion and stories her clients share,” and “networking to help other businesses grow.” She is a true networker and loves helping others find answers.

Six months after receiving her degree in communication from UT, Paone decided to get her real estate license and actively practiced real estate for nearly 15 years. At some point in her real estate career, market changes and personal economics forced her to look at other opportunities. Paone soon advanced through Enterprise Rent-A-Car to assistant manager. After her divorce in late 2014, she wanted to refresh her mindset and a career refocus led her to healthcare marketing. In 2016, she came back to UT to get her Masters of Business Administration, which she completed in August 2018. She then decided to pursue her passion and start with OmniDigit. She loves entrepreneurship and is excited for more new business ventures in the future.

While in her undergrad at the University, she lived a very busy life. Paone was a part of the honors program, a sister of Alpha Gamma Delta, Order of Omega, a student worker in the Cass Communications equipment cage, an intramural sports athlete and a member of the student government. She still keeps in touch with a lot of the friends she made while studying here, most importantly her sorority sisters, whom she is constantly involved with.

As for her advice to current University of Tampa students, she encourages them to “always look at the opportunities that present themselves,” because they will help you to further your career and figure out what you want to achieve with the degrees you earn.

January 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Justin Grant '07

Justin Grant
Justin Grant ’07

Justin Grant graduated from The University of Tampa with a degree in marketing but realized what he truly wanted to pursue was healthcare technology. He worked for McKesson on their consulting team for roughly five years, where he was exposed to the business side of the medicine field.

Now, Grant is an entrepreneur with over six years of experience developing mobile apps and web applications. His most recent start up, Handoff Pro, replaces white boards and clip boards and helps clinicians reduce errors by organizing the transition of care for patients. Soon, he will pilot the Handoff Pro app at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. This app will have all of a patient’s updated medical information, along with secure messaging and real time telemedicine video chats making it easier for doctors and nurses to perform shift changes and not miss a beat.

His favorite aspect of his career is how fast technology moves. It’s hard to keep up, with but he “likes the constant challenge.” Grant describes himself as being genuinely interested in what he does, which is why he is able to easily self-teach himself a lot of what he knows.

During his time at UT, Grant played on the men’s baseball team. He loved his internship with Intuit, a business and finance software company. He felt having an internship while being a full-time student was extremely helpful. He also had a great friendship with his first year baseball roommate, Sergio, who he still keeps in touch with and talks to very frequently.

Grant recalls his capstone class in the entrepreneurship program where his professor brought in a local orthodontist and tasked the students with expanding his business. This included rebranding, devising a new marketing strategy, increasing revenue and service, as well as analyzing the business overall. He enjoyed “going through every aspect of a business in the real world."

Grant’s advice to current UT students is to get as much experience possible before graduation. He says, “The last thing you want to do is to get out and feel like you are just starting.” With so many great businesses located in Tampa, Grant advises students to “get in somewhere, work for free if you have to and get the experience.”

December 2018 Spartan Spotlight
David Hiller '12

Melissa Morin
David Hiller ’12

David Hiller is the partnership sales executive with the New York City Football Club, where he works with the partnerships team selling sponsorships. After graduating from UT in 2012 with a degree in sport management and minors in marketing and business administration, Hiller took a chance and accepted a full time position with the Major League Soccer (MLS). Not knowing what this opportunity would bring, Hiller packed his bags and moved to Minnesota for his first full time position.

In 2013, he was offered a position with the New York City Football Club (NYCFC). Seeing this as an opportunity to come back to his roots, he accepted the position and has been working with NYCFC ever since, working his way up. Hiller says that the driving force that keeps him excited about his career is that it is constantly changing and never stagnant. “People don’t realize that working in the sports industry can be a grind; it involves long hours but also has travel perks. I am happy to do the ‘grind’ now while I’m in my twenty’s."

Most recently, Hiller’s career took him on a trip to Abu Dhabi, where he was able to attend the Formula 1 2018 Ethidad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and skydive out of a plane alongside his brother. Hiller admits that he would love to someday come back to Florida and has long term aspirations to become a professor at UT. He had such a great experience educationally and socially that he wants to give back to the university that gave him so much. He misses the Florida lifestyle and views Tampa as a “special place and a second home.”

During his time at The University of Tampa, Hiller was very active on campus. He was an avid exerciser and made his academic studies a top priority. He joined the Theta Chi fraternity, was a mentor for ELITE and was a member of the Honors Program. He had a core group of friends his junior and senior years who all lived on the same floor in Straz Hall and are still friends to this day. Hiller’s advice to current UT students is that “you need to diversify your skillset. There are so many things to learn outside of the classroom that will help you in your first job and overall career. Learn a new language, learn a new skill and differentiate yourself."


November 2018 Spartan Spotlight
Melissa Morin ’11

Melissa Morin
Melissa Morin ’11

Melissa Morin '11 is the senior program manager at Wells Fargo where she works on their marketing initiative to promote financial literacy in the Central Florida region. She says what keeps her most excited about her career is “helping the community grow in financial capacity.” Morin enjoys working with families starting from ground zero and seeing the journey they go on. “Seeing families buy their first homes or students getting loans approved to be able to attend college, that’s what I love.”

Morin started working with Wells Fargo as a teller while she was a junior at The University of Tampa. By 22, she held a management position within the company, and after graduating she became a branch manager. Ever since, Morin has been excelling in her career to get where she is today.

As for her time at UT, she says that “any event there was on campus, I was there supporting other organizations." Morin received a Bachelor of Arts in government and world affairs and international cultural studies. She also joined the sorority Sigma Lambda Gamma and is still very involved with them to this day. She loves to go back, see her sisters and hold workshops to help them be prepared for their post-graduation endeavors. Today she is a volunteer for the American Cancer Society and on the Board of Directors for Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc.

The biggest thing she took away from The University of Tampa was getting involved and networking. She feels it is crucial for students to learn these skills and has always been impressed with how supportive the University has been. She has kept in touch with the friends she made during her time at UT and says they all rely on each other for professional advice.

Morin’s advice to current UT students? “Your attitude determines your altitude. Don’t feel underprepared. There is no perfect time to start an internship. Just go for it, and you can be amazed with the outcome.”

October 2018 Spartan Spotlight
Bill Schaudt ’00

Bill Schaudt
Bill Schaudt ’00

Bill Schaudt ’00 is the vice president and software developer of Zeus Concepts, a Northbrook, IL, company that specializes in software programs designed for auto dealerships. Schaudt graduated from UT with a bachelor’s in photography while also being a part of the rowing team as the coxswain.

Having been shy in high school, Schaudt said the coxswain position gave him the chance to develop his own style of leadership and be a part of a team of people who stuck together. Since graduating, Schaudt came back to UT as the head coach of the men's rowing team from 2001 to 2006. He then went on to coach the freshmen rowing team at Northwestern University and now privately coaches master rowers when he’s not working or with his family. He loves the feeling of serenity while being on the water, and considers rowing to be one of his greatest passions.

Schaudt thinks back fondly to the UT campus he was familiar with back in the late 1990’s, and the good friends he made on his floor in Howell Hall.

“I remember when they introduced Subway on campus down in the Rat, and people were so excited because it was our first chain restaurant at UT.”

Schaudt, who returned to campus for the Rowing Reunion this past February, said he spent a lot of his time in the Boathouse, but now thinks the Lowth Entrepreneurship Center is one of the coolest buildings on campus.

“I’m extremely proud of where UT is now from when I started,” he said. “When I came to UT, they had just hired President Vaughn, and ever since it seems the success of the University has just been increasing.”

September 2018 Spartan Spotlight
Sara Hokin Rubin ’06

Sara Hokin - Spartan Spotlight
Sara Hokin ’06

Sara Hokin Rubin ’06 is the national director of operations for Game On! Sports 4 Girls, where she has her hands in all aspects of the operation including programing, management and business development. Rubin, who got her degree in sports management with a minor in psychology, attributes much of her success to the well-rounded UT curriculum that allowed her the opportunity to learn a broad range of subjects which she uses every day.

Sara Hokin - Spartan Spotlight
Sara Hokin ’06

During her time as a student, Rubin was a member of the softball team and a leader with Hillel, where she served as the organization president and the president of outreach. Sports and leadership were always a key part of her life, and her time at UT fortified the importance of both. After graduating, she worked for a professional sports team in Chicago, but the position lacked the impact she was seeking. She began coaching youth softball and became connected to a new camp that was just launching. She was hired by Game On! Sports Camps 4 Girls to be its softball director and found the job with the impact she needed – passing on the gift of sports to young girls while also leading and inspiring a team of coaches. Today Game On! is celebrating its 12th year in operation, and Hokin has been with them each year overseeing summer camps and school-year programming in Illinois, Colorado and Ohio. At Game On!, Hokin and her team strive to empower girls through sports by building their confidence and teaching skills and values crucial to their growth as an athlete and person. In September 2018, Game On! was recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the recipient of their Rings of Gold Award.

Hokin's advice to current UT students? Find something you are passionate about. Make it your career and go for it. If you are passionate about what you do, then others will see it and want to be a part of it. Believe in your mission, stay true to your brand, put in the effort and you will have success.

August 2018 Spartan Spotlight
Stephanie Will 16, MBA ’17

Stephanie Will - Spartan Spotlight
Stephanie Will ’16, MBA ’17

Stephanie Will ’16, MBA ’17 could have never imagined the impact UT would have on her life the day she began as a student. Now, as a staff member of the Office of Development and University Relations, she recalls several instances during her years at UT that helped shape her as a person.

“I remember being a first semester sophomore and telling my professor that I really wanted to be a business major, but I was nervous about taking higher level accounting classes. He encouraged me to overcome that fear and follow my heart, letting me know that he would personally be a support if needed.” It was the amazing professors and mentors she had that pushed her to complete the MBA 4+1 program at UT.

After graduating, Will pursued her passion for volunteerism and joined AmeriCorps as a special events coordinator for the “I Have A Dream” Foundation of Boulder County in Colorado.

Will is now the assistant director of Alumni and Parent Relations at UT, which will allow her to connect with alumni from all different years, and to oversee the Family Association Board. She will travel to Atlanta, Chicago and Boston to hold alumni receptions and meet with alumni one-on-one. “I am really passionate about community engagement. What I love about UT is that our community is not limited to geographic boundaries. We have alumni all over the world, and they all have their own stories to tell.”