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.
October Jessica Killin ’95 more » close »

October 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Jessica Killin '95

Jessica Killin '95

Jessica Killin '95 said,  The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.

While at UT, Killin earned her degree in criminology and was involved in organizations such as the UT Year Book, Alpha Chi Omega sorority and ROTC. She was also a resident assistant in ResCom and Delo Hall.

Killin graduated and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Military Police Corps of the US Army. She started her military career as a Platoon Leader in Germany, which she views now as one of her most life-changing opportunities. She spent most of her five years of regular Army service overseas in Europe before transitioning to the Inactive Ready Reserve for another three years.

Killin continued her public service work as a legislative staffer for former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) while attending Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C. She earned her J.D. degree and went on to practice law at Latham & Watkins, LLP, specializing in private equity mergers and acquisitions for three and a half years. Killin then returned to her passion—public policy—as a federal government relations assistant vice president at USAA.

Recently, Killin took a year off politics to travel and evolve, during which she further pursued her passion for wine and obtained two different sommelier certifications. She came to realize she missed public policy and headed “back to the Hill” in 2018 hoping to fight the good fight. Killin was soon selected to serve as Congresswoman Donna Shalala’s chief of staff and believes her education and many years of experience helped her achieve that goal.

With influences from UT professors, such as Jan Dargel and Richard Piper, she was introduced to the world of law and new levels of thinking. With the guidance of leaders in the military, senators she worked under and even her husband, Killin has been able to meaningfully interact with the community and give back to her country.

Killin shares her perspective for current UT students: along the path of life, you will always meet people who influence you and help you to grow, and it is up to you to evolve into the best person you can be. 

September Allison Macsas '05 more » close »

September 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Allison Macsas '05

Allison Macsas '05

Allison Macsas '05 can most often be found on a running trail, although the location of the trail tends to vary depending on which part of the world she happens to be in. As the co-founder and guide of Rogue Expeditions, Macsas is pursuing her lifelong passion by overseeing a travel company for runners.

As a student, she participated in cross country and remembers waking up at 6:30 a.m. for practice and racing every weekend. It was actually cross country coach Jarrett Slaven who helped to convince her to come to UT in the first place and then ended up being a great support system for her throughout her time as a student.  

Macsas graduated early with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design, and although she felt like she should go after a position within an ad agency, she decided to take some time to travel instead. Along with one of her teammates, she left to backpack Europe for several months, which ended up being an incredibly transformative experience. At the conclusion of the trip, she moved to Austin, TX, with her lifelong friend. There, she worked at the Austin Business Journal until the wanderlust kicked back in, and she found herself teaching English in Southeast Asia where she met her husband. Together they moved back to Austin, and Macsas started working for a company called Rogue Running, which eventually inspired the idea for Rogue Expeditions. 

In one calendar year, approximately 300 people will attend 23 or more running adventure trips to locations all over the world. Macsas says the best part of her job is “the people I get to meet – those who come on our trips and the people who we work with in each country. On any given trip, most of the participants who come as strangers leave feeling like a family. One of her favorite trips has been to Morocco, which her team continues to go back to year after year. 

Macsas' advice to UT students is to "go out and experience all that UT has to offer, even if it scares you," and to everyone in the UT community, she advises to "try not to fixate so much on one plan that you miss the other doors that are opening in your life. You don’t have to work in one particular industry just because that is what your degree is in. Receiving an education and learning how to solve problems is the most important part and hopefully, along the way, you’ll find a career that feeds your soul."

August Ashley Burns MBA '18, M.S. '18 more » close »

August 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Ashley Burns MBA '18, M.S. '18

Ashley Burns MBA '18, M.S. '18

Ashley Burns is the Vice President of Brand Experience for NOISE, Inc., a brand activation agency founded in 1986 and headquartered in Sanibel, FL. Burns facilitates solution-based, experience-driven marketing initiatives primarily within the hospitality, travel and tourism industry. Within her role, she leads with a service marketing approach by integrating a customer focus into traditional and new media channels such as text and mobile marketing, web packages and geofencing advertising campaigns.

Burns graduated from The University of Tampa in 2018 with an MBA and Master’s in Marketing. When Burns started at UT, she was only pursuing a Master’s in Marketing. One year later, Burns added on the MBA recalling Dr. Rustogi’s advice to “learn to love the numbers”. Looking back on it, Burns said that “as a marketing professional, earning an MBA was smart and laid a strong foundation for career growth.” Dr. Hemant Rustogi, Dr. James Lee and Dr. Lonnie Bryant, business professors at UT, were influential during her time at the university. Burns feels that “the lessons [she] learned will stay with [her] thanks to their example, guidance and investment in their students.”

At UT, Burns served as Chief Marketing Officer for UT GOLD, an organization that strives to enrich the graduate business student’s experience at UT and within the community through a variety of events and activities aimed at fostering relationships both professionally and personally. Burns said some of her closest connections and career opportunities came from UT GOLD as like-minded individuals gathered to develop their skillsets and connect with local business leaders.

Prior to UT, Burns earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in Recreation and Leisure Services Administration. She also served in the United States Air Force for Air Traffic Control.

Her advice to current UT students?  “Relentlessly pursue and refine what inspires and drives you — then get confident and clear about how that brings value to an organization. Introduce yourself to as many people as you can. After graduation, what you choose to do with who you’ve met, what you’ve learned, and how you’ll apply those principles to your current situation in life, is where you stand in a world of opportunity.”

July Keith Swanson '77 more » close »

July 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Keith Swanson ’77

Keith Swanson ’77 graduated from UT with his bachelor’s degree in marine biology. After attending St. Joseph’s College in Indiana for his first two years of undergrad, Swanson was drawn to UT because of the impressive marine biology program. Swanson packed his red Volkswagen and drove from Chicago, where he grew up, all the way to Tampa. He says when he pulled up to see the campus for the first time he was amazed and made many fond memories in the Rathskellar, hanging out with friends and always meeting new people, including his wife, a 1977 alum, who he met on Gasparilla.

After completing his undergraduate studies, Swanson went to work for Chloride Automotive Batteries, working in their chemistry labs to help produce batteries for automobiles. Five years later, he decided he wanted to go into business for himself. Swanson worked his way into the financial services industry and finally found something that he loved. Now, Swanson is a financial advisor and the senior vice president of wealth Management with UBS Financial Services. Everyday he helps people financially plan their lives. Swanson said, “It is not just about trading in the stock market, it is about having a plan on how you are going to retire, how much money you need to retire and how to achieve that goal. When we make that plan together, it is an extremely rewarding feeling.”

Even though he graduated with a degree in marine biology, Swanson feels that he can still apply other skills he learned from UT into his career now. Working on the marine boats taught him teamwork, and the array classes he took inspired him to become a lifelong learner. Swanson is still working to this day to get different certifications to help him advance in his career field.

Swanson and his wife spent 15 years living in the Tampa Bay area, and finally moved back up north to New Jersey so they could raise their children close to family. He spent 10 years on the community’s school board, and four of those years he served as the president.

When asked if he will return to Florida, Swanson could not respond quick enough! He says that he “loves the water and the freshness that Florida has to offer—it is like a different way of life there!” He reflected on how sparse Tampa was when he moved there in the 1970’s and how it has been fascinating to watch the city grow and develop into what we know it as today.

May Vinny Tafuro '17 more » close »

May 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Vinny Tafuro '17

Vinny Tafuro

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 his primary focus since his graduation. The Institute of Economic Evolution is 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 faculty at colleges and universities across the globe, including UT professors, in order to bring together economic ideas that are interested in measuring social capital.

During his time at UT, Tafuro founded the Conscious Capitalism Florida Chapter and worked with SustainableUT to host a program about Certified B Corps, 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 Stephanie Tripp, associate professor of communication, “was an integral part in allowing me the flexibility in studies to use my undergraduate credits to write a book.”

When asked what he thought he would grow up to be in fifth 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 are all supposed to be trading in their best interest. Now, 30 years later, he is working to solve that problem.

Tafuro says that he would encourage current UT students to look outside their discipline and get outside of their major with electives. “I took ‘Witchcraft and Magic in The Early Modern Atlantic World’ and also a few semesters of independent study in psychology working on a project that now has 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 Casey McLean '04 more » close »

April 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Casey McLean '04

Casey McLean

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 Tom Vilanova '13 more » close »

March 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Thomas Vilanova '13

Justin Grant

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 Rebecca Paone '05, MBA '18 more » close »

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


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 Justin Grant '07 more » close »

January 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Justin Grant '07

Justin Grant

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 David Hiller '12 more » close »

December 2018 Spartan Spotlight
David Hiller '12

Melissa Morin

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 Melissa Morin '11 more » close »

November 2018 Spartan Spotlight
Melissa Morin ’11

Melissa Morin

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 Bill Schaudt ’00 more » close »

October 2018 Spartan Spotlight
Bill Schaudt ’00

Bill Schaudt

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.”