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.
February Francisco Garcia MBA '18 more » close »

February 2020 Spartan Spotlight
Francisco Garcia MBA '18

Francisco Garcia MBA '18 currently serves as the digital operations and marketing specialist for BeniComp Health Solution, a company that uses prediction, prevention and technology to transform healthcare for employers and employees. In his role, Garcia works to uniquely structure group health plans and provide an ROI to employers while measurably improving employee health. He also helps employers provide employees with preventive health technology, which allows them to gain insight into what is actually going on within their bodies, right beneath the surface. This high-touch, self-serve technology allows people to hone in on their health risks. For this reason, he believes that the opportunities in healthcare lie in using technology to empower people to influence their health through decision-making resources. With tools like these, people will be able to predict and prevent their own health risks while also alleviating their financial strain. Garcia was recently recognized as a 2020 Rising Star in Advising by Employee Benefit Adviser.

Before he stepped into his role at BeniComp, Garcia said that UT gave him the avenues to develop his professional toolset. Outside of class, he worked as a graduate assistant in the First-Year Experience office and was the coordinator for the financial literacy program. He also actively pursued public speaking opportunities not just at UT, but at Providence College, Duke University, the University of Rhode Island and others. 

Garcia said it all begins with a growth-mindset, which is what enables anyone to effectively and efficiently use any toolset. His advice is to align your personal and professional goals to create purposeful work and strive for excellence every day by seeing challenges as opportunities to thrive. Ultimately, he said this is how he found his passions and empowerment for optimizing his own personal success. Garcia also said that it’s important to develop your personal brand. “We all have different life experiences. People connect with people. That’s who people want to work with. If people can see your values, passions and your commitment, that’s what makes a difference!”

December Nick Galvez MBA '04 more » close »

December 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Nick Galvez MBA '04

Nick Galvez MBA '04 graduated with a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy from the University of Florida and an MBA from UT, which he’s applied to a successful career in the healthcare industry. Earlier in his career, he gained experience as a physical therapist and directed rehabilitation programs. He currently serves as a program manager for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services in order to provide healthcare and support for rural and underserved counties within the state.

Although he is passionate about his career, there is another part of his life that he actively pursues and enjoys sharing with others. Since 2012, practicing and playing pickleball has had a standing reservation on his weekly agenda, and his hobby has even led him to place in several tournaments. Pickleball is a paddleball sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. He won a gold medal for his age division in the 2018 US Open after competing against 12 other players. Later in October 2018, he won a silver medal in his division competing in the USAPA Regional tournament located in Griffin, GA. This finish qualified him to play and win third place in the 2019 USAPA Nationals tournament, USAPA being the nonprofit that oversees and regulates the sport. Galvez says, “My goal is to move from my current rating of 4.0 to the pro level rating which is 5.0.” Players earn a number rating in order to compare skill levels.

His commitment to pickleball allows him to travel the US and the world while still being active with his wife and two kids at home. During a typical week, Galvez will practice two or three times a week and also coordinates a singles league in the Chapel Hill area as a volunteer. He even acts as a representative for a paddle company in the area, selling paddles and promoting the sport.

Galvez chose UT for his master degree after hearing other students in the area speak highly of the campus and programs. “I loved the fact that it was in downtown Tampa and close to the business community.” He also liked being in a setting with other working professionals like himself. One professor that stood out to him was Erika Matulich, who taught his marketing research class. Even now, Galvez says he uses his classroom knowledge when it comes to forecasting and financial analysis. He still keeps in touch with his UT friend, Dave Armstrong, on a regular basis.

His advice to the UT community is to “focus on finding something you’re passionate about. Hopefully, it’s with work, but if not, then keep pursuing your hobbies. I have a passion for healthcare, because I get to help people but I also have a passion for competitive sports so I make that a priority too.”

November Reade Whitney '08 more » close »

November 2019 Spartan Spotlight
Reade Whitney '08

Reade Whitney '08 graduated from UT in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training and holds a Master of Science in kinesiology and rehabilitation science from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. His career has been directly related to his degrees as he has gone on to become an athletic trainer for several organizations including Denver Public Schools, Maryknoll School, FC Dallas, and Chicago Fire FC. These positions have enabled him to travel and live in different cities, although he is excited to be in Chicago for the time being. His current role is as the director of sports medicine and head athletic trainer for the Chicago Fire Football Club. He works tirelessly to return professional athletes to peak performance and functional capability with improved resilience.

His aim in his chosen profession has always been to grow as part of a well-integrated sports medicine team that is focused on evidence-based injury prevention, rehabilitation, conditioning and winning. He also prides himself on pushing the boundaries of the profession with his ability to integrate validated 21st-century technologies. As part of his professional development, he has received the Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Therapy certification along with Integrative Dry Needling for Pain Management and Sports Rehabilitation. 

On campus, Whitney was involved in the athletic training program as well as a member of the rowing team. He says that Kim Morris, an assistant professor of health sciences and human performance, made an impact on him. One of his biggest takeaways was when she emphasized, “You are remembered for how you treat others, even the opponents.” Whitney uses this advice in his everyday career when interacting with athletes, teams and coaches.

His advice to current UT students?  “Keep in contact with every professional you meet and never stop learning. A quick message here and there can make all the difference with your networking and if you practice using outdated or disproven knowledge you'll be left behind." 

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.”