Friday, December 18, 2009

Emmanuela Charles '09

Rooms Management Trainee,
Grand Hyatt New York

q: What do you do?
a: I'm one of 35 college graduates in the country chosen for Hyatt's Corporate Management Training (CMT) program. Starting January 4, I'll train for five months at the 1311-room hotel in the heart of Manhattan, learning its inner workings including the front desk and housekeeping.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Hyatt's a company where everyone wants to help each other instead of worrying about their own egos. I worked at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo over the Summer, and am currently a Gallery Host at Hyatt Place in Orlando. Because I was a Hyatt Campus Ambassador, I got first pick for locations and am ecstatic about going to New York.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Understanding the unions. Florida's has at-will employment but it's different in other states.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Kara McClatchy '09 and Jennifer Shepherd '05, plus Matt Dunn '09 who also works at Hyatt.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: Facebooking and Twittering - with a purpose. I'm obsessed with how social networks connect people. I follow tourism-related sites for cities, companies and organizations all over the world. When you look at what everyone else is doing, the Orange County/Orlando CVB's "67 Days of Smiles" campaign is so unique. I job shadowed an employee there, and it's just amazing what they do to market this city.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Although I'm graduating today (literally), all my dreams have already come true. I wanted to study abroad, be an exchange student, be a camp counselor for kids, work for a big corporation and live in New York City. I was awarded scholarships for studying abroad as well as from The National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners (NCBMP) and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. I've done it all, so need to make a new list of goals.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: Rosen graduates are taught professionalism, so we're ready to take on Corporate America. When I attended the NCBMP conference, some of the students from other colleges didn't know how to talk with Vice Presidents and CEOs of companies. I shared what I learned about resumes and business cards with them. Adjunct professor Darren Chiappetta made an impact on my written and verbal communication. I am so proud to be a Knight.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: The Event Management degree program should include a large senior event project that showcases everything learned, involving real-life negotiating and encouraging creativity. Specialized bridal curriculum should be introduced, as well as more ways to get your hands dirty instead of listening to lectures. For instance, the Event Technology class could include hands-on experience with A/V equipment and MeetingMatrix certification. This kind of work would make us stand out to employers.
q: A UCF memory?
a: Being an exchange student at the Université d'Angers in France. There were 35 college students from all over the world, including seven from Rosen College and the rest from Sweden, Finland, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Hungary, Poland and China. We studied tourism and were completely immersed in French culture for five and a half months. It just opens your mind. Every hospitality major should do this.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Dinner prepared by assistant professor Dr. Kim Severt. She's been there for me since I met her on our study abroad trip to Lausanne, Switzerland. In addition to being a great cook, she has been my biggest supporter, mentor, friend, and second mom. Dr. Kim has significantly contributed to my professional and personal growth. She is a rare jewel.
q: On your iPod?
a: Alternative, live acoustic vocals and Classic Jazz.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I once dreamed of being a jazz vocal singer.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Darline Dondl '04


Regional Revenue Manager,
Starwood Vacation Ownership


q: What do you do?
a: I'm responsible for the rental revenue for six resorts in South Florida, Myrtle Beach, SC, and Beaver Creek, CO. I have to stay competitive with pricing in each of the markets, and ensure that the consumer is aware of the value of a villa vacation.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: I enjoy that no two days are the same. The decisions that I make influence consumers' buying decisions, producing nearly instant results.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: With vacation ownership down in this economy, I have even more of an opportunity to be creative in renting the unoccupied villas, bringing income to the resorts. The daily challenge of revenue management at timeshare resorts is that the number of rooms available to rent is constantly changing, sometimes in your favor, and sometimes creating a risk.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: I see Jordana Stengel '05 at the Starwood Vacation Ownership offices and I work with Taryn Dorsey '07 and Ashley Mulvey '07 as a hotel partner with Expedia.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: At the dog park with Winston, my dachshund, or out shopping or having coffee with friends.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: I bought a house just a few months before I graduated and it has definitely been a learning curve to balance time and finances for work, home, and enjoyment. I also completed my certification for a Certified Revenue Management Executive (CRME).
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: The professors' real life stories from their professional past was truly what you could not learn in textbooks. The diversity of the courses provided an overview of how all segments of hospitality tie into each other. I didn’t enjoy the group projects at the time, but they gave me the opportunity to work with different venues and gain experience I wouldn't have received otherwise. I was in the inaugural HSMAI Central Florida Student Chapter and learned the importance of networking which lead me to my two jobs after graduation.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: Although I took a special one-time “Reservation Sales” class offered my last semester, there were no courses offered that touched the topic of Revenue Management. When I was a guest speaker in Professor Jung’s Class this past month, he said Rosen College is in the planning stages now for such a course, which will likely be added to the curriculum.
q: A UCF memory?
a: Working in the UCF Bookstore Café at Main Campus. I got to meet so many students and professors as they got their caffeine fix.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: At Brio: the Artichoke-Crusted Beef Medallions.
q: On your iPod?
a: Madonna, Eminem, Dave Matthews Band, something for every mood.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I enjoy Broadway shows. I've been a volunteer at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center for the past two seasons.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Raki Phillips '00



Area Director of Sales & Marketing,
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts


q: What do you do?
a: I oversee 12 hotel properties in various stages of development. I manage all sales and marketing teams across the continent in cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Cairo as well as properties under development on Dubai’s Palm Island, Saudi Arabia, Oman and several others. The third part of my role is pitching for new hotel developments and locations in key target markets.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Never a dull moment! Culturally I work in a very diverse part of the world and no two cities are ever the same. Whether it’s the laws, religious sensitivities, trends or just the way business is done, it truly is fascinating. Building a team that's as diverse as the culture our hotels are in is exciting. For example, the Fairmont Dubai is so multicultural we have colleagues from 42 different nationalities working there!
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Filling a hotel during peak season is easy… the biggest challenge is getting the right strategy both in marketing and sales to secure business during the slower periods, and ensuring you maintain a competitive edge.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Absolutely! Thanks to social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace, keeping in touch has never been easier.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: Enjoying life in Dubai and the many exciting attractions it offers. I could be snowboarding down the slopes at SkiDubai, quad biking in the desert, dinner in downtown around Burj Dubai (the tallest building in the world) or enjoying Dubai's vibrant night life.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Traveling the world and experiencing some amazing cultures and beautiful sites. Whether it was the pyramids in Cairo, Haga Sophia in Istanbul, riding the London Eye or watching a Formula One race in Abu Dhabi, each place left some fond unforgettable memories.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: It was a great mix and balance of textbook theory and practical on the job training. The variety of courses covering wide spectrums of the industry made it very enjoyable and built my knowledge base.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: By offering more opportunities for international work placement or exchange programs with other hospitality schools around the world.
q: A UCF memory?
a: A Food Prep class we took with Dr. Ashley. I had the great opportunity to prepare and serve a five course meal for Mayor Glenda Hood and other dignitaries on campus. 'Till this day I can still impress people with my 3-Tier rice!
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Stallone’s Chicken Penne Pasta in Pink Crème Sauce… just make sure you don’t lick the plate in public!
q: On your iPod?
a: Jay Z, Black Eyed Peas, John Mayer, Counting Crows and Notorious BIG are on constant rotation.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I’m an adrenaline junkie thanks to my seven years working at Universal Orlando. I was an avid user of all the roller coasters and now regularly quad bike. I’ve even sky dived!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Courtney Carter '08

Human Resources Specialist,
Guest Services, Inc.


q: What do you do?
a: I'm a Recruiting Coordinator/HR Administrator for GSI, a company based in Fairfax, VA. GSI provides hospitality management services for 250 facilities including museums, hotels, resorts, conference centers, government & business dining facilities, luxury condominiums, senior living, health care, campus dining, specialty retail stores and restaurants. We employ 3,500 team members and serve more than 25 million guests annually.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Assisting managers in the hiring and firing process.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Living in an area that is very expensive, and missing your friends who live 13 hours away.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: A few...maybe two or three.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: In Washington, D.C. ( Georgetown or Downtown).
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Getting my first apartment after college, without a co-signer.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: By completing a Human Resources internship with Rosen Hotels & Resorts for credit, I gained the experience needed to start a career in Human Resources.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: I thought it was great! Having professors that were in the Hospitality industry was most helpful.
q: A UCF memory?
a: Being a part of the Miss Black and Gold Pageant for Alpha Phi Alpha, and winning Miss Congeniality.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Carribean Way with Kiwi at Smoothie King, and a Slovaki at Pita Pit.
q: On your iPod?
a: A lot, but my favorite is Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I love to dance professionally. One of my hidden dreams is to dance as a back up dancer for Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, or Britney Spears.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

John Giordano '94



Assistant General Manager, San Diego Office
Freeman

q: What do you do?
a: I work for Freeman, the world’s largest provider of integrated services for face-to-face marketing events, including conventions, exhibitions and corporate events. I began my 15 year career with them in Orlando, moved to San Francisco in 2000 and have held various positions in operations, sales and management. I moved to the San Diego office in 2004 as Director of Sales and I currently oversee the day to day operations as the Assistant General Manager.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Every day is a challenge and my responsibilities change from one day to the next. One day I could be out selling our services to prospective customers and the next producing their event, which is always in a new city and venue, and the next day negotiating union contracts, or performing my management duties in the office. I’m seldom doing any one thing in any one place for very long, which helps keep things fresh and interesting. I get to wear a lot of different hats and the company has given lots of opportunities to grow and advance, as well as travel around the country.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Bringing all the elements of event production together to produce World Class events with an exceptional level of customer service. It’s a very demanding, fast-paced business with many moving parts. We work long hours under pressure to produce successful events for our customers. We set them up and tear them down and are on to the next event, usually without much of a break in between. It’s definitely not boring, which why I’ve stuck with it for the last 16 years.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Not since I moved to the West Coast, but I keep do keep in touch with Scott Kaylor '93.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: Out surfing.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Convincing my wife to marry me.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: The hospitality program introduced me to the somewhat invisible service contracting side of the convention and tradeshow industry. I originally entered the program thinking I would be a hotelier. The exposure to other avenues through the curriculum took me in another direction, as did the internship program. Once I identified that I wanted to focus on convention services I took the courses and co-op opportunities that helped focus me in that direction. The course content in the convention services and other classes gave me a broad base of knowledge that was very relevant and I still use the things I learned to this day.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: The biggest step towards improving the program was already taken shortly after I graduated when the program was moved from the College of Health and Public Affairs to the College of Business. Involving more guest speakers from the industry will add some color to the course curriculum, including alumni with industry experience.
q: A UCF memory?
a: The trip with Dr. Quain and some of the convention services students to PCMA in Chicago. Picture a bunch of Floridians in Chicago in January, in 60 below zero weather! I made some great industry connections that helped me get a job after graduation.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Bonefish.
q: On your iPod?
a: Anything I can get my hands on. I love music and have a very extensive and diverse collection.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I love to travel and in the past few years have been to Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and El Salvador.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Laurell Shaffer '06


Account Executive,
Eventbrite


q: What do you do?
a: Sell Eventbrite, an online registration and ticketing solution, to event holders of all types. I work with a full spectrum of events including concerts, festivals, tradeshows, and conferences.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Being a part of something new, Eventbrite is a start-up so it’s fresh and exciting. We're growing at a rapid pace and things are constantly changing so there is always a buzz around the office. I also love that we have a very transparent culture so I get to see how decisions are made and why. Unlike some of the more corporate positions I’ve held, my feedback and opinions are valued and used to create the processes we set for the future development of our team.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Everything is constantly changing and a lot of the judgments I make are subjective. It keeps the work interesting and keeps me on my toes. We're updating and adding features to the Eventbrite site all the time, so there's always something new to learn or show to clients.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Some, I’ve moved around a bit since leaving UCF so it can be challenging staying in touch with everyone while 3,000 miles away. My best friends are UCF alumni and I always love coming back to visit, especially for events like Homecoming.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: Taking advantage of all the San Francisco culture! I live in an amazing city with so much diversity; there's never a dull moment. The summer festival season (especially Bay to Breakers) is by far my favorite!
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Being completely independent. I came to San Francisco alone for a job I was unsure of and created a new life away from all my family and friends. Two years later I love where I am and would never change my decision to try something new.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: While Eventbrite is ultimately a tech company, it parallels hospitality in many ways. The hands-on work at Rosen led me to several hotel positions that developed my selling skills, event production knowledge and eventually brought me to Eventbrite.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: I would have liked to be a part of Rosen when the campus was fully developed with dorms and everything it has now. The campus was only about a year old when I started going out there so I commuted from Main Campus.
q: A UCF memory?
a: All the times spent with friends….Spirit splash, football games at the Citrus Bowl, live music Downtown at The Social, Homecoming Skit Knights, Wackadoo's.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Tijuana Flats.
q: On your iPod?
a: It changes constantly but some of my consistent favorites are the Killers, Kings of Leon, DMB, Jason Mraz, The Cab, Jack’s Mannequin, and Journey.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I attended a performing arts high school as a dance major.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mark Williams '06



Director of Training and Development,
Coakley & Williams Hotel Management Company


q: What do you do?
a: This is a family business that was started by my grandfather back in 1961. I do several training programs for the 24 properties in our portfolio. Some of these we have created in-house and others we have received through the American Hotel and Lodging Association. I'm currently developing a new front desk training program that I am super excited about! I'm also a member of an organization called CHART (Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers) and I am on the council for the AHLA Under 30 Gateway. I am hoping to get a Florida chapter started for the Under 30 Gateway soon!
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: I really enjoy spending time with our employees. We have so many great people working for us, and I think that it's awesome just to sit down and listen to their stories. I also enjoy traveling and having the opportunity to visit so many unique places. We live in an awesome country!
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: I'm the only one in my department. Trying to get out to visit all our properties and to do training can be difficult. There are also the typical challenges that revolve around communication and accountability.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: There are several friends of ours that we see from time to time. We also stay in contact through the various social networking sites. I actually married a UCF hospitality alum, Stephanie Lebby Williams '06, so there's at least one that I see very often!
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: Doing one of three things: Working on homework (I am working on getting my MBA), reading, or walking around the parks that surround the intercoastal with my lovely family.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: I cannot think of a bigger accomplishment than marrying the love of my life and bringing a beautiful baby into the world with her. This January we will be married for three years and our son will be a year old in February. Time flies!
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: UCF gave me a good base to start my career. Through the hospitality management program, I learned the fundamentals. Graduating from Rosen also helped give a boost to my credentials as I stepped into the organization I work for now.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: I think more classes on sales and how to sell would be very valuable to the program. Learning these skills, in addition to public speaking, will be helpful assets in the business world.
q: A UCF memory?
a: There was an event at Rosen and I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it. It had a Bahamian theme to it and there were a lot of fun activities going on that evening. It stands out as a good example of how fun college is and how much you miss it once you graduate.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: One of them would definitely be a hot slice (only one needed!) of Lazy Moon pizza.
q: On your iPod?
a: We have an iTouch and my wife actually uses it the most. I would put artists like Coldplay, Ben Folds, or the Killers on it.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: Most people do not know that I have written a lot of poetry. I published a book several years ago full of stuff that I had put together when I was in high school. Since then I have created two full books of poetry that could also be published.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Jennifer Shepherd '05



Conference Coordinator,
Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center

Jennifer has two UCF degrees: B.A. Organizational Communication '05 and
M.S., Hospitality & Tourism Management '08

q: What do you do?
a: I act as the floor manager for meetings and conventions that come to the hotel, ensuring client satisfaction throughout all conference events. I serve as the liaison between the Meeting Planner, Convention Services Manager, Catering Manager, Conference Set Up, Banquets and all hotel departments. I ensure accuracy by checking room sets including lighting, audio visual, information technology, electric, temperature, cleanliness, equipment, food and beverage, and aesthetics.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Everything! Every day is different and I enjoy interacting with clients and working hard to make their events flawless. I also enjoy working with my co-STARs; the culture at Gaylord promotes FUN! I am privileged to work here with such an amazing team of people.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Amanda Larkin '08, Diana Duque '07, Jessica Baum '06, Lindsay Mays '08, Kristi Johnson Moschos '05, Lori Graham '06, Kara McClatchy '09, Ashley Wells M.S. '07, Taryn Aiello M.S. '08 and Paula Barnes M.S. '07.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: With my boyfriend and my family.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Since graduation I have been on the Executive Board of the Orlando Chapter of the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE), where I have been able to give back and support a group of people who supported me when I joined NACE as a student member in 2004. In 2009, I was the Public Relations Director and in 2010 I will serve as the Community Service/Fundraising Director. I am very proud of my accomplishments with NACE.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: The Rosen College program allowed me to work full time and gain experience in the industry, while obtaining my education. This prepared me for the amount of time and energy that is required to be successful in the hospitality and event industries.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: My experience at UCF was always positive. I enjoyed my classes and built great relationships with my professors. Group projects were my biggest challenge because working with other student schedules and personalities can be difficult.
q: A UCF memory?
a: In 2005, I worked with three other students to plan Floribbean Fest. The event was awesome and I was very proud of what we accomplished and the money that we raised. The event was held at The Rosen College and was a major production. I also have fond memories of taking undergraduate classes at Main Campus. I consolidated my classes into two days so I could also work full-time, so I would literally spend 12 hours on campus. I loved sitting by the Reflection Pond!
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Sopa de Leon at Café Tu Tu Tango!
q: On your iPod?
a: Country!
q: Little known fact about you?
a: Another job I would love to have is as a professional organizer, working for Clean House on the Style Channel!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Romain Dawkins '08

Department Head,
Marriott Hotels


q: What do you do?
a: Manage a department in the Corporate Team Building division at Grande Lakes Orlando.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Working with different groups of people and helping improve their organizations.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Selling an ambiguous product to groups.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Yes!
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Sharpened my Ninja skills??? Is there a life outside of work?
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: Networking.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: The school should probably work with hotels to design a better internship program.
q: A UCF memory?
a: The day Mr. Rosen spoke in front of one of my classes.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Paella.
q: On your iPod?
a: Bob Marley, Sublime, Weezer, Coldplay, Jimi Hendrix, Mos Def, etc.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I was a rock star in college.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Scott Kaylor '93


Proprietor,
Wackadoo's Grub & Brew


q: What do you do?
a: Come to work and have fun. I hang out and talk with people at our full-service restaurant located on the UCF campus. We've been open for 13 years and serve 800 people a day, often 400 in a single hour at lunch. I manage the day-to-day operations including catering and events. At one point I had nine locations and 1200 employees, but was stressed out with all the traveling. I chose to have one restaurant that's pretty much perfect. I'm very happy.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: The campus environment. I'm like a student that never grew up since I never had to leave UCF.  I enjoy mentoring the students. At any given time, we employ 75 UCF students, including several from Rosen College. No day is the same and it's like I'm the quarterback calling the plays so the students can deal with different situations. For instance, today we had a reservation for 15 but 40 people showed up, and the cook and a server were hours late. I help the students navigate what can seem like quicksand.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Consistency. Many people eat here 3-5 times a week. We know what they're going to order before they even sit down. They want it to taste and look the same as last time they ordered it. Ensuring that the service and food quality is always the same can be difficult when dealing with a large number of student employees.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Lots of them, especially Mark Eppers '93 and the ones who have worked at Wackadoo's. John Giordano '94 lives in San Diego but we still get together when he comes to Florida for Bike Week. I'm still in touch with professor Bob Ashley.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: On campus at all kinds of events. Wackadoo's also has season tickets for UCF Baseball and Football. In my quiet time, I'm home on the ranch relaxing or on my Four Wheeler, where no one can reach me by cell phone. I have cows, horses, cats, a dog and share a pot-bellied pig with a neighbor.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: I've achieved the ability to give back. I serve on the board of the UCF Alumni Association. I exclusively hire UCF students and train them to be successful. I appreciate my degree and with all my professors did for me. They would expect me to give back to today's students and I'm glad to do it.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: Courses like Hospitality Financial Accounting gave me the tools for problem-solving. I was especially inspired by professors Bob Ashley, Stephen LeBruto and Bill Quain. Classes covering liquor liability and business law were relevant, and eye-opening.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: At the time I attended, the material was very dated. It's critical to have people currently working in the industry speak in classes. For instance, the trend now is vegetarian food that tastes amazing. This is different than what was in style even last year. Someone like me could come speak in the Quantity Food Prep course and explain what's happening in real-life restaurants, because textbooks could never keep up.
q: A UCF memory?
a: I literally create new UCF memories every day, whether talking with people at Wackadoo's, traveling with UCF friends to the game in Austin last month, or watching UCF beat Houston. From my time as a student, I'll never forget a Hospitality Marketing class I had with Hank Melton. We literally spent three days straight cold calling on I-Drive businesses to sell hotel packages. His philosophy was: "Here's the fire, now get in it."
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: A ribeye cooked by me on the grill in my backyard. Sitting on my porch overlooking the pasture, with a steak, salad and baked potato....no restaurant can beat it.
q: On your iPod?
a: I consider music to be background noise since I listen to it all day and evening at Wackadoo's. I have satellite radio and listen to all genres from country to gospel. Guests at the restaurant want to feel welcomed and know the owner, so I make it a point to know all kinds of music and T.V. shows. I can have a conversation with anyone.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: There was a month during college that to pay the bills, I worked full-time at a motorcycle shop from 9-5 p.m. then straight to work at Sears from 5-9 p.m., then to UPS from 2-7 a.m. I don't relate to students who tell me they need to miss shifts because they have to study. Other jobs I've held include being the assistant coach of the UCF Women's Volleyball team for three years. I was a professional motocross racer. I was a rancher with 100 herd of cattle. I worked at Hooters. I traveled around the U.S. promoting fairs. I even worked as a Union teamster; I had special certification to go inside nuclear reactors around the country.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

John Byers '05

Guest Services Manager,
Walt Disney World


q: What do you do?

a: On a typical day, I manage 100 cast members at Disney's Hollywood Studios, giving them the resources so they can take great care of our guests. A total of nine managers on my team manage 300-500 total cast members. I've worked at Disney for seven years, including being the Theater Manager at La Nouba at Downtown Disney. I've worked at all Orlando area parks except Epcot.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: The experience we give people. They work hard to save up all year for a vacation they'll never forget. It makes me so happy to see kids come off a ride, excited as can be, saying it's their favorite ride ever.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Things that are out of our control. For example, inclement weather can cause us to cancel shows and not live up to guest expectations.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: A large number of current Rosen College students work at Hollywood Studios.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: Hospitality plays a huge part in my life. I just went to Vegas to see what's happening out there. When I'm not working, I'm often at the other theme parks, or even at Disney.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Learning about life and living a balanced life, and being where I want to be. I bought a house and a car.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: Professor Ron Logan was very inspirational to my career since he worked at Disney for over 20 years. Across the board it made an impact that our instructors had previously worked or currently worked in the field of interest they taught; for instance, our hospitality law class was taught by an adjunct professor who was a full-time attorney. It makes a difference. Also, it was an amazing learning environment to have actual resorts and golf courses as close as 100 yards from campus.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: It may be different now, but the classes offered could fall under a larger umbrella of hospitality. For instance, several cruise lines have launched multiple new ships. There should be a variety of classes to take in cruise line management, to be fully prepared and attractive to employers in that industry.
q: A UCF memory?
a: Meeting people who are literally legends of hospitality, both visitors to campus and the professors. Ron Logan is forever enshrined by Disney, with a window on Main Street. He is the producer and director of shows I work at now.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: The Melting Pot.
q: On your iPod?
a: A huge diverse list of songs they play on the radio, especially new stuff. I definitely don't listen to what I hear at work - I can hear the songs from the High School Musical show literally six times a day.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I became an Eagle Scout at only 13 years old. I was an overachiever.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Doug Akers '07

Manager of Park Operations,
Universal Studios Singapore


q: What do you do?
a: Manage the team of people responsible for safe and efficient operations of all attractions, while focusing on guest service. Universal Studios Singapore is part of Resorts World Sentosa, one of the world’s most ambitious integrated family resort destinations, opening early next year. It features Southeast Asia’s first and only Universal Studios theme park, a casino, 1,800 rooms across six hotels, a Maritime Xperiential Museum, the world’s largest oceanarium and a host of entertaining, dining and retail options at FestiveWalk – its own version of ‘The Strip.’
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Building a brand new theme park allows me to learn something new every single day. I draw from previous experiences, working with the team to improve previous processes and create all new ones. Being surrounded by some very talented and knowledgeable people in the theme park industry helps foster that learning process.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Building a new theme park itself is a challenge. We tend to take a lot for granted, especially when we come from a pre-existing facility. I learned the same thing opening Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach two years ago, but working on a project that is more than just a park has a whole new set of challenges and opportunities.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: A lot of them in fact! Some are working with me here at Resorts World Sentosa; others I see at events such as AIMS and IAAPA. Facebook is great tool for keeping in touch with Rosen alums and seeing what's happening in Orlando or wherever in the world they have ended up with their hospitality careers.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: There's time outside of work when opening a park? I can be found down around Clarke Quay Bridge hanging out with some expat friends, travelling if I can find a cheap one or two day adventure, or hanging out around Singapore, sightseeing with my Singaporean friends from Resorts World Sentosa.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Getting to see the world. This is the third continent I've had the opportunity to live on for an extended period of time. Experiencing different cultures has been an amazing opportunity and I'm glad to have the opportunity to grab my book bag and a ticket and see where the adventure takes me.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: Rosen College truly did prepare me...not just by studying theories, philosophy, or equations, but with hands-on training and real world examples from the professors. Despite how hard they were during college, the group projects taught me about team dynamics, balancing time, and working with all different types of people.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: I think the program is great, as long as the courses continue to keep up with the ever-changing industry and trends. Rosen uses its current students to provide open feedback, sharing experiences and situations that they're experiencing in their roles within the industry.
q: A UCF memory?
a: The FTPLA trip to California the year I was president of FTPLA -- just good times with a great group of people exploring SFMM, DL, DCA and Knotts, running across six-lane roads to get to Taco Bell, getting off the wrong exit coming back from SFMM, and lots more stories. If you understand those acronyms then you know the adventures that occurred!
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Chipotle, I miss it over here!
q: On your iPod?
a: All sorts of randomness, from DMX to FloRida to Beach Boys to Theme Park Soundtracks.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I'm nerdy. I spend hours upon hours working in a theme park, and then head home and play Roller Coaster Tycoon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chuck '03, Ivan '02 & Damon '07






Proprietors,
The Downtown PourHouse

Partners Damon Jerden '07, Chuck Zell '03 & Ivan Isolica '02
(Damon studied Entrepreneurship in the College of Business)

q: What do you do?
All: Run Orlando's newest bar located at 20 South Orange Ave (next to Jimmy John's and across from Pita Pit), scheduled to open in early December '09. Since signing the lease on September 21, we've personally done a lot of the work on the interior with finishings in stone and pecky cedar. It's comfortable, not too clubby or loungy, and we'll also be open for lunch.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
Chuck: Working with my friends, and our relationship with each other.
Ivan: Learning the system, and what goes into building a bar.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
Chuck: The permitting process; being at the City's mercy.
Ivan: Being away from my wife and kids.

q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
All: Many including Justin Hermey '02 and Eric Isolica '02, as well as professors Bob Ashley, Dr. Bill Fisher and Dr. Chris Muller.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
Chuck: Downtown.
Ivan: At home.
Damon: All of the above.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
Chuck: Starting a vodka company. If Bacardi buys it, I'll retire.
Ivan: My wife and kids, who are ages 13, three and two years old.
Damon: Staying in touch with my high school and college friends.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
Chuck: The hands on-experience including the Quantity Food Preparation class and Chris Muller's class where we created our own restaurant concept were a big help in this venture as well as my career at T.G.I. Friday's and Rhythm & Flo, my previous bar.
Damon: Meeting all kinds of people with different personalities, and experiencing different cultures, prepared me for this industry.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
Chuck and Ivan: It didn't include the entrepreneurship part of the puzzle, which is most of what we do every day. The curriculum should include: raising funds for your venture, different types of taxation, promissory notes and leases, permitting and inspections.
q: A UCF memory?
Chuck: Football games and tailgating.
Ivan: My cool professors, who I've found out since I graduated are even cooler than I thought.
Damon: Our fraternity, ΣΑΕ (all three are members).
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
Chuck: The black and blue sandwich at Brix.
Ivan: Sushi at Amura.
Damon: Sushi at Fuji Sushi.
q: On your iPod?
Chuck: Country and Classic Rock.
Ivan: Everything but Heavy Metal.
Damon: Everything but Hip Hop.
q: Little known fact about you?
Chuck: I'm a UCF legacy. My dad graduated from UCF in 1972.
Ivan: I have a twin brother, who also has a hospitality degree from UCF.
Damon: I'm passionate about learning.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Brandee Gaar '01



Owner,
Blush by Brandee Gaar

Maiden Name: Brandee Simmons

q: What do you do?

a: I've owned my own event planning business for two and a half years. We plan mostly weddings but also other special events. I work about 50 hours a week but most of it is from home and on my own schedule.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Seeing my couples' faces when they see their ballroom for the first time.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Keeping up with the demand.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Alison Watkins '02 who works with me at Blush, Jen Sandler Rosenthal '06, Kristi Moschos Johnson '05 and Jen Johnson '08.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: With my kids, Emma and Hannah, and my husband.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Staying involved with organizations like the National Association of Catering Executives, and serving on the Event Management Advisory Board for Rosen College.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: It helped me learn time management: to prioritize, set goals and accomplish!
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: More available parking.
q: A UCF memory?
a: Greek Week!
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: At Bonefish Grill, the Bang Bang Shrimp and a glass of Sonoma Cutrer.
q: On your iPod?
a: Toby Mac, Casting Crowns and Mandisa.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I'm very driven but deep down am goofy and love to take risks. Don't talk about it...do it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Joe Walker '06



Account Executive,
PSAV Presentation Services,
Hawaii Event Services Division

q: What do you do?
a: I'm an Account Executive for the one of the largest world-wide audiovisual services providers. My primary duties are to solicit business to new clients, maintain strong relationships with past clients, and improve the overall business development for my region. I mainly handle larger association and corporate business. Aside from my normal duties I get assigned regional projects. For example, most recently I was on the opening team for the brand new St. Regis Princeville Resort on the island of Kauai and I got to live in the hotel for a month.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Being on the show site and watching my hard work and planning finally come to life. It's always a good feeling to see the finished product and a happy client.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Being on an island. The wheels of progress turn a lot slower in Hawaii than they do in Orlando. Planning must be done extra carefully as you have to prepare for many possible external forces slowing you down. It can take me up to three days to get a piece of equipment that would take me less than two hours to get in Orlando.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums
a: Not too many since moving away from Orlando. I do still keep in touch with Jennifer Grant '06 who is about to finish Florida Hospital's Radiology program.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: At the beach, hiking a trail, searching for elusive geocaches, or on an airplane because I'm always trying to feed my travel bug.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Picking up and moving almost 5,000 miles away from where I'm most comfortable. It's been great to be able to explore all the things that the Hawaiian Islands have to offer, especially the things that you would never see on vacation.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: Aside from all the great teaching and hands-on experience that we got, I think the thing that best prepared me for what I do was the countless number of presentations that we had to do in every single class. I do lots of presentations for potential clients and now I see the relevance of doing them while at Rosen.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: A lot of the classes taught very similar if not exactly the same information. The faculty should get together and make sure that their teaching plans differentiate enough to be able to better stimulate the class.
q: A UCF memory?
a: Beverage Management with Professor Ashley. Hands down best class ever. Learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it. Another great memory was when the UCF Football team broke their losing 17-game streak against Marshall and we all rushed the field at the Citrus Bowl.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: There are way too many great meals in Orlando but one that I miss the most frequently is blackened chicken flautas from Tijuana Flats, more specifically the one on Kirkman Road in Metro West.
q: On your iPod?
a: The Fratellis, The Kooks, The White Tie Affair, Owl City, The Living End and the list goes on for days.
q: Little known fact about you?
a:I love to bowl. I'm very bowling deprived on Maui. There's only one alley with eight lanes, and the owners only open it when they feel like it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Puja Sabnani '08



Group Reservations Coordinator,
JW Marriott Hotel Miami


q: What do you do?
a: I'm in charge of all group rooming lists for three properties: the JW Marriott Miami, Miami Marriott Dadeland and the Courtyard Miami Dadeland. I'm also involved with forecasting, evaluating group business, and assisting sales managers in quoting rates based on analysis of the hotel's occupancy.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Knowing that I have a team of people who will work together to make the hotel succeed. It's a joy to work with people who you know care about you, personally and professionally.  My department is very flexible and invested in my growth – both in the company and in the revenue industry. Outside my department, I have colleagues who often go the extra mile to help me with projects.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Keeping rates high enough for our standard of hotel, yet competitive enough that groups don't choose other properties.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Melissa Glazier '06 and Lauren Frazer '08, not as many as I’d like ...
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: At the gym or at happy hour in Downtown Miami catching up with friends.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: UCF taught me how to be independent yet know when to ask for help. The professors at Rosen College always had an open door policy. They were there for you when you needed them and served as a bouncing board for ideas. The hospitality industry is heavily-centered around teams and teamwork. By keeping my door open, and my mind open to new ideas and projects, I often find better ways to complete tasks, and am more willing to help others with their challenges. Having an open door/mind shows other people that you are willing to see things from their perspective and that there may be two correct approaches. It helps you gain the respect of veteran associates.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: I wish someone told me how important it was to join on-campus organizations. I was part of LEAD Scholars at UCF Main campus. Joining other groups could have significantly helped when it came to networking and finding employment. I really urge the undergraduates to join an association or organization where they can make and keep friends who will help them in the future. It’s extremely cliché but the more people you know in this industry, the better!
q: A UCF memory?
a: One of the best/craziest memories I have of UCF is tailgating in 104° weather for the first game of the season with the new stadium. I remember barbequing waffles on the grill on Memory Mall without a tent, lying under tables for shade and three of our friends getting heatstroke. Then at the game itself, the intensity and newness of it all was incredible. That football season was phenomenal. I will never be able to listen to Zombie Nation without wanting to jump up and down again.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Thai in the Sky – the Thai Restaurant opposite UCF where Pie In the Sky used to be. Also, Tijuana Flats. They need to branch out to Miami, I’d single-handedly keep them in business—okay, so that’s exaggerating a tiny bit...
q: On your iPod?
a: Lady Gaga… or anything with a beat that gets you moving and grooving.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I love listening to NPR news in the morning on my way to work. Nerdy, right?!.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fabio Silva '05



Director of Sales and Marketing,
Bright Internet Marketing


q: What do you do?
a: Run an Internet marketing company. We provide consulting and tools to help companies move up the rankings in Google and other search engines. I worked in hotel operations for about seven years, at Gaylord Palms and then Reunion Resort, which is where I originally started a web site to help our concierge search out the best restaurants and businesses. When Reunion was sold, I launched my own company and recently expanded it beyond hospitality to include all businesses, and Florida Hospital is now one of our major clients. It was a quick ride from graduation to where I am today.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Interacting with people. One day I can be meeting with a doctor, and later with a small business owner who tells me the story of starting his or her company. 
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Cold calls. It's how I spend most of my time, typically prospecting Tuesday through Thursday. Monday I catch up on current business. Fridays I'll often golf with clients or prospective clients.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: A large number of them, who still work at Gaylord Palms and Reunion Resort. Also Kathy King who works at Rosen College, and adjunct professors Judy Holcomb and Kris Shoemaker.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: With my wife and my one year old son. They're why I do what I do.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: My family. My wife and I have been together 10 years this month. I'm blessed for what I have at home. Everyone needs a support system to be motivated to get up and go to work each day.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: I was always two steps ahead. I already knew the technical side of working at a hotel, so became a manager while still going to UCF. I was then applying what I learned at UCF to become an even better manager.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: The co-op program didn't necessarily work for my situation since I worked the number of required internship hours in one semester, but still had to pay tuition for three semesters. Also, some of the required classes could be changed. For instance, food prep - I didn't need to learn to cook and won't use what I learned.
q: A UCF memory?
a: Playing on the UCF Men's Soccer team. It was an honor as an International student from Brazil to receive a soccer scholarship. Eventually I had to choose between the team and working full-time though. It was a step back to step forward.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Steak - either Texas de Brazil or Old Hickory at Gaylord Palms. I'm simple when it comes to food.
q: On your iPod?
a: Everything...from Samba to Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga to Jason Mraz.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I had reconstructive plastic surgery on my face. Playing soccer, I broke all the bones on the left side of my face. No one would ever guess.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Byron Loper '04



General Manager,
Ice Magic


q: What do you do?
a: Sell decorative ice sculptures and wireless lighted décor for corporate and social parties. This includes tables, chairs, dance floors, bars, buffets and whatever else you can imagine (see photo background). We donate décor to the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation's Black Tie and Tennies Gala, and you can also see our ice creations at ICEBAR Orlando. I deal primarily with meeting planners at destination management companies, not directly with companies themselves.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: No two parties are ever the same!
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: You only need food and drink to make a party happen. Everything else, including décor, can be considered "fluff"; If it's not a necessity to have a lighted table, it can be cut from the budget. Also, in this economy, we learn of changes in quantity and event schedules at the last minute.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Dr. Mary Jo Ross, who had a big influence on me. After I took her Introduction to Hospitality course, I changed my major to hospitality.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: At the golf course or a sporting event.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Co-producing the 2009 WOW Awards, and also being nominated for the Rising Star Award for Event Solutions magazine.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: It gave me contacts and resources, and the co-op work experience is incredibly valuable. Without that, graduates would need to start out as bellmen or busboys. After interning here at Ice Magic, I was hired on full-time after graduation.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: Not having to drive so much! If the location were closer to Main Campus, it would have been more convenient for the students. At the time I went to UCF, there wasn't on-campus housing at Rosen.
q: A UCF memory?
a: The friendships, contacts and relationships I made.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: The sea bass and chocolate soufflé at HUE.
q: On your iPod?
a: I don't have an iPod. I listen to Country and Sports Radio.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I'm a Fifth Generation Tampa Native.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Jen Rosenthal '06



Catering Manager,
Rosen Shingle Creek

B.S., Hospitality Management '06 & M.S., Hospitality and Tourism Management '09
(Maiden Name: Jen Sandler)
q: What do you do?
a: I manage all "life event" celebrations at Shingle Creek Resort, including weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, bar/bat mitzvahs and retirements. Most of the events are weddings, as we average about 45 weddings a year. I handle everything start-to-finish including sales, banquet event orders, and helping implement all the details, usually in conjunction with a wedding coordinator.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Every day is different and so is every event. One example was a couple who met in an airplane terminal when their planes were late, so their entire wedding was airplane-themed. They had luggage tags for place cards and airline tickets for their "save the date" cards. Another couple had Lionel Ritchie play at their wedding and we had to coordinate extravagant lighting and electrical. I really do enjoy my job.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Dealing with different personalities and cultures, which all negotiate differently.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Jackie Becker '08, Courtney Beckwith '04, Gary Deel '07, Francesca Fistner '08, Amanda Hayes '07, Rebecca Maxwell '05, Ann McAuliffe '06, Sonny Shaffer '08, Brandee Simmons Garr '01 and Alison Watkins '02.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: With my husband and playing with my dogs, a collie and a border collie.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Getting married and completing graduate school.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a:My sorority, Chi Omega, taught me how to deal with different personality types. People ask how I can deal with stressed out brides every day. Well, drama just rolls off my back after being surrounded by girls for four years.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: More parking. I took my master's classes at night, so when I'd get to campus the parking lot would already be full.
q: A UCF memory?
a: Homecoming was always fun filled and spirited. Also beer class with Ed Measom. I learned so many fun facts about beer that I use when working with clients today. It was a relaxed way to bond with the other students.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: The Grilled Hearts of Romaine Salad with Warmed Goat Cheese and Palm Sugar Vinaigrette with the Blackened Seabass with Cilantro Buerre Blanc from A Land Remembered, at the Shingle Creek.
q: On your iPod?
a: It's all over the place: Josh Groban, OAR, Dave Matthews Band, AFI and oh, let's check what's playing right now (she pulled out her iPod)....Sublime.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I'm a Canadian citizen.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

John Brooks '07



Sales Manager,
Hilton Orlando


q: What do you do?
a: I initiate new sales leads, prospect and qualify leads, solicit and entertain clients, conduct site visits, prepare proposals, determine rates and negotiate contracts for the brand new 1400-room Hilton Orlando which opened September 1, 2009. I started here in July and in just over 90 days was promoted from Conference Sales Manager to Sales Manager. 
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: I take pride in developing sales plans and strategies to meet or exceed revenue and room night goals. I like the fast pace, and interacting with people. Sales is a very high risk, high reward industry that I truly enjoy.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: The economy's killing face to face meetings. Executives are concerned with the perception of people inside and outside their organization when they invest in meetings, but in reality now is the time they need to get together and discuss how they can turn their companies around. The economy is also hurting rate integrity.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Brandon Geers '08 and Arin Sugerman Council '04.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: Spending time with my fiancé (Lucia Soven, UCF Radio/TV '06), playing golf or playing with my dog, Cody.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Getting engaged and buying a house.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: Public speaking helped prepare me for face-to-face interaction with clients and colleagues. All of the group work was so relevant because in the real world 90% of everything is done on a team, and it helps me work with my sales team every day.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: Hospitality is a broad subject. A wider variety of courses besides restaurants and hotels would have been refreshing. However, I was part of the inaugural group that took courses originally in the Classroom Building at Main Campus, and then moved over to the new Rosen College. Since then the enrollment has increased dramatically, so I'm sure there are more types of courses than when I attended.
q: A UCF memory?
a: Meeting my fiancé, spending time with friends and fraternity life (Lambda Chi). Also, meeting Donna Kelly from the Hilton Orlando. Donna came to speak to my Convention Sales course at Rosen College taught by Kathie Canning from the OCCC. I stayed after class and introduced myself. I stayed in touch and told her it was my goal to work at the Hilton Orlando. She's the Director of Sales who hired me and now I work with her every day.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Texas de Brazil.
q: On your iPod?
a: I don't have an iPod. I'm too busy!
q: Little known fact about you?
a: It took me six years to graduate from UCF...never give up!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Don Richardson '89


Vice President and General Manager,
Station Casinos, Inc.

Don has two UCF degrees: B.S., Hospitality Management '89 and MBA '94


q: What do you do?
a: Among my many responsibilities are financial performance of the property to which I'm General Manager, ensuring guest service and satisfaction, and team member satisfaction. I've been with Station Casinos since February 2003 and my work weeks are 60 to 70 hours long.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Mentoring and challenging Team Leaders to help them meet their professional goals.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: Surviving in a down economy in the gambling industry, which is tourist-based.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: Attending concerts.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Staying a bachelor.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: It taught me how to work with various types of people, solve problems presented daily, and I learned the technical side of the hospitality industry.
q: A UCF memory?
a: Working with my fellow classmates to plan, create and serve a gourmet dinner to industry leaders.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Boston's Fish House.
q: On your iPod?
a: Def Leppard, Classic Rock and Reggae.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gary Deel '07



Assistant Director of Security,
Rosen Shingle Creek


q: What do you do?
a: Help manage the loss prevention and emergency procedures for a 350-acre resort property with over $1 billion in assets; this includes overseeing 70 staff members, five supervisors and six managers.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Working with the people here, and making a difference in their careers whether they get promoted here or go on to another organization. I'm blessed to have a great team under me.
q: What's the greatest challenge?
a: My age. Some people, as human nature has it, will naturally view me as a ‘23 year-old kid’ rather than an industry professional. I'm managing people who have been leaders in this industry for 15-20 years and are two to three times my age, so the situation requires an enormous amount of tact and humility. 
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Jen Sandler Rosenthal '06 who works here at Shingle Creek and my fiancé, Ilyssa Backer '04 who works at Rosen Centre.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: I'm currently in law school four nights a week, plus finishing my master's degree at Rosen. I teach Introduction to Hospitality at Valencia College. Also, I'm involved in Kung Fu.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: Receiving a full-ride scholarship to Florida A & M law school. It's an honor.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: Learning the fundamentals of the hospitality industry. Basically, I'm running the security for a small city of 1500 people which include all kinds of positions: engineers, golf course maintenance people, waitresses, chemical specialists, chefs, finance professionals, spa technicians, etc....there are so many job categories and I understand their functions because of my degree. In a career setting, I would have to work 3-4 lifetimes in this business to know how everyone works together, but learned this overview quickly - completing my bachelor's degree in just three years total.
q:How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: I finished my course work for the master's in a year and change, but the thesis process is more complicated than was advertised, and has cost me several additional semesters of time and tuition above and beyond what was anticipated. I have enjoyed working with Dr. Denver Severt, though, who is the head of my thesis committee.
q: A UCF memory?
a: ‘The Squirrel Song’ as written, composed and performed by Dr. Denver Severt haha.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Sushi at Oishi on the corner of I-Drive and Central Florida Pkwy. Hands down…the best!
q: On your iPod?
a: Frank Sinatra...chairman of the board!! And All Time Low when I need to stay awake or work out, etc.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I’ll be the CEO of one of the world’s largest hotel companies within 15 years….but that’s top secret…don’t tell anyone! ;)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Brian Avery '07


President,
Event Safety & Security Services

Master of Science, Hospitality and Tourism Management '07

q: What do you do?
a: Consult with companies all over the U.S. on safety and security issues, specializing in hospitality and events. My clients have included GE/NBC Universal, SeaWorld, Give Kids the World and the New Mexico State Fair. Much of my time is spent traveling; for instance, I just did inspections in 15 different cities in a 10-day period. Additionally, I'm one of the few expert witnesses involved in lawsuits concerning incidents that have occurred on amusement rides and devices. I'm also a Rosen College professor; one of the courses I teach is Hospitality & Event Risk Management.
q: What's your favorite part of the job?
a: Solving problems. I enjoy putting plans together that will help save lives, and also encouraging my students to implement safety practices for their future employers. I feel that I'm creating a little army out there, teaching people in the industry about how to prevent injuries.
q: What's the greatest challenge?

a: Dealing emotionally with the injuries, especially those involving children concerning the accidents I investigate. I'm subjected to photo documentation of the accidents, and the story lines that come along with them. They can be a little overwhelming at times.
q: Do you stay in touch with any other UCF hospitality alums?
a: Leonard Pollard, M.S. '07.
q: Outside work...you're most likely to be seen?
a: Somewhere outside: at an art show, festival, event or Bucs game. I play soccer every Saturday morning.
q: Your biggest accomplishment since graduating, outside your career?
a: My family, which is an investment in time and energy. I have two boys, Dylan who is eight and Peyton who is five, plus a girl named Skyler who is three years old.
q: How did UCF prepare you for what you do?
a: It taught me how to do investigative research and provided me with a solid foundation of the hospitality industry. I was already doing risk management, but the degree program helped me refine the direction for my company, and uncover areas that needed addressing within the hospitality industry.
q: How could the hospitality program have been better?
a: Back when I was at Rosen, it was more theoretical. Since then, they've introduced more internships, externships and real-life projects so students can better understand the concepts in the textbooks.
q: A UCF memory?
a: Taking my father to the Texas game, right after the new stadium opened.
q: Favorite meal in Orlando?
a: Raw oysters, shrimp and crab legs at J.B.'s Fish Camp in New Smyrna.
q: On your iPod?
a: Alternative Folk, which includes the Dave Matthews Band, Damian Rice and MGMT; also, Johnny Cash.
q: Little known fact about you?
a: I'm a painter. My first show will be in December at Stardust Video & Coffee in Winter Park. I also play the guitar.