University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Campus



Campus Insider

USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Insider July 2021

Bloomberg certification at USF helps students excel in financial careers


University of South Florida spring 2021 graduate Michael Wood is learning the benefits of Bloomberg certification thanks to a program at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus that provides a deep dive into financial markets through the Bloomberg Market Concepts (BMC) program.

The BMC program is a 10-hour, self-paced e-learning course that consists of five modules – Getting Started, Economics, Currencies, Fixed Income and Equities – woven together with Bloomberg data, news and analysis.

BMC learners also gain access to Bloomberg Professional Services, which provides real-time data from markets around the world, in addition to news, research and powerful analytics used by top decision-makers in finance, business and government.

Working part-time at The Otto Group at Hightower Advisors in Sarasota, Wood was on the verge of graduating with a degree in finance and thought he might have missed the opportunity to gain Bloomberg certification prior to completing his coursework.

When Clara Reynardus de Villanueva, director of development on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, learned of Wood’s desire to complete the Bloomberg course, she worked with staff from the Muma College of Business, including Campus Dean Jean Kabongo and Finance Instructor Eddie Sanchez, director of the David Kotok and Cumberland Advisors Bloomberg Lab at the Sarasota-Manatee campus, to help Wood get into the course and complete the program before graduation.

“After I completed the course, I found it was very useful and I am grateful I was able to sign up and gain my certification,” Wood said. “Going into the financial services industry, I quickly realized the importance of Bloomberg certification. Being an analyst, I conduct a lot of research and Bloomberg helps me to understand the details of investment options, markets and currencies and how to apply that information to the benefit of our clients."

Wood works as an investment operations analyst for financial advisory firm The Otto Group at Hightower Advisors in Sarasota, a position he began as he was nearing completion of his finance degree. Currently, he partners with the team’s advisors in both review and monitoring of assets in client portfolios.

The Otto Group provides customized investment, financial and advanced planning services to individuals, businesses, foundations and families. After 20 years of working with traditional financial institutions, Matt Otto, partner and managing director of The Otto Group, joined Hightower Advisors LLC, seeking an opportunity to provide a personalized suite of sophisticated and comprehensive wealth management strategies and solutions. Otto recently celebrated five years with Hightower, a Chicago-based registered investment advisor with more than $93 billion in client assets under management.

“From day one, Michael has been a huge asset to the team here at The Otto Group. His analyses help the firm make sound decisions to benefit each of our clients,” Otto said. “When hiring for this position we had applicants from all over the U.S. and abroad. We were delighted to find Michael, a member of our community, who attended USF and has decided to live work and live locally. Michael’s USF education gave him the foundational financial and asset management skills that we were seeking, which enhances our overall client service experience.

“Our mission-driven practice guides our clients toward achieving financial wellness through our Financial Wellness Formula and 10-point Advanced Planning services,” Otto added. “Understanding all aspects of a client’s personal, business and financial life allows our team to deliver investment and lifecycle solutions tailored to their own needs and goals, in addition to those of their future generations. Our mantra is meaningful work with meaningful people, which describes our clients, centers of influence, professional partners and team members completely. We are happy to be a supporter of USF and its students.”

Wood attended classes at the USF campus in Tampa after growing up in Manatee’s Cortez neighborhood, where his father works as a commercial fisherman.

The Bloomberg Lab opened on the Sarasota-Manatee campus in March 2017 after a donation from Cumberland Advisors and Chairman David R. Kotok to educate students about Bloomberg financial software, which is used by more than 325,000 professionals globally for up-to-the-minute financial and economic data.

“The reason Bloomberg is important as an educational tool is because it provides more than just theory from a textbook,” Sanchez said. “It puts into practice the theoretical and provides a measure of functionality and understanding of financial markets at a practical level, and you can pull all of that information together in real time. Bloomberg is the gold standard of financial analysis.”

Sanchez has personal experience with Bloomberg systems. He worked for more than 20 years as a hedge fund portfolio manager and securities analyst before earning his doctorate in business administration with a concentration in finance.

The Bloomberg Lab is equipped with 12 terminals and is open to students across USF. In addition, students can take Bloomberg course modules remotely online to gain certification. During the past two years, more than 200 students have achieved Bloomberg certification at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.

For more information about the Bloomberg Market Concepts program, visit here.

USF volunteers in early reading program help to curb summer slide

Dive Into Reading

USF is giving back as part of a mentoring program to curb the “summer slide” in reading among some elementary school students in Manatee County.

The program, Dive into Reading, mentors rising second and third graders to prepare them for the fall semester. Faculty, staff and students from the Sarasota-Manatee campus are joining others around Manatee as volunteer mentors for the program. They read to the students, help them to practice writing and encourage the students to read at home to improve their skills and reduce what experts call the “summer slide” in reading comprehension.

“At the end of the day, by volunteering to help a student stay at grade-level, that could hopefully help that student to someday become a college student, maybe even at USF,” said Casey Welch, assistant regional vice chancellor of external affairs and government relations at the Sarasota-Manatee campus. “Also, as an employee of USF, I know that a core part of our mission is to be a community-engaged institution, which means participating in mutually beneficial programs such as Dive Into Reading.”

Sponsored by the Anna Maria Oyster Bar and owners John and Amanda Horne, Dive into Reading connects students to volunteer mentors for a minimum of two hours per week over five weeks. The session runs from June 7 to July 1 and from July 12 to July 15.
Welch mentors two students, one from Blackburn Elementary and one from Tillman Elementary. They meet on Mondays and Tuesdays at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar restaurant in Ellenton. Welch said he was inspired to volunteer after hearing a presentation by Amanda Horne at a Manatee Chamber of Commerce retreat.

Also volunteering is Cayla Lanier, campus director of the Judy Genshaft Honors College at the Sarasota-Manatee campus. Lanier mentors two students on Thursday mornings at the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature in downtown Bradenton. She said the experience is rewarding, knowing that she’s helping the students engage more successfully in their education.
“I’m thankful to John and Amanda Horne for putting this program together and allowing me to give back to the community in this way,” she said. “I’m an avid reader, and I hope to instill in the children the joy and wonder that books brought to me in my childhood. I love spending time with the kiddos and seeing their excitement each week.”

Several of Lanier’s students in the Honors College also serve as mentors, as do others from USF, including Pam Gleason, executive administrative specialist in the Office of University Advancement, and Jay Riley, director of business outreach and engagement, both from the Sarasota-Manatee campus.
To learn more, visit


Campus Police

The Campus Police Department (CPD) that serves the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus, New College of Florida and the local community, celebrated the profound service and dedication of their officers at a public awards and swearing-in ceremony on June 14 in Sainer Pavillion. The presentation was originally planned for last year but was cancelled due to the pandemic. 

“I am very proud of these officers. They put their heart and soul into their work every day, actively seeking out ways in which they can educate and help the communities they serve,” said Chief of Police Michael A. Kessie. “They deserve to be recognized and have their families be there to witness it.” 

Officer Michael Clary was nominated by his peers and named the 2020 Officer of the Year. Officers Danielle Pruner, Jemal Felicien and John Chirgwin were recognized with Meritorious Lifesaving Awards.  

Clary shared that he chose a career in law enforcement because he wants to make a positive difference in the community every day.  

“My team is like a second family and it’s an honor that they chose me for the 2020 Officer of the Year award,” said Clary. “There isn’t a day that I’m not excited to go to work and see people in the community. I want to positively impact someone’s life every day, whether it’s checking in on the students to see how their day is going or actively solving a crime. I want to make a difference in people’s lives and I get to do that with my team at the CPD.” 

Chirgwin has received numerous awards throughout his career, this being his third lifesaving award with the CPD.  

“It means a lot to receive this award,” said Chirgwin. “Most people join the police force to save people’s lives and it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to become a police officer.” 

Felicien joined the CPD in May 2020 and was honored with two lifesaving awards at the ceremony.  

“It feels good that we are able to serve our campus communities, as well as the surrounding Sarasota and Manatee areas,” said Felicien. “Due to our location, we are able to assist other police jurisdictions, often times arriving on scene before they do. I’m happy I was able to assist in these off-campus calls and help save people’s lives.” 

Much like her peers, an important part of Pruner’s career is helping people and being involved in the community.  

“I love my job and that I was able to help save someone’s life,” Pruner said. “It’s an honor to be able to make a difference in the community and in people’s lives.”

The newly appointed officers Jemal Felicien, Kaili Insalaco and Pilar Mahady were honored with their swearing-in ceremony. 

“Our Campus Police Department and security team work closely together to serve our campuses,” said David Bjelke, the assistant director of campus safety and security at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. “Our teams value community engagement and our students take the time to really know the individual, not just the person in uniform. The three new officers are phenomenal people and I’m looking forward to them meeting and working with our students as we return to in-person classes and activities.” 

Felicien began his law enforcement career in 2017, coming to the CPD last year. He shares that he always wanted to be a police officer because both his parents were in law enforcement. His mother retired as a Captain and his father retired as an Officer.  

Insalaco comes to the CPD with over six years of law enforcement experience. Originally from New York, She has lived and worked in southern California and the east coast of Florida, moving to Sarasota two years ago. Her experience includes working as a police officer, traffic officer, dispatcher, Police Explorer Advisor and a member of peer support.  

Prior to her career in law enforcement, Mahedy received a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies and Political Science and lived in China for 6 months to study Mandarin Chinese and Shaolin Kungfu. She speaks three languages, English, Chinese and Spanish. Before joining the CPD she worked in campus security for five years.  

Visit the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus website to learn more about the CPD and the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus safety and security office.

USF professors Ali, Pieri awarded tenure

Ali Pieri

USF Sarasota-Manatee campus faculty members Faizan Ali and Zacharias Pieri have been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor from assistant professor. Their promotions go into effect Aug. 9 following last month’s approval by the USF Board of Trustees.

Ali, who teaches in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in the Muma College of Business, serves as the school’s graduate program coordinator. His area of scholarship includes customer experience, service performance and quality and customer satisfaction and behavior. He has authored more than 40 internationally refereed journal articles and international conference papers. He also is an expert in the use of statistical tools, including Structural Equation Modeling and Partial Least Squares.  

“I am super happy and excited to know that my colleagues and leadership acknowledge my work and effort,” Ali said. “I am grateful to all who have supported and encouraged me, and I hope to cherish this ‘right’ with integrity and represent the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the Muma College of Business and the University of South Florida for years to come.”

Ali joined the Sarasota-Manatee campus as an assistant professor in August 2016 after receiving his doctorate from the International Business School, University Technology Malaysia, in 2015. 

Pieri, meanwhile, teaches in the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. His research focuses on relationships among religion, politics and violence. Specifically, he studies the ideological and strategic development of Boko Haram and the evolution of Islamic State franchises. He has consulted on numerous international projects investigating counter-radical discourses amongst Muslim communities worldwide and has authored three books, the most recent, “Boko Haram & The Drivers of Islamist Violence,” published in 2019.

“The award of tenure is a recognition by USF and the broader academic community of the quality of one’s scholarly output and dedication to teaching and service, and so it marks a very important moment in my career,” Pieri said. “In the coming years I look forward to further establishing myself as a world class scholar in my field through federal grants to examine the changing dynamics of conflict, publishing more articles and another book, and continuing to engage with policymaking communities. I also look forward to teaching research-oriented courses and mentoring our great students here at USF.”

Pieri began teaching at the Sarasota-Manatee campus in 2016 after working at USF in Tampa as a postdoc and research fellow starting in 2012. He received his PhD from the University of Exeter in England in 2012. 

USF’s Miller to present at insurance conference

Steve Miller

USF business professor Steve Miller will be one of the presenters at the statewide conference of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS), July 27-31, in Naples.

Miller, director of the School of Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) in the USF Muma College of Business, said he’s looking forward to addressing the conference to raise awareness about the RMI school, one of only two in Florida offered by a public university.

“It’s an opportunity to highlight our program and engage with risk management professionals from across the state to show that we’re creating a pipeline of talent to support the industry,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll support us in return.”

Miller said he plans to provide an overview of the school, which is based at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. The program was founded last summer but began initially as as a minor in 2015 after insurance professionals approached the campus about the impending shortage of risk management professionals. It was expanded two years later to include a bachelor’s degree and then the new school in 2020.

“The industry needs talent from a wide variety of backgrounds,” Miller said. “It’s one of the primary reasons for students to look at risk management and insurance as a potential career. There are so many different career paths. It’s not only a stable profession, but it will also evolve with them throughout their professional lives.”

Corporate risk managers are in higher demand as threats, from devastating floods to cyber attacks and technology theft, continue to emerge. Some of the conference sessions will focus on these, and other, new and emerging threats.

“Equity, diversity and inclusion is also one of the hot topics right now,” Miller said. “The type of projects and challenges that risk managers face will be different from day to day and year to year. This past year provides an excellent example with the pandemic and the new challenges created from it.”

For more about the School of Risk Management and Insurance, visit here.

Ripo among presenters at FloridaACE conference

Toni Ripo

Toni Ripo, a Career Services advisor at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, was among the presenters at the recent Florida Association of Colleges & Employers (FloridaACE) annual conference.

The conference, held virtually June 14-17, attracted advisors from institutions statewide to hear about industry trends and best practices. Ripo presented an overview about the reverse career fair program, which began at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus in 2018 but has since evolved to include several nearby colleges.

The program has been highly successful at generating job and internship placements.

Unlike traditional job fairs, reverse career fairs involve a select group of students and employers. Students are screened ahead of the event to match the employers’ criteria. They also receive interview tips and other training.

During the fair, employers move from table to table, meeting with the students. The annual event is held in partnership with New College of Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design and State College of Florida.

Ripo was joined at the conference by advisors from those institutions, who talked about their roles during the fair.

“The number one feedback we hear from employers is that they would like us to hold move of these types of events,” Ripo said.

USF’s Fawn Ngo to address cybercrime victimization during upcoming podcast

Fawn Ngo

USF Associate Professor Fawn Ngo will share her insights about cybercrime victimization during a podcast this month with Michael Joyce, co-executive director of the Smart Cybersecurity Network at the University of Montreal.

The interview, set for Friday, July 9, will air about a week afterward on Joyce’s podcast channel, Apple Podcasts and on other sites.

Ngo will talk about an article she and other researchers wrote that examined cybercrime victimization. Specifically, she’ll address the link between the frequency or actual length of time individuals spend online engaging in certain activities, the types of information people share on social networking sites and the risk of becoming a cybercrime victim.

“I’m always happy to discuss my work, especially if it can be helpful to people,” Ngo said. “The nice thing about Michael’s podcast is that it’s heard not just by academics and practitioners, but also by the general public.”

The article, published last summer in the “Criminal Justice Review,” was co-authored by Alex R. Piquero of the University of Miami, Jennifer LaPrade of Missouri State University and Bao Duong of Louisiana Tech University.

Ngo is a faculty member in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences and serves as campus chair of the college at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. She’s also an editorial board member of the “International Journal of Cyber Criminology,” an advisory council member of the Visitor Harassment Research Unit at Purdue University. Ngo joined the faculty of the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus in 2009.

In addition to discussing her article and the effects of cybercrime, Ngo said she hopes to discuss the lack of cybersecurity education and Internet safety tips for people with limited English proficiency.

“Information about cybersecurity and Internet safety tips in languages other than English is limited or does not exist while, in combating cybercrime, humans are known as the weakest link in an organization’s security infrastructure,” she said. “Thus, it is crucial that all citizens, regardless of their language abilities and skills, have the tools and knowledge necessary to protect themselves while online.”

Ngo is collaborating with Giti Javidi, a professor in the School of Information Systems and Management and director of the Information Security Cybersecurity Management Program, and Michelle Arnold, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and a director of the Auditory Rehabilitation and Clinical Trials laboratory, to address the shortfall.

She said the researchers are conducting focus groups to develop a cybersecurity and Internet safety curriculum available in multiple languages, starting with Spanish and Vietnamese.

Town Hall meetings a ‘success’ in helping to reimagine USF’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity

The University South Florida recently held a series of Town Hall meetings to seek input from students, faculty and staff as it reimagines the role of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity (DIEO).

Altogether, six discussions were held this past spring with students, faculty and staff –three internally and one each on USF’s three campuses – with more than 450 participants. The meetings generated close to 900 survey responses.

“Our goal was to engage our campus and community stakeholders about the transitions taking place in DIEO and to solicit feedback about what services, programming and outreach would be beneficial to them as we reimagine the office,” said Corey Posey, diversity officer on the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

The meetings followed an announcement in March by President Steve Currall that USF would redirect compliance functions formerly managed by DIEO to a new equity compliance unit.

The changes at the DIEO present an opportunity for the office to focus more on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that promote the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff and to work more proactively to establish outreach initiatives both universitywide and communitywide.

Posey called the Town Halls “a huge success” in gathering input to reimagine the office’s role. Each of the meetings was facilitated by Diversity Officers Posey and Michelle Madden and Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, interim vice president for institutional equity, to capture the spirit of #OneUSF and collaboration across the campuses. The Sarasota-Manatee campus saw the most participants, with 134 people at its June 11 event.

“The main takeaway was that our internal and external communities are vested in the success of our office and campus,” Posey said.

Moving forward, he said, the survey data and notes collected from the town halls will be compiled into a report and presented to President Currall. This information will help guide the core responsibilities for the next vice president of institutional equity, as well as the charge of the new Diversity and Inclusion Office.

“Personally, I was excited to share the great work and connections that are happening in the Sarasota-Manatee area,” Posey said. “I’m glad our community ‘showed up and showed out’ to tell our good story.”

Brunch on the Bay Student Spotlight

Brucnh Hermann

University of South Florida graduate Hermann Carcamo is grateful for Brunch on the Bay donors and shares that every scholarship dollar he received was life-changing.

Carcamo graduated in 2019 with a finance and risk management and insurance degree from the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. Like many students, he relied on scholarships to help pay for expenses while juggling a full-time student schedule, internship and part-time job.

“I want to say thank you to all the donors and sponsors that are giving money to Brunch on the Bay,” said Carcamo. “Every single dollar and donation that you are giving, you are changing students' lives.”

In addition to being a Brunch on the Bay scholarship recipient, Carcamo is a previous Brunch on the Bay donor. To advance the generosity he received, Carcamo attended the event as a guest to directly support USF student scholarships. View Herman Carcamo’s video spotlight by clicking here.

Tickets and sponsorships are available for the 27th Annual Brunch on the Bay at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus on Sunday, November 7, 2021. Visit to learn more.

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