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URI Fellows

URI convenes over 40 researchers from various colleges from across the university including the College of Community Innovation & Education, College of Sciences, College of Engineering, and the Rosen College of Hospitality Management. We also closely collaborate with the City of Orlando Office of Sustainability & Resilience, the Orange County Sustainability and Resilience Office, the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, and local nongovernmental organizations.

Meet some of our partners:

Sergio Alvarez

Sergio Alvarez is an assistant professor in the Rosen College of Hospitality Management and UCF Coastal.  Alvarez holds degrees in economics and environmental sciences, and his research focuses on how natural resources and the environment contribute to human well-being through the provision of ecosystem services such as food, recreation, and protection from natural and man-made hazards.  Current research projects include estimating the impact of harmful algae blooms and hurricanes on the tourism economy, and studying how providing different types of risk information impacts homebuyer choices.

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Jeff Benavides

Since 2007, Jeff Benavides has been a pioneer in launching award winning sustainability programs and international campaigns with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the City of Orlando Greenworks program, and the micro-finance non-profit SELF. As Chief Sustainability and Resilience Officer for Orange County , he exemplifies the core purpose of Goal 17 Partnership for the Goals. His organizational leadership and project management expertise has co-founded and launched three successful business based in Florida in the sustainability and solar + storage industries. The SDGs are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all and Jeff as aligned is work in the community around Goal 4 Quality Education as an adjunct professor at Valencia College’s Energy Management Control Technology Degree Program and his technical work around Goal 7 Affordable Clean Energy.

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Ladislau Boloni

Ladislau Bölöni is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at UCF. His research involves applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning in area that include agent-based human behavior modeling, models of social-cultural behavior and predicting cumulative effects of human behavior, for instance in traffic and transportation demand. 

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Chris Castro

Chris Castro is a sustainability consultant, clean energy professional, and eco-entrepreneur with a passion to co-create solutions that advance smart, resilient, and sustainable cities in balance with nature. Since 2014, Chris has worked at the City of Orlando as the Senior Advisor to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Director of Sustainability & Resilience, and ‘Future-Ready’ steering committee member, developing a comprehensive set of policies & programs that advance the city’s sustainability, climate action, and smart city goals. Chris is best known for his entrepreneurial efforts prior to coming to the city, including co-founder and President of IDEAS For Us. In 2012, Chris also started a clean-energy consulting and development firm called Citizen Energy that operates in Washington DC, and 2013 co-created “Fleet Farming”, a renowned urban farming social enterprise program that is redefining local food systems by building organic farms on homeowner lawns, schools, and underutilized land throughout neighborhoods and communities.

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Michelle Cechowski

Michelle Cechowski is the emergency preparedness manager for the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council. She is responsible for regional emergency management planning involving first responder training and exercises, hazard analysis, domestic security, and emergency preparedness. Her other responsibilities include the administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) Planning and Training grants for the eight counties within the East Central Florida region and is the staff coordinator for the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). Michelle’s recent collaborative projects include Smart and Connected Communities; State Regional Evacuation Study; and Lifelines, Logistics, and Supply Chain Awareness Workshop.

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Karen “Kara” Consalo

Karen “Kara” Consalo is a lecturer in the Department of Legal Studies.  She teaches in the fields of government, property, environmental, and urban law, both in undergraduate and masters courses.  Her research focuses on legal issues in the environmental and urban fields, including an upcoming review of laws and policies adopted by coastal cities to mitigate extreme weather events, to be published by Buffalo Law School.  She is a member of the University Faculty Senate and the College of Community Innovation and Education Faculty Council. Dr. Consalo holds a juris doctorate (J.D), a certificate in Land Use & Environmental Law from the University of Florida College of Law as well as a legume magister (LL.M.) from Boston University School of Law.  Dr. Consalo is certified by the Florida Bar Association as an expert in City, County & Local Government legal issues. Prior to joining the faculty at UCF, Dr. Consalo taught as an adjunct professor of environmental and government law at Barry University School of Law and land use and environmental law at Rollins College.  As a practicing attorney, she represented several local governments in Central Florida as well as citizen organizations and developers.  She serves on the Board of Directors of the environmental organization, Ideas for Us, Inc.

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Christopher Emrich

Christopher Emrich is an endowed associate professor of environmental science and public administration within UCF’s School of Public Administration and Director of Research in UCF’s newly formed National Center for Integrated Coastal Research. His research/practical service includes applying geospatial technologies to emergency management planning and practice, long-term disaster recovery analysis, and the intersection of social vulnerability and community resilience in the face of catastrophe. From 2004 – 2008 he provided geospatial support for response and long-term recovery to the states of Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi and has since been actively involved in understanding how differential recoveries manifest across disaster stricken areas. Dr. Emrich is actively working at pinpointing challenges to equity in disaster recovery and mitigation and where he has most recently assisted in building empirically based and result-oriented impacts assessments to inform recovery programs in several states and US territories. He has remained at the vanguard of theory, data, metrics, methods, applications, and spatial analytical model development for understanding in the field of hazard vulnerability science and the often very in-equitable and disproportionate pattern of disaster loss and recovery across communities.

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Alan Fyall

Alan Fyall is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Visit Orlando Endowed Chair of Tourism Marketing at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management. He is also a member of UCF’s National Center for Integrated Coastal Research. His current research interests relate to coastal tourism and destination resilience in Florida and the Caribbean.  He has published widely in the areas of tourism and destination marketing and management including 22 books and has conducted numerous consulting and applied research projects for clients in the UK, European Union, Africa, the Caribbean, USA and South East Asia. To date, Alan has examined 31 PhDs in the UK, India, France, South Africa, Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia. 

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Zhaomiao (Walter) Guo

Zhaomiao (Walter) Guo is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering and a faculty member in Resilient, Intelligent and Sustainable Energy Systems Cluster. Dr. Guo’s research centers around network modeling and computational strategies for intelligence and resilience of critical infrastructure systems, with particular interest in transportation and energy systems. Recent research projects include power-transportation nexus modeling, resilient electric vehicle charging infrastructure planning, dynamic pricing of shared mobility, agent-based modeling of emerging mobility technologies, and connected vehicles for transportation safety.

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Samiul Hasan

Samiul Hasan is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering and a member of the Future City Initiative of CECE Department. Dr. Hasan’s research interests include urban data science, social media data analytics, transportation network modeling, infrastructure interdependencies, and hurricane evacuation. Recent research projects include interdependencies among infrastructure disruptions during hurricanes, evacuation behavior modeling from social media data, micro-simulation of evacuation traffic, and deep learning models of high-resolution transportation data.    

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Mike Hess

Mike Hess is a mechanical engineer who is focused on creating smart and sustainable cities.  He currently leads Orlando’s future-ready (smart city) efforts, including development of their first future-ready master plan and roadmap.  He previously worked as VP of Smart and Sustainable Buildings for Panasonic’s smart city team.  Mike has worked on several smart city projects across the U.S., including projects with connected and autonomous vehicles, carbon neutral micro-grids, and other emerging technologies.

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Florencio ‘Eloy’ Hernandez

Florencio ‘Eloy’ Hernández Hernandez is a professor of chemistry and optics and the Associate Dean of Research and Innovation in the College of Community Innovation and Education. As a faculty, he combines interdisciplinary training in fundamental physical chemistry, nonlinear optics and chirality, and scholarship of teaching and learning. In his leadership position, he promotes transformative and interdisciplinary scholarship, strong partnerships with private and public organizations, and community engagement. He also provides a safe, diverse, and inclusive space for UCF faculty to brainstorm disruptive ideas that could ultimately challenge the status quo of the academic enterprise, advancing scholarship in education and impacting the community directly.

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Qian Hu

Qian Hu, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the School of Public Administration. Dr. Hu’s research interests include network governance, emergency management networks, disaster resilience, and policy informatics. Her work has been published in many highly ranked journals, including Public Administration Review, Public Management Review, and the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and Disasters.

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Arthur Huang

Arthur Huang is an assistant professor at UCF, affiliated with the Rosen College of Hospitality Management and College of Engineering and Computer Science. With an interdisciplinary background in engineering, social science, and public policy, he received his Ph.D. in Transportation Systems and an M.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He also holds M.S. in computer software engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. His research interests include urban computing, human behavior, big data analytics in tourism management, sustainability, and AI and the future of work.  He has developed several software packages for destination planning and management:  ANGIE (Agent-based Network Growth model with Incremental Evolution) and CLUSTER (Clustered Locations of Urban Services, Transportation, and Economic Resources). His dissertation work “Accessibility, network structure, and shopping destination choice: A microscopic analysis of in-vehicle GPS travel data in the Twin Cities” won the 2012 North-Central Section Institute of Transportation Engineers Best Paper Award and the 2012 ITS MN Best Paper Award. His projects have been funded by the National Science Foundation and Minnesota Department of Transportation. He was invited to testify before the Florida House of Representatives on the future of work in the tourism industry in 2019. 

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Xi Huang

Xi Huang is an assistant professor in the School of Public Administration at UCF. Her research interests are urban and community development, migrant integration, immigration policy, and policy analysis. Her publications have appeared in peer-reviewed journals including Urban StudiesJournal of the American Planning AssociationHealth & PlaceUrban Affairs ReviewRegional Science and Urban Economics. Her recent research examines local immigration policymaking and the socioeconomic implications of local policies for the vulnerable populations.

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Robert S. Littlefield

Robert S. Littlefield is Founding Director and professor in the Nicholson School of Communication and Media at UCF. Littlefield’s research focuses on alternative perspectives of risk and crisis held by vulnerable publics and the need for a culture centered approach including these groups into contexts where risk and crisis messages are developed and distributed to broader constituencies. Most recently, he introduced the Tensions of Strategic Communication Decision Making (TSCD), an applied theory describing how decision makers respond to the tensions they experience in risk and crisis situations. He has several books to his credit, including Risk and Crisis Communication: Navigating the Tensions Between Organizations and the Public. The author or co-author of over 75 journal articles, Littlefield has nearly 100 conference presentations to his credit. He is past editor of Communication Studies, and a recipient of the Jack Kay Award for Community Engagement and Applied Communication Scholarship presented at Central States Communication Association. His research has been funded, in part, by grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Education.

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Justin Miller

Justin Miller is the Assistant Director of the UCF Center for Public and Nonprofit Management. Justin has 23+ years of public service in military intelligence and cryptology and non-profit leadership. He is a retired U.S. Navy Senior Noncommissioned Officer with extensive experience in leadership, program management, and technical operations. He spent his Navy career as a signals intelligence expert, leading teams and directing programs that supported strategic, operational, and tactical missions within various Navy and Joint warfighting communities and intelligence missions. He also served within the Navy’s education and training community: he is a Navy Master Training Specialist and served as a course instructor and manager, curriculum developer, and a Navy Rate Training Manager, where he directed, led, and managed a network of globally distributed courses. He also served for 3 years as the Vice President of Programs and member of the senior leadership team at a local nonprofit with a national mission that focuses on supporting hi-po STEM students conducting advanced research at select universities. Justin’s professional experience includes roles in leadership, administration, research and development, organizational and interagency coordination and planning, program management, learning and development, and telecommunications and computer science technical applications.

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Kourtney Nieves

Kourtney Nieves, Ph.D., is an associate lecturer and program director for the graduate health services administration program within the Department of Health Management and Informatics.  Dr. Nieves is a graduate of the undergraduate HSA program, the MS-HSA program and the Public Affairs doctoral program at UCF.  She also holds a graduate certificate in Medical Group Management from UCF and another in Emergency Management and Homeland Security from Florida State University.  She teaches courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  She has authored numerous peer reviewed articles, as well as a book chapter, and her primary area of research focuses on emergency preparedness and bioterrorism.

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Fevzi Okumus

Fevzi Okumus is the CFHLA Preeminent Chair Professor within the Hospitality Services Department at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. He was the Founding Chair of the Hospitality Services Department. He has over 240 academic publications (over 145 refereed journal articles, three books, 12 book chapters and 90 conference presentations and reports). As of September 2020, his publications have received over 10600 citations and he has an h-index of 50. He chaired/co-chaired and served on numerous PhD dissertation and master thesis committees. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management (IJCHM) (IF: 5.667) and the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Insights (JHTI). He is a frequent speaker at international conferences. He has received numerous prestigious research awards and recognitions including “The Michael D. Olsen Research Award” in 2016; “The University of Central Florida Scroll & Quill Society Award” in 2017, the “CFHLA Preeminent Professor” again in 2017 and the John Wiley & Sons Lifetime Research Achievement Award from ICHRIE in 2018.

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Debra Reinhart

Debra Reinhart is a Pegasus Professor and Associate Vice President for Research and Scholarship in the Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering Department. She holds a B.S. in Engineering from Florida Technological University, and an M.S. in Sanitary Engineering and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Reinhart’s research area is solid waste management, with a focus on optimized waste collection and sustainable operation of landfills. From 2011-2013, Dr. Reinhart was a program manager at the National Science Foundation. Dr. Reinhart is an Associate Editor for the Waste Management. She is a registered professional engineer in Florida and Georgia, a Board Certified Environmental Engineer, and a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors.

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Fernando I. Rivera

Fernando I. Rivera is a professor of sociology and Director of the Puerto Rico Research Hub at UCF. His disaster research has explored the investigation of factors associated with disaster resilience, restoration and resilience in coupled human-natural systems, and climate migration. He has co-edited Disaster Resilience: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2012), co-authored Disaster Vulnerability, Hazards, and Resilience: Perspectives from Florida (2015), edited Emerging Voices in Natural Hazards Research (2019) and was guest editor for a special issue of Population and Environment (2020) on Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane Maria.

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Abdul-Akeem Sadiq

Abdul-Akeem Sadiq is an associate professor and the director of the Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy in the School of Public Administration at UCF. In 2010, Dr. Sadiq, along with two other researchers conducted a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded study in Haiti to understand mass fatality management-related issues following the 2010 earthquake. In 2014, Dr. Sadiq was awarded the NSF Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards and Disasters Researchers Fellowship. And in 2016, Dr. Sadiq (PI) and another researcher were awarded an NSF grant to study community resilience to floods. Dr. Sadiq’s research focuses on organizational disaster preparedness and mitigation, risk perceptions of man-made and natural hazards, community resilience to floods, and collaborative governance.

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Luis E. Santiago

Luis E. Santiago is an associate professor and program director of the urban and regional planning graduate programs. Prior to joining UCF, he was a professor at the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Planning. Dr. Santiago holds a doctoral degree in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. His interest in the role of ecosystem services in Planning has led him to participate as Co-PI in the NASA Puerto Rico Human Impacts of Coastal Ecosystems and the NSF San Juan Urban Long-Term Research Area-Exploratory projects.

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Timothy L. Sellnow

Timothy L. Sellnow is a professor of strategic communication in the Nicholson School of Communication and Media at UCF. Sellnow’s research focuses on risk and crisis communication. In addition to serving frequently as a corporate consultant, he has conducted funded research for the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Geological Survey, and the World Health Organization. He has also served in an advisory role for the National Academy of Sciences, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration. He has published many refereed journal articles and co-authored six books on risk and crisis communication.

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Kelly Stevens

Kelly Stevens, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the School of Public Administration and Resilient, Intelligent, and Sustainable Energy Systems (RISES) research cluster member at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Stevens conducts interdisciplinary research on energy and environmental policy, environmental management, as well as science and technology policy. Her work focuses on the U.S. electricity sector, climate change policies, air pollution, and community resilience, with funding from the National Science Foundation, Alliance for Market Solutions, and National Hazards Center, among others.

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Asli D. A. Tasci

Asli Tasci is an associate professor of tourism and hospitality marketing in the Department of Tourism, Events & Attractions in the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at UCF. Her research interests include tourism and hospitality marketing, particularly consumer behavior. She completed a number of studies measuring destination image and branding with a cross-cultural perspective.

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Sandi Vidal

Sandi Vidal is just a girl trying to change the world one day at a time. She serves as the Vice President of Community Strategies and Initiatives for the Central Florida Foundation. Within her role at the Foundation, Sandi works on a variety of initiatives including Homelessness, Disaster Response, Social Justice, and is the Staff Liaison for the 100 Women Strong Giving Circle.  Her latest initiative, Thrive, is focused on all 17 SDG goals and creating a solid framework for action and accountability. She is also a local Jefferson Award winner for volunteerism, and currently serves as the Co-President for the League of Women Voters of Orange County and serves on Mayer Dyer’s Multicultural Committee.

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Thomas Wahl

Thomas Wahl is an assistant professor for coastal risks and engineering at UCF in the Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering Department and the National Center for Integrated Coastal Research. He connects engineering and various science disciplines to better understand the vulnerability of coastal societies, built infrastructure, and fragile ecosystems under climate change conditions. He studies changes in coastal sea levels (mean and extreme), ocean waves, and freshwater flows and the associated impacts to support the development of sustainable and resilient adaptation strategies. 

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Liquang Wang

Liqiang Wang is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at UCF. He is the director of Big Data Lab. His research focuses on deep learning, parallel/cloud computing, data privacy, and software systems,  including improving the accuracy, security, privacy of deep learning systems and optimizing performance, scalability, resilience, and resource management of big data processing. He received the NSF CAREER Award in 2011. 

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Murat Yuksel

Murat Yuksel is a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UCF. He has been investigating communication and networking solutions for public safety and emergency response. His research interests are in the area of networked, wireless, and computer systems with a recent focus on wireless systems, optical wireless, spectrum sharing, network economics, network architectures, cloud networking, and network management. He has been on the editorial boards of Computer Networks and IEEE Networking Letters. He published more than 150 papers at peer-reviewed journals and conferences, and is a co-recipient of two Best Paper, one Best Paper Runner-up, and one Best Demo Awards. He is a senior member of IEEE and a senior and life member of ACM.

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Staci M. Zavattaro

Staci M. Zavattaro, Ph.D., is an associate professor of public administration. Her books include Cities for Sale, Place Branding Through Phases of the Image, and Social Media to Government: Theory and Practice (edited with Dr. Thomas Bryer). She serves as editor-in-chief of the international journal Administrative Theory & Praxis. Her work appears in journals such as Urban Studies, Public Administration Review, Journal of Place Management and Development, Administration & Society, and Tourism Management. Zavattaro graduated from the University of Florida with a dual major in political science and journalism. She completed her graduate work at Florida Atlantic University. As an almost-native Floridian (her family moved when she was 2, so she claims Florida as home), she is excited to come to Orlando and work with the wonderful faculty here at UCF.

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