Campus Insider: Research lab at USF Sarasota-Manatee campus receives $30,000 donation

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Campus Insider: Research lab at USF Sarasota-Manatee campus receives $30,000 donation
SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 25, 2020) – The University of South Florida has received a $30,000 research and development grant to support its Laboratory for Advancement of Crossdisciplinary Innovation (LACI) at the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

The grant, which will assist in advancing cybersecurity research, came from Sarasota-based cybersecurity company Sylint Group Inc., headed by founding partner and Chairman John Jorgensen. Sylint is one of the nation’s top cybersecurity and digital data forensics companies.

“We are grateful for this generous grant to support work that the USF Sarasota Manatee campus is vitally interested in conducting in partnership with Sylint,” said Karen Holbrook, regional chancellor of the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. “We have been working with Sylint for a few years to build a strong relationship and this will accelerate our collaborative work in cybersecurity going forward.”

Giti Javidi, a professor of information assurance and cybersecurity management, and Information Systems Professor Ehsan Sheybani, both of the Muma College of Business, founded the lab earlier this year.

Funds from the Sylint Group will assist in hiring research scholars.

The lab, based at the USF Sarasota-Manatee Research Park south of the main campus building, opened at the start of the fall semester on Monday. It was created to bring together experts from diverse academic disciplines to conduct research and seek innovative solutions to complex problems.

The facility is equipped with an array of high-tech devices to help with research, including an MS Surface Hub interactive white board, personal computers, laptops, 3D printers, emotion-detection technologies, cybersecurity tools, brain wave and speech signal acquisition and analysis equipment, FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) and wireless communication technologies, virtual reality goggles, robots, drones and STEM educational toolkits.

“We are grateful to John and his team for such a generous contribution,” Javidi said. “This is significant because it represents the first contribution to the lab from the local business community and it shows that the work we are conducting is generating support from that community. We are very excited about this generous support.”

The grant from Sylint Group also signals a growing partnership between the company and USF. Jorgensen, a much-sought-after speaker, helped to develop the university’s new cybersecurity curriculum and recently addressed a campus event, FinTech 2020, about the dangers of cybersecurity attacks, from ransomware to data theft.

A National Security Agency (NSA) analyst for 23 years, Jorgensen founded Sylint in 1999 after earning an electrical engineering degree from USF. His company conducts computer system audits to detect vulnerabilities and is frequently consulted after cybersecurity attacks to assess security breaches and help with recovery.

Sylint is one of a dozen companies nationwide certified by the NSA to perform incident response services and by the Payment Card Industry to conduct industry forensics investigations.

“This generous grant strengthens the relationship between Sylint Group and the Muma College of Business at the Sarasota-Manatee campus,“ said Jean Kabongo, campus dean for the college at the Sarasota-Manatee campus. “I applaud the efforts of our regional chancellor, Dr. Karen Holbrook, for supporting the vision to create this facility, as well as Dr. Javidi for her expertise in bringing such a great partner on board for the benefit of our students and the newly established laboratory.”

Said Javidi: “Leveraging the best of companies such as Sylint and the best of USF will enable us to not only advance our research but also equip cybersecurity graduates with the necessary skills to enter the marketplace faster and with proven abilities.

“Sylint Group has been working with us for some time to offer internships to our students, hiring our graduates and helping us to develop a deeper understanding of market needs in order to create compatible cybersecurity course offerings to better prepare our graduates,” she said. “We are very grateful for their partnership.”

USF professor recognized with international hospitality and tourism award

University of South Florida Muma College of Business Professor Cihan Cobanoglu has been named recipient of the prestigious Stevenson W. Fletcher Achievement Award for innovative contributions to hospitality and tourism research. Cobanoglu is the McKibbon Endowed Chair and director of the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation based at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.

The award was announced on Aug. 6 by the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education (ICHRIE), a Richmond, Virginia,-based nonprofit that supports hospitality and tourism worldwide. Cobanoglu will receive the award during ICHRIE’s annual conference, July 28-30, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

“I’m very honored because this comes from my peers and recognizes not only my own accomplishments, but also the work of the M3 Center, including our conferences, educational programs, open-access journals and many research programs,” Cobanoglu said. “This is shared by the whole team.”

According to the group’s website, the award is named for Stevenson W. Fletcher, former head of the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It recognizes, “an individual educator or trainer for outstanding achievement in contributing innovative ideas, methods or programs that have advanced teaching, learning or practice in the field of hospitality and tourism education.”

“We are very proud that Cihan has been selected by ICHRIE to receive the Stevenson W. Fletcher Achievement Award, an international award presented only once a year,” said Pat Moreo, USF Sarasota-Manatee campus dean for the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM). “Dr. Cobanoglu’s role in directing the M3 Center, and the internationally acclaimed work of our faculty there, is crucial to the School of HTM. Cihan is passionate about his work and is a brilliant scholar and teacher, and we are fortunate to have him on our team.”

In addition to conducting research, the center publishes books, industry reports, articles and journals – including three open-access journals – and it hosts conferences and workshops globally. It frequently welcomes visiting professors and students, including from overseas, and its educational programming is viewed online by hospitality programs worldwide.

A Certified Hospitality Technology Professional, Cobanoglu is editor-in-chief of the “Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Technology” (a Social Sciences Citation Index journal), the “Journal of Global Business Insights” and the “Journal of Global Hospitality and Tourism.” He has co-authored six books and helped lead 10 conference proceedings. He earned doctorate and master’s degrees from Oklahoma State University and an undergraduate degree from Cukurova University in Turkey.

Recently, Cobanoglu and Assistant Professor Faizan Ali co-authored an article, “Global tourism industry may shrink by more than 50% due to the pandemic,” that was featured in “The Conversation,” a popular online magazine of research articles, and subsequently picked up by “Forbes,” The Chicago Tribune” and other publications.

Cobanoglu was nominated for the award by Po-Ju Chen, department chair and Michael P. Johnson distinguished professor of business at North Carolina Central University, and Ersem Karadag, a professor of hospitality and tourism at Robert Morris University, a private university in western Pennsylvania.

“Awards are always nice, but I see this as more of an endorsement from my peers that we are on the right track, and this only motivates me and the entire M3 Center team to continue to do what we’re doing to advance the hospitality and tourism industry,” he said.

Article by USF-based PAInT director explores the impact of the arts on public education

Denise Davis-Cotton, director of the USF-based Florida Center for Partnerships in Arts-Integrated Teaching (PAInT), explores the impact of the arts on public education in a recently published article, Arts integration: a survey of attendance at school and community arts events in Florida.

The article, published Aug. 14 in the “Arts Education Policy Review” (Taylor & Francis Online), is based on surveys of 619 adults, including educators, teaching artists, college students, retirees, parents and others, during the 2018 and 2019 academic years.

Davis-Cotton said she conducted the survey to better understand her audience and their support of the arts in public schools. As PAInT director, Davis-Cotton frequently collaborates with arts groups and visits schools to discuss how arts integration, combining the arts with academics, helps children to learn. PAInT is based at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.

“By understanding my audience – how appreciative they are of the arts and their understanding of arts integration – I can better help them to integrate the arts into their programs and connect them with our arts partners,” she said.

The 19-question online survey measured respondents’ attendance at arts events, from visual to performing arts, and their level of support to include the arts in public education. The study shows widespread support for arts integration and for robust and enduring arts environments in schools and communities.

“The survey gave me ideas not only about who was supporting arts programs in Florida, and their level of commitment, but also about how to cultivate a resilient arts-innovative environment,” she said.

“The arts help us to grow and learn and become more complete as human beings,” Davis-Cotton said. “Oftentimes, in education we focus on critical thinking and promoting critical-thinking skills, and this is important, but it’s also important to talk about creative thinking and the value of creative thinking to our overall growth and development.”

USF faculty members Su Senapati and Rustu Deryol and USF graduate Tyler Williams assisted with reviewing the article.

For more about PAInT, visit

To learn more about the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, visit

About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at
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