Afternoon oral presentations

1-1:25 p.m. “Responding to Problem Gambling at the Campus Level: UB's Journey”

Abstract: As online gambling has become legalized in the state of Connecticut, there has been a rise in problem gambling among individuals of all ages and demographics. The ease of online gambling can be particularly risky for college age students who may engage in social media and online use reflexively. To help college students, the Connecticut Council for Problematic Gambling has created a grant to provide education to students about signs of problem gambling. Additionally, they have assisted with staff on identifying signs of potential problem gambling among students. This presentation will allow attendees to identify the basic expectations of the CCPG Problem Gambling Grant. Participants will identify the current literature and research which has prompted a need to connect with universities. Attendees will identify how UB has participated in this grant to support students. And, student alumni will discuss the benefits of this grant for current students and alumni.

Moderator: Fredrick Dombrowski, PhD, LMHC UB Social Science Chair


  • Fredrick Dombrowski, PhD, LMHC UB Social Science Chair
  • Janay Prim (’19), MS-LPCA, Department of Children and Families, Adolescent Specialist
  • Kaitlin Brown, The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, Senior Director of Programs & Services
  • Rachel Vogt (’24), Certified Addictions Counselor, MATS Counselor II Liberation Programs

Fredrick Dombrowski is the AMHCA Past President and has extensive experience treating those living with co-occurring disorders since 1998. He has been a supervisor and director for multiple programs including inpatient, outpatient, and forensic treatment. Currently a Department Chair at UB, he is focused on experiential learning through a perspective of cultural humility and equitable clinical care. He has recently published the book Co-occurring Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders and has appeared on television, radio, and internet advocating for the helping professions. He has won several awards for his work with marginalized populations.

Janay Prim received her degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from UB. She is currently an Adolescent Specialist, Social worker at the Department of Children and Families and serves as the lead Clinical Parenting Education Program facilitator at Shoreline Wellness Center. She previously initiated and ran the Kolbe Cathedral Enrichment Program for inner-city high school adolescents, had a brief stint as an adjunct professor at UB and also helped develop and facilitate a mental health training program for UB head coaches this past summer. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a commitment to empowering individuals and advancing mental health advocacy.

Kaitlin Brown is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor, Internationally Certified Gambling Counselor, holds an International Gaming Disorder Certificate and is a Board Approved Clinical Consultant with the International Gambling Counselor Certification Board providing supervision to those seeking certification for Gambling & Gaming Disorders. Kaitlin is currently the Senior Director of Programs & Services for the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling. In her role she oversees the statewide problem gambling helpline, education, prevention initiatives, and responsible gambling efforts.

Rache Vogt is an internationally certified addictions counselor, and current graduate student in UB's clinical mental health counseling program. Since 2018, Rachel has worked in the Bridgeport community as a diversion specialist, navigator, counselor, and advocate for underserved populations. As current president of Chi Sigma Iota, Rachel is bringing problem gambling awareness to campus and aims to reduce stigma around addiction.

1:30-1:55 p.m. “Innovation and Change”

Abstract: Organizations can foster a culture of innovation, enhance problem-solving capabilities, and drive growth by integrating essential elements of creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. In this panel, we will discuss different aspects of innovation from the perspective of lead industry experts who are UB alumni. Topics will touch upon Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing Electric Vertical and Take-Off Landing, and lithography technology.

Moderator: Khaled Elleithy, PhD, UB College of Engineering, Business, Education (EBE), Dean, and Distinguished Professor


  • Khaled Elleithy, PhD, UB EBE Dean, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
  • Jim D. Andrews (’93), MS, Marine Corps Systems Lockheed Martin Sikorsky, Chief Engineer Director
  • Ajay Shrestha (’02,’06, ’19), PhD, Imagen Technologies, Engineering Manager
  • Eugene Gerety (’24), PhD candidate, ASML, Senior Electronics Architect

Dr. Khaled Elleithy is a Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and the Dean of the College of Engineering, Business and Education. He has published more than 400 research papers in national and international journals and conferences with more than 4,100 Google Scholar citations. His most recent research results in quantum computing, security of wireless communications, microstrip antenna design, and steganography represent noteworthy contributions to the fields of sciences and technology. Dr. Elleithy introduced new and innovative courses in several areas, including network security, wireless communications, embedded system design, wireless sensor networks, and quantum computing. He is the founder of the Mobile and Wireless Communications Laboratory. His research group in Mobile and Wireless Communications won over forty awards for their research papers and posters at the state and national levels. Dr. Elleithy was the co-chair of the 2014 Zone 1 Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) that took place in Bridgeport. He was the chair of the 2016 IEEE Connecticut Conference on Industrial Electronics, Technology & Automation in Bridgeport. Dr. Elleithy was the chair of the 2020 North East Conference of ASEE at Bridgeport. Dr. Elleithy is the recipient of the 2005 University of Bridgeport Distinguished Professor of the Year. He is also the recipient of the 2015 Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Gold Innovation Award. In 2017, he was elected Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences to recognize his contributions to Wireless Sensor Networks and Wireless Communications. In 2020, he received the IEEE Connecticut Section Outstanding Member in Academia.

James D. Andrews is Chief Engineer Director, Marine Corps Systems for Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company. He is responsible for all technical activities related to Sikorsky’s H-53 and VH programs including design, development, integration, test, fleet support and capture of new business. Mr. Andrews has over 30 years of experience in technical analysis, design integration, test, and project engineering. Previously, he was Chief Engineer for the Sikorsky Army/Air Force market segment, as well as the Combat Rescue Helicopter program. In the latter role, he led the team through design and into the build/test phase of the program from April 2014 to May 2018. Throughout his career with Sikorsky, Mr. Andrews has held positions of increasing responsibility with roles in achieving critical initiatives, including as Acoustics/Dynamics Senior Engineer, Attributes Manager and Chief Systems Engineer for the Collier Award winning S-92® program. As Deputy Chief Engineer on the CH-53K program, he led the incorporation of digital design and manufacturing tools that received the American Helicopter Society 2012 Robert L. Pinckney Award for achievement in rotorcraft manufacturing research and development. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, Mr. Andrews held positions at General Dynamics, Electric Boat as a Structural Project Engineer, and Design Build Team Lead on the Virginia Class Submarine program. Mr. Andrews graduated from the UB with a B.S. Degree in Mechanical Engineering and from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Ajay Shrestha has a PhD focused in Artificial Intelligence and almost two decades of experience in engineering and management. As an engineering manager at Imagen Technologies, he is driving technical innovation in the cloud to support AI driven medical diagnostics-as-a-service software platform. Previously, he worked for Thermo Fisher Scientific, where he led engineering teams to architect and deliver software services for life sciences and biotech industries. Dr. Shrestha is also an adjunct faculty in the computer science department at UB. Being a UB alum, he serves on the board of directors for the UB Alumni Association (UBAA). He is passionate about AI and seeks to contribute positively to its impact on society.

Eugene Gerety has over 45 years of experience in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and complex mixed-technology system design. He is currently a Senior Electronics Architect at ASML in Wilton and has previously held senior R&D engineering positions with several major corporations including ITT Advanced Technology Center, Pitney Bowes, Philips/Respironics, and Perkin-Elmer. He has significant expertise in the fields of feedback controls, mixed-signal systems, embedded processing, imaging systems/image processing, algorithm development and high-speed data communications, and is a registered Patent Agent licensed to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Organization. He is a current PhD student in Computer Science and Engineering at UB.

2-2:25 p.m. “Groundswell 2024: UB Students Express Themselves in Prose, Poetry, & Art”

Abstract: The English department has recently published the 2024 issue of Groundswell, UB’s literary magazine devoted to celebrating and amplifying the voices of student writers and artists. In this panel, students whose work appears in the latest issue of Groundswell will read selections from their work and participate in a panel discussion that will explore the value of creative writing as a form of scholarship.

Moderator: Randy Laist, PhD UB English Department Chair


  • Hillary Bejar (’26), English major, authored four poems
  • Yemarah Dallas (’25), English major, author of Crash
  • Abigail Giron Marroquin (’25), English major, published the short story, To Feed a Doughnut
  • Angelise Melendez authored three poems
  • Emily Ortiz (’26), English major, artist who has paintings in Groundswell

Randy Laist, PhD is a professor of English with a dual appointment at Goodwin University and UB. He is the author of Technology and Postmodern Subjectivity in Don DeLillo’s Novels, Cinema of Simulation: Hyperreal Hollywood in the Long 1990s, and The Twin Towers in Film: A Cinematic History of the World Trade Center. He has also edited several books of academic essays, including UDL University: Designing for Variability across the Postsecondary Curriculum.

2:30-2:55 p.m. “Creating and Growing a Business at UB”

Abstract: In this panel, two students and two recent graduates, will discuss their experiences of starting a business while studying at UB. They will share how they worked and continue to work with the resources available at the Innovation Center, highlighting their successes and lessons learned along the way.

Moderator: Barbara Distasio, UB’s Bridgeport Accelerator Program Mentor


  • Necas Collins, (’22), MBA, Founder of BLACC Bottle
  • Judy Apicella, (’22), MS, Founder of Home Harvested Herbals
  • Nicholas Velez, (’24), Founder, Herbal Hybrids while a student at UB
  • Kelly Elwood, (’25), Founder, Plant Positivity Yoga” while a student at UB

Barbara Distasio is a senior innovation and business development executive with 20+ years of experience in a variety of industries. Innovation leader, strategic visionary, with excellent problem solving and implementation skills, proven successful team leader and strong facilitator across organizations. Barb has been a mentor with the Bridgeport Accelerator Program at UB’s Innovation Center for 3 years.

Necas Collins (’22), MBA, is an Assistant VP Business Banking Associate at M&T. He is dedicated to supporting small and medium businesses with financial education and capital to help them sustain and scale. What sets Necas apart is his role as President of BLACC Bottle, an emerging company launched at UB. His personal experiences allow him to relate to and add unique value to his customers by combining his expertise to create tailored solutions in a relatable way.

Judy Apicella (’22), MS, CNS, graduated Magna Cum Laudi from UB with a Masters of Science Degree in Human Nutrition. She continued on to become a Certified Nutritional Specialist credentialed by the American Nutrition Association. Judy is a master herbalist and started her company Home Harvested Herbals 15 years ago in the Wise Woman tradition. She does nutritional counseling and creates herbal formulas herbals for gut health, Lyme disease, eczema, pain and more. At UB she was part of the Innovation Center and with the help of Elena Cahill and Sherri Dente received a grant for her work on her Lyme formula, that helped over 200 people (in a clinical study) recover from chronic symptoms of pain and fatigue. She was part of the UB Accelerator Program which helped her advance her business.

Nicholas Velez (’24), is a graduate student at UB’s Doctorate of Traditional Chinese Medicine program. He was awarded his Masters of Acupuncture in Fall 2023 and is on track to finish his Doctorate in Spring 2024. Nicholas was always motivated to become an entrepreneur but needed direction and guidance to turn ideas into reality. At the SEC he was matched up with a mentor, which helped refine his ideas and create a step-by-step plan on how to achieve his goals. Nicholas eventually went on to win 1st place in the student division at the Bridgeport Business Challenge Pitch Competition in November 2023 for his Business “Herbal Hybrids”.

Kelly Elwood (’25) is pursuing her Master of Science in Human Nutrition. She is a certified yoga instructor and entrepreneur. She founded Plant Positivity Yoga in December of 2022 and has been teaching the gift of yoga and meditation ever since. Ms. Elwood aspires to one day incorporate her Masters degree into her company’s development. Her dream is to offer wellness to others through healthy lifestyle choices on the plate and on the mat. Follow her journey as a passionate entrepreneur via Instagram (@plant.positivity.yoga).

Awards Ceremony and Closing Remarks  Reception