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Getting plugged in at FGCU

University preparing senior for many career paths

He hasn’t spent any time in laboratories. But Antonio Reyes has done a lot of experimenting.

An integrated studies major at Florida Gulf Coast University, Reyes likes to try new things, to do “a little of a lot. I really spread myself in a ton of different aspects,” he says.

Scheduled to receive his bachelor’s degree in December, Reyes started as a communication major. But his interests evolved, from communication to advertising, marketing and business classes, to photography, graphic design and digital media design. He also dabbles in online broadcasting. Off campus, he teaches hip-hop dancing.

Photo of young students in dance class.
In his spare time, Antonio Reyes teaches youngsters hip-hop dance moves at a Lehigh Acres studio. Photo by Brian Tietz

“Maybe I’m just trying to find the perfect combo,” he says. “The way I feel like is everything that I am doing is going to prepare me for one thing.”

Reyes, whose family is from Colombia, graduated from Lehigh Senior High School then received an associate’s degree from Florida SouthWestern State College before enrolling at FGCU.

Web Extra IconFor many people, college is where you decide what you want to do for the rest of your life, or at least for your first “real” job. The lab for much of Reyes’ vocational experimentation has been his part-time job in Academic and Event Technology Services (AETS) at FGCU.

“We don’t just do tech stuff,” Reyes said. “We do a lot of different stuff on campus. So much so that it has allowed me to explore different things. Working here I hope to find what entrepreneurial venture I feel interested in pursuing.”

His supervisor, AETS Manager John Wilson, says, “Antonio is an enterprising, fun, and energetic young man who is not afraid to work hard to achieve his goals. In the year he has worked for me in AETS, he has become an integral member of our team; expanding his knowledge of classroom multimedia systems and audio/video for the events AETS supports. Antonio approaches every task with a level of maturity and professionalism that is often above and beyond the norm.”

After he graduates, Reyes, 24, hopes to get a full-time job at AETS and pursue a master’s degree in information systems and analytics at FGCU.

One option could be to start his post-FGCU career helping companies organize large gaming conventions like EagleCON, which he spearheaded last April at Alico Arena.

Reyes led a group of FGCU students who conducted the third annual event. It offered a platform to competitive gamers, but also introduced what gamers call “geek culture” to the community surrounding FGCU.

“My guiding philosophy with a big project is to be meticulous,” Reyes says. “I don’t like overlooking details.” Quadruple check everything, and share the workload.

Photo f FGCU gamers.
Antonio Reyes helped organize EagleCON ’18. Photo by Fabiana Solano

When EagleCON preparations began, the event was another Reyes experiment. But it grew to so much more. Some 800-1,000 people attended – including 200-300 FGCU students and FGCU President Mike Martin.“Gaming has developed (elsewhere) to the point where it is extremely competitive, where students can receive scholarships for up to $50,000” or a $100,000 grand prize, Reyes says. “Competition is increasing and more platforms need to be created.”

Reyes first learned about EagleCON – then called EagleLAN – in 2017 when he was working for AETS, which helped set up some of the technology.

He wanted to be plugged in deeper. So he approached FGCU voice technician II Michael Forbes, advisor to the FGCU club, which organizes the event.

“Little did I know that all of the members had kind of faded away,” Reyes says. Some graduated while others had burned out from organizing the 2017 event.

Reyes joined what’s now called FGCU Gaming Hub in November 2017 and soon became president. He and Forbes, five club members and dozens of event volunteers conducted EagleCON. But the pair handled most of a details in only 60 days, evolving it from a gaming event to one with a full convention, with speakers, sponsors and vendors.

“I jumped in head first,” he says. “It was a massive outreach project to try to get as much of the local community involved (as possible) with gaming and convention all in one place. They were two very stressful months, because you don’t typically plan 1,000-people events in two months.”

In addition to Forbes, Reyes says he has received a lot of support at FGCU from three AETS colleagues: C.J. McFarland and Justin Mitchell, who advise him on graduate school options, as well as Wilson. They push him to try new things, Reyes says.

To experiment.

Reye’s off-campus hobby is teaching children ages 6-12 dancing at a small dance studio in Lehigh Acres.

“What I generally teach is a lot of very modern hip-hop,” Reyes says. He prefers to call it “commercial hip-hop.”

“It’s moving to beats, moving to rhythms … where the rhythm or beat originated from hip-hop culture,” he says. No break dancing, no back flips, but lots of effort to get the students comfortable in their own bodies, and with different choreographed steps.

“My style usually originates around experimental (dance), where it’s just moving to rhythm,” he says.

Reyes may never have a career as a hip-hop dancer, but he enjoys having the opportunity to experiment there, too.