UTD Heroes: Nick Rotondo

What do Supreme Court Justices, Melania Trump’s speechwriters, and mediocre high school cover bands have in common? They strictly adhere to previous examples. Except for Kevin the drummer. He doesn’t seem to understand that Don’t Stop Believing has a two-minute drum solo after every verse. Following precisely in the footsteps of trailblazers is a simple and surefire way to achieve success; you don’t have to do any work for most of the expedition, and when you find your predecessor collapsed, half-dead, 200 yards from the summit, you can quietly strangle him and claim all of the glory for yourself. The obvious professional benefits of using other successful individuals as models for your behavior are more certain than Hillary’s odds on election day.  It is for this reason that AMP has spent this semester calling attention to UTD alums who have had profound impacts on this country.

By showcasing the stunning qualities of Katrina Pierson and Ross Ulbricht, and highlighting how their UTD education taught them all of the skills they used to make an impact, we hoped to provide current Comets with strong examples of how to use their degree to maximum effect. Who better to serve as motivational models for UTD graduates than other alumni who have already made a name for themselves? I hope you’ve been taking notes, because the final exam of life starts the day after graduation, and boy is it brutal; all free response, no partial credit. Pro tip: the answer to question number 126 (Describe a combination of the following evasion strategies that is useful for avoiding door-to-door salesmen: “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” playing dead, stop-drop-and-roll, and “No Hablo English!”) is to simply write-in “all of the above.”

This month, in recognition of the fact that lots of UTD students have never lived outside of Plano, and never intend to, our alumni spotlight shifts to a recent graduate who has made a huge splash in our community, instead of on a national stage: Nick Rotundo. For those who are unaware, Rotundo was recently sentenced to over three years in prison for one count of cyberstalking. His crimes involved attempting to solicit photos of women’s breasts by pretending to be part of breast study, and later threatening one of his victims in an attempt to obtain more nude photos. Nick Rotundo was a 2013 graduate who majored in management information systems before landing a job at Google. In a heart-wrenching betrayal of Temoc’s friendship, Rotundo targeted his cybercrimes toward fellow Comets. Although Rotundo’s actions were exploitative, morally bankrupt, and indefensibly disgusting, he is also indisputably a UTD alumnus, which means the strict rules of college loyalty, the same rules that force grown adults to smash furniture during big college football games, mean that we’re all obligated to find the redeeming qualities in him that we can apply to our everyday lives. So, without further ado, here are the ways you can learn from Nick Rotundo’s example.

The first impressive quality that becomes apparent when studying Rotundo’s story is his commitment to broadening his perspective through experiential learning. Going to prison is a bold career move. It’s a high risk, high reward endeavor; if he manages to survive with his sanity intact, employers will be thrilled to see three years as an inmate on his resume. What better way to demonstrate your ability to collaborate on a diverse team and dedicate yourself to your work at the exclusion of all other parts of life? The kind of amazing planning and foresight Rotundo demonstrated when he carefully and deliberately devised a way to end up in prison for just enough time to count as meaningful experience is worthy of admiration. Every step along the way, from the ease with which he was found out to his guilty plea, prove that Rotundo knew exactly what he was doing.

While his actions were both ill-advised and severely reprehensible, Nick Rotundo did display impressive entrepreneurial spirit on his voyeuristic crime spree. The intellectual vibrancy of a man who concocted a scheme to use fake science for personal gain is something all UTD students should seek to emulate. As a graduate of UTD, Rotundo must have been thoroughly trained in the arts of innovation, creativity, and interpersonal skills. To see an alumnus attempt to bring all of these skills to bear in order to see breasts should inspire all Comets, no matter what field they’re studying. Rotundo is living proof that the knowledge and skills you gain at UTD will be applicable later in life.

Additionally, Rotundo, a graduate of the Naveen Jindal School of Management, has clearly embraced the example of his school’s namesake, something all Comets should attempt to do. Like Naveen Jindal, Nick Rotundo knew that in order to succeed, you must act first and worry about legality later. The real movers-and-shakers, the real game changers, the real Rockys and Forrest Gumps of this world don’t have time for the rules and laws that bind the rest of society. They’re so important, and so busy being examples of success for the rest of us, that they simply can’t be expected to continually ask themselves if what they’re doing is right. When they misstep, it’s only the small cost society must pay to allow bold new ideas, like committing cybercrimes to avoid paying for porn, to flourish. If history will be the final judge of everything, why even bother trying to criticize people in the present?

Finally, Nick Rotundo will have a transformative impact on the mindsets of current students by showing that you can be a successful alum by focusing on making waves at a local level; no need for CNN interviews, global drug trade, or any other useless bells and whistles. All Comets, whether current students or graduates, should be relieved to learn from Rotundo’s story that “getting discovered” by the media can be as easy as threatening your classmates. We at AMP hope that our detailed and rigorous profiles on “UTD Heroes” have given you the greatest possible collection of resources and examples of success that UTD’s alumni network has to offer. At the very least, we’re happy to have shared the identities of UTD’s best alumni with the campus community.

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