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March 23, 2020

California Team Excellence Award Goes to ICS Students Working in the UCI Student Center

A team of students from the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) working at the UCI Student Center won the California Team Excellence Award (CTEA). “I’m super proud and fortunate to be working with UCI ICS students,” says marketing manager Brian Petyo, who supervises the team. “They are truly a step above.”

Marketing manager Brian Petyo holds the CTEA award with four members of his team of ICS students (from left): Chris Rodriguez, Sarah Li, Yuchen
Marketing manager Brian Petyo holds the CTEA award with four members of his team of ICS students (from left): Chris Rodriguez, Sarah Li, Yuchen "Rebekah" Li and Thomas Patierno.

The award was presented to Petyo and his team by the California Council for Excellence, which enables organizations to achieve performance excellence through assessments and training aligned with the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.

The team — which includes four UI/UX designers, four web developers and four mobile developers — is offering real-world solutions to UCI students with its software. The students have created campus-related apps, such as UCI Now (for booking study rooms and searching for campus activities on Ring Road) and ZOTFinder (for looking up popular points of interest on and near campus). In 2019, they created the award-winning Level Up program, a website for professional development and student training. The program won an ACUI Excellence in Student Training award and a CASE Circle of Excellence silver award from among 2,800 submissions. 

“But the CTEA award,” says Petyo, “was among our proudest moment for this relatively new team of UCI students.”

Chris Rodriguez, a full-stack web developer on the team, agrees. “For me, winning this award is a special achievement.” The computer science major, who will graduate this spring, says he has really enjoyed working at the Student Center. “For most of us, this isn’t just a job but rather our passion, and the job is an outlet for us to do what we love.” Rodriguez will continue pursuing his passion in Mountain View, California, this fall, where he has accepted a position at Google.

Fellow computer science major Sarah Li, who will be interning at Amazon as a software-development engineer over the summer, also loves working for the team. “When I interviewed for a position as a software developer at the UCI Student Center, I expected it would just be a regular, part-time job that would give me financial support as well as programming experience,” she says. “What I wasn’t expecting was how much I would truly enjoy working at the Student Center. I have received leadership opportunities, experience working in an agile environment, and a close-knit group of friends.”

Both Rodriquez and Li say that CTEA facilitated the team’s improvement as a whole. Teammate Thomas Patierno, who has been working as a full-stack web developer at the Student Center for two years now, admits much has changed since he first started. “The team used to consist of only three developers and no well-defined work processes or management, and now we have 12 total team members and have defined processes for gathering requirements, design, routing, development, deployment, etc.” He adds that “the award is in recognition of our continued effort to better ourselves as a team.”

Yuchen “Rebekah” Li, a senior computer science major who is a UI/UX designer for the team, credits Petyo for his leadership. “Seeing our boss, Brian, work so hard throughout the whole application and award process,” she says, “and just how much heart he pours into our team, is what made the award meaningful to me.” 

Petyo has no plans to cut back efforts now that the team has won the award. In fact, he views this as just the beginning. “My hope is to be able to broaden the scope to the entire Student Center or to any project or team on campus who is interested,” he says. “Innovation is at the heart of the CTEA criteria and the Baldrige Performance Excellence program, so where better to start the spark of innovation than with a team of young and hungry UCI IT developers? Innovation is in their DNA.”

Shani Murray


California Team Excellence Award Goes to ICS Students Working in the UCI Student Center

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Media interested in interviewing ICS faculty, students or alumni should contact Matt Miller at (949) 824-1562 or via email at matt.miller@uci.edu.