(Photo by Kim Go ’20)

Interim Director of UCF’s School of Modeling, Simulation and Training to Return to Private Sector Later this Month

By: Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala on

Wes Naylor, the interim director of UCF’s School of Modeling, Simulation and Training (SMST), is leaving Aug. 17 to return to his private-sector job.

“My position was always of an interim nature,” says Naylor. “I believe I have accomplished what I set out to do. Our partners continue to have faith in this amazing institution seeking solutions for some of their most challenging problems and our graduate students are receiving a world-class education with unique opportunities in our research labs. The pandemic has prolonged my stay, but I need to get back to my business.”

Naylor, a retired U.S Navy captain with extensive business and government relations experience, is the CEO of Fifty Pound Brains. The company specializes in government contracting and human performance.

Naylor became SMST’s interim director on Jan. 27. He took over after a lengthy investigation found a few employees at the Institute for Simulation and Training, which is housed in the SMST, helped a student obtain a doctoral degree with inappropriate assistance.

UCF was scheduled to launch a national search for a permanent director of SMST, but then the university, like others around the world were faced with the pandemic. UCF switched to remote operations in early March, transitioned 69,500 students to remote classes and instituted a university-wide hiring freeze. That monumental task, along with other funding concerns, slowed the search process.

A search committee has been named and its first meeting is scheduled for Aug. 14. The committee, made up of SMST faculty and others across the university, will help determine what they want in the new director and then conduct the search. Interviews will likely be conducted remotely with finalists making visits to SMST before a leader is selected. The team will make recommendations to Elizabeth Klonoff, vice president for research and dean of the College of Graduate Studies. She oversees SMST and graduate programs at UCF.

“We expect to officially launch the search by the end of this month,” says Klonoff. “The pandemic had us all focused on minimizing the risk to our students, faculty, and staff, while still operating one of the largest universities in the nation. We are so grateful to Dr. Naylor for the time he has given us and his leadership. And I thank the faculty, students, and staff at SMST for their patience. I look forward to seeing who they recommend.”

Until a director is selected, David “Fuzzy” Wells has been named interim director effective Aug. 17. Wells has been the deputy director of SMST since 2018. He holds degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Air Force Institute of Technology and the Naval Postgraduate School, where he specialized in modeling, virtual environments and simulation. A retired U.S. Air Force officer, Wells served in many positions, including chief of experimentation at the Air Force Agency for Modeling & Simulation, operations research working group chair and assistant professor of computer science at the U.S. Air Force Academy, chief scientist for research and development at the Joint Warfare Analysis Center, and director of U.S. Pacific Command’s Cyber War Innovation Center.

David “Fuzzy” Wells

In June, Pegasus Professor of Computer Science Charlie Hughes was named interim director of SMST’s modeling and simulation degree programs. Winston Schoenfeld, the associate dean of the College of Graduate Studies, will assist on the academic side.

“We are all eager to have our new director of SMST in place as quickly as possible,” Klonoff says.

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