Alumni Spotlight: Pablo Vargas ’06

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Pablo Vargas was just 16 years old when his father, a K-9 trainer for the Colombian military, was murdered. His killers – likely members of a drug cartel – were never brought to justice. Vargas said that although the tragic event helped steer him toward UCF’s criminal justice program, it has not defined his life. A former high school wrestler and football player, he enjoys the team aspect of working for a police department and helping the UCF community, but he says nothing beats time off with his family.

By Camille Murawski ’98

When Pablo Vargas came to UCF from Miami in 2002, he noticed that the campus needed a social fraternity to help address the needs of students with a Latino heritage. Pablo joined Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity Inc. in the fall of 2002. By the time Vargas became president, its membership increased from 7 to 43.

One day, Vargas was feeling pretty good as he walked into the Student Union. There, he saw the “most beautiful woman ever,” and recognized her from a party his fraternity had hosted a few days previously. “Hi Amanda,” Vargas said, a big smile dimpling his face. “My name is Amber,” the future Mrs. Vargas said, not smiling. Somehow, Vargas still convinced Amber to share a slice of pizza with him. They discovered they have the same birthday, and were both born in California, in hospitals 20 minutes apart. “We are twin souls,” Vargas said. The Vargases welcomed their son Julian three years ago, and are getting ready to meet Valentina, scheduled for a July delivery.

In addition to crediting UCF for meeting the love of his life, Vargas said that he was inspired to join Lambda Alpha Epsilon (LAE), a pre-professional criminal justice fraternity, where he learned leadership skills that continue to serve him in his current role at the UCF Police Department. Vargas was recently named officer of the year for the department.

“Cpl. Vargas is a criminal justice alumnus who is well known for his outgoing personality and involvement in student activities,” said Ross Wolf, associate dean for the College of Health and Public Affairs who first met Pablo when he was hired as a student assistant in the criminal justice office.

Wolf said Vargas had exceptional academic abilities and was selected as a recipient of the Detective Barry Pruette Memorial Scholarship. As the president of LAE, Vargas helped organize a fundraiser for the Amy Kuritar Lohrmann Memorial Endowed Scholarship, and also organized a criminal justice career fair which attracted 133 law enforcement organizations from across the state.

Vargas also became interested in attracting guest speakers to LAE who would present an “honest and raw” look at the “truth of a career in criminal justice.” The idea, he said, was to give criminal justice students realistic expectations of the work involved to fill roles such as a detective, FBI agent, or a border patrol agent.

His time in LAE “catapulted his career,” Vargas said. “It helped me get the job here.” His experience with the agency began as a non-sworn community service officer, where he helped provide support in crime prevention, investigation and response, and also assisted officers in upholding law and order.

As a sworn officer for the UCF Police Department, Vargas has worked as a detective, K-9 officer and is now serving as a patrol Corporal. One of his strengths, he said, is his ability to engage people in conversation. “The bad guy’s job is to lie to you,” Vargas said. It’s Vargas’ job to uncover the truth. The truth can be unfathomably ugly, Vargas said, but what keeps him going is knowing that his work will bring comfort to victims and their families.

“Pablo has always been dedicated to his studies and his work,” Wolf said. “I cannot say enough about how wonderful he was to have in the classroom, and how great it is to know he has been recognized for his extraordinary work ethic as a campus police officer. He is a true Knight.”

If you would like to be featured in an alumni spotlight, please contact Camille Murawski via email, or call 407-823-2388

Getting to Know Pablo Vargas

What do you do? I am a proud member of the UCF Police Department in which I am currently serving as a Corporal for the patrol division.

Why do you do what you do? I have a true passion for helping others and I feel a strong sense of community. As a UCF Police Officer, I am honored to give back to the UCF community that gave me so much.

What do you like most about your job? I thoroughly enjoy the community relationship aspect of my job. In 2002 I came to UCF from Miami to attend college and have called UCF (Orlando) my home ever since. These past 15 years has allowed me to meet and interact with a variety of students, faculty and staff members. Our mission at the UCF Police Department is to reduce crime and the fear of crime by providing a safe environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors and the safeguarding of constitutional guarantees. Throughout my daily shift, I strive to uphold our mission statement and make a positive impact on my community.

What is your most memorable experience on the job? I have been a police officer for 11 years so there is so many memorable experiences, it is hard to give one. I served for 4 years on the K9 Unit with my partner Taz and 3 years as a detective so I would have to say my most memorable experiences came from those 2 units within the police department.

What do you do for fun? I spend a lot of time with my family. We love to go to Disney and spend time at the pool. My wife and son Julian mean everything to me so I spend all my free time with them.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I guess if I wasn’t a police officer I would have been a Real Estate Agent.

What has been your favorite city or country to visit? I was born in Los Angeles, California. I would say that I love going back home and visiting California.

What has been the best meal of your life so far? Outlaw ribeye from Longhorn Steakhouse.

What is the happiest and/or proudest moment of your life? The proudest and happiest moment of my life was the birth of my son Julian. I have a second baby due in a few months so there is no doubt when she is born that will be the second proudest/happiest day of my life. Her name will be Valentina.

What is your favorite quote? “Never put yourself in the position of taking something away from the people you lead.”

If you were on an island and you could only bring 3 things, what would you bring? My wife, my son and a Cessna airplane to fly back when we get bored.

What is the last book you read? The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Why did you choose to attend UCF? I was given the opportunity to attend UCF through a SOAR scholarship in 2002. At that time, I was the first person from my high school to attend UCF.

How has your UCF degree helped in your career? My degree was a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a minor in Legal Studies. So…. I would say it has helped tremendously. Not only for the educational aspect of my degree but the networking aspect.

What extracurricular activities were you involved in at UCF? While at UCF, I served as President of Lambda Alpha Epsilon Pre-Professional Criminal Justice Fraternity as well as President of Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity Incorporated. I was very involved with both organizations while at UCF and after graduation I served as a faculty advisor for both organizations.

What is your favorite UCF memory? I would have to say my favorite UCF memory is meeting my wife, Amber, for the first time at the Student Union in 2003. We have been a couple ever since and we couldn’t be happier.

What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to your fellow Knights? The advice I would give to my fellow Knights would be an inspirational quote from Harriet Tubman “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

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