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From Food to Finances, Meditation to Men’s Health, UM’s Week of Well-Being Promotes Holistic Health

UM News
By Robert C. Jones Jr.

Fidelity's Kathy Murphy with UM President Donna E. Shalala during one of the Week of Well-Being's many offerings.

Fidelity’s Kathy Murphy with UM President Donna E. Shalala during one of the Week of Well-Being’s many offerings.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 07, 2014) — It was a “wakeup call” for Kathy Murphy’s mother that came at the wrong time. With three of six children in college, her husband died at 57, leaving her to raise a family alone and figure out how to budget and save.

“We focused a lot on saving, but not investing,” Murphy, president of Fidelity Personal Investing, told an audience of about 300 University of Miami employees. Continue Reading

Posted in Features, Freeze Frame, News

Business Plans Blow Judges Away, Earn Students and Alums $65,000 in Prizes


The SnagTag’s Jake Elliot, left, and Nicholas Sando present their team project to the judges.

Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, FLA. (April 4, 2014) – New ventures including a mobile application for shopping, a data analytics solution for hospitals to reduce heart failure readmissions, and art deco chocolates that represent South Florida’s cultural mecca have taken top honors in the University of Miami’s 2014 Business Plan Competition, hosted by the  School of Business Administration. The competition winners, honored in an awards ceremony April 4, took home a combined total of $65,000 in prizes.

Jake Elliot, Andrew Rodriguez, and Nicholas Sando won the grand prize and $10,000 in the undergraduate student category for SnagTag, an application for your smartphone that enhances the retail shopping experience by connecting retailers and consumers in a way never seen before.

In the graduate student category, Matt Varghese, Cristina del Toro, Sabrina Taldone, Joshua Cameron took home the Grand Prize and $10,000 for their venture, Valens, which provides a next generation data analytic solutions that allows hospitals to maximize efficiency in reducing heart failure readmissions while improving patients’ lives through better health care delivery systems.

And in the UM alumni category, Lucy Calamari won the Grand Prize and $10,000 for Lucky Lucy’s Chocolates, inspired by the colorful flavors and cultures of South Florida.  Her chocolates reflect colorful retro designs of the city’s Art Deco movement.

“This year’s young entrepreneurs came to the competition with an extraordinary mix of great business ideas,” said Isaias Sudit, CEO and founder of TROVE and one of the Competition judges. “It is clear to this panel of judges how these winners are ready to go beyond the idea stage and truly execute.  They will be exciting to watch and we are happy to send them on their way with some funding.”

Second place in the undergraduate category and $5,000 went to Paola Campodonico and Austin Zaslow for The Nest, a recovery center that accommodates prenatal and postpartum women, and post-surgical patients and offers 24/7 nannies, breastfeeding support, and other services to make recovery faster and easier. Second place in the graduate category and $5,000 went to Joe Bucciero of AdMoney, a mobile phone application that places ads on the background of a smartphones or tablet lock screens  for a monthly fee.  Second place in the alumni category and $5,000 went to Alex Suma of Ibis Power, which offers customized solutions for local renewable energy generation that overcomes all downsides of current technologies. It is almost ready to enter the U.S. and European markets.

Third place in the undergraduate category with a $2,500 prize went to Sultan Saleh Alghamdi for Central Express Laundry, a full-service laundry business in Saudi Arabia. Third place and $2,500 in the graduate category went to Rodolfo Hernandez for The Quiet American, a sustainable men’s luxury-yet-affordable clothing brand made of Alpaca wool; third place and $2,500 in the alumni category went to Thien Van Tran for Leash, an electronic security company that provides both hardware and software solutions to remedy the rise of smartphone theft.

“The judges were blown away by the caliber of ideas presented by the University of Miami entrepreneurs,” said Susy Alvarez-Diaz, director of entrepreneurship programs at the UM School of Business. “They have no doubt we will be hearing more about these companies as we have others that have grown out of our past competitions.”

In addition to the undergraduate, graduate and alumni category prizes, the Paul K. Sugrue Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and $2,500 was presented to Sidonia Swarm of On Demand Dietician, which streamlines access to dieticians for corporate employees. Also, four Heffner Internship Awards of $2,500 each were awarded to Maxim Bjelos, Alex Cantwell, Joey Lopez, and Kenthia Farmer.

The Business Plan Competition started last fall when 42 concept papers were submitted to the judging committee. Ultimately 16 semifinalists were selected to present to the judges April 1-3, with the winners named the following day. The judges included roughly one dozen successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from South Florida and Latin America.

Now in its 12th year, the Business Plan Competition is open to all University of Miami students and alumni. Past winners  have gone on to build their ventures into businesses that have garnered national attention. They include such companies as College Hunks Hauling Junk and My Therapy Journal.com, both of which have been featured on ABC Television’s “Shark Tank,” a reality program in which entrepreneurs share their business ideas with a group of five self-made millionaires in hopes of getting venture capital to help them attain similar levels of success.

Posted in News

Food-Filled Day

Food-Filled Day

Students sample one of the products on sale by local vendors at the ’Well Canes Farmer’s Market on October 24. The market, typically held on Wednesday on the Foote University Green, was part of Food Day events organized by the University of Miami’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement. The day was part of a movement across the country to promote a healthy, affordable, and equitable food system. Food Day activities on the UM campus included a food fair, a food and agriculture panel discussion, and screenings of food justice movies.


Posted in Freeze Frame

Donor recognition

Donor recognition

UM senior Julie Zamora tells a UM audience at last Wednesday's Undergraduate Scholarship Donor Recognition Luncheon how her scholarship has affected her life.

Free of the pain from stress fractures that once prevented her from running, Julie Zamora is now training for next year’s ING Half Marathon in Miami, logging her miles before and after classes at the University of Miami, where she is studying for a degree in health sciences.

It will be one of the longest races Zamora will ever run. But it will still pale in comparison to the journey the UM senior will take after graduating in May.

Awaiting her: doctoral studies in physical therapy, volunteer medical missions at hospitals and clinics around the world to administer care to the needy, the opening of her own sports rehabilitation clinic, and a trip to Shanghai, China, to integrate Asian homeopathic training with Western medicine.

There’s no set timetable to her ambitious plan. But one thing is for sure: Such opportunities probably wouldn’t be possible without the scholarship she received at UM.

“My grandfather taught me to seize opportunities before me, and thanks to scholarships at the University of Miami, I have been able to do exactly that,” Zamora said last Wednesday to an audience at the spacious UM Fieldhouse on the Coral Gables campus.

A recipient of a Ronald A. Hammond Scholarship made possible by the Coca-Cola Foundation, she was one of several students attending the Undergraduate Scholarship Donor Recognition Luncheon, where freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors gathered to thank the donors whose generosity helped make their dreams of attending college come true.

Like Zamora, fellow student Mike Michel, a junior majoring in political science, addressed the audience of donors, faculty members, administrators, and proud parents, telling them how the Hammond Scholarship he received has opened academic doors both now and in the future. He plans to attend law school, and then one day become a diplomat. “UM,” he said, “places students in a position to succeed.”

His road to success, he explained, wouldn’t have been possible without his mother, an immigrant from Haiti who “never worked less than two jobs, yet still held our family together,” Michel said. “Seeing that made my success a minimum requirement.”

Thanks to the scholarship Pietro Bortoletto has received, the neuroscience and neurobiology major from Brazil is conducting research alongside top UM scientists, rising at 6 a.m. on many days to shadow and observe a neurosurgeon. He is also the vice president of UM’s Student Government, a role in which he helped bring a farmers market to campus.

Scholarships for students nationwide are now more critical than ever, as a weak economy has made attending college a challenge for many families.

“Your scholarships are the means by which we enroll academically gifted students, retain them, and graduate them, and ultimately propel UM’s national reputation upward,” UM Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc told donors at the luncheon.

UM President Donna E. Shalala reminded the students that the scholarships they receive are “a very special gift.”

“I went to college on scholarships,” Shalala said, “and therefore, I’m particularly sensitive to those of you who come here on scholarship, because I see a little bit of me in each of you.”

Shalala told the students that she repaid “every dime with interest” of the scholarship money she received, completing the task in 30 years. “I felt an obligation to the institutions because they invested in me,” she said.

She then had the students stand and take a pledge that once they graduated and achieved success in their chosen careers, they would contribute to scholarship support “so that future generations of students at the U can also enjoy the benefits of a topnotch education,” she said.

Posted in Freeze Frame

A blueprint for Haiti’s reconstruction

Design session: Architects, engineers, and planners from Haiti, the University of Miami, and the local community look over and discuss one of the many Bproposed projects for the Caribbean nation's reconstruction.

University Communications

First through the door of the old Marion Manley-designed building on the University of Miami campus was the team of architects and planners from Haiti.

With pencils in hand and an eagerness to illustrate their best ideas for the “rebirth” of their nation, they toiled for hours over a group of cluttered drafting tables in the building’s first-floor design studio. They sketched the outlines of roads, houses, hospitals and schools, resting only to eat and stretch their legs.

In one corner of the design studio where they worked, a planner sitting in front of a laptop computer viewed satellite images of a severely damaged seaport. Off in another section, two others stood over a large drawing, pointing to an area where they thought a farmers’ market or perhaps a tourist attraction could be built.

It was in such a setting that a blueprint for the reconstruction of earthquake-ravaged Haiti began to take shape.

For five days in late March, Haitian architects, engineers and planners—unable to work effectively in their own studios back home because of an infrastructure still in ruins—gathered at UM’s School of Architecture to collaborate with professors, students, and architects from Miami’s local community on an ambitious post-disaster plan for the Caribbean nation’s recovery.

“There’s an urgency in what’s being done here,” said Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of the School of Architecture, as she worked at a drafting table on one of the many design proposals that were produced at the so-called Haiti Charrette. “Our hope is that the proposals have a long-term influence.”

During the charrette, which was held at UM at the request of the Haitian government’s Commission on Planning and Reconstruction, 12 design teams generated ideas ranging from building civic space projects such as churches, medical clinics, and community resource centers to restoring Port-au-Prince’s historic district.

Other proposals included promoting economic activity along the border with the Dominican Republic; developing hydroelectric, wind-generated, and other alternative sources of energy in outlying villages; creating pedestrian and green corridors; instituting setbacks along waterways to promote reforestation in the country; and erecting “starter shelters” for the displaced.

But if there was one consistent theme and call for action that emerged from the five-day planning session, it was this: Haiti will need more than new construction and the repair of damaged buildings if it is to recover from the devastating magnitude-7 earthquake that left more than 230,000 dead and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. The country will need to decentralize its overcrowded urban core, and develop new communities in outer-lying regions where agriculture, tourism, and other industries can thrive and spur economic growth.

“The earthquake exposed problems that have long persisted in Haiti,” said Denis Hector, professor and associate dean of the School of Architecture who helped organize the charrette and for the past year has led an effort to renovate a 1940s-era hospital in the country’s Central Plateau. “Haiti is very centralized, with most of the services concentrated in Port-au- Prince.”

But after the quake destroyed much of Port-au-Prince on January 12, thousands of Haitians in search of better living conditions fled the capital for other parts of the country, straining communities that were unprepared for the mass migration.

From this unplanned exodus, an idea for Haiti’s reconstruction may have emerged. The Haitian government now wants to lessen the strain on an overcrowded Port-au-Prince and redistribute the population to a network of smaller, sustainable communities driven by agriculture, animal husbandry, tourism, the garment sector, and construction and housing, according to Leslie Voltaire, an urban planner and Haiti’s special envoy to the United Nations.

“We want to design neighborhoods, not camps,” he told an audience during the charrette’s pinup session last week at Miami’s Little Haiti Cultural Center.

To that end, architects and planners at the charrette introduced ideas to bring ecotourism, farms, marketplaces, and other businesses to Haiti’s hinterland, saying that such ventures could promote economic vitality.

Sonia Chao, assistant professor at UM’s School of Architecture, used the port at St. Marc as an example. Chao, who directs the school’s Center for Urban and Community Design, said the port, which has a deep harbor and is unaffected by the two fault lines that run through Haiti, could help spur the development of villages that surround it. Roads around the towns could be built and commerce could thrive because tourists arriving via the port could visit new
ecological attractions, spending money that would help create jobs and jumpstart the economy.

But along with the promise of Haiti’s revival comes immense problems, from the continued cleanup effort of massive amounts of rubble, which government officials estimate could take up to three years, to making sure homes that are being built by citizens themselves are constructed safely.

Detailed work: Planners created highly detailed drawings that included everything from new marketplaces, schools, and



During a charrette planning session on the latter issue, Antonio Nanni, professor and chair of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at UM’s College of Engineering, proposed an idea of providing Haitian citizens with illustrated guidelines showing them how to build soundly and safely.

“We [the United States] have the best building codes in the world,” Nanni said. “But they are really of no use to people who don’t have engineering knowledge. We need to come up with something better than just telling Haitian citizens that we’ll translate those codes into Creole.”

Poor construction has been cited as one of the major reasons so many people perished in the quake. Charrette planners urged the Haitian government to adopt California’s stringent earthquake building codes and Florida hurricane construction regulations for its schools, churches, hospitals, markets, government buildings, and factories.

The charrette took place only days before a group of nations meeting at a donors conference in New York pledged an estimated $5.2 billion toward Haiti’s recovery.

Pinup session: Drawings and maps were often pinned up on walls, allowing architects to get a better perspective on the work produced at the charrette.In the near future, as plans for the country’s reconstruction are solidified, Haitian government officials say they will travel from town to town, showing the Haitian people renderings and ideas for their country’s recovery. After receiving feedback, Haitian architects and government officials want to return with revised plans to UM’s School of Architecture, which will serve as  a long-term support office for their efforts.

Said Voltaire: “We want everyone to participate in Haiti’s rebirth.”

Posted in Features

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