Venezuela’s Crisis Hits Home

By Andres Tamayo
UM News
venezuelaCORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 20, 2016 —Fires blaze in the streets. Newborn babies sit in cardboard boxes. Thousands of Venezuelans march shoulder-to-shoulder protesting the government. Food is rationed, schools are closed due to lack of financial support, and corruption is commonplace.


To many students at the University of Miami, Venezuela’s turmoil is lost in the day-to-day shuffle of homework assignments, class schedules and nightlife. But for some, it is something they have to live with every day. After China, the 172 Venezuelan students at UM make up the largest number of international students at the University.

Geraldine Orlando, a senior majoring in Marine Science/Biology and president of UNIVEN, the Venezuelan Student Association at UM, was able to escape Venezuela in 2013 following her last year in high school.

“A lot of times I want to go home but my dad won’t let me because it is still too dangerous,” she said in a recent interview.

According to a 2015 report by the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, there were an estimated 27,875 killings in Venezuela in 2015; a rate of approximately 90 homicides per every 100,000 residents. In contrast, in the United States, a country with more than ten times the population of Venezuela, there were 15,696 homicides in 2015. The violence and homicide rate in Venezuela is expected to climb in 2016.

The federal republic has been spiraling out of control for years, impacted greatly by the collapse of oil prices, inflation, increased violence, riots, and shortages of foods and supplies.

These kind of dangers has led to a mass exodus of people in search of a better life. Many Venezuelans are fleeing to nearby South American countries, while others have found a home in South Florida.

Victoria van Eerdewijk, co-president of UNIVEN, was forced to leave her family and friends in Venezuela in search of a better life and education, but she doesn’t see the move as permanent.

“Venezuela is my place, it’s my home. Everything I’m doing here [in Miami] is so I can be ready to go back and fight again and win my country back.”

Van Eerdewijk’s powerful sentiments are felt by other Venezuelan students at UM. Many of them have left everything they know and love to avoid a country in chaos.

The rest of this year could be a turning point in the country’s history. Demonstrators have taken to the streets to demand that a proposed referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro be passed by the end of the year. If the referendum passes before January 10, 2017, Venezuelans will have the opportunity to re-elect a new president and perhaps move in a new direction.

However, if it passes after January 10, Maduro’s vice president would assume power and this, Venezuelans argue, would result in a continuation of the same failed policies.

UM alumna and current Telemundo reporter Arianne Alcorta, who was born in Venezuela, has been covering the crisis since she was an undergraduate journalism student in 2014. She has made multiple informational videos chronicling the events and trying to shed light on the injustices in her native country.

While researching the crisis, Alcorta found that “Venezuelans can’t buy any medicine, they can’t afford any food and the poorest people are eating directly from garbage cans.”

Alcorta still has family and friends in the oil-rich South American nation. “My grandmother tells me her doctor gives her prescriptions for multiple pharmacies in the hopes that at least one will have her medication in stock.”

Alcorta and her immediate family were fortunate to make it out of Venezuela before the current crisis but she still fights to bring awareness to the country’s current state.

If the current vice president is brought into power, Alcorta said, there would be “no change” in the way Venezuela is run. “The vice president is basically an extension of President Maduro and would keep the same policies in place,” Alcorta said. He would even be able to appoint Maduro to the vice presidency and the party’s rule would continue.

Andrea Igliozzi, a freshman and member of UNIVEN, said: “the best thing you can do is spread the word of what is happening because Venezuela is facing an economic, social and political crisis.”

For more information on UNIVEN, visit https://orgsync.com/55473/chapter or www.facebook.com/univenumiami/

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Check Out the U’s New People Website

umpeopleA new UM People website, developed by the Web and Digital Communications team, is in the testing phase and will replace the existing people search on the University’s top-tier website when it goes live this November. Please browse it and provide feedback. Basic information that appears on each person’s profile page was created using data from Workday, which employees can edit and update themselves in Workday. For more information, view an explanation of how the People site works.

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Notifications for Employees Affected by FLSA Change to Begin This Week

flsa-header-for-webWith revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) set to go into effect December 1, the University of Miami will begin notifying affected employees of FLSA classification changes this week.

Depending on the “job profile,” some employees will transition from exempt to non-exempt, even if their salary meets or exceeds the new FLSA salary threshold of $47,476. Other employees will remain exempt and have their salary adjusted to the new FLSA salary threshold. Whether a position is exempt (salaried) or non-exempt (hourly) depends on the primary job functions and market data of the position. Part-time exempt employees who earn less than the new salary threshold will transition to non-exempt.

Supervisors and affected employees are encouraged to attend an upcoming webcast to learn how those changes will affect them.

View the complete schedule of webcasts, and for more information on FLSA changes, visit www.miami.edu/flsa.

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World Food Day Focuses on Eating Local

UM News


Taking part in the panel discussion were, from left, faculty members Linda Parker and Thomas Harris, student Annie Cappetta, and UM’s sustainability manager Teddy Lhoutellier.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 21, 2016) — The plant-based menu—peanut soba noodles, cauliflower with goat cheese, and sweet potato casserole—at this pre-Word Food Day discussion last week was eye- and palate-pleasing. And the topic—how we need to change our food habits and agriculture practices as the climate warms—was eye opening for South Florida, ground zero for rising sea levels.

The faculty and students who spoke at the Food for Thought forum, held at the Lowe Art Museum in advance of the University’s World Food Day observance on Monday, October 24, agreed that what, how, and where we get what we eat will have to change with the changing climate.

“Most of the food carbon footprint comes from transportation and the fact that you, as a customer, expect to see grapes every month of the year in Publix, not worrying about the fact that the grapes are coming from Chile,” said Teddy Lhoutellier, UM’s sustainability manager who urged the audience to imagine a different, local food system. “Local means local growing, local cooking, local distribution, and here in Miami-Dade we have that local distribution network. We have some of the best growers right down in Homestead.”

The UM community can see—and sample—that local system at the Fair Food Fair that will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at University Center Lower Lounge on Monday, October, 24. Fair visitors will be able to enjoy a free local dish, a nutritious drink made form the “superfood” Moringa tree, and learn more about healthy and local eating, as well as community gardens such as UM’s burgeoning food forest, which began as a class project two years ago. (View the schedule for other events.)

Planted on the grounds of the University of Miami’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry on Stanford Drive, the food forest won’t keep seas from rising or the climate from changing, but junior Annie Cappetta, president of the CommUnity Garden, hopes other students will learn to love and grow the boniato, bananas, leafy spinach substitutes, asparagus, and other tropical and perennial foods that thrive in South Florida—and can be included in our diets when the climate and our food supply change.

“The days are coming when some of your favorite things are not going to be available at the grocery store—coffee, chocolate, specialty products that can be grown only in certain regions and are going to get very expensive,” Cappetta warned. “So we have to be very adaptable and know what your local community can grow and what we can grow here is astonishing. It’s not just avocados and citrus. There are lots of fruits and perennial vegetables that people need to be aware of and incorporate in their diets so when the change starts happens we can be adaptable and open to new foods.”

The discussion was moderated by Andrew Porter, assistant professor of clinical at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, who concluded the program by urging the audience to be part of a big change by doing—or not doing—one small thing every day.

“Not eating meat one day a week. Changing to a plant-based diet one day a week. Not drinking carbonated water,” Porter said. “There’s lots of little things you can do and plenty of options.’’

That’s the message senior Asmaa Odeh, who organized the Food for Thought panel, most wants to convey. An independent major who discovered her passion for educating people about healthy eating after her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer at a young age, Odeh is developing a program that The Lennar Foundation Medical Center, the new Coral Gables location of the University of Miami Health System, plans to use to promote healthier living and eating in the community.

“Our planet is heating up. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events like droughts, cyclones, and floods are becoming more common. This is why the global message for World Food Day 2016 is ‘Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too,'” Odeh said. “If we each take a few small steps, governments will change policies, business will change practices, impacting generations with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to eat good, nutritious food for healthier lives. This event united individuals from different disciplines to at a community level to make the small changes from the ground up.”

All who take an initial step on UM’s National Food Day are encouraged to share their actions on social media via #wfday2016.

In addition to Cappetta and Lhoutellier, the panelists included nutritionist Linda Parker, research assistant professor at the school of Nursing and Health Studies, and Thomas Harris, associate professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The entirely plant-based meal was prepared by UM alumnus Peter Kwa, the pastry and pantry chef at KYU restaurant in Wynwood.


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Conference to Examine Impact of Falling Oil Prices

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

 energyconferenceCORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 20, 2016)A University of Miami (UM) and Florida International University (FIU) conference calledConsequences of the Fall: Energy Security, Sustainable Development and Global Warming,” will examine the effects of the decline of oil prices in 2014-2015.

Dozens of experts will gather on October 27-29 on both the UM and FIU campuses for the fourth annual energy conference, which will examine such topics as whether the oil price crash impacted countries experiencing an energy revolution in shale and gas, such as the United States and Canada, and the repercussions of the collapse on other Western Hemisphere nations dependent on oil for growth and development, such as Colombia, Venezuela, and Mexico.

UM President Julio Frenk will deliver opening remarks on the first day of the conference at the Newman Alumni Center on UM’s Coral Gables campus, followed by conference director Bruce Bagley, professor of international studies in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Bryan Page, professor of anthropology.

The first day also will feature a roundtable discussion on climate change by consuls general from the Miami area.

Bagley, who has directed the conference for the past three years, believes this year’s topics foster the University’s aspirations to be both hemispheric and relevant.

“This is a very important forum,” said Bagley. “Issues such as the impact of climate change on countries and communities, sustainability, and alternative energy sources will be widely discussed with the hope of finding some solutions to the most pressing problems of our present-day world.”

The first day will be devoted to analyzing the impact of hydrocarbons. The second day, which will be held at FIU’s Management and Advanced Research Center (MARC) Pavilion, will look into renewable energy and sustainability, and will feature FIU President Mark Rosenberg and representatives of Miami-Dade County, including Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava and Chief Resilience Officer Jim Murley. The forum will return on the final day to UM’s Newman Alumni Center and focus on energy sector management, corruption, and best practices.

The conference is open to the public and the media. View the agenda.

For more information on the University of Miami’s work related to climate change and sustainability, visit Climate Change: A University of Miami Special Report.


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