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Rudy Fernandez Returns to His Roots

Recently named senior vice president for public affairs and communications and chief of staff to the president, Fernandez plans to take UM’s Division of University Communications “from good to great.”

UM News

Rudy Fernandez

Rudy Fernandez

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 25, 2017)CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 25, 2017) – Rudy Fernandez cut his teeth in politics and communications some 18 years ago while serving as the spokesperson and press secretary for iconic U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. It was at a time when two of the biggest stories in recent South Florida history—the Elián González case and the U.S. presidential election recount—dominated the headlines, putting him in a position to shape national headlines.

“The stakes were high,” recalls Fernandez, who was only a couple of years removed from his days as a Harvard undergraduate. “I was speaking for a congresswoman who was up for reelection every two years and managing her communications strategy. So it was fast-paced and sometimes frantic, but I learned a lot.”

With his mettle and savviness sharpened under Ros-Lehtinen, Fernandez would go on to serve as a special assistant to the president in the George W. Bush administration, eventually landing at the University of Miami in 2007 as vice president for government and community relations—a role in which he helped to secure more than $400 million in public funding for the University and led advocacy efforts that resulted in the passage of several landmark pieces of state legislation.

Now, the son of Cuban-born parents is taking his successful work managing external relations in government and expanding it to include other constituents important to UM. With his promotion last week as senior vice president for public affairs and communications, Fernandez has taken aim at elevating UM’s Division of University Communications “from good to great.”

“Over the next 24 months, I want to see our division become, in a way we can verify and quantify, the strongest communications team in the Southeastern United States,” says Fernandez, who will be working closely with Vice President for University Communications Jackie Menendez and will continue in his role as chief of staff to UM President Julio Frenk.

To take the division to the next level, digital content, multimedia storytelling, and learning through analytics will be an increased focus. “We will enhance our ability to tell the great human stories we see every day on our campus, in our hospitals and clinics and in communities around the world where UM’s teaching a research is making an impact. Whether it’s talented faculty making groundbreaking discoveries or a student who excels in the classroom, in the community, or on the playing field, we will harness new media to share more and better stories of ‘Canes in the world” says Fernandez, who holds an M.B.A. from UM’s School of Business Administration.

Saying the division needs to be one that is “results oriented,” Fernandez hopes to make greater use of social media and other tools “that weren’t available to communications teams 30 years ago but now help us to spread our content and measure which audiences we reach and how.”

“We can now see how many eyeballs are reading our stories and watching our videos,” he explains. “The news cycle over the last 25 years has changed significantly. You once had to wait for the paper to hit your front door to get the news. Now stories are updated moment to moment. We have to have a communications shop that has that orientation.”

The division Fernandez will lead includes media relations and communications and marketing, and produces print publications such as Miami magazine, as well as electronic publications including the Veritas employee newsletter, and the special online reports on climate change and the Zika virus.

His plan to ramp up the division includes much more than pushing out Tweets and producing more content. “We need to interact with our audience,” says Fernandez, who wrote for the Harvard Crimson as an undergraduate. “From the national media who want access to our experts to alumni who want to share stories of their impact in the world, our communication strategies need to invite people in. And we need to interact with our internal audiences as well. We want to make sure that students are heard and that our incredible schools and colleges help surface stories of our research and teaching in action.”

While pursuing new communications strategies and creating more nimble content across multiple platforms are key ingredients to his plan, Fernandez says the basics—“the blocking and tackling of communications”—still hold true. “Building trust, getting the facts right, producing top-notch content. That will never change,” says Fernandez. “The University of Miami’s story is a story of academic excellence and rising reputation; community connection and rich diversity; spirit and sports; and, as President Frenk says, resilience and renewal. It is a privilege to be charged with telling that story, and together we will do that better than ever before.”

 

 

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Faculty Showcase Features Storytelling for Teaching Excellence

By Michael R. Malone
UM News

05-30-17-Faculty-Showcase-608x342

Visiting Assistant Professor Mónica Alexandra Durán  leads a learning circle at the Faculty Showcase.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 24, 2017)—Teaching teachers to weave stories using mind tools—rhythm and cadence, humor, a twist of the bizarre, or a taste of the familiar—that enhance learning was just one of the many novel techniques shared at Faculty Showcase 2017.

Promoting teaching excellence was the story at this full-day workshop held this month in the Donna E. Shalala Student Center. The third annual showcase, facilitated by University of Miami Information Technology’s Academic Technologies unit, attracted faculty from a range of disciplines across the University and included a potpourri of Faculty Spotlights, learning circles, and faculty exhibit opportunities.

“I’m always looking for new and better ways to get students engaged,” said Dan DiResta, a senior lecturer in the Department of Biology, when asked his motivation for attending. DiResta and colleague Jane Indorf, an assistant professor, both appreciated the emphasis on storytelling in teaching and said narrative techniques are used often in biology in the form of case studies.

“The students really enjoy the case studies for learning—they’re like investigative mysteries—and some of the cases are ‘told’ by some very good storytellers,” Indorf said.

In his Faculty Spotlight on “Promoting Retention of Information through Narrative Memory,” Matthew Kaeiser, an instructor in the Division of Continuing and International Education’s Intensive English Program, shared associative language learning techniques he developed when teaching in Honduras. Research shows that narrative presentations enhance learning and storytelling techniques can be especially helpful for students whose first language is not English.

“Teaching can become very siloed, so the showcase is geared to get people from different teaching areas to connect and to expand faculty awareness for the many opportunities that are there for them but often not talked about enough,” said Gemma Henderson, senior instructional designer with Academic Technologies. The showcase was mainly contextualized for University faculty, but was open to the public.

As part of his keynote address, “Developing Students’ Emerging ‘Story of Self’ as Citizens,” Scot Evans led participants in a storytelling exercise to identify the “ah ha” moments in their lives, a snippet in time where they became aware of their purpose and civic identity. Evans, an associate professor of educational and psychological studies in the School of Education and Human Development, uses the same exercise in his classes to connect students to the power of their own stories—and how their stories deepen connections to each other and to their learning.

In addition to the keynotes and a wide range of topics explored in learning circles, faculty toured tables with resource information about Learning Innovation and Faculty Development; the Faculty Learning Community (trans-disciplinary); Learning Platforms (online technologies for classroom teaching); Miller School of Medicine campus resources (curriculum development, mentoring and faculty development, Panopto lecture-capture); and the treasure chest of resources available for faculty and students at the library—Digital Media Lab, Geographic Information Systems Lab, Digital Humanities, the Learning Commons, and much more.

 

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A Champion for Children and the Arts

Dean Berg, right, with University of Miami Trustee Paul DiMare, a previous Twelve Good Men honoree

Dean Berg, right, with University of Miami Trustee Paul DiMare, a previous Twelve Good Men honoree

Frost School of Music Dean Shelton G. Berg was among the dozen outstanding men honored at the 25th annual Ronald McDonald House Charities’ Twelve Good Men Luncheon, which recognizes distinguished men whose contributions and community involvement enhance the well-being of children in South Florida.

Bestowed at the Coral Gables Country Club on April 25, the award comes on the heels of another community honor for the noted jazz and classical pianist, four-time Grammy nominee, and past president of the International Association for Jazz Education. In March, Berg received the Champion of the Arts Award from Citizens Interested in Arts (CIA), a nonprofit organization of volunteers dedicated to “keeping the arts alive in South Florida.”

Now in its 25th year, the Twelve Good Men Luncheon is the premier fundraising event for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Florida, which provides a home away from home to families of seriously ill children undergoing treatment at Holtz Children’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital. The event honors a dozen leading men who exemplify exceptional kindness, caring, sacrifice, and generosity for the needs and causes in our community.

“It is an honor to celebrate these men who have worked hard for the betterment of our community and who share our passion in helping those who are less fortunate,” said Soraya-Rivera Moya, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House.

Berg, who has served as dean of the Frost School for the past decade, has appeared in concert with orchestras around the world, including the Romanian National Orchestra, Pacific Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony, and Dallas Symphony. But he is also well known for his artistic, civic, and educational contributions closer to home.

He was recently named artistic advisor for the JAZZ ROOTS series at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and was instrumental in the establishment of the Donna E. Shalala MusicReach program, which enables Frost School students to provide free, hands-on music instruction to hundreds of elementary, middle, and high school students in Miami-Dade County.

Since its 1997 inception, CIA has awarded nearly $1 million in grants to members of the arts community, including one of the first to a New World School of the Arts student who this year sang alongside Placido Domingo in Verdi’s Nabucco at the New York Metropolitan Opera House.

In honoring Berg, the organization recognized his lifelong commitment to the arts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Limited Spots Remain in Herbert Wellness Center’s Mini Canes Camp

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 25, 2017) – Mini Canes Recreational Sports Camp at the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness is still accepting campers for a limited number of available spots. Mini Canes Camp is open to children aged 6-12, and spaces are available in sessions two, three, and four for the 9- and 10-year-old age group, and all four sessions for the 11- and 12-year-old age group. Registration is open to both the University of Miami and the local Coral Gables communities.

Mini Canes Camp runs for four two-week sessions beginning, Monday, June 12. Parents have the option to sign their children up for any combination of sessions, depending on availability. Camp drop-off begins at 8:45 a.m. and pick-up begins at 4 p.m. Before and aftercare are available for additional fees.

Camp Session Dates 

  • Session 1: June 12 – 23
  • Session 2: June 26 – July 7 (Closed Tuesday, July 4)
  • Session 3: July 10 – 21
  • Session 4: July 24 – August 4

Mini Canes Camp divides campers into groups by age, and they participate in a variety of activities focused on sports, health, and wellness. The sports vary by sessions but include basketball, kickball, flag football, soccer, and softball.

“In addition to sports, campers engage in a variety of educationally focused activities each day, including wellness education, arts and crafts, cooking lessons, special events, and daily swim lessons,” said Tom Soria, director of Mini Canes Camp at the Herbert Wellness. “Not only will campers have fun this summer, they will also learn how to live a lifestyle with health, fitness, and safety in mind.”

Every two-week camp session culminates with an extravaganza show performed by the campers. Parents, family, and friends are invited to watch as their children sing, dance, and act in a special themed show.

To expedite registration, visit http://www.miami.edu/wellness/camp and download and complete the necessary enrollment packet in advance.  Camper enrollment packets must be delivered in-person to the Mini Canes office on the second floor of the Herbert Wellness Center. Incomplete registration materials will not be accepted. For complete registration procedures, click here.

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Science as Diplomacy

The Rosenstiel School’s final lecture of the 2017 Sea Secrets series focused on using science diplomacy to bring marine science together in the U.S. and Cuba and was held at the new Frost Science Museum.

By Jessica M. Castillo
UM News

The final Sea Secrets lecture of the 2017 series was held in the cutting-edge planetarium of the recently open Frost Science Museum.

The final Sea Secrets lecture of the 2017 series was held in the cutting-edge planetarium of the recently open Frost Science Museum.

MIAMI (May 19, 2017)—At a time when science seems under attack and truth is contested, researchers in Miami are using the discipline to bridge the 90-mile and decades-long gap with scientists in Cuba.

The recent re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. is opening new avenues for scientific investigation and environmental conservation.

“It’s funny—usually the environment is the last thing we agree on but in this case, it’s what brought the two countries together,” said Fernando Bretos, curator of ecology and director of MUVE (Museum Volunteers for the Environment) at the new Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science and the first speaker of the final Sea Secrets lecture for 2017.

The lecture, titled “Coral Reefs and Science Diplomacy: Bridging the Gap with Cuba,” was held Thursday in the planetarium of the state-of-the-art museum in downtown Miami and was the first scientific talk hosted at the museum.

“We are eager to work together on what we anticipate will be a long collaboration between the university and the museum,” said Rosenstiel School Dean Roni Avissar, who opened the lecture, presented by the Rosenstiel School and the Ocean Research and Education Foundation.

Bretos highlighted the Trinational Initiative for Marine Science and Conservation in the Gulf of Mexico and Western Caribbean, started in 2007, as a meeting platform for Cuban and U.S. scientists, and expanded to include Mexican scientists, he said, to help to buffer any tension between the U.S. and Cuba and allowed the work to flow much more smoothly.

Bretos, who has a personal connection to Cuba—his parents came to the United States under Operation Peter Pan—has been collaborating with Cuban marine scientists for 18 years. His research focuses mainly on sea turtles in Guanahacabibes National Park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, located on the western tip of the island.

The park, and other coastal areas of the island, have some of the most pristine waters and wild marine ecosystems.

“Cuba is somewhat of a mecca for turtles,” said Bretos, an alumnus of the Rosenstiel School. “It has a huge amount of beach, feeding habitat and large expanses of sea grass.”

There are progressive coastal development and preservation policies in place in Cuba, said Bretos, and coastal areas are managed pretty well, but it’s an issue of scale, which may become problematic with increasing tourism to the island.

Increasing tourism to Cuba, and global anthropogenic changes to the environment are harmful to coral reef ecosystems as well as sea turtles and other marine mammals.

“Coral reefs are dying around the world in great numbers, for many reasons, but perhaps the most important reason is climate change and warming sea surface temperatures,” started Andrew Baker, an associate professor of marine biology and ecology at the Rosenstiel School and the second lecturer.

He started off with the bad news, he said, to provide some background on the good news—using molecular genomics and collaboration with Cuban scientists to help save the world’s reefs—and to communicate why Cuba’s coral reefs are so interesting and how they can play a role in replenishing dying or dead corals.

The warming sea surface temperatures stress corals, causing the critical partnership of algal symbionts—zooxanthellae, which live on the corals and give them their beautiful colors—to break down in a process called coral bleaching. During coral bleaching, the corals expel these algae, lose their coloration and turn white, and often die.

Corals can recover from bleaching, explained Baker, but if they don’t, they die.

“As a coral biologist and conservation scientist, the goal is, if we can’t prevent corals from bleaching, we can at least give them routes to recover so that they don’t go down this one-way path and point of no return,” said Baker, head of Rosenstiel’s Coral Reef Futures Lab.

One solution Baker is working on to help save the world’s coral reef ecosystems? A method that uses the same science behind popular DNA genome sequencing services like 23andme and Ancestry.com.

“Using these molecular genomic methods, we can assess the connectivity of corals around all these different regions (in the Caribbean), in an attempt to try and figure out how these coral reefs are connected to one another,” he said.

Analyzing satellite imagery, Cuba is very interesting from an environmental conservation perspective, explained Baker. Heat maps of water around the region show that there are very distinct thermal temperatures throughout the area.

“There are areas in Cuba that are both exceptionally cool and exceptionally warm; the difference is about 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Baker. “That’s the global temperature increase we’re expecting to see within the next century. Essentially, corals in one area could outlast by a century the corals in another area.”

Corals along the southern coast of Cuba are particularly heat-tolerant. Baker and his fellow researchers are using heat maps to help them consider moving the more heat-tolerant corals to new places, as a way of helping restore reefs in one area, in the hope that corals will be more heat-tolerant overall and better able to replenish and recolonize reefs.

Baker pointed out that coral bleaching is going to become more frequent and more severe in the coming years. The amount of coral that we’re losing means that we may lose coral reefs as we know them, he said, as these systems that generate lots of biodiversity.

“Biological diversity is the stuff of life that ultimately provides robustness to ecosystems,” said Baker. “Biologists will tell you this all the time, that diversity provides resilience.”

Baker’s research focuses on interventions that try to increase biological diversity in populations.

“There’s a very good argument to be made about the assisted immigration of Cuban corals to the U.S. to boost diversity and ultimately resilience,” said Baker. “And there’s some parallels here in human life as well.”

He recognized that some of his talk focused on the bad news of how climate change is affecting our coral reefs, including how the reefs are the first ecosystem that we’re likely to lose as a result of global warming. But we can’t lose hope, he added.

“We have to balance the cost of doing nothing with the fear of doing something,” said Baker. “Science has an important role to play in determining what that something should be.”

The annual Sea Secrets Lecture Series will begin again in January 2018.

 

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