From Pizza to Mediterranean Cuisine, Food Trucks Beef Up Summer Fare

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

Food Trucks

Frankie’s Pizza has been serving up its square slices for 55 years in Miami, and for two summers at The Rock.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 20, 2015) – It had become something of a tradition. After every Southwest Miami High School football game, Candy Jackson and a few of her classmates would drive over to Bird Road and order cheese and pepperoni pies from one of their favorite hangouts, Frankie’s Pizza.

“I guess you could say I was raised on Frankie’s,” said Jackson, who is now an assistant director in the University of Miami’s Office of Financial Assistance Services. Read the full story

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In a ‘Celebration of the Possible,’ UM Inducts New Heritage Society Members

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

UM Motion Picture Students

From left are film students Italome Ohikhuare, Zulena Segarra-Berrios, Nicholas Katzenbach, Amanda Quintos, Joseph Picozzi, and Laura Falcone.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 13, 2015) – Could the next Steven Spielberg or Kathryn Bigelow already be enrolled at the University of Miami?

After viewing short clips from some of the films produced by students in the School of Communication’s Department of Cinema and Interactive Media, many of the guests at a recent UM donor recognition event probably think so, and for good reason. The films—which range from a movie about a goofy but brilliant college student who is recruited to help the CIA on a top-secret mission, to a story about a man who realizes that Cuba is no place to raise a child and concocts a plan to become a “Marielito”—took top honors at UM’s recent ’Canes Film Showcase and are now headed to Los Angeles, where they will be screened for top Hollywood producers.

Planned gifts sometimes play a major role in helping such students achieve success, and on May 13, in a ceremony UM President Donna E. Shalala described as “a celebration of the possible,” UM honored those who have made planned gifts to or included UM in their estate plans, when the University hosted its 26th annual Heritage Society Luncheon.

“People who do planned giving really are optimistic,” Shalala said at the induction ceremony, a luncheon held in the first-floor ballroom of the Newman Alumni Center. “They not only have faith in a better future but are making sure they’re a part of making [that future] happen.”

During the luncheon, attendees got a look at that future in the form of the five, young student filmmakers who were in attendance, and they learned about the School of Communication’s plans for a $2 million interactive media center that will house a student-run agency offering advertising, design, public relations, Web, and other services.

Guests also learned about the tremendous impact of UM’s Heritage Society. Since it was established in 1988, more than 1,500 philanthropists have joined the organization, making gifts that Shalala said have a transformative impact on the University.

Over the years, UM faculty and staff have been well represented among the society’s membership, and at the May 13 ceremony, two representatives from the University’s workforce—one a newcomer, the other a recent retiree—were inducted.

Rodolphe el-Khoury, who last year became dean of UM’s School of Architecture, made a planned gift that will support a much-needed design studio building at the school.

“We’re really a collection of buildings, and we think of ourselves as a campus within a campus,” said el-Khoury, noting that many of the school’s classrooms—part of a Marion Manley-designed network of structures originally built as housing for returning World War II veterans—can accommodate only small classes. “We lack the big studio space where our students can work together in large groups. And that’s what the new building will offer—a gigantic area where they can work on their projects and see and learn from what their peers are doing.”

The future Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio Building, so named for the president and CEO of the major South Florida builder, Coastal Construction, which pledged $3.5 million for its creation, will include presentation areas, review spaces, and a computer lab. El-Khoury believes his planned gift in support of the building speaks louder than anything else “I could do to demonstrate my commitment to our school’s cause.”

New Heritage Society inductee Norman C. Parsons Jr., the former executive director of wellness and recreation whose name became synonymous with “health and fitness” over his 43 years at the University, directed his planned gift to a UM athletics program he hopes will be revived one day. “The U needs a men’s golf team, and I pray it happens soon,” said Parsons, who coached the sport to national prominence in the 1980s before it was dropped in 1993.

Parsons, who could not attend the ceremony, said he hopes “many others will join me in this most important endeavor.”

It is an endeavor that lays a “foundation for the future,” said Shalala. Some planned gifts have been pledged so long ago that sometimes they fall off the radar, eventually benefiting the University when least expected. “Every once in a while, a gift pops up that we actually didn’t know about, from a person who years ago had a wonderful experience at the University—either as a student or parent, or they received care at our medical center—and never forgot the wonderful contribution we made,” said Shalala. “Some of our largest gifts have come from people who have put us in their estate plans.”

She noted that during the Momentum2 campaign, UM focused more attention on this area of philanthropy, securing more than $270 million in planned giving. “For a young university, that’s a tremendous achievement that will benefit future generations,” said Shalala.

Sergio M. Gonzalez, senior vice president for University Advancement and External Affairs, echoed Shalala’s remarks, noting that the institution has exceeded its goal for endowment giving and that such giving helps fund programs in perpetuity that range from professorships to student scholarships.

Said Gonzalez, “Planned giving touches lives.”


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Tropical Gastronomies Launches Culinary History Initiative

By Sarah Block
Special to UM News

From left are Cristina Favretto, Norman Van Aken, Mandy Baca, and Gretchen Schmidt.

From left are Cristina Favretto, Norman Van Aken, Mandy Baca, and Gretchen Schmidt.

Local food experts reflected on South Florida’s abundant natural offerings, strong multicultural seasonings, and rich supply of untapped resources—all shaping the area’s evolving culinary landscape—during a panel discussion last week at UM Special Collections’ “Tropical Gastronomies,” featuring chef and cookbook author Norman Van Aken, food blogger and Edible South Florida editor Gretchen Schmidt, and author and historian Mandy Baca. 

Moderated by Special Collections Head Cristina Favretto, the discussion touched on well-established fares and flavors such as stone crabs, citrus, and mangos, the formation of Van Aken’s New World Cuisine, and how recent developments like the farm-to-table movement are shedding light on lesser-known edible flora and fauna.

The event was held as part of a UM Libraries-wide exhibition exploring the rich culinary traditions of South Florida, Cuba, and the Caribbean. Vintage restaurant postcards and menus, local organizational cookbooks, dining brochures from Pan American World Airlines, Inc., and other materials are on display from Special Collections. During the event, Favretto announced that Special Collections aims to further its collection of food- and cooking-related materials through the establishment of the Culinary History Collection of Florida, and is seeking donations of historical materials such as restaurant menus, local and regional recipe books, oral histories with chefs, and images of restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers markets

Individuals interested in contributing to the archive are encouraged to contact Special Collections at 305-284-3247 or asc.library@miami.edu.

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Motion Picture Students Adapt Stephen King’s 9/11 Story for the Screen

By Maya Bell
UM News

UM alumnus Jonathan Franklin, the film's director of photography, shoots actress Juliana Harkavy "falling" from the World Trade Center on the patio of the Bill Cosford Cinema.

UM alumnus Jonathan Franklin, the film’s director of photography, shoots actress Juliana Harkavy “falling” from the World Trade Center on the patio of the Bill Cosford Cinema.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 15, 2015)—Facing certain death after the planes hit the World Trade Center, Sonja D’Amico jumps from a window. Yet as she plummets 110 stories, she is enveloped not by raging flames but by soothing thoughts of her beloved.

Last week, School of Communication students and graduates filmed that scene, adapted from a 9/11 story by Stephen King, in the unlikeliest of places—the patio outside the Bill Cosford Cinema. Of course, when the 30-minute nonprofit, noncommercial film premieres at film festivals, no one will know that. No one will see that actress Juliana Harkavy, who portrayed Alisha in The Walking Dead, was actually standing on an improvised stool, her wind-swept mane blown by a hand-held fan, as UM alumnus Jonathan Franklin rolled back and forth on a loaned camera dolly to capture her beatific expression.

But that’s the magic of movies, and of turning a compelling story into an even more compelling screenplay. Which is what Barbara Leibell, a lecturer in the School of Communication, hoped to share with students in her scriptwriting class when, in January 2014, she asked King’s permission to adapt The Things They Left Behind—his story about a man haunted by the appearance of objects that belonged to colleagues who perished in the twin towers—into a screenplay.

It wasn’t an unusual request. Through what King calls his Dollar Babies program, the best-selling author has probably launched a number of careers, including celebrated director Frank Darabont’s, by granting aspiring filmmakers the right, for the price of a $1, to adapt his stories for film. A week later, King gave his consent, and Leibell and about 20 of her students, both former and current, got busy.

Sara Werner, a graduate of the School of Communication’s Master of Fine Arts motion pictures program whose short on human trafficking, Aurora, won best film at the 2012 Canes Film Fest, is the director. She and Franklin, a fellow M.F.A. grad and the film’s director of photography, are shooting the script, written and adapted by Jake Gillman, who graduated May 7 from the School of Communication with a major in scriptwriting. He called the exhausting year-long process of getting the script “to the point we were satisfied” an “amazing opportunity” and the day last week when the crew recreated the collapse of the towers in the Miami office set of the TV show Graceland an “emotional, thrilling, humbling and really nerve-racking” experience.

“The office was a mess. There was soot everywhere. It was so real I had to step outside,” Gillman said. “Being from New York, 9/11 hits close to home. It’s a sensitive subject, so you want to do it and Stephen King’s story justice.”

Under Leibell’s guidance, Gillman and his team expanded King’s narrative. They turned their version of The Things They Left Behind into a dreamy love story, with actor Tom Frank, who appeared on Dexter, playing the bereaved boyfriend of the woman whose red sunglasses turn up in his New York apartment—donated by The Filling Station Lofts, a firm dedicated to fostering film and arts in Miami—a year after she jumped.

After reading the script, Mike Gabriel, the former CIO of HBO, and Missy Jenkins, former aide to Newt Gingrich, donated funds. Respected industry professionals, including David Frankel, director of The Devil Wears Prada and Marley and Me, and Howard McCain, director of Outlander, agreed to serve as mentors. And Maria Elizabeth, a hair stylist and make-up artist from Virginia, offered her services and time for free.

“When I read the script I cried. It spoke to me,” Elizabeth said outside the Cosford last week, in between freshening Harkavy’s lipstick and tousling her hair. “I think it will speak to a lot of people, so I wanted to be part of it.’’

Still, the students, who include costume designers from the Department of Theatre Arts and script supervisors from the College of Arts and Sciences, face the same daunting challenges many filmmakers face: long hours, no pay, and a limited budget. The producer, Xinyue Chen, an M.F.A. film student who already has spent countless hours securing permits and low-cost or donated locations and equipment, and negotiating salaries for the cast, (all Screen Actors Guild professionals who have agreed to work for $100 a day) says she’s running on adrenaline. But, she too, is thrilled with the opportunity.

“Every morning, I wake up stressed because I know there will be new troubles coming,” Chen said.”This film is a big challenge for student filmmakers. But when I see the footage we made together, I know it is worthy. I’m so proud of it.”

She and the rest of the students also know that adapting a King story could be a steppingstone, if not a career-maker. After all, Darabont, who adapted and directed two multiple Academy Award-nominated films, The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, from two Stephen King stories, was one of the first Dollar Babies. He asked King’s permission to write and direct his first film, the author’s The Woman in the Room, when he was 24.

“King liked Frank’s work so much he continued working with him on major projects,” Leibell said. “So this is a great honor and opportunity for our students. No matter what happens, they’re all learning valuable filmmaking skills, getting material for their reels and resumes, and making a beautiful, meaningful film.’’

To support post-production costs of the film, email Leibell at DLeibell@miami.edu or call her at 305-582-6571.



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With Career Center’s Guidance, the Job Market Is Even Brighter

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 5, 2015) — According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers are planning to hire 9.6 percent more college graduates over last year and offer a median salary of $50,000, prompting Christian Garcia, executive director of of the Patricia and Harold Toppel Career Center, to predict that UM graduates will continue to do well in today’s job market. After all, employers value real-world experience and 45 percent of UM’s graduating seniors took part in an internship.

“Those who prepare early should have an easier entry into the American workforce,” Garcia said.

Using the services provided by Toppel early in their college career is crucial, Garcia said, adding that students and their parents have become savvier about the University’s career preparation opportunities even before they enter college.

Steven.De Nicola

Steven De Nicola is headed to a job with Nielsen in New York City.

One who took full advantage of Toppel’s services was UM senior Steven De Nicola. A School of Business Administration student with a marketing major, De Nicola first visited the career center in his sophomore year. He attended career fairs, honed his interviewing skills, polished his résumé, and took internships at the sports marketing and sales firm Van Wagner Outdoor. As a sales intern, De Nicola created sales presentations for clients and learned the finer points of customer service.

He then set his sights on Nielsen, the global information and measurement company. After meeting two of their representatives at a career fair hosted by Toppel, De Nicola landed an internship at Nielsen last summer that led to a full-time position as an analyst at the company in New York City.

De Nicola credits his work with Toppel. “Toppel pointed out the qualities and traits that employers look for,” he said. “This allowed me to focus on my strengths during the interviews.”

Brian Jozefat, who will receive a B.S. in mechanical engineering, will start his full-time job as a technical analyst with Citrix just weeks after graduation. He learned about the American multinational software company through a presentation at the College of Engineering, but then followed up his interest when Citrix recruiters visited Toppel. Jozefat said those interviews led to his full-time job offer.

Garcia noted that in today’s competitive job market it is essential for graduates to not only have the solid skills needed for a particular job, but also possess the soft skills that can lead to career advancement and promotion once they have a job.

Toward that end, Toppel has launched the Professional Development Academy, a six-week course designed to help students develop knowledge and skills for career readiness and success. These include better communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to analyze and synthesize information to solve problems and make decisions.


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