New Employees Begin Their Journey at I Am the U

By Charisse Lopez-Mason
Special to UM News

One by one, the University of Miami’s newest faculty and staff—physicians, patient access representatives, researchers, IT professionals, and more—gathered on an early Monday morning at the Newman Alumni Center for their first day of work.

After a ceremonial ribbon cutting to mark the occasion, the group of 50 participated in I Am the U, UM’s reimagined new-employee orientation program. Inspired by feedback from University faculty and staff and several months of planning and hard work from the Building a Better U Together’s Global Orientation work team, the new program introduces employees to the University’s common purpose, DIRECCT values, service standards, structure and operations, history, and more.

“The experience was invigorating,” said participant Tamara Long, a patient navigator for Clinical Access.

The highlight for her, was when alumnus Ray Bellamy, a UM trailblazer, popped in to talk to the group.

Bellamy is the first African-American to sign a football scholarship to play for the University of Miami, and the first African-American football athlete given a scholarship to a major university in the Southeastern part of the United States.

“When I listened to his story, it brought tears to my eyes,” said Long. “He said one thing that stood out to me, he said the University of Miami had his back.”

Bellamy, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the School of Education and Human Development, spoke to the group about his UM experience, saying, “You cannot find a better place. UM made a difference in my life, and I promise it will make a difference in yours.”

Throughout the day, a team of facilitators, UM employees who volunteered, auditioned, and trained to lead the program, led the group through a series of hands-on interactive activities that focused on the University’s past, present, and future.

Kesha Grayson, a supervisor of systems and technology at the Shalala Student Center and an I Am the U facilitator, said that participating in the program was a no-brainer. “As an alumna, I innately know what it means when we say, ‘It’s great to be a Miami Hurricane.’ I wanted to share that and be a part of welcoming new employees to their new roles,” she said.

Grayson has worked for UM for 13 years and says the best part of the experience has been finding 25 new “besties,” co-facilitators whom she now considers friends.

“I always knew I was a part of a bigger picture,” said I am the U facilitator Sergio Pintado, a patient access supervisor. “But being a part of this program showed me just how bright the future is at the U.”

The new program runs up to three times per week on the Coral Gables campus. It closes with a graduation ceremony and special visit from Sebastian the Ibis, who teaches the group the Miami Hurricanes C-A-N-E-S chant.

“At the end of the day,” said Long, “I realized I was now part of a new and growing family.”

To learn more, visit firstdays.miami.edu.


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UM’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Sees Rapid Growth

OLLI offers more than 50 classes to seniors who want to remain active in mind and body.

By Bárbara Gutiérrez
UM News

 Leslie Gross gives fellow Osher classmate Jenny Zanzurri some tips on using her iPhone.

Leslie Gross gives fellow Osher classmate Jenny Zanzuri some tips on using her iPhone.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 26, 2017)—Jenny Zanzuri is a living example that one can master new technology at any age. The 97-year-old is the oldest student at the University of Miami Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), but her spirit and determination are forever young.

The retired United Nations staffer, who worked for the assistant secretary of economics and social affairs, Ubers every Wednesday to join 20 students taking the iPhone and iPad Basics Class.

“I am stupid when it comes to these devices,” she said, tapping her iPhone. “But this class will help me.” Zanzuri wants to use her new knowledge to keep in touch with her daughter and friends.

The class, offered at Founders Hall on the Coral Gables campus, is one of more than 50 classes offered per week at the institute for anyone over the age of 50 who has an active mind and the willingness to be a student again. Many of the students are doctors, lawyers, professors, and others whose lives and personal experiences enrich the everyday curriculum. At the center, students enjoy a variety of programs, from tai chi and yoga to watercolor and classes on investments and current events.

Keeping active and feeling a sense of purpose is what attracts many OLLI members, who pay $40 to join the institute. These days the numbers of students are increasing in great part thanks to an explosion of baby boomers who are retiring, said Julia Cayuso, OLLI director. OLLI has seen close to a 140 percent rise in enrollment numbers in the past four years.

“It has been truly remarkable,” said Cayuso. “Our numbers are going through the roof.”

Fortunately, OLLI recently received a second $1 million endowment grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation, which will support the center’s operations so it can continue providing classes and activities for seniors. About 10 percent of the faculty are UM professors, said Cayuso.


For his class Triumph and Tragedy: the Lives of Great Men, historian Richard Dawson dresses as his subjects, in this case Marco Polo, would have dressed.

There seems to be a class for every interest. But among the most popular is Robert Dawson’s class Triumph and Tragedy: the Lives of Great Men. At the inaugural class this year, Dawson, a historian, wore a turban and red frock and proudly introduced himself: “My name is Marco Polo.”

Each week he dons another costume and identity. He believes teaching in costumes makes the lessons more memorable.

That resonates with 70-year-old history buff Tom Brown, a retired Miami-Dade County Fire Department battalion chief, who has been a member of OLLI for four years and has taken all of Dawson’s classes.

“I like coming here because I find that I learn a lot and it keeps me active,” said Brown, who also volunteers as a tour guide at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and teaches Sunday school at his church.

Another popular offering is Global Viewpoints, taught by Mitra Raheb, a former St. Thomas University professor whose candid style kept her nearly 100 students in awe as she taught the politics of the Middle East.

“What I most enjoy is the students,” said Raheb, who also teaches at FIU’s OLLI. “Their diverse educational, cultural, and political background keeps the class lively and informative.”

For Chris Weinberg, 67, who has been taking classes at OLLI for two and half years, that energy is what keeps her coming and volunteering for several committees.

“It’s a very special place,” said Weinberg, who worked in advertising for many years. “It draws the intellectually curious, and we feel that we are part of a family.”

Like Weinberg, many members donate their time and energy to the member institute. That is the motor that keeps OLLI running, said Cayuso.

A caring committee keeps tabs on members who may be hospitalized or have suffered a loss. A recently organized choral group provides another outlet for those with musical talents.

“It is truly a volunteer-driven place,” Cayuso said. “Many of the members serve on committees that determine the curriculum, plan the social events, and focus on growth and retention of membership.”

For more information, visit the OLLI website or the class catalogue.


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With Pencils and Drones, Architects Put Informal Cities on the Map

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News
01-09-17-informal-cities-390CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 09, 2017)—The children play soccer barefoot on a dirt field, and when they aren’t imitating the flamboyant striking and passing skills of their country’s greatest footballers, they roam neighborhood streets, playing other games or sometimes just looking for something to eat.

If not for the efforts of a woman named Julia, many of them would go hungry. A 50-something community elder with an energetic spirit, Julia helps keep their bellies full, working with a group of other women to prepare meals that feed as many as 100 kids a day.

Life in some parts of Las Flores, a 5-square-mile shantytown near Barranquilla, Colombia, often presents a multitude of challenges. Food can be hard to come by; sewage, water, and electrical systems are nonexistent in most areas; and residents build shotgun-style homes with whatever materials they can find—in this case, mostly wood.

The local governments where slums like Las Flores are located see these places as eyesores, electing to leave them off of official maps. But two University of Miami School of Architecture professors, Carie Penabad and Adib Cure, believe slums should not only be recognized, but also given the assistance they need.

So with tools as simple and archaic as pencil and paper, and as advanced and high-tech as camera-equipped drones, the husband-and-wife team has made its mission to map some of the poorest and most vulnerable places in the world.

They started in 2006, using traditional surveying techniques to map the slum of Shakha near Mumbai, India. The following year, they traveled to the Cape Town, South African township of Langa to map the informal settlement of Joe Slovo, one of the largest slums in that country. “Then we realized something,” recalls Penabad. “We’re based in Miami, and we’re traveling to the other side of the world to study these informal settlements, when, in fact, we have at our doorstep Latin America and the Caribbean, where an urban population is growing. So why not turn our focus closer to home.”

And they did, beginning with Las Flores. For every spring semester between 2008 and 2015, Penabad and Cure have taken students from their School of Architecture upper-level design studio, and starting two years ago software engineers from UM’s Center for Computational Science, to this 60-year-old settlement to map its 75 neighborhood blocks and seven barrios. While CCS engineers operated the drones that produced highly detailed aerial maps of Las Flores, Penabad, Cure, and their students walked the streets, studying the slum’s building and construction patterns, peering into its simple wood and clay brick homes, observing neighborhood social interactions, and talking with  some of the 10,000 residents who live there—all as part of an extensive effort to better understand the settlement’s structure and inner workings and, perhaps, help cure what ails it.

“When these cities that are literally off the map are documented and studied, you begin to not only understand them but get a much bigger picture of their problems,” said Penabad. “Where would it make the most sense to bring in water and sewer lines? Where are they disconnected in terms of transportation? Where would it make the most sense to build a medical clinic? The potential for progress becomes more tangible and possible when you can see everything mapped out.”

Penabad compares the maps to “X-rays that allow us to diagnose a settlement’s condition.”

Here’s what their “X-ray” of Las Flores shows: Newer barrios where small sheet-metal roofed houses are built so close together that hardly any light and fresh air penetrate, older districts where, over time, wooden houses have been replaced by concrete homes, few if any public gathering spaces, and unpaved streets.

Las Flores is compact, mirroring on-the-grid Barranquilla only in having a clearly delineated pattern of streets and blocks. “Houses come up to the edges of streets,” explains Penabad, “and there aren’t many automobiles, so people walk to get to where they need to go.”

Usually where they need to go is to the larger metropolis, where shantytown residents frequently work in factories and hotels. Some of the women toil as housemaids. Only Penabad and Cure’s direct interaction with residents reveals that aspect of life in Las Flores, making their on-the-ground research just as eye-opening—and important—as the images the drones produce. What that research has shown is that Las Flores and many other such slums are surprisingly sustainable.

“There’s a well-structured network of families,” said Cure. “Older, more established families usually become the leaders, creating daycare centers and micro businesses that help the community.” One woman, he notes, even started a mobile clothes-washing service, wheeling a portable manual washing machine door to door.

“Everyone living in an urban slum isn’t necessarily worse off,” said Justin Stoler, an assistant professor of geography and regional studies in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences, whose own research on informal settlements has taken him to Accra, Ghana, to explore links between neighborhoods, the environment, and human health. “Living in a slum has been shown to not only hinder growth, but sometimes aid it via tight-knit communities that offer better resilience for overcoming stressors, and communities where residents take care of one another and provide buffers from all the problems they’re dealing with on a daily basis.”

Penabad and Cure’s goal is to make UM a center for the collection of data on informal settlements throughout Latin America. “We’ve found a way to map these in a pretty distinct way,” Penabad explains. “We’d like to acquire enough funding to deploy this toolkit more systematically and make it entirely open-sourced.”

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School of Communication Opens Two State-of-the-Art Centers

By Karina Valdes
Special to UM News

broadcastcenterUniversity of Miami School of Communication ushered in the interactive age with the dedication of two new centers on Friday, December 2.

The school officially opened the Koenigsberg & Nadal Interactive Media Center and the Robert & Lauren Mann Broadcast Center in a unique ceremony emphasizing interaction and technology. UM trustees, donors, guests, and friends watched the ribbon cutting on two flat screen TVs in the school’s courtyard before touring the new facilities.

Gregory J. Shepherd, dean of the School of Communication, opened the ceremony by thanking the university’s Board of Trustees, donors, faculty, students, staff, parents, and friends. He then told a story about “a space over here that we called the Reading Room.” The underutilized space would be transformed into the Koenigsberg & Nadal Interactive Media Center, but before “it was your typical small library that people of a certain generation remember well.”

“It was sort of dark and quiet, full of old dusty journals and hardly any students. It wasn’t a great place to be the front of the school. It wasn’t a great place for our students, as was obvious by their absence,” said Shepherd.

He “wanted a space that would encourage interactivity among our students.”

In the Koenigsberg & Nadal Interactive Media Center, students will gain hands-on experience in a professional setting by providing a multitude of digital and traditional creative services to clients.

Shepherd first approached Koenigsberg about four years ago with his vision for a new interactive space. Koenigsberg along with Miles Nadal, both parents of School of Communication students, lead the effort to build the interactive media center, and also encouraged other parents to become involved with the project.

“As you will see when you see the donor wall, you will note how many of our donors were parents,” said Shepherd.

With blueprints for the IMC showing a modern, high-tech space, it quickly became apparent the area adjacent to the IMC and the Robert Corley Groves Studio needed to be upgraded as well. Shepherd also, for a very long time, wanted to “put the Mann name up in this school.”

“Bob Mann has been a supporter of this school before it was a school,” said Shepherd. He also called him an adviser and a friend.

Mann was co-founder and first general manager of WVUM, UM’s student-run radio station. He is a member of the university’s Board of Trustees and chairs the School of Communication’s Visiting Committee. For more than 30 years, he has supported the university in numerous efforts including gifts to construct the Communication International Building and the Koenigsberg & Nadal Interactive Media Center. He established the Robert A. Mann Endowed Fund for the Department of Athletics, and the Samuel and Grace Mann Endowed Scholarship Fund in his parents’ honor to benefit undergraduate students majoring in broadcast journalism.

“And we now have the opportunity to put their names on this broadcast center. The Robert & Lauren Mann Broadcast Center,” said Shepherd.

The Robert & Lauren Mann Broadcast Center includes two HDTV broadcast studios, a sound stage for film production, an equipment room providing students with the latest technology, two control rooms, and editing suites with multiple functions.

“We have to keep on improving and we have to stay up with our peer schools and make sure we offer students the best equipment and the best facilities to learn in,” said Mann.

Thomas J. LeBlanc, executive vice president and provost, thanked the donors who supported the project and noted that in “higher education, and particularly in private higher education, things don’t happen without the support of philanthropists.”

“All of the great work that will take place within these centers…would not be possible without Bill, Miles, Bob, and Lauren. Thank you for your leadership and generosity in shaping the School of Communication,” said LeBlanc.

He also thanked the university’s trustees for supporting the vision to construct these centers.

“Today we celebrate a vision of what the School of Communication can be and how the facilities can impact undergraduate student learning,” said LeBlanc. “We are no longer in the medieval age and we need to make sure our university stays at the forefront, and this new project represents that commitment,” he added.

Margot Woll, School of Communication student and executive producer of UMTV’s SportsDesk, then asked guests of the ceremony to turn their attention to the TV screens to take a virtual tour of the Koenigsberg & Nadal Interactive Media Center and the Robert & Lauren Mann Broadcast Center.

Oliver Redsten, School of Communication student and UMTV’s NewsVision anchor, lead the audience on the virtual tour and detailed what guests would soon have a chance to experience in person. He also explained how students would benefit from the spaces.

“As students, we will not only be learning about communication, but also how to implement communication plans and tactics, making us more confident when we enter the workforce,” said Redsten.

The TV screens then cut to the donor wall where Rebekah Chung, School of Communication student and executive producer of UMTV’s Pulse, interviewed Koenigsberg.

Koenigsberg expressed how we are living in a digitally connected world. “The currency of the future is digital currency,” he said, and he expressed how he hopes students who experience the IMC are provided with “digital currency so when they get out into the world they are richer than students from other schools because of this incredible space and atmosphere we’ve been able to develop for them.”

He also thanked Shepherd, and Donna Arbide, associate vice president of advancement, for inspiring him to want to help with this project.

“We are going to create the best students in the world through this interactive media center,” said Koenigsberg.

Nadal could not attend the dedication ceremony, but he was present through a videoconference from Ottawa, Canada.

“What excited me about this opportunity was that the University of Miami was taking a leadership role in creating the interactive media center of the future as part of its integrated communications program,” said Nadal.

He also added how “the amount of invention and investment that the university was making” made it apparent he wanted to “support and to invest behind the future digital interactive leaders of the future.”

After the ribbon cutting ceremonies, guests toured the Koenigsberg & Nadal Interactive Media Center and the Robert & Lauren Mann Broadcast Center. Students of the school were on hand to demonstrate the facilities and how they plan to use the spaces.

After touring the facility, Joseph B. Treaster, professor at the School of Communication, noted how “this center has got everything we need to really move on to the next stage.”

“I don’t think any other university has got something as powerful or as sweeping as this. All the greatest, neatest tools you want are here,” he added.

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UMIA Celebrates New Name and Home

With welcome remarks from Director Dr. Felicia Marie Knaul, Dean Leonidas Bachas, and President Julio Frenk, the Pick Hall location of the institute was officially inaugurated to become a research hub of the University on hemispheric issues.

Special to UM News


UMIA Director Dr. Felicia Marie Knaul  says global health is among the themes on the institute’s agenda.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 9, 2016)—The University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas (UMIA), previously known as the University of Miami Institute for the Americas, officially opened its doors at its new Albert Pick Hall location to become part of the University hemispheric strategy and make full use of the hemispheric endowment that it represents.

Led by Dr. Felicia Marie Knaul, UMIA promotes enhanced human, economic and social development within and across the hemisphere through research, teaching, convening, communicating, and incubating innovative projects. “Our mission is to build a thriving Institute that creates and shares knowledge bridging the Americas, strengthening the myriad areas of the University of Miami undertaking research pertaining to the hemisphere,” Knaul said.

UMIA, which held an Open House on December 2 to celebrate its new name, partners, mission, and location in the former home of the Graduate School, builds from the leadership, trajectory, and interests of the Center for Hemispheric Policy and the Center for Latin American Studies. “Very few think tanks attached to universities have a global health agenda,” Knaul said. “This is one of the themes that the institute will be addressing, including the work on Women’s Cancers in the Americas in a joint effort with the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UHealth System; investing in health systems through diagonal approaches; and advocating for the role of women through gender transformative policies.”

“We have probably one of the top Caribbean programs in the United States and one of best programs for the study of Brazil,” said Leonidas Bachas, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “Things are happening and will continue to happen at the institute.”

Faculty leads Merike Blofield, Sallie Hughes, and Kate Ramsey

Faculty leads Merike Blofield, Sallie Hughes, and Kate Ramsey

To support the institute’s research endeavors, Knaul has invited Sallie Hughes, associate professor at the School of Communication and an expert in Latin America, to join UMIA as faculty research lead for Latin American studies and policy. Hughes has been working closely with UMIA since August.

“Geography is destiny; but it also takes leadership, ambition, and hard work, and I am more optimistic than ever that we are going to reach that destiny,” Hughes said.

In addition, Merike Blofied and Kate Ramsey, faculty leads for Women’s and Gender Studies and Hemispheric Caribbean Studies, respectively, will be joining UMIA next spring. “We are also working with Ileana Porras and we will be working and generating another research lead on Social Justice in the Americas, something that we feel in these times is particularly important,” Knaul said.

Likewise, three graduate students, Caitlin Brown, Matthew Davidson, and Yulia Vorobyeva, are the recipients of the UMIA/Latin American Studies Program Distinguished Fellows grants awarded by the College of Arts & Sciences to fund student work in all areas of Latin America and the Caribbean. The goals of these grants are to offer students an opportunity to acquire a comprehensive knowledge of language, terrain, and culture; become familiar with information and sources relevant to their studies; conduct pilot work and preliminary investigations; and develop contacts with scholars and institutions in their fields of study.

Distinguished fellows Caitlin Brown, m Matthew Davidson, and Yulia Vorovyeba

Distinguished fellows Caitlin Brown, m
Matthew Davidson, and Yulia Vorobyeva

In his brief remarks at the Open House, UM President Julio Frenk noted that  no other university in the United States, or for that matter in the world, has the advantage of being located in one of the most cosmopolitan cities and to serve really as a force of integration across the Americas.

“So, having an institute that is devoted to the advanced study of the Americas and a convening function, as well as the scholarship around the whole array of disciplines that contribute to an understanding of the Americas is certainly a matter of great pride for the University,” he said. “It is a great occasion to see that the building is finally ready, and that it will continue the great tradition of Latin American studies, convening of hemispheric policies, and we look forward to great new developments in this University of Miami Institute for the Advanced Study of the Americas.”

The Open House was a beautiful example of interdisciplinary collaboration, displaying art work and musical performances from the region and bringing together students from various schools, faculty members, and other organizations.

Percussionist Murphy Aucamp and his band, all students at the Frost School of Music, performed live salsa in Pick Hall’s courtyard. Art works from Latin America and the Caribbean included paintings, handcrafts, and photographs from Cuba, Curacao, Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago.

And photographer Behna Gardner, wife of Laurence B. Gardner, interim dean of the Miller School of Medicine, broke many hearts with her touching exhibit from Zanmi Beni (creole for “Blessed Friends”), an orphanage outside Port-au-Prince that is home to 64 children many of whom were left homeless and abandoned after the devastating earthquake of Haiti in 2010. The photos are collection of portraits taken on the day the children were baptized. To learn more about Zamni Beni, visit http://www.friendsofzb.org.

One of Knaul’s major ongoing projects is the work of the Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Control, whose final report is expected to be launched next summer at the University of Miami. Looking forward, the institute will build on recently begun initiatives, including the Research Lunch Series, a Latin America and Caribbean Digest edited every two weeks by the distinguished fellows, a new series on Leading Ladies of the Americas, annual country-specific symposia, featured research from grant recipients, and publications, among others.

“We will continue building a robust agenda for the region, helping the institute become a catalyst for those working across campus, and giving all a home,” Knaul said in her closing remarks.



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