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Health Researcher by Day, UM Grad Spreads Joy at Night by Teaching Salsa

John Salerno_Salsa

John Salerno, left, who has taught and professionally competed for multiple schools of salsa, competed in the 2015 Orlando Salsa Congress with his partner.

Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 24, 2016)—By day, John Salerno works to improve health equity among minority populations as a research coordinator at the University of Miami’s School of Nursing and Health Studies. By night, Salerno teaches the fundamentals of LA-Style salsa dancing at the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center.

When Salerno was just 2 years old, his family took a leap of faith and emigrated from Panama during a time of political turmoil and moved to Miami. In 2009 Salerno became an undergraduate student at UM, where he first fell in love with salsa dancing. After learning the basics from friends, Salerno was hooked. He quickly pursued his passion, becoming a professional salsa performer and instructor.

“Dancing salsa has brought so much joy to my life,” says Salerno. “But teaching others to experience the same joy is even more fulfilling.”

Salerno extended his stay at UM to continue his graduate studies, and now the salsa dancer is a full-time research staff member at the UM SONHS Center of Excellence for Health Disparities Research: El Centro, managing projects, programs, and events.

Not only does Salerno believe salsa improves his physical well-being, he also attributes his overall happiness and productivity at work to his favorite pastime. Salsa dancing helps the researcher stay active while having a positive impact in his work and personal life.

“When you dance salsa, endorphins are released in your brain, giving you a greater sense of well-being,” explains Salerno. “You are also burning fat while you dance, and when you look good, you feel good.”

Salerno has been an active member of the Herbert Wellness Center for more than seven years and is glad he can give back in the form of salsa dance instruction.

“We always welcome skilled and certified University employees as our class instructors,” says Michelle Kasparian, assistant director of group exercise and community classes. “As employees, these instructors help us to connect with the University community, and they contribute to a sense of shared values and University pride that is unique to our programs.”

Salerno, who has been teaching salsa for five years, encourages the UM community to try salsa dancing as a fun way to work out and a great way to express and release yourself through the art of dancing with a partner. His Beginner LA-Style salsa class teaches the basics and fundamentals of LA-Style salsa that is sure to get you on the dance floor in Miami and abroad. His class meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. in the Herbert Wellness Center.

Adds Salerno, “This class is perfect for someone who wants to learn to dance and likes to have fun!”

In addition to Beginner LA-Style Salsa, the Herbert Wellness Center offers dance, youth and adult aquatics, martial arts, and tennis classes open to both members and non-members. Registration for these classes begins Monday, August 29 and closes Monday, September 12. Classes begin the week of September 6, and a free trial for each class (first meeting only) is available through September 12, excluding youth aquatics. Registration is not required to attend the free class. Class registration is available online or by visiting the sales office Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

 

Posted in For Your Benefit, Freeze Frame, Health and LifestyleComments (0)

UM Hosts Third Lancet Commission Meeting

LancetHosted by the University of Miami Institute for the Americas (MIA) and the Miller School of Medicine, the third in-person meeting of the Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Control (GAPCPC) took place from August 1-3 in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Fourteen commissioners, including UM President Julio Frenk and ten members of the Commission’s Scientific Advisory Committee, attendeed the meeting, with representation from Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

A joint project with the Harvard Global Equity Initiative and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the commission has made strides in ensuring that the world has access to palliative care and pain control by integrating these treatments into universal health coverage and increasing global recognition that their provision is an essential element of health systems. The commission’s work is leading toward a featured report in The Lancet, one of the world’s most influential journals.

For additional information on the commission, please visit http://www.as.miami.edu/mia/lancet-commission-palliative-care–pain-control/.

Posted in Freeze Frame, NewsComments (0)

Coral Gables Campus Awakens as Thousands of Students Move In

UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 22, 2016) — Quiet and calm for most of the summer, the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus bustles with activity once again as thousands of new and returning students have now moved into the residential colleges for the start of the 2016-17 academic year.

About 1,900 freshmen and more than 300 transfer students—many of them accompanied by their parents—moved into Hecht, Stanford, and Eaton residential colleges last week, carrying bags, boxes and other personal belongings. UM President Julio Frenk, beginning his second year in office, as well as Sebastian the Ibis and top administrators were on hand last Wednesday to greet them.

Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 upperclassmen have moved into Mahoney, Pearson, and Eaton as well as the University Village apartments.

Among the new offerings for students in the residential colleges this year:

• “Meet Your Faculty” hours in the residential colleges, allowing students to connect with residential faculty to discuss academic and intellectual topics and engage in mentoring opportunities;

• a new engagement model implemented by resident assistants and first-year fellows that will provide students with various opportunities to learn, connect with fellow students, and discover University resources;

• Residential Life Night Managers, who will provide outreach regarding safety and serve as a resource to residents in need.

Some residential college areas will sport a new look for students, with the study lounges at Hecht and the exteriors of Eaton and Pearson currently undergoing refurbishment.

Classes on the Coral Gables campus start today.

 

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VONA/Voices Provides a Safe Space for Writers of Color

Annual conference at UM nurtures voices that open minds and deepen human understanding

By Meredith Camel
UM News

UM's M. Evelina Galang, front left, who helped move the two-week conference to UM last year, attends a reading with other VONA/Voices at Books & Books in Coral Gables.

UM’s M. Evelina Galang, front left, who helped move the two-week conference to UM last year, meets up with VONA/Voices students for a faculty reading at Books & Books in Coral Gables.

MIAMI, Fla.—Through all the joy, fanfare, and soul-stirring power of a VONA (Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation) literary reading, there remains a palpable pain body—one festered through experiences of exclusion as writers of color.

“In the seven layers of your skin are seven centuries of damage that brought you here,” reads author Minal Hajratwala, describing her “wound theory” to a packed theater in Miami’s Little Haiti in June during a VONA/Voices faculty reading. “What’s exhausting is to always cover up the wound.”

Faculty readings were among several free events open to the public during the two weeks that UM hosted VONA/Voices, the only multi-genre conference in the country for writers of color. M. Evelina Galang, director of the UM Creative Writing program and a long-time VONA/Voices faculty and board member, helped move the annual conference to UM from California last year.

“This year, we had a record number of applicants, so Miami, Miami, Miami!” says Diem Jones, who cofounded VONA/Voices in 1999 with fellow authors Elmaz Abinader, Junot Diaz, and Victor Diaz.

Of this year’s 520 applicants from around the world, 150 were selected for workshops in fiction, poetry, memoir, LGBTQ narrative, young adult, and more. All VONA/Voices faculty are “high profile writers committed to social justice, excellent teachers, and who mirror the population we’re trying to reach,” Abinader explains. Among this year’s 14 faculty members was poet John Murillo, a VONA/Voices student in 2003 and visiting assistant professor in the UM Creative Writing program from 2011 to 2012.

In addition to strong writing, VONA/Voices seeks students who think deeply about what it means to be a writer of color as well as those with limited options for craft development. The greatest impact of the conference, Abinader says, is having “a place to feel safe, where no one is judging them based on the stories they access.”

“It’s supportive and nurturing, it builds trust, and it digs deep into their soul,” says Jones, noting that each workshop typically goes through a full box of tissues in a week. “We tell them, ‘Don’t come if your wall is up.’ ”

 

 

 

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Cuban Dissident Blasts Obama During UM Visit

In his first trip outside of Cuba, Oscar Elias Biscet received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush and the keys to Coral Gables from Mayor James Cason, formerly the chief U.S. diplomat in Cuba.

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

Noted Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet holds a copy of Cuba's 1940 constitution,  which the Castro regime abolished.

Noted Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet holds a copy of Cuba’s 1940 constitution, which the Castro regime abolished.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 30, 2016)—Holding a black and white photo of President Barack Obama shaking hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, noted Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet condemned the U.S.’s rapprochement with the Cuban government, saying countries that “defend democracy should serve as examples.”

“How can you shake hands with an assassin?” Biscet asked at a June 29 press conference held at the University of Miami, referring to Raul Castro’s bloodied history, which includes ordering hundreds of firing-squad executions at the onset of the Cuban revolution led by his brother.

“When you see the faces of Fidel and Raul Castro you are not only looking at their faces, but at the faces of Stalin and Hitler, and they symbolize terror and death,” said Biscet, a physician who spent years in Cuban prisons for his advocacy.

During the hour-long press conference at UM’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, the founder of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights reiterated his longstanding belief that the Cuban regime was a dictatorship built on “illegitimacy.” As he noted, the Castro government abolished the 1940 Cuban Constitution, which, inspired by the U.S. Bill of Rights, granted basic human rights and freedoms to its citizens.

“The Cuban people want a complete change,” he said. “They do not want an evolution with this dictatorship. They want to be free.”

Biscet was introduced by Coral Gables Mayor James C. Cason, who, in presenting Biscet with the keys to the city of Coral Gables, called him “the true hero, one of the most principled, determined members of the opposition in Cuba.”

As head of the Cuban Interest Section in Havana during the early 2000s, Cason met Biscet and his wife, Elsa Morejon, and often tried to intercede on his behalf with the Cuban government.

Now 54, Biscet made his first trip abroad to speak out against the repression in Cuba, and to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush for his dedication to advancing human rights and democracy in Cuba. Bush awarded Biscet the medal in absentia in 2007, while he was in prison. Biscet accepted the nation’s highest civilian honor at a ceremony at the George W. Bush Center in Dallas on June 23.

Although repression in Cuba persists, Biscet said he felt the dictatorship is nearing its end because internal opposition is well defined and most Cubans are beginning to lose their fear of the government.

As a sign of the changing times, he noted that his Project Emilia, a petition initiative calling for the end of communism on the island, was gaining momentum. In what is a risky act in Cuba, about 3,000 Cuban citizens have signed the petition, giving their names, addresses, and identity card data.

 

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