Activities Director Receives NACA Legacy Award

By Andres Tamayo
UM News


Joshua Brandfon

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 22, 2017)—The National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) recently recognized Joshua Brandfon, the University of Miami’s director of student activities and student organizations, with its NACA Legacy Award for both his longtime volunteer service to the organization and future volunteer aspirations.

“I’m thankful to have been nominated for this award and appreciate being recognized for my contributions to the association,” Brandfon said. “NACA helps us better serve UM students by providing us with the knowledge, research, and resources we need to do our jobs well.”

As the director of student activities and student organizations, Brandfon is responsible for setting an overall vision and defining the co-curricular experience through campus programming. He directly advises UM’s homecoming program and student funding board (SAFAC).

“Josh is one of our innovative minds ensuring that we are anticipating future student trends and student union needs and is a major contributor to the Division of Student Affairs’ efforts to drive student engagement,” said Gail Cole-Avent, executive director of Student Life.

Over the years, Brandfon and his staff in Student Activities have volunteered their time to help plan programs and events for NACA. Brandfon, who has been heavily involved with the association since his days as a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, has served in both regional and national roles.

Currently, Brandfon serves on the NACA Research and Scholarship Group and was recently part of a committee that helped develop NACA’s new strategic plan. He’s a candidate for the NACA Board of Directors and works closely with fellow NACA professionals, agents, and artists to share and implement ideas on how to enhance student engagement on campus.

Brandfon is happy with what he and his team have accomplished over the years. “I look forward to continuing to give back to an organization that has given so much to me throughout my career,” he said.

For more information on the Department of Student Activities and Student Organizations, visit the website.

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Toppel Center Recognizes Champions

Members of the University of Miami community and UM partners recognize those who support career readiness with the Toppel Awards

By Jennifer Palma
UM News


From left are the Toppel Center’s Executive Director Christian Garcia, Director of Employer Engagement Alicia Rodriguez, benefactor Patricia Toppel, and awardee Shirelle Jackson.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 22, 2017)—Students, recruiters, employers, and three employees—Shirelle Jackson, Ann Helmers, and Justin Tatman—were honored last week for their dedication to impacting the future careers of UM students through the University of Miami’s Patrica and Harold Toppel Career Center and beyond.

As Christian Garcia, associate dean and executive director of the Toppel Career Center, was quick to mention, “career services are everyone’s business at the University of Miami.” While he and his team  lead the way on various career-based initiatives, Garcia attributed much of the center’s success to career champions both on and off campus. The Toppel Awards were created to honor and recognize the outstanding achievements and tireless efforts of the many champions from the past year.

Jackson, the assistant athletic director for student athlete development, who likes to say she tries to prepare athletes to go from the locker room to the boardroom, received the Distinguished Administrator Award for making “sure every student has a Plan B to ensure their future.”

Helmers, the director of career services and alumni relations in the College of Engineering, received the inaugural Patricia Toppel Award for an unsung administrator who consistently makes an impact on the work Toppel does.

Tatman, a lecturer in the School of Education and Human Development’s Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences, received this year’s Excellence in Career Education Award for enlisting the Toppel Center’s help in preparing students in his Athletic Training course.

Other categories and honorees included the following:

Student Group of the Year

Noted for their continuous support of career-focused events, Delta Sigma Pi was awarded Student Group of Year. The coed business fraternity was recognized for its commitment and passion for career readiness by hosting their own career events, alumni panels, and workshops throughout the year. The fraternity’s endeavors often include non-members and have had a great impact on the UM community.

Graduate Student of the Year

Among the many “career champions” in attendance, Miller School of Medicine graduate student, Celeste Amadei, echoed the importance of mentors as she accepted the award for Graduate Student of the Year.

As a Ph.D. student in biochemistry and molecular biology, Amadei took it upon herself to fill a void for children in Miami-Dade County. In an effort to provide education, outreach, and mentorship to children interested in science, she founded Women in Biomedical Science. The organization encourages children to explore career options in science-related fields and provides mentoring and support along the way.

Undergraduate Student of the Year

As a student who has benefitted from the support of mentors during his time at UM, Malik Bibby stressed the importance of giving back during his acceptance of the Toppel Award for Undergraduate Student of the Year.

“I encourage you to give as much as you can to everything around you,” he said as he thanked everyone who offered support during his time as a student.

Bibby, a senior in the School of Education and Human development and a medic in the Florida National Guard, was praised for his unique leadership abilities that inspire those around him. In his numerous roles on campus, Bibby is consistently recognized as a student who empowers other students to be the best version of themselves in every aspect of life.

In addition to recognizing student career champions, the ceremony also celebrated the partnerships across and beyond campus that have been essential to Toppel’s success. The awardees for the 2017 Toppel Awards are listed below:

Student Group of the Year

Delta Sigma Pi

Student of the Year (Graduate)

Celeste Amadei

Student of the Year (Undergraduate)

Malik Bibby

Alum of the Year

Kara M. Cavuto

Recruiter of the Year

Catherine Rodriguez, U.S. Department of State

Employer of the Year (Private)


Employer of the Year (Public/Not-for-Profit)

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Local Employer of the Year

Northwestern Mutual

Inaugural Patricia Toppel Award (Employer)

Kathleen Cymbaluk, Federal Bureau of Investigation






























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Sixty-Two Faculty Receive Provost Research Awards

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research has announced 62 recipients of the 2017 Provost’s Research Awards, which will provide salary support and direct research costs to help faculty pursue a variety of research topics and projects—from corporate divorces and ankle sprains to spiritual eating and Saharan dust.

In all, faculty representing 38 departments in eight schools and colleges on the Coral Gables and Rosenstiel School campuses were selected for the awards, which are designed to foster excellence in research and creative activity and increase the overall research portfolio at the University of Miami.

Applicants were reviewed by faculty subcommittees of the Research Council representing the arts, business, humanities, natural science, engineering, and social sciences. Funding was awarded in three categories based on discipline: the Max Orovitz Research Award in Arts and Humanities; the James W. McLamore Research Award in Business and the Social Sciences, and the Research Award in the Natural Sciences and Engineering.

Approximately 155 applications were evaluated based on their scholarly, scientific and/or creative merit, the likelihood that the work will lead to major peer-reviewed outcomes, and the opportunity for faculty career enhancement.

View a list of this year’s awardees.

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Chemistry Professor Awarded Science Fellowship in Japan

By Betty Chinea
Special to UM News


Rajeev Prabhakar

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 15, 2017)—Rajeev Prabhakar, a chemist at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, is no stranger to spending time in a foreign country.

Originally from India, he earned his Ph.D. in Sweden and is accustomed to discovering and acclimating himself in different cultures, which is why Prabhakar had no reservations about visiting Japan—for the second time in his career. But this excursion is more business than pleasure.

Recently, Prabhakar received news that he was awarded a prestigious fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) as a visiting professor.

Selection for this coveted fellowship is an honor not lost on Prabhakar. Only 25 percent of applicants are accepted and each must have a host professor in Japan who applies for them.

“It is very exciting,” said Prabhakar. “The Japanese are very advanced in science and they have a strong research culture.”

Prabhakar, who began his journey February 15, will visit multiple universities in Japan through March 9, including the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Fukui Institute for Fundamental Chemistry, Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules, Nagoya University, and Hokkaido University.

The purpose of the fellowship is to establish research collaborations with Japanese scientists from the institutes and universities, and help advance and expand Prabhakar’s current research at UM, which is primed to fundamentally advance the design of artificial enzymes, biomaterials, antimicrobial peptides, and drugs for neurological disorders.

“It will be very beneficial to interact with some of the leading researchers in these areas and explore innovative ideas of mutual interest,” said Prabhakar.

The importance of Prabhakar’s research is underscored by JSPS’s full support of his visit. Along with collaborating and forming new connections with Japanese researchers, he will be presenting research seminars as a visiting professor.

For more than 80 years, the JSPS has initiated and carried out a vast array of programs that are essential to promoting scientific research. The organization has developed as a research and support organization designed to advance research and foster talented researchers for generations to come.

The fellowship also supports UM President Julio Frenk’s vision for UM as an innovation hub, connecting, collaborating, and building knowledge with organizations and researchers beyond our borders.

“I am hopeful that the JSPS fellowship will help me to expand the research we are already doing here and start something new and interesting while building ties between UM and leading Japanese universities,” said Prabhakar.


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University Receives Five CASE Awards

UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 10, 2017) —The Division of University Advancement received five awards, including a National Platinum Award of Excellence for its outreach to graduating students, at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s (CASE) District III awards ceremony in Nashville last week.

As part of the "Senior Sendoff" iniiitve, the inaugural commencement ball was held in 2016.

Part of the “Senior Sendoff” initiative, the inaugural Commencement Ball was held in 2016.

The Office of Alumni Relations won the Award of Excellence in the category of Best Practices in Alumni Relations for its “Senior Sendoff” initiative, a comprehensive, multi-channel program launched in 2015 to engage graduating students and convey the importance of philanthropy while they are still on campus. The Senior Sendoff program includes a “Senior Day at the Rat,” a commencement ball, and the distribution of “alumni cards” during cap-and-gown pick-up.

Alumni Relations also received the Grand Award in the category of Engagement Project, Event, or Program, and a Special Merit Award for Best Practices in Alumni Relations for its outreach to alumni during UM President Julio Frenk’s inauguration. Managed by the UM Alumni Association, the weeklong series of events aimed at exciting alumni about UM’s sixth president included ’Canes Communities Inauguration Tip-Off Parties, an alumni-owned/operated businesses initiative, corporate inauguration gatherings, inauguration kits, and a promotional UM video, among others.

University Communications was recognized with two Special Merit Awards, including one in the events category for ’Cane Talks, the lively 10-­minute presentations by UM scholars and leaders introduced as a new tradition during Frenk’s inauguration. It submitted this entry on behalf of staff in several areas of University Advancement, the ’Cane Talks committee, and other individuals who worked on the event. The second merit award, for graphic design in the periodical category, went to UM Libraries’ “Access: Reflections on Discovery and Growth at the UM Library.’’

Covering 68 categories, the CASE District III Awards recognize the best practices in advancement in nine states.


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