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Elections Course Brings ‘Living History’ to Students

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Elections Course Brings ‘Living History’ to Students

As the first guest speaker, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen urged the class to register for the Nov. 8 election

 By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News


From left, Professor Casey Klofstad, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtien, and pollster Fernand Amandi throw up the U at the first session of the 2016 Election Course.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 24, 2016)—As an aspiring journalist, UM senior Margot Woll signed up for the 2016 Election Course because she feels she should know more about the upcoming presidential election. But her mind is made up; she will vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Rachel Barrales, a senior from California, wants to know what the candidates’ views are on the economy and education. And Nathan Seidle, a 19-year-old sophomore and supporter of the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, was lured to the course hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Political Science because it is only offered once every four years.

About 270 students signed up for the course, which held at Storer Auditorium on Tuesday nights combines lectures with talks by prominent guest speakers. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was Tuesday night’s lead-off speaker and students welcomed the longtime Republican congresswoman with loud applause. She urged the students to vote.

“Thank goodness we live in a country where we can elect our leaders,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “It hurts me to say that I cannot vote for my party’s leader. I cannot vote for him, I would not be able to sleep at night.”

Instead of supporting Trump, Ros-Lehtinen plans to write in the name of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two former Republican presidents. Ros-Lehtinen spent half an hour talking about her experience in Congress where she has served for the past 27 years, and took pictures with some of her interns who are UM students, as well as many others who lined up to talk to her.

Political Science Professor Joseph Uscinski, who is one of the four teachers of the course, was not surprised by the enthusiasm in the room.

“Students watch what is going on in the news and all they hear is a lot of nastiness,” said Uscinski. “They are millennials who want to understand fully what is going on.”

UM instructor Fernand Amandi, managing partner of Bendixen & Amandi International, was in charge of the evening’s class, which was a mixture of lecture, stand-up comedy, and instant polling. Using clickers or classroom response devices, students answered questions posed on an overhead projector. The instant poll showed that 50 percent of the class would vote for Clinton, 17 percent for Trump, and the rest would either support the libertarian ticket or are undecided.

“You are all very fortunate to be in Florida and Miami-Dade County,” Amandi told the class. ”You are living history and it is very possible that Miami-Dade could decide the presidential election.”

Amandi spoke about the importance of Florida as a “swing state” in the presidential election. Using TV news clips from most of the major television stations, rock music, and animated videos, he also gave an overview of the U.S. president’s duties and role in a democratic society, the roles of Congress and the judicial branch of the government, and the many variables that can affect the outcome of the November election.

He showed a slide depicting all the available polls, which put Clinton in the lead.

“If the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would win but there are 77 days until Election Day,” Amandi said. “A lot can happen between now and then.”

Other instructors for the class are Professor Casey Klofstad of the Political Science Department and Rudy Fernandez, chief of staff to UM President Julio Frenk and vice president of government and community relations at UM.


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Course Engages Students in Election


Course Engages Students in Election

By Deserae E. del Campo
Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 10, 2016)—The 2016 presidential candidates have been chosen and the race to the White House is on in one of the most controversial and historic elections to date. Who will win? How does the Electoral College work? What role does media play in today’s political arena? These questions and more will be answered by a group of University of Miami instructors teaching a course entitled The 2016 Election, hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Political Science.

2016 Election Course“This is one of the biggest and most important courses that the University of Miami has ever offered,” said Joseph Uscinski, an associate professor of political science at the UM College of Arts and Sciences. “This election is of monumental importance, and our students will have the opportunity to learn about it from both expert professors and top political insiders.”

The 300 students enrolled in the course will meet every Tuesday night in Storer Auditorium to study the democratic process, from the ins and outs of a presidential campaign to issues that divide voters today, election conspiracy theories, voter turnout, and race and gender issues across the U.S. political spectrum.

The course also will feature guest speakers who offer real-world experience in politics, government, and the media, such as U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, both Republicans from Miami and UM alumni, as well as former U.S. Representative and current news commentator Colonel Allen West, and local filmmaker Billy Corben, also a UM alumnus.

“By bringing in prominent outside speakers from the world of politics and the mass media, we will expose hundreds of UM students to experts with frontline knowledge of this historic election, ” said Casey Klofstad, an associate professor of political science. “UM has a rich tradition of engagement with presidential elections, and with the support of the college we are hoping to make this course a centerpiece of that continued engagement this year.”

The course will feature an election-night watch party on November 8 for students and invited guests with live broadcasts from CNN, MSNBC, and other news channels, as well as guest speakers and opportunities for students to engage in live polling.

In addition to Klofstad and Uscinski, other lecturers include Fernand Amandi, a UM instructor and managing partner of Bendixen & Amandi International, a Miami-based management and communications consulting firm, and Rudy Fernandez, chief of staff to UM President Julio Frenk and vice president of government and community relations at UM.

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GIS Mapping Aims to Improve Elder Care


GIS Mapping Aims to Improve Elder Care

By Jessica M. Castillo
UM News

Older.HealthCORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 5, 2016) — With a growing aging population in South Florida, a University of Miami geographer who specializes in public health teamed up with geriatricians and other geographers to conduct the first age-adjusted analysis of socially and medically vulnerable older adults in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.

Using census data and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping techniques, Justin Stoler, an assistant professor at the College of Arts and Sciences, and his fellow researchers mapped and analyzed areas of socially and medically vulnerable older adults in the tri-county area who were not being identified by traditional population-wide health care analyses.

“We used a rich data set to help identify pockets of vulnerable older adults who may be slipping through the cracks in neighborhoods that were not previously considered vulnerable,” said Stoler, who also holds a courtesy appointment in the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences.

The concepts of medical and social vulnerability—which incorporate sociodemographic factors such as age, sex, race, and ethnicity—are becoming well established in the field, Stoler says. Accurately defining these vulnerabilities and indicators geographically, particularly in diverse populations, is still a challenge but becoming increasingly important in the rapidly changing medical landscape.

In an attempt to overcome the challenges, Stoler and his team applied principal components analysis (PCA) to previously identified indicators of social and medical vulnerability at the census tract level. Using GIS, the researchers created and mapped age-stratified vulnerability scores and then used spatial analysis techniques to identify patterns and interactions between social and medical vulnerability throughout the study area.

The study, Stoler says, grew from observations by mobile health clinicians affiliated with Nova Southeastern University in Broward County. They found that a surprising number of older adults were in need of medical assistance but had inadequate access to health services.

Stoler, whose research has focused on the geographic patterns of urban health disparities and environmental influences on social and behavioral epidemiology, is excited about the potential for follow-up research to ultimately improve access to care for older adults. He and his fellow researchers hope to better determine sub-populations of medically and socially vulnerable older adults, whose age was defined for the study as 65 and older, and elderly adults, defined as over 85.

As their study noted, with an age-stratified analysis, policymakers can develop more targeted and low-cost methods to serve the health care needs of often-overlooked populations who are in higher need of medical and social assistance.

“Local and regional government agencies, such as Area Agencies on Aging, are increasingly connecting people to information and resources, and would benefit greatly from more detailed data about the population served,” the study says. “In this rapidly evolving paradigm, data that explain the driving factors of older adult social and medical vulnerability remain essential to medical practice.”

Stoler collaborated with Elizabeth Hames, Sweta Tewary, and Naushira Pandya of Nova Southeastern University’s Department of Geriatrics and the Florida Coastal Geriatric Resources, Education and Training Center, and with Christopher T. Emrich of the University of South Carolina’s Department of Geography and Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute. Their study, “A GIS approach to identifying socially and medically vulnerable older adult populations in South Florida,” was published August 5, 2016 in The Gerontologist.


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Professor Selected for Esteemed Residency


Professor Selected for Esteemed Residency

The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center connects scholars from diverse backgrounds to collaborate and seek solutions for today’s global issues. 

Louis Herns Marcelin

Louis Herns Marcelin

CORAL GABLES, Fla.  (July 27, 2016)—On picturesque Lake Como in Italy sits a villa where great minds connect and collaborate to address the complex issues facing the world today, and joining this prestigious group of thinkers is Louis Herns Marcelin, associate professor of anthropology at the College of Arts and Sciences.

Chosen from a competitive pool of over 3,000 applicants from all over the world, Marcelin is one of only 27 scholars invited to spend four weeks in Northern Italy to participate in the Bellagio Residency Program, a focused, goal-oriented, collaborative program where fellow residents from distinct backgrounds, disciplines, and geographies come together to implement solutions to political, health, environmental, and economic challenges.

“Once I learned that I had received the award I was stunned and, of course, honored to be among the few selected from all over the world,” said Marcelin. “Each time I speak with a Rockefeller Foundation Residency staff I learn more about the importance of this award and the opportunities it offers.”

According to The Rockefeller Foundation, “convening prominent experts, influencers, and other key stakeholders to advance knowledge and form new partnerships, financial commitments, and initiatives that support these [Foundation] goals enables the Bellagio Center to advance the mission of the Foundation as a complement to its grant making efforts.”

Marcelin was invited to work on his book project titled “Violence, Social Order, Human Insecurity and Peacebuilding in Contemporary Haiti.” He says the project builds on a series of studies regarding violence, social injustice, and insecurity in post-dictatorship and post-disaster Haiti. The project spans 20 years of research using sociological surveys, in-depth ethnographic interviews, social mapping, participant observation, document analysis, and other analytics. Some aspects of the study have been published in flagship anthropology and humanities journals.

“The residency is designed to give you the time and space to reflect on and exchange ideas with many fascinating people,” said Marcelin. “However, the ultimate goal is to inspire us to write. My personal goal is to revisit many of the philosophical ideas and methodological approaches that illuminate my years of research on violence, while also taking advantage of the expertise and perspectives of other prominent thinkers in order to generate an analysis that is relevant to our challenging time.”

A native of Haiti, Marcelin, along with UM colleagues and faculty from other universities, established the Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development (INURED), an organization for collaborative research and action on issues affecting Haiti and the Caribbean.

From 1993 to 2007, Marcelin built the ideas and concepts that formed INURED; it has been active on the ground in Haiti for close to a decade, initiating many programs before the catastrophic earthquake of 2010. As a premiere research institution in Haiti, INURED serves as a venue for UM students to go beyond the books and conduct research as well as participate in collaborative fieldwork with international scholars, including Haitian faculty and Haitian students.

“More so today than ever, we need tested but innovative approaches to address the challenges that undermine human security and the hope for social justice, particularly in places like Haiti, which is the centerpiece of my investigations on violence,” said Marcelin. “The residency will help me carve time to significantly advance in this project.”

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Physicist Helps Unlock  Secrets of the Universe


Physicist Helps Unlock Secrets of the Universe

A team member on Japan’s Hitomi mission, Massimiliano Galeazzi helped develop the systematic goals and strategies for a satellite designed to study black holes and the evolution of the universe.

By Deserae E. del Campo
Special to UM News

A radiation measurement of the Perseus galaxy cluster, as captured by the Hitomi satellite.

A radiation measurement of the Perseus galaxy cluster, as captured by the Hitomi satellite.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 14, 2016) – Scientists built it to peer into the far reaches of outer space, with a mission to explore the nature of black holes, mysterious dark matter, and even the origins of the universe. But when Japan’s Hitomi satellite spiraled out of control only a month after achieving orbit earlier this year, astronomers thought all was lost.

Then came the news that made scientists like the University of Miami’s Massimiliano Galeazzi breathe a sigh of relief. In its short life, the doomed satellite had collected valuable X-ray data from a distant galaxy cluster—the kind of information astronomers had been waiting for years to obtain.

“Clusters are the building blocks of the universe,” said Galeazzi, associate chair and professor of physics in the University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences, who collaborated with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA to develop the systematic goals and strategies for the Hitomi mission. “Hitomi could measure much better than anything before it the energy or wavelength of the X-ray radiation coming from an astronomical object.”

With its next-generation X-ray instrument developed and built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center by scientists from the U.S., Japan, and the Netherlands, Hitomi, which translates to “pupil of the eye” in Japanese, captured X-ray gasses emitting from the Perseus cluster, a collection of galaxies joined by gravity and located 240 million light years from Earth. The cluster radiates hot gasses, averaging 90 million degrees, which before were unmeasurable by astrophysicists.

Scientists studied the data captured by Hitomi and found that the hot gasses between galaxies within the cluster are moving at a slower speed and in a less turbulent manner than expected. Studying the movement and turbulence of gas is a vital tool for understanding the growth and parameters of the universe and how galaxies form and evolve.

“The level of details obtained by the investigation is breathtaking, showing the incredible power of the X-ray instrument aboard the Hitomi satellite,” said Galeazzi. “Although the satellite was lost prematurely, the instrument has revolutionized the field of X-ray astrophysics and paved the way for the next generation of X-ray telescopes.”

The X-ray instrument abroad the Hitomi satellite measured an array of emissions from the cluster such as iron, nickel, chromium, and manganese—elements apparent in the stars located in the cluster’s galaxies. The satellite’s data also showed that the gasses’ turbulent motion is practically nonexistent, which leaves scientists to wonder: what is keeping the cluster’s gasses so hot?

Andrew Fabian, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, says, “This result from Hitomi is telling us that in terms of how cluster cores work, we have to think very carefully about what is going on.”

The X-ray data observed by Hitomi is an indication of the advances satellites can detect in the far reaches of space. The European Space Agency plans to send out a next-generation satellite in the 2020s named ATHENA, which will feature 100 times more pixels than Hitomi and be able to explore galaxy clusters and the relationship they play with massive black holes.

The findings from Hitomi’s data collection of the Perseus cluster were published in the journal Nature on July 7 and titled “The quiescent intracluster medium in the core of the Perseus cluster.”


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