Tag Archive | "Office of the President"


USF Honors Frenk with Honorary Degree

05-15-17-USF-Frenk-608x342Before conferring nearly 3,800 degrees to the University of Miami’s spring 2017 graduates last week, UM President Julio Frenk, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., received another degree of his own—from the University of South Florida where he delivered the commencement address at the USF Health Ceremony.

USF System President Judy Genshaft and Charles J. Lockwood, M.D., senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, presented the USF Honorary Degree to Frenk at their May 5 ceremony when 450 newly minted nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, and other health professionals walked the stage in Tampa.

Frenk, the former health minister of Mexico and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, congratulated the  students for making “an existential commitment to improving the human condition through your unique blend of knowledge, skills, experience, and compassionate care.”

He also told them their graduation coincides with a moment in history that can be characterized with two words: change and complexity. “In particular,” he said, “health care is being shaped and challenged by unprecedented economic, technological, and social forces. It is changing from a system that rewards volume to one that rewards value; from care that is fragmented across highly specialized silos into care that is integrated across collaborative teams of health professionals.”


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Chief of Staff Named Presidential Leadership Scholar

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Chief of Staff Named Presidential Leadership Scholar

Rudy Fernandez

Rudy Fernandez

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 1, 2017) – Rudy Fernandez, chief of staff to UM president Julio Frenk and vice president for government and community relations, is among 60 leaders across the nation selected for the third class of Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) program, a unique leadership development initiative that draws upon the resources of the presidential centers of George W. BushWilliam J. ClintonGeorge H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

“I am honored and humbled to be included among this distinguished group of leaders,” said Fernandez, one of only two 2017 class members from Florida.”The first 20 years of my career have had a public policy focus, so this will be an invaluable opportunity to study presidential leadership and leverage the resources of these four prestigious presidential centers.”

As chief of staff, Fernandez serves as a senior advisor to UM President Julio Frenk on strategic objectives and operational issues, often leading major initiatives on behalf of the president. Fernandez also served as chief of staff to former UM President Donna E. Shalala, and he played a key role in the presidential transition at UM.

Prior to joining the University, Fernandez was special assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs in the George W. Bush White House. He also held senior positions in the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Bush-Cheney 2004 Campaign and the Republican National Committee. He has a bachelor of arts degree in government from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from the University of Miami.

Comprised of  veterans, educators, public servants, and corporate professionals, the third PLS class was selected after a rigorous application and review process, and was based on each member’s leadership growth potential and the strength of personal leadership projects aimed at improving the civic or social good by addressing a problem or need in a community, profession, or organization.

Over the course of several months, the scholars will travel to each participating presidential center to learn from former presidents, key administration officials, and leading academics. They will study and put into practice varying approaches to leadership, develop a network of peers, and exchange ideas with mentors and others who can help them make an impact in their communities.

The program begins in Washington, D.C. on February 7, where scholars will visit the National Archives and Records Administration, Mount Vernon, and the White House Historical Association, and explore personal and professional development areas, including core values and civility.

The latest class, which also includes Rory Diamond, the chief executive officer of K9s For Warriors, in north Florida’s Neptune Beach, joins the alumni network of 121 scholars in the program.

To learn more about the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, visit www.presidentialleadershipscholars.org.


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Illuminating Moonlight: President Frenk and Tarell McCraney Discuss the Playwright’s Academy Award-Nominee

A screening at the Cosford gives UM President Julio Frenk an opportunity to talk to one of the creative forces behind the Academy Award-nominated ‘Moonlight’

By Robin Shear
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 30, 2017)—The evening after Moonlight received eight Academy Award nominations, the University of Miami hosted a special screening event at the Cosford Cinema, with a Q&A between UM President Julio Frenk and Tarell Alvin McCraney, the playwright and Miami native whose largely autobiographical work inspired the critically acclaimed film.

McCraney has been a professor of theater and civic engagement in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences since 2015. During that time he also launched an arts leadership project for young women of color at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center in Liberty City, one of the local resources that gave McCraney a rare refuge from the poverty, crime, and bullying he struggled with growing up in the neighborhood.

After last Wednesday’s screening of the 111-minute drama, currently slated to run at the Cosford through February 9,  a visibly affected audience paused briefly before breaking into applause.

Moonlight, already a Golden Globe winner for Best Picture-Drama, tells the story of Chiron, also nicknamed “Little” and “Black,” in three gripping acts. Chiron lives with his drug-addicted mother in Liberty City during the turbulent 1980s. With troubles at home and school, the quiet but intense Chiron (pronounced shy-rone) traverses dangerous terrain, buoyed by fleeting moments of sanctuary and support from a drug dealer named Juan, based on a significant figure in McCraney’s youth. Unlike Chiron, McCraney took another path and went on to become a renowned playwright, recognized in 2013 with a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.

“This is a stunning example of how artists can move us to new understandings of our world,” Frenk said during his introduction of McCraney, who has “story by” and executive producer credits on Moonlight. “Tarell is a son of Miami. He is an artist of Miami. And he is an advocate for Miami. The film we just saw is such a beautiful, poetic, loving portrait of our incredible city in all its dimensions.”

But it is a story that might never have been widely known. When McCraney was 22, his mother died of AIDS-related complications. Trying to make sense of his life up to that time, he wrote In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. Though never staged, almost a decade later the work came to the attention of director and screenwriter Barry Jenkins, also raised in Liberty City. Their collaboration has garnered a powerful response that has pushed the self-described “painfully shy” McCraney into a new kind of spotlight.

Among Moonlight’s eight Academy Award nominations are Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director. At the Q&A on January 25, McCraney spoke openly and eloquently about what it was like to be part of such an intensely personal project and why he thinks it has resonated with audiences and critics as one of the best films of the year.

Crediting the authenticity Jenkins brought to the screen and a “one-of-a-kind” ensemble cast, McCraney said, “There hadn’t been this kind of storytelling in a while, specifically about people of color from this part of the world. I think there was an appetite for it.”

He also credited School of Communication lecturer Rafael Lima, who taught playwriting at McCraney’s high school, with the words of wisdom that helped him begin to share this poignant and intimate piece.

“I had tried to figure out ways to create the story before and didn’t really understand how to do that,” said McCraney. “He said, ‘If a story keeps coming to you visually, then it’s a film. If you hear it, then it’s a play.’”

Asked by Frenk what he would tell young people who live in a world where they, like Chiron, may face violence in terms of their race, sexual orientation, or any other dimension of their identity, McCraney replied, “I don’t know if I would tell them anything, to be fair. Having sat in that chair and having to listen to adults figure out how to fix an ill of society by telling you something feels counterintuitive. The thing I often try to do in those circumstances is show them where they actually belong. One of the initiatives I’ve appreciated since I’ve been here at the University is the Culture of Belonging because it’s a powerful tenet. We have work to do here, but that’s where it all starts. One of the things that Juan does in the film for Little is he says, ‘You belong somewhere, you’re a part of something.’ And that’s what I would try to show rather than say.”

Praising Moonlight, School of Communication Dean Gregory Shepherd asked McCraney to expand on the character of Juan, complexly portrayed by Academy Award nominee Mahershala Ali. McCraney started with an anecdote about walking up to Ali backstage after seeing the movie with an audience for the first time in Toronto. “My tie was askew and [Ali] started fixing it,” recounted McCraney, “and I burst into tears because for me he had just sort of transformed into this person I had not seen since I was 6 or 7 years old.”

The character of Juan, he explained, was based on his mother’s boyfriend, a man named Blue. “He was a drug dealer, and he was every bit of a hero to me,” McCraney said. “He taught me how to ride a bike. He taught me how to swim. He told me that I was good enough. He often stemmed my mother’s abuse from affecting me in many ways. I was the best-dressed kid in Liberty City for a long time. I always wanted to honor that memory but not expunge it of any of the things that, actually, he did.”

Thanking McCraney for coming to speak to one of his classes previously, UM student Jeremy Penn asked him to discuss the bullying and violence portrayed in the film and how the “school and police fail to address the systemic issues that are going on.”

McCraney said that in his own life the system didn’t fail him. “At some point the bullying stopped because I was led out of danger,” he explained. He was offered free classes at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center and attended the New World School of the Arts, “so I could be in a place that was just a little bit more accepting of who I was.”

But that’s not everyone’s story. McCraney notes that Chiron’s story doesn’t follow his own trajectory of success. “One of the reasons I wrote [the story] in that way was, what if I took that one missed step to the left? And both things cost. No matter what school I’m at, no matter what instructor I’m with, I still carry the scars of that time.”

President Frenk concluded by thanking McCraney—who will be returning to his alma mater, the Yale School of Drama, in July to serve as chair of the playwriting department—for his artistic creation, his work at UM, and his service to the greater Miami community.

“Obviously on Oscar night all your friends and family at the U are going to be rooting for Moonlight. We hope it does very, very well,” said Frenk. “We wish you well—and you know this will always be the home where you truly belong.”

The evening was sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of Civic and Community Engagement, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Communication.

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UM Announces Creation of the Frost Institutes for Science and Engineering


UM Announces Creation of the Frost Institutes for Science and Engineering

Frost-InstitutesRecognizing the need to grow a global, interdisciplinary network focused on scientific discovery and solutions, the University of Miami is creating the Frost Institutes for Science and Engineering to achieve those milestones by elevating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

University of Miami President Julio Frenk unveiled the network of intertwined research organizations housed under the Frost Institutes at the 50th annual Miami Winter Symposium held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami, a prestigious event that attracted more than 100 scientists, researchers and doctors from 28 countries this year.

This transformational initiative is made possible thanks to the extraordinary $100 million gift by Dr. Phillip and Patricia Frost announced during Frenk’s inauguration last year to support basic and applied sciences and engineering.

“The University of Miami is already known for excellence in biomedicine, marine sciences, and other fields,” Frenk said. “But continued excellence cannot be sustained without critical investments in basic and applied science, mathematics, and engineering. These disciplines, which form the building blocks for innovation, must be strengthened to maintain our leading edge as a research university.”

The name of the Frost Institutes was modeled after the National Institutes of Health, inspiring UM to have a strategic, coordinated investment in the sciences and engineering. The first individual institute announced, the Frost Institute of Chemistry and Molecular Sciences, creates an arena for the comprehensive study of the chemical sciences, including basic and applied research areas, to advance knowledge and technologies in chemistry, biochemistry, and engineering.

A portion of the $100 million gift will be used for the construction of an iconic, modern science and engineering building on the University’s Coral Gables campus, to be named the Phillip and Patricia Frost Science and Engineering Building. Of the gift, $30 million is designated to the creation of at least 13 chairs in STEM fields, with $3 million set aside for graduate student support.

“Patricia and I are committed to making Miami a hub for technological and scientific innovation, which is the main reason for our support of basic and applied sciences and engineering at the University of Miami,” Dr. Frost said. “If we build the framework from which to provide the education and resources, we will be successful in attracting world-class scientists across various disciplines.”

The creation of the Frost Institutes solidifies the University’s nine transformational initiatives to propel UM toward its greatest aspirations by its centennial in 2025, allowing for STEM growth, a stimulation of interdisciplinary research collaboration, and engagement with greater Miami as a hemispheric innovation hub.

The University will launch a national search for an individual to lead the Frost Institutes, with additional institutes to be created over the next several years.

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UM’s First Distinguished Presidential Fellow Employs Her Story-Telling Power

Cuban journalist Yoani Sánchez, the newly named UM Distinguished Presidential Fellow, spoke about challenges faced by reporters and the state of an independent media in Cuba.
By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

Yoani Sánchez, UM’s first Distinguished Presidential Fellow, inaugurated the UM Cuba Forums lecture series.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 25, 2016)—The 11-year-boy and his mother had come far—all the way from Cuba to the jungle of Panama’s Darién Gap. Now, the only thing they needed to do was cross the treacherous swath of land where bandits, vipers, and jaguars often lurk. Surely no easy task.

Traveling with the two, who were part of a small group of migrants trying to reach the United States, was an independent Cuban reporter.

“During a pause in the trip, the boy asked me what I did for a living,” Yoani Sánchez, the blogger who has achieved international fame for her critical portrayal of life in Cuba under the Castro regime, told a University of Miami audience of more than 350 people Monday evening.

“I told him I was a journalist, and his face lit up,” she said. “ ‘Then, you’re going to help us get out of here,’ the boy said. But the fact was, I couldn’t do much to defend him from the poisonous snakes and the mosquitoes that made their route more difficult. I couldn’t even protect him from the rain that fell all the time. The only thing I could do was tell their story.”

And as she has done in countless other articles chronicling the plight of Cubans, Sánchez did just that.

“Being a reporter doesn’t mean you’re a super hero,” Sánchez said from the University’s Newman Alumni Center, where, as a newly named UM Distinguished Presidential Fellow, she delivered the lecture, The Power to Tell a Story: Daily Life in Cuba through the Lens of an Independent Journalist. “Being a journalist simply means being a chronicler of reality, using words and images to tell what’s going on.”

The lecture served as the launch of UM’s Cuba Forums, a future series of lectures that will explore the country and its people.

Sánchez, who started the blog Generation Y, which she published by emailing entries to friends outside Cuba who then posted them online, said journalists working in countries where their freedom and lives are at risk because of what they write often produce stories of despair and anguish that do not lead to solutions. “As primary care physicians, we reporters are there in the best of times in the lives of people and also in their worst moments,” she explained. “We cannot cure the issues they face, but we can make an X-ray of what happens to them and a diagnosis of the evil they suffer.”

During a three-decade stretch, from the 1960s to the 1980s, reporters in Cuba found it impossible to do their work outside the narrow framework of the government. But it wasn’t solely the fear of reprisals that made it difficult for them to report accurately and responsibly, but the reality that local newspapers and other media had “become as guarded as military barracks,” said Sánchez.

By the mid-1990s, the Cuban independent journalism movement took root, aided by technology that allowed reporters to publish on foreign websites. Those initial independent reporters established the pillars of nongovernmental media but paid a price, many of them being imprisoned, Sánchez explained.

Today, the independent media in Cuba is exploding. In the last three years, Sánchez said, several digital sites have emerged, reporting on news, sports, and other topics without the fear of government control. “All of them share the desire to reflect the plurality of a diverse country that’s living through an important moment in its history,” said Sanchez, who founded Cuba’s first independent daily digital news outlet, 14ymedio.

“The new alternative reporters also have the commitment to raise the quality of media in Cuba and improve the standards of the profession. But it’s not just a matter of denouncing. It’s also a matter of telling,” she said, explaining that journalists need to report on topics such as the emerging Cuban economic sector making progress despite restrictions, high taxes, and the absence of a wholesale market.

Sánchez, part of the 100 endowed talents initiative introduced by UM President Julio Frenk at his inauguration last January, credited technology in the form of USB flash drives and smartphones for helping to disseminate news out of Cuba. The emergence of social media has also helped, as incidents such as police and human rights abuses and the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in Cuba have been posted on Facebook, YouTube, and other online social networking sites.

The event began with a welcome by Sarah Betancourt, president of UM’s Federacion de Estudiantes Cubans, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

After her lecture, which was given in Spanish, Sánchez answered questions during a Q&A moderated by Frenk. When asked her opinion of the Obama administration normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, she said the policy, despite its best intentions, has not improved conditions for many Cubans, especially those who find it difficult to buy food on a daily basis.

One woman, who said her father was a political prisoner in Cuba and died in one of Fidel Castro’s jails, asked Sánchez what a post-Castro Cuba will be like, to which she replied that while the Castro regime will end, “what comes later is the real challenge.”

“I believe Cuba has lots of potential. There is great human capital, which has a lot more to do with the DNA of a nation,” said Sánchez, going on to explain that the exile community and younger Cuban generation could play major roles in the island nation’s reconstruction.

As part of her activities as the first UM Distinguished Presidential Fellow, Sánchez lectured at the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Communication, and she was also the host of a Jeffersonian-style dinner with 13 students leaders, many of them Cuban-Americans.

During the events, she explained how technology is opening up new avenues of expression for Cubans living under the Castro regime, and how Cuba’s totalitarian government cannot control the accessibility and immediacy to technology.

At the School of Communication, she spoke to about 150 students in Associate Professor Sam Terilli’s Freedom of Expression Class. “When the Berlin Wall fell, the Cuban government did not give us any news,” she said. “It took five years for Cuban citizens to know that the Berlin Wall had fallen. Nowadays, when a dissident group is assaulted or imprisoned, it takes about 24 hours for that video to hit the Internet.”

Cell phones are widely available on the island. “You cannot stop technology,” she said.

Sánchez also said that while she approves of renewed relations between the island and the U.S., she resents the fact that many people, after seeing a string of celebrities such as Madonna and Mick Jagger visit the island, now believe Cuba has changed. “Cuba has not changed,” she told the class. “The concerts will help, but the only thing that could really bring about change is for Cuban citizens to push for change, and unfortunately that is not happening.”

University Communications’ Barbara Gutierrez contributed to this report.

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