Thursday, July 13, 2017

Curbing Human Trafficking through education, research and outreach

Florida has seen a 35 percent increase in reported human trafficking cases, ranking third in the United States for the most reported cases in 2016, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Last year, the state reported 550 cases, which includes 401 cases of sex trafficking and 92 cases of labor trafficking. In 2015, 407 cases were reported.
St. Thomas University School of Law has been a pioneering educational institution in addressing this growing problem. In order to build the necessary human resource infrastructure to effectively confront human trafficking, St. Thomas University will host its annual Human Trafficking Academy, July 31 – August 4, 2017.
“The dignity of every human being should be the guiding light of all law and policy; and the Catholic social teaching demands us to protect the dignity of all, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable amongst us,” said Roza Pati, STU law professor, and founder and director of the Human Trafficking Academy. “We designed this summer’s academy with a clear vision to empower participants to be a meaningful part of our great nation’s efforts to eradicate human trafficking while providing dignified care to victims and survivors.”
The academy offers 15 intensive and interactive courses, taught by top-level experts, academics and practitioners, to empower attendees with knowledge, skills and tools to address the many aspects of human trafficking.
Speakers include: 
  • Barbara Martinez, Chief, Special Prosecutions Section, U.S. DOJ, Miami U.S. Attorney's Office
  • Janet Basilan, Survivor of human trafficking and Vice Chairperson of GABRIELA USA
  • Greg H. Bristol, President, The Human Trafficking Investigations & Training Institute (Former FBI Special Agent)
  • Sean Sellers, Director of Strategic Partnerships, National Economic & Social Rights Initiative, Sarasota, Florida 
  • Brenda Mezick, Chief, Human Trafficking Unit, Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office
Upon completion of the training, participants will be awarded a certificate by St. Thomas University School of Law.

Registration deadline for the academy is July 21. To register, please visit

For more information, visit the Human Trafficking Academy website here, or email

Monday, June 26, 2017

STU students receive hands-on experience, help Carol City Middle School students propel

STU graduate student Cristina Soulavy has always known she’s wanted to make a difference in her community, so when the opportunity to help at-risk students at a neighboring middle school presented itself she was both excited and apprehensive about the journey she was about to take.
As part of her group therapy class, Cristina, a mother of three, and several other STU mental health counseling graduate students participated in the Success Academy, a program that helps students with behavioral issues.
“I was a little nervous,” said Cristina. “Up to that point all my experience came from text books and lectures, and now I was stepping into the real world, helping kids with real problems.”
The Success Academy is part of STU’s newly formed partnership with Carol City Middle School. In February 2015, St. Thomas University and Carol City Middle School established the STU-Carol City Middle School Community Educational Partnership (STU-CCMS CEP), a partnership to improve education in Miami Gardens.
This five-year partnership connects the community, schools, students and parents with university expertise, resources and research-based intervention programs to address the pressing educational and social needs of students at CCMS, a school in one of the most challenged communities in Florida.
The STU-CCMS partnership is a long-term initiative that integrates a variety of university engagement elements, from volunteer activities to internships, to courses in different disciplines, all with one goal – student success. Specifically, the partnership is aimed at improving student attendance, behavior, course grades and standardized test scores.
“Many times we think that you can improve schools simply by offering more tutoring. But the truth is that it’s much more complicated than that,” said Anthony Vinciguerra, coordinator for STU’s Center for Community Engagement. “We’ve been lucky to bring STU faculty together with an incredible team at CCMS to support not only students’ academic challenges, but also their behavioral issues and social services needs as well.”
The program, based on the national Diplomas Now initiative, collects data during quarterly “Report Card Reviews” where STU students are matched with CCMS students to evaluate their grades, and collect information on their challenges inside and outside of the classroom. The data is compiled and analyzed by students in courses such as applied psychology and psychological statistics to provide a birds-eye view to the CCMS administration on student challenges, and support them in formulating a plan for improvement. The information gathered helps determine which students need tutoring in specific subjects, counselling, and/or social services.
Professors Judith Bachay and Jeffrey Pickens, both long-time participants in the program, agree the partnership is a transformative one that allows STU students and CCMS students to learn and grow from each other.
“Working in the STU-CCMS partnership allows STU students to apply what they are learning in a context that makes a difference,” said Bachay, counseling professor and director of STU’s graduate program.
The program has even inspired recent graduates like Segane Robinson, STU’s new Americorp-VISTA member, to continue volunteering at the school.
“I love working at CCMS,” Robinson said. “I grew up in the same environment as these kids, so I understand and can relate to what a lot of them are going through. I want them to know that despite the challenges, they can still succeed.”
After five years of “F” status, CCMS is on the move. In 2016, the school saw 38 percent of its students improve their English language arts scores, 31 percent improve their math scores, and there was a 57% decrease in suspensions.
As the 2016-17 year comes to an end, Vinciguerra is hopeful.
“This is not just about St. Thomas. This is truly a community effort,” he said. It takes all of us: St. Thomas faculty and students, our community partners, and most importantly the incredible teachers and administrators of Carol City Middle School. It takes all of us all working together to make a difference.”
Carol City Middle School’s results for the 2016/17 school year will be available mid-July.
Other elements of the partnership include:
  • STU-CCMS Community-Engaged Leader Corp Tutors: Facilitated by the STU Center for Community Engagement and the Office of Financial Aid, STU students are able to work under a CCMS teacher’s supervision to provide in-class reading and math support while earning federal work-study dollars. 
  • STU First Year Orientation “Bobcats Serve” Days: Every year during orientation, all of STU’s incoming first-year students spend a full day working on beautification efforts at CCMS. The event exposes STU students to the importance of service in the community, while providing CCMS with thousands of dollars in painting and landscaping. 
  • STU-CCMS College is Cool Days: In collaboration with the Center for Community Engagement and STU’s Office of Student Affairs, STU students organize college awareness events that provide CCMS eight graders with an introduction to campus life, college athletics, college faculty guest lecturers, as well as a college application workshop.

For more information on the STU/Carol City Middle School Community Educational Partnership, and STU’s other engaged learning activities in the community, contact the STU Center for Community Engagement:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

STU President Honored by Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

From left to right, Felipe Basulto, SFLHCC chairman; Liliam Lopez '88, SFLHCC president and CEO; and Msgr. Franklyn Casale. 

St. Thomas University President Msgr. Franklyn Casale was honored by the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce during its annual installation gala Friday, May 19.

Casale presented with the Golden Eagle Award in recognition of his more than 22 years of leadership and service at STU. The Golden Eagle Award is the chamber’s most prestigious award.

Casale became President of STU in April 1994. Prior to joining STU, he was the vicar general, chancellor and moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, where he also served as a member of the Board of Trustees at Seton Hall University and as a member of the Board of Trustees and executive committee at Bloomfield College.

His leadership positions in higher education associations include the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges, where he served as vice chair; Governing Board, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; President’s Council of Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida; Florida Association of Colleges & Universities; and Haiti-Tech, an organization he helped found that organizes and maintains a vocational/technical school in Haiti and educates over 700 students yearly. And he is currently chair of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bernard Graham Foundation Recognizes STU Student Leader

On Thursday, May 11, the Bernard F. Graham Scholastic Award in Finance and Accounting recognized the finance student with the highest grade point average, Luciano Cucinotta, and awarded him with a $10,000 check.

Pictured above from left to right, Dean Som Bhattacharya, award recipient Luciano Cucinotta, and Paul Bodin, director at Carlsen & Company and director of The Bernard Graham Foundation.

The Bernard F. Graham Scholastic Award in Finance and Accounting is provided by the Bernard F. Graham Charitable Foundation. This generous monetary award is intended to recognize student dedication and commitment to the study of finance and accounting – a passion of Mr. Graham.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Worming Around STU’s Research Garden

Dr. Pilar Maul and students in the I-Catch garden.
If you’ve ever wondered about the gardens on the north side of campus, you’re not alone. We were curious too and decided to do some digging.

St. Thomas University’s School of Science is always up to something new and striving to lead the path of innovation and opportunities for its students. And one of its latest projects is the I-CATCH program (Innovative Curriculum for Agriculture Training and Career for Hispanics), which is a collaboration between Florida International University, Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, Miami Dade College-North, St. Thomas University, and Miami Dade College-Homestead.

So, what is it?
The program trains Hispanic students in agricultural, plants, herbs and other natural resources, and prepares them for jobs with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as other federal agencies. The program also offers internships with the USDA, community engagement, and collaborative learning.

“We offer many opportunities such as tuition scholarship stipends, developing expertise in molecular biology, tissue culture, bioinformatics, field studies, and developing your soft skills (creativity, analytical thinking, multitasking, verbal and written communications, time management, teamwork, and collaboration),” said professor Dr. Pilar Maul.

It’s more than a garden
It’s a research garden, and it’s where several students have class every week. The garden is home to several scientific experiments arranged in different plots. Experiments range from testing organic fertilizers, growing carrots (as well as other vegetables), and medicinal plants.

Currently, students are testing different organic fertilizers, which they produce at STU using earthworm compost. In other words, using several bins, they have created an earthworm compost factory where they feed food scraps and other organic material to the worms, and use the worm’s nutrient-rich compost to grow plants.

Maul’s focus for this year is to expand the current garden and grow medicinal plants such as yarrow, aloe, Echinacea, and marshmallow. She challenges students by allowing them to use different growing techniques for their choice of plant. When plants are harvested, they assess the final product by measuring its length, width and mass.

STU student Luis Cendan, said the program has help him grow professionally and personally.

“The I-CATCH program changed me in many ways,” he said. “I grew as a scientist, learnied to design experiments, analyze data, and present my research in symposia. This kind of hands-on learning simply cannot be replicated by the mere reading of a book or watching videos, and I know I have grown considerably in the two years I've been involved in I-CATCH. “

If you would like to apply to this program, please contact professor Maul at for more information.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Business Students Leading in Global Online Business Strategy Competition

From left to right: Kristers Zeidaks, Jeanette Pena, Federico Moronell, and Roni Luokkamaki.
Throughout the 2017 spring semester, St. Thomas University Gus Machado School of Business students have been competing in a global online business strategy simulation, the Business Strategy Game. The simulation is part of the capstone course, Business Policy, taught by professor Lloyd Mitchell.

During the online simulation competition, STU students manage an athletic footwear company that produces and markets both branded and private-label footwear. They compete against similar footwear companies run by other universities around the world (35 countries).

Students integrate concepts and apply principles studied throughout their undergraduate careers, covering multiple business disciplines. More than 415 universities make up the 2,457 competing companies, and one of our STU companies tied for first place in the world! First-place group members include: Roni Luokkamaki, Federico Moronell, Jeanette Pena, and Kristers Zeidaks.

While competing, students assess market conditions, respond to the actions of competitors, forge a long-term strategy, forecast sales volumes, and make operating decisions on a weekly basis. In addition to financing company operations, teams are responsible for worker compensation and training, shipping and inventory management, pricing and marketing.

“This simulation draws upon students’ ability to use theory, as well as team work and leadership skills,” said Mitchell. “This is what we are all about at St. Thomas University, we produce leaders for life. That our groups are doing so well, illustrates the quality of education at St. Thomas’ Gus Machado School of Business.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

University's response to Turning Point USA's concerns about its campus presence

As an institution of higher learning, St. Thomas University supports and encourages the respectful sharing of diverse concepts and ideas, as evidenced by the broad range of organizations that visit or have a presence on our campus.

The University looks forward to meeting with STU students who requested an opportunity to discuss the university’s process for the review of new student organizations, such as Turning Point USA. We look forward to moving beyond any miscommunication that may have occurred with this organization, and to working with our students and organizations in a positive and productive way to enhance student engagement in a manner that respects a commitment both to our mission and Catholic values, and to the open exchange of viewpoints and ideas.