Monday, February 23, 2015

Liliam López: President and CEO of the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Recently, Mrs. Lopez sat down with us to talk about what business owners are looking for in recent college graduates and how she learned those skills for herself.

What is the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, how was it founded and what do you do as President and CEO?

The South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was founded in the year 1984 by several local entrepreneurs and me, and never in our wildest dreams did we think that the chamber was going to become what it has become today. What started as a small project more than 20 years ago has evolved into a major one that has affected our community in a positive way, with many programs set in place that help business owners and students in our community. It has been really successful and I am very proud to be a part of this group of wonderful executives and entrepreneurs.

What are some of the Chambers programs and activities?

The Chamber has several programs. We have an education enhancement program that provides scholarships to financially disadvantaged Hispanic students who are pursuing health related careers, and have awarded more than $500,000 worth of scholarships since its inception. We also have a program where we provide students who are not necessarily at the top of their class, those with a 2.8 – 3.0 GPA, a paid trip to a U.S. city with several of our partners. We have visited Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Seattle, San Antonio, and have always provided students with some type of business agenda, besides the tourist visits. More importantly we partner with a company that is headquartered in whatever city we choose, and we have a full day of seminars and workshops with the students, so that they are able to see their counterparts [minorities] in a business setting. We want them to be in front of professional people that have really made it to the top, who are Hispanic or African American so that they may see themselves reflected in these people, and they see that there is an opportunity to eventually have a high position within a large company.

What sort of activities and programs does the Chamber provide its members and the business community in South Florida?

We have over 1,200 members and usually have two monthly luncheons. Some are part of the “Lunch and Learn Business Series,” which helps to enhance our member’s businesses by bringing a panel of experts to them on different topics that are relevant to the business community. For example, we just celebrated an education summit where we had the Provost of St. Thomas University, Dr. Irma Becerra, and the presidents of other local colleges and universities explain to our members what they are doing with regards to preparing college students for the business world. Many of our members tell us that when they hire someone who just graduated from college, sometimes it’s very difficult because there is a disconnect between [academia and the business world], and what we learned from this forum is the importance of businesses providing internships for students. That is something that we do as well at the Chamber. We provide internships to students so that they can acquire knowledge and see what the real world is all about because school is one thing, but when you are out there in a job, it is completely different. So we brought that to the table to our members.

Next month we are having a panel discussion that deals with climate change, and how that affects our businesses. We have seen how the rising tides have flooded Biscayne Blvd. and the streets of South Beach. Many people cannot even get to the businesses that do their laundry or restaurants, or what have you, and that really affects the economy. So what is the government doing? We are bringing PhD experts from the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. to talk about what they are doing and how climate change at the global level is affecting everything.

We also have a “Lunch and Learn” coming up in the month of May that will deal with long term care. Being that this community is 67 percent Hispanic, we all take care of the “abuelitos,” the fathers, and the “tias” as they grow older and sometimes we do not know what services are out there to provide us with the help we need for their care. That is important to bring to our members because as business people, when we are a caregiver, that takes time away from us and our business. So the more knowledge that we have about the programs and services that are available to us, the better it will be for everyone. We feel that is our obligation to bring this also to our members.
We have continuous events that deal with everything that can affect businesses. Once a year we also bring the director of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and different banking institutions to talk about small business lending.

What would you say is the one thing that you learned at St. Thomas University that is still helping you in your career to this day?

At St. Thomas University I gained a lot of confidence in myself. The classes were small and when classes are small and you are shy, and believe it or not, I was not always as open as I am open today, it helps when you are able to meet one-on-one with your professors. I think that it is very important, because when you are in a class with 40 or 50 students, who is going to raise their hand and ask a question? Sometimes you feel awkward, you feel that maybe your question is not a valid question, that it’s a dumb question, so being in a class with only 18 or 20 students, I remember that made it easy for me to raise my hand and ask questions and get the confidence to be more outspoken and learn how to speak in public. So I gained a lot of confidence when I was at St. Thomas University and I know that it was because of the high quality professors and the small class size that gives students the opportunity to grow and show their full potential.

Who would you say has had the most influence in your career?

It has not been just one person. There are many people who have touched my life. Many people who have come on board with this organization, who have contributed their time, their skills and knowledge, and those people, I really salute them because their friends, their members, board of directors, my chairman of the board, Felipe Basulto and my previous chair, Santiago Quintana. I have had so many chairs that have been so committed and they have put so many hours into this organization and it’s been an inspiration to me. Even the members, the smallest of members in our membership category, small business owners, tiny mom and pop shops, you always learn from them. There is always someone that has something to teach you. So in reality there are so many people that have touched my life and have been influential that I really cannot pin point just one person. I would have to say there are a lot of people who have touched my life.

Throughout the years you have stayed very involved with St. Thomas University. You are on the Business Board of Advisors and the Alumni Advisory Council. Why do you feel it is so important to stay engaged and give back to your alma mater?

It is very important to stay engaged with the institution that you graduated from because you are able to let other people know that you graduated from that university and at the same time speak highly of it. If you are not engaged you do not know what is going on, what new programs and projects are being developed and you cannot be a spokesperson for the university. In my case, being involved with St. Thomas University is important because I am able to help by talking to other people about the university. I am proud of my university that helped me so much and I ask everybody who has graduated from St. Thomas University to be involved, become active, and be a spokesperson for the university. Spread the word about the wonderful programs, the small class size, the professors that are highly qualified, and when you do that, you are also giving back to the community because you are opening the doors to other people to learn about St. Thomas University.

What advice would you give to students that are interested in following a similar career path as yours?

If you would like to be the President and CEO of a nonprofit organization like the South Florid Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, you have to be someone who can multi-task, who is able to do a hundred things at once, not get overwhelmed or aggravated, and have a good sense of humor. You have to be able to focus and have good people skills. When you deal with so many people you have to be able to be nice and at the same time be firm and be able to say no. Especially for us women who are sometimes sweet because you can be easily taken advantage of. This is a very rewarding career, but you have to be a people person and that’s what I am. I love to be with people and talk and help the community, help businesses get together, and connect people. If that is not what you like, then don’t do it because you will be dealing with people all the time.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Archbishop Celebrates Ash Wednesday at St. Thomas

St. Thomas University students, staff, faculty and friends initiated the 40-day Lenten journey with Ash Wednesday Mass concelebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski in the Chapel of Saint Anthony. The trilingual (English, Spanish, Creole) Eucharistic Celebration led the St. Thomas University family to reflection on penance and renewal. During his homily, the Archbishop reminded those gathered about the opportunity that Lent provides us to assess our blessings and opportunities. Following Mass, the Archbishop was joined by students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the University for a “Lenten Soup and Bread Lunch” at the Evelyn and George Goldbloom Convocation Hall.

The Ash Wednesday events kicked off a series of prayer services and liturgical celebrations through April coordinated by the Office of Campus Ministry. The forty days of programs include Nights of Soup, Bread, and Reflection; Nights of Praise, Worship and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; an Intercollegiate One-Day Retreat with Barry University; Confessions; daily and Sunday Eucharistic Celebrations; Stations of the Cross; a foods and products drive sponsored by the STU Tourism and Hospitality Program and Campus Ministry; and a 40-Day “Acts of Kindness” Lenten Challenge that encourages all to extend love, understanding, acts of mercy, charity, and service during this special period. For a full listing of upcoming events click here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lent: 40 Days of Spiritual Reflection

Lent is a time for renewal, simplicity, prayer, spiritual reflection, hope, compassion, refuge, family, friendship, love and kindness; a time of rejoicing and celebrating that we were all created in God’s image and likeness, and a time in which we are called to remember what we truly are as a Catholic Institution.

The St. Thomas University community marks this 40-day period of preparation for Jesus Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday with various liturgical and spiritual activities developed by our Campus Ministry team. The St. Thomas University Office of Campus Ministry invites our students, alumni, parents, friends and faculty to journey through the Lenten Season - one of the major liturgical seasons of the Catholic Church - by participating in our daily and Sunday Celebration of the Eucharist (Mass), taking advantage of the times offered for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession),  joining us for Wednesday night Soup, Bread, and Spiritual Reflections, and participating in other opportunities that enrich your faith. 

“St. Thomas University’s ability to provide our community of students, alumni and friends with a spiritually enriching experience to complement their intellectual, personal journey is what makes this university so special,” said Campus Ministry Director Claudia Herrera.

From Ash Wednesday Mass with Archbishop Thomas Wenski at the Chapel of Saint Anthony to mark the beginning of Lent, to one-day retreats, nights of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a Lenten Food drive, a 40-day Acts of Kindness Lenten Challenge, and the culmination of this time of penance and preparation through the celebration of the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday - the first day of the Easter Triduum - followed by Good Friday services and the celebration of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, the season of Lent at St. Thomas University provides opportunities for spiritual growth and renewal for everyone. 

For more info visit our Campus Ministry webpage or email

View our Scheduled Festivities

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hands-On Undergraduate Scientific Research

They manipulate the stem cells of zebrafish to solve the mystery of spinal cord regeneration. They search for a cure for breast and prostate cancer.

While these impactful research experiences are not uncommon, the fact that St. Thomas University science students are able to do so as undergraduates is, indeed, an uncommon opportunity. St. Thomas University boasts a unique undergraduate, hands-on research program that provides future scientists, researchers and doctors, with the exposure to meaningful research early in their educational career. The undergraduate research in the Carnival Cruise Lines School of Science and Technology building’s state-of-the-art laboratories provides all students with an interest for research with the opportunity to work with distinguished faculty members who have extensively published peer-reviewed research articles, reviews, books, and other publications. This close experience with their professor inspires students to learn, develop strategic decision-making and interdisciplinary skills that prepare them to become our future science leaders.

Dr. Jeffrey Plunkett
Realizing their research potential, freshmen and sophomores are conducting their own research, attending scientific conferences or meetings, and networking with graduate science students or scientists in their particular field. For many students looking to pursue a career in medicine, dentistry, podiatry, optometry, chiropractic or veterinary science, the hands-on research provides
them with an edge – especially on their required entrance exams. Depending on their aspirations, faculty and advisors work to ensure they meet pre-professional requirements.

“St. Thomas University’s mission of Developing Leaders for Life comes alive as our School of Science students engage in cancer research, work with endangered species, or investigate the regeneration of the nervous system in zebrafish to help those who suffer from spinal cord injury. ST. Thomas’ School of Science students are being prepared to be leaders in the next phase of their career – whether as medical professionals or researchers,” said Dean Wim Steelant, St. Thomas University School of Science, Technology and Engineering Management.

St. Thomas Law Ranks Top 5 in the Nation by Princeton Review for “Best Environment for Minority Students”

The 2015 edition of the Princeton Review has been released and St. Thomas University School of Law has maintained its Top 5 national ranking for having the “Best Environment for Minority Students.”

Based in Miami, Florida, St. Thomas Law has continually attracted a diverse student population and is a highly-regarded, student-centered law school where diversity is cherished, a commitment to human rights and international law flourishes, and the Catholic heritage of social justice enhances the education of all faiths.

“The survey reflects the quality of our law school and our commitment to every student's success,” stated Dean of St. Thomas University School of Law, Alfredo Garcia. “We adhere and live up to our mission and values in our continuing quest for excellence.”

In order for a law school to be ranked it must meet the Princeton Review’s criteria for academic excellence and be approved by the American Bar Association. In developing the ranking, Princeton Review surveyed almost 20,000 students at 169 law schools and collected data from school administrators. The survey asked students about their school's academics, student body, campus life, and their career plans. They also used data on admissions, academics, financial aid, and employment information.

The Princeton Review is an education services company known for its test-prep courses, tutoring services, college rankings and line of 150 books published by Random House. It is not affiliated with Princeton University.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Library Launches Permanent Exhibit of Faculty Publications

Toni Morrison once said that “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” 

At St. Thomas University, the distinguished faculty and staff has dutifully taken those words to task, producing scholarly publications that range the gamut from mental health to theology, to cancer and stem cell research. 

An exhibit housing a permanent collection of the works of these faculty authors is now featured prominently at the University Library, and their works available for reading. 

Below is a partial listing of books and articles published in 2014. For a list of all published works in the Faculty Authors Collection , click here.

2014 Publications


  • Rubin, L. & Schwitzer, A. (2014). Diagnosis and treatment planning skills for mental health professionals: A popular culture casebook approach. New York: Sage.
  • Sicius, F. (2014). Progressive era: A reference guide. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio.

Editor of a Book:

  • Darrell, A. (2014). Traditions of system theory: Major figures and contemporary developments. New York: Routledge. [also author of chapter one “Systems theory: A secret history of the Twentieth Century pp. 3-9]. 

Guest Editors of Journals:

  • Arnold, D., (Ed.). (2014). (Guest Editor). Humanities and Technology Review, 33 (Fall).
  • Rubin, L. (Ed.). (2014). Mental health and illness in American culture. Journal of American Culture-Special Issue, 37(1), 1-73.

Chapters in Books:

  • Cahalan, K., & Froehle, B. T. (2014). A developing discipline: The Catholic voice in practical theology. In C. E. Wolfteich (Ed.), Invitation to Practical Theology: Catholic Voices and Visions. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

  • Gringarten, H., Fernández-Calienes, R. (2014, January). How to Write and Publish a Book Review in a Marketing Journal. Strategic Management Review, 8(1), 109-123.
  • Hox, V., Steelant, W., Fokkens, W., Nemery, B., & Hellings, P. W. (2014). Occupational upper airway disease: how work affects the nose. Allergy, 69(3), 282-291.
  • Grandmont-Gariboldi, N. (2014). On the significance of REITs in international portfolios: A U.S. perspective. Journal of Human Resource and Adult Learning, 10(2).
  • Guo, Y., Şengür, A., and Ye, J., (2014). A novel image thresholding algorithm based on neutrosophic similarity score. Measurement, 58, 175-186.
  • Van Slambrouck, S., & Steelant, W. F. A. (2014). 1-O-Octadecyl-2-O-Methylglycero-3-phosphocholine (Edelfosine) and cancer cell invasion: A short review. Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 14(4), 539-544.
  • Risley, V. A., Henry, S., Kosyrikhina, M. V., Manzanares, M. R., Payan, I., Downer, C. D., Hellman C.C., Van Slambrouck, S. & Frolova, L. V. (2014). 4-amino-2-aryl-3-cyano-1, 2-dihydropyrimido-[1, 2-a] benzimidazoles and their pyrimidine analogs as new anticancer agents. Chemistry of Heterocyclic Compounds, 50(2), 185-194.
  • Van Slambrouck, S., Groux-Degroote, S., Krzewinski-Recchi, M. A., Cazet, A., Delannoy, P., & Steelant, W. F. A. (2014). Carbohydrate-to-carbohydrate interactions between alpha2, 3-linked sialic acids on alpha2 integrin subunits and asialo-GM1 underlie the bone metastatic behavior of LNCAP-derivative C4-2B prostate cancer cells. Bioscience reports, 34(5), 546-557.
  • Jiang, X. (2014). Chinese biology teaching assistants’ perception of their English proficiency: An exploratory case study. The Qualitative Report, 19(42), 1-24.
  • Tapanes-Castillo, A., Shabazz, F., M’boge, M., Vajn, K., Oudega, M., and Plunkett, J.A. (2014).Characterization of a novel primary culture of adult zebrafish brainstem cells. Journal of Neuroscience Methods 223, 11-19.

New Degrees to Meet the Workforce of the Future

A historic expansion of St. Thomas University’s academic offerings is underway that is not only designed to meet existing marketplace demands, but also address the needs of the workforce of the future. These academic enhancements include the addition of eighteen cutting edge programs and ten specializations to St. Thomas University’s already broad and diverse program offerings.

Among the expanded course offerings are unique programs in Cyber Security and Trade and Logistics. Bachelors, Masters, and concentrations within the Masters in Business Administration and Masters of Science in Management in these two areas address unique specializations that are in high demand in the marketplace.

Our graduates will face global opportunities and challenges with a multifaceted approach. For example, the Cyber Security degree curriculum is totally interdisciplinary, with course offerings that relate to business, technology, criminal justice and law. Trade and Logistics programs respond to our unique location as the Gateway to the Americas, addressing market demand for a specialized workforce. St. Thomas University’s highly regarded Sports Administration program will expand to offer a unique Doctorate of Business Administration in Sports Administration, and. Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Nursing address the increasing need for healthcare workers with college degrees, and the growth in demand for Nurse Practitioners.

Other enhanced programs in the School of Business, School of Science, Biscayne College, School of Arts and Education, and School of Theology and Ministry will also become available within the next six to eight months.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program

For twenty years, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at St. Thomas University has helped community residents secure tax refunds. VITA is the oldest pro bono program at St. Thomas University School of Law. Founded by St. Thomas Law Professor Mark J. Wolff, the program has secured taxpayers in excess of $10,000,000 in refunds; student, faculty, and staff pro bono hours have exceeded 40,000.

Last year, St. Thomas Law’s VITA program assisted nearly 300 taxpayers, resulting in approximately $500,000 in tax refunds. This year is expected to yield similar results. St. Thomas Law School students and other volunteers will spend each Saturday until the end of tax season providing this important free service to the most needy and vulnerable members of our surrounding communities. St. Thomas University’s Law School, already recognized by Super Lawyers for its pro bono graduation hours, works with current and former students, faculty, and staff to make this tax season service possible each year.

“Lawyers have a responsibility to be advocates for good, and helping our community with this important initiative is part of what being a St. Thomas Law student is about,” explained St. Thomas University Law School Dean Al Garcia.

IRS Certified Volunteers are available at St. Thomas University every Saturday through April 11 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, to prepare federal income tax returns, free of charge for individuals and families with a yearly income of $53,000 or less. For more information: 305.474.2415 or e-mail to

Monday, February 9, 2015

Homecoming 2015 Recap

Homecoming 2015 was a memorable and exciting time for St. Thomas University students, alumni, faculty staff, parents, and supporters last week.

Between the wild Junkanoo band at the Mardi Gras Parade & Celebration, heart-warming Bobcats Serve event at Carol City Middle School, inspiring message from our Alumni Speaker Dion Welton ’86 and the exciting men’s basketball team win over the Ave Maria Gyrenes, it was certainly a homecoming to remember.

Check out photos of those moments and more courtesy of Student Affairs, Athletics, Alumni Affairs and the Parents and Families Program.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

St. Thomas Law Graduate Wins Big in Asbestos Court Case

St. Thomas Law graduate and maritime attorney, Michael Winkleman, of the firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman has won a multi-million dollar settlement for his client in an asbestos case against Carnival Cruise Lines.

The case centered around the death of a cruise worker who worked as an electrician for the cruise line from 1985 to 2000. The worker developed lung cancer in 2001 and subsequently lost his life in 2005. The plaintiff’s family filed a suit following his death claiming that he developed cancer as a result of his daily exposure to asbestos in the engine rooms aboard the ship.

This is reportedly the first time that an asbestos case against a cruise line has gone to trial and, after a trial that lasted nine days, the jury awarded the plaintiffs a final settlement of $3.6 million.

Commenting on the case, Mr. Winkleman stated that he was “ecstatic to finally get the merits in front of a jury and for the jury to do the right thing.”

Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes, such as Bad Faith Insurance disputes.

He graduated Magna Cum Laude from St. Thomas University School of Law in 2006.