Friday, July 29, 2016

STU Selected to Receive USA Funds Grant

STU one of seven colleges selected nationwide for projects to enhance college completion and career readiness

USA Funds announced its selection of St. Thomas University (STU) as one of seven institutions nationwide that will share nearly $2.3 million in grants, with the goal of enhancing the college completion rates and career readiness of first-generation, low-income and minority students. The $325,000 grant for STU’s D.R.I.V.E. program (Developing Relevant Indices for Viable Employment) will provide a cohort of entering students with four years of career-oriented education and training, an individualized plan to foster college completion and career readiness, and the support of a professional coach and mentor.

“STU is honored to be selected as one of only seven outstanding higher education institutions to receive the USA Funds grant,” said STU President Monsignor Franklyn Casale. “As a globally diverse institution we are always striving for opportunities that add value to our students’ education and provide additional resources for our first generation students to graduate and be employed at graduation.”

As part of the initiative, each school will benefit from a designated "data coach," who will assist the institution in the creation of user-friendly, customized data tools. Each institution also will designate an "innovation group," which includes STU’s Provost/Chief Academic Officer, the Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, the Associate Provost for Student Success, the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, the Associate Director of Career Services, and one employer-partner. STU’s innovation groups will participate in an annual meeting to share best practices and foster collaboration between leadership and faculty among the seven participating colleges and universities.

The grants are part of a three-year MSI Measuring College Value initiative designed to support two-year and four-year minority-serving colleges and universities. Other grant recipients include: Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis; Martin University in Indianapolis; Miami Dade College; Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana; Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi; and Wiley College in Marshall, Texas.

"Throughout its history, USA Funds has worked to enhance higher education opportunities and success for students of color, lower-income students, and those who were the first in their family to attend college," said William D. Hansen, USA Funds president and CEO. "Building on that legacy, these grants will promote a surer path toward a college degree and a smoother transition to successful careers and fulfilling lives for minority students."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Developing Young Leaders Across Miami-Dade

Fifty high school students from across Miami-Dade County are coming together at St. Thomas University (STU) this week to build community and gain skills for cross cultural teamwork with the aim of resolving conflict and living peacefully in an increasingly diverse society. The 2016 MetroTown Summer Camp, a collaboration with MCCJ and STU, is an intensive, six-day residential camp focused on developing young leaders from across Miami-Dade County.

STU's Center for Community Engagement co-sponsors the camp which is led by MCCJ - formerly known as the Miami Coalition of Christians and Jews – one of the oldest, and most respected, diversity training organizations in Florida. Other partners in the camp have included the Miami Foundation, the Knight Foundation, and the Miami-Dade Children’s Trust.

During the camp, students discuss topics that are often considered taboo by many cultures, such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, orientation, and socio-economic status. The Center for Community Engagement staff serve alongside MCCJ leaders as hosts and counselors of the camp, while introducing the students to the opportunities for community-engaged learning at the university. The MetroTown program is transformative for all those involved, and is another way STU is supporting high-school graduates in becoming leaders for life.

For more information on MCCJ and MetroTown, please visit

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Summer in Israel

Photo courtesy of the STU in Israel Facebook page.
As part of the School of Business’ efforts to integrate international experiences into academic
curricula, its 2016 Summer Study Abroad Program took 15 students to Israel for an academically rich and intensive 13-day program. Led by Dr. Gringarten and associate Dean Mitchell, the dynamic program included meetings with CEO’s and officers of major Israel-based companies and leaders in technology and food manufacturing. In addition to visits to tourist and religious sites, swimming in the Dead Sea, and “walking the bible,” students also visited the globally renowned Weizmann Institute, and attended lectures by a vice president of a successful hospitality chain and an American-Israeli public relations organization.

For more photos of STU in Israel, head over to it Facebook page, STU in Israel.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

STU’s Summer Research Institute Sizzles with Undergrads in Lab Coats

This summer, 64 St. Thomas University and Miami Dade College students are swapping their beach towels for lab coats and diving into lab research projects.

STU’s Summer Research Institute (SRI), now in its fifth year, is an eight-week program that provides students with the opportunity to conduct scientific research with faculty members in STU’s science labs, as well as a $2,400 stipend. The program is made possible through a STEM-track grant with Miami Dade College with the purpose of motivating students to transfer to four-year universities.

“This program caters to students of all levels, and we’re really pleased in the interest of potential and new students getting involved in research at St. Thomas,” said Dr. David Quesada, associate professor of physics. “In addition to gaining lab experience, the program helps students build relationships with faculty working in fields they are interested in.”

The goal of the program is to foster collaborative learning between students and researchers, and expose the students to lab research. Students have several projects to choose from in the areas of life sciences, chemistry, mathematics, physics and engineering. Projects include spinal cord injury research, brain network analysis of epilepsy, molecular biology of autism, drought tolerance of plants, microbiome analysis of soils, studying the impact of weather conditions on human respiratory health and the response of plants and soils, photovoltaic cells optimizations, and robotics. 

“This experience has helped me get a feel for what research is actually like – among many things its taught me perseverance,” said biology major, Aidin Alejo, 21. “When you’re in science-related track being able to do research helps you better understand your field and it builds your resume, it also opens a lot of doors that otherwise would’ve been closed.”

In addition, students who have participated in STU’s SRI program said they felt more confident, enthusiastic and secure in their chosen field and in their future.

“There aren’t a lot of undergraduate research opportunities out there that give you the hands-on experience that the STU SRI program provides,” said STU chemistry major, Kasey Rivera, 19. “We learn so much in the classroom, then we have the ability to put that knowledge into practice in the lab.”

The program involves more than research, it also allows for networking opportunities with guest lecturers invited to campus via the STU Science Lecture Series “Moving into the Future.” Lecturers have included faculty from other universities, and well-known experts like Chief Meteorologist John Morales from NBC 6 South Florida. Students are also encouraged to participate in local charter scientific meetings – three previous SRI student’s won prizes from the Florida Academy of Science Annual meetings.

SRI graduates are experiencing many successes - working in full-time jobs at universities, while others are working or interning at highly competitive institutes like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and NASA.
At the end of the summer program, STU SRI students highlight their research experience at the university’s STEM Symposium in the fall, said Quesada.

Looking toward the future of the program, Quesada says, he’d like to expand the institute and integrate business, liberal arts and humanities. He calls this expansion, R.I.D.E (Research, Innovation, Development, and Entrepreneurship), something he hopes to implement at STU.

“We can learn a lot by partnering with other non-STEM schools,” he said. “We have more than just scientists on campus; we have creatives, economists, communicators, innovators, etc., and if we combine these minds the benefits will be threefold.”

Thursday, July 7, 2016

STU Welcomes Veteran Educator Gloria Pelaez as School of Arts and Education Dean

Dr. Gloria Pelaez
After a broad search, St. Thomas University (STU) has selected Dr. Gloria Pelaez as the new dean for the School of Arts and Education. Beginning July 19, Pelaez will oversee the school’s undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in education, as well as its programs in communication arts.

“Dr. Pelaez’ extensive resume, in particular in higher education, makes her ideally suited to lead a school that has seen enormous growth in the past two years through our online offerings,” said Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Irma Becerra. “Her diverse administrative experience and academic training will help us further grow our programs, helping us enhance our long-standing tradition of producing exceptional educators and communications professionals.”

Most recently, Pelaez served as the director of the Office of Teacher Education Accreditation at the University of Miami. Prior to that, she served as the director of the School of Education at Miami Dade College, and was a tenured faculty member and TESOL Department chair at Barry University. She also served as coordinator of TESOL programs and faculty at Florida Atlantic University where she developed the first elementary education with ESOL endorsement program in the state of Florida. Her curricular integration model continues to serve as a guide for colleges, universities and school districts across the state. Her extensive resume also includes time in the classroom in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

“From producing alumni that include Miami-Dade County’s Teacher of the Year, to broadcasters working in local and national newsrooms, we are proud of the strength of the programs we have offered for more than 50 years,” said STU President, Monsignor Franklyn Casale. “I have no doubt that Dr. Pelaez will help us continue and grow this incredible legacy.”

Dr. Pelaez is a published academic who has also presented extensively, in particular on the topic of TESOL, educational policy, and curricular design. She holds a doctorate’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Florida Atlantic University; and a master’s degree in TESOL from the University of Miami. She completed her undergraduate studies at Bryn Mawr College, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Comparative Literature/Spanish/English from Pennsylvania State University.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Msgr. Terence Hogan Appointed New Vice President for Mission

Monsignor Terence Hogan
In a continuing effort to better align the university’s mission with its diverse programs, St. Thomas University has appointed Monsignor Terence Hogan, S.L.D., as Vice President for Mission. In this position he will help integrate the university’s mission elements into all segments of the institution.

“Our Catholic identity and religious heritage distinguish us from other universities, and provide benchmarks for understanding our mission,” said Hogan. “Our goal is to offer challenging undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs to academically ambitious students who are committed to lives of meaning and purpose, and who are preparing to be leaders in an intercultural community that promotes ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue.”

The addition of this new position complements other efforts at STU to strengthen academic offerings and enhance educational outcome. The solidification of campus ministry programs, including the addition of FOCUS missionaries, has been focused on strengthening STU’s Catholic mission, ensuring that the university is graduating “leaders for life” that are taught and understand the importance of ethics and service.

“As we have worked the past year to improve our academic offerings and enhance our educational outcomes, we have also been focused on strengthening our Catholic mission,” said President Monsignor Franklyn Casale. “We are fortunate that we have such an experienced leader already at St. Thomas who can assist with this important effort, and an exceptional faculty who will continue to support his work as Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry.”

Prior to his appointment as Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry at STU, Hogan served the Archdiocese of Miami in various capacities as Rector of Saint Mary Cathedral; Pastor of Saint Augustine Parish; seminary education and formation; Director of Worship and Spiritual Life, and continues in service to the Vatican as North American Chaplain to Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.
Hogan has a bachelor of philosophy, and a master of divinity from St. Vincent de Paul Seminary; and a doctorate’s degree in sacred liturgy from the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy in Rome.