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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

STU Impact: A Summer Program With a Higher Purpose

Registration is now open for STU IMPACT: Empowering Young Disciples, a summer program which aims to gather high school students both from South Florida and throughout Florida for an eight-day experience in Catholic theological education during summer 2017.

STU IMPACT is made possible through a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes Initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.

Jennifer Kryszak, faculty director and assistant professor of theological and ministerial studies at STU, will be joined by other STU faculty members, guest faculty, and counselors in leading the high school youth through the program. During the program, scheduled for June 17 - 24, 2017, youths will live on campus, learn from renowned scholars, and participate in local and regional civic engagement activities. 

The program will open with guest speaker ValLimar Jansen, an inspirational and catechetical speaker, singer, composer and recording artist. Her records include Catholic classics: African American Sacred Songs, Give God the Glory, and Spirit & Soul.

“We’re excited for this second year of the program. STU IIMPACT provides the youth opportunities to reflect on their faith and how they will live it out in the course of their lives,” said Kryszak. “In addition to time with professors learning about the Old Testament, New Testament, and Catholic social teaching, the youth participate in service projects, as well daily prayer and a concluding retreat.”

High school students wishing to participate in the STU IMPACT summer institute must complete the application process available here. While the cost for the program is $600, scholarships are available. For any questions about the program, scholarships, or the application process, please email, or call 305-474-6842.

STU IMPACT is also seeking counselors, age 21 and up. Counselors will walk along-side high school youth as they explore their call to service, as well as have an opportunity to discover, or re-discover their own call to service. The position provides a $500 stipend. For more information, click here.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Leaving a Legacy: The Col. Jacquelin J. Kelly Softball Field

Before Col. Jacquelin Kelly passed away from cancer in 2014, she bequeathed a generous gift to STU’s Athletic Program. Jacquelin, a lifelong athlete and coach, held a strong belief that women should participate in competitive sports and pursue higher education, and in recognition of her gift, the university will be dedicating “The Col. Jacquelin Kelly Field” at the St. Thomas Softball Complex.

In 1960 she joined the army and was stationed in the Middle East and the Far East working in military intelligence. Jacquelin, who received her bachelors from St. Elizabeth College, served in the army for 21 years, 12 of them at the Pentagon, where she was the highest ranking woman at that time, having achieved the rank of colonel.

In the mid-1980s, Jacquelin moved to South Florida where she continued her education by pursuing a master’s in sports administration at STU and graduated in 1987 at the age of 56 - in total she earned four master’s degrees, including one in Chinese.

"This generous donation to our athletics department not only allows us to upgrade our facilities, but also gives us the opportunity to honor an amazing female, a champion of character,” said Laura Courtley-Todd, STU director of athletics. “Jacquelin was a phenomenal role model, and will remain so through the naming of the softball complex."

 STU will host the Jacquelin J. Kelly Softball Field dedication Friday, March 23, at 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lent Q&A: Everything you were embarrassed to ask about Lent

This week marks the beginning of the Lent season, and in collaboration with STU’s Campus Ministry, we’ve developed the following questions and answers about Lent. After the Q&A, make sure to view our schedule of events for the Lent season.

Q: Getting fat on Fat Tuesday?
A: Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday. It is also known as Mardi Gras Day or Shrove Day. Mardi Gras, which is French for "Fat Tuesday," is a day when people eat all they want of everything and anything they want as the following day is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a long fasting period.

Q: What is Ash Wednesday?
A: Ash Wednesday celebrates the first day of Lent, and it always falls 46 days before Easter Sunday. On this day, observers attend worship services, where a priest or minister combines ashes with water, dips his or her thumb into the mixture, and uses it to make the sign of the cross on parishioner’s foreheads.

Q: What is Lent?
A: It’s the 40-day fasting period leading up to Easter, modeled after Christ's 40-day fast in the desert, and ends on Good Friday. During this fasting period people give up certain foods, habits, or indulgences. This is considered a season of fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

Q: Why are we marked with ashes?
A: Ashes, applied in the shape of a cross, are a symbol of mortality and repentance, and represent the idea that "people came from ash, and to ash they will return." Most people wear them throughout the day as a public expression of their faith and penance.

Q: Where do the ashes come from?
A: The ashes are from the burning the palms used for the previous year’s Palm Sunday, which occurs on the Sunday before Easter. Palm Sunday marks Jesus' return to Jerusalem, when people waved palm branches to celebrate his arrival.

Q: Meatless Fridays?
A: Since Jesus sacrificed his body for us on Good Friday, we refrain from eating meat in his honor on the Fridays during lent.

Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and the Fridays in between are considered “Days of Abstinence.” You will notice that over the next few weeks beginning from tomorrow March 1, until April 14, the Dining Hall and the Rathskeller will not be serving meat or any meat products on Fridays. This is part of our Catholic Tradition.

On these days, by sacrificing something we really enjoy, we reflect on God’s goodness to us in the abundance of not only food but of the many blessings in our lives. By not eating meat, and whatever else you may choose to give up, we also reflect on the many people in our own community and throughout the world who go to bed hungry each day. It is for these people that we should pray and offer whatever support we can. We invite our entire religiously diverse community to participate in this meaningful and personally fulfilling Lenten Discipline.

For a list of events and activities on campus during Lent, click here.

For a list of Holy Week events, click here.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

From Skin Cells to Stem Cells: How STU Students are Helping Advance Autism Research

Senior Leana Ramos studying neural stem cells.

Walk by professor Alexis Tapanes-Castillo’s lab at St. Thomas University, and you'll see gloved students dressed in lab coats and hunched over microscopes. What you won't know just from looking are that the students are trying to treat autism in a petri dish.
Under the watchful eye of Tapanes-Castillo, STU undergraduates are growing and manipulating stem cells. In collaboration with the University of Miami, these students are playing a key role in researching autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

 “In the labs at UM, a microscopic piece of skin is taken from participants with autism and reprogrammed into a stem cell,” Tapanes-Castillo explains. “Using different techniques and drugs, the stem cells are then turned into neural stem cells. At STU, we grow these neural stem cells from patients with autism, as well neural stem cells from patients who do not have autism.”

Under a microscope the cells look like sunbursts with branches. To the untrained eye, the only difference between the ASD cells and the control cells appears to be the number of branches (connections) they make, and how far they branch out. Many believe that having so many connections is what causes individuals with autism to easily become overwhelmed by the environment.

“One of the theories is that the cells of those with autism grow too quickly and make too many connections,” explained Tapanes-Castillo. “Ironically enough, genius is also thought to originate from cells making too many connections.”
Senior Carlos Canales makes is a daily routine to check in on the cells and make sure they are receiving the nutrition they require.

Since the stem cells are just a few weeks old when STU students receive them, they are responsible for culturing (growing) the cells. In other words, they are responsible for nurturing the cells to maturity, which can take 100 days.

In the lab, students are also testing molecular differences between the control cells and autistic cells. The testing of specific candidate molecules is based on data obtained by UM, who has sequenced the DNA of thousands of people with autism, and family members that don’t have autism. These differences are tested at STU using genetic engineering techniques.

“Since we grow the cells in the lab, we can control which molecules they make. We can turn genes on and off; and we can manipulate the levels of specific molecules using lab viruses,” said Tapanes-Castillo. “We can see if changing the levels of these molecules, which are different between autistic and non-autistic people, make the autistic cells look and behave more like the control cells.”

Last week the cells were infected with viruses, which the students helped create in the lab, and the experiment is under way to see how the cells will react to the virus. They should start understanding how the virus affects the biology of autistic cells over the next several months.

Leana Ramos, an STU undergraduate majoring in biology and chemistry, as well as completing specializations in research and English literature, says she feels very fortunate to be participating in such groundbreaking research.

“Research of this caliber isn’t available to undergraduate students at other universities,” Ramos said. “It’s exciting to work on something that could possibly help millions of people with autism.”

Ramos credits the University’s undergraduate research programs and its professors for the year-long fellowship she was recently awarded at the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Tapanes-Castillo stresses a very important aspect of their research–they are not trying to completely eradicate autism. They’re trying to treat it, so that those with autism can manage it better.

“We want to understand the biology of autism so that we can help patients manage its challenges–the feelings of anxiety, the sensory overload. However, we would not want to eliminate the ability of autistic cells to make extra connections. This ability may be what gives autistic individuals special talents.”

Currently there are no medications for autism because not enough is understood about the biology of the disorder to suggest specific medications. ASD patients are usually prescribed medications that treat other conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder, epilepsy, anxiety, and so on. Although the symptoms range dramatically in type and severity, autism can be characterized by problems communicating, difficulties interacting with others, and repetitive behaviors.

Autism spectrum disorder is a disorder that affects the lives of millions around the world. In the United States, one in 68 children live with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Addressing Immigration Orders with Intellect, Faith and Action

St. Thomas University has decided to address President Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration and refugees with a combination of intellect, faith, and action.

Shortly after the order - now on hold due to a federal court ruling - was issued, the university’s School of Law and Center for Community Engagement co-hosted a panel discussion titled, “Justice for All?: The Moral and Legal Implications of President Trump’s Executive Orders on Immigration.”

The event gathered Catholic immigration advocates including Randolph McGrorty, CEO of Catholic Legal Services of Miami; Christine Reis, director of St. Thomas’ Human Rights Institute; Lauren Gilbert, St. Thomas University professor of immigration law; and Diego Sanchez, a St. Thomas Law student who played an important role in efforts to pass the DREAM act and other legislation for undocumented youths.

At the event, McGrorty explained the details of a number of the orders, while also noting that they were being contested in the courts, leaving their future unclear. Reis and Gilbert echoed McGrorty’s sentiments, while noting the Catholic Church’s longtime support for immigrant rights.

They emphasized the important role Catholics have in expressing their concerns to their elected officials and advocating for more just policies toward immigrants and refugees.

Sanchez spoke about the numerous gifts that immigrants bring to the South Florida community, and the role that students can play in addressing policies as they are developed.

Following the panel discussion, St. Thomas University’s Campus Ministry sponsored a Mass and candlelight vigil in solidarity with immigrants titled “Welcoming the Stranger.”

Following the Mass, students made a “pilgrimage” around campus, with stops at various stations to pray and hear testimonies of fellow students who had fled violence in their own countries and come to the United States as refugees.

St. Thomas University will be transforming their study and prayer into action over the next weeks, with visits to legislators to advocate for more inclusive policies toward immigrants.

In an official statement, Msgr. Frankyln Casale, president of St. Thomas University, echoed the sentiment of Catholic university leaders throughout the country in expressing strong opposition to the executive orders.

“We celebrate the value of diversity within Catholic higher education," Msgr. Casale said, "(and) we reaffirm the commitment of our institutions to creating inclusive, welcoming campus environments that embrace people of all faiths and cultures. Catholic higher education was founded precisely to serve the children of Catholic immigrants who in their own time were excluded from higher education. This is a legacy that we proudly pledge to continue.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

Free Tax Services on Campus

For 22 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 hundreds of taxpayers. 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.

IRS Certified Volunteers are available at St. Thomas University every Saturday through April 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., to prepare federal income tax returns, free of charge for individuals and families with a yearly income of $54,000 or less.

For more information, visit, or 305-474-2415,

For the flyer, click here.

Can't Make it on Saturdays?
No worries, STU’s Tax Clinic is now offering “Open Intake Thursdays,” a faster tax preparation experience, every Thursday through April 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All you have to do is bring the required documents (see below), fill out a form, and the clinic volunteers do the rest! And there's no need to wait around as they crunch numbers, they’ll schedule a later date for you to come in and review/file your returns.

STU’s Tax Clinic is located on the second floor of the Law School, Suite 205.

Items to bring to STU’s Tax Clinic’s Open Intake Thursdays & VITA Saturdays:
  • Government issued identification for you and your spouse (to prepare and file your taxes on a married-filing-joint return, both spouses must be present; for a married-filing-separate return the name of your spouse with social security number is required).
  • Original Social Security Cards for you, your spouse, and dependents. An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter may be substituted for you, your spouse and your dependents if you do not have a Social Security number.
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents being listed on the
    tax return.
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099s, from all employers, and/or Social Security benefits statement.
  • All Forms 1095-A, B or C, Affordable Health Care Statements or Health Insurance Exemption Certificate, if applicable.
  • Interest, brokerage, and dividend statement(s) (Form 1099s).
  • Form 1098-T Tuition Statement form an eligible education institution, such as a college or university or Form 1098-E Student Loan Interest Statement.
  • Any and all expenses (including business) must be accompanied by a receipt. Expenses must be organized and itemized.
  • Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider's tax identification number (provider’s Social Security number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number.
  • Any other forms or documents necessary to complete your income tax return.
  • Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit, such as a blank check.
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns or copies of income transcripts from IRS, if applicable.


President's Day Schedule

On Monday, Feb. 20, the University is closed in observance of President’s Day. Please note the following scheduling changes:
  • The Law Library will be closed. The Law School’s South Reading Room will be open to use for study from 12 to 10 p.m.
  • The Main Library will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Law Students: your Monday classes will meet on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Tuesday classes will not meet. Wednesday through Friday classes meet as regularly scheduled.
  • Students Enrolled in A1 Term: your classes will meet during the regularly hours.
  • Regular Spring Term Students (16-week semester): Enjoy your day off! No class session.
  • Dining Hall Hours:
    • Continental Breakfast: 9 – 11 a.m.
    • Brunch: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
    • Dinner: 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
    • Einstein Bagels and Rathskeller will continue with regular operation hours.
  • Fernandez Family Center Hours: Open 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Imagining Humans on Mars

Dennis Chamberland, a bioengineer, scientist, writer, explorer and aquanaut, will be speaking to STU students, faculty and staff about the quest for the permanent human settlement of Mars. Chamberland’s career spans working as a nuclear engineer to developing advanced life support systems for Moon and Mars bases, as well as many scientific articles, papers and journal publications. He is a leading expert on undersea habitation, and has spent more than 30 days living and working undersea.

The lecture titled “Surprising Advances in the Human Settlement of Mars” will take place in the Main Library Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 11 a.m. The lecture is part of STU’s Main Library’s Popular Culture Series, which explores diverse facets and features of pop culture.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Law School Welcomes New Advisory Board Chair and Members

St. Thomas University Law School has announced the appointment of its new chair and five prominent South Florida legal professionals to its esteemed board of advisors.

Dan Dolan, a founding partner of Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum, will serve as chairman of the board. In addition to Dolan, the following members were appointed to the law school’s 32-member board: Joni Armstrong Coffey, Tom Equels, Rene Murai, Antonio Roca, and Joseph Zumpano.

“We are pleased with the addition of these distinguished members of the profession from both the private and public sectors,” said School of Law Dean Alfredo Garcia. “They will undoubtedly enhance the stature of our law school.”

Dan Dolan, a ’96 STU Law School alumnus, spent the first several years of his 20 year legal career representing doctors, hospitals, corporations and insurance companies. Dolan's familiarity with the methods and strategies used by major corporations in assessing risk and defending lawsuits gives him a unique perspective in fighting against these same industries today. His firm’s national practice concentrates on civil trials and has recovered over $200 million on behalf of those catastrophically injured and the families of those suffering from the loss of preventable deaths caused by medical errors, inadequate security, product defects and motor vehicle accidents. Dolan was selected by his peers as one of the Best Lawyers in America and as a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). He has been recognized by the South Florida Legal Guide as one of the region's leading trial lawyers, and has been named in the list of Florida Super Lawyers and to Florida Trend Magazine's prestigious Florida Legal Elite every year since 2010. In both 2013 and 2015 he was voted one of the "Top 100 Lawyers in Miami."

Joni Armstrong Coffey has served as the County Attorney for Broward County since 2011. She has been a Florida Bar Board Certified city, county and local government lawyer since 1996, and is past chair of The Florida Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization and Education. Coffey is also past chair of the City, County and Local Government Law Section of The Florida Bar, and has been the recipient of numerous statewide awards for public law service. Coffey teaches as an adjunct professor at STU Law School, in the areas of land use law and Florida constitutional law, and has taught elections law, administrative law, and environmental law as well. She graduated with honors from the University of Florida Law School, where she served on the University of Florida Law Review, and was privileged to serve as judicial law clerk to Judge Peter T. Fay, United States Court of Appeals.

Tom Equels currently serves as the CEO of Hemispherx Biopharma, an advanced specialty pharmaceutical company engaged in the manufacture and clinical development of new drug entities for treatment of seriously debilitating disorders, and managing partner of The Equels Law Firm, a leading boutique legal practice focused on complex business litigation, including cases related to corporate finance and market issues. Equels received his Juris Doctor degree Magna Cum Laude from Florida State University School of Law, and he is a Bachelor of Science Summa Cum Laude graduate of Troy University, where he also received a management related Master of Science degree.

Rene Murai is a partner in the law firm of Murai Wald Biondo and Moreno P.A., specializing in business law. He serves as vice chairman of the Board of Directors of Premier American Bank, a bank he co-founded in 2001. Murai has been involved in numerous civic activities, having served as president of the Florida Bar Foundation, the University of Miami Citizens Board, Cuban American Bar Association and on the boards of the United Way, Dade Community Foundation, American Red Cross and the University of Miami. He has a bachelor of arts in economics from Brown University, and his juris doctorate degree from Columbia Law School.

Antonio Roca ’00, after working for several years in commercial litigation and government relations, Roca founded Roca Gonzalez, P.A. specializing in assisting clients across various fields, including tax, corporate and real estate law. Additionally, Roca serves as the President of Mater Academy, Inc., the largest charter school operator in Miami Dade County.

Joseph Zumpano, President and Managing Shareholder of Zumpano Patricios & Winker, P.A., focuses his practice on complex managed care litigation and international litigation. Representing hospitals and health care providers, Zumpano has architected and argued cases that have resulted in recovery of over $200 million dollars to the benefit of hospitals and healthcare providers. He has led a number of international litigation efforts, including the historic case of Weininger v. Castro, in which almost $24 million was collected in a lawsuit against Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and the Army of Cuba. Zumpano recently tried and obtained a $191.4 million ruling on behalf of the son of a former Colombian Senator and Ambassador to the United Nations for the nation of Colombia. Zumpano’s experience in recovering funds in cross border disputes also includes representation of a client in the successful piercing of a Bahamian trust. Zumpano led the multi-jurisdictional effort against the defendants and the court ordered the turnover of approximately $4 million in assets.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Jigging to the beat

Victoria Molina
Jigs, reels, ghillies, hornpipes and feisanna. No, it’s not Urban Dictionary’s latest slang words; it’s Irish step dance.

For 22-year-old Victoria Molina, an STU communications major and education minor, these words have been part of her everyday vocabulary since the age of 4. She began Irish step dancing at her great-grandmother’s encouragement, competing and performing across Florida and the United States.

“My heritage has a lot to do with my passion for Irish step dancing, and dancing in general,” Victoria said. “I’m part Irish/Italian on my mother’s side, and part Cuban/Spaniard on my father’s side.”

Trying to balance a social life, school and work can be hard enough for most college students. But for Victoria that struggle is compounded by hours of dance training and practice, working at the Law Library, and teaching dance to elementary school children.

“More than anything else, my hectic schedule is a blessing,” she said. “Throughout high school I was very ill – battling two bouts of mononucleosis [mono], and an unknown virus – and I was bed ridden for months at a time. So I’m very thankful to be able to do all that I do.”

The health setbacks she suffered also affected her dance training, but in 2014 she got a clean bill of health and focused years of pent up dance energy into Irish step dancing.

Competing at the highest levels of Irish dance requires progression through a series of skill levels, from beginners to novice to prizewinner, then preliminary to open champion to world champions. The only way to move up is to do well in competitions, and in a short timeframe Victoria has exceeded expectations. Currently, she is considered an Open Champion, one level away from World Champion, and she is nationally ranked #2 in the United States.

An Irish step dancing competition is called a feis (pronounced fesh), or feisanna, if referring to more than one. During a feis Victoria is barely recognizable. She dons a wig with cascading jet black curls, wears elaborately bedazzled dresses called solo dresses, and high white socks called poodle socks. Depending on the dance routine, the shoes on her feet are soft shoes similar to ballet shoes (called ghillies) or hard shoes, which are similar to tap shoes.

“If you've seen an Irish step dance, you'll notice the dancers stiffen their upper body with no arm movement – the only thing moving is our lower body,” explained Victoria. “We’re judged on several things: the difficulty of our steps; control of our upper body; being up on your toes at all times; and having your feet turned out during the entire dance routine. It’s difficult and challenging, but it’s fun.”

Given the rigorous competition schedule lined up for this year, Victoria, who has been with the STU dance team since her freshmen year, decided to step down as team co-captain. It was a tough decision to make, but it was the best decision for the team. She has several local competitions throughout the year, as well as some in other cities. This month she has Nationals in Orlando, Fla. Then, in April, she has the Irish Step Dancing World Championships in Belfast, Ireland.

Victoria, second from the left standing, with her dance teammates.
“It’ll be my first time out of the country, so I’m really excited,” she said. “Shortly after I get back, I graduate! It’ll be bitter sweet - I’ll be leaving the school that’s helped me become the leader I am in and out of the dance studio.”

As to her future goals, she said she’ll be pursuing a master’s degree, and becoming a certified Irish step dancing teacher. She’s delaying the dance teacher certification because once she begins the process, she is no longer allowed to compete.

“I’ve got a lot more dance competitions in me, and for the time being I’m happy teaching and mentoring my elementary dance students,” she said.

Victoria takes the stage at the 2017 World Irish Dancing Championships April 9 – 16.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

‘Responsibility & Vigilance’ Art Exhibit to Open

An examination of domestic servitude, forced labor and human trafficking in the United States

Artwork from "Responsibility & Vigilance" exhibit.
Artist Susan S. Buzzi sheds light on the dark world of human trafficking in the United States in her exhibit titled “Responsibility & Vigilance.” Buzzi hopes the exhibit helps generate awareness about a topic that is still rarely known across our nation. Reports of domestic human trafficking continued to increase in 2016, jumping 35 percent over 2015, according to recent data released by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and the Polaris Project.

“Responsibility & Vigilance” was first created to complement the Human Trafficking Academy at STU’s School of Law with a series of posters comprised of original imagery. During the past several years, the collection has evolved to include approximately 40 works accompanied by a film by the same title.

Buzzi, a former law enforcement officer, is now an educator, coach practitioner and victim advocate. Her counseling work is directed specifically towards at-risk youth and victims of domestic violence, abuse and human trafficking through healing art techniques and expressive therapies. She’s also involved with outpatient care for both victims and offenders, and numerous violence prevention and re-entry initiatives in urban metropolitan localities throughout South Florida.

“For me, the combination of law, faith, art therapy and wellness flow together, and, is without a doubt, perhaps one of the most important responsibilities I have as an advocate,” she said. “And I am especially grateful for the opportunity the exhibition gives me to engage our communities in this critical conversation.”

Buzzi’s award-winning work has been exhibited at a national and international forums and is included in numerous corporate and private collections throughout the United States. In addition to human trafficking, her documentary work has addressed a number of other sensitive issues such as homelessness; at-risk youth and violence prevention; and extensive studies focusing on women’s wellness and their cancer journey.

Buzzi’s award-winning work has been exhibited at a national and international forums and is included in numerous corporate and private collections throughout the United States. In addition to human trafficking, her documentary work has addressed a number of other sensitive issues such as homelessness; at-risk youth and violence prevention; and extensive studies focusing on women’s wellness and their cancer journey.

The exhibit opens Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 2 p.m., in STU's Archbishop John C. Favalora Archive & Museum (located in the Main Library).

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

STU Undergraduate Research Recognized in the Southeast

Six undergraduate researchers from St. Thomas University participated in the 49th Southeast Undergraduate Research Conference (SURC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 28, where STU chemistry majors Brandon Gamboa and Amanda Penton garnered Best Poster Honorable Mention.

Their research poster presentation looked at the effect of magnetic fields on oscillatory reactions. The oscillatory reaction studied, Belousov-Zhabotinsky, can be used as a model for biological oscillatory processes, such as circadian rhythm.

Students were prepared and confident thanks to the guidance of their mentors STU professors Luis Fernandez and David Quesada from the School of Science.

“The confidence exhibited by our students, along with the acquired knowledge, when presenting their posters is a valuable lesson that cannot be taught in any lecture hall or online environment,” said professors Fernandez and Quesada. “Meetings such as SURC really open our students’ eyes. They find out that they are not alone, that their peers also conduct research, and that the quality of STU research is at the same level of much larger research institutions.”

This was the first time STU participated in SURC; and the student’s posters and research content was on par with those of much larger research institutions participating, such as University of Georgia, University of South Carolina, University of Tennessee, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Ole Miss. It is at conferences like SURC where the effort of our students and faculty, and the quality of their research is rewarded with the recognition and praise from their peers.

The work was sponsored by the St. Thomas University Summer Research Institute and, in part, by U.S. Department of Education grant awards STEM-TRAC, STEM Ladder, STEP Up, and SPARC with our partners from Miami-Dade College.

Congratulations to all STU participants: Brandon Gamboa, Amanda Penton, Luis Castellar, Ana Figuereo, Christine Curiac, and Marrisa Lee.

Monday, January 30, 2017

STU's Response to President's Executive Order on Immigration

On Monday, Jan. 30, STU President delivered this message to the University community:

Dear University Community:
This weekend I joined 500 university administrators at the annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) in Washington, DC. The Board of Directors, which I chair, issued a statement concerning the executive order on immigration policy issued by the President on Friday.

The statement received overwhelming support from the Catholic college and university presidents who were in attendance at the association's annual meeting, which concluded today. I am issuing this statement to our St. Thomas University community as my official response on behalf of our university, as well.

ACCU Statement on Recent Executive Order by the President
As the voice of Catholic higher education, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities expresses its strong opposition to the Executive Order signed by President Donald J. Trump concerning U.S. immigration policy. We stand in solidarity with other Catholic and higher education organizations that recognize the moral obligation of our country to assist migrants, particularly those who are fleeing any kind of persecution.

In referring to the order’s halt of refugee admissions, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, stated, "We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope. … We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities, without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones." (Read Bishop Vasquez’s full statement online.)

Pope Francis has said that “authentic hospitality is our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism.” As ACCU gathers this weekend in Washington, DC to celebrate the value of diversity within Catholic higher education, we reaffirm the commitment of our institutions to creating inclusive, welcoming campus environments that embrace people of all faiths and cultures. Catholic higher education was founded precisely to serve the children of Catholic immigrants who in their own time were excluded from higher education. This is a legacy that we proudly pledge to continue.

Friday, January 27, 2017

STU President Announces Retirement in 2018

After a 22-year tenure that saw enormous growth for the private, Catholic St. Thomas University,
Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale announced his intention to retire as University President in January of next year. Msgr. Casale, 75, has been the longest-serving president at St. Thomas, and has the longest tenure of any South Florida college or university president.

His presidency has marked remarkable progress for the institution. Msgr. Casale has been building the University’s position as the leading Catholic university in the Southeast by developing and graduating recognized global leaders in ministry, science, business, education and justice. He has shaped four fundamental core values in the institution: a strong Catholic identity; global diversity; student success; and leadership development.

“It takes great leadership to create a great institution,” explains John J. Dooner, ’70, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. “Since he first arrived on campus, Msgr. Casale has worked to make St. Thomas a model resource that prepares students to lead and engage in the legal, business, social entrepreneurship and scientific universe of the global community. He will leave a legacy of committed service to higher education, which has resulted in positioning the University not only as a leader in higher education, but a leader in producing graduates that are ethical, knowledgeable and confident leaders in their fields.”

His legacy at St. Thomas is reflected in, among other things:
  • A nationally recognized program in Intercultural Human Rights that has been teaching, training, and empowering the next generation of human rights advocates and decision makers through globally unique LL.M. and J.S.D. programs in Intercultural Human Rights, and in establishing STU’s national and international academic presence on the issue of human trafficking. Msgr. Casale convened the first workshop on this topic in 2004, helped formulate the globally influential Miami Declaration of Principles against Human Trafficking in February 2005, and established a Human Trafficking Academy funded by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012. Msgr. Casale has testified on human trafficking before the U.S. House of Representatives, keynoted conferences in Rome and South America, as well as leading interdisciplinary workshops in Siena, Italy (where he helped develop the 2013 Siena Principles on Human Trafficking and Public Health).
  • The construction and expansion of campus facilities, combining the advantage of intimate and caring environment for the students with the provision of the highest standards of technology needed in today’s economy. This has included the Chapel of Saint Anthony; School of Law’s Professional Development Building and Shojaee Law Annex; Goya Family Student Academic Enhancement Building; Evelyn and George Goldbloom Convocation Hall; Villanova Residential Hall; Fernandez Family Center for Leadership and Wellness; and the Carnival Cruise Lines School of Science, Technology and Engineering Management. Major renovations have also been completed to the athletic facilities, all residential halls, academic classrooms, and new entrance and tower. The result has been a tripling of the University’s assets.
  • An academic restructuring into five schools and a college that positioned the University to better serve its globally diverse student body through enhanced focus on leadership development, academic rigor, experiential learning (through internships, service learning, study abroad), and student success. The School of Law and Sports Administration programs are nationally lauded, and programs in pastoral ministry and community engagement are well-recognized and highly respected by the Archdiocese of Miami and nationally.
  • The enhanced focus on academic rigor through the introduction of the University’s first doctoral degrees, as well as an expansion of post-graduate (master’s) programs.
  • Increased partnerships and support of University initiatives, student scholarships and community programs, resulting in almost $100 million in new philanthropic, corporate and grant funding.
  • The implementation of unique, hands-on undergraduate scientific research that engages students in drug discovery, spinal cord injury, and cancer research, as well as scientific publication.
  • Social justice and long-term sustainability projects that have demonstrated results in Haiti’s poorest regions, migrant worker communities in Central Florida, and in the local community and schools.
  • A School of Theology and Ministry that fosters global dialogue for peace and ecumenical understanding, and has strengthened its long history of ministry formation.
“Monsignor Franklyn Casale’s long tenure has been a blessing to St. Thomas University as well to our South Florida community,” adds Archbishop Thomas Wenski. “During his presidency, more than 17,000 have graduated to positions of leadership and influence in their communities. Their formation in an academic setting imbued with the values of Catholic social teaching help them to remain focused on service, compassion and ethics. We all owe Monsignor a big “thank you” for his vision, commitment and dedication.”
Msgr. Casale is active in a wide range of community organizations and has been a significant presence in Miami since his arrival. His involvements include participation in committees with the Archdiocese of Miami; the Board of Governors for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce; the Academic Leaders Council of the Beacon Council, One Community One Goal; the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center, Inc.; and a long-serving member of the Orange Bowl Committee. He was appointed by former Governor Jeb Bush to serve on the Governor’s Haiti Advisory Group.
His leadership positions in higher education associations include Chair of the Board of Directors, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities; Board of Trustees and former Vice Chair, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges; Governing Board, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; Past-Chair, President’s Council of Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida; Florida Association of Colleges & Universities; and Co-founder, Haiti-Tech, an organization that organizes and maintains a vocational/technical school in Haiti and educates over 700 students yearly. He was appointed as the President Member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Higher Education Working Group.
Prior to joining St. Thomas University, Msgr. Casale 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 Board of Trustees and executive committee at Bloomfield College. A catholic priest from the Archdiocese of New Jersey who will celebrate 50 years of ordination this year, he received his B.A. in Humanities with a concentration in Philosophy from Seton Hall University, a Bachelor in Sacred Theology (STB) from the Catholic University in Washington D.C., and his Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) from the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, New Jersey.
“It has been an honor to be part of an institution that changes the lives of people for the better, both intellectually and spiritually,” said Msgr. Casale. “I look back at my years at STU with much pride for what we have accomplished, how we have grown our Catholic intellectual tradition, and how we have impacted communities here and abroad. I look forward to working with our committed Board and the excellent administration, faculty and staff during the next year, as we transition to the next exciting phase of St. Thomas University.”
The Board of Trustees will be implementing a search process and work with Msgr. Casale on ensuring a seamless transition.

Monday, January 23, 2017

STU ‘Toasts’ to Public Speaking, Leadership and Confidence

The Office of Student Affairs at St. Thomas University officially kicked off its chapter of Toastmasters International during common hour Wednesday, Jan. 18.

More than 145 students were in attendance to learn the art of public speaking and to effectively formulate ways to communicate better. Students gave impromptu speeches and learned various tips to enhance clarity, persistence and audience appeal. Other topics discussed during the event focused on the art of giving compelling speeches, making dynamic presentations, and being confident, effective leaders.

“This program will no doubt bring students together to develop skills that will serve them as future leaders in their respective fields,” said Richard McNab, associate vice president of student affairs.

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Founded in October 1924, the organization currently has more than 270,000 members in 13,000 clubs in 116 countries. Each week, Toastmasters helps more than a quarter million people of every ethnicity, education and profession build their competence in communication so they can gain the confidence to lead others. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit

 For photos of the event, click here.