August 2009

University News

FIU #1 in awarding STEM degrees to minorities

FIU was ranked #1 in the nation in awarding STEM degrees to underrepresented minorities in a recent study published by The Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology on completed degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for 2007.

For the first time, the university led the nation in producing 1,527 minority STEM graduates. The ranking includes the broad fields of physical sciences, geosciences, mathematics and computer science, engineering, life sciences, social and behavioral sciences, science and engineering technologies, and interdisciplinary and other science degrees.

At a time when STEM fields are increasingly important to our national security, health, and competitiveness, the U.S. is not producing the diverse pool of scientists and engineers we need to fuel our future.

There’s a great need to attract more minority students into the STEM fields to replenish the ranks of national scientists and recruit future teachers for South Florida and Miami-Dade County, which is one of the largest school districts in the country.

FIU is successfully addressing this challenge by attracting a large number of students from the richly diverse South Florida community and developing university-wide programs that funnel minority students into STEM disciplines.

The university is one of the leading participants in the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI), developed by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). The program is dedicated to increasing the diverse pool of highly qualified math and science teachers across the country.

Among university-wide initiatives to cultivate STEM graduates is a unique collaboration between the Department of Physics and the College of Education aimed at improving and promoting the education of future physics and physical science teachers, including traditionally underrepresented minorities. The multidisciplinary team is participating in the PhysTEC (Physics Teacher Education Coalition) project, which is led by the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics.

“This national recognition highlights FIU’s unique status as one of the very few top-tier public research universities that’s also a majority/minority institution serving the community,” said Dr. Ken Furton, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “Any time you reach #1 status, people rightly take notice.”

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South Florida Construction Industry Rallies to Support FIU’s Construction Management Department

The South Florida construction management industry recently raised $250,000 to preserve FIU’s Department of Construction Management, which was slated to merge with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as part of the university’s $19.6 million in budget cuts this year.

The university agreed that if the department raised $250,000 by June 30, the proposed merger could be averted.

To save the nationally-recognized program, the only one of its kind among South Florida universities that is accredited by the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE), the Construction Management Industry Advisory Council launched a fund-raising campaign. These nearly 40 construction-related companies in South Florida participated:

Arellano Construction
Katz Barron Squitero Faust
Balfour Beatty Construction
KVC Constructors
The Barthet Firm  
Link Construction Group
Beauchamp Construction  
MCM Corporation
C. Davis Electric Company  
Moss Construction
Coastal Construction
Nielson & Company
Condotte America
Odebrecht Construction
Cuesta Construction
Pavarini Construction
Current Builders
PBS&J
David J. Valdini & Associates
Peckar & Abramson
Delant Construction
Right Way Plumbing
Elcon Electric
Schuff Steel
E. F. Alvarez & Company
Skanska
FIU Construction Management Faculty and CEC Administration
SPI Structural Prestressed Industries
First Florida Building Corporation
Stiles Construction
GFA International
Suffolk Construction
Gryphon Construction
Turner Construction
Hypower
Waas Construction
John Moriarty & Associates of Florida
Williams Paving Company

“We recognized the vital need to maintain an academic center in Southeast Florida to train future leaders of the construction industry,” said Emilio Alvarez, founder and CEO of E. F. Alvarez and Co, P.A., and a member of the council’s Executive Committee. “There was only a very small window of time to accomplish the goal, but we all pulled together, contacted our clients and colleagues, and got it done.”

“We are grateful to the individuals who participated in the campaign during these challenging economic times,” Alvarez added.

Thanks to the successful campaign, the Department of Construction Management has the financial resources to meet its operating budget for 2009-2010, and is planning an annual fund-raising drive to ensure its continued survival. The donors who supported the department will be recognized at a special event in August.

The construction industry is one of the largest sectors in the U.S., providing 5.5% of the total workforce, with $1.17 trillion of construction put in place by April 2007. The residential and commercial construction boom has been key to Florida’s economic growth. In April 2009, the state’s construction industry (residential and nonresidential) employed 436,000 workers.

With currently over 570 students (BS and MS) enrolled in FIU’s Construction Management Program, it is meeting the growing need for well-trained interns, project managers, upper level management, and CEOs to serve the construction community.  This past year (2008-09), CM awarded a total of 126 degrees. In 2004-05, the number of degrees awarded was 54. More than 80 percent of FIU’s construction management graduates find jobs within South Florida’s construction marketplace.

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FIU professor and humanitarian Dr. Pedro José “Joe” Greer to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Dr. Pedro José “Joe” GreerDr. Pedro José “Joe” Greer, chair of the Department of Humanities, Health & Society at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, has been chosen by President Barack Obama to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest recognition given to civilians by the United States.

“I am deeply humbled by this incredible honor,” said Greer, who will accept the award at a White House ceremony on August 12. “I love medicine and what it can do for our community, particularly those in need. This is our country, this is our community and it’s our responsibility as physicians to make sure we take care of those who need it most.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is designed to recognize individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Greer has pioneered medical delivery and education in areas of homelessness, poverty and its relationship to policy and ethics in medicine. At the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, he is the chair of the Department of Humanities, Health & Society, which incorporates ethics, medicine and society and family medicine in concert with the College of Medicine’s unique curriculum.

That curriculum, called NeighborhoodHELP™ (Health Education Learning Program) and operated under the Green Family Medicine & Society Program, will place each medical student in a team that will include students from nursing, social work, public health, and others. Each medical student will spend three years working with a household in North Miami-Dade County. The interdisciplinary cooperation is similar to the model that is taking shape in modern medicine, as doctors collaborate with counterparts, such as social workers, to address a patient’s needs.

“Our students will have the privilege of learning about the social aspects of medicine from a recognized leader in this field,” said Wertheim College of Medicine Dean John Rock. “The energy and the vision of professors like Dr. Greer will inspire our students and propel this young college of medicine into a leadership position on the national stage.”

The Wertheim College of Medicine welcomes its first class of 43 students on Monday, Aug. 3.

President Obama on Thursday praised Greer and his fellow honorees for “their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens.”

“These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs,” said President Obama in a statement. “Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.”

Added FIU President Modesto A. Maidique, “Dr. Greer represents the best that our community has to offer. This great honor is testament to the caliber of doctors that FIU’s Wertheim College of Medicine has attracted. We are honored to call Dr. Greer one of our own.”

Greer has been awarded the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the Doctor of the Year for Teaching by the Magazine Hippocrates, and has received the Presidential Service Award from Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter. Dr. Greer also was named the Health Care Hero of the Americas by Pan American Health Organization in Washington DC in 2005. He has advised both the Bush Sr. and Clinton Administration in issues of healthcare and poverty. He has published articles ranging from digestive and liver disorders to policy and poverty in America, as well as the book, Waking Up in America.

He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Florida and earned his medical degree from the Pontifica Universidad Madre y Maestra in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Greer did his internship, residency and was Chief Medical resident at JMH/ VA in Miami as well as two fellowships in Gastroenterology and Hepatology there. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Gastroenterology.

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Innovative program helps disabled students and alumni find jobs

When students with disabilities graduate from college, they are often not prepared for making the transition to the workplace. Myths, stereotypes, and misconceptions stand in their way when they look for jobs.

In February, the national unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 14 percent, compared with 8.7 percent for people without a disability.

The FIU Disability Resource Center, in partnership with FIU Career Services, is addressing this challenge and equipping FIU students and alumni with disabilities with the skills they need to find jobs through the Johnson Scholarship Foundation Career Services Initiative (JSFCSI). It is one of the few programs of its kind in the nation.

Career coach Darren Gregory, student Jorge Pedraza, program coordinator Saran StewartIn 2005, FIU received a three-year, $300,000 grant from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation to expand university services for students and alumni with disabilities. The university re-launched and took over management of the program in June, hiring new staff and restructuring the program’s priorities.

“The original program focused on providing job placement for students and alumni with disabilities,” explained Saran Stewart, JSFCSI program coordinator. “But with this challenging economy, we’ve shifted our emphasis to career planning and development.”

Participating FIU students and alumni attend interactive workshops on topics including resume and cover letter writing, practice interview sessions, business etiquette, and when and how to disclose a disability to an employer. They also benefit from networking opportunities, priority participation in career fairs, and invitations to special events.

Jorge Pedraza, an FIU senior who served in the U.S. Army in Iraq, credits the program with helping him to launch his post-college career. The 28-year-old student suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

FIU’s Disability Resource Center, through the Johnson Scholarship Career Services Initiative, is coordinating a fall internship for Pedraza at the Miami International Airport and working on a post-graduation summer internship for him.

“I was completely clueless before I met with the program’s staff,” Pedraza said. “They helped me to define my career goals and take concrete steps to meet them.”

“It’s nice to talk to kind people who understand the complexities of the issues you’re facing,” he added.

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Journalism Dean Receives Outstanding Educator Award

Dean Lillian KopenhaverFIU School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) Dean Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver has been named the 2009 recipient of the Outstanding Woman in Journalism and Mass Communication Education Award. She received the award at the business meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) on August 7 in Boston.

Given by the Commission on the Status of Women in AEJMC, the award recognizes a woman who has represented fellow women in the academy through personal excellence and high standards in journalism education.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized by my peers who are journalism and mass communications educators from across the country,” said Kopenhaver.

After the award was announced, one of the judges commented: “Dr. Kopenhaver has taken care of a whole generation of media advisors and student organizations, not to mention one of the top professional organizations in our field – AEJMC. She is a role model for all women in academia.”

Dr. Kopenhaver served as SJMC interim dean from 2003-2004, and became dean of the college in 2004. She is nationally known as an expert in ethics and law as they relate to the scholastic and collegiate press, and as one of the primary researchers in the field.

She has held a variety of leadership positions with AEJMC, including her tenure as president from 1998-1999. For a decade, Dr. Kopenhaver was chair of the national Professional Development Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists. She served in a number of key roles with College Media Advisers, including a stint as president from 1975-1979, and as vice president from 1970-1975.

As past president of the national Community College Journalism Association, she was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1994.

Dean Kopenhaver wrote the critically-acclaimed book, College Media Advising: Ethics and Responsibilities, with J.W. Click. She has also published nearly 100 journal articles, approximately 40 percent of which are in referred journals; presented nearly 100 invited and refereed papers and addresses; edited five books; and written two monographs.

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FIU’s Everglades Digital Collection named among Top 10 research Web Sites

Reclaiming the Everglades: South Florida’s Natural History, 1884 to 1934,” a collection from FIU’s Everglades Digital Library, was chosen by Internet Scout as one of the Top 10 research Web sites of 2008-09.

A collaboration between FIU, the University of Miami and the Historical Museum of South Florida, the collection spans the years 1884 to 1934 and holds nearly 10,000 page-images of primary source materials relating to south Florida environmental history. Topics covered include the establishment of the Everglades National Park, Native American land rights, agriculture, urban development, endangered species, invasive plants, and the role of women in the modern conservation movement.

The research web site receives as many as 100,000 hits a month from users in more than 100 countries.

“We stay in touch with our users, and that’s very unusual for digital libraries,” explained Gail Clement, university librarian and head of the Digital Collection Center. “Most of them just put content up on a screen and move on. But we continue to grow the collection based on what our users are telling us.”

The collection, which was one of the first of its kind in the country, is often mentioned in newspaper and magazine articles about the Everglades, and every major book that has been published about the Everglades has cited the collection as a key source of information.

“The evidence of our impact is huge,” said Clement. “We’re doing what universities and libraries are meant to do – connecting vital content to people who have an authentic need for that content to work, study, and be inspired.”

Located on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus, and part of the University’s College of Letters and Sciences, Internet Scout conducts a weekly survey of the best resource Web sites based on content, design and ease of use.

Other sites honored as one of the best-of-the-best for this past academic year, include the Smithsonian’s History Explorer, the Library of Congress, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Science Foundation.

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