Winter 2015-16 Class Notes

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Claudia Galofre-Krevat ’78, chef at Claudia’s Mesa, joined the “Lentil Underground” book tour during a week of educational and cooking events in San Francisco in February, cooking for journalist and food author Michael Pollan.

Del Sebastian Placides ’79, MS ’93 was invited by the University of Washington State Historical Society and other organizations to speak about his two recent nonfiction books, “The Home Front Kid,” published in 2014 and chronicling his childhood in a South Philadelphia neighborhood in the shadow of World War II, and “Runaway Boy from Bicolandia,” published in 2013 and telling his father’s life story.


Justo Pozo ’80 was elected to the FIU Board of Trustees for a five-year term.

Maria Elena González ’80 was awarded grand prize at the 30th Annual Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts at the MGLC-International Centre for Graphic Arts in Slovenia for her “Tree Talk Series.”

James Border ’81, vice president and global tax counsel for Carnival Corporation and PLC, was reappointed chairman of the Global Tax Committee for the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 64 separate cruise lines throughout the world on matters of international tax policy and regulation.

Mark Chmielarski ’85, a shareholder in Greenspoon Marder Law’s Orlando office, was nominated to the Leadership Group of the Volusia County Association for Responsible Development, a non-profit association for Central Florida professionals who work in various aspects of land development. The association focuses on environmental issues, regulatory changes of federal, state and local governments, and current planning for land development.


Gonzalo Acevedo ’91, MBA ‘10, who currently serves on The Wolfsonian-FIU Museum Board of Advisors and the FIU Alumni Association Executive Committee, has taken the position of senior vice president and managing director of the AllianceBernstein, L.P., Private Wealth Management office in Miami.

Rosary Plana-Falero ’91 MBA ’94 joined Coconut Grove Bank as executive vice president of private banking.

Mabel Morales ’94 MS ’97 was named president of the Florida Art Education Association.

Francis Rodriguez ’95 was named partner in charge of the Shutts & Bowen LLP Miami firm. In 2014, he was appointed to FIU’s President’s Council.

Ralph Rosado ’96, MA ’03 is president of Rosado and Associates, an urban planning and economic development strategy firm based in Miami. Holder of a second master’s degree from Princeton and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, he serves as research fellow at FIU’s Metropolitan Center and an instructor of graduate and professional programs at FIU and the University of Miami. Most recently his efforts on behalf of a resident-led effort to establish a neighborhood park earned him a Grassroots Initiative Award from the Gold Coast APA Chapter. And his idea for redesigning local bus shelters to make them more attractive and more protective against the elements garnered an award in the Miami Foundation’s 2015 Public Space Challenge.

Armando Hernandez

Armando Hernandez

Armando Hernandez ’89 MS ’96, president and CEO of Hernandez & Company, has been selected by the National Academy of Public Accounting Professionals as one of the 2015 “Top 10 Public Accounting Professionals” in Florida.

David Barbeito ’97, M.Acc ’03 and Cristina Perez ’98, MS ‘01 were named partners at De La Hoz, Perez & Barbeito, P.A.

Lourdes Oroza Ed.D. ’97 was named president of Miami Dade College’s Kendall Campus.

Ian Rambarran ’98 received the distinction of Top Lawyer in Sacramento from Sacramento Magazine for exemplary practice in both construction and business/corporate law.

Beth Goldstein MS ’99 was named Florida Outstanding Secondary Art Educator of the Year. She was honored by the Florida Art Education Association in October 2014.


Jorge Grossmann ’00 composed the piece “Notus,” which will be performed by the Grammy award-winning Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra at the inaugural concert of the Festival Latinoamericano de Música in October.

Mike Gonzalez

Mike Gonzalez

Mike Gonzalez MS ’01 was named the Junior and Middle School Administrator of the Year by the Wisconsin Association of School Councils.

Robert Noroña MBA ’01 was promoted to senior vice president at Ocean Bank.

Joanne Bashford Ed.D. ’02 was named president of Miami Dade College’s InterAmerican Campus.

Justo Torres ’02 was named director of contracts and grants at North Carolina State University.

Zameer Upadhya ’03 was named one of Houston Business Journal’s 2015 “40 Under 40” business leaders.

Vivian Gonzalez MS ’04, Ed.S. ’07 was a semi-finalist for the inaugural Music Educator Award presented by the Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation.

Casandra Roache Henriquez

Casandra Roache Henriquez

Casandra Roache Henriquez ’04, MPH ’06 married motivational speaker Andy Henriquez in Riviera Maya, Mexico, on Oct. 18, 2015.

Breny DaParre Garcia ’05, MA ’07, Ph.D. ‘15 has been appointed assistant vice president of Institutional Relations for FIU. In this role, she leads select institutional and presidential initiatives pertaining to key university donors and prospects, community partners, academic organizations, student success and constituent relations. Breny also volunteers her time as a board member for FIU’s Young Alumni Council and Janelle’s Wishing Well Foundation and recently was elected to a two-year term on the national Supreme Council of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority. She has served the organization for 10 years as a member of multiple committees and task forces as well as a chapter key advisor.

Carolina Sarassa

Carolina Sarassa

Carolina Sarassa Book CoverCarolina Sarassa ’05 is a three-time Emmy award- and a four-time National Gabriel award-winning news anchor and correspondent for MundoFOX National Network News in Los Angeles. Prior to joining that organization, she was the anchor and producer for Univision’s KINC in Las Vegas and a correspondent for the news-magazine show “Primer Impacto” and, before that, anchored and reported for Univision KORO in Texas. Carolina has served on the board of governors for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and is currently a board member for the LA Press Club.

Adding to her list of accomplishments, Sarassa last year saw the publication of “Dancing on her Grave,” the true story of the brutal murder of a college-educated Las Vegas showgirl, a crime that shocked and riveted the public. Sarassa co-authored the book, which recounts the months of investigation that led to the apprehension of a suspect and his subsequent trial and life imprisonment.

Brian Matijevic ’08 joined U.S. Century Bank as assistant vice president, treasury officer.

Charles Rego ’08, president of the Veterans Panther Network, has recently moved to Boston with his wife and family for six months to complete his master’s degree at Harvard.

Daniela Ottati ’09, Ph.D. ’15, an adjunct professor of communication arts in the College of Architecture + The Arts, was presented with a proclamation honoring her continuous dedication and commitment to education by City of Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman and the city council.

Marla Baldomero ’09, MS ’13 and Daniel Oliu ‘11, who met at FIU freshman year and spent their first year together hanging out at the Barnes & Noble cafe in the Graham Center, were married July 11, 2015.

Latoya Brown ’08, JD ’13 was elected to the Dade County Bar Association Board of Directors, where she will serve a three-year term as director for Group 1.

Liliana Korn Custy ’09, a professor in the Department of Interior Architecture, spoke for the fourth year in a row at the National Homebuilders Association International Builders Show in January.


Rebecca Rodriguez

Rebecca Rodriguez

Rebecca Rodriguez MS ’10, an associate at the GrayRobinson, P.A., Fort Lauderdale office, was accepted to Leadership Fort Lauderdale’s Class XXII. Leadership Fort Lauderdale is a tri-county program intended to help business leaders understand local issues and create a strong bond with fellow graduates.

Elizabeth Fernandez ’10 passed the Florida Bar Exam and has joined EPGD Law as an attorney.

Christin CiCi Battle

Christin “Cici” Battle

Christin “Cici” Battle ’11, ’14, former Biscayne Bay Campus Student Government Association president, moved to Cali, Colombia, where she teaches leadership development and industry-specific English to college students as a full-time volunteer through the Colombian government and Volunteer Colombia. While there, she is also working with women and girls’ organizations to do capacity building, program development and fundraising.

Helena Ramirez

Helena Ramirez

Helena Ramirez ’11, former president of the Student Government Association and eastern coalitions coordinator for LIBRE Initiative, was featured in Forbes 2015 30 Under 30 in Law and Policy for her work as the inaugural chair of She Should Run’s Frontrunners, which encourages women to run for public office, as well as her work with Hispanic churches, entrepreneurs and women for the Koch-affiliated conservative group.

Steven Cruz

Steven Cruz

Steven Cruz ’12, representing the Alpha Chi Chapter of Beta Theta Pi at the 176th General Convention in Orlando in August, was recognized as Rookie District Chief of the Year.

Michael Perez ’12, Latin America marketing and promotions associate at The Walt Disney Company, was a featured speaker at the Idea Center, presenting the various ways Disney uses creativity to support brand initiatives.

Katie Edwards JD ’12, a state representative was given the 2015 Florida Chamber Distinguished Advocate award by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Andy Señor ’13 directed a Spanish production of Jonathon Larson’s musical “RENT” in Cuba. It is the first Broadway show that has been produced in Cuba in 50 years.

Paola Katherine Rodriguez

Paola Katherine Rodriguez

Dylan Gonzalez JD ’14 and Igor Hernandez ’09, JD ’13, FIU Law and Trial Team alumni, placed second and third, respectively, during the 2015 Legal Eagle Closing Argument Competition.

Nick Aquart ’14, former Student Government Association senator and founder of Hope2o International, a nonprofit organization devoted to finding solutions to the global water crisis, earned an internship with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Paola Katherine Rodriguez ’15 had her photographic work “Takia,” a part of her series “Broken Free,” which documents the stories of victims of abuse, featured in the Fifth Annual Exposure Award reception’s portraiture collection at the Musée du Louvre.

Clara-Meretan Kiah

Clara-Meretan Kiah

Nathalie Alfonso ’15 curated her “Among Body Marks,” created in conjunction with FIU Department of Art and Art History professor Michael Namkung, at The Projects/FATVillage in Fort Lauderdale in February.

Clara-Meretan Kiah ’15 was hired as a full-time staff writer for the Division of External Relations.

Twelve FIU alumni were honored in Legacy magazine’s 2015 40 Under 40 Leaders of Today and Tomorrow in July 2015. They were chosen for making a significant contribution within their fields and in the local community. Honored were Kareem Brantley MSF ’02; Kenol Thomas ’02; Theo Williams ’02; Kristina Jones ’07, MS ’11; Calonie Gray MS ’07, Ph.D. ’09; David Coleman MBA ’08; Kenasha Paul ’10; Jonise Sainvil MPA ’11; Mikhaile Solomon M.Arch. ’11; Adia McKenzie ’12; Donna Comrie Ph.D. ’13; and Jadine Louissaint MBA ’13.