Kevin Quashie ’91 recently published Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being through Duke University Press. In the book, Quashie analyzes texts by authors including Lucille Clifton, June Jordan, Toni Morrison, Evie Shockley and Gwendolyn Brooks to argue for a Black aliveness that provides the basis for the imagination and creation of a Black world. Quashie is a professor of English and Black Cultural Studies at Brown University and the author of The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture and Black Women, Identity, and Cultural Theory: (Un)Becoming the Subject.
FIU alumni swept all three major Miami-Dade County Public Schools awards this year. Rachel B. Autler MS ’95 was named principal of the year and Samuel J. Louis ’03, Ed.S. ‘13 was named assistant principal of the year. Teresa Murphy ’93, MS ’96 was named the district’s teacher of the year.
Ileana Rodriguez ’08, M.Arch ’11 was appointed chef de mission for the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Refugee Paralympic Team (RPT) at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, which have been rescheduled for 2021. As chef de mission, Rodriguez will be a mentor, sponsor and spokesperson for the RPT team throughout the Paralympic games. In 2012, Rodriguez made the U.S. national team and went on to compete for Team USA in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. She was a finalist in the Women’s 100m breaststroke SB5 in London.
Ryan Benson MBA ‘12, principal with A. Vernon Allen Builder, was recently selected to become the Chairman of the Florida Home Builders Political Action Committee through the current election cycle. The Florida Home Builder’s Political Action Committee is the organization responsible for much of the lobbying activity for the industry in the state of Florida. The two-year term will run through the end of 2022. Benson is the co-owner of A. Vernon Allen Builder, a luxury home builder in Naples. He is also director for the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis in 2019.
During the pandemic, Christina Lerouge ’14 started her own business venture, Creative Cycle Consulting LLC. The online marketing agency works with many folks who’ve decided to turn their passion projects into businesses. Her clients come from a variety of fields, ranging from theater to Caribbean cuisine. Her office is located in Broward County and she’s proud to be a woman of color leading her business in South Florida.
Maria A. Penuela ’14, an associate at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP at Fort Lauderdale, has been selected as a member of the 2021 class of Pathfinders. The Leadership Council on Legal Diversity’s (LCLD) Pathfinder Program is designed as a professional development program for diverse, high-potential, early-career attorneys. Penuela represents businesses and individuals in a variety of products liability, medical malpractice and toxic tort matters. She has served as Region V Deputy President for the Hispanic National Bar Association (2017) and as Chair-Elect for the Federal Bar Association Law Student Division (2016–2017).
In 2018, Paula Mora '17 joined a group of women to help launch a new startup, called Symba. Even before the pandemic, the startup's goal was to allow more students to access virtual internships. Mora and the team hope to open up the workforce and allow underrepresented students to access career development opportunities. Previously, Mora worked at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. She now dedicates herself full-time to the startup and is proud to help minority students in their journeys to success.
Alfredo Ardila, retired professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, was a renowned neuropsychologist, writer and professor. After completing his studies in his native Colombia and later in Russia, he became instrumental in establishing recognition of Latin American contributions to the field of neuropsychology. Among his most influential work in the science of cognition are original models of brain organization of executive functions and the development of cross-cultural neuropsychology. In 2002, he joined FIU. He produced over 50 authored and edited books, seven neuropsychological assessment batteries, almost 500 published peer reviewed papers and hundreds of conference presentations. A prolific educator, he also mentored hundreds of students in the U.S., Latin America, Spain and Russia. He retired from FIU in August 2019.
Rick Blazek, associate teaching professor at the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences within the College of Engineering and Computing, was a dedicated pastor, teacher and professor. He was a lifelong student and teacher who enjoyed caring for others and empowering them to live life to the fullest. He joined FIU in 2014, and his passion for teaching as well as his desire to understand new technologies led him to conduct research about database and information security. He taught a variety of engineering and computing courses for both undergraduate and graduate students. Many current and former students as well as colleagues remember his engaging lectures, his passion and his sense of humor.
Zhenmin Chen, professor of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics within in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, was an integral part of the department. An outstanding scholar, teacher, advisor and mentor, his prolific research and dedication to teaching earned him awards both in teaching and research at the university level. He was extremely active in his service to the department, having served as the graduate program director for several years. At the national and international level, he was the “Arrangement Chair” of the International Society of Science and Applied Technologies Annual Conference since 2005 and the Program Chair for the IEEE International Conference on Computer Science and Communications since 2017. He was on the editorial board of several journals and a committee member of the International Society of Science and Applied Technology.
Liane B. Dornheim began her FIU career in 2003 as a psychologist at FIU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), within the Division of Academic and Student Affairs. She later became the testing coordinator and primary supervisor for all psychological assessment at CAPS. She received graduate degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Hamburg, Germany. She also completed a second doctorate degree in neuropsychology at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. Her supervisor Todd Lengnick and colleague Claudine Richard shared that she had a heart of gold and deeply cared about all of her clients, interns and colleagues. She was known for her work ethic and her willingness to help anyone in need.
Miami legend and FIU champion Albert E. Dotson Sr. joined the FIU Foundation, Inc. Board of Directors in 1983 and served on it until 2001, when he became a founding member of FIU's Board of Trustees. He served on the board with distinction for a decade, including as chair from 2009 to 2011. He also played an integral role in the founding of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the College of Law and helped secure the Riccardo Silva Stadium on campus. He established the Dotson Family MLK Speaker Endowment, which supports the recruitment of renowned speakers for the university’s annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast. He even coined the popular phrase “FIU: The Finest Institution in the Universe.” A million-dollar planned gift from the Dotson children in honor of their parents is recognized on campus with the naming of the Earlene and Al Dotson Pavilion. Dotson was also involved in numerous organizations across Miami and racked up a long list as the first Black board member or chair of many, including as the president and chair of the famed Orange Bowl Committee.
Jacob “Jack” Gewirtz, professor at the Department of Psychology, had a successful career spanning almost 70 years. He taught in psychology departments at numerous institutions, including the University of Chicago and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1981, he came to FIU, where he became chair of the Department of Psychology, director of the developmental psychology doctoral program and established the behavior analysis programs. He served concurrently as a clinical professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of Miami Medical School. He was a pioneering researcher who produced more than 100 scholarly works and trained some of the most eminent figures in behavioral development. He was recognized for his substantial contributions by his selection as an American Psychological Association Fellow in six different divisions. He retired from FIU in 2013.
Keqi Zhang, professor in the Department of Earth & Environment and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at the International Hurricane Research Center, was an expert in natural hazards and their effects on coastal environments. In 1998, he came to FIU, where he conducted important work on coastal processes, including utilizing airborne laser technology (now termed LIDAR). He made a number of innovative contributions to his field: He led the research team that first mapped hurricane storm surge-prone areas in South Florida utilizing the new LIDAR technology; he developed a new storm surge model that is currently used by the National Hurricane Center and emergency managers; and he used the new technology of ground lasers to determine the impact of hurricane-force winds on land. He pioneered the use of this technology in ecological studies.