Celebrating our collective success

University of Miami President Julio Frenk. Photos: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

University of Miami President Julio Frenk. Photos: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

Celebrating our collective success

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen
University of Miami President Julio Frenk touted the University’s recent accomplishments in his second State of the University Town Hall address.

University of Miami President Julio Frenk delivered his second State of the University address Thursday evening, highlighting some of the top successes propelling the University forward, including advances and breakthroughs in climate research, transformative innovations in health care and how the University is attracting students across the globe who are competitive, selective, and diverse.

“The University of Miami excels because we embrace change, and that change is driven by people who refresh and renew our purpose and dedication with each new generation,” he said.

Frenk hosted the town hall-style event in the Shalala Student Center ballroom, providing examples of how the University is implementing goals he outlined last fall in the Roadmap to Our New Century, an ambitious plan for the institution to advance in a variety of areas as the University approaches its centennial in 2025. But he stressed that he is simply part of a talented team, so the accomplishments he touted are a celebration of the entire University community.

“This is a collective effort,” he said. “I am president of the university and accountable for everything that happens at this university, but all the good things that happen are the product of all the people here.”


One of the Roadmap’s initiatives to foster interdisciplinary research is being addressed by U-LINK, or UM’s Laboratory for Integrative Knowledge. This effort supports collaborative research teams from multiple disciplines tackling important societal problems. One of the teams, Project Hurakan, is working to improve the communication of hurricane forecasts for vulnerable populations, and recently produced an interactive news piece that was featured in The New York Times, Frenk noted.

He also noted that the University continues to be a leader in studying the impacts of climate change, which was touched upon earlier in the evening in a talk by Andrew Baker, associate professor of marine biology at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, who spoke about how rising temperatures are threatening the survival of coral reefs, which Baker called the “rainforests of the sea,” due to their rich biodiversity.

“We are literally ground zero for the most significant threat not only to our city, but to the entire planet — climate change,” Frenk said. “The University of Miami is equipped to confront this complex issue in ways that few other institutions can.”

One way the University will do this is through the Miami Climate Symposium planned for January 2020 that will “showcase our institutional commitment to reduce risks of weather and climate-related disasters,” Frenk added.

Further emphasizing UM’s commitment to research are a series of institutes in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The first, called the Frost Institute of Chemistry and Molecular Science, will be housed in a new building that is currently in the design process, Frenk said, and the Institute of the Mathematical Sciences of the Americas, founded this summer, recently had its first conference.

Frenk described how UM is transforming the landscape of the health care industry with The Lennar Foundation Medical Center, where administrators have used research-based methods to design a facility that takes a “comprehensive approach to health in a beautiful setting with soothing music and comfortable spaces that make you think about getting better.”

“Lennar is the face of the future of health care, and we are planning to cut the ribbon on two more similar facilities in the years ahead,” he added. Facilities are planned for locations in North Miami and Doral, with future sites in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Frenk described the University’s effort to extend its hemispheric footprint by forging partnerships with universities and institutions throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America. The first of its five “hubs,” or satellite offices, opened in Mexico last May to nurture these relationships.

In its classrooms, Frenk explained that UM is taking advantage of new technology and professional development to train students and professors for the future. A new program called PETAL, for the Platform for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, provides innovative resources to support newly hired faculty, and NextGen MD is changing the medical school’s curriculum to emphasize patient-centered learning in teams, as well as population health.

“Lectures aren’t bad. Bad lectures are bad,” Frenk said, to some laughs from students. “It is my personal goal to eradicate them from this campus.”

Frenk also highlighted UM’s relationship with the Plantation, Florida-based company Magic Leap, and its mixed-reality platform, which allows users to interact with the virtual and physical world simultaneously using special Magic Leap glasses. A collaboration this summer between UM’s Center for Computational Science and Magic Leap produced “The U Experience,” an interactive campus map of the Coral Gables campus, with geo references for every tree, Frenk said. The technology was on display outside the ballroom, but is also available in the Otto G. Richter Library’s new Magic Leap Lab.

“More than 30 Magic Leap-enabled projects are in development fueled by collaborations across schools and colleges,” Frenk said.

Students said they enjoyed the event, especially hearing from not just Frenk, but from a panel of senior leadership and others that included Baker, Dr. Stephen D. Nimer, director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the Miller School of Medicine, and senior Sade Prithwie, who discussed how important her time at the U has been.

Student acapella group BisCaydence performed after Frenk’s remarks, regaling the audience with their own version of “No Air” by Jordin Sparks just before longtime NBC television anchor and alumnus Tony Segreto moderated a panel with Frenk; Jeffrey Duerk, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs; Jacqueline A. Travisano, executive vice president for business and finance and chief operating officer; and Dr. Edward Abraham, executive vice president for health affairs and chief executive officer of UHealth.

Many of the students said they paid close attention to information about the educational improvements happening on campus.

Emily Gossett, Student Government president and senior communication studies and sociology major, said she has seen firsthand how Duerk has been working to transform the learning process with flipped learning and discussion-based learning.

“They were saying that we are such different learners than their generation was as learners and I think that’s really true and speaks a lot to the fact that faculty really, really do try to understand students and that our administration really does look out for students,” she said.

Jenny Hudak contributed to this report.