Academics People and Community

Pioneers to share their stories, guide graduates

In seven separate ceremonies, distinguished speakers will take the stage to offer advice and praise during the spring 2023 commencement exercises honoring students who will be receiving their bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, as well as those receiving their J.D. and M.D. designations.
Seven headshots of speakers for May 2023 Commencement ceremonies
Clockwise, from top left: Amishi Jha, Chuck Todd, Eric Golnick, Alberto Ibargüen, Dr. Jennifer Arnold, Deborah Enix-Ross, and Manny Medina. 

What do a neuroscientist, a political analyst, an entrepreneur-veteran, a dynamic journalist, an entrepreneur-investor, a legal changemaker, and a pediatrician all have in common?

They will share their words of wisdom with University of Miami graduates during seven commencement ceremonies over three days, May 11-13, at the Watsco Center on the Coral Gables Campus. 

The ceremonies will be livestreamed for virtual viewing from anywhere, enabling everyone to celebrate the accomplishments of more than 1,300 new doctorate and master’s degree holders and more than 2,100 who have earned their baccalaureates. More than 400 law students and approximately 200 medical students also will be earning their J.D. and M.D. designations from the University.  

The following information offers a short biography about each commencement speaker, along with the date, time, and lists of schools that each will address.

Thursday, May 11, 10 a.m.—Amishi Jha, Ph.D., neuroscientist and professor of psychology in the Division of Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Miami speaks to the graduate degree ceremony for the Graduate School; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Engineering; Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science; Miller School of Medicine; and the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

Jha is director of contemplative neuroscience for the University’s Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, which she co-founded in 2010. Amishi JhaIn her laboratory, she uses functional MRI, electrophysiological recordings, and behavioral techniques to understand how attention works, why it sometimes fails us, and how it can be trained for greater focus and less distractibility.

With grants from the Department of Defense and several private foundations, Jha leads research on the neural bases of attention and the effects of mindfulness-based training programs on cognition, emotion, and resilience.

In 2008, she launched the first-ever study to offer mindfulness training to active-duty military service members as they prepared for deployment. What she discovered was that without intervention, soldiers’ attentional lapses increased. Yet, with mindfulness training, attention was strengthened and protected. Jha’s studies have illuminated similar benefits among teachers, students, first responders, athletes, and others.

She earned a B.S. in biological psychology from the University of Michigan and a doctorate in psychology with a concentration in cognitive neuroscience from the University of California, Davis. Jha completed postdoctoral training in functional neuroimaging at the Brain Imaging and Analysis Center at Duke University.

In her recent national bestseller, “Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day,” which has been translated into more than 12 languages and published worldwide, Jha shares her discoveries regarding how attention can be trained for optimal performance and well-being, allowing individuals to function at their peak.

Thursday, May 11, 3 p.m.—Chuck Todd, NBC News political director and moderator of “Meet the Press” addresses the graduate degree ceremony for the Graduate School, School of Architecture, the Miami Herbert Business School, the School of Communication, the School of Education and Human Development, and the Frost School of Music.

Todd is NBC News’ political director and the moderator of the network’s flagship public affairs program, “Meet the Press,” the longest-running show on television. As primary anchor for the network’s prime-time political and election programming, he spearheads NBC News’ political coverage across its various platforms and programs, including “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt,” “Today,” and NBC News NOW, the news organization’s live streaming service.Chuck Todd

Known for his encyclopedic knowledge, quick wit, and sharp analysis of every facet of the political scene, Todd ascended to his current role at “Meet the Press” in 2014, the same year he received an honorary degree from the University.

A Miami native, Todd has been an avid Miami Hurricanes fan since childhood. He was inducted into the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Alumni Hall of Fame in 2018. A talented French horn player, he earned a scholarship to study political science and music at George Washington University.

Since assuming the moderator chair at “Meet the Press,” Todd has brought the iconic program into the modern age by expanding to streaming, digital, and podcasting.

Todd is a five-time Emmy Award winner for his contributions to NBC News’ election night and breaking news coverage. In 2012 he was named “The Most Powerful Journalist in Washington” by GQ magazine. In addition to the University of Miami, he has received honorary doctorates from The George Washington University, Marymount University, and Marist College.

Friday, May 12, 8:30 a.m.—Eric Golnick, chief executive officer for Forge Veteran and First Responder Health doles out words of wisdom at the undergraduate degree ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences and Division of Continuing and International Education.

Golnick, a double alum of the University, is co-founder and executive vice president of Forge Health and CEO of Forge VFR (Veteran and First Responder). Founded in 2016, Forge Health is a national behavioral health company dedicated to providing high-quality, one-stop-shop care for substance abuse and mental health issues to individuals, families, and communities.Eric Golnick

A centerpiece of the enterprise is Forge VFR, created by Golnick to improve the mental health and well-being of active-duty service members, veterans, first responders, and their families. Golnick, a Florida native, grew up in a military family where service was important. After graduating with honors from the University in 2009, he attended U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a naval officer.

After leaving the Navy, Golnick returned to the University, enrolling in its Master of Arts in International Administration (MAIA) program. But he also was struggling with alcohol and substance abuse, problems that are endemic among veterans coping with the stress and trauma of their service experiences. Realizing he was in trouble, Golnick reached out to the Veterans Administration and found a therapist who understood military culture and gave him the help he needed to become sober. The challenges he faced in his treatment journey inspired Golnick to co-launch Forge Health with close friends Eric and Jon Frieman, who are brothers.

Now back in South Florida after many years away, Golnick has led the creation of multiple outpatient facilities in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. He currently participates in Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide working groups in several states, as well as board leadership positions on multiple nonprofit veteran organizations.

Golnick will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, during the morning ceremony.

Friday, May 12, 1 p.m.—Alberto Ibargüen, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will be the guest speaker at the undergraduate degree ceremony for the School of Architecture; the School of Communication; the School of Education and Human Development; the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science; the Frost School of Music; and the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

Ibargüen was named president and CEO of the Knight Foundation in 2005, at a time when social media platforms and emerging technologies were altering the news business and transforming the dissemination of information. Amid thousands of newspaper closings and a drastic drop in the number of employed journalists, he made it a top priority to restore the credibility and viability of journalism by seeding sustainable, digital business models for the delivery of news and supporting innovative ideas for delivering high-quality and reliable information.Alberto Ibargüen

Under his dynamic leadership, Knight Foundation expanded its support for the arts, investing about $214 million into the arts in Miami. Its support to a broad array of Miami cultural organizations and programs has played a vital role in transforming the city into an international cultural destination.

Ibargüen was the first Hispanic publisher of the Miami Herald. During his tenure, the daily newspaper won three Pulitzer Prizes and El Nuevo Herald won Spain’s Ortega y Gasset Prize for excellence in journalism.

He is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of Pennsylvania law school. He has been awarded honorary degrees by the University of Miami, Wesleyan University, The George Washington University, and Arizona State University. For his work to protect journalists in Latin America, he was awarded the Maria Moors Cabot Citation by Columbia University, an honor once also bestowed on Knight Foundation founder John S. Knight.

Ibargüen recently announced that he will step down from the Knight Foundation after 18 years. 

Friday, May 12, 5:30 p.m.—Manuel D. “Manny” Medina, founder and managing partner of Medina Capital headlines the undergraduate degree ceremony for the Miami Herbert Business School and College of Engineering. 

A highly successful entrepreneur and investor, Medina is the founder and managing partner of Medina Capital. The firm’s investments focus on early-stage innovators in the information technology infrastructure, cybersecurity, software, and data analytics sectors. Manny Medina

Miami’s rapidly increasing prominence in the global technology ecosystem has been propelled in large part by Medina’s longstanding belief in its potential as a major tech hub for the hemisphere and beyond. He is founder and chairman of the board of Technology Foundation of the Americas and its signature event, eMerge Americas, which anchors the annual Miami Tech Month. The event convenes business leaders, government officials, investors, entrepreneurs, and innovators from across the globe to showcase, discuss, and invest in the evolving technologies that are transforming modern life. 

Previously, as founder, chairman of the board, and CEO of Terremark, a Miami-based global provider of managed IT infrastructure services for Fortune 500 companies and federal agencies, Medina helmed the creation of Miami’s NAP (Network Access Point) of the Americas. The six-story, 750,000-square-foot data center and internet exchange point, constructed to withstand the vagaries of South Florida weather, is home to 160 network carriers. A pathway for data traffic from the Caribbean and South and Central America to more than 150 countries, the facility also serves as a relay for the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Telecommunications Service. Terremark was acquired by Verizon in 2011 for an enterprise value of $2 billion. 

Medina earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Florida Atlantic University and began his career as a certified public accountant at Price Waterhouse. He has received accolades from many business and community organizations for his leadership and community service, including the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Sand in my Shoes” award, which recognizes an individual’s outstanding achievements and contributions to South Florida.

Saturday, May 13, 10 a.m.—Deborah Enix-Ross, president of the American Bar Association and senior advisor for the International Dispute Resolution Group of Debevoise & Plimpton will counsel graduates at the School of Law ceremony.

Enix-Ross, a double alumna of the University, is a changemaker who has used her intellect, compassion, and commitment to make the world more equitable and blaze trails in the legal profession. During her 41-year legal career, she has broken through numerous barriers to become one of the world’s top dispute resolution lawyers and legal leaders.Deborah Enix-Ross

In 2022 she began her term as president of the American Bar Association (ABA), the world's largest voluntary association of lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals. As the second Black woman and the third School of Law alumna to lead the ABA, Enix-Ross is focusing her presidency on civics, civility, and collaboration—the Cornerstones of Democracy.

The first high school graduate in her family, Enix-Ross chose the University for her bachelor’s degree because of its elite journalism program, with the plan to combine her passions for writing and public speaking into one discipline. She took those talents to the School of Law, where Enix-Ross was encouraged to join the American Bar Association, an organization dedicated to enhancing the legal profession and to which she would be elected to lead decades later.

Enix-Ross joined Debevoise & Plimpton in 2002 and is now the senior advisor in its International Dispute Resolution Group. Previously, she was a senior legal officer with the World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Center in Geneva, Switzerland. She also was a director of international litigation with Price Waterhouse.

In fall 2022, the School of Law Alumni Association presented her with its Distinguished Alumna Award.

Saturday, May 13, 3 p.m.—Dr. Jennifer Arnold, program director, Immersive Design Systems, at Boston Children’s Hospital, the primary pediatric teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School is the honored guest at the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine commencement ceremony.

Arnold, who has a rare type of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, Strudwick type, is a board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist. Her unique perspective on medicine has been shaped by the various ways she has engaged with the field: as a pediatric and adult patient, cancer survivor, mother, and doctor. Dr. Jennifer Arnold

A native of Orlando, Arnold received her undergraduate degrees in biology and psychology from the University of Miami. She completed her medical degree at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2000 and attended a pediatric residency program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in 2003.

Arnold was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral scholar at the University of Pittsburgh’s Safar Center for Resuscitative Medicine from 2006 to 2007. During her fellowship in neonatology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Magee-Women's Hospital, she also pursued a Master of Science in medical education, graduating in 2009.

A founding director of the simulation centers at Texas Children’s Hospital, Arnold also worked at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Since 2022, she has served as program director for the Immersive Design Systems at Boston Children’s Hospital, the primary pediatric teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School. She also hosts the hospital’s “Kids’ Health Podcast.”

With her husband, Bill Klein, and their two children, Arnold was featured from 2009 to 2019 on TLC’s “The Little Couple,” an unscripted program that provided a window into the family’s personal and professional lives. The show’s popularity helped to break down barriers and educate viewers about people with disabilities.

Arnold will receive a Doctor of Science, honoris causa, at the ceremony.