Educator Charles Bleiker
Professor Charles Bleiker has spent more than 20 years working with at-risk children. His expertise is in developing educational interventions for ethnically diverse young children in poverty. A professor in the College of Education, he has pioneered a preschool math program with at-risk, Hispanic 4-year olds based on a series of games that teach children foundational math concepts. Dr. Bleiker’s research shows that the “MathWaysPreK” program offers children roughly a six-month boost in number knowledge. He is now adapting the program so that parents can teach their own children. His work has been widely published in academic journals and supported with grants from the Department of Education, the Children’s Trust and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Novelist John Dufresne
John Dufresne is the author of five novels, two of which were New York Times Notable Books of the Year, two short story collections and two books on writing and creativity: The Lie That Tells a Truth: a Guide to Writing Fiction and Is Life Like This?: a Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months. The New York Times Book Review wrote of his latest novel, No Regrets, Coyote, “Dufresne is an original talent. His humor is frightfully dark, but also quite dazzling – even by the exacting standards of South Florida crime fiction.” Dufresne was a 2012-13 Guggenheim Fellow and teaches in FIU’s Creative Writing MFA program.
Vocalist and composer Karla Gutierrez
Karla Gutierrez is a senior in music technology and voice at FIU. Originally from Cartago, Costa Rica, she has a master’s in business administration and for many years worked as a human resources coordinator at a Swiss corporation. Before passing away, Gutierrez’s mom urged her to pursue her dream of becoming a professional singer. Gutierrez quit her job and moved to Argentina to study jazz and then enrolled at FIU to hone her performing and composing skills. She has performed in classical choirs, salsa orchestras, jazz combos, symphony orchestras and musical theater. She is currently working on a indiepop record with FIU alumnus and Costa Rican composer Fabrizio Montero. An active member of the FIU community, Gutierrez is founder of the student chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the president of the ElectroAcoustic Research Society and participates in the International Student Peer Mentor Program.
Global philanthropist Doug Jefferies
Alumnus Doug Jefferies ’89 is an entrepreneur and a philanthropist who has devoted his time to helping the people of Haiti. His nonprofit organization, Mission Results, allows individuals to safely volunteer on the ground in places where help is needed most. His relief work began in Sri Lanka following the 2005 tsunami and continues today in Haiti, where he has been working since the 2010 earthquake. Under his direction Mission Results has successfully completed numerous community building projects to include opening a community center, building homes and a bakery and establishing educational and recreational program for children. A lifelong health and fitness enthusiast, Jefferies is the founder of Results Gym, and is the owner of STROGA, a functional training and yoga center in Washington, D.C.
Author and English teacher David Menasche
David Menasche ’97 is an award-winning teacher, author and cancer survivor. As a popular Coral Reef Senior High School English teacher, Menasche inspired his students, helping them through personal struggles and sharing valuable life lessons. In 2006, Menasche was diagnosed with brain cancer. The disease stole his vision, memory and mobility. After various surgeries, chemotherapy and a seizure, Menasche was unable to teach. Undaunted by the difficult road ahead, he decided to end his treatments and make life his classroom. He turned to Facebook with an audacious plan: a journey across America – by bus, train, and red-tipped cane – in hopes of seeing firsthand how his kids were faring in life. Had he made a difference? Within 48 hours of posting, former students in more than 50 cities replied with offers of support and shelter. To date, Menasche has travelled more than 8,000 miles to more than 30 cities visiting hundreds of students. His remarkable journey, which lasted 101 days, inspired his best-selling memoir, The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons. Warner Bros. has bought the rights to the memoir; Steve Carell is slated to play Menasche in the film.
Racecar driver Dion von Moltke
Dion von Moltke is an American professional racecar driver and international business student at FIU. Moltke rounds a race track at speeds that reach almost 200 miles per hour, pulling 4 to 5 Gs at every turn. He started racing karts when he was 13 years old, turned professional at 17 and has since competed in some of the world’s most prestigious racing series. He has multiple wins in Skip Barber, Grand-Am and the American Le Mans series. In 2013, he took home two first-place trophies at the legendary 12 Hours of Sebring and the Daytona 24 Hour race. He is currently signed for the full Tudor United Sports Car season as lead driver in the No. 35 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS. Von Moltke is also a highly popular driver instructor, focusing on all aspects of peak performance, and has developed a coaching program called “Perform 360.” Born in Texas to South African parents, he lived in Sydney and Los Angeles before moving to Miami.
Eco-conscious entrepreneurs Brian Machovina ’91, MS ’94, and Eileen McHale ’93
FIU alumni Brian Machovina ’91, MS ’94, and Eileen McHale ’93 are the inventors of Yonanas, a kitchen appliance that turns frozen fruits into a treat that looks and tastes like soft-serve ice cream, now sold in over 50 countries. The married couple has spent their careers devoted to health, nutrition and the environment, working together as a duo developing many mission-driven organizations. As founders of Nui, they developed healthy beverages for children, published an eco-nutrition fictional chapter book, and promoted the youth-oriented healthy-lifestyle brand through a variety of media and marketing programs. At Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products they helped develop new products and marketing efforts that supported a rainforest-grown tea become a leader of “market-driven conservation,” positioning the company as one of the hottest selling brands in natural foods. The duo co-developed a charity, Oasis Preserve International, which preserved rainforests in Latin America, guiding a board of directors consisting of leaders in the entertainment, foundation, and scientific communities. McHale is the creator and host of Dish with Eileen, a healthy foods cooking show sponsored by Yonanas broadcasting to students in schools and youth centers nationwide on the HOPSports Network. McHale attended culinary school in Los Angeles and is a former caterer and private chef, with a focus on healthy, creative, and delicious foods. Machovina is now completing a doctoral degree in biology at FIU where he studies ecological issues related to food security.
Aging adult healthcare expert Nicole Ruggiano
Professor Nicole Ruggiano is an expert on health and long-term care policy, chronic care and supportive services for aging adults. Her research agenda focuses on home and community-based services for older adults with chronic conditions. She is currently investigating health self-management and self-direction among older adults with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Her published articles on this topic advance current understandings about the role that older adults play within the health and disability support systems and advocate for more person-centered practices and policies that promote autonomy and choice within these systems. She is an assistant professor within the FIU School of Social Work and a John A. Hartford Geriatric Social Work Scholar.
Scientist, engineer and entrepreneur Krishnatej Vedala
Krishnatej Vedala MS ’09, PhD ’14, is the co-founder and chief science officer of CarePredict, a company that provides senior citizens wearable sensors that track daily life patterns. Helping seniors keep their independence longer, CarePredict monitors users’ movement in their homes, recording information such as what room they’re in, how fast they’re walking and what position they’re sitting or lying in. Once the software learns a user’s normal routines, it can be used to point out anomalies and even predict future problems. As an electrical and neural engineer, Vedala, 28, specializes in how to get the most meaning from that data. He has developed and published algorithms for landmine detection and intraoperative monitoring of patients during spinal surgeries. Raised is a small village in India, Vedala came to the United States to study at FIU. He was honored as a Worlds Ahead graduate when he completed his doctoral degree in the spring of 2014. Before founding CarePredict, Vedala was a chief hardware engineer at AdMobilize and a visiting researcher at Miami Children’s Hospital.
This program will be hosted by:
Alberto Padron ’98, MBA ’09, returns for a third year as the TEDxFIU master of ceremonies. This two-time graduate bleeds the gold and blue of FIU. His enthusiasm for the university stems from his insatiable drive to learn, inspire and be inspired. He believes that TEDxFIU is one of those signature moments that allows us to share FIU’s impact on the world. When he’s not on stage, Padron can be found leading his ad agency, Stinghouse. Through his 15 years of working on some of the country’s most recognized brands including Ford Motor Company, Unilever, and Walgreens, he’s arrived at a belief shared by the Stinghouse team: Life is too short…with the right people, strategy and creativity, brands of all sizes can compete and win now. Outside Stinghouse, Padron can be found blogging about culture and society, spending time with his family or attending one of FIU’s many arts, communications, business and athletic events. Padron is on the boards of the FIU Alumni Association, City Year Miami and District Stage Company.