Women’s rights advocate, Valeriana Chikoti-Bandua
A former refugee of Angola, Valeriana Chikoti-Bandua MA ‘14 has a passion for gender equality and socio-cultural issues that’s inspired a career advocating for the advancement of women and children from immigrant, refugee and underprivileged backgrounds. She holds a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from Oral Roberts University and a master’s in global governance from FIU. As an intern for the United Nations, Chikoti-Bandua addressed Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in the General Assembly about the state of human rights issues globally. As a member of the Angolan Mission to the U.N., she worked alongside Southern African Development Committee member states to help successfully pass the HIV/AIDS girl child resolution during the U.N.’s annual Commission of the Status of Women.
Entrepreneurial Change maker, Julie Colombino
Julie Colombino ’03 is the founder and CEO of REBUILD globally, a nonprofit organization that fights poverty in Haiti through education, job training and business development. A champion for impact-oriented models promoting social change, she expanded REBUILD globally to incubate its for-profit partner, Deux Mains, a Haitian-owned and operated ethical fashion company. In addition to being an FIU alumna, Colombino holds a master’s in nonprofit management from the University of Central Florida and is pursuing an MBA at Rollins College.
Frankenskeeter proponent, Matthew DeGennaro
A neurogeneticist with 20 years’ experience in biomedical research, FIU Professor Matthew DeGennaro has used molecular genetics to address biological questions throughout his career. His work with Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which transmit the Zika virus, has revealed new knowledge about mosquito host-preference, DEET repellency and more. His current research aims to identify the olfactory receptors mosquitoes use to sense their human and plant hosts. These genes will provide molecular targets that could be used to screen for new chemicals to modify mosquito behavior.
Arranged marriage advocate, Omar Durrani
Omar Durrani ‘13, MBA ‘16 works as a financial analyst Monday through Friday. On weekends, he runs his own business, Mister Omar’s Chess Academy in Pembroke Pines. What began as a simple after-school chess class developed into an official academy when local superstar David Chappelle enrolled his sons. They became undefeated champions under Durrani’s tutelage. With his family’s counsel, the modern, business-savvy Durrani embarked on a journey to find his soulmate through the arranged marriage process. His story will open your heart and mind to a traditional way of finding love in modern day society.
Aquatic ecologist, Evelyn Gaiser
Evelyn Gaiser is an aquatic ecologist who studies long-term dynamics of ecosystems in response to environmental change. She is the executive director of FIU’s School of Environment, Arts, and Society in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education and lead principal investigator of the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research program. Gaiser is a research associate at Archbold Biological Station, where she oversees research on Lake Annie; and she serves on the Steering Committee of the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON), studying algal community dynamics in changing lake temperatures. A classically trained musician, Gaiser recently translated high-frequency lake data to musical compositions in order to better understand and describe changes.
Performance Note: A musical piece created with data by Evelyn Gaiser was then arranged by Marcus Norris and performed by Yaniv M. Cohen, Aryam Gonzalez, and Tomas Lopez on the TEDxFIU stage. All are members of FIU’s School of Music.
Diversity activist, Isra Amin Ibrahim
Isra Amin Ibrahim is a Sudanese-American and a junior on a pre-medical track at FIU. An active participant in the FIU community, she works to create interfaith events at FIU. She co-founded FIU’s first Muslim Chaplain Office of Multi-Faith and serves as a council member for Students for Justice in Palestine. Ibrahim aims to foster in her peers a greater awareness of the diversity of Muslim people and an understanding of how intersectionality is pivotal in promoting social change. She is also a member the Quantifying Biology in the Classroom (QBIC) program and serves as event coordinator for the TEDxFIU student club.
Spoken word artist, Christopher James
Christopher James ‘15 is a spoken word artist from South Florida and an alumnus of FIU. Writing has been his creative outlet since he was a kid, allowing him to express his perception of the world. He never showed anyone his writing until he was introduced to spoken word in college; but from day one, his performances were raw and passionate, captivating each audience. He has performed and competed at events and universities around the state. Now a high school English teacher, James hopes to help kids find their own outlets for self-expression.
Developmental psychologist, Lindsay C. Malloy
Lindsay C. Malloy is a developmental psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Children and Families at FIU. She has devoted her career to improving the treatment of youth in the legal system, including the development of better interrogation methods and investigative interviewing techniques. Dr. Malloy’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the Department of Health and Human Services. She was granted early-career awards from the American Psychological Association for her contributions to science and policy concerning children, families, and the law.
Musician/Producer/Performer, Tony Succar
Succar’s music education began on piano then segued to percussion. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Jazz Performance from Florida International University in 2008 and his Master’s degree in 2010. President of his own entertainment company, Mixtura Productions, Tony Succar is well-versed in a number of professional roles: bandleader, percussionist, musician, producer, composer, and arranger.