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Meet the Team

Brian Schriner

Brian is an accomplished visible leader, change maker, higher education administrator, fundraiser, and educator with a 30-year proven track record of success in building effective working relationships; managing budgets and multiple facilities; engaging diverse communities; pursuing excellence in teaching, student-learning, and scholarly achievement; and developing “Triple W” public private partnerships in support of career-ready degree programs supported by student-centric, co-curricular, and service learning opportunities.

Most recently, Brian was appointed Dean of the FIU College of Architecture + The Arts (CARTA) in 2009. CARTA consists of three Schools, eight Departments, and five Centers or Institutes and awards undergraduate and graduate degrees, including the State of Florida’s only Doctor of Design (D.Des). Under his  leadership, CARTA has strategically grown from 1,200 majors to more than 4,000 and from 70 full-time faculty members to over 140. Brian has also raised over $70M ($30M in philanthropy and $40M in auxiliary revenues) in support of the College’s student-centric mission, launching strategic initiatives such as the Immersive Studio For Altered Reality (iSTAR), the Ratcliffe Incubator for Art + Design, the Miami Beach Urban Studios, the Steven Cruz Institute for Science, Media and Technology, CARTA@Mana Wynwood, and the South Florida Media Network. In 2017, he led the integration of the former School of Journalism and Mass Communication into the College of Architecture + The Arts to form the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts, one of only three colleges in the nation to combine these academic disciplines in one college under the direction of one dean. Additionally, Brian has strategically expanded the College’s physical footprint and national impact by opening innovation centers of excellence in Miami Beach, FL; Wynwood Arts District in Miami, FL; Washington, DC; and New York City.

In addition to his work as Dean, Brian has served as a Department Chair, School Director, and Associate Dean. And since 2016 Brian has served as the University’s Cultural Arts Liaison to the Office of the Provost for the visual and performing arts, including the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts and the University’s three accredited museums: The Wolfsonian-FIU, FIU Phillip and Patricia Frost Art Museum, and the FIU Jewish Museum of Florida. Brian is also an accomplished educator and author having published five books and numerous scholarly articles. He is also a past recipient of FIU’s prestigious Teaching Incentive Award, has been named Instructor of the Year, and has twice been named to FIU’s College of Business Administration’s Circle of Excellence for Teaching.

Marilys Nepomechie
Associate Dean of Faculty + Program Development

Coordination of the hiring, development, assessment and assignment of the College’s faculty and the coordination of the assessment of the College’s academic programs. Marilys R. Nepomechie, FAIA, is also a Professor, practicing architect and 2015-16 President of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Her professional and academic projects – focused on urban resilience and on the design of sustainable, affordable housing and infrastructure – are included in the archives of the National Building Museum. Funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the CINTAS Foundation, her work has been honored with over 40 design and research awards, national and international exhibition, and wide publication.

Katie Rothfield
Assistant Dean of Students

A leader, strategist, and liaison in the design and implementation of CARTA’s mission-driven initiatives, Katie Rothfield, LEED AP, ID+C, IDEC, NEWH is also an award-winning interior architecture educator, NCIDQ certified interior designer, and champion for student success with nearly two decades of professional experience. She earned her BA in Clinical Psychology and a minor in Studio Art from Tufts University, an MFA in Interior Design from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and she studied at several renowned institutions, including the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Maine Media Workshops + College, and Queensland College of Art. Her recent accolades include FIU awards for Engagement Beyond the Classroom and Excellence in Teaching, the NEWH South Florida Chapter Silver Star Award, and the IIDA South Florida Chapter Educator of the Year Award.

John Stuart
Associate Dean of Cultural and Community Engagement

Administration, oversight, growth, promotion, and financial sustainability of CARTA | MBUS. John Stuart, AIA, is the Director of Miami Beach Urban Studios, and Professor, is a practicing registered architect in the State of Florida. He is also an architectural historian and a visual artist developing collaborative research projects on complexity, community, identity, technology, the environment and public space with funding from Van Alen Institute, The National Endowment for the Arts, The National Science Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, and The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Maria Claverie
Associate Director of Alumni Relations

Maria G. Claverie holds a master’s degree in International Development Education from FIU. She has worked in higher education for more than 15 years and joined the CARTA team in 2011. Maria oversees the planning of alumni events, serves as the CARTA Alumni Liaison to the central Alumni Office, and engages alumni in the life of the College. She is also responsible for identifying prospective alumni donors and matching their philanthropic priorities with the College’s needs and their engagement with the Annual Fund. Maria also identifies, manages, and processes sponsorships for CARTA.

Oliver Ionita
Senior Director of Development
Cell: 312-330-1483

Mr. Ionita has more than 20 years of fundraising experience, working for prestigious organizations including Jazz at Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic, Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Architecture, Design & the Arts.  He has also served as a panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

He holds a Bachelor in Music Performance from The Juilliard School and a Masters of Arts in Performing Arts Administration from New York University (NYU).
Mr. Ionita partners with Dean Schriner and CARTA faculty and staff to identify strategic priorities and generate philanthropic support for the College.

Karla Kennedy 
Director of Online Learning

Dr. Karla D. Kennedy is a Florida native who has been involved in student speech and publications since her days in junior high school. Kennedy, a strong advocate for the freedoms and rights of students and student journalists, has advised various high school media for 19 years in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She served as the first Scholastic Journalism Outreach Coordinator for the University of Oregon at the George S. Turnbull Center located in downtown Portland, as well as the Executive Director of the Northwest Scholastic Press Association from 2012 to 2015. While at UO, she was honored with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Award in Equity and Inclusion. In 2007, the Florida Scholastic Press Association recognized Kennedy as the Morty Schaap Florida Journalism Teacher of the Year. She has taught Writing for Mass Communications, Writing Strategies, Multimedia Production, Media Law and Ethics, and Public Speaking. She wrote the curriculum and taught the Summer Journalism Institute at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami as well as advised the museum’s student publication, the MOCA’Zine.

Jacek J. Kolasinski
Director of the Ratcliffe Arts + Design Incubator

Administration and oversight of the Ratcliffe Arts + Design Incubator. Jacek J. Kolasinski is also a New-Media artist, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the Art + Art History Department at Florida International University. He came to the United States from Poland where he studied history and philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations. Kolasinski received his MFA and BFA from Florida International University in Miami.

Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver
Director of The Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center For The Advancement of Women in Communication

Dr. Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver is also dean emeritus and professor of the SJMC. She was named the Outstanding Woman in Journalism and Mass Communication Education for 2009 by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. A nationally known expert and researcher on the First Amendment, the scholastic and collegiate press, and the role and status of women in communication, she is the author of more than 115 scholarly articles, monographs and books.

She is past president of AEJMC, College Media Advisers, the Student Press Law Center, and the Community College Journalism Association. She holds the Wells Memorial Key from the Society of Professional Journalists, only the second woman in the history of the organization to win that award at that time, the CMA Distinguished Service Award, the AEJMC Newspaper Division Distinguished Service Award, the AEJMC Outstanding Leadership Award, the FIU Alumni Association Outstanding Faculty Torch Award and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Rowan University. In 2011 she was awarded FIU’s Distinguished University Service Medallion for her outstanding contributions to FIU, as well as her distinguished service to the profession and the community.

Shahin Vassigh
Director of Technology Research Development

Shahin Vassigh has a Master of Architecture, Master of Urban Planning, and Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from University at Buffalo, the State University of New York. She has considerable professional experience through her work at various consulting engineering firms ranging from bridge design/analysis to large-scale building construction and design. She has built a nationally recognized body of research work focused on improving structures and technology education by developing alternative teaching pedagogies that utilize digital media.

Lillian Abreu
Research Associate and Program Officer

Lillian Anne Abreu is currently the Research Associate and Program Officer at the Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women in Communication at Florida International University (FIU). She is also pursuing a doctoral degree at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work at FIU. Ms. Abreu received a Master in Science in Fundraising Management and Nonprofit Administration from Columbia University, New York. She also holds a Master in Science in Social Work from Loyola University and a Bachelor in Science in Social Work from Florida State University. In her twenty-year career in the nonprofit field, Lillian has served as a clinician and community grass roots advocate, who has dedicated her career to empowering underserved communities in the states of Florida, Illinois, and New York.

Lissette Garcia
Executive Assistant to Dean Brian Schriner

Lissette Garcia, Executive Assistant, provides administrative support to the Dean, Assistant Dean and Office of the Dean Staff. Lissette has over 10 years of administrative and customer service experience. She joined FIU in 2016 where she worked as a Paralegal in a Bankruptcy Law Firm. She obtained a Master’s of Business Administration with a Specialization in Finance and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Florida International University, she also holds an Associate Degree in Mass Communications from Miami-Dade College.

Jessica Szmuler
Administrative Specialist

Jessica Szmuler, Administrative Specialist, provides support to the Dean, Assistant Dean and Office of the Dean staff. She serves the Office of the Dean as Director of First Impressions by greeting students and guests; manages the day-to-day office operations, including support in scheduling meetings, travel arrangements, ordering of supplies and assisting with appointments for the Student Services group. Jessica joins FIU with over 25 years of administrative and customer service experience, including 16 years of working for non-profit organizations. Jessica is fluent in both English and Spanish.

Anna Sanchez
Administrative Assistant

Anna Sanchez, Administrative Assistant, provides support to the Associate Dean of Faculty + Program Development. Anna also provides administrative support to the Robotics Academy Team. Anna joins FIU with many years of customer service and administrative experience in the health industry.

Alexa Miranda
Administrative Assistant

Alexa Miranda, Development Administrative Assistant, provides support to the Senior Director of Development and the Associate Director of Alumni Relations. She earned her B.S. in Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communication from Florida International University. She is also currently a graduate student in the FIU Global Strategic Communications master’s program.

B.J. Duncan
Building Operations Coordinator

Robert (B.J.) Duncan received his B.F.A. in Acting from Florida International University. Upon graduation, he has been involved in numerous theatrical productions and endeavors ranging from acting, directing and teaching, as well as filmmaking and producing. He has worked as a stagehand and scenic technician for over 10 years.

Rashida Taylor
Associate Director of Finance

Rashida Taylor, Assistant Director of Finance, is responsible for the development of annual budgets, salary forecasts, financial statements, and expense approvals for the departments on the MMC campus . She graduated from FIU with a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting in 2011, later obtaining a Master of Accounting from FIU’s Graduate School of Accounting in 2012. She began working at FIU in 2008 as a student and then working full time within the CARTA Dean’s Office in 2012.

Karen Baer
Assistant Director of Finance

Karen Baer, is the Assistant Director of Finance overseeing financial matters for CARTA programs at the Biscayne Bay Campus. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Adminsitration from FIU and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Karen has worked at FIU since 2004.

Evelyn Martinez
Financial Analyst

Evelyn Martinez is the financial analyst for the Art + Art History Department. Evelyn is the coordinator of the department budget and contracts. She received a Masters in Public Administration from FIU.

Madeleine Manzano-Barrera
Financial Analyst

Madeleine Manzano-Barrera is an accomplished administrative professional with over twenty-five years of experience. Madeleine has provided high-level support in a variety of industries and across multiple functional areas, including the education system for Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), before joining The College of Communication, Architecture + the Arts (CARTA) at Florida International University.

Paulette Rivera
Senior Financial Analyst

Paulette Rivera received her M.B.A with an emphasis in management from FIU and double majored in business administration and international business at FIU. She works closely with the chairperson in the areas of purchasing, accounts payable, and preparation of a variety of reports. Her work is primarily computer-based, using online record-keeping systems, word processing, database, and spreadsheet applications. Furthermore, Paulette has been an integrative component of the operations of a retail store for the past for years.

Robert Brown
Financial Analyst II

Robert Brown is a Financial Analyst II within the Department of Communication. He holds a Master’s Degree in International Business and has worked with FIU since 2010. He uses accounting concepts, methods, and techniques to assist with the preparation of the annual budget for all departmental funding sources at both MMC & BBC campuses. Maintains and analyzes accounts, budget data, and prepares reports as needed. Provides assistance in the development, implementation and maintenance of internal fiscal systems and procedures.

Sunem Roque
Assistant Director of Human Resources

Sunem Roque, is the Assistant Director of Human Resources for the Office of the Dean for College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA). In this capacity Sunem works with the Executive Director of Operations on the planning, implementation and coordination of human resources activities to maximize the strategic use of resources. Sunem has a Master’s of Science in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Florida International University. Sunem also facilitates FIU’s Service Excellence trainings with the purpose of training staff on FIU’s customer service standards. To this extent, Sunem aims to provide outstanding customer service, as well as to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. Her primary focus is on the day-to-day activities for issues related to Administrative and staff positions within CARTA.

Sharon Spallone
Human Resources Coordinator

Sharon Spallone, Human Resources Coordinator for the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts, served in the U.S Army for 10 years and has over 20 years of experience in Executive Administration and Office Management. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree from FIU in Business Administration.

Hansel de Haro
Web Project Manager

Hansel de Haro, Web Project Manager, is responsible for designing and managing the College’s websites. Hansel has a master’s degree in Architecture from FIU and stayed within the CARTA family after graduating.

Sarah Hernandez
Account Manager

Sarah Hernandez, Account Manager, is a part of the CARTA Communications Team and manages and executes creative and strategic initiatives for the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts. She earned her BA in Communication Arts and Psychology Minor from FIU and is a graduate student in the FIU Global Strategic Communications program.

Andrea Perez
Account Manager

Andrea Perez, Account Manager, is a part of the CARTA Communications Team and manages and executes social media and content creation initiatives for the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts. She earned her B.S. in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations from Florida International University and is currently a graduate student in the FIU Global Strategic Communications master’s program.

Tatianna Basanta
Junior Account Manager

Tatianna Basanta, Junior Account Manager, is part of the CARTA Communications Team and helps develop and execute marketing and communication strategies for the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts. She earned her B.S. in Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communication and Business Minor from Florida International University. She is also currently a graduate student in the FIU Global Strategic Communications master’s program.

Victor Rivas
Junior Account Manager

Victor Rivas, is a Digital Media professional with extensive experience in visual storytelling and the production of thought-provoking content dealing with a variety of subjects. Victor holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film & Digital Production from Miami International University of Art & Design.


Linda Woolfson
Office and Events Manager

Linda Woolfson, Office and Event Manager for the Strategic Communication team serves as the lead for CARTA events involving the Dean, and provides support and counsel to other CARTA units regarding event protocol. Linda provides administrative support to the Director of Strategic Communication and manages the day-to-day activities of the CARTA Communication Team. She serves as the liaison between CARTA advancement Team and CARTA Communication Team in support of philanthropic efforts.


Linda Lara
Assistant Director
Ph: 305-919-4066
Office: BBC AC2 230

Linda Lara comes to CARTA with over 14 years of Academic Advising experience. She started career in advising at Miami Dade College. She then transitioned to FIU’s College of Arts & Sciences in 2008 as an Academic Advisor and was later promoted to Assistant Director of Advising Services at the Biscayne Bay Campus in 2010. She led the advising team and provided support services to the Dean’s Office. She earned two degrees from FIU: BA in Psychology, and MS in Higher Education Administration with a concentration in Student Affairs in 2007. In 2016, she was recognized by her peers and received the Significant Impact on Advising Community and Advising Partner Award. She is an optimistic, well-rounded, compassionate, and versatile leader. She also enjoys mentoring, teaching and leading a group of like-minded individuals who are innovative, and proactive with achieving results. Linda now serves as Assistant Director, of Academic Support Services for the School of Communication + Journalism.


John Sotham
Career Specialist

Ph: 305-348-0552
Office: MMC – VH 241

John Sotham is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel with 30 years of active and reserve service who has commanded Air Force squadrons both Stateside and in Afghanistan, and who has an interest in furthering the communication skills of veterans entering the workforce. He is an alumni of and former leadership and research instructor at Air Command and Staff College, a graduate institution for mid-grade officers from all services and the militaries of 35 foreign countries. Mr. Sotham is currently a contributing editor and former associate editor of Air & Space Smithsonian magazine in Washington, D.C., where he reported nationally and internationally, served as the book reviews editor, and continues to author stories and blog on aviation and space flight. Prior to joining the communication department full-time, he was an adjunct instructor who taught a variety of courses including Intercultural Communication, Communication for Effective Leadership, Nonverbal Communication, and Business and Professional Communication, for which he serves as the faculty coordinator. He is teaching a new course in applied communication for specific professions whose students will publish a digital magazine each semester.

Meet Your Advisor

Alexandra Rokaw
Sr. Manager, Academic Operations + Strategic Initiatives
Ph: 305-348-0055

Alexandra Rokaw, works with the Dean, Assistant Dean, and Departments Chairs in managing the daily academic operations of the College along with overseeing the planning, implementation and tracking of projects for the College’s strategic plan and student success initiatives. In this role, Alexandra collaborates with University units to support College and University goals, while integrating analytics in areas of student success and University Wide accountability measures. She has a Master of Public Administration with a Certificate in Public Finance, Procurement, and Contract Management, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida International University.

Ebru Ozer
Strategic Planning Coordinator
Ph: 305-348-7560

Ebru Özer teaches grading, drainage, and construction, and community, urban, and regional design. Her research focuses on stormwater management, green infrastructure, sustainability in park and trail design, and age-friendly open space design. She has over 20 years of experience in practicing landscape architecture and architecture. She is the co-founder and principal of LandscapeDE, a landscape architecture, urban design, and planning firm based in Miami, Florida. She serves as the treasurer of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) and the executive committee member of the American Society of Landscape Architects Florida Chapter.