Meet the Team
Appointed Dean in 2011, Brian has over 26 years of higher education teaching and administrative experience. Under his leadership and and the faculty’s expertise, the College of Communication, Architecture, + The Arts’ (CARTA) has ascended to national prominence. Fully committed to a trans-disciplinary mission to drive the information, innovation, and cultural economy of South Florida, in five years CARTA has strategically grown from 1,200 students to more than 4,000 students and from 70 full-time faculty members to 125; raised nearly $20M in philanthropy and auxiliary revenues in support of the students’ success; and annually exceeds $25M in total revenues. In support of the University’s commitment to community engagement, Brian expanded the College to Miami Beach and launched the CARTA | Miami Beach Urban Studios in the iconic 420 Building on Lincoln Road, where now more than 100 graduate students in design, visual arts, and the performing arts work collaboratively with members of the community and work in the CARTA Innovation Lab. In addition to his administrative work as Dean, Brian is an accomplished 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.
Administration and oversight of the College’s strategic planning, student success initiatives, Human Resources, and Finance operations. Lilia Silverio-Minaya holds undergraduate (2005) and graduate degrees (2007) from FIU. She started the PhD as a part time student in Fall 2015 and is currently ABD. Her dissertation examines the impacts of performance-based funding in higher education which falls under the broader research areas of performance, public and finance management. She has over 10 years of relevant experience in higher education and is fluent in Spanish and English.
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.
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.
Administration and oversight of the College’s public relations, marketing, advertising, and special events. María Elena Villar is also an associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication at the School of Communication + Journalism at Florida International University and teaches courses in communication theory, research methods, multicultural communication, and advanced seminars in strategic communications. She holds a doctorate in communications and master’s in public health from the University of Miami, and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Columbia University.
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.
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.
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 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.
Millie Acebal, is the director of marketing & communications for FIU’s College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA). In her role as director, she works with the university’s Office of External Relations, Strategic Communications and Marketing to establish, lead and manage the overall strategy for communication, public relations and marketing activities for CARTA in line with the university’s mission and goals. Millie earned her bachelor’s degree in broadcast communication with a minor in English – professional writing from Barry University (’99). She is a participant in FIU’s Presidential Leadership Program, cohort four, and a graduate of the university’s Leadership Education Advancement Program (LEAP).
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, 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, 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.
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, 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 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 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 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 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, 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 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.
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 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.
Bernadette Chung serves as the Assistant Director, Academic Support Services for the School of Architecture, School of Music, Department of Art + Art History and Department of Theatre. Bernadette has been working at Florida International University for over 11 years with her career starting at the MOSS School of Construction for 8 years holding different capacities. She then joined FIU Online as a Senior Instructional Designer for four years and recently joined the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts in July 2018. She earned both her degrees at FIU, BS in Hospitality Management and MS in Higher Education Administration.
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.
Manager of Strategic Planning + Student Services + Operations
Alexandra Rokaw, Manager of Strategic Planning + Student Services + Operations, works directly with the Assistant Dean of Students + Strategic Planning in the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA). Alexandra manages the daily operations of the College along with overseeing the planning, implementation and tracking of projects for the College’s strategic plan and student success initiatives. 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.
Regina Bailey, Senior Arts Manager of Arts @ FIU, works collaboratively across the university, and specifically with the Arts @ FIU Task Force, developing a plan for the ARTS; expanding opportunities for student success; increasing funded research and creative opportunities and establishing a focused, inclusive branding campaign that elevates the arts. She has been engaged in the arts at FIU for over 25 years as a staff member of The Wolfsonian – FIU and the Art Museum at FIU. In addition, she is a Senior Fellow in the Honors College. She holds an MFA from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York.