Twenty Years' Fruit In Academic Growth And South Florida Engagement

Apr 29, 2014, 17:18 ET from St. Thomas University

MIAMI, April 29, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As a small, Catholic private university, St. Thomas University  continues to make an economic impact in South Florida while developing leadership in   youngsters from the United States and over 62 nations. The reason behind the socioeconomic engagement and growth story in higher education is Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, a New Jersey born priest of Italian descent who now calls South Florida his home and holds the longest tenure (twenty years) as a South Florida college president (April 1994 to present).  

Monsignor Casale's vision remains one: building the University's position as the leading Catholic university in the Southeast by developing recognized global leaders in ministry, science, business and justice. Under his leadership, the University has become a model resource that prepares students to engage in the practice of law; global entrepreneurship; theology degrees that form church leaders of various denominations and promote global peace dialogues; United Nations Pax Romana internships; and undergraduate scientific research.  

The Monsignor's footprint on the School of Law is eloquently described by the senior member of the Law School faculty and Director of the graduate program in Intercultural Human Rights, Professor Siegfried Wiessner, a leading figure in the world's human rights arena. "Monsignor Casale has transformed St. Thomas University into an institution where human dignity is not only respected, but is the guiding light. We now have a global presence with a social justice mission in the best tradition of the Catholic Church," said Dr. Wiessner. "When the Monsignor arrived on campus April 1994, he brought with him a breath of fresh air and a powerhouse of ideas.  From Day One he exhibited a deep commitment to the poor and the underserved in the community, and moved our activities, appeal and scope of concern from the local to the global stage." The professor lists the following as proof points on how the University has become a leading force in social justice and community engagement:

  • In December 1994, Monsignor Casale started a tradition of international symposia regarding the plight and rights of indigenous peoples. It has led to major legal and policy changes worldwide, drawing on the experience of key representatives of indigenous peoples, scholars in the field, government officials and NGOs. 
  • He strongly supported and expanded the scope of the Human Rights Institute in serving migrants from Cuba and Haiti to attain legal status in the U.S.
  • Celebrating intercultural exchange, he also was the force behind the University's enthusiastic support for the Law School's millennial initiative of creating a Master of Laws and Doctor of the Science of Laws Program in Intercultural Human Rights in 2001.  Opening STU to the world, it hosts eminent scholars and experts from all over the world.  It has now graduated 303 students from over 75 countries.  A good number of graduates of the program now teach at universities and law schools around the world, from Cornell to Hong Kong to Madrid to the United Nations University, to mention a few. 
  • Msgr. Casale is a leader worldwide in one particular initiative of the Intercultural Human Rights Program, the struggle against the global scourge of human trafficking.  He convened a first workshop on this topic in 2004, which led to the formulation of the globally influential Miami Declaration of Principles against Human Trafficking in February 2005, and the establishment of a Human Trafficking Academy funded by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012.
  • The Monsignor has testified on human trafficking before the U.S. House of Representatives and suggested policy changes with great impact.  He has organized and keynoted conferences in Rome and with the Vatican as well as in various other countries, such as Colombia and Canada.  Leading an interdisciplinary workshop in Siena, Italy, he has helped develop the 2013 Siena Principles on Human Trafficking and Public Health.

St. Thomas Law graduates now play leadership roles in the legal and civic community as judges, lawyers and legislators.  They are prepared for these roles through an education that focuses on academic excellence as much as on the inculcation of a service commitment to society. Yet Monsignor Casale's impact for the past 20 years reaches the other 5 schools, with figures and accomplishments such as:

  • Academic programs: 21 Bachelor degrees in 1994, compared to 27 in 2014; 9 Masters in 1994, compared to 19 Master degrees plus 2 PhD programs in 2014.
  • Student headcount was 3,889 in 1994; 2013 shows 5,475, an increase of 41%.
  • Total university investments increased as follows: $6,810,381 in June 1994; $21,938,147 in June 2013; and $25,096,133 as of March 31, 2014.
  • University assets grew from $26,940,620 in June 1994 to $88,578,942 March 31, 2014.
  • Online degrees as well as Homeland Security certificates: an innovative curriculum is being kicked off at the Miami International Airport expanding opportunities to County employees and those interested in Homeland Security.
  • Undergrad scientific research that engages students in drug discovery, spinal cord injury, and cancer research as well as publication in scientific journals.
  • Faculty diversity that includes scholars from U.S., China, India, Africa and Latin America.
  • Global entrepreneurship business curricula that brings students closer to business leaders from South Florida in intimate conversations and learning opportunities
  • A nationally acclaimed sports management program that goes back to the Miami Dolphins' training on campus and has led alumni to executive positions in key sports teams and business ownership in the sports/tourism industry.  
  • Social justice and long-term sustainability projects that have demonstrated results in Haiti's poorest regions through Haiti Tech, solar energy programs and Haitian artistic initiatives; migrant worker communities in Central Florida; and support to "Dreamers."
  • A nationally recognized Human Rights Institute that has been providing services to refugees, people seeking asylum, the elderly in public ALFs, and US immigrants fighting to become part of a productive fabric in the US.
  • A School of Theology and Ministry that fosters global dialogues for peace, a Master in Divinity, interdenominational church ministry formation, studies for the deaf and more.
  • Biscayne College, a liberal arts school that offers UN internships, an Honors Program, high-level philosophy and psychology studies, and graduate counseling programs in general guidance and counseling, mental health, and family and marriage counseling.

The STU campus has gone through an ongoing growth path. New buildings include the Chapel of Saint Anthony; the School of Law and its Law School Professional Studies Building; the Goya Family Student Academic Enhancement Building; the Evelyn and George Goldbloom Convocation Hall; Villanova Hall (condominium-style dorms); the Fernandez Family Center for Leadership and Wellness; and the state-of-the-art Carnival Cruise Lines School of Science, Technology and Engineering Management.

Today, Msgr. Casale is leading the University Board of Trustees, integrated by recognized leaders from various walks of life, into the execution of the University schools' "Blueprint for Leadership" strategic plan. Joining him in this effort are Chairman John Dooner, Alex Penelas, Mario Trueba, Mario Murgado, Anita Britt, Jorge Rico, Erwin Gonzalez, Constance Fernandez, Peter Prieto, Bob Dickinson, Herman Russomanno, Paul Garcia and other committed visionaries who are already addressing higher education issues and young people's advancement needs for the next 50 years.

Families from almost every country have sent their sons and daughters to St. Thomas University knowing the value of a faith-rooted education and small student to faculty ratio to develop critical analysis in students. "Having Monsignor Casale as the driving force has been a blessing to all of us who have embraced the Catholic institution," said alumnus and Board of Trustee member Alex Penelas. "The legacy of ethics, compassion, engagement, and excellence pursuit will be cherished by the campus community as well as the public and private sectors, non-profit and academic segments in Florida and other regions."

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SOURCE St. Thomas University