The Honors College Dean’s Advisory Board (DAB) is made up of a group of community leaders from different sectors and industries dedicated to the mission and principles of the Honors College. Members contribute their support, wisdom, and expertise to shape, enrich, and sustain the Honors College and its programs. Members serve as ambassadors to the community and support fundraising to advance the goals of the Honors College and to heighten the visibility of the Honors College in the community.
Chair, Honors College Dean’s Advisory Board
|Heidi Marcelo-Calero: Partner, Marcelo Law Group
Heidi Marcelo-Calero is a Partner at Marcelo Law Group, P.A. in Miami, Florida. She specializes in business law, commercial lending, and both personal and commercial real estate transactions. She has over 15 years of experience assisting small to mid-size companies in negotiating lease space, commercial loans, operating agreements, franchise agreements, and other instruments necessary to achieve commercial success. In addition, she is counsel for commercial lending departments in local banks, private lenders, and has helped hundreds of local home buyers realize their dreams of home ownership while ensuring that their investments are always 100% guaranteed from Title or lien defects. She received her J.D. and L. LM in International Law from Duke University School of Law in 2004 and graduated cum laude from Florida International University with a Political Science and Honors College degree in 2001.
|Ileana Musa: Managing Director at Morgan Stanley
Ileana Musa is the Co-Head of International Wealth Management and the Head of International Banking & Lending. In this role she leads the segment and strategy that focuses on Morgan Stanley’s International Client Advisors and international clients to ensure they have access to strategic solutions, services and thought leadership to address both sides of a client’s balance sheet.
Prior to joining Morgan Stanley she was the Global Client Segment and Strategy executive for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.
Ileana received her BBA degree, with a concentration in finance, from the University of Miami and an M.B.A. degree in Finance from Florida International University.
Ileana was recently named to ALPFA’s 2019 Most Powerful Latina list for a third year in a row and to Morgan Stanley’s 2019 MAKERS class.
|Carlos Somoza: Principal at Kaufman Rossin & Co.
Carlos Somoza leads Kaufman Rossin’s international tax services practice. He has 20 years of experience in federal income, gift and estate taxation. Carlos earned a Bachelor's degree in Accounting from Florida International University and a Juris Doctor (Cum Laude) and LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Miami (specialization in international taxation). He is licensed to practice law in Florida and in the United States Tax Court. Carlos is involved with the Florida International University Honors College, serving as the Treasurer of its Community Advisory Board. He also serves as the Treasurer of the South Florida District Export Council, a group that complements the export promotion efforts of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. He is a member of the Christopher Columbus Alumni Association. In addition, he has been involved with the Miami-Dade Legal Aid “Put Something Back” program, offering legal and tax services to indigent clients.
|Raul Rodriguez: President and CEO at National Health Transport Inc.
Raul F. Rodriguez was born and raised in Miami, FL. He spent most of his early life learning and growing in the community of Sweetwater. He attended school there, established his first real estate development there, and is HOME in more ways than one. He is now married, and has a beautiful family with five children who reside with him. Through his foundation the Li'l Abner Foundation (named after his Father's legacy, Li'l Abner Mobile Home Park), Raul has honored his commitment to serve by helping underprivileged families in Sweetwater. His selfless drive and unwavering persistence to self-improve, have led him to pursue a career in law enforcement, and he has been a City of Sweetwater Police Officer since 2010. He has served on several Boards, including the FIU Honors College Community Development, Stonegate Bank, Miami Dade County Police Department Citizens Community Advisory Committee, and is a Belen Jesuit Preparatory School Delegate.
|Adam Sochet: Broker/Owner at Vision Realty
Adam Sochet, a native Floridian, fluent in both Spanish and English, and has been involved in all aspects of real estate transactions in the South Florida market for over 24 years. His practice encompasses both the purchase, sale and leasing of single-family homes, condominiums, investment and income producing properties. Adam credits the rigorous curriculum emphasizing accounting, marketing and management he learned at the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management for laying the foundations for successful business development. In 2004, Adam incorporated Vision Realty, L.L.C., a full-service concierge brokerage firm offering experienced personalized real estate solutions for the South Florida market. Adam incorporated its sister company, Vision Realty of Maine in 2014 specializing in 2nd homes and vacation properties in the Pine Tree State of Maine. Adam also serves on the executive committee for Special Olympics Florida and working directly one on one with the athletes. In addition he is the Secretary of the Board of Directors for Rocky Creek Retirement Village. An A.H.C.A. (Agency for Health Care Administration) licensed Assisted and Independent Living Facility in Tampa, Florida and recognized as a leading provider for senior housing with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.
|David Peña: Attorney at Law at SMGQ
For more than 30 years, Mr. Peña has concentrated his practice to immigration and naturalization law. His focus is on representing foreign individuals, large and small corporations seeking to immigrate or start business ventures in the United States. His practice combines immigration and nationality law, general corporate law, real estate, investment and entertainment law. He is experienced in proceedings before USCIS, formally known as the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of State. Mr. Peña’s expertise includes the preparation and presentation of applications for a variety of visas both in the US and abroad at U.S. Consulates. In recent years, Mr. Peña obtained significant experience with the internal procedures required by the USCIS for establishing Employer Compliance Programs and assists companies maintain compliance with current immigration/employment regulations, as well as negotiating on behalf of companies found to be in violation of USCIS regulations. He also represents individuals in removal or deportation proceedings. An accomplished speaker, he has lectured frequently at various immigration and real estate investment seminars in the United States and throughout South America. He was honored in 1992-93 by being named to the Hispanic Business Magazine’s list of “The Top 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States. Since arriving to Miami, Mr. Pena has been active in community organizations and has served in a leadership capacity with the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, The United Way of Miami, The Banker Club, The Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce , The American Immigration Lawyers Association, The Hispanic National Bar and the ABA Young Lawyers.
|Brian Carricarte: CEO at Mathon Investments
Brian Carricarte is a proud Miami native and FIU Graduate. After receiving his Bachelors and Doctorate and most importantly meeting his wife at FIU, Brian used the experiences learned to springboard into the working world. Brian spent much of his initial career as Director of Business Development with IOS Health Systems, a Miami based Software Company. Brian was responsible for the sales and implementation of large clients and growth into new markets. What began as local efforts resulted in large scale global Opportunities. After the sale of the company Brian began materializing his ideas into reality which have included but are not limited to ownership of an International Medical Services Company, involvement in Large Scale Utility Projects and Conservation Efforts, to his greatest achievement of his life…..his children. Brian is currently part Owner and CEO of Mathon Invesments. Mathon Investments is a privately owned and operated Investment fund with national efforts but with a major emphasis on South Florida Real Estate.
|Gabriele Fiorentino: President at Dranoff 2 Piano Foundation
Gabriele Fiorentino was born and raised near Duesseldorf, Germany. After receiving a MBA in Marketing at the University of Miami, she chose Miami as her home and later became a U.S. Citizen. Her business career included Burger King Corporation and the advertising agency Beber, Silverstein and Partners. She and her husband now focus their business interests on the development of a truffle orchard and vineyard in North Carolina. A life-long passion for music has led to Gabriele’s involvement with the Dranoff 2 Piano Foundation where she has been instrumental in expanding the acclaimed program known as Piano Slam that uses music as a platform to enhance learning in the public school system. Earning a pilot’s license and years of blue-water sailing with her family have expanded her appreciation of the world outside our own environment. Gabriele’s love for gardening expanded her commitment to native horticulture and involvement with educational projects.
|Jennifer Tisthammer: Director, Deering Estate
Jennifer has more than 25 years of experience in senior and executive management, and as a business owner, specializing in finance, operations, cultural and natural resource management, and nonprofit governance. She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, graduate work in historic preservation, a Masters in Environmental Studies, and is pursuing a PhD in Earth Systems Science and Policy. Jennifer is a member of the Organization of Biological Field Stations, Biscayne Bay Regional Restoration Coordination Team, and a past member of FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences, and Education Advisory Board. Jennifer Tisthammer, the multi-talented, multi-dimensional dynamo, has served as the Director of the State-owned, County managed Deering Estate since 2014, serving as Deputy Director for seven years before that. Jennifer oversees the entire 450 acre estate with its two historic house museums, nature and archeological preserve, cultural and ecological field station, and a staff of over 60 employees. She has dramatically expanded the Estate’s outreach and programming in the arts and culture, archaeological and ecological research, best management practices in preservation and conservation, and financial stability, setting it on a trajectory as a National Landmark with international importance.
|Michelle Martinez Reyes: Chief Relations Officer at Kelly Kronenberg
Michelle Martinez Reyes has over 20 years of experience as a trusted business advisor in the field of marketing, and public relations. She has earned a proven national reputation as a publicist, brand builder, and catalyst to growth. Ms. Martinez Reyes is the Chief Relations Officer for Kelley Kronenberg. In 2020, she was most recently selected amongst the “Top Women in Communications” as a “Game-Changer” by Ragan Communications and PR Daily, amongst the “Top Women In PR” by PR News, and named a “National Latino Leader” by the National Diversity Council,. Ms. Martinez Reyes previously served as the Chief Marketing Officer for Greenspoon Marder. She also worked as part of the marketing and business development teams for some of the largest firms in Florida and the U.S., including Hunton Andrews Kurth, Akerman, Holland & Knight, and Greenberg Traurig. Fluent in English and Spanish, she holds an MBA from Nova Southeastern University with a specialty in global management, a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida International University, and an associate’s degree in political science from Miami Dade College.
|Neil Bayer: Director at Campbell Johnson Clark
Neil Bayer is a director at Campbell Johnston Clark Neil Shipping law firm. He has 25 years of experience handling a broad spectrum of insurance-based matters specializing in yacht damage, crew/passenger injury and salvage claims. He is also highly proficient in commercial hull and machinery claims, inland transit claims including cargo and charter party disputes representing insurance carriers and private clients. He also handles yacht transactional matters, build contracts, species and complex commercial litigation. Neil enjoys a Martindale and Hubbell Preeminent Rating for Admiralty and Maritime Law and is listed in the Best Lawyers in America for Admiralty and Maritime litigation with each rating being entirely peer rated. Neil is qualified in the State of Florida, all Florida Federal Courts and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and has litigated in multiple US Courts and the Caribbean.
|Jennifer Stearns Buttrick: Of Counsel at Stearns Weaver Miller
Jennifer Stearns Buttrick is Of Counsel to the Firm and Director of Pro Bono and Community Service. Prior to taking on this role, she practiced in the Litigation Department, where she handled commercial litigation at the trial and appellate levels in both state and federal courts and administrative actions in the State of Florida. Jennifer received her undergraduate degree in Spanish and History from Florida State University and spent a semester at the University of Salamanca in Salamanca, Spain, where she developed a proficiency in Spanish.
Khaleel Seecharan is co-founder and Managing Partner at DEI Ready, an organization committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion change. DEI Ready helps organizations develop strategies and goals that promote inclusive and equitable environments using an evidence-based, data-driven approach. Khaleel’s twenty years of higher education experience has spanned both public and private institutions locally and nationally. Throughout his career, he has served as an advisor and counsel to senior executives including presidents, provosts, vice presidents and deans to help translate their vision into actionable strategy. In 2020, Khaleel received his doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania. Khaleel holds a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 2012 and he is a proud Golden Panther and Honors alum having earned a MS in Management Information Systems in 2003 and a BA in International Relations in 2002.
|Maria Parente: Student advisor – Biology major, expected graduation date, 2022
Maria Parente is a tenacious and highly competent thinker, artist, and scholar currently contributing her talents to the FIU Honors College. Under Dean Dr. Juan Carlos Espinosa’s supervision, she acts as the Communicators Coordinator for the elite undergraduate group known as the Dean’s Scholars, made up of students representing FIU’s highest standard of interdisciplinary learning and creativity. She is also the leader of the HEARTS Writing Club; with a combination of her personal literature knowledge and completely new research, she hosts biweekly sessions on a semesterly theme, also chosen by her, ranging from the artfully languid Heian Era of Japan to the apocalyptic alien invasions of H.G. Wells. Outside of the Honors College, she has been a leading contributor to research under professor Dr. Philip Stoddard on the potential epigenetic consequences of pyrethroid insecticide exposure in the yellow fever mosquito since summer of 2019.