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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Florida International Celebrates Student Success

Commencement at Florida International University (FIU) is a week-long celebration three times a year with thousands of students becoming alumni during multiple ceremonies.

For FIU’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, 138 students crossed the stage on Sunday, April 30 with degrees in the college’s three main disciplines—public health, dietetics and nutrition, social work—at Ocean Bank Convocation Center on the Modesto Maidique Campus in Miami, FL.

During the ceremony, FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg honored one of Stempel College’s graduates, Dr. Praew Chantarasinlapin, as a “Worlds Ahead Graduate.” He delivered a moving summary of her accomplishments at FIU, and applauded her for her ingenuity, compassion, intelligence, and courage.

[Photo: Dean Tomas R. Guilarte (left) and Dr. Praew Chantarasinlapin]

Praew’s Journey

When Dr. Chantarasinlapin started her journey at FIU, it was her first time speaking English to native English speakers. She came for a deep-dive into dietetics and nutrition. Dr. Praew flourished in the school’s multicultural environment. She pursued an ambitious timeline to get her master’s and her PhD—both within six years. The 30-year-old is now poised to return home with knowledge her country desperately needs. In Thailand, the field of dietetics and nutrition is still in its fledgling state and there are only a few registered dieticians there.

During Dr. Chantarasinlapin’s sophomore year of college, Thailand’s health crisis wreaked havoc on her life. Her father suffered a stroke, and his health issues inspired her focus on cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. This led her to Stempel College as part of an inaugural program through which students from Thailand prepare to be researchers and professors in their home country.

Dr. Chantarasinlapin immersed herself in cutting-edge research with the guidance of her mentor, Dr. Fatma Huffman, chair of dietetics and nutrition. Dr. Huffman’s research and interdisciplinary training informed Dr. Chantarasinlapin’s holistic approach to wellness that emphasizes the need for culturally sensitive interventions in high-risk populations.

Dr. Chantarasinlapin will return to Thailand to teach undergraduate students at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok—the school that sponsored her time at FIU.

Graduation Reception

A reception for graduates and their families followed the ceremony, and Dr. Tomas R. Guilarte, dean of Stempel College, welcomed nearly 200 guests alongside faculty and staff.

[Photo: The Auslander Family]

He also honored several graduates for their outstanding achievements and contributions to the college, including three students who were the first to complete the Graduate Certificate in Pediatric Nutrition. Two more students received Auslander Scholarships to support their graduate studies in dietetics and nutrition this summer.

Path Science Award

Dr. Abraham Mengist, a PhD student in epidemiology, received the Path Science Award. This award recognizes a doctoral student with first authorship in a published paper. Dr. Mengist, who arrived at FIU from Ethiopia in 2015, worked closely with his major advisor, Dr. Purnima Madhivanan on deworming programs in Sub-Saharan Africa. His research, “Plasmodium falciparum infection status among children and Schistosoma in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” published in the PLos Neglected Tropical Diseases journal, one of the most prestigious publications in the field of Parasitology.

Dean’s Excellence Awards

For exceptional students in the college’s three disciplines, who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement with a minimum GPA of 3.5, but who also provide exemplary service to the college, FIU and the surrounding community.

[Photo: Dean Tomas R. Guilarte (left) and Ms. Rumi Agarwal]

For example, in the Department of Public Health, Ms. Rumi Agarwal graduated with a Master of Public Health in Health Promotion & Disease Prevention. From the moment she arrived at Stempel College in 2015, Ms. Agarwal stood out because of her academic excellence; she was awarded the Stempel Scholarship for merit and graduates with a 3.94 GPA. Beyond being a good student, she demonstrates integrity, passion for the profession, and a strong sense of service to others—essential qualities of a well-rounded public health leader. She is an active volunteer with March of Dimes, the Miami Children’s Initiative, and Special Olympics. She has completed her practicum implementing community-based health education programs adapted for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a founding executive board member of the Leaders in Maternal & Child Health student group, Ms. Agarwal paved the way for other FIU students interested in service and a public health career benefitting women, children, and families. She was accepted into the doctoral program in the department of health promotion & disease prevention at Stempel College.