Florida International University
Recreational Therapy Program Faculty
Dr. Cari Autry, CTRS is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Florida International University Recreational Therapy (RT) Program in the Department of Leadership and Professional Studies in the College of Education. She is currently the Program Coordinator for the RT Program. She teaches classroom and/or online sections of Inclusive Recreation Services, Introduction to RT, Program Planning in RT, Trends, Issues and Managerial Aspects of RT, and Directed Study in RT at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Autry received her Ph.D. in Health and Human Performance with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation and a minor in Special Education from the University of Florida. She has been an Assistant Professor at the University of Florida and at Arizona State University prior to moving to Miami. Her primary research interests include therapeutic recreation, social capital and community development in relation to the needs of at-risk youth and families. Her research has been presented at state, national, and international conferences related to therapeutic recreation education, youth development, homelessness, community development, and social capital. Dr. Autry has published in journals such as the Therapeutic Recreation Journal, World Leisure Journal, Leisure Sciences, Sociology of Sport Journal, and Leisure/Loisir. She is currently an Associate Editor for the Therapeutic Recreation Journal.re to edit.
Dr. Alexis McKenney, CTRS, is an Associate Professor of the Florida International University (FIU) Recreational Therapy (RT) program. When Dr. McKenney served as the RT Program Coordinator, she helped strengthen the program which helped in bringing the ultimate honor to the FIU RT program – the 2012 ATRA Excellence in Education Award. Dr. McKenney has published 23 manuscripts, one book, and 12 research and programmatic abstracts. Dr. McKenney’s recent book, Therapeutic Recreation Facilitation Techniques helped her to receive a 2012 FIU Top Scholar Award. Dr. McKenney’s research centers on topics related to character development and RT with a focus on the examination of effects of life-skills and RT interventions designed to assist in the treatment of youth with disruptive behavior disorders and/or who are considered to be at-risk for behavior problems, RT in education-based settings, and more recently, RT from an international perspective. A portion of Dr. McKenney’s scholarly efforts has been supported through various grants. Since arriving at FIU, she has served as a Project Investigator for several program and research grant projects totaling $1,493,217.00. On the national level, Dr. McKenney has been an active member of both the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) and the National Therapeutic Recreation Society (NTRS), where she served as President. Currently, Dr. McKenney serves as an associate editor of one national research journal, and a reviewer for two other research journals.
Instructor Tania Santiago Perez earned her B.S in Exercise Physiology and her M.S in Recreation and Sport Management: Recreational Therapy from FIU. She started her professional career at a nonprofit organization working as a Recreation and Sports Coordinator. After getting her M.S. in RT, she started working at an Assisted Living Facility. Then, she went to Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces where she worked as a Recreational Therapist with a variety of populations including children and adults with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities, children with physical disabilities and/or visual impairments; and veterans. Now she is a full time professor at FIU for the Recreation Therapy program and a member of ATRA. She has done 2 poster presentations at ATRA National Conferences in 2012 and 2014 and presentations at FRPA annual conferences. Major areas of interest within RT include Developmental Disabilities, Special Olympics, Aquatics, and Paralympics.
Michigan native Tonia Zyburt is currently the internship coordinator for the FIU recreation therapy program. Prior to moving to Miami, Tonia co-founded a non-profit organization called Warrior Institute in Gainesville, FL. and served as the director since 2011. Warrior Institute provides innovative outdoor based recreation therapy and biofeedback training programs for veterans and their family members. While at WI, Tonia planned and facilitated a variety of programs (including kayak, canoe and hiking outings, multi-day camping trips, a mandala retreat among other programs). During her time in Gainesville, Tonia also worked part-time as a CTRS at Shands Rehab Hospital. Tonia received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Brain, Behavior & Cognitive Science and her master’s degree at East Carolina University in Recreational Therapy Administration. Tonia is also a yoga instructor, most notably having taught at the Gainesville VA as a part of the employee health program. Tonia has also assisted with various adaptive sports clinics across the country, worked as a back-country trip leader and instructed several outdoor recreation college courses. In addition to being the FIU Internship coordinator, she is also instructor for several internship sections.
Rick Vroman, adjunct professor, has a long professional history working in the recreation and recreational therapy areas. He started his career in this field as a playground leader for the Town on Henrietta, New York while he was a high school student. During his college years he worked as a program leader for Camp HACCAMO, a summer residential camp for people with a wide range of disabilities. Rick worked with many different populations during his 40 years within the Department of Veterans Affairs that included Spinal Cord Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, Schizophrenia, Dementia, Substance-Related Disorders, and COPD. Rick also worked for the past 30 years as the Chief of Recreation Therapy for the Miami VA Healthcare System. Rick is very active within in the Recreation Therapy Professional Association. He was an ATRA Board Member, Conference Coordinator, Joint Commission’s Professional and Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC) member for Recreational Therapy. He received a number of professional award; Presidential Award, Member of the Year and Outstanding Professional. He presented at state and national conferences related to recreational therapy treatment, administration and education. He is published in the Expanding Horizons in Therapeutic Recreation and the VA Recreation Therapy Training Journal. Rick enjoys teaching and was the recreation therapy clinical instructor for the Memphis VA Medical Center and as an adjunct professor at the University of Memphis, University of Miami and for the past 25 years at Florida International University.
Dr. Susan Mathieu, CTRS/RTC is an Adjunct Professor. Her teaching experience includes a lecturer position at California State University, Dominguez Hills and an Assistant Professor position at California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Mathieu has presented papers addressing mental health and wellness of traumatized adolescents at training workshops and professional conferences, including regional, national and international conferences. Her other area of specialization is aging and happiness. Dr. Mathieu has made presentations to the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA); the Therapeutic Recreation Education Conference, the Therapeutic Recreation Institute of the California & Pacific Southwest Recreation and Park Training Conference, The International Federation on Aging (IFA) Global Conference, held in Denmark and the California Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect. Dr. Mathieu has published manuscripts based on her work with adolescent trauma. Her research was published in The World Leisure Journal among other scholarly publications. She’s been listed as a Who's Who Among America's Women and Teachers, received the "Outstanding Therapeutic Educator Award” from the California Park and Recreation Society, the "Professional Award” from the National Recreation and Parks Association and is a board member of the California Board of Recreation and Park Certification (http://cbrpc.org/). Dr. Mathieu is the Senior Adult Program Coordinator at the Alpert Jewish Community Center in Long Beach, California and the Program Director for Active Adult Community Connection a grant funded by the Archstone Foundation.
Sara Tosado, adjunct professor, was born and raised in Miami, but has traveled the world. Because of her travel experiences she has always been motivated to learn. Because of this, she has always focused on academics. When she began her undergraduate studies in 2003, she never thought that she would spend nearly the next decade working and studying at FIU. Yet, since then, she has completed B.S. and M.S. degrees in Recreation and Sports Management (RSM), both with tracks in Recreational Therapy. While working on my M.S. degree, she worked as a graduate research assistant, during which she co-authored one published article in the ATRA Annual in Therapeutic Recreation, a peer-reviewed journal, and assisted on other research articles. She has, furthermore, co-authored chapter on Equine Assisted Therapy in the textbook, Facilitation Techniques in Therapeutic Recreation (Dattilo & McKenney, 2011), and is in the process of submitting an updated chapter for the 3rd edition. Since completing her M.S. degree in RSM/RT, she went on to complete a second M.S. degree in Special Education in 2012. While in that program and subsequent to completing it, she has served as an adjunct professor teaching primarily the Inclusive Recreation Services course, and also serving as an internship supervisor for students in RSM and RT.
Lucy Binhack, adjunct professor, earned her B.S. In Education, emphasis, Recreation Therapy at the University of Miami, earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Florida International University and is a graduate of the National Recreation and Park Association’s Executive Development School. She has been a CTRS since 1988, and has presented educational sessions at the Florida Recreation and Park Association Annual Conference, the National Recreation and Park Association Annual Congress, the National Institute on Recreation Inclusion Annual Conference and at the K.I.T. (Kids Included Together) Annual Conference. She has been an Adjunct Professor at Florida International University teaching and supervising Recreational Therapy interns. The first part of her career was at Jackson Memorial Physical Rehabilitation Center teaching recreation, sports and community skills, including camping and sailing to individuals with spinal cord, amputee and orthopedic disabilities.She was instrumental in developing the Dolphin Therapy program there. Ms. Binhack later moved to her current position at Miami Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department as Disability Services Manager. She works to develop fully accessible recreation facilities, develops and monitors accessibility policy for the Department and manages Parks Disability Services, a county-wide division providing Special Olympics, Paralympics, Out-of-School, Aquatics and Inclusive programming for the citizens of Miami Dade County.
John N. McGovern, Adjunct Lecturer, received his B.A. and M.A. in Recreation Administration, TR Option, from the University of New Mexico. Today he is the President of Recreation Accessibility Consultants, LLC and advises more than 170 states, cities, counties, park districts, branches of the military, businesses, and nonprofits on ADA compliance. John has a wide range of experience in the delivery of services to people with disabilities. He started the City of Albuquerque Therapeutic Recreation program in the late 70’s. Moving to Illinois, he directed two of the special recreation intergovernmental partnerships called special recreation associations. The 26 SRAs in Illinois employ more than 200 TR professionals. Always interested in civil rights, he earned his law degree in the night program at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law in 1988, and is licensed to practice law in Illinois. An active member of the National Recreation and Park Association, McGovern developed and led the national inclusion school for parks and recreation. At the state and national level he has served as the elected president of TR professional organizations. He also represented NRPA on every federal advisory committee regarding implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Regarding TR, he developed the appeals process for NCTRC and served on the Appeals board for seven years, three times as Chair. John’s unique background helps him in the development and teaching of LEI 3800 Liability Issues in Therapeutic Recreation.
Diane, adjunct professor, has been practicing as a recreational therapist for 25 years and a CTRS since 1992. Diane holds a Master’s degree of Science in Health Care Policy and Management, and a Bachelor’s degree of Science in Therapeutic Recreation. Diane has worked in many diverse healthcare settings including: hospitals, community mental health centers, group homes, after school programs, weekend RECESS programs, and currently works for the VAMC in Northport, NY. Diane has worked with various age groups and special populations including: geriatrics, the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled and autistic populations, the physically disabled and MS populations. Diane was a pioneer in the establishment and management of the recreational therapy program for the Family Service League back in 1995. Diane also worked as a consult for various non-profit agencies servicing developmentally disabled children in after school programs. Diane has started teaching for Florida International University as an on-line adjunct professor in May of 2014. Diane is also a NYS Certified Health Education teacher. She also has a diverse background in healthcare management. Diane has worked for Stony Brook Medicine in NY in their Continuous Quality Improvement Department, the Finance Department, and the Department of Psychology. Diane also served on two boards at Stony Brook Medicine, the Healthier U Committee & Subcommittee, programming and budgeting healthcare initiatives for the hospital employees. Diane has also written professional publications for Creative Forecasting and did a cable interview on the Public Access Channel with Dr. Larry Weiss, Associate Director of “The Family Service League”, regarding the establishment of their Saturday RECESS program for emotionally disturbed children. Diane’s long dedication to the healthcare field led her to teaching higher education to foster that passion with our students in the field of recreational therapy.
Jessica Bernabei, MS, CTRS, adjunct professor, is currently a faculty supervisor for students in Internship I LEI 4940 since June of 2013. She also currently works as Director of Recreation Therapy at Villa Maria Nursing Center in North Miami. Jessica Bernabei earned both her Bachelor & Master of Science in Recreation with concentration in Therapeutic Recreation and a Minor in Gerontology from the University of Florida. She is also a member of ATRA and an active member with the Sierra Club Miami Chapter.
Mary Wilson Palacios, Adjunct Professor, received her B.S. from Florida State University in Leisure Services and Studies, with an emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation: Minor: Psychology, and her M.S. degree at Florida International University, Health Services Administration. Ms. Palacios is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, CTRS and is a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional, CPRP. She has served on numerous Florida Recreation and Park Association Committees and is regularly featured as a conference speaker in her field of Therapeutic Recreation. Ms. Palacios is also a certified coach for Special Olympics in Aquatics, Basketball, Flag Football, and Soccer. Ms. Palacios has professional experience worked in settings including behavioral health, physical rehabilitation, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, at risk youth, and now works fulltime in the community setting. Ms. Palacios is currently the Special Population Coordinator for the City of Pembroke Pines and was awarded the 2013 Distinguished Service Award at the Florida Recreation and Park Association’s (FRPA) Annual Conference Awards Banquet held in Orlando, Florida, August 29, 2013. The minimum criterion to receive the award is considerable and awarded just once to an individual. Mary received this after 30 years of service in the field of Therapeutic Recreation. Ms. Palacios is also a contractual Recreational Therapist for the past four years with Strive Recreational Therapy Inc. based in Michigan. Ms. Palacios has made significant contributions to the advancement of Special Population programs in the parks and recreation profession. In her 13 years as the Special Population Coordinator with the City of Pembroke Pines, she has initiated many exciting programs for youth and adults with disabilities. Ms. Palacios is also an FIU agency supervisor for students completing their Internship I and II.
Luciana Loureiro, adjunct professor, has been practicing as a recreational therapist for 22 years and a CTRS since 1994. Luci holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and aBachelor’s degree in Parks & Recreation with a special track in Therapeutic Recreation. Luci transferred to FIU from MDCC in 1992 during her sophomore year, on a volleyball scholarship and was nominated “All Conference and All State MVP player for FIU”. After graduating in 1994, she managed to work at Villa Maria as CTRS at the rehab unit and 10 years later was offered a position of Therapeutic Recreation Director at the largest Nursing Home of South Florida known as Miami Jewish Health Systems, where she still directs a staff of 20 Therapeutic Recreation Assistants and transporters and develops and applies programs to people of all types of functioning loss. In addition, Luci incorporates and coordinates activities involving several schools throughout the community each year. The Cushman School, Hillel Elementary School, Highland Oaks Middle School, Hebrew Academy, Barry University, University of Miami, Michael Krop High School, Aventura Marketing Council, Archbishop Curley Summer Camp, Booker T Washington High School, Liberty City Elementary, Project Victory, Shuls & Temples and FIU Recreational Therapy students, about 2-4 FIU interns each semester. It was during the Fall of 2014 when Luci joined the FIU faculty team teaching at her site her first 15 hours lab course on “Sensory Integration and Sensory Stimulation” and how effective and valuable Multi-Sensory Environments are in the treatment approach. Her class has been filled to capacity since its inception. During her spare time, Luci still finds time do some personal training, spinning, lifting, playing beach tennis and travelling home to Rio de Janeiro – Brazil.
Dr. Judy Weissman, C.T.R.S., adjunct Professor, teaches Expressive Arts as Therapeutic Modalities. She previously taught at New York University in a section of Therapeutic Recreation Programming for Severely Multiply-Disabled; and taught and clinically supervised in NYU’s Music Therapy program. She was Assistant Professor of Therapeutic Recreation at St. Thomas Aquinas College. As a Creative Arts Therapist for the Veteran’s Administration, she served on the National Advisory Board of Recreation Therapy Service. She served also on the Board of the American Music Therapy Association (formerly AAMT). Dr. Weissman’s research focused on music in the treatment of the elderly in long-term care. It was published in the Association’s Journal. It won the first NY State Parks and Recreation Society Lehman Research Award. Her poem on teaching was published in the New York Times, Metropolitan section. Dr. Weissman performed with the Natural Sound Ensemble in New York City. She previously taught creative dramatics in Baltimore; and piano and guitar in New York’s Hudson Valley, for students with special needs. When moving to Florida she taught songwriting at a Florida mental health drop-in center. Dr. Weissman has presented at professional national, Canadian and NY state conferences. Her interest in peace studies and Nichiren Buddhism lead her to work closely with the founder of Music Therapists for Peace, Edith Boxill; and also to participate in the Soka Gakkai International co-presentation at the United Nations Environmental Program’s Global Forum for Youth.
Judith Levy, MS, CTRS, PMP, Adjunct Professor is a native New Yorker who has lived in South Florida for the past 26 years. She received her B.A. from the State University of New York at Buffalo in Sociology; minor in education and an M.S. from The Pennsylvania State University in Recreation and Parks with an option in Therapeutic Recreation; minor in Communications. She completed coursework toward a PhD in Therapeutic Recreation from Texas Woman’s University. As a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, CTRS and a Project Management Professional (PMP), Judi was the Founder and Director of the clinical treatment department of Therapeutic Recreation at Baylor’s Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas,Texas. Judi has worked with various age groups and special populations including: seniors, developmentally disabled, autistic, physically challenged (spinal cord, traumatic brain injured and other neurological impairments). She conducted her M.S. research at Easter Seal Camps in Pennsylvania on the value of a dance program. As a graduate research assistant to the Dean at Penn State, she aided in published research reviews on the use of the outdoors by special populations. She has presented on the use of technology in market research, e-business and e-learning while a senior performance improvement consultant with IBM Global Services. She also presented on Project Management and Social Media at the Texas Recreation and Parks TR Summit. She has over 20 years of experience as an instructional designer, systems training designer, human and corporate performance improvement consultant, e-learning and Project Manager. Judi has taught undergraduate courses in introduction to TR, TR program planning and outdoor recreation as well as updating the TR curriculum for certification. In addition to being an Adjunct Lecturer at FIU, she served as an adjunct in Corporate and Continuing Education at Palm Beach State College in Project Management. She currently volunteers on the SNAC (Special Needs Advisory Committee) of Palm Beach County.
Randee Wood, CTRS, Adjunct Professor. Randee's professional career includes a spectrum of services in the area of Wellness. Randee graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2008 with a Bachelor’s in Kinesiology – Exercise Science. She obtained an Alternative Teaching Certificate in Oklahoma and taught elementary Physical Education for four years while coaching Basketball, Cheerleading, Track, and Cross Country. At Texas State University, Randee served as a graduate assistant for the Department of Health and Human Performance and graduated with a Master’s in Recreation and Leisure Services – Therapeutic Recreation in 2012 and became a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. Randee’s primary experience as a Recreational Therapist has been in the psychiatric setting while working at Texas NeuroRehab, John Peters Smith Hospital, and North Hills Hospital. She currently works in Long Term Care for Senior Care Centers as a Manager of Resident Wellness in Dallas, Texas. Randee enjoys running, sports, and cheering on the Dallas Cowboys and Oklahoma City Thunder!