Mitchell Kaplan, a professor, podcast host, movie creator and owner of local bookstore Books & Books will be the special guest in this semester’s What Matters to U event today at 5 p.m.
A University of Miami alumni and Miami Beach local, Kaplan opened his first Books & Books location in 1982 in Coral Gables with the intention of bringing people together and offering a home away from home vibe fostered by a love for books.
“At What matters to U, we incite conversations that we traditionally wouldn’t have in classrooms,” said Meera Patel, in-coming chair member of What Matters to U and a public health major. “We want to have a creative approach and create a long-lasting impact on our peers’ college career/life.”
What Matters to U is a discussion series started by UM’s Student Government with the goal of finding speakers who can inspire students to reflect on their values through topics that matter to them. As the series has progressed, student leaders wanted to give them a sense of purpose to act whether it is climate change, academic growth or other issues relevant to students. Some of the past speakers include UM alumni and Olympian Lauren Williams, Bill Nye the Science Guy, actor Ken Jeong and World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe.
Spencer Schwartz, a nursing student and current chair of What Matters to U, explained the process behind choosing Kaplan as a guest speaker.
“He is a local speaker, leader, activist and UM grad student,” said Schwartz. “I want students to see really what they can do with the UM degree and how they can take that, especially right now in the time of graduation, and moving on to the next phases of their lives.”
The topic of entrepreneurship will be the main focus point of the virtual discussion. Schwartz, along with other student leaders of What matters to U, was drawn to Kaplan’s roots in entrepreneurship.
“He’s really just being involved in the community and you know, really, in the broader world and as many ways as he can,” Schwartz said. “I think people will take away…He always has books and books. And if you come to the event, you’ll hear he also works in creating movies and TV shows and has a successful company there so I hope that our students can take from that with what they can do and how it empowers them.”
The event will include a Q&A session where audience members submit questions via the @whatmatterstou Instagram page. The questions will be hosted by public relations senior student Kylea Henseler and senior lecturer and former chair of the entrepreneurship department Susy Alvarez-Diaz from the Herbert Business School.
“Kaplan’s story is one that begins with good intentions and builds because it’s based on evergreen principles of doing good for others,” said Alvarez-Diaz. “That never goes out of style and that’s an important lesson to share.”
Books & Books has a total of seven Florida locations, including Coconut Grove, Pinecrest, Bay Harbour, The Adrienne Arsht Center, Key West and one in the Miami International Airport. As it has continued to grow, Books & Books has become a place for authors, publishers and book fans alike to come together and share their passion for literature.
In the age of Amazon and online retail, Books & Books offers a cozy environment where books fill shelves from floor to ceiling. In non-COVID times, visitors can find authors reading and discussing their work with visitors.
“Now more than ever, it is important to hear stories that uplift students and help them to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Alvarez-Diaz said. “Our students have endured so much and it’s beneficial to focus on stories of triumphs over adversity and victories despite hardships.”
The event will be hosted today on April 22 via Zoom at 5 p.m. here.