Deputy General Counsel
Liz Marston joined the General Counsel’s Office in 2008. Liz’s areas of practice include all aspects of human resource for non-academic matters (e.g., counseling on employee matters including discrimination avoidance, compliance with various employment laws), student affairs (e.g., Student Conduct, Housing, etc.), and the Police Department (e.g., advising on Clery). She also represents the Office of Education Abroad and the Children’s Creative Learning Center. She serves on the Behavioral Intervention Team and the Study Abroad Travel Warning Committee.
Prior to joining FIU, Liz worked for ADP TotalSource, Inc., a local company that outsources human resources to small to medium sized companies. Drawing on her in-depth background in employment law, she served in various capacities during her twelve-year tenure at ADP TotalSource including leading the human resources and training functions and serving as the General Counsel before the company was acquired by ADP and then as the Division Counsel afterward. Prior to working for ADP TotalSource, Liz was a partner in the Labor Department of Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson focusing on employment and immigration law. Liz also served as a judicial law clerk for the Third District Court of Appeal.
Liz received her J.D. from Nova University in 1985 (cum laude) and a B.A. in English Literature from Guam University in 1976. She received a Masters in Liberal Arts from the University of Miami in 2007. She also holds an Associate of Arts degree from the University of West Florida in Paralegal Studies.
Liz is a member of the Florida Bar.
Rafael G. Prohias
Senior University Counsel
Rafael Prohias joined the General Counsel’s Office in 2015. Rafael’s areas of responsibility include advising the Office of Advancement, the FIU Foundation, the Office of Alumni Relations, the FIU Athletics Department, the Division of External Relations, the Patricia and Philip Frost Art Museum, the Wolfsonian-FIU museum and the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, on a broad range of business, commercial, corporate, compliance and governance matters. Rafael also manages major university transactions in all areas (excluding real estate, debt issuance, research and health care), and advises on the laws on tax-exempt organizations and the laws of Florida pertaining to affiliated organizations of state universities.
Prior to joining FIU, Rafael served as senior global corporate counsel for the multi-national spirits company Bacardi Limited – the largest family-owned spirits company in the world. While at Bacardi, Rafael supported nearly every significant business function within the organization including global mergers & acquisitions and strategic planning/business development, global finance and treasury, compliance, corporate communications, shareholder/Board of Director relations, marketing, sales/commercial, operations and human resources. Prior to working at Bacardi, Rafael practiced corporate and transactional law at the global law firms Greenberg Traurig, P.A. and Hunton & Williams LLP in Miami, Florida.
Rafael received his J.D. in 1994 from The Catholic University, Columbus School of Law, in Washington, DC, and a B.S. in Communications and History from the University of Miami in 1989. Rafael is a member of the Florida Bar and Virginia Bar, and is fluent in Spanish.
Sr. University Counsel & Chief Legal Officer
Val Aubourg joined FIU’s Office of the General Counsel in 2016. Val’s areas of practice include advising FIU’s Academic Health Center Colleges, which include the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, and the College of Arts, Sciences and Education. Val also provides support, as needed, to the Division of Research, IT Security, and Compliance.
Prior to joining FIU, Val worked at Jackson Health Systems and the North Broward Hospital District where he provided compliance and legal services, respectively. Val also worked at the General Counsel’s Office with the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County, Florida where he supported the Complex Business Litigation Division, General Jurisdiction Division, and the Appellate Division of the Circuit Court serving in its appellate capacity to County Court cases and administrative or quasi-judicial hearings. Prior to his career in law, Val was an Associate Actuary with a local rating bureau where he worked on a collaborative basis with other project team members calculating Workers Compensation rate filings for the states of Florida, Iowa and Georgia. Val also provided actuarial services with several local insurance carriers on competitive pricing models for various commercial insurance products.
Val received his J.D. from the University of Miami and his B.S. in Statistics from Florida International University. Val is a member of the Florida Bar.
Senior University Counsel
Wendy Vargas joined the Office of General Counsel in 2017. Wendy provides primary legal support for all real estate and construction matters for FIU, which includes assisting FIU in structuring, negotiating and closing high priority real estate and construction transactions, drafting and negotiating agreements and leases, and collaborating in the development of policies in areas of expertise. Wendy also advises FIU officials in policy-making functions, interprets policy for FIU officials up to and including the presidential level, and handles real estate and construction disputes and oversees outside counsel in related litigation when applicable.
Prior to joining FIU, Wendy practiced real estate law at the national law firm Akerman LLP where she handled a wide array of matters including complex financing transactions, disposition of distressed assets, acquisitions, structuring of mixed-use property transactions, drafting and negotiation of commercial leases and property management agreements, and sale/leaseback transactions and related financings for local, national and Latin American clients. Prior to working at Akerman, Wendy engaged in a broad-based corporate practice at the national firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed, and prior to her law career, Wendy served as Assistant Consumer Marketing Manager for People en Español magazine.
Wendy received her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002 and a Bachelor of Science in Economics (Finance, Marketing and Multinational Management) from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1998 (cum laude). Wendy is a member of the Florida Bar, and is fully fluent in Spanish.
Iris A. Elijah
Associate General Counsel
Iris Elijah joined the Office of the General Counsel in 2018. Iris provides primary legal support for all matters related to students including, but not limited to student organizations, Student Financials, student academic matters, Student Conduct, Title IX, and student international travel, the Police Department, and Public Records Requests. Iris also advises FIU officials in policy-making decisions, regulation and rule promulgation, and oversees outside counsel in related litigation when necessary.
Prior to joining FIU, Iris was the Assistant General Counsel for the State University System of Florida, Board of Governors, Assistant General Counsel for Florida A&M University, and an Attorney Fellow for FIU. Iris was the first African-American to serve as counsel for the State University System of Florida, Board of Governors, and FIU. Iris is a graduate of the FIU College of Law.
Iris is deeply involved in her civic and legal community with serve as a Governor of The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Board of Governors, Executive Board member of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, member of various Florida Bar committees, active member of several local bar associations and the Miami Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a frequent volunteer with Make the Homeless Smile Miami.
Assistant General Counsel
Vilma Mesa joined FIU’s Office of the General Counsel in 2016, at first as a Law Fellow, and in August of 2017, as an Assistant General Counsel. Vilma’s areas of responsibility include procurement contracts, Business Services, Parking and Transportation, South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Vilma also provides legal support in development of university regulations, policies and procedures related to her practice areas, and oversees associated public records requests.
Prior to joining FIU, Vilma served as a transactional lawyer at the civil notary office in Lithuania, where she worked on a wide range of legal matters, including: drafting residential and commercial property deeds and other contracts, preparing pledge or mortgage bonds, preparing and reviewing documents for incorporation of legal persons, and handling probate and estate planning matters.
Vilma received her J.D. from the Florida International University College of Law, her L.L.M in International and European Business Law from Leiden University, the Netherlands, and her Professional Qualification Master’s Degree in Law (one-stage legal university education) from Vilnius University, Lithuania. Vilma is a member of the Florida Bar.
Assistant General Counsel
Research and Research Compliance, Intellectual Property
Diana Firvida-Oliva joined FIU’s Division of Research in January, 2000. Diana’s areas of practice include research, research compliance and intellectual property matters. Diana provides legal support to the Division of Research and its various offices including the Office of the Vice President for Research, Pre-Award, Post-Award, the Office of Research Integrity and Technology Management and Commercialization, on all aspects of research and intellectual property commercialization, including contracting, conflicts of interest, research misconduct, human and animal subjects research, research recharge centers and the development of policies and procedures.
Prior to joining FIU, Diana was in private practice in various law firms in Miami, concentrating in the area of complex commercial litigation.
Diana received her Juris Doctor, cum laude, in 1988 from the University of Miami School of Law where she was inducted into the Order of the Coif and was a member of the University of Miami Law Review. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1984 from the University of Miami.
Diana is a member of the Florida Bar and of the National Association of College and University Attorneys.
Special Assistant to General Counsel
Sr. Coordinator, Administrative Services