U.S. Coast Guard partners with FIU on recruitment and research

US Coast Guard

U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft meets with FIU students, faculty and administrators to discuss scholarships, internships and other opportunities.

Max Sherno describes the U.S. Coast Guard scholarship program – known as CSPI – as the best kept secret in the military.

“Everybody knows about ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) but no one has heard of CSPI,’’ said Sherno, a junior studying criminal justice at FIU. “It’s a fantastic opportunity that can help students pay for college and find jobs. I just wish more people knew about it.’’

After a visit from the Coast Guard’s top-ranked officer last week, many more people at FIU know about CSPI – the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative – as well as other opportunities available through the Coast Guard.

Adm. Paul Zukunft – who oversees more than 80,000 active duty, reserve and civilian personnel worldwide – spent an afternoon at FIU, meeting with students, faculty, administrators and President Mark B. Rosenberg about the Coast Guard’s efforts to diversify its ranks and tackle worldwide challenges such as disaster preparedness and climate change.

“This is a strategic strike for us,’’ Zukunft said at a roundtable session with more than a dozen FIU administrators. “We are making 21st century investments and that means more than just planes and ships. Human resource capital is the greatest investment you can make and FIU is fertile ground for that.’’

FIU and the Coast Guard signed a formal agreement in November to expand internships and on-campus recruitment, as well as encourage students to apply for CSPI, the agency’s undergraduate scholarship and officer training program that provides up to two years of tuition, fees and books, along with a monthly stipend and guaranteed job placement upon graduation.

One of the major goals of the partnership, said Zukunft, is to help the Coast Guard diversify. According to a 2010 Department of Defense report, nearly 77 percent of Coast Guard officers and enlisted personnel were white, non-Hispanic. Only 11 percent were Hispanic and just 6 percent were African-American.

Capt. Andres Delgado, who heads the Coast Guard’s office of diversity and inclusion, said it’s time the agency changed that. With a student population that is more than 61 percent Hispanic and has more Hispanic graduates than any university in the country, FIU is a perfect place to start, he said.

“The Coast Guard needs to be reflective of the nation we serve,’’ he said. “FIU is going to be key to that.’’

US Coast Guard

U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft meets with FIU students, faculty and administrators to discuss scholarships, internships and other opportunities.

Beyond encouraging FIU undergraduates to apply for its scholarship program, the Coast Guard also wants to access the university’s research expertise in areas of mutual interest such as disaster preparedness, sea level rise and environmental crises like those caused by the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.

Zukunft, who was deployed with emergency responders during Hurricane Katrina, said these are issues that “keep him up at night.’’

Mike Heithaus, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said students and faculty at FIU are tackling similar issues through research and experiential learning.

“We are growing the next generation of scientists but also the next generation of the public who needs to understand these issues,’’ he said. “Our students are fully engaged in learning, critical thinking and communication to find better ways to solve problems.’’

Human trafficking, transnational crime and global security are other areas where FIU and the Coast Guard may be able to collaborate, said Shlomi Dinar, associate director of the School of International and Public Affairs.

“There are many themes that overlap,’’ he said. “I see many opportunities for partnerships with our faculty who are researching and teaching in these areas.’’

Stephanie Doscher, associate director of the Office of Global Learning Initiatives, said the ethos of the Coast Guard and FIU seemed to be a perfect match.

“Everything you are talking about relates to global learning,’’ she said. “And for us, global education is a university-wide ethic.’’

“I’m very excited about the opportunities for research and internships and more,’’ Doscher added. “I think I may just sign up for the Coast Guard.”

To learn more about the Coast Guard’s College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI), visit GoCoastGuard.com. To learn more about the agency’s partnership with FIU, contact the Office of Engagement at (305) 348-7752 or engage@fiu.edu.