What will FIU’s student body look like in 50 years, and how and what will students learn? In the 50 years since its founding, FIU has made a dramatic impact on the economic and social well-being of South Florida. So, what will the coming decades bring? FIU Magazine spoke with university leaders and educators to understand where some of our strengths will take us in the coming decades and how FIU will continue to influence the world at home and beyond.
The students of tomorrow
What will the next generation of FIU students look like?
Currently, FIU’s demographics mirror that of the surrounding community of Miami-Dade County. According to the Office of Planning & Institutional Research at FIU, Hispanic students make up 63 percent of the student population, women make up 56 percent and 12 percent are black or African-American as of the Spring 2015 semester.
And while FIU currently enrolls a large number of first-generation college students, 50 years from now, many of the university’s students may be their children and grandchildren.
“There will be fewer first-generation students as a growing number of those who enroll will be the sons and daughters of our alumni,” says Jody Glassman, director of Undergraduate Admissions. “It will be a different kind of Miami we serve in 50 years.”
University leaders believe that FIU will maintain its status as a majority-minority institution as many other universities may begin to mirror FIU’s diversity. The Pew Research Center predicts that by 2050, the Hispanic population in the U.S. will triple to 128 million. Miami, as a gateway to Latin America, is expected to continue to be a metropolitan city that boasts a Hispanic majority – and FIU will reflect that.
“We look like the future,” says Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Lunsford. “Other universities have goals for what we have already accomplished. We want to be well represented in our diversity in the future. We want to be proud of our diversity over the next 50 years.”
International and public affairs
Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger in Haiti. Combating malaria and other diseases in Africa. Ensuring environmental stability in India. Unifying the Korean peninsula. Establishing peace between Israel and Palestine.
Such far-reaching and forward-looking aspirations represent the global vision for FIU’s newly renamed Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs in the College of Arts & Sciences. Supported by a transformational $20 million gift, the school is now poised to become one of the world’s top academic centers dedicated to international understanding, economic development, peace and security.
“This gift reinforces FIU’s destiny as a preeminent center for international education and global problem-solving,” says FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg.
Researchers working within the auspices of the six-year-old school have dedicated their careers to understanding the complexities of our transnational and globalized society and how to fill a broad range of basic human needs, including health, education and equality, according to Associate Director Shlomi Dinar. Through the disciplines of sociology, economics, politics, law and criminal justice, religion and others, they study the wide range of issues that make up how countries, governments and societies relate to one another. The school brings together experts to analyze problems and find sustainable solutions through an interdisciplinary lens.
The recent contribution has created an endowment in support of academic, research and public affairs initiatives focused on transnational studies, international institutions and security policy in the Americas. The gift also will support the construction of a state-of-the-art building that will unify the school’s resources and researchers to foster collaboration, interdisciplinary innovation and student success.
FIU’s approach to the social sciences integrates theory and practice at every level. Students are taught inside the classroom using innovative curriculum and cutting-edge research. Their classroom learning is paired with real-life, global-learning experiences, including study abroad and internship opportunities. Those who master particular issues in the social sciences also gain a wide range of transferable skills, including analytical, management and leadership, communication, consensus-building and negotiation.
Situated in Miami, the school will educate leaders who can not only connect the Americas but bridge them with Africa, the Middle East, Asia and other regions poised for growth in upcoming decades. With a diverse student body, the Green School will graduate leaders who drive the innovation needed to establish global cooperation, economic equality and peace in the next generation.
Specialized and online education
As master’s degrees become more important for graduates to stand out in crowded job markets, the future will see more and more working professionals taking classes at FIU part-time, probably through a wide variety of online programs available.
Popular “4+1” programs, which allow undergraduate students to pursue an accelerated master’s degree in addition to their bachelor’s degrees, will grow as will high-level professional certificates. A number of “niche” majors tailored toward specialized topics and subjects also could become the norm at FIU, attracting specific types of students to FIU.
“Universities become important in the way they open the door for careers,” says Benjamin Baez, a professor of higher education at the College of Education. “You’ll see more of a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and specialized majors to attract specific groups of people rather than generic degrees.”
With the rise of online programs, virtual classrooms and other technologies in recent years, many wonder whether or not the “traditional” college campus will become obsolete. But university leaders believe that technological advances and a more traditional college campus will be a part of FIU’s future.
As online programs and other technological advances improve access for a larger number of students and more student housing facilities are built both on campus and in the surrounding area, there could be an uptick in both students living on campus and also those taking classes part-time or fully online. ♦