How will FIU deepen its relationship with community leaders to solve problems and bring greater opportunity to students? 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 next 50 years 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.
Community outreach and engagement
As the public research university in one of the country’s largest metro areas, FIU increasingly will serve as a solutions center globally in the coming decades. Through partnerships and engagement efforts, the university is already tackling a spectrum of issues and challenges, most notably improving the K-12 public school system and increasing college access opportunities.
Building on that demonstrated success, the university will continue to enter into strategic partnerships that will have important ramifications for our world. Three initiatives launched in 2015 are emblematic of the cooperative efforts that will drive the university’s future direction.
To help meet the need for high-quality professionals ready to step into the workforce, FIU has collaborated with the Beacon Council, South Florida industry leaders and the region’s other educational institutions to launch the Talent Development Network. Its aim: to provide new internships in key sectors of the local economy. A new partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., the Royal@FIU World Stage Collaborative, is fostering new connections between the performing arts and hospitality and tourism.
Recognizing that there is strength in numbers, FIU has partnered with its sister institutions in two of the state’s other large urban areas to create the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities. FIU, the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida are working together to improve college graduation rates, share best practices across the board and create a more united voice at the state level.
“We view our role in working with valued partners — whether public, private or nonprofit — as unlocking catalytic momentum that leads to community-wide transformation,” said FIU Vice President for Engagement Saif Ishoof. “Collaboration has maximum impact when the greatest needs are tackled through the exponential addition of resources and people.”
Creative initiatives in the arts
Over the past 15 years, Miami has undergone a cultural renaissance. The arrival of Art Basel in 2002 drew attention to Miami’s burgeoning art scene and fueled an influx of artists, collectors, buyers and appreciators of the arts in South Florida. A new community of people interested in building Miami’s reputation in the arts emerged.
With three public museums, a college dedicated to the arts, a partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., and plans to reopen the Coconut Grove Playhouse, FIU’s role in this cultural revolution is significant.
FIU students and alumni have been involved in creating murals and music, theater and fine arts throughout South Florida; and moving forward, the university will continue to influence the arts in Miami by expanding its outreach and partnerships in the community.
The Wolfsonian-FIU museum hopes to expand its international presence by digitizing its collection and creating a virtual world visitors can access any time online, a project that got its start with a $5 million grant from the Knight Foundation in 2013. The collection already has begun to appear online, and future ideas for the virtual museum include podcast series, panoramic tours and curator-guided video tours of exhibits, all intended to pique the interests of “superfans,” or niche audiences.
The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum will extend a helping hand into the younger community in Miami, especially those in low-income communities, starting with a partnership with Sweetwater Elementary to build the school’s art program and bring its students on field trips to the museum. The Frost hopes to create similar programs in elementary schools all over the county.
This March, the university unveiled its Royal@FIU World Stage Collaborative, a partnership with RCL to build a 130,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art training facility at the Biscayne Bay Campus. The building features classrooms, three-story studios, a 300-seat theater and a 20,000-square-foot costume-making facility, where students will have the chance to take classes, earn paid internships and train alongside hospitality and entertainment professionals.
The university also recently announced an initiative to reopen the Coconut Grove Playhouse, which was once a thriving and popular theater in South Florida until it closed its doors in 2006. Reopening the Playhouse will offer theater students a chance to work with actors, costume and set designers, and other behind-the-scenes production, giving them the chance to work and learn alongside professionals in their field.
Urban design and architecture
As ever-greater numbers of permanent residents as well as visitors flock to our tropical paradise over the coming decades, FIU will play a larger role in shaping South Florida’s built environment in support of a dynamic, sustainable future. Projects that serve the common good increasingly will include the expert and innovative contributions of FIU professors and students.
Collaboration has already begun with the City of Sweetwater, adjacent to the Modesto A. Maidique Campus. The university has offered design ideas for a revitalized downtown corridor. A signature bridge — both functional as well as symbolic of a new relationship between FIU and the city — will be erected with federal monies to span the busy seven-lane highway that currently separates the two entities in hopes of strengthening ties and sharing assets. Students will be able to take advantage of new shops, restaurants and housing opening off campus, while residents will have access to campus sporting and cultural events as well as lectures and more. The School of Architecture has suggested that new development within the city center include the intentional addition of “walkability features,” such as improved sidewalks, landscaping and public art, to boost its attractiveness and people-friendly quotient.
Emphasis on the human element likewise informs the FIU-Miami Creative City Initiative, a think tank of experts on urban issues with the goal of harnessing local creative and entrepreneurial forces. The team includes School of Architecture professor Roberto Rovira and is engaging local business and civic leaders along with students and the greater community in dialogue on how creativity, culture and design can drive a regional economy.
Turning to a public university to help reinvigorate public space makes sense, says Rovira, who involves his students in a variety of projects through his “Catalysts of the Urban Canvas” course. “We’re perfect in the sense that we have a fresh set of eyes every single year. We have a student body and a faculty who are trained from day one to think in visionary ways, to think in transformative ways, to be unafraid.” ♦