To celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary, FIU News is sharing 50 moments in FIU’s history as part of our “50@50″ series. In this piece, we hear from Dean Emerita Michele Ciccazzo who started at FIU in 1972 and rose to become dean of Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work.
Michele Ciccazzo arrived on campus in October 1972, a few weeks after the start of FIU’s first semester. She’d been recruited from Indiana, and didn’t know what to expect. Just a few years earlier she had fainted in speech class because of the anxiety of speaking in front of a group. Now she had accepted a teaching position in dietetics.
As a founding faculty member, Ciccazzo was one of only 400 faculty members, chosen from more than 4,000 applicants, who helped set the foundation for what FIU would look like in the future. During those early days, she remembers bringing her lunch (there was no place to buy food on campus at the time) and batting around ideas with her colleagues.
“Everyone didn’t know each other, but we knew we were all in the same extended family,” she says.
In the audio clip below, Ciccazzo, recalls fondly the enthusiasm of her students in 1972 – many of which were older and had been waiting anxiously for a dietetics program to be offered in South Florida.
With the mentorship of fellow faculty members, Ciccazzo excelled in the classroom and later as an administrator. In 2012, she was appointed dean of Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work. That same year, she was named one of MPHProgramsList.com’s 100 Awesome Deans of Public Health.
“It’s been kind of a fairytale,” Ciccazzo says. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here at FIU. I feel like I’ve been able to contribute in so many different ways.”
Before Ciccazzo was the dean of the Stempel College, she served as interim vice provost for Academic Affairs, department chair of Dietetics and Nutrition and associate dean of two colleges.
She has seen FIU grow from 6,000 students to 55,000; from six schools and colleges to 200 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs; and from one building to a small city.
“One thing I love about FIU is that it doesn’t stay the same – it’s always changing,” Ciccazzo says. “So if you’re willing to change with it, you’ve got a wealth of opportunities.”