FIU College of Law Dean R. Alexander Acosta, who was sworn in on March 28 as U.S. Secretary of Labor, created a legacy at FIU.
As he gets ready for this new role, he has one message for Panthers.
“FIU allowed me to give back to my hometown in a very special way,” Acosta said. “It has been a joy to help foster FIU Law’s success, and a privilege to impact the lives of the incredible students at FIU. These students are hardworking, brilliant and dedicated. They are the future.”
As dean of the College of Law, Acosta spearheaded the effort to establish the J.M. degree in banking compliance, BSA and anti-money-laundering at FIU Law.
Under his stewardship, FIU Law graduates ranked first among Florida’s 11 law schools on the Florida Bar Exam three times in a row — for the July 2015, February 2016 and July 2016 examinations.
During his tenure, the College went from being unranked to #100 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report, and now ranks among the top 55 law schools in the nation for both strength of students (based on incoming class academic credentials) and graduate success (based on job placement).
Associate Dean for Students Angelique Ortega Fridman said that Acosta’s greatest contribution goes beyond rankings and numbers.
“I think his greatest contribution was how much he gave of himself,” Ortega Fridman said. “He opened his home and his family to students. He did everything from cooking for them to giving them a one-on-one level of service that went beyond being the dean. He became a mentor. I know a lot of students feel that he became part of their families.”
Ortega Fridman recalls often seeing Acosta on campus having coffee with students who were seeking career advice.
Alumni expressed an outpouring of support for Acosta during the confirmation process, including Karel Suarez, who recently wrote an op-ed published on the Huffington Post. In the piece, Suarez tells the story of how he developed a special mentorship with Acosta, which started while Suarez was a server at a restaurant Acosta frequented.
Acosta earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and his law degree from Harvard Law School. He has previously served in three presidentially-appointed, senate-confirmed positions, and was twice named one of the nation’s 50 most influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business Magazine. In 2013, the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also honored him with the Chairman’s Higher Education Award.
Before coming to FIU, he served as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
He is the first Hispanic appointed to a cabinet position under President Donald Trump.
“It is an honor to be selected as one of our nation’s cabinet members,” said Acosta. “The guiding force in my career is being able to make a positive impact in the lives of others. This appointment provides me with an opportunity to do just that. I’m humbled and very grateful for this opportunity.”
In the coming days FIU Provost Kenneth G. Furton will name an acting dean of the FIU College of Law. The university will conduct a national search for Acosta’s successor.