The new year marked the beginning of the 114th Congress in Washington, D.C., and the release of new educational legislation as FIU welcomed a new FIU Champion and its advocates promoted the university’s impact on STEM education reform.
Congressman Curbelo comes to Washington; committee shuffle
One of the Hill’s newest members is Congressman Carlos Curbelo representing Florida’s 26th congressional district, home of FIU’s Modesto Maidique campus. Between students and alumni, Congressman Curbelo represents over 43,000 people involved in the university community.
He will be part of three House Committees: Education, Transportation and Small Business, all of which are critical to the mission and priorities of our university. Several dozen alumni were on hand to welcome the congressman to the city. By last week’s end, it was announced that Curbelo will deliver the Republican response to the President’s State of the Union Address in Spanish.
“I am profoundly appreciative of my neighbors in South Florida for affording me the opportunity to work for our community in Washington. Serving in Congress is not an end, rather a means to make a contribution to our community and our nation,” Curbelo said. “No one will work harder than me in the U.S. House of Representatives, and every day I will put South Florida first. I will work with Republicans, Democrats, and anyone who shares the cause of a stronger, more prosperous nation for all generations of Americans.”
With the new Congress, several other FIU Champions also moved into new roles that will be critical to FIU priorities:
– Sen. Marco Rubio assumes the Chair of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs committee. Rubio also found himself on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and made mention of his FIU students at 4:08.
– Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart becomes the Chair of Transportation Appropriations.
– Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was newly appointed to the House Intelligence Committee.
– Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz remains on the Appropriations committee and Senator Nelson on the Senate Commerce committee, which has oversight over many federal research priorities.
– Congresswoman Frederica Wilson also remains on both the House Science Committee and the Education committee, which marks a first for FIU—with two sitting members (and former school board members) on the Education Committee. This committee will be critical to issues relating to Financial Aid, College Completion policies and even our innovative ACCESS Collaborative with Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Bipartisan “I-squared” Bill
U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced legislation, the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2015, addressing immigration laws for high-skilled workers.
Among other changes, the bill uses the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM list to define fields that qualify as STEM, which now includes agriculture and natural resource sciences.
The 2013 Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill defined STEM through the Department of Education’s Classification of Instructional Programs which did not include agriculture and natural resource sciences. However, the bill does not exempt universities from paying employer visa fees to fund STEM education.
FIU supports positive reforms to regulations surrounding H1-B visas that make it more attractive to our foreign graduates to remain in the US after graduation. A recent Brookings Institution report details the importance of H1-B visas to South Florida, which ranks 10th in the country in foreign student population.
President’s community college announcement
President Barack Obama announced his administration’s proposal to make community college free for responsible students for 2 years. To be eligible, students must attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing their program. Here is more information on the requirements and the proposal.
Leading on STEM Education reforms and transportation research
A number of FIU faculty members promoted our strengths to policymakers in the District this week.
Dr. Donnie Hale, Partnership Director of Education Effect, and Idaykis Rodriguez, a post-doctoral fellow in the FIU STEM-Transformation Institute, participated in the White House’s Front and Center: Bringing Marginalized Girls into Focus in STEM and Career and Technical Education forum, hosted at Georgetown University.
“In order for change to take place, the lines will need to be blurred – as FIU is doing between the high school years and university—for people to focus on the main thing: that individual people matter,” Hale said.
Dr. Atorod Azizinamini, Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of FIU’s Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center (FIU ABC-UTC), held various meetings with staff of the Florida delegation this week to discuss FIU’s research.
He emphasized the importance of smart and fast bridge maintenance and reconstruction, something FIU is at the forefront of. FIU ABC-UTC is one of 33 national centers that accelerate transportation-related research.
Dr. Hale was on the Hill as well, championing not only the Education Effect, but Booker T. Washington High School’s recent strides and the upcoming re-opening of the Planetarium, scheduled for Jan. 29.
Other Panthers Spotted in DC:
– Dean Alex Acosta, College of Law, Association of American Law Schools
– Dr. Marcus Bright, Executive Director of Education for a Better America at the White House STEM Summit
– Jean Roseme, B.S., International Business and Finance FIU ’09, legislative aide to Congresswoman Wilson.
For more insight on FIU’s role in D.C. or too see what the office is involved with this fall, stay connected with FIU in D.C. on Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook: FIU Federal Relations, FIU In DC
Telephone: (202) 624-1404