Vice President for University Engagement Saif Ishoof works to build public and private partnerships that capitalize upon FIU’s capacity to address pressing local and statewide challenges. The former director of City Year Miami, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing high school dropout rates among low-income youth, Ishoof arrived at FIU in the summer of 2015 and serves as a fellow of the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs and the Honors College.
Why FIU and why this job?
I grew up in this community and have seen the evolution of South Florida over the last 40 years. A lot of that change involves South Florida as a gateway to the Americas, a beacon that has welcomed so many from around the world as well as around the country. I am excited about being at FIU, which I think is a symbol for the ongoing evolution of Miami.
What does Engagement with a capital “E” mean for FIU and for South Florida?
We want to connect our students, our faculty and our alumni with opportunities and challenges in the world around us. We want to be able to use our scholarship, our research and our resources to really dig into that. Examples include the work that we’re doing through our partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools and our work in leading and driving the largest life sciences collaborative in South Florida.
What other areas do you plan to tackle?
Just recently, we held our first Startup Weekend at FIU. We had 200+ innovators on campus for 52 hours, working at building their dreams, their entrepreneurial visions. We’re excited about our role in supporting research and economic development within the broader innovation ecosystem here in South Florida.
You have a passion for mentoring. What is your approach?
There’s nothing that gets me more excited than being able to be a resource to a young person who’s trying to figure out what’s next in their journey. I think a great mentor is somebody who helps you ask the important questions, holds you accountable, shines a light for you as well as opens doors.
What excites you about young people poised to take charge of the world?
The millennial generation, ages 18-35, is defined by an unparalleled ethos of service, and they are actively changing our world. And our freshmen, who are part of the post-millenial generation, have one value that I think is paramount above all others: empathy. They embrace diversity in its fullest sense, and they have the curiosity and creativity that will allow them to dig into really complex problems. The work of these generations will be indicative of the next 50 years of our university, as well as of our community and our world. As I like to tell everybody, the F, the I, the U stand for “the Future Is Us.”