BBC comes into its own

Maybe it’s because of its location on the water’s edge. Perhaps it’s because of its smaller physical footprint. Possibly it’s because it is less crowded. Whatever the case, if you ask those who have visited both of FIU’s campuses, they will likely tell you that the Biscayne
Bay Campus (BBC) has a presence — a “vibe” — unlike the bigger, main Modesto A. Maidique Campus (MMC). Words and phrases like “chill,” “calmer” and “family-oriented” routinely find their way into peoples’ descriptions of BBC.

The ethos that has long been part of the campus’s DNA will be tested in the months and years ahead as the university works to increase student enrollment at BBC. Last fall, student enrollment at the campus reached a high of 6,000, and plans are to increase that slowly to 15,000 as more programs — such as health services administration and kinesiology (formerly known as the bachelor’s in physical education) — move up there.

“We all love that BBC has a different feel to it than MMC,” says BBC Vice Provost Steve Moll ’76 ’77. “We look at MMC as being the corporate campus and we’re the family campus. And together we are one FIU.”

The ties that run deep

Moll was appointed vice provost in 2011. A two-time graduate of the university’s hospitality school — now known as the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and a signature institution at BBC — Moll had worked for them in various capacities since 1977, the year that BBC opened as the North Miami Campus. If anyone knew the BBC ecosystem, it was Moll.

Once in charge, he quickly hit the road, visiting with business and civic leaders in the northeastern part of the county to establish a community relations board at BBC called the Vice Provost’s Council. He brought influencers into the FIU fold and turned them into brand ambassadors and advocates for the university. BBC had been in the community for decades. Now it was time for it to become of the community.

Today the council has 30 members and three goals: spread word of the campus and the opportunities it offers; raise money for scholarships in support of students who live in the area; and mentor BBC students.

Moll calls the council members “wise people from the community who help our students because they want to. It’s an extraordinary story.” And they’re effective: In just four years, they have raised more than $1 million in support of two scholarships: the Vice Provost’s Council Scholarship and the Golden Gift First Generation Scholarship. More than 250 students have received awards.

Community collaborations

After learning that so many people didn’t know about FIU and its offerings, Moll began inviting the community to events. The Creative Writing Program within the College of Arts, Sciences & Education is based at BBC, and Director Les Standiford brings world-famous authors to campus as part of its annual Lawrence A. Sanders Award for Fiction. It’s an opportunity to open the campus to everyone, Moll says. But that’s just the beginning. The campus has a long and growing list of ways in which to engage students and the community. Outlined here are a few key initiatives and programs.


In 2013, MAST@FIU opened its doors at BBC as Florida’s only four-year high school on a university campus. The school follows the highly successful Maritime and Science Technology (MAST) Academy magnet model found elsewhere in the county. The partnership between FIU and Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) is creating a pipeline of prepared students who are attending FIU to study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects. (According to Moll, approximately 25 percent of last year’s inaugural graduating class matriculated at FIU.) Many earn college credit while still in high school by taking dual-enrollment courses taught at BBC by FIU faculty.

Royal@FIU World Stage Collaborative

In 2015, the university teamed with Royal Caribbean Cruises to create a 130,000-square- foot, state-of-the-art rehearsal and production studio at BBC. The partnership — The Royal@ FIU World Stage Collaborative — allows for joint research projects, talent development and real-world experience for FIU students. The production studio features three-story studios, a 300-seat theater, 20,000-square-foot costume-making facility, 10 rehearsal studios, a recording room and video editing facilities. In addition to learning about stage management and design, audio engineering and production, students also have a chance to learn something about cruise line operations.

A wine and food extravaganza and more

The Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management hosts several community-focused activities and events. The most famous is the annual Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Relying on the skills and hard work of more than 1,200 students — who earn internship credit and invaluable hands- on experience as planners, managers and culinary assistants — the festival brings together celebrity chefs, local restaurateurs and wine-and-spirits distributors for several days of tastings, dinners and parties that draw thousands from around the country to Miami Beach. Proceeds have benefitted the hospitality school to the tune of $28 million over the past two decades — money that has gone back into scholarships, programming and a one-of-a-kind teaching restaurant and wine-education facility at BBC.

North Miami BrewFest, a one-day beer festival, has its roots in the hospitality school. FIU students started the event in 2012 and within four years had won the sponsorship of nearby North Miami, which has provided a new venue in its downtown. Proceeds benefit the school’s brewing science program.

The Chaplin School is also home to StartUP FIU Food, an incubator for nascent food-related small businesses in the area, whose owners receive mentoring as well
as access to the school’s state-of-the-art commercial kitchens.


Supported by a $1.2 million donation from Bridgegate Pictures, the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA) is opening iSTAR (the Immersive Studio for Altered Reality) this fall, providing FIU students with career training in the creation of virtual reality and augmented reality. The program was created to help students earn jobs in an industry that Goldman Sachs estimates will grow to $95 billion by 2025. The program will also provide students mentorship and hands-on internship opportunities with Bridgegate that will further prepare them for employment. Program facilities will feature a lab, theater, classrooms and offices.

Art incubator

The Ratcliffe Arts + Design Incubator at FIU gives art and design students the tools and support needed to turn their ideas into pro table businesses. Two designers and Jacek Kolasinski, chair of CARTA’s Department of Art + Art History, mentor up to 15 students, also known as Ratcliffe Fellows, who each receive a $7,500 tuition scholarship for their year in the program. The designers operate their own on-site studios, co-design products for university and external clients, and oversee the fellows’ development of startup businesses or patents. Among the most innovative arts entrepreneurship spaces at a public university in South Florida, the program was created with an $831,000 gift from The Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation.

Community journalism focuses on creating student journalism that highlights environmental impacts related to sea level rise. The project began as an initiative of four journalism faculty members to raise public awareness of sea level rise through student and community engagement. The award-winning project began in 2014, and when the School of Journalism and Mass Communication integrated into CARTA in 2016, expanded to include disciplines from across the university.

Water world

BBC’s bayside location allows for some unique activities that are not possible at the main campus. FIU’s Academy for International Disaster Preparedness, for example, conducts simulated trainings for first responders at BBC, incorporating land, sea and drone training into the exercises.

“In order to earn a master’s in disaster management, students must participate in an outdoor, 48-hour disaster field exercise,” says Ruben Almaguer, assistant vice president of Disaster Management & Emergency Operations. “BBC’s open spaces provide us the perfect location to set up the equipment to support the exercise. We even use the boat dock to transport students across the waterway to conduct disaster damage assessments.”

Professors teaching courses as part of the marine sciences program take students down to the water’s edge or out in boats for study and research purposes, among them Heather Bracken-Grissom, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education.

“I teach an invertebrate zoology class where most of the labs are spent actually observing and collecting inverts in the bay,” says Heather Bracken-Grissom, who incorporates crabs, shrimp and lobsters she catches in the bay into her research studies. “This allows students to see animals in their natural habitat. It’s a major advantage of having a campus on the water.”

It’s not all work and studies, however. The Health & Wellness Recreation Center hosts two-hour kayaking trips all year so both students and locals can take advantage of the pristine scenery.