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Communications instructor at the forefront of helping minority students, businesses

Communications instructor at the forefront of helping minority students, businesses

July 1, 2020 at 12:00am

Nathan Kurland has been teaching public speaking in the FIU School of Communication + Journalism for seven years. Behind the scenes, he’s also been helping fund scholarships at FIU and supporting minority-owned businesses through his work chairing the Miami Bayside Foundation.

With so many impacted by the pandemic and recent social unrest, he wants minorities to know there’s financial help available.

Kurland, who has a passion for acting and has performed in 50-plus plays and musicals, came to FIU by chance. He was chairing a foundation that had a relationship with FIU when he was courted to teach a class he knew a lot about—public speaking. Semi-retired at the time, Kurland had taught public speaking at Temple University and University of Pennsylvania and is an expert in private sector corporate communication. A believer that everyone should take public speaking, not just communications students, he accepted the offer.

“Here’s a class you will use every single day for the rest of your life,” he says. “How much more essential can it be than now when everyone is screaming at each other and [needing] to be able to sit down and communicate.”

The ability to effectively communicate has been further amplified by issues of racial injustice. While the topic of inequality and the underserved is becoming a hot topic now, it’s something Kurland has been working on as chair of the Miami Bayside Foundation (MBF) for the past decade. MBF is a local nonprofit that advances economic development in Miami through the support of minority businesses and education via student scholarships and funding to minority-owned companies.

Since Kurland came onboard in 2010, the foundation has awarded 2,000 scholarships and made more than $5 million in loans to small businesses owned by minority residents.

At FIU, the foundation has donated money to the general scholarship and first-generation scholarship funds and supported Golden Scholars. The Golden Scholars is a gateway program for under-represented students, with priority given to first-generation students and City of Miami high school seniors. Participants take part in an intensive six-week residential summer program offering academic preparation, individualized advising and personal attention from faculty and staff. Upon successful completion, students matriculate into the fall term as fully admitted FIU students.

Golden Scholars recipients

Also at FIU, the foundation supported financial and marketing certificate programs to help minority-business owners market themselves and their companies, and offers a scholarship program for FIU students pursuing their MBA.

"Nathan Kurland and the Miami Bayside Foundation are invaluable partners in our endeavor to make an FIU education accessible to every student," says Howard Lipman, senior vice president for University Advancement and CEO of the FIU Foundation. "We are exceedingly grateful for the work he and his organization do for our community, and that he shares his knowledge and expertise with our students as a member of our faculty, as well."

The foundation is an administrator for the Black Business Loan Program (BBPLP) for Southeast Florida. Under BBLP, loans are available from $2,500 to $75,000, and under special circumstances, up to $150,000. The foundation is one of four organizations selected by the Miami-Dade County Commission to administer $25 million for the RISE Miami-Dade Fund, created to help small businesses in the county impacted by COVID-19. Businesses that qualify can receive up to a $30,000 loan with a 3.25 percent interest rate and no repayment for 90 days.

With more than 500 requests from small businesses already in queue to be serviced, explains Kurland, the financial need is evident. “There must be something we can take from this pandemic,” he says. “It’s about stepping up to do something.”

To date, the Bayside Foundation has helped countless people and minority businesses alike. It’s funded a summer program for the Little Haiti Optimist Club and has helped companies like Panther Coffee, Vista Restaurant and Ristorante Fratelli Milano get off the ground. Another business, Haynes Security started with 15 employees, and with the foundation’s support, grew to 900 after being awarded a school contract.

Kurland hopes that the recent conversation around social injustice will spark others to give back.

“Something as horrible as the murder of George Floyd will be long lasting and inspire people to do something about racial inequity.” It makes a life of service and what the foundation does for the underserved all the more important, he adds.

“It’s not just about talking, but also doing,” Kurland says. “It’s not just once a year, but being active every day of the year.”

Learn more about available scholarships and business loans, and whether you are eligible to apply for either at