Dear FIU Family,
Today marks the beginning of our Early Fall semester, and our FIU is moving full speed ahead with much to look forward to.
Although our Panther family has been physically apart since March due to COVID-19 restrictions, our university has remained operational, addressing the needs of our FIU family and enabling our students to continue their academic journeys. I am confident we will continue to accomplish goals and achieve dreams despite the challenges along the way.
As we kick things off, I am especially excited to give a warm Panther welcome to our Freshman class! Those joining us in Early Fall are a talented group – an average grade point average of 4.07 and representing 11 different countries. You have entrusted your hopes and desires to us and see FIU as integral to achieving your dreams. I know each of you will accomplish great things and make our university proud. And I promise that all of us at FIU will give you the full on-campus welcome experience you deserve as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Rest assured that the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff remain our top priority. Through our Panthers Protecting Panthers initiative, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that the eventual return to campus is done with caution and following local and state health guidelines.
The past few months have been nothing short of extraordinary, with many great accomplishments, immense challenges and moments of true self-reflection.
We began the Spring semester in January with incredible momentum, inspired to make this new decade even better than the last one. Being named a Great College to Work For for the fourth year in a row – including an honor roll designation with recognition in all 12 categories – inspired us to continue working hard to take our university to new heights.
In addition, FIU’s top-50 rankings grew to 44 in the nation among public universities, our university remains a top U.S. research university (R1) and is ranked 15th in the nation among public universities for patent production.
At FIU, we continue to strive to raise our expectations for what can and should be done, how we can improve every day and how we go about achieving our goals. Your decision to learn with us is truly inspiring.
Sometimes, however, our initiative and resolve are put to the test, giving us a unique opportunity to rise to the occasion.
The first unexpected twist came in March, when COVID-19 forced us to abandon our physical places of learning and working and conduct business from the safety of our homes.
In true Panther spirit, we did not shy away from the challenge. In an unprecedented move for our university, we worked with faculty to migrate more than 4,000 Spring courses to remote platforms, ensuring continuity of learning for our students. Summer courses were also conducted remotely. I am especially appreciative to our faculty, who were ready, willing and able to make this happen and help our students succeed.
Meanwhile, thousands of FIU employees set up shop at home, utilizing the benefits of technology to keep our university running. Thank you for your diligence and flexibility.
And, for the first time in FIU’s history, we created a virtual commencement for our 6,000 Spring graduates that proved to be overwhelmingly successful. Thousands of families gathered in at-home ceremonies, organized graduation caravans and shared their Panther spirit with uplifting messages on social media. Our virtual ceremony had approximately 47,000 views and, considering that most people were watching with friends and family, that’s an audience of more than 100,000.
For our approximately 4,000 Summer graduates, expect even more surprises and an enhanced virtual commencement on August 2!
Our FIU also responded to the needs of our community during this pandemic. We 3D-printed thousands of face shields for local healthcare workers when personal protective equipment was scarce and made available 28 ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients. FIU researchers are also studying how to improve contact tracing by tapping into people’s memory – they will test whether memory for contacts can be improved across different age ranges.
We also provided millions of dollars in aid to support unemployed restaurant workers via a partnership between our Chaplin School and The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival®.
And, through a partnership with Miami-Dade County, the Florida Department of Health and the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition, FIU continues to staff and operate a COVID-19 test site that has tested more than 16,000 Miami-Dade County residents.
Meanwhile, at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, a team is spearheading an effort to address the impact of COVID-19 on African Americans in Florida.
At FIU, thanks to CARES Act funding provided by the federal government, we were able to distribute $19 million as emergency cash grants to students whose lives have been affected by the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19. Our employees and alumni also made generous contributions to our fundraising efforts in order to assist those in need.
Although the challenges posed by COVID-19 are ongoing, our community and our nation now face another moment of trial. After the senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month – and the deaths of so many other victims of racial violence over the years – a movement is calling for an end to the racial injustice.
On June 3, we hosted a virtual FIU Insights titled “I Can’t Breathe: Racial unrest in America in the wake of George Floyd’s death,” where panelists addressed whether the unrest witnessed at demonstrations throughout the world will lead to change. Two days later, at a virtual FIU Town Hall, students, faculty and staff were able to express what was in their hearts and on their minds during this crucial time in our nation’s history.
We have listened to our community and will continue to do so in the context of the Equity Action Initiative project, an effort led by El pagnier Hudson, our Vice President of Human Resources, Dr. Valerie Patterson, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Public Policy and Administration in the Green School, and Delrish Moss, Captain in our FIU Police Department and former Ferguson, Missouri Police Chief. Each of them has deep roots in our community, and each has worked for decades to improve race relations and eliminate systemic racism. Their goal is to review and recommend initiatives to us that will enhance equality, dignity, inclusion and belonging.
With the FIU Next Horizon 2025 Strategic Plan as our guiding light, we reaffirm our commitment to exceptional learner success and the highest level of university research and innovation as we strive for national recognition as a top-50 public university.
This is an unprecedented era for all of us, and there’s much for us to think about and even more to do. As we begin this new semester, I challenge our entire FIU family to do better, to be better. Remember that you have a unique opportunity at our institution, not just to get a great education, but also to do your part to make this world a better place.
Welcome back! Let’s make this semester one to remember.
In the Panther spirit,
Mark B. Rosenberg