Just days before he was expected to formally receive his master’s degree in Construction Management from FIU ― and with only one final exam left to complete ― Jithu Sabu Daniel received unexpected and devastating news. He had a brain tumor and needed surgery immediately. He wouldn’t be walking across the stage with his College of Engineering and Computing classmates on April 30.
Not letting the diagnosis overwhelm him, Jithu forged ahead, undergoing surgery and eventually taking his exam in hazard mitigation.
“I’m feeling good, and while I’m not certain what the future holds, I am happy that I am able to graduate,” he says.
Earlier this week, Jithu donned his cap and gown for FIU’s August celebration.
What makes this remarkable story even more noteworthy is that Jithu’s family and friends are thousands of miles away. An international student from Kerala, India, Jithu came to Miami in August of 2020. Healthy all of his life, it was a surprise when extreme headaches and nausea sent him to urgent care in pain.
Jithu turned 26 during his month-long hospital stay following surgery. He credits the FIU Graham Center, his professors and colleagues for supporting him through the health crisis.
“Everyone was very understanding and helpful,” he says. “They visited me in the hospital, they delivered food, they allowed me to turn in my assignments and take my final later.”
Jose Faria, the Moss Endowed Chair from FIU's Moss Department of Construction Management, says graduate students at FIU are often shouldering many responsibilities.
“Many of our students work full-time or are married and have children and other responsibilities,” he says. “But stories like Jithu’s are nothing short of inspiring. We will always work with our students when they face hardships that threaten their dreams.”
Jithu decided to go into engineering after watching his dad, a civil engineer, on the job. In India, he received a bachelor’s in civil engineering from the University of Kerala and worked for two years with George Elias & Associates Contractors.
After his master's at FIU, Jithu didn’t immediately begin a job or take a vacation like many students. Instead, he met with his radiation oncologist at Miami Cancer Institute to plan his next course of treatment, which will consist of radiation therapy.
While Jithu isn’t certain what the year ahead holds for him, his determination is unwavering.
“My future is a bit out of my hands at the moment,” he admits. “The doctors have told me that glioblastoma tends to come back. But I hope I can begin searching for a job. Ideally, I’d like to work as an assistant project manager and then PM on commercial construction projects.”