“We are the promise of one people, one breath declaring to one another: I see you. I need you. I am you.”
In citing a line from inaugural poet and FIU alumnus Richard Blanco '91, MFA '97, Samantha Power, the Irish-born administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) noted how “inextricably linked” the world has become.
Just as FIU has served as a “port of hope” for students whose families fled persecution from around the world, Power said USAID now plans to become a “gateway for FIU students” through jobs and internships, as well as mentorships, research opportunities and more.
Power joined Interim President Kenneth A. Jessell in signing a new partnership to promote hiring, retention and career advancement among under-represented groups in the agency’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean and throughout USAID.
“If we are to be the best of America, then we must recruit and hire staff that reflects the best of America,’’ Power said, noting that while the agency has a staff that is 18% Hispanic, only 4% of its overall workforce is Hispanic. FIU is the nation's largest Hispanic-serving unversity.
“We need you,’’ she told an audience of students, faculty and university leaders in the gallery of the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs. “We are facing daunting challenges. We are swinging our doors open to you.”
As part of the agreement, FIU’s Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center (LACC) will work with USAID to identify internships, training opportunities, faculty and speaker exchanges, as well as research and mentorship opportunities for minorities and other under-represented groups.
“We’re ready and able to do this work and, quite frankly, we’re the right team for the job,’’ Jessell said, noting that FIU has the largest cluster of students and faculty in the country focused on the study of the Latin American and Caribbean region.
“We represent the future of our nation,’’ he said. “Here, at the nation’s fourth largest university, excellence and social mobility converge in a unique way to make a real impact where and when it matters most.”
“What could be better than that?’’ noted Power, a Pulitzer-winning author who also served as the youngest U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Following the formal signing ceremony, Power spoke with students interested in applying for internships and jobs at USAID and toured various USAID research collaborations at FIU, including at the Institute of Environment, the Center for Administration of Justice and the Extreme Events Institute. She met with FIU students and faculty engaged in USAID-funded research and initiatives, including Juan Pablo Sarmiento and Meenakshi Jerath of the Green School and the Extreme Events Institute, who briefed Power on disaster-risk resilience activities before she toured the College of Engineering & Computing's Wall of Wind; Elizabeth Anderson and Stephanie Munguia of the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, who collaborate with LACC on water and forestation issues in the Amazon; and Ana Carazo of the Center for the Administration of Justice, which was the recipient of USAID’s first grant to FIU in 1984.
“It was a privilege to have Administrator Power come to our FIU today,’’ said Alexander Rubido, president of the Student Government Association and an FIU trustee. “[This partnership] will have a lasting impact on our student body, our community and the world, as FIU graduates go out and make a real impact with the help and guidance of USAID.”
Investment from USAID – more than $105 million since 2004 – has supported FIU’s global research in water sustainability, disaster-risk reduction, Central American security and storm surge monitoring and warning in the Caribbean.
FIU and USAID have had a 40-year relationship, Power noted, beginning in the early '80s with a small grant for justice system reform in Latin America. Since then, FIU faculty and researchers have joined USAID in launching groundbreaking reforms throughout the world, including providing cybersecurity training in Ukraine.
Power praised FIU students for their “resilience and perseverance” and FIU for serving as a “cornerstone” for first-generation students and those who are Pell-eligible.
The new partnership, created through USAID’s Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Partnerships Initiative, will enable USAID to be “more intentional” about reaching out to FIU students, including offering three new paid internships at the agency’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, she said.
“This is a great day for us and especially for our students,’’ said Jose Miguel Cruz, director of research at FIU's LACC. “Thank you to USAID for your trust in FIU’s work and especially for your trust in our students.”
Pierina Anton Lopez '20, the first FIU recipient of USAID’s prestigious Donald M. Payne Graduate Fellowship, introduced Power to the assembled audience just one day after Anton Lopez returned from Tanzania, where she was working with the Global Campaign for Education-US.
A former member of the Green School’s Model UN program who earned a degree in international relations, Anton Lopez is now a graduate student at Georgetown University pursuing her master’s degree in global human development with a specialization in education.
“Pierina is a great example of the talent that will support the USAID mission and the spirit of this [agreement],’’ Cruz said.
After graduation, Anton Lopez will join USAID as a foreign service officer.
“Pierina has already helped us as an intern at USAID in our Africa bureau, educating children in conflict zones and combating violence against girls in school,” Power said.
“Pierina, we cannot wait until you join our foreign service as the first Donald M. Payne Graduate Fellow from FIU,’’ she added. “You may be the first but it is our job to make sure that you are by no means the last.’’