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Federal health department formalizes interest in recruiting FIU students
The first conversations around a new agreement between FIU and HHS began last year with the visit to campus of, second from right, Assistant Secretary for Administration at HHS Cheryl Campbell, who met with, left to right, Provost, Executive Vice President and COO Elizabeth Béjar, Trustee Chanel T. Rowe, President Kenneth E. Jessell and HHS Region 4 Director Antrell Tyson.

Federal health department formalizes interest in recruiting FIU students

The Department of Health and Human Services already employs hundreds of FIU graduates, and a new agreement will encourage current students with a variety of majors to take their talents to Washington.

December 8, 2023 at 12:30pm

FIU’s reputation as a fast-rising, anchor public research institution that exemplifies the university of the future has again generated collaboration with a major federal entity.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) comprises 12 agencies and has a core mission to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans. In a major endorsement of FIU’s potential to amplify HHS and help it meet is goals, the department has signed an agreement with the university that will open up job and internship opportunities for its students.

“We are looking to bring the next generation of thought leaders to the federal government,” said Cheryl Campbell, assistant secretary for administration at HHS. “This is really for the FIU students, to make sure they transition the knowledge they’ve learned and the sacrifices that their parents have made to enhance their knowledge of and interest in career opportunities within HHS.”

The secretary's words reference FIU's standing as the nation's larges Hispanic Serving Institution. Nearly half of students are bilingual, and 86% are minority. “The stories of their families are replicated across the nation and can serve as a foundation for greater representation and deeper understanding within HHS and other organizations,” said FIU Provost, Executive Vice President and COO Elizabeth Béjar, who met with Campell alongside FIU students and alumni for the signing ceremony at the The Hubert H. Humphrey Federal Building in Washington, D.C.

Béjar reminded those present that hundreds of FIU alumni work for HHS and its agencies and that the department this year made $55 million in research investments in the university.

Located in Miami, at the crossroads of the Americas, FIU serves a growing, diverse population with unique needs, something HHS recognizes. The Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work and the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences, for example, take seriously the charge to graduate healthcare professionals with the cultural competence need to support and improve health outcomes and quality of care.

The broad activities of HHS, however, rely on employees with academic backgrounds well beyond the health sciences, including a range of disciplines such as environmental science, economics, law, communications, biomedical engineering, computer science and business. Students across the university are encouraged to participate in recruiting opportunities and mentorship initiatives with HHS.

FIU Trustee Chanel T. Rowe JD ’14 last year made key introductions that helped lead to the signing of a document that spells out a meaningful relationship between the university and the government department. Rowe is senior counsel, litigation policy and risk mitigation, for global medical device and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and a longtime South Floridian who understands the value that FIU can bring to an organization seeking broad thinking and new perspectives.

“Helping to initiate this pivotal pipeline partnership between HHS and FIU was a huge honor. These two entities are aligned in their mission to improve public health and increase employment and educational opportunities in underrepresented and underserved communities,” Rowe said. “FIU students, alumni and the greater community will benefit tremendously from this intentional effort on the part of HHS.”

Antrell Tyson, HHS region 4 director, added, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recognizes the need for continued progress towards diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. This signing is an incredible testament of FIU’s understanding of the need to recruit, retain, and educate a diverse student body. It is also an important step toward expanding both the size and diversity of the HHS workforce.”

The agreement comes on the heels of a blockbuster partnership that FIU signed last week with Baptist Health, South Florida’s largest not-for-profit healthcare system, to develop a comprehensive alliance that will drive clinical, research, and health education advancements in the region. It also follows a line of agreements with other federal departments and agencies, among them U.S. Agency for International Development, the Departments of State and the Department of Energy.  

Students present at the signing applauded its ramifications.

“This is a great opportunity for students to continue their work of health advocacy, practices and policies at the federal level in a way that will benefit our country as a whole,” said Ness Cruz, a junior majoring in International Relations, who as an FIU Hamilton Scholar advocated on behalf of FIU researchers focused on LGBTQ health issues. “Especially for a school like FIU, a largely minority-serving institution, this is a great way for policies that affect these communities to be voiced by those who are affected by them.”

Kyomi Cabral contributed to this article.