University emphasizes benefits of public-private partnerships

Carlos Coba/Staff Writer

Public-private partnerships are well underway at the University, regardless of critics.

Contracts with Academic Partnerships and Royal Caribbean are in the process of being finalized, while a partnership with Zoo Miami was finalized on July 16.

The increase in partnerships with private businesses has received negative feedback from some faculty. In fact, the Faculty Senate passed a formal resolution demanding faculty vote on future contracts regarding the University’s partnership with AP to launch its online program, FIU Global Learning.

FIU Global Learning will focus on expanding the online MBA partnership with AP, signed in 2009, by marketing it to Latin America and various other countries.

 “I expect that those who do not see the benefits are further from the direct interaction with the partners,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Douglas Wartzok.

Wartzok said he believes that regardless of whether enrollment quotas are met or not, the university benefits from a partnership with a company that is good at marketing the program, increases enrollment and tuition revenue.

“We are an academic institution,” said Wartzok. “We hired AP as a marketing partner because they do that well.”

While FIU Global Learning focuses on online academic programs, the university’s partnership with Royal Caribbean plans to build new facilities at Biscayne Bay Campus.

Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Lunsford has a positive attitude on the partnership with Royal Caribbean and the advantages the university will gain because of it.

“The potential is for the entire university to benefit [from] expanded curriculum, internships, increased population at BBC and increased usage of current BBC facilities,” said Lunsford.

Lunsford also said that the number of career opportunities for BBC students will increase with Royal Caribbean’s presence at job fairs.

Once the contract has been signed, the cruise line will begin the construction of a 45,000 square-foot training facility, which will be open to access certain schools within the university. Royal Caribbean staff will also reside in BBC’s Bay Vista housing, which will be renovated.

Lunsford cleared up any misconceptions about forced relocation of Bay Vista student residents to MMC, which, he insists, will not happen.

“[Bay Vista] is in poor condition and was planned to be closed even if [Royal Caribbean] had not come into the picture,” said Lunsford.

Lunsford said students that had planned to return to Bay Vista have the following choices: relocate to Modesto Maidique Campus, live at home or find an apartment in the area surrounding BBC.

New BBC student housing is projected to be ready by 2015.

“In my opinion, this [partnership] is an excellent route to pursue,” said Lunsford. “We could get the BBC housing built quicker going this route.”

Whereas AP and Royal Caribbean partnerships are in negotiation, the Zoo FIU lecture series, in partnership with Zoo Miami, started in May.

Executive Director of the School of Environment, Arts and Society Michael Heithaus gave one of  Zoo FIU’s lectures on July 26.

“Zoo Miami and FIU share a common mission to conserve biodiversity and educate people about animals and the environment,” said Heithaus. “By working together, we can generate more resources to outstanding educational internship opportunities for students.”

In addition, the partnership will involve students both in research and other activities at the zoo, including hospitality and tourism management.

Administrators agree that the partnerships provide the university with the opportunity to expand its resources, whether it is through internationally marketing an online curriculum, improving campus facilities or providing a better environment for research and internships.

[pullquote]”In the funding climate of today, partnerships are key to making an impact,” said Heithaus.[/pullquote]

Whether the benefits are as clear to faculty, staff and the student body remains to be seen.


About the Author

Carlos Coba
Assistant News Director of FIUSM. Political Science/ International Relations 2ble major, Journalism minor, Latin American and Caribbean Studies certificate.