Mackenzie Bartels/Staff Writer
While the University is still relatively new, it has taken strides big enough to rank among some of the older and more established universities in the country for its contributions to the public good.
The University ranked No. 24 out of 277 institutions that contribute to the public good, according to Washington Monthly’s 2014 rankings. This is a huge jump, given that the University was ranked No. 177 in 2009.
The rankings were based on three areas: social mobility, focusing on recruiting and graduating low-income students; research, focusing on producing cutting-edge scholarship and doctoral graduates; and service, focusing on encouraging students to give back to their country.
In the last year, 52 percent of students at the University received Pell Grants, $113 million went into faculty-led research and thousands of students and hundreds of faculty and staff have contributed more than 550,000 service hours of service to the community.
Irma Becerra-Fernandez, vice president of the Office of Engagement said that the additions and improvements the University has made to these categories since 2009 are significant to the community. The University’s engagement with the community is an important source of economic development and innovation for the region.
According to Amy Ellis, assistant director of Public Relations & Marketing, there are two major partnerships the University has established since 2009 that the Office of Engagement highlights as game-changers for all involved.
The Miami-Dade County Public Schools partnership in 2010 created the Achieving Community Collaboration in Education and Student Success program.
In 2011, the program called “Education Effect” was launched at Miami Northwestern Senior High School and Liberty City.
These two partnerships were formed to improve student success in public schools by connecting the students, parents and community with University resources and research-based programs in order to increase high school graduation rates as well as to promote a transition into higher education.
Other major community projects include Fostering Panther Pride, Green Family NeighborhoodHELP and work with the Center for Children and Families.
Washington Monthly ranked FIU as No. 16 for community service participation and hours served.
Another way that the University gives back to the public is through its Global Learning courses and activities, and its partnership with the Peace Corps.
Hilary Landorf, director of the Office of Global Learning Initiatives and a Peace Corps volunteer herself, said that programs like the Peace Corps Prep and the Global Learning Medallion are service-oriented academic programs in which students complete global learning courses and engage with the local or global community in substantial and meaningful ways.
Fernandez adds that these programs, as well as the ROTC program, are essential for student success in the University.
“When students are engaged with their university, they have a higher chance of persisting to graduation and higher GPAs,” she said. “That’s why we also promote internships and service learning. Internships provide the added benefit that students are twice as likely to get a job upon graduation.”
The University has built a foundation over the years with its increased internship opportunities and community outreach programs.
According to Washington Monthly, the percentage of students receiving support through Pell Grants raised from 34 percent in 2009 to 52 percent in 2014.
The University has serviced many students from different backgrounds. Most of the students are the first in their families to attend college, many of them carry full loads in school and at work, and many have overcome significant hurdles such as homelessness.
“We want to make sure that as FIU continues to improve in terms of our admission standards, students from our community are not excluded from the opportunity of a better life through education,” Fernandez said.