Biscayne Bay, a slow-to-grow campus

Video by Camila Fernandez

Written by Camila Fernandez/BBC Managing Editor

Walking alone through Academic One, President Mark B. Rosenberg felt he was being spied on in the empty building.

“It was Christmas Eve and I had forgotten some files up there. I looked at the main steps going up the second floor and there was a family of racoons sitting on the steps looking at me, wondering what I was doing,” said Rosenberg.

It was during this time in 1994 that Rosenberg was appointed founding dean to a newly-proposed College of Urban and Public Affairs at the Biscayne Bay Campus, then called North Miami Campus. He also founded the Latin American and Caribbean Center and wrote several books on Latin America.

“We had a vibrant college that was rapidly growing. It was a great place for me to work and to do my research,” Rosenberg said. “There’s only one Biscayne Bay in the world and we have the privilege of being on it,” he said.

The campus was inaugurated in 1977 during President Harold Crosby’s term, just five years after the Modesto A. Maidique Campus opened and the University came alive.

“It was an extraordinary piece of property that had significant potential in the northern part of the community for a FIU presence,” Rosenberg said.

“It was always intended to be an important location for FIU and its become that with the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Chaplin School, with the Creative Writing program and with the School of Environment, Arts and Society,” he said.

The campus site was originally projected to be a part of a cultural trade center called Interama. Construction dredged the bottom of the Biscayne Bay and acres of undiscovered mangroves were flattened.

The Interama dream soon died and North Miami signed a lease with Munisport Inc. to create a recreational facility over the 1,700 acres. However, Munisport got a permit to turn the site into a sanitary landfill, turning it into a toxic waste.

In the end, the site was divided between FIU and the county.

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Since 1983 during President Gregory Wolfe’s administration, the Biscayne Bay Campus housed over 500 students at Bay Vista Housing. However, due to its poor construction, it presented health-safety issues for student residents. Bay Vista Housing is now managed by Royal Caribbean Cruises. Images courtesy of Media Relations

Rosenberg said that in the future, he would like to see student enrollment at the BBC double to roughly 15,000, the SJMC and the SEAS have their own buildings, a hotel, a gallery and a new MAST @ FIU Academy.

“This is not about today or tomorrow. It’s about what we have to build for the sons and daughters of the graduates of today who will want to stay in Miami and get a great ‘world’s ahead’ education,” he said.

The current School of Hospitality & Tourism Management building housed the campus library, the University administration and a health clinic. Meanwhile, the Chaplin School was located at the MMC as the School of Hotel, Food and Travel Services.

It wasn’t until 1996 that the Chaplin School moved to the BBC, settling its own building to allow room for expansion at the main campus.

The son of a Russian immigrant and an acknowledged internationalist, President Gregory Wolfe played a significant role in establishing the Biscayne Campus in 1979. The campus was called the Bay Vista Campus.

With his charisma and “movie star” looks, Wolfe presided over Academic One, the first new major building begun during Crosby’s administration. He won approval and funds to move the University from an upper division to a full, four-year university.

Wolfe increased student enrollment at the BBC, built Bay Vista Housing in 1983, a new student center, an Aquatic Center and a library.

“Dr. Wolfe is one of the smartest and nicest people that I’ve ever met,” said Steven Moll, vice provost for the BBC. “He would always say [that this campus] is our diamond in the rough,” Moll said.

Moll, who was appointed Vice Provost as the last administrative decision by President Modesto Maidique in 2009, said the campus was built by leaders with great visions.

“I found a picture from 1978. It was my first year on the faculty [and] I was ‘the kid’. I looked at the picture and more than half of the people in the picture are dead,” Moll said. “So through the years you have these people who are mentors, friends, guides who made an impact on your life,” he said.

Raul Moncarz, University vice provost emeritus, was part of the International Banking Center which was formed during President Crosby’s term in 1978. He and other professors studied the impact for foreign banks on the economy.

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The new housing, Bay View Hall, was expected to be completed by this fall. However, due to late financial planning, it is now planned to be opened by fall 2016. Its main features includes study rooms, classrooms, a game room, a clubhouse, a resort style pool area and a view of the bay. Image by Marcia Aksu/FIUSM Staff

He became the BBC interim vice provost until 2006 after serving as chairperson for the Department of Economics.

“When I was chairperson of the Economics Department [at the MMC], I was mainly thinking of my research and my work, but thanks to the opportunity that I got [as interim vice provost], I started to think more about the students,” Moncarz said.

Moncarz also said that at the BBC, he helped increase the number of classes and programs.

Moll said that he would like to continue seeing more students and facilities on campus, as well as housing which is currently under process.

“But universities don’t typically move at a very fast pace which is kind of the charm of them. They’re very slow and deliberate, but they try to do things right the first time and get it right the first time,” said Moll.

Nevertheless, Moll said he is excited for new housing called Bay View Hall which is expected to be ready by fall 2016. Bay Vista Housing is now managed by Royal Caribbean Cruises for its employees as part of the University’s partnership with the company.

Over 200 students were forced to leave by May 1 of last year, leaving the BBC without any housing available for students. However, students were presented with health-safety issues like mold.

“I had a great roommate, I had a great space, I had my own room and we shared the kitchen and bathroom for a low cost,” said Magalie Gabriel, a junior hospitality major.

Gabriel was also a resident assistant and she said that despite of the facility issues, maintenance did a good job of keeping housing together.

“[Compared to the MMC], the community aspect in the dorm here is one, it’s not like ten. Everyone knew each other, everyone helped out,” said Gabriel.

She hopes that the University will have a café for the new residence hall. She said that when she lived in Bay Vista Housing, students struggled to get food unless there was an event happening on campus.

Seneka Jean-Jacques, a nursing sophomore major, said she cannot wait for the new housing so that she can be a RA.

“If they keep steady progression, I think there will be a lot more students.With the renovations, we get more students involved,” said Jean-Jacques.

Jean-Jacques was voted Lower Division Senator this spring, hoping that there will be more student campus life involvement. However, she said she enjoys the smaller more quiet environment of the campus.

“Versus other colleges that I’ve been to, I love the Biscayne Bay. You can always find a quiet spot, everybody knows everybody [and] it’s not like an awkward hello,” Jean-Jacques said. “I feel like a small fish in a big pond when I’m at MMC,” she said.

camila.fernandez@fiusm.com

About the Author

Camila Fernandez
A FIU School of Journalism and Mass Communications Student - Began working with Student Media in 2013.

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