University expansion a ‘priority’ on FIU Day

Jasiel Lopez/Staff Writer

A delegation of FIU administrators, faculty, board of trustees members and student government representatives traveled to Tallahassee to meet with state legislators for FIU Day on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

Each year for the last 15 years representatives of FIU have traveled to Tallahassee to meet with legislators and promote the university’s agenda in a tradition known as FIU Day.

The group spent the day lobbying on behalf of FIU on issues important to the university. Among the priorities for which FIU advocates are the construction of the Engineering building at the MMC campus, the Science and Laboratory Complex, FIU University-Industry Research & Development Lab, FIU Targeted STEM Initiative and Plant Operation & Maintenance funding, according to FIU’s Office of Governmental Relations website.

 

“[We] represent FIU’s priorities and its needs to the capital,” said Krista Schmidt, president of SGC-MMC. “It’s really important that we travel to the capital, we speak with legislators and explain to them what FIU is all about,” added Schmidt, who was in Tallahassee for FIU Day.

One of the main requests made to the state legislature is $20 million in funds for phases I & II of the engineering building.

“FIU’s priorities are student centers initiatives like our Targeted STEM and University-Industry R&D Lab initiatives. We are also focused on another round of funding for the Engineering Building,” said Christopher Cantens, director of state relations at the Office Governmental Relations.

The Governmental Relations’ ‘State Priorities’ webpage states that the engineering building will house classrooms, laboratories and collaboration spaces for approximately 1,400 engineering students. The facility will allow FIU to continue to innovate and expand its STEM education program.

Schmidt pointed out that the location of the engineering center, outside of MMC campus is difficult on engineering students who must commute between the campuses.

“A new facility would help with a lot of the problems the engineering center is having now,” Schmidt said.

In addition to requesting funding for the engineering building, FIU has also sought to expand its STEM programs. FIU requested $5 million in new funding for those initiatives.

Leonardo Cosio, President of SGC-BBC, attended FIU Day and met with Florida lawmakers in Tallahassee. He suggested that the university wants to make STEM education central.

“Students in STEM tend to graduate with higher salaries and legislators look at that,” said Cosio.

The budget proposal by the Florida Senate includes $200,000 for STEM initiatives. The STEM initiatives is a multi-year plan which would require successive funding by the Florida legislature.

Cosio pointed out that it is often difficult to acquire funding for initiatives because other universities in the State University System are also vying for funds from the state legislature.

“There’s competition with other public schools. Some of the legislators are also graduates from these other schools,” said Cosio.

In addition to competition for the limited funds to public state universities, a tighter state budget also makes it difficult to secure funding, said Cantens.

Despite the challenges, Cantens is hopeful that FIU can secure victories in Tallahassee.

“We have been extremely lucky that the Miami-Dade legislative delegation has been able to put all of FIU’s priorities in either the Senate or House proposed budgets. This means there is a possibility that FIU can have all of our priorities funded,” said Cantens.

This year’s FIU Day was more productive according to Cosio, who said, “I think it went better than last year. We were able to put the right students in front [legislators] to tell their stories.”

More than requesting money for the university, FIU Day is also an opportunity to hear from legislators on what they want from state universities.

“It’s important to keep an open line of communication, not just one day a year,” said Cosio.

Some of the metrics that the senate and house budget proposals include for its performance based funding are graduation rates, percent of employed graduates and average costs to students. The performance of universities on these metrics could determine the funding they receive.

Cantens believes that FIU students meeting with state lawmakers play an important role in lobbying efforts.

“FIU day was a great success overall. This year’s SGA leaders, MMC President Krista Schmidt, VP Jose Sirven, BBC President Leo Cosio and Sabrina Rosell as well as the rest of the students who came up did an amazing job in advocating for FIU,” said Canten.

Both of FIU’s SGA presidents expressed positive reactions to meeting with lawmakers in Tallahassee.

“People are recognizing FIU, we do have a strong alumni strong. It was a good feeling going to the capitol and seeing FIU is becoming well known which helps us gain more support,” Schmidt said.

According to the Tampa Bay times, both the house and the senate passed their respective budget proposals. However, both budgets need to be reconciled into one in the next couple of weeks.

The Florida legislative session ends Friday, March 9.

 

Feature Image retrieved from FIU Governmental Relations Twitter.

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