“Miami in Miami” Course Transforms Students Into Tourists

Students Nathalie Sandin, Kassandra Casanova-Luna, Naullila Soares, Victoria Smith and Mara Vukovic at Vizcaya. Courtesy of John Bailly.

Joy Serrano/Contributing Writer

What does it mean to be from the 305? Starting this Fall, FIU Honors College students have a chance to find out. 

The FIU Honors College will provide a new course offering titled “Miami in Miami” which will explore  the “historical, social, and cultural” identity of Miami, according to Honors College professor John Bailly’s “Miami in Miami” syllabus.

A French–American artist born in the United Kingdom, professor Bailly has been a Faculty Fellow of the Honors College at Florida International University since 2004.

“Culture is a way to understand people, and it’s something that we’re definitely approaching in a new way. I want students to be able to look for and identify an authentic cultural manifestation,” said Bailly, noting that his background in art and experience as a traveler give his approach to teaching a new cultural dimension, with an emphasis on human connection and artistic appreciation. 

Professor Bailly’s classes explore the intersection of art, history, and culture, and the controversies surrounding these. He teaches courses  like “Art Society Conflict” and “Poetry Art Community”

The class’s structure mirrors that of other classes taught by professor Bailly, where students go on frequent excursions to places relevant to course content.

Excursions will include a tour of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and Vizcaya Village in Coconut Grove, the former winter home of businessman James Deering, of the Deering McCormick-International Harvester fortune in the early 1900s. However, the mansion and gardens are better known to Miami residents as a popular Quinceañera photo-op location, which emphasizes the multicultural aspect of Miami.

“Each excursion is different,” said Bailly. “When we go to the Everglades, we’re experiencing the natural world that we live in. When we go to Vizcaya, we see European culture arriving on the continent. When we go to the Deering Estate, we see Paleo-Indian fossils,” said Bailly. “All of these in combination lead to the experience of a unique, authentic Miami.”

For assignment credit, the class steers away from the traditional essay format, and students will instead write thoughtful reflections about their visits in the Miami as Text blog, using images to convey their thoughts and reactions to their class trips. 

Students will also visit the Wynwood art district, Downtown Miami, the HistoryMiami Museum, as well as elements of the “day-to-day” culture of Miami, like the Miami Metrorail and the Little Haiti Cultural Complex and surrounding neighborhoods.

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