How Florida Memorial University, South Florida’s only HBCU, is designing a digital pathway for Miami’s future workforce.
By: Dr. Jaffus Hardrick, President of Florida Memorial University
The very purpose of institutions of higher learning is to foster innovation, creativity, and critical thinking to prepare students for an ever-changing world. Rapidly evolving tech and the global market pose major challenges to the traditional model of higher education. At Florida Memorial University (FMU), we believe there is no better way to develop strong foundational skills than hands-on learning with real-world applications.
Florida Memorial University is a private, coeducational institution with the distinction of being one of the oldest academic centers in the state and the only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in South Florida. More than 14% of the student population are international students representing Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
According to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), HBCUs provide a stable and nurturing environment for low-income, first-generation college students who are at risk of not entering or completing college. Many of these students are academically underprepared for college, yet they’re precisely the students that the country most needs to obtain college degrees.
FMU is among the leading HBCUs in the nation, leveraging partnerships with public and corporate partners to develop academic training and certification programs in emerging markets. FMU offers undergraduate and graduate programs in high-demand fields that prepare students for successful careers in the global marketplace. FMU graduates enjoy the sixth-highest starting salaries in the state.
To remain relevant, institutions of higher learning must embrace change and innovate. This means moving away from the traditional lecture format toward more interactive and collaborative learning experiences. The School of Arts and Sciences and its associated departments focus on creating future leaders who can adapt to a changing world, critical thinkers, quantitative reasoners, complex task managers, entrepreneurial thinkers, and impactful communicators. Under the Department of Health and Natural Sciences, a challenging yet nurturing learning environment equipped with the latest technology in Radiochemistry, Chemistry, Biology, and Health Care is offered to our student body. In combining science with data analytics, information systems and management, law, and digital art, FMU curates an engaging hands-on experience for students to thrive and become trailblazers.
Our nationally recognized Cybersecurity Center by the National Security Agency (NSA) provides a venue for cybersecurity awareness and outreach that encourages collaboration on partnerships with community needs and interdisciplinary exchanges. FMU students are given the premium advantage through a strong pipeline to the cybersecurity workforce through cyber defense education in cybersecurity principles, information assurance, network security, computer forensics, cryptography, risk assessment and mitigation, disaster recovery and management, cybersecurity security regulations and compliance, and cybersecurity management.
In addition, The Innovation, Technology, Entertainment, and Esports (ITE) program provides students with an interest in recreational or competitive gaming an opportunity to learn about the history, business, and culture of the multibillion-dollar video game industry. Students from any major or academic discipline can opt to take courses in ITE with a focus on Esports. Elective courses may be combined with a degree in Computer Science, Communications, Music Production, Business Management, or another. Industry workshops are offered regularly on Cryptocurrency, the Metaverse, VR/AR immersive content, Artificial Intelligence, and NFT.
FMU will continue to serve as a leader in Aviation & Safety in the local and global arena. The program serves as the focal point of technological education. We offer rigorous programs designed to educate future aviators, airport managers, air traffic controllers, and aviation maintenance of the aerospace industry. Among many other facets, our programs stress critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, teamwork, problem-solving, human resource development, and written and oral communications. Our students gain a broad perspective of the aerospace industry, the environments in which it operates, and its impact on global transportation and economics.
Our School of Business positions our students and graduates for a competitive advantage in the workforce through a robust internship opportunity with our partners such as Morgan Stanley, PNC Bank, BankUnited iCARE Program, Insperex, to name a few. Our Graduate program in the School of Business provides students with research training and leadership experience that establishes them as global leaders equipped to tackle complex challenges in the global economy. Furthermore, as an HBCU, our students are immersed in various student organizations and activities and Professional Development Programs that promote character, scholarship, leadership, and ethical values that will shape their business practices and acumen.
Our School of Education remains the beacon of academia, working comprehensively with the Center for Teaching and Learning to promote research-based pedagogical practices through faculty professional development, scholarship of teaching and learning, and educational technology innovation. The rigorous curriculum provides real-world training to students who can immediately transition to the classroom with expertise in Reading, Exceptional Student Education (ESE), and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Future educators complete their field experiences and internship with credentialled and highly effective practitioners in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach school districts. Fellowship through the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) positions FMU students with paid experiential learning opportunities founded on the core values of scholarship, leadership, and service.
Nothing would be possible without the persistent and relentless determination of the professional staff in FMU’s Center for Academic Resources and Support (CARS), who helps all students learn resources and strategies for success in college, especially students in their critical first year at FMU. Our CARS team partners with students, faculty, and staff to help students create strong pathways and networks of support for their academic careers at FMU and beyond. Specifically, CARS helps foster student success by coordinating First-Year Experience (FYE), programming through Summer Bridge programs, New student onboarding and Orientation (NSO), Placement testing (PERT) and initial college transcripts evaluation, FMU 101 and 102 freshmen seminar courses, which include weekly coursework and periodic All-Freshmen Forums (first-year student seminars), and New Student Convocation.
FMU is working tirelessly to develop an educational enterprise that will enable our future graduates to possess a composite of cognitive flexibility, digital literacy, computational thinking, sound judgment and decision-making, emotional and social intelligence, and, above all, a creative and innovative mindset. It is, however, equally important that we create pathways for non-traditional students to uplift their social and economic status in our community. The Office of Continuing Education and Professional Studies (CEPS) provides quality training and learning experiences through masterclasses, continuing education courses, certificate programs, industry certifications, corporate training, Experience Counts for Credit (EC4C) pathway, personal enrichment, and leisure studies, and community education programs. FMU continues to change lives through our Workforce Development programs, such as the Certificate Program in Construction Trades in partnership with the Lennar Foundation and Miami Dolphins Foundation.
Looking ahead, it is clear that higher education must continue to evolve in order to stay relevant. We must be willing to embrace new technologies and approaches that can help us better serve our students and communities. At the same time, we must also be introspective, examining our own practices and policies in order to ensure they remain effective and current.
This is the third essay in an ongoing series with Opportunity Miami’s Academic Leaders Council, which includes the presidents of the University of Miami, Miami Dade College, Florida International University, Florida Memorial University, St. Thomas University, and Barry University, along with the Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The essay series, called “The Class of 2040: Essays on the next-generation workforce,” explores how we will meet the talent development needs of the future. Opportunity Miami is powered by Miami-Dade Beacon Council.