The Sunday Briefing – Feb. 9, 2020

Dear colleagues,

Universities like to brag about their alumni given their incredible talent and accomplishments! One of the recent memorable statements about alumni success comes from the comedian Stephen Colbert. In a magnanimous act of self description he saluted his alma mater by pointing out that it “has graduated best-selling authors, Olympians, presidential candidates, Grammy winners, Peabody winners, Emmy winners, and that’s just me!”

I’ve got to tell you that our alumni have accomplished some amazing things as well. They epitomize the hope and opportunity that is our FIU! They may not be as self absorbed in the description of their accomplishments, but they consistently and generously share their experiences and lessons learned with our students.

We have just come through a very special week of meeting with and hearing from our alumni with the 2020 edition of Panther Alumni Week. PAW was a brainchild of our dedicated and forever Panther and FIU Trustee Gerald C. Grant Jr. ’78, MBA ’89. His goal was, and remains, to inspire alumni to come back to campus and re-engage with their alma mater while also helping current students prepare for their futures and the great opportunities that lie ahead. Grant epitomizes the hope that is our institution. He continues to play an important role in PAW – for example, this year he spoke to an Honors College class.

Since its founding in 2012, Panther Alumni Week has connected thousands of alumni with more than 21,000 students (average of 3,000 students per year). The program has grown to include speed-networking events at MMC and BBC, as well as 31 in-class visits during which alumni share insights and answer student questions about their real-world career – and life – experiences. This year over 250 alumni participated with face-to-face discussions and panels directed to our currently enrolled students.

In addition, colleges and schools across the university hosted their own PAW events highlighting their alumni, including panels, networking mixers, an alumni composers concert at MBUS, an alumni art exhibition (currently on display in GC), and more.

PAW has also grown this year to include a significant online presence. This includes webinars hosted by alumni; social media takeovers during which alumni give viewers insider peeks at their day-to-day work lives; and the FIU Mentor online platform, which connects alumni and students from anywhere in the world for mentorship opportunities. 

For instance, Cindy Makita ’18, a South African international student, a career strategist and coach who founded Hired Institute, hosted a webinar on Friday called “Job Hunt Success: How to Have an Intentional and Successful Job Hunt.” She also took over the @FIUalumni Instagram stories and provided real-time career advice to students and alumni who submitted questions to her throughout the day.

In addition to visiting classes and seminars, alums also tried some new interactions. This year’s PAW featured a 5K run led by alum Joel Gandara ’03 with Honors students followed by a luncheon during which Joel and the students discussed goal setting. 

During PAW, alumni also gathered to cheer on the Panthers at this year’s FIU v. FAU men’s basketball game. Notable athletics alumni also returned to campus to play in the Celebrity Sweat Flag Football Challenge hosted at FIU, including Jonathan Cyprien ’12 of the Atlanta Falcons, Jonnu Smith ’17 of the Tennessee Titans, T.Y. Hilton ’13 of the Indianapolis Colts, and retired Miami Heat point guard Carlos Arroyo ’01.

Although we are relatively young as institutions of higher education go, we now have the virtue of a large, diverse and innovative group of alumni who are finding multiple ways to give back and help currently enrolled students become successes. Imagine a world in just a few years, where we can seamlessly connect through advanced information technology all our current students with former students now successfully employed and ready to share life’s lessons with their fellow Panthers. When this happens, we will more readily see that the Stephen Colbert-level talent and accomplishment is more generally realized than previously known. Our Panther network will be an additional source of hope and opportunity to foster student success. This day is fast approaching! Are you ready?!

In the Panther spirit,

Mark B. Rosenberg