Florida International University
FIU Honors College
Within Florida International University resides a gem that is the FIU Honors College. The program is currently home to 2,750 students who are constantly striving for academic undergraduate excellence. However, they also live by the motto, “More than a major.” Success requires a toolkit that involves both intellectual and vocational capabilities, and the college works with this goal in mind for its students.
Leading the charge is Dr. Juan Carlos Espinosa, Dean of FIU’s Honors College. Dean Espinosa was born in Havana, Cuba, and grew up in Hialeah, Florida. He attended and graduated from Miami Springs Senior High School and went on to Florida State University to obtain his degree in International Relations. He received his Ph.D from the University of Miami. “Although FSU is my alma mater, FIU is where my heart is,” Dean Espinosa says.
After arriving at FIU, he worked his way up through many positions before becoming Dean. He came in as an Associate Dean and instructor and later became the Interim Dean before becoming the official Dean of the Honors College. It’s easy to tell that he was passionate about the Honors College and its students. He shares President Rosenberg’s opinion that the Honors College is: “A centerpiece of undergraduate excellence. The gold standard.” He also explains that some of the best courses have been based on student proposals. Courses on public policy and climate change came to fruition because of dedicated Honors College students who were looking to learn more. The students are constantly pushing the university to be better and vice versa.
Dean Espinosa goes on to describe FIU as a mirror of the community. The university both reflects and serves Hispanic and impoverished community members. Many of the students attending the Honors College are either on scholarship or financial aid and come from all walks of life. A good portion of them also come from feeder schools such as Miami Dade and Broward College. Students do their first two years at a more affordable college and then feed into the Honors Program at FIU. Dean Espinosa referred to many of these transfer students as “rockets” and “incredible stars.” The youngest to graduate from the FIU Honors College was sixteen years old, while the oldest was in her mid-sixties. At the end of our chat, the Dean leaves us with his own personal motto: “Always ask questions.” He spoke about how the students who are the most driven and the most curious get the most out of their experience at FIU. Nothing is handed to you, and those who take initiative benefit the most. “You need to have the right attitude and entrepreneurial spirit.”
Dean Espinosa is particularly proud of FIU’s Model UN team, which has grown immensely over the years. So much so, that in 2019, it was declared the #1 Team in North America. The program outshines both public and private universities throughout the continent. The Panther Mock Trial team is also only a few years old and is quickly climbing the rankings.
Over the years, the university and the Honors College have grown at a tremendous rate. The Faculty Scholars Program was created in 1972 and unknowingly served as the precursor to the FIU Honors College. However, before there was a college, it was known as the Honors Program. The program started out in 1990, admitting only 100 students, with the idea that they could take a group of gifted and curious students to help broaden their academic and holistic understanding of the world. The program continued to grow, until finally, in 1997, it became the Honors College.
Florida International University and the Honors College realized the importance of allowing students an opportunity to experience and learn about cultures other than their own. Hence, the launch of the Spain & Italy Study Abroad Programs. These international programs allow students to earn credit while traveling and living in other countries. Today, a multitude of different programs and countries have been added to the list, where students are able to experience different languages, cuisines, cultures, and customs firsthand.
FIU has also begun offering a study abroad program of “Miami in Miami.” Students are able to learn about the city’s rich history, culture, and much more. To learn more about the program, click here.
In 1999, the Honors College finally opened a living-learning community that its students could call home: Honors Place. In these living-learning communities, students can grow, study, and get to know one another. Today, the community has expanded from its original 5 rooms to over 70 and was even named “Best Living and Learning Community” in the State of Florida by Florida Leader magazine. It is home to 596 first-year and upper-class honors students and 15 resident assistants.
In 2003, Student Research and Artistic Initiative (SRAI) was created as an opportunity for students to work with professors and faculty to conduct their own research. Students of all different majors and fields of interest are able to conduct their own research under the supervision of professors. This program eventually grew to become Advanced Research & Creativity in Honors (ARCH).
The Honors College itself has grown by 36% in the last decade alone. In the past 4 years, the number of students has jumped from 1,986 to 2,750. The opportunities offered to them have grown as well. Students are still given the freedom to work on creative projects and or do research, similar to that of graduate school students. Every year the research projects get put on display at the Advanced Research & Creativity in Honors (ARCH) Conference. On top of that, each Honors College student is guaranteed an internship. With all it has to offer, the college and its students, continue to flourish.
Most recently, the Honors College opened up the Edge Lab, a space where all university students have access to machinery for 3D-printing, sewing, embroidery, engraving, and much more. Students may come to utilize machinery or, for those who are new, to learn from the faculty. Today, in the face of the pandemic, the Edge Lab is 3D-printing protective face shields for Baptist Health workers. This is one of many ways that FIU positively impacts the communities surrounding it.
If you or someone you know is interested in applying to the FIU Honors College here’s a quick rundown of the process. Before applying to the Honors College, you must first apply to FIU. Click here to reach FIU’s general admissions page.
The Honors College
Modesto A. Maidique Campus
11200 SW 8th Street, DM 233
Miami, FL 33199
Phone: (305) 348-4100