South Florida colleges offer new degree programs
By Tom Harlan
South Florida colleges and universities are starting several new degree programs and partnerships as part of their fall offerings.
Florida International University, Miami Dade College, the University of Miami and Barry University are launching associate, masters and doctoral programs ranging from hospitality management to nursing. Some schools are adding partnerships with local businesses to improve training of students for jobs.
Miami Dade College is bulking its nursing program through an expanded partnership with Homestead Hospital. Students will be trained and eventually work at a new facility that will have more than 12 beds and state-of-the-art equipment and is scheduled to open in 2006, school officials said.
Nursing students have been helping the hospital for more than 15 years, said Gale Gordon, Homestead Hospital's vice president of nursing. When the new facility opens, the nursing staff will be able to accommodate more students, she said.
"We look forward to working with Miami Dade College," Ms. Gordon said. "They have supported our hospital, and many of the nurses are MDC graduates."
Miami Dade College is beginning an associate's degree program in hospitality and tourism management at its school of business. The program trains students to work at Miami-Dade County's 5,000 restaurants and 473 hotels, school officials said.
"This new degree program will empower students with the training they need to join the vibrant hospitality and tourism industry," said college president Eduardo J. PadrŪn.
The hospitality-management program was developed to cover three key areas - hotel management, culinary management and cruise-line operations. The program prepares students to manage restaurants and hotels, convention bureaus, trade shows, hotel operations and cruise lines, said David Countin, director of the program.
"The program is designed to support tourism in Miami," Mr. Countin said. He said the industry employs one of nine Miami-Dade County residents.
The local hospitality and tourism industry caters to more than 10.5 million visitors and 2 million residents, according to college statistics.
The MDC program has 825 students. Not all of them are working toward the 63-credit-hour degree, Mr. Countin said. He said some students are interested in obtaining a 12-credit-hour certificate in hospitality or updating an existing skill.
Many of the program's students are veteran hotel employees working toward a certificate to receive a promotion or to land a raise, Mr. Countin said. Others see the importance of attending classes to learn about new industry technology such as touch-screen ordering, he said.
In addition, hospitality managers are interested in a safety and sanitation class, which teaches students about Health Department requirements for restaurants, Mr. Countin said.
"The manager can go back and train employees on why these things need to be done," he said.
The program also offers traditional hospitality classes such as cooking classes that train students in preparing sauces and weighing products so they can deal with chefs and purchasing managers, he said.
Mr. Countin said school officials expect the program to grow through word of mouth. "We are becoming a leader in helping people come into the field or advance in the field," he said.
FIU officials are contributing to the growing South Florida biotech field with a biomedical-engineering doctoral program. Miami-Dade County bioscience businesses employ more than 26,000 and generate more than $4 billion in revenue, according to InternetCoast, an association of South Florida technology companies.
Eight students will take classes in the inaugural FIU program, created to build a talent pool for the local bioscience industry and to develop technology and offer research support. Doctoral candidates will take courses at FIU and work on research projects with area organizations and gain experience in engineering, product development and commercialization.
The program is designed to prepare students to perform industrial or academic research, said Richard Schoephoerster, head of the program. It also will help the local biotech industry, Mr. Schoephoerster said, citing a 2002 analysis of the industry by the Brookings Institution that revealed that a region must house biomedical research to attract biotech businesses.
With FIU's doctoral program, the Scripps Research Institute's plans to build a facility in Palm Beach County and a buildup of biomedical research at area universities, South Florida is poised to jump into the mix with other areas in the biotech arena, he said.
"Our new program is helping to put FIU and South Florida on the map in the biotechnology industry," he said.
Not all of the new programs will keep students in South Florida. FIU's Honors College is launching an accelerated medical-school program with the University of South Florida Medical School in Tampa.
At FIU's University Park campus, graduating high-school students with a minimum SAT score of 1,300 and a 3.7 grade-point average can enter the program, which guarantees admission to the USF Medical School upon completion.
Students can complete a medical degree in seven or eight years, school officials said.
Under a seven-year track, students will complete the first three years of study at FIU and then complete their fourth year in residence at USF, which will count as their first year of medical school. The students will receive a bachelor's degree following the first year of medical school at USF.
The program begins with a summer institute that exposes students to two pre-med courses, including a research course. Students work in a lab and can determine early if they want to pursue medicine, said Ivelaw Griffith, dean of FIU's Honors College.
In addition, an advisor counsels students on how to navigate through their pre-med coursework. The program offers preparatory classes for the Medical College Admissions Test and helps place students in clinics where they can receive 30 hours of clinical experience required by medical schools.
The program has eight students and may expand to 25 over the next three years, Mr. Griffith said. "We don't want a large group of students who don't meet the requirements to get into USF," he said.
The program's students are a diverse group from public and parochial schools and are a good representation of South Florida, he said. They will take required pre-med and honors courses, he said, and community service will be required.
The partnership program will help relieve the stress of getting into medical school because students will have a guarantee that if they work hard to meet stringent criteria, they will have the opportunity to attend USF medical school, he said.
"We are making significant investment in the future leaders of South Florida," he said. "We expect great returns from that investment."