Fiu To Work With Chinese On Hospitality School
By Suzy Valentine
The Chinese government – through its local representatives in Tianjin, the Republic of China’s third-largest city – has approved a budget of up to $25 million for development of a hospitality school endorsed and run by Florida International University.
Plans for construction, which officials at FIU’s Institute of Hospitality & Tourism Education & Research predict will cost $20 million, should gain approval within a few weeks and groundbreaking could take place this fall, an FIU official said. The remaining $5 million is earmarked for administration of the project and recruitment of staff and students.
"The concepts were approved Aug. 13, so getting the go-ahead for the more detailed plans from the architects and designers should be a formality only," said Lee Dixon, associate dean in FIU’s department of hospitality management. "I suspect that construction will be under way within the next couple of months, and I am confident that the school will open for business in 2006 as planned.
"It may be tight, so instruction may start at the new school or it may begin in the existing classrooms at the Tianjin University of Commerce. We are still e-mailing layout diagrams back and forth."
Ranked first in the Southeast and sixth nationwide, FIU’s hospitality school, which will lend its name and expertise to the project, has appointed Peng Lu, China program project officer, to oversee development from here and in China.
"He is spending half the year in Miami and half in Tianjin," Mr. Dixon said. "He will be at the FIU campus this time until the end of next month. He is very well-connected in the city, a personal friend of the vice mayor and minister of education."
Miami faculty members are also involved. The institute’s director, Joan Lemington, visited the site in July and interviewed prospective faculty members with a view to their coming to Miami in January for training, and Dean Joseph West plans a trip in November to finalize who will be selected to spend a semester at FIU’s Biscayne Bay campus in preparation for the opening.
Students, meanwhile, are being targeted through a poster campaign that promises all the benefits of an education from a prestigious US university but with the attraction of studying at home.
Mr. Dixon said Chinese students would pay significantly more than their US counterparts.
Although the school’s planned capacity is 1,000, it may take a couple of years before that many students enroll.
"In the first instance, we expect that students will come to the school by transferring from other colleges within the university or other universities in China once they learn about the program," Mr. Dixon said. "There is a minimum credit requirement before they will be allowed onto the course."
Tianjin students will be housed in a 16-story tower with a four-story wraparound construction. The tower will include student housing and a cafeteria. One side of the wraparound structure will consist of classrooms, the other is to form housing for graduates of the school.