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August 18, 2018

Up Front - The Publisher's Column

In step with Florida's public universities

Andrew P. Corty | 10/28/2015

Florida’s 12 public universities fall into three categories — the gigantic, the medium and the tiny.

Six universities are really large — UCF, USF, UF, FSU, Florida International and Florida Atlantic, each with more than 30,000 students.

The four midsized schools are North Florida, West Florida, FAMU and Florida Gulf Coast, which all fall in the 10,000 to 16,000 range.

The tiny ones are New College and Florida Poly, with fewer than 1,000 students apiece.

I have visited FIU and FAU in recent months. Both have energetic, gregarious presidents in Mark Rosenberg and John Kelly, who are friendly sorts and easily accessible to their students. They both know how to pull the levers to create fine institutions, and they both share grand visions.

Surprising to many, Miami’s FIU is the state’s second-largest university with almost 55,000 students. From busy SW 8th Street, it doesn’t look like much. But once you enter the campus, the energy is palpable. The only thing holding back FIU is the need for more land, and the adjacent county park offers great opportunity for more dorms, more academic buildings and an economic engine for the entire region.

The same can be said of Florida Atlantic. Long a commuter school in Boca Raton in southern Palm Beach County, it’s easy to drive by on busy Glades Road without giving a look. That would be a mistake. There is a sense of excitement and community that’s hard to describe.

I toured FAU last month, visiting the business school, the engineering school, Tech Park and the K-12 Lab School. That snapshot demonstrated impressive forward motion. FAU develops a huge cohort of ready-to-work grads, along with an impressive array of youngsters on the rise.

I also attended the sold-out Division I football game between the FAU Owls and the Miami Hurricanes; the Owls held on for a competitive first half before the Canes pulled away for the win.

While I’m not a big football fan — partly because of the violence, overpaid coaches and drinking — I was impressed by the atmosphere. Football creates tremendous community spirit. The game pulled together students (loud rock music tents, body paint, you get the idea), alumni herding their children along, local citizens and the trustee set of well-heeled donors, politicians and the like. Traffic was a nightmare. Parking lots were full. Yet I think everyone went away satisfied.

Universities create communities that last a lifetime. We all know Gators or Seminoles or Rattlers or Bulls or Knights. Now the FIU Panthers and the FAU Owls are on the map also.

We live in a multi-hued state. I count many African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians among my friends, as well as members of the LGBT community. So I stand with Pope Francis — “who am I to judge?” We should let every individual live his or her life to the fullest with the friends and lovers they select. I invite you to see Florida Trend’s package of articles on diversity (page 94 of the magazine).

Fitness update: Perhaps I’m late to the game, but the phone in my pocket now has a step counter. A common goal is 10,000 steps per day. My average was 9,442 over the last month. Not bad. But I really should push the goal to 12,500 steps — or even 15,000 per day. Either way, it’s a step in the right direction.

— Andy Corty

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