Florida Memorial University, the only historically black college or university in South Florida, moved from St. Augustine to Miami in 1968. Nearly forty-five years later, one of the objectives of the new president, Henry Lewis III, is to connect the university, formerly known as Florida Memorial College, to the Miami-Dade County community.
Since Lewis was named president in 2010 he has travelled frequently from FMU’s campus in Miami Gardens to speak in Overtown, with future speaking engagements planned for Liberty City, North Miami, Opa-locka and Miami Lakes. Throughout Miami-Dade County, his message is the same: Florida Memorial University has unlimited potential. Community involvement will help FMU become a more powerful, educational and social force throughout south Florida.” His vision is to make FMU a “world class university,” moving it from good to great.
In a recent interview, Lewis gave me examples of the traditional “town and gown” model where colleges and universities are separated from the local community. Once enrolled, even local students become isolated from what goes on off-campus. Item No. 8 on his Vision 2020 Plan is to “implement community service-learning for all FMU students.”
Community service-learning is not a new concept. In 1985 Campus Compact was created by then presidents of Brown, Georgetown and Stanford universities and the president of the Education Commission of the States, to coordinate community engagement of students and faculty. Now Campus Compact is a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents in 34 states, and 6 million students are participating.
Campus Compact members in the state of Florida include Barry University, Bethune-Cookman University, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, Miami Dade College, the University of Florida, and the University of Miami. Each institution develops its own program. FMU will begin with service-learning experiences that are beneficial for both students and the community.