A Student-First Approach to Fulfilling School Mission

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Monday, September 10, 2018
Dean Joanne Li of Florida International University shares with AACSB's Michael Wiemer how the school seeks to fulfill it's mission by focusing on their students.
Dean Joanne Li of Florida International University shares with AACSB's Michael Wiemer how the school seeks to fulfill it's mission by focusing on their students.


Michael Wiemer: [00:05] I'd like to start out asking you a little bit about the student body at Florida International University. As I understand it, FIU has the largest Hispanic student population of any U.S.-based business school. I believe that holds true for the business school at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. How did FIU achieve this very enviable position?

Joanne Li: [00:38] Florida International University is the largest Hispanic-serving public university in the country. That is a fact. FIU Business, as we call the college of business, FIU Business actually shares a similar profile for that. Most of our students actually, I would say, are first generation college students.

[00:57] Located in Miami, as you can imagine, the three counties involved in that area have over probably six million population. It's not uncommon that people talk about 70 percent of the population in that region will use a language other than English as the main language used in the household. FIU Business has to embody that probably very hard working.

[01:25] They go to school, but they also go work. They have to spend money. They help mom and dad pay bills, a very hardworking group of students. With that group of students, we have challenges. Our programs and our strategic goals are very, very intentional. Very deliberate in a way that we cater to that population.

[01:46] Making sure that our value proposition is while they're very strong, academic program, we also want to produce whole candidates. Whole candidates in a way that we will create fringe programs, as I call it. Let me give you an example. Recently we develop a software, a mobile app. We call it BizPass. The BizPass is for us to introduce what I call the essential skills.

[02:13] We focus on three aspect, professional, academic, and social. Imagine, let's say, AASCB comes and gives a talk about the accreditation importance, how impactful business education is being. We give you a QR code. Students come in, scan the QR code, attend the event, the end point.

[02:32] It's like a frequent flyer. Through this kind of program, they will be encouraged to participate.

[02:39] First, we actually create a big community of engagement. They want to be part of the school. Then at the tail end, we become a lot more deliberate. More intentional of putting student into programs that we believe are going to impact their learning journey with us.

[02:57] I'm actually very proud of this strategic goal we're doing to provide a wide array of professional, fringe programs for student. So when they get out, they will be a full-blown, well-trained professional.

Wiemer: [03:11] I'd like to ask you a question, Joanne, about your background, back when you were a student. Did your experiences as an international student help to inform the way that FIU Business serves and supports its international student body?

Li: [03:25] There's no doubt about it. My experience as an international student that actually give me a deeper understanding of the challenges that international student face. One of the attractive point about FIU Business, is that the student body is so diverse, very inclusive. Our students face a very different kind of set of problems.

[03:47] Unlike most other schools, we see that they want to increase diversity. Our student actually is very diverse. They walk into a place and expect everywhere should be like this. As an international student in the past, I understand. I think that as an international student in the past makes me understand to build a very strong sense of community is very important.

[04:12] I want a candidate to walk in and feel like this is home away from home. This is where my learning, my growing, will be done. As a dean and also as an international student in the past, I think that that's my number one commitment, to my number one constituency, is to continue to build a very strong sense of community, a sense of belonging.


Filmed April 2018 at ICAM in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

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