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FIU launches a new scholarship for essential workers and their dependents

by Monica Smith

May 20, 2020, 9:00 AM.

The Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management helps those on the front lines serving the community during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nurses, doctors, firefighters, police, grocery personnel, restaurant workers, delivery drivers, and their children, all now qualify for a new COVID-19 Essential Employee FIU scholarship from the FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. The $2,250 scholarship is for new students and can be applied toward any of the Chaplin School’s online master’s degree programs during the semester in which students graduate.

“It is a show of appreciation for all of the people in the community, not just necessarily those in health care,” says Joseph Cilli, department chair and director of distance learning.

Honoring the essential

The new scholarship is Cilli’s brainchild. While shopping for groceries, standing six-feet apart, waiting for his turn at the register, it dawned on him, he explains. Essential employees are the backbone of the battle against COVID-19. Their resilience and efforts to help communities stay safe, healthy and keep a sense of normalcy cannot be understated. They should be honored, he states.

“We’ve never offered a scholarship to those outside the hospitality realm; however, it became clear that there are a lot of people working in grocery stores and restaurants who are also considered essential, along with first responders,” he reasons.

Apply now

After several conversations to develop the idea, the school is now actively accepting applications for the scholarship, which the Chaplin School is sponsoring. The award equates to one free class—applied to the last online class before graduation.  

For the scholarship, applicants simply have to contact Cilli at, self identify and verify their employment as an essential employee to take advantage of the opportunity for themselves or for their dependents. Also, there is no limit to the number of scholarships that will be made available.

Online master’s degrees top ranked

Specific to the coronavirus period, the scholarship will be offered through the fall term and possibly through spring, says Cilli. The scholarship also helps essential employees and their dependents by reducing the financial barriers to completing a degree. Most hospitality management master’s degrees can be completed in as little as 12 months fully online, so those who receive the scholarship will feel its monetary impact in a relatively short time frame. 

The fully online degree programs the scholarship can be applied to the following degrees:

Master of Science in Hospitality Management

Executive Master of Science in Hospitality Management

Master of Science in Hospitality Management: Mega Events Specialization

Master of Science in Hospitality Management: Real Estate Development Specialization

Master of Science in Hospitality Management: Revenue Management Specialization

The Chaplin School is ranked in the top 50 worldwide according to QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2019. In addition, FIU’s online master’s degrees in hospitality management are ranked No. 1 for Best Programs for Online Hotel Management Degrees by, 2020; and No. 1 for Best Colleges for Hospitality Management in Florida,, 2020.

The comeback

While the hospitality industry has been affected during the pandemic, Cilli stresses that it is temporary. It is difficult to say exactly when things will normalize, however, as soon as restrictions are lifted, there are indications that the hospitality industry will rebound, he offers.

“Everything has changed, but once the green light is given, people are going to travel and go out for dinner. Those who want to be part of that comeback can prepare now. We want to help essential employees because they’ve helped us,” Cilli declares.

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