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Preparing learners for the ‘new different’

by Monica Smith

Jan 28, 2022, 11:00 AM.

FIU’s graduate degrees address the greatest challenges of our time, readying learners to be the innovators of tomorrow.

Let's face it—there is no “new normal.” Rich with constant change and vibrant new opportunities, many people have referred to this period of time as the “new different.” Universities like FIU have shaped curricula to help prepare the next wave of professionals with applicable and transferable skills to leverage opportunities and equip them with an innovative mindset to respond to whatever is to come. While career mobility is at an all-time high, competition for the best positions is still fierce. FlU’s response, however, is strategic as it offers degrees in a wide array of disciplines in person and online to address timely topics—with many degrees offered only online.

1. Supply chain

Today’s supply chain challenges can be solved with better engineering management, says Karen Schmahl, professor of practice for the College of Engineering and Computing. From enterprise courses and courses relative to optimization and effective analysis, an M.S. in Engineering Management is paramount for organizations to make sense of data and make decisions in response. This is especially important in times where scarce resources require that organizations pivot their operations quickly. From the quality engineering standpoint, the speed at which products are needed requires considerable cooperation between all aspects of development and production personnel, she notes.

2. Hospitality and tourism

Of all the markets, the hospitality and tourism industry was perhaps the most affected by the pandemic. In the wake of COVID-19, people changed the way they travel, and this created ripple effects across all avenues of travel. Today's challenges require innovative solutions. According to Lisa Cain, associate professor, Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, new graduates and education will help to infuse the hospitality and tourism industry with a new cultural mindset—a mindset that considers profits and purpose. The fully online M.S. in Hospitality Management degree teaches students about the nuances of a post-pandemic market, and this is vital to help with the recovery.

3. Equity

Language is a powerful tool and understanding and being able to speak English can provide marginalized and impoverished people a way to improve their circumstances. Understanding this, FIU’s newest TESOL degree, the M.S. in Foreign Language Education Teaching in Challenging Contexts track, the first master’s degree of its kind in the world that focuses on teaching in economically disadvantaged environments, trains instructors to teach English worldwide and answers the need, through language, for equity when it comes to race, gender and poverty.

4. Education

The ongoing changes in education have many school districts finding pathways to provide curricula that respond to the needs within classrooms. Diversity, inclusion and social justice are at the heart of FIU’s new curriculum and instruction master’s degree track in elementary education.

“This track equips today’s teachers with the ability to adapt curriculum and instruction to keep pace with the shifting environment within education and our nation,” explains Sarah Mathews, chair for the Department of Teaching and Learning and associate professor at the College of Arts, Sciences & Education.

5. Public health

With Zika, COVID-19, influenza, and even a resurgence of measles, there is no shortage of health threats that need prevention and communities that must be protected and treated. Today’s public health professionals are crucial in the fight for world health and economic development. FIU’s fully online Master of Public Health degree is designed to prepare students for interdisciplinary public health careers locally or globally.

6. Health services

Organizations that provide health services to vulnerable populations have been especially taxed through the pandemic. Mariceli Comellas, graduate program director and clinical assistant professor of health services administration for the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Services, stresses the need for adaptability in instruction to benefit delivery of care in the field. Comellas emphasizes that the future will require professionals well-versed in advanced digital methods for managing care, and this collaborative strategy is something students are learning firsthand with the Master of Health Services Administration, which is available in fully online and hybrid options.

7. School leadership

With the influx of changes because of the pandemic, social climates and teachers’ needs, leadership in schools K-12 is paramount. Principals and administrators with innovative ideas are needed to help initiate programs, manage budgets and ensure students are nurtured with a growth mindset. The fully online M.S. in Educational Leadership provides the skills needed to steer today’s K-12 institutions toward increased student outcomes.

8. Autism

According to the CDC, about one in 44 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Every year, new advances in research and technology provide pathways to help students and families, and FIU is helping to close the learning opportunity gap for diverse learners with its curricula focused on special education. In specific, FIU’s fully online M.S. in Special Education culminates in an Autism Endorsement from the State of Florida and focuses on individualization for students.

“Our program is current and reflective of our urban community as our full-time faculty does research in the area where we work,” says Elizabeth Cramer, professor and online graduate program director of Special Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning for the College of Arts, Sciences and Education.

9. Cyberthreats

As the world becomes ever more connected digitally, the number of cyberattacks will continue to climb. According to Alexander Perez-Pons, associate professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, it’s not a matter of if your network will be hacked, but when. Perez-Pons  teaches how to improve network security in the M.S. in Computer Engineering: Network Security degree program. In just 10 months online, students can become fully equipped with new skills and certifications to help any organization with securing its network infrastructure.

10. Data analysis

Organizational needs for data and analysis will never decrease because all companies need sound information to help with decisions. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the need for data analysts is expected to grow more than 35 percent by 2029, which is much faster than most occupations. According to Mido Chang, professor of counseling, recreation and school psychology for the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, the M.S. in Research Design and Analysis responds to this need.

“This degree helps students understand how to create a framework for research to determine what data is telling us,” says Chang.

11. Public policy

The last two years have offered a range of challenges with regard to public service. Whether influenced by the pandemic, extreme weather or municipal needs, those in public administration have had to pivot policies at the federal, state and local levels. According to Howard Frank, professor and chair of public policy and administration and director of the Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center, the Hybrid Executive Master of Public Administration offers students the knowledge to make a real difference in people’s lives.

“COVID has underscored long-standing inequalities in our system—the differentials in death rates, and more recently, vaccination rates, between minority and white populations are real,” states Frank. “These are issues our students need to understand and be aware of.”

12. Higher education

Today’s colleges and universities are undergoing a revolution of sorts to meet the needs of all learners, says Adam Duran-Leftin, who is the graduate program director of the online M.S. in Higher Education Administration program.

“There are always evolutions in higher education that have occurred to keep it relevant, and it’s no different now with COVID,” he offers.

Pursuing a master’s degree is a big decision, but a worthy investment. If you would like to learn more about FIU’s fully online degree programs, you can reach the recruitment team via email ( or call 305-348-3125.

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