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Real students, real experiences

by Monica Smith

Feb 21, 2022, 12:00 PM.

Four online learners share their perspectives on their programs and the knowledge they are gaining.

For many, the choice to go back to school offers opportunity, a chance to grow skills, close knowledge gaps and gain valuable experience that will address future needs. Understanding this, FIU’s online degree programs and tracks are carefully designed and have received high recognition for their top quality. While top-50 rankings and accolades for quality speak to the  university’s commitment to students, current online students offer what they feel are some of the best features of their online degree programs.

Hands-on experience

Angelica Saez
Angelica Saez

For Angelica Saez, a graduate student pursuing the M.S. in Hospitality Management: Mega Events track, the ability to work at the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Capital One (SOBEWFF®) helped solidify her interest in mega-event planning.

“My degree is expanding my knowledge. My professors have shown me how multifaceted events can be from safety to sustainability. I absolutely love it. I recommend everyone study hospitality. It’s a well-organized program, and I’ve never struggled because of the support from my advisor and professors. Everything I’m learning, I’m able to apply to my current job as a special event manager,” asserts Saez, who works as a junior special events manager at FIU’s Graham Center.

Networking ability

Brandon Russell
Brandon Russell

When Brandon Russell drove downtown to the heart of Miami, he knew he wanted to get into real estate development. The high rises impressed him—he felt dwarfed and in awe of their size. He knew the M.S. in Hospitality Management: Real Estate Development track was for him.

“The course that stood out was one with instructor Eric Bass on hospitality real estate development. The amount of information he shared with us, his stories, experience, firsthand knowledge—I had access to speak with someone who does this on a daily basis with massive buildings,” says Russell, who explained that the valuable connections his program offered were a great plus for him.

“I chose FIU because of its connections. In the hospitality industry, many times, it is about who you know. The university has deep relationships with the South Beach Wine and Food Festival® as well as Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits and Bacardi among others,” says Russell, who is a restaurant operations manager for Tap 42.

Preserving family time

Mario Sanchez
Mario Sanchez

Working for FIU, Mario Sanchez knew that he wanted to invest his time in a program that would help his career in higher education. He decided the fully online M.S. in Higher Education Administration would help give him that edge and allow him to juggle family obligations.

“Online learning makes pursuing a degree flexible for those who have busy schedules. I also like the accelerated and cohort structure—you’re grouped and in it together with classmates for just a year. As a former FIU student and current staff member, this is my second family,” says Sanchez.

As for his program, he notes that the program offers a structured view of the field and provides different concepts to help with the day-to-day operations.

“The curriculum offers you the reasons why, the structure and ability to realize and understand what’s going on and the tools to address separate issues. Professors have been really engaging and make themselves available to us—it is nice to see that they are invested in the students’ success,” he encapsulates.

Depth of understanding

Vanessa Morales
Vanessa Morales

As a career communications veteran, Vanessa Morales, assignment editor for NBC Miami & Telemundo 51 decided to go back to school to pursue her B.A. in Communication Arts to complete the degree she always wanted.

“Pursuing my degree was something I wanted to do for myself, for future growth, and online learning made the most sense with my work schedule. Since I work in the communication field, I found the program to be very on point with today’s standards in broadcasting and public speaking. The program was great. It prepares you. I enjoyed learning about crisis management and marketing. I never knew how broad the subject matter would be in the program, but all of the courses have been beneficial to help me understand people, the chain of command, managers and communication methods.”

Pursuing a 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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