University launches Next Horizon: The Campaign for FIU with community celebration

A little rain didn’t stop FIU in its pursuit of the Next Horizon! On Saturday, Jan. 26, the FIU Foundation, Inc. hosted a community-wide celebration in the Graham Center to commemorate the public launch of Next Horizon: The Campaign for FIU. With a goal to raise $750 million, this landmark campaign is the university’s largest to date and will support student success and research preeminence spanning the entire university. More than 1,200 alumni, students, faculty, donors and other members of the FIU community came out to celebrate the campaign, which represents the future of FIU. Here’s a look back at FIU’s “coming out party,” a showcase of FIU research, community programs and student success:

To begin the day, the Foundation unveiled the university’s new Wall of Gratitude, which honors donors who have given $1 million or more to the university. The interactive, digital wall lives on the first floor of the MARC building.

Alumnus and presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco ’91, MFA ’97 debuted his original poem inspired by the campaign, titled Next Horizon, which he wrote to honor his alma mater.

“I am, because we all are, and together, we rise, despite everything trying to keep us from rising.” –Next Horizon, by Richard Blanco ’91, MFA ’97

Alumnus and Latin Grammy nominee Tony Succar ’08, MM ’10 and his Mixtura Band performed a lively set of Latin jazz selections on the main stage.

“When I’m interviewing applicants to join the faculty here, I am proud to tell them, ‘You can go to another school, but you will not be as happy there as you will be here. You want to spend your life here at a place that supports women, diversity of ancestry and thought, immigrants, doers and dreamers. We teach generations. We teach families and communities,'” said Dr. Yesim Darici, assistant provost for STEM and director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.

Guests explored a series of interactive exhibits showcasing FIU’s research initiatives, community programs and more, including this exhibit of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education’s Medina Aquarius Program and Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only underwater research laboratory…

…this display of the Honors College Edge Lab. The Edge Lab inspires creativity by encouraging the FIU community to bring ideas to life using 3D printers (pictured) as well as other prototyping and manufacturing tools…

…and this exhibit featuring the Albert & Debbie Tano Medical Simulation Center, a world-class multidisciplinary training and research facility at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.

Kids interacted with marine life in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education “touch tank.”

President Mark B. Rosenberg introduced the campaign and announced that the university has already raised $480 million towards the goals of $750 million.

“Wherever you go in this community, you are going to find FIU graduates,” Rosenberg told the crowd, reminding them that FIU’s 224,000 alumni are the community’s nurses, teachers, elected officials, lawyers, engineers and so much more. “That’s why we have this Next Horizon campaign, because we know that the best is yet to come. We’ve got to do more, we’ve got to raise the bar on ourselves… Each and every one of us has got to find a way to contribute to reach this goal, because you see, this university belongs to us, it belongs to you. It’s F-I-You.”

President Rosenberg revealed a $5 million gift made by Trish and Dan Bell in support of a future nondenominational, interfaith chapel to be constructed on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus.

“Trish and I hope that this chapel will quickly become a place where people of similar as well as vastly different religious traditions and beliefs can gather together to celebrate and contemplate their faiths, and meaningfully connect with others. Hopefully this new chapel will become one more of FIU’s very highly successful elements in its continuous effort to foster a sense of worldwide community and shared humanity here on campus,” said Dan Bell.

Danielle Ruiz, a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies, shared her “FIU story.” Ruiz is Phi Mu president and participates in many community service-based events and organizations on campus, including Dance Marathon and the Best Buddies Club. She is a first-generation college student who was raised by a single mom, and she works part-time as a pharmacy technician at CVS to support her education while gaining experience for her future career as a pharmacist. She said earning scholarships during her time at FIU has been a huge relief financially that allowed her to focus on her studies and her career.

“Our stories all share a common theme,” Ruiz said of her fellow students. “We all share a dream, and we are all seeking a higher education to achieve it.”

The Valencias are a proud Panther family and were excited to celebrate their alma mater’s Next Horizon. English alumna Gisela Valencia ’15 (pictured, left) loved her FIU experience so much, she decided to pursue a career here, too. She works for the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs as a junior account manager and is currently pursuing a master’s in higher education administration at FIU. Gisela is the daughter of two FIU alumni, Silvio Valencia ’88 (pictured, right) and Eloisa Valencia ’82, MBA ’88, a former academic advisor at FIU.

FIU has played an important role in their family history, so the Valencias are grateful to those who support the university philanthropically. “For us, it’s an extremely happy feeling, because FIU is growing immensely, and I’m proud to see that happen,” said Silvio. Gisela added, “It means that the FIU legacy is going to continue to grow and continue to bring in more people, and more of us are going to be proud Panthers who can pursue our goals here.”

To learn more about how you can support the scholarship, program or initiative that inspires you through the Next Horizon campaign, visit

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