Florida Higher Ed Leaders Highlight Collaboration As They Weigh FAMU-FSU Engineering Split

Aug 11, 2014

FAMU and FSU officials gather at the Challenger Learning Center to highlight their partnership on an effort to get more IT grads in North Florida.
Credit LHatter / WFSUNews

Florida A&M and Florida State University are trying to produce more graduates in Computer Engineering and IT Services. To do that, they’re about to spend a $3 million state-issued grant. But the project comes at a time when the fate of another joint-partnership between the  institutions remains uncertain.

Florida's public university system governing board, the Florida Board of Governors,  announced the grant back in March. Both FAMU and FSU have started putting their $3 million grant to use in hiring new faculty, and forging relationships with local businesses and schools to get more students interested in computer and IT work. The FAMU-FSU partnership is being held up as a model of collaboration at a time when the fate of the jointly-run FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, is up in the air. State University System Chancellor Marshall Criser, is focusing on the present. And right now, that means the effort of both schools to work together on producing more IT grads.   

“We have an investment the taxpayers made in us," he says. "The more ways we can demonstrate the fact that there is an efficiency, effectiveness to how we do that, we’re going to do that better as a team.”

The Florida legislature considered divvying up the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering earlier this year, but settled on a study of the issue. That study is being conducted now by an independent firm. Criser says that firm has been talking with professors, administrators and students at both schools as part of a legislatively-mandated study on the impact of a division of the college of engineering. And FSU’s Interim President Garnett Stokes says she’s waiting to see the report.

“I know that for Florida State, we have a strong desire to grow STEM and Engineering.  I don’t want to speak for Dr. Mangum, but from everything I’ve heard her say, STEM is important to her as well," Stokes says. "So I look forward to this report, and I look forward to more opportunities for us to partner with Florida A&M.” 

In fact FAMU has, in recent months, been highlighting its own Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Programs, known as STEM. University President Elmira Mangum says she hopes the study will generate an outcome her school feels is fair.

“Give us an outcome that we believe will satisfy the citizens of the state, our students and also contribute to the economy in the most efficient and effective way.”

The feasibility study on the FAMU-FSU Engineering school is due January first. Meanwhile,  FAMU and FSU have a year to spend their state-issued grant and to produce as many IT grads they can before the money runs out.

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*Clarification: The original version of this story reported the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering would be a hub for the grant. According to the grant's author, Larry Dennis, "while the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering is a strong partner in this effort," the grant work is housed in the FSU College of Communication and Information  and the College of Science and Technology at FAMU.