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Divorce Averted: FAMU-FSU Engineering Gets A Dose Of Counseling And Carries On

The Florida Channel

The joint Florida A&M-Florida State University College of Engineering is staying together. The move comes after a year of uncertainty. Both institutions say they're committed to working out problems and have inked a deal to restructure the school.

A report from an independent firm found a divorce between FAMU and FSU would cost the state about a billion dollars. That set the tone for reconciliation over the universities joint engineering school. During Thursday’s Board of Governors meeting, State University System Chancellor Marshall Criser outlined the terms of the agreement--starting with a revamp of the FAMU-FSU engineering oversight board.

The consulting firm hired by the Board of Governors described the joint-college’s governance structure as dysfunctional. But it stopped short of recommending a split as previously proposed by former Senator and now FSU President John Thrasher. The firm acknowledges the resources put into the school by both FAMU and FSU are not equal. Furthermore, it noted serious deficiencies in the school’s facilities. During Tuesday’s BOG meeting consultant Jim Bean said the clash between FAMU and FSU stems from their different missions. FSU wants to climb in national rankings, and FAMU has a mandate to train underserved students.

“FAMU alone has the mandate from the state to compensate for a lack of elite preparation in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] areas. We believe this is a noble goal and provides opportunities still needed in the Florida demography. There are no bad guys here," Bean said.

FAMU President Elmira Mangum and FSU President Thrasher were on hand. Mangum says she’s pleased with the agreement.

“I am very thankful we’ve reached this point and look forward to continuing to work to work toward the best advantage of our students because, especially when it comes to women and minorities in engineering,  the world needs them,” she said.

Producing women and minorities in engineering is one area the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering has historically done well.  And Thrasher, whose actions as a Senator set up this discussion says he believes the school can be successful under its new structure.

‘Too often, in our discussions—yours, ours… in my former life--we spend too much time talking about the adults in the system. It ought to be about the students. And how to make sure their aspirations are achieved in this program," he said.

The school is also working on a multi-year funding proposal to deal with maintenance problems at the facility. The new deal calls on the joint college to form a new budgeting structure and to integrate student activities that were previously separate. The school will have to give a progress report to the board next year.

For more news updates, follow Lynn Hatter on twitter @HatterLynn

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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