Great Cities Need Great Universities 

Author: Michael Preston, Ed.D., Executive Director, Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities

July 25, 2019

Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, Florida are great cities to live in, raise a family, start a business, and receive a world-class education. But these cities did not become great on their own. The success each is currently experiencing is the result of collaboration amongst a number of partners. Sustained collaboration in terms of economic development, social services, infrastructure, private investment, and higher education will help these cities thrive for years to come. 

Under this back drop, Florida International University, University of Central Florida, and University of South Florida formed the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities. In the early days, we shared best practices and advocated for each other but quite frankly it became clear that our partnership could mean so much more. What started as an idea between three university presidents in 2013 has resulted in over 50,000 hours of work with over 300 faculty and staff; collaboration that gave us a better understanding of our shared challenges and a wide array of solutions.  

Along with our thought partners, Helios Education Foundation, the Florida Consortium recently reimagined our collaboration and designed a strategic plan that focuses on transforming learning into talent for Florida. Why is it important that we continue to work together? FIU, UCF, and USF intersect in an expansive urban ecosystem almost too wide and deep to measure. But if we did measure:  one in every four citizens in Miami, Orlando, and Tampa with a bachelor’s degree received it from FIU, UCF, or USF. Overall, 77% of our graduates stay and work in the state of Florida. These college graduates are high skilled workers that serve in almost every professional capacity one can think of from CEOs of large corporations to proprietors of small businesses. 

Going forward the Florida Consortium member universities will continue to work together in two pivotal areas: transfer student success and employability. We believe that working together will ensure more Floridians will complete their education, find good jobs, and pathways to economic prosperity. 

Here are five key engagements aimed at scaling our work and impact for Florida: 

1. Establish new multi-sector partnerships

Our universities cannot work in isolation. We will need to cooperate with our state college partners, economic development groups, and civic leaders. 

2. Talent Development

We must invest time and energy in developing leadership talent across all three universities and cities. By working together we can build regional trust that will lead to diverse ideas and solutions.  

3. Learn from each other

 Innovation acceleration will require us to share information, talent, across university and city borders. 

4. Create a common language for regional partnerships 

In order to collaborate we must understand the issues, needs, and evidence to ensure our work will have the impact we hope it will. 

5. Leverage framework to structure future collaborations

We have chosen the Collective Impact model for city and regional engagement. This framework allows for the flexibility and cross-sector communications necessary for success. 

In closing, to quote Jim Collins classic book From Good to Great “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice.” 

The Florida Consortium member universities; FIU, UCF, and USF choose to be great places for students, their families, and our communities at large. A flexible high skilled talent pipeline in central to the success of the Sunshine State.

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