History and Context

We are all children of emigrants. We owe a debt to those who helped our families assimilate that we can meet only by paying it forward. Public support for Florida International University is already doing a great deal to meet that obligation. Our student body reflects not simply the diversity but the future of South Florida: 60% Hispanic, 14% White non-Hispanic, 26% Black, and other minority groups. FIU educates South Floridians who are striving for better lives. 30% of our students come from households with an annual income of less than $30,000. The achievements of these individuals along with those of our other graduates will provide the foundation for the growth of our community for generations to come.

The effort FIU is already making stands as an important contribution, but it is not enough. Integration with the community involves much more than the assimilation that results from learning a language and finding steady employment. It works best with a reciprocity of embracing the culture that one finds here while enhancing that ethos with the heritage we bring to this country. The success of that effort rests on a broad understanding of the contributions made by the humanities.

The humanities shapes our sense of all we see. Fundamental measures of worth come out of a tradition of knowledge and understanding derived from Aristotle's philosophy, the Book of Psalms, Ovid's poetry, the writings of St. Augustine, the architecture of Moorish Spain, the Aztec pyramids, the Bhagavad Gita, the plays of Shakespeare, pre-Columbian sculpture, the temple system of Ankor Wat, the music of Mozart, the statues of Easter Island, the works of James Joyce and our engagement with countless other imaginative achievements stretching across recorded time. The way we interact with the world comes from an awareness of ideas that molded minds and cultures over the centuries and not from the metric system, the periodic table or the principles of double entry bookkeeping. FIU already supports a wide ranging exploration of the cultural identity of our community, engaging issues and ideas that shape who we are and how we think. Our current initiative takes that support even further.

The Center for Humanities in an Urban Environment at Florida International University was established in 2010 under the direction of President Mark B. Rosenberg, Provost Douglas Wartzok, and Dean Kenneth Furton. From its inception, the Center has enjoyed the strong support of colleagues across the university community. It has pursued a mission of fostering the humanities in a variety of forms and has worked to cooperate with other campus entities to bring to FIU and to the South Florida metropolitan area an enhanced awareness of the integral influence of aspects of the humanities in every facet of our lives.