Shaping a Year of Unique Opportunity

Author  Julio Frenk

This week, our students return to campus ready to tackle the semester ahead. 2020 promises to be a year of unique opportunity, both around the world and here at the University of Miami.

u miamiWhen I first arrived at the U, it became readily apparent to me that this is a place with a purpose. Since then, we have worked together to fulfill our founders’ vision of the University as a center for knowledge and a hub for innovation in the heart of the nation’s first planned residential community—Coral Gables, which like UM, celebrates its 95th birthday this year.

I like to think of Miami-Dade as a 21st Century Alexandria. Like the legendary city founded by Alexander the Great, we sit at a crossroads connecting different parts of the world. The University plays a crucial role in building the type of cultural and intellectual bridges that continue to be essential for human progress. Alexandria was known for its library and its lighthouse. The University of Miami also seeks to have an enlightening effect on our community and the world, particularly when the challenges humanity faces can seem insurmountable.

To that end, I am pleased to report that we have made great progress on the Roadmap to Our New Century—the set of strategies that will guide us to our centennial as a leading institution.

We welcomed more than 2,800 new students to the University of Miami this year. Since I arrived at the U four years ago, we have become significantly more selective in our admissions. Our reputation is attracting more students from across the country and around the world. In fact, we have already received nearly 40,000 applications for next year. Five years ago, just over 36,400 students applied to the University for undergraduate admission.

We launched a regional office in Mexico City to facilitate engagement with scholars, innovators, and students in Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico—the first of what we expect to be five hubs across the Americas aimed at cementing our aspiration to become the hemispheric university.

On the health front, the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at UHealth earned National Cancer Institute designation this past summer, making it one of only 71 such centers in the country. This achievement delivers on the promise of top patient care and helps set the stage for the University to continue to draw renowned researchers and clinicians to our academic health system.

We have continued using technology to enhance the student experience at the University, becoming the first college campus in the U.S. to adopt AT&T’s 5G+ service and Edge technology. We are also partnering with Magic Leap to leverage what’s called “spatial computing”—technology that holds the promise of changing the paradigm for education, research, and health care.

Building on our foundational role in promoting the arts in South Florida, we started “The U Creates,” a new online platform to showcase the artistic endeavors of our students, faculty, and alumni. And, as you have no doubt noticed, construction crews have been hard at work on Lakeside Village, creating an integrated environment for learning, living, design, and sustainability that will launch later this year.

These are but a few key highlights. It is both daunting and invigorating to think that we are a short five years away from our centennial.

Other milestones the world will celebrate in 2020—Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, 100 years since women’s suffrage in the U.S., 75 years since the United Nations was established, 25 years since the Beijing Conference on Women, and five years into the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals—speak to who we are and who we aspire to be. What’s more, they provide an incredible opportunity to bring light and understanding to the complex issues our world continues to face.

These milestones remind us of the progress that is possible when we work together toward opportunity for all. More importantly, they help hold us accountable for the progress yet to come.

As we kick off the semester, I challenge us all to engage with the clarity of vision only education can bring. Less than two weeks into the year, we are already deeply engaged in bringing insight to issues ranging from human trafficking to cancer to climate change.

Together, we can light—and shape—this emblematic year, and the new century that lies ahead

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