FIU Foundation News

Provost Kenneth G. Furton Discusses how the Next Horizon Will Change Research

The provost shares how the funds raised during the campaign will contribute to the volume of research and the economic impact it will have on the community.

Q. How has FIU grown in terms of research excellence in your time as provost?

A. This is my fifth year as provost, and we’ve grown by more than 50 percent in terms of total research expenditures in that time. Right now, we are at about $200 million per year. We’ve also grown tremendously in terms of inventions. Our patent production increased from two a year to 65 patents produced this year. We are actually now focused on our Next Horizon 2025 strategic plan, and the goal is to do more commercialization of those technologies.

Q. What is the biggest impact FIU has made through research so far?

A. I think that the biggest impact that we’ve had has yet to be seen. We are training the future workforce of America. If you look at our undergraduates that have done research in faculty labs and the master’s students and Ph.D. students who have done research projects, many of them in the past have gone on to be leaders in academia and the private sector. By increasing that amount significantly, we are going to have many more leaders in their fields.

Q. How is FIU working to solve some of society’s most difficult challenges, and what are some of the major focus areas?

A. The preeminent programs have been identified as areas of strength at the university, and most of them tackle major social challenges. The three major areas are in education technology, including transforming how we teach our courses focusing on STEM. The second area is in health innovations, so looking at things like health inequities, mental health and neurosciences. Of course − being one of the largest urban areas in America − the third is the urban sciences, which includes things like transportation, infrastructure, water and forensics.

Q. How does private funding for research lead to economic growth?

A. Philanthropic funding is the Next Horizon (no pun intended), taking us to the next level of research. The funds from the Next Horizon campaign will allow us to do a significantly larger amount of research, and that will have an economic impact on our community. Even now with the current research that we are doing, the estimates are that we have a quarter of a billion dollars of impact every year on the local economy. As you are doing research, you have to hire people to do the research, you are buying things, and you are hiring people outside the university.

Q. How do you feel that the Next Horizon campaign will affect research at FIU going forward?

A. By the conclusion of the campaign, we will have new treatments for diseases, new solutions to make our buildings more resilient to changing climate and extreme events, better ways to solve crime and enforce justice, and overall have the opportunity to be the pioneers in the many new ways that we educate our students. I think that the greatest impact is in [both] the solutions to challenges that our society is facing and the challenge of continuing to be a pioneer in higher education. Donors have a unique opportunity to have a major impact with the dollars that they give to the campaign, because we have a proven track record in achieving things that few universities have been able to do.