Knight Foundation investment sparks anticipation among FIU students, alumni

Knight School students

When the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation invested $10 million in the newly renamed Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences, students and alumni across the country – like Cesar Villa Garcia ’18, Jose Maldonado ’17, and Ph.D. candidate Mireya Jurado – were ecstatic. The value of their degrees had just received an important boost.

The College of Engineering & Computing, which houses the Knight School, is already a top producer of minority engineers and computer scientists in the country, ranking No. 1 for undergraduate engineering and computing degrees awarded to Hispanic students and No. 6 in degrees awarded to African American students. Many of its graduates now live and work in tech hubs like New York, Seattle and Miami. 

The Knight Foundation’s investment will build on these successes to enhance FIU’s technology and computer science curriculum; create new, cutting-edge programs; attract top faculty and student talent to the Knight School; and graduate more workforce-ready Panthers, who will tackle some of the world’s pressing challenges. 

The goal: Help the Knight School flourish as a destination for the next generation of tech talent to learn and prepare for success in Miami’s growing industry – right in their backyard.

Panther perspective

Villa Garcia, Maldonado and Jurado were all heavily involved in campus life, including the tech-focused professional development student organization Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE). This, coupled with the education they received at the Knight School, helped enrich their studies and launch their careers in tech and computer science.  

Villa Garcia is a software engineer at JP Morgan Chase in New York and former UPE president. He feels the Knight School’s curriculum equipped him with the leadership, communication and teamwork skills needed to thrive in the workplace.  

With the Knight Foundation’s investment in FIU, Villa Garcia believes “the sky really is the limit” for students. 

“I think it’s clear that the Knight Foundation recognizes the incredible talent and promise of FIU students,” he said.  

Maldonado, a software engineer in Microsoft’s xCloud team in Seattle, says that the community of hungry, like-minded Panthers he met at FIU were problem-solvers who sought innovative solutions –  which is what prepared him for success at Microsoft.

“With hundreds of UPE and Knight School alumni landing jobs and internships at some of America’s top tech firms, I am confident that we are moving in the right direction,” said Maldonado. “The Knight Foundation has just embarked on a journey with its investment in our FIU and our students, which will ignite a sustainable tech hub in Miami and empower our Miami community.” 

As Miami’s tech hub continues to grow, alumni will have the chance to work in the city and contribute to the local economy –  thanks to the opportunities the Knight Foundation’s investment will bring. 

“Students have gone incredibly far [after] FIU. They’ve landed jobs at the big corporations, and they’ve done the cutting-edge research. Now, with these new resources, they’re going to do so much more,” Jurado said in a presentation at the announcement of the Knight Foundation’s gift on February 24. 

The sky really is the limit for our Panthers – and they’re rising high, with FIU alongside them.