Bringing New Prospects to an Old Mining Town
Infusing a City Center with Life
When the local hospital closed in 1989, the city of North Miami lost a
significant employer. But then Johnson & Wales University arrived in 1992, and
First the university acquired the North Miami General Hospital building,
a 156,000-square-foot facility that the city had been unable to fill. Then it
slowly purchased other properties, renovating some and leveling others, making
sidewalk and landscape improvements and gradually bringing the area back from
blight and crime.
Enrollment grew from 82 culinary arts students in one building in that
first year, to more than 2,000 students pursuing careers in business, hospitality
and culinary arts on a 28-acre campus. The university became one of North
Miami’s largest employers with more than 250 full- and part-time employees on
campus. In 2009 alone, JWU spent about $15.5 million on goods and services,
while spending by students and visitors to the campus amounted to another
$16 million. Today, employment provided by Johnson & Wales, combined with
spending by the university, students and visitors, supports more than 700 jobs
in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and generates more than $63 million in
Those are the numbers. But ask someone in North Miami about Johnson &
Wales University and you’ll hear about its community involvement.
“Anytime any organization that has needed anything has called on Johnson &
Wales, Johnson & Wales has said ‘yes,’”
says Scott Galvin, a North Miami city
councilman. “‘Can we get food for a
reception?’ ‘Absolutely.’ ‘We need some
volunteers to go clean a park.’ ‘You’ve got
it.’ Their involvement in the community
But don’t look to the university to just
buy a table at a fundraiser. In keeping
with the school’s philosophy of volunteerism
and leadership, students at the North
Miami Campus engage in local activities.
During the 2008–2009 school year, they donated more than 14,000 hours of
community service, focusing on three key areas: hunger, children and education.
“We’ve worked with a local elementary school on numerous mentoring
projects since our early days in North Miami,” says Loreen Chant ’89, president
of the JWU North Miami Campus. “We also have strong relationships with the
Overtown Youth Center, Junior Achievement and Share Our Strength.”
Four times every academic year, the North Miami Campus runs a program
called Big Chef-Little Chef with W.J. Bryan Elementary School during which
students work with the elementary school students to teach them about proper
nutrition. Since 2002, incoming freshmen have spent their first day on campus
participating in the Join, Work, Unite service-learning day, performing
community service for various charities in North Miami.
“We recognized that by bringing students in on Day One and getting them
involved in the North Miami community, as opposed to the greater South Florida community, we could have a bigger impact on our home city,”
says Chant. “So we decided to focus more on North Miami where the
needs weren’t being met.”
Many of those freshmen, roughly 33 percent, are the first in their
family to attend college. That’s the highest percentage of first generation
students among the four JWU campuses. The student body at the North
Miami Campus includes students from 41 states and 41 countries. Of
North Miami’s 5,248 alumni, 40 percent live in Miami or the surrounding
Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
From North Miami, JWU has also contributed to the growth of tourism
and hospitality in one of the most dynamic regions of the country. The
university has been involved in the hospitality industry throughout the
Caribbean and Latin America. Casa de Campo, a resort in the Dominican
Republic, set up an educational center staffed by Johnson & Wales for all
of its resort personnel. The school also supplies a steady stream of skilled
workers for many of the world’s most prestigious cruise lines that have
operations in Miami.
Demonstrating the school’s diversification beyond hospitality and
culinary arts, the university has developed close connections with the
North Miami criminal justice community. In 2009 industry professionals
participated in a broad review of the school’s criminal justice curriculum
in the College of Business, resulting in numerous enhancements to the
program and the design of the criminal justice laboratories on campus.
Chant says her staff has also developed strategic relationships with local
law enforcement professionals and federal agencies such as the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, General Services Administration, and Immigration
and Customs Enforcement.
“These connections have helped create a well-rounded and unique experience
for our students, including experiential education opportunities,
co-curricular activities, and outstanding career potential,” she says.
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