Miami Dade College’s Fermin Vazquez shares how the school changed his life and empowers students

Today is the last installment of The New Tropic’s #ThrowbackThursday series spotlighting Miami Dade College. Today we’re throwing it back to just a few days ago for I AM MDC Day, which took place this past Monday. Every year on September 6, the college commemorates its opening in 1960 and invites Miamians to make a financial donation to an institution that’s served millions of students across six decades. The funds raised by I AM MDC Day go toward upholding the school’s mission of keeping higher education affordable and accessible by funding tuition and supporting students in need.

Previously, The New Tropic took a tour through how MDC has evolved over the years and examined five fascinating facts from the college’s rich history. In addition, we shared interviews with school archivist Rene Ramos as well as one of the college’s first graduating students, Gary Canner.

This year, Miamians helped to raise $1.4 million for the school’s scholarship program, allowing countless students to take their next steps toward realizing their dreams and serving the community. However, there’s still time to give: You can still make a contribution by visiting this page and donating a gift to one of the most essential educational institutions in the 305.

Miami Dade College North Campus Interim President Fermin Vazquez spoke with The New Tropic about how the college made a difference in his own life from a very young age as well as why the mission of I AM MDC Day is so important and extends far beyond September 6. 

Read on for more… 

Miami Dade College’s Fermin Vazquez
North Campus Interim President Fermin Vazquez (right) has been celebrating I AM MDC Day for a long time. (📸: Courtesy photo)

The New Tropic: You have a long history of working as an educator within Miami-Dade — could you tell us a little bit about your career?

Fermin Vazquez: I have worked in various capacities within education since 2003. Before being appointed to my latest position as Miami Dade College’s Interim Campus President of the North Campus, I served as the Senior Director of Campus Administration of the North Campus and Carrie P. Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center. Miami Dade College is where it all started for me as a student and where I earned my Associate in Arts degree; as a staff member, I take great pride in working for an institution I care deeply about.

Your connection to Miami Dade College stretches back beyond just your current role as North Campus Interim President — can you tell us more about your time with the college?

Yes: After registering over the phone for classes, my mother would take me to campus while she pursued her teaching certification. I later walked through MDC’s halls as a student myself and earned my first college degree at this fantastic institution. I started my professional career at MDC in the District Facilities Operations area and worked my way up the organization to become the District Director of Facilities Operations (Maintenance) before becoming the Wolfson Campus Senior Director of Campus Administration. Later, I transferred in 2013 to the North Campus and served in the same role until my appointment as the North Campus Interim President.

How did your time at MDC as a student prepare you for your career and eventual return to the school as an administrator?

First, MDC helped me develop my professional knowledge through the great professors who specialized in their respective academic areas. The professors shared their insight on their particular areas of expertise, and in turn, fostered my own interest in education. As a young professional, I later used the education I was given to better serve my department. It is great to be able to give back to the organization that started my career.

How does MDC empower students and set them up for success?

Miami Dade College is an organization that endeavors to create opportunities for students and manifest their dreams through education. Our faculty and staff care deeply for everyone enrolled and strive to ensure that all the tools necessary for success are shared in the classroom. Our programs are designed to take workforce demands into account, and our Associate in Arts degrees build ramps for students to be able to transition to the next steps in their education. As an MDC-FIU graduate myself, I can speak to how MDC set me up for success in my career and life.

MDC also has a number of initiatives that engage with the larger community like the Second Chance Pell Experimental program; can you talk about these programs and why it’s crucial to extend the school’s reach beyond its campuses?

MDC has many programs that are relevant to today’s technology-oriented workforce, including cybersecurity, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. However, given MDC’s commitment to helping students in all areas, school faculty felt there was a need to bring a college education program to the state correctional system. The Second Chance Pell program has allowed us to teach college courses at the Everglades Correctional Institute, and we were recently approved as a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) approved outreach site, meaning enrolled inmates will be able to earn Associates Degree while inside the correctional facility. We hope to have our first graduating class earn their degrees in the following academic year. This program combats recidivism and helps place lives on the right track.

Why is I AM MDC Day so important and how does it make a difference in the lives of students?

I AM MDC Day is a day that nurtures school spirit and reminds us of the many lives that MDC has touched in our community since 1960. I have been a faithful contributor ever since the initiative began several years ago, and I try to emphasize to donors just how much every dollar helps to finance scholarships and change lives. The college has touched Miami and so many other communities through education, and I AM MDC Day is a great opportunity to give back and cultivate opportunities for the leaders of tomorrow. 

What does MDC’s motto, “Opportunity Changes Everything,” mean to you?

In short, MDC understands that through “Opportunity,” we can help change student lives to achieve their career of choice. All of our students receive that opportunity as soon as they walk onto our campuses and register. Many of them see their dreams become a reality once they cross the finish line and receive their diplomas on graduation day!

Be sure to read The New Tropic’s other blasts from MDC’s past by checking out five fun facts from the college’s history, our interview with school archivist Rene Ramos, and a chat with inaugural graduate Gary Canner. You can learn more about I AM MDC Day and make a contribution to the college’s essential mission by clicking right here. Be sure to follow MDC on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up-to-date with the school, its students, and how they’re making a difference in Miami-Dade.