Miami Dade College, Miami, Florida

May 30, 2024

Miami Dade College

Where the American Dream Begins


Equipping students with the tangible skills to realize their success.

In a short time, Miami Dade College (MDC) has anchored itself as one of the nation’s most innovative academic institutions in one of the most vibrant and multicultural cities in the world.

Founded in 1960, MDC is the largest college in Florida, spanning eight distinct campuses and serving over 125,000 students and 2.5 million alumni who’ve come through the system. The college’s reach and enrollment reflect its status as a core institution and as a workforce and cultural engine for Miami-Dade County.

The numbers tell a story from the outside, but a step inside the inner workings of this cutting-edge college tells a far brighter story. With around 300 distinct degree pathways and one of the most diverse student demographics in the country, Miami Dade College is a place “where everyone comes to get an opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” says MDC President Madeline Pumariega.

“We don’t teach to the sky,” says Pumariega, the first female president appointed to one of the nation’s largest educational institutions. “We teach exactly the skills that [employers] need students to have. Fundamentally, students come to college to get a job.”

A cutting-edge idea center

Alejandro Gonzalez is the executive director of the idea center at Miami Dade College. It’s his job to oversee the college’s hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. And Gonzalez’s efforts begin with an analysis of the economic makeup in Miami-Dade County.

“We look at our work by first looking at the customers we serve,” explains Gonzalez. “We serve first and foremost our students here at the college. We also serve our employees, and we serve small business owners in the community.”

Gonzalez stresses that small business owners are the backbone of Miami-Dade County. About 90% of the county’s businesses employ less than 10 people, Gonzalez says, and, on top of that, 75% of small business owners in Miami-Dade County are immigrants. In other words, that’s nearly $3 billion in economic output coming from first- or second-generation Americans realizing their dreams.

With such a vast pool of talented entrepreneurs, it’s up to Gonzalez and MDC to shape the next wave of small-business owners. Over the last few years, around 500 students have filed through the idea center at Miami Dade College, and that number is growing.

“As business changes, as the world changes, [it’s about] helping students understand what it means to have that mindset of problem-solving, creativity, leadership — those skills that are going to help you succeed in any industry,” says Gonzalez.

The college’s idea center offers programs for a variety of business types, from mom-and-pop stores to restaurants and barbershops, plus a series of monthly workshops. Each program emphasizes practical skills in the rapidly evolving economic climate. For example, Miami Dade College is launching a series teaching students how to use artificial intelligence to make their business processes more efficient.

Beyond that, MDC offers a successful “scale-up program,” which uses a 12-week cohort model where small businesses enter the system, develop growth plans for their company, and network with other business owners. Many small businesses need capital to grow, too, which is why Miami Dade College connects its students with banks, community development financial institutions, and other grant opportunities in the community.

In 2024, Gonzalez anticipates six cohorts of small businesses working with the idea center, which means 40 to 50 small business owners will attend the college’s monthly workshops across the county.


Artificial Intelligence
Center Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Wolfson Campus on April 18, 2023 binary comment

Innovative tech programs

One of Miami Dade College’s core goals is to foster the skillsets companies need for future talent. Right now, there’s a strong technology movement in Miami, specifically a higher demand for employees in the cybersecurity industry. Naturally, MDC has dedicated itself to serving that demand.

“Cybersecurity is one of those areas where we invested for the last five years in having the best program in the nation,” says Antonio Delgado, the Vice President of Innovation and Technology Partnerships at Miami Dade College.

Just recently, MDC’s cybersecurity received its second accreditation from the National Security Agency (NSA) for its bachelor of cybersecurity program, making it the second such program – after the associate science in cybersecurity degree – to receive that esteemed status. As Delgado points out, these accreditations speak to the quality and advancement of this program, which now educates over 1,000 cybersecurity students.

“We just developed these programs five years ago,” says Gonzalez, noting the rapid increase in enrollment. “That speaks about the volume that we can serve in this community.”

There are layers to MDC’s enrollment demographic, too. While the college enables young, minority students, it also helps older, established professionals hit their goals. The artificial intelligence program, launched in 2023, serves over 600 students, and most of those folks are older than 35 years of age.

“It’s not all about the traditional students,” says Delgado. “It’s really upskilling and rescaling the existing workforce, people that are already working. Even beyond working, even after retirement, they want to still learn more skills.”

Cybersecurity and A.I. aren’t the only two areas where Miami Dade College is breaking ground. Around a year ago, the college launched the state of Florida’s first bachelor’s degree program in data analytics. Right away, students saw results.

“Today, every single graduate from that program received two to three job offers before they graduate,” Delgado says proudly.

In Delgado’s eyes, these job offers reflect how precisely the college arms its students with applied skills that make graduates eligible for high-paying jobs. With a previous lack of data analytics programs, these jobs were often reserved for Master’s or PhD students. Now, Miami Dade College offers a more practical, cost-effective route to a lucrative career in the industry.


Commencement 2024 Kendall & Padron Campus at loanDepot Stadium on April 20, 2024


One-of-a-kind strategic partnerships

Another way Miami Dade College differentiates itself is through strategic partnerships. Thanks to MDC’s staunch reputation, companies of all sizes partner with the college to ensure relevant skills are being taught to cultivate necessary workforce talent.

MDC is notably partnered with Tesla. That’s already a remarkable achievement, but there’s a twist that shows this isn’t simply an on-paper collaboration with a big-name corporation.

“It’s a true partnership where every student that gets into the program gets a job at Tesla automatically,” explains Delgado.

As a pioneer in the electric vehicle industry, Tesla saw MDC as a perfect match. In the current climate, there’s a lack of education for electric vehicle technicians, so Miami Dade College is working step-for-step with Tesla to establish a college curriculum that teaches the appropriate content to students. In the current 16-week program, MDC students have access to the same equipment, vehicles, and even the uniforms and computers that Tesla technicians use.

By the end of the program, each student is fully qualified to work at Tesla.

“So far, every student that has graduated from the program is working at Tesla nationally,” raves Delgado.

These partnerships also act as a bridge between students and Miami-Dade County’s business ecosystem. Through MDC’s Idea Center, we are focused on partnering with industry leaders, bringing them in to share their entrepreneurial journey with our students and business leaders across our community. Our fire-side chats have included leaders like Marcelo Claure, Rony Abovitz, and Jessica Alba among other thought leaders.

The idea center specifically enables some key partnerships as well. The college’s small business work is typically supported by external funders, says Gonzalez. TD Bank, Verizon, and Wells Fargo contribute on the private side, while local government entities, spearheaded by Miami Dade county commissioner Eileen Higgins, fund other small-business endeavors.

“We’re really a microcosm,” says Gonzalez. “The college brings together the individual philanthropy, the corporate entities, and the public entities under one table, one roof, to be able to then provide programming for our students and all of the customers who we serve.”

Growing the knowledge economy

In 2024 and beyond, President Pumariega remains steadfast in her mission to remain a leader in reimagining student experiences through academic excellence and innovation. She envisions a continued optimization of the student experience at Miami Dade College, where every individual’s journey is personalized.

“We’re going to need more students to enter college in a knowledge economy,” says Pumariega. “This idea that we don’t have to continue to skill up really is not true.”

Miami Dade College will always emphasize academic excellence and innovative partnerships to secure the community’s future, but there’s also a sense of pride in the local talent the college creates. Nine out of 10 students remain in Miami Dade County after graduating, Pumariega says, and that’s important to her. After all, the president herself is an MDC graduate.

As Pumariega puts it: “Talent is the economic development currency of the day.” And under her watch, education will remain the number-one pathway to prosperity.

Specialized education, coupled with local partnerships, unlocks opportunities. And Miami Dade College is the perfect vessel for students, small-business owners, and budding tech innovators to achieve their dreams.

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Miami Dade College, Miami, Florida

What: A top-tier college with a cutting-edge idea center, strategic partnerships, and a commitment to helping students achieve personal and professional fulfillment.

Where: Miami-Dade County, Florida



Beyond Academics –

Beyond Academics serves as strategy architect and outcomes catalyst for higher education institutions looking to become future-ready. From modernizing institutional workflows and the student experience, to technology transformation and professional development, we roll up our sleeves to get mission-critical things done when internal resources are stretched or lacking.

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