Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Legal Eagle Helps FIU Grads Soar

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Legal Eagle Helps FIU Grads Soar

Article excerpt


Despite a longstanding appreciation for education, Alex Acosta was initially uncertain what career move most appealed to him following the election of President Obama. After all, he was clearly positioned to join, if he wanted to, any one of many prestigious law firms as an influential partner, having become a budding superstar in law and politics through high-profile jobs as a Republican appointee.

Instead, Acosta parlayed his numerous connections into boosting opportunities for students rather than for himself. As Florida International University law dean since July 2009, he has helped graduates secure jobs in a sputtering economy and simultaneously raised public and industry awareness of an emerging law school that turns a decade old next year.

"I love the students," says Acosta, a Harvard Law School graduate who was formerly U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and the first Hispanic to serve as an assistant attorney general in Washington, D.C., where he headed the Justice Department's civil rights division. "The faculty is tremendously supportive, and I absolutely made the right choice coming here."

Acosta and his predecessor, Leonard Strickman, who remains on faculty, have battled the shrinking job market by expanding FIU career services to make more counselors available and by inviting more practitioners to campus to meet students. Acosta has designated one school staff member as director of externships, rather than combining this role with others, meaning more students are placed in offices such as county attorney and public defender while those offices grow familiar with the FIU law school brand.

Acosta has not hesitated to personally call upon some of the many attorneys, judges and agency officials he knew in his pre-FIU years to ask them to seriously consider his students for clerkships, summer associate positions and full-time jobs. …

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