Communication Arts’ Public Speaking Class to Give Away $25,000


Unique Project in Philanthropy Endowed by Private Donor Requires Students to Find and Investigate Non-Profits and Give Away Money

During the coming semester, Professor Elena Nuciforo and her students at Florida International University’s Department of Communication Arts will face a dynamic challenge as an integral part of their advanced public speaking class. The topic for the students this semester is philanthropy.

This advanced public speaking course in philanthropy was endowed by a $25,000 grant from Herbert Gruber and his partner Donna Lee Steffens, an FIU alumna ‘06. Gruber, a Miami resident and former CEO of Heller Financial Company/Miami, is now retired, and also a student at FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus (BBC) in North Miami.

“I became a full-time student at FIU/BBC and have a great love for FIU and the outstanding professors I have been privileged to meet. They are gifted professionals,” said Gruber.

The course will permit Professor Nuciforo, who works within the Communication Arts Department at FIU’s College of Architecture + The Arts and her students, in the advanced public speaking class to find and investigate non-profit organizations. Once a decision is made by the students and professor, they will award monetary grants to the organizations chosen

This concept is innovative but not new. Other major universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford have engaged in similar successful teaching projects. According to Jan Solomon, Development Officer at the BBC campus of FIU, “the course offers our students a real-world experience of philanthropy. This donation enables a unique pedagogical endeavour that benefits FIU students as preparation for potential work in the non-profit sector or inspiration for becoming philanthropists themselves.”

“It is all about making informed, ethical choices about how to do good for society,” added Gruber. “Most students will think before taking this course that it is easy to give away money,” added Jan Solomon. “Once they take this class, they will realize how difficult it actually is.”

The Communication Arts Department has previously partnered with the Miami Coalition for the Homeless to teach formerly homeless individuals public speaking skills. From speech writing to message delivery, FIU students enrolled in the public speaking class worked directly with members of the Miami Coalition.  Students took the information they learned in their class and helped train the formerly homeless to give passionate and well organized speeches about their experience of life on the street.  These speakers then passed their message on to at-risk youth and government agencies throughout the greater Miami-Dade County and through these efforts, increased community awareness and sensitivity to the important issues related to homelessness.

For more information about this course or any others available within the Communication Arts Department, please visit

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