Faculty Spotlight: Mihaela Plugarasu creates course to teach FIU students about Self-Leadership  


Written By: Jessica Fernanda Rechani

As a dynamic facilitator on the topic of communication, Professor Mihaela Plugarasu is a force to be reckoned with, especially in her new communications class here at FIU, COM 4930- Self-Leadership A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence. Held throughout two weekends, COM 4930 prepares tomorrow’s leaders to succeed after graduation through teaching a series of topics such as leadership, self-awareness, the ability to connect and empathize with others, and effective communication skills.  

Her reward for teaching the students in her class? Watching her students reach their full potential, and flourish. To witness their mindsets, change in how they view the world around them only causes her path as a teacher to only grow stronger with each passing semester, not just for communication students, but for every student.  

Be sure to register for Professor Plugarasu’s new COM 4930 course this Fall 2022 and for her second Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) course also taking place this fall. 

CARTA News was able to sit with Professor Plugarasu to talk about the new course and share advice.

What inspired you to design the COM 4930 course? 
Universities have a shared mission: to prepare tomorrow’s leaders. Over the years, I saw the gap between equipping students with academic and professional skills and preparing students to have the mindset of a leader. Authentic, inspiring leadership requires self-awareness, presence, the ability to connect and empathize with others, and of course, strong communication skills. In other words, “leading from the inside out”. I created the Self-Leadership course to bridge this gap; to give students cross-disciplinary tools to succeed post-graduation.  

The course is held over the course of two weekends, why do you think this format works? 
In today’s fast-paced world, focus is the most expensive currency. Our students are constantly on-the-go, between classes, work, and personal responsibilities. The success of this course rests in the students’ ability to focus, and turn their attention inward and to each other. It is my job to create the most optimal environment for self-reflection and intrapersonal communication. The two-weekends format works because it creates full immersion and it shifts the mindset from fast to present.  

What feedback have you received from the course? 
I believe asking the students directly would be best! Here are some testimonials I have received from my students. 

Why do you think it is important for all communication students to take this course? 
There are many talented people out in the world – brilliant creators, writers, designers, teachers, architects, etc. However, without the mastery of communicating and persuading others, one cannot lead others. People follow inspiring people. Inspiring people are excellent communicators. Quite simple. I highly recommend the course to all FIU students, not just communication majors.  

What do you like most out of your career as a faculty member? 
My mission is to see students reaching their potential. I love seeing students flourish once they receive the tools to optimize their mindset and change their view of the world. That is why my drive only gets stronger every day.  

If you were not teaching/at your position as a faculty member, what would you be doing right now?  
I would be lobbying the Department of Education to change the entire curriculum starting in pre-K all the way up to high school. We teach 100 years old content that does not match the requirements for success in the 21-st century. We teach content, instead of abilities – such as adaptability, mental resilience, emotional intelligence, innovation, mindfulness, and relational intelligence.  

What’s next for you? Any interesting plans for new courses or projects? 
I am always looking for ways to expand as a professor. Complacency and growth cannot coexist; therefore, I hold myself accountable for what I bring to the table as a professor on an ongoing basis.  

First, I am constantly improving this course. For example, last year I became a neuro-mindfulness senior practitioner and coach, which meant that I brought elements of both neuroscience and mindfulness into the course. Second, I love talking about this course to a larger audience. I plan to expand my relationships with podcasters and media in general, so I can inspire other professors. Third, I believe in the power of global learning. I plan to teach my 2nd COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) course in Fall 2022. Fourth, as a teaching fellow with the Center of the Advancement of Teaching, I plan to develop more workshops and content on the science of teaching.  

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