Tonkinson Foundation to enhance students’ experience through new CARTA Medallion


Imagine learning musical techniques first-hand from a Grammy Award winner, or getting acting tips from a renowned Hollywood actor as part of the curriculum. Wouldn’t it be great, if while earning a degree, students had the opportunity to learn directly from the leading actors, musicians, designers or architects in the field? That’s exactly the kind of experience the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts and the Tonkinson Foundation will provide students with its new endowed CARTA Medallion program.

Steven Tonkinson, Sarah Deal, Margarita Tonkinson and Rick Tonkinson at the 2018 Branches Gala

The medallion bridges the gap between prominent figures in the creative fields and CARTA students.  It seeks to enhance their experience by creating unique joint programming with recipients including, but not limited to, lectures, workshops, performances, exhibitions and masterclasses. The medallion was created to honor an exemplar multi-disciplinary expert, artist, communicator or designer whose work has made a significant contribution to society – while also giving them a platform to bestow their wisdom on future creators.

According to philanthropist and chairman of CARTA Dean’s Leadership Advisory Board, Rick Tonkinson, whose foundation is funding the endowment, the project is truly “visionary” as CARTA will further be recognized for its wide spectrum of nationally ranked areas of interest all housed together under one roof. “This recognition will not only enhance the college’s curriculum, but is a celebration of the awardee and CARTA itself.”

The pillars of what encompasses a medallion recipient include positive influence through impact to the local, national and international community; contribution to social awareness, mental health and/or mutual understanding of public issues; or bringing about positive change to communities, government entities and other societal structures.

Steven Tonkinson, Margarita Tonkinson, Yo-Yo Ma and Rick Tonkinson at Yo-Yo Ma’s concert in Cleveland

“Mr. And Mrs. Tonkinson’s support of FIU CARTA over the years has made tremendous impacts in our students’ lives,” stated CARTA Dean Brian Schriner. “Their latest gift expands upon those efforts and further advances the primary goal of our 2025 strategic plan: students’ success.”

Each year, Schriner, along with CARTA donors and a committee of experts will convene to nominate candidates. Once a candidate is confirmed and has accepted, programming will be designed around the awardee’s area(s) of expertise. Because each awardee will have a varied set of strengths and preferences, the programs will be built around their respective disciplines and communally agreed-upon preferences.  The endowment is similar to that of an artist in residence, encompassing visits with students, exhibitions/performances, masterclasses, etc. Endowments are permanent, which means that they last in perpetuity.

Margarita Tonkinson, Dean Brian Schriner and Rick Tonkinson at a fall 2019 FIU football game

Programming will be closely coordinated with the recipient based on their specific expertise.  “We want to play to the strengths of the recipient to maximize the impact of the medallion,” explained CARTA senior director of development, Oliver Ionita.

This prestigious award will not only be a “celebration” of well-known creators for their accomplishments, but will foster accessibility to unique experiential learning opportunities for CARTA’s students.

The CARTA Dean’s office is currently accepting and reviewing nominations and expects to announce its first CARTA Medallion award recipient in early 2021.

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