Bringing InterVarsity to Biscayne Bay

The Pioneer Year Internship was developed as part of a plan to have an InterVarsity chapter on every college campus in Florida. In her rookie year on staff, with the assignment of launching a chapter at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay Campus, Mary Beth Doozan had the assistance of two Pioneer Interns, Heather Plazak and Shekinah Apedo.

All three had been involved with InterVarsity while attending college in Tampa—Mary Beth at the University of Tampa, Heather and Shekinah at the University of South Florida. They began traveling back and forth to Biscayne Bay in the summer of 2006, visiting campus, meeting staff and students, looking for housing near campus, and preparing for the start of classes in September.

“We were well received on campus,” Mary Beth said. “As classes started, we did two weeks of tabling at every club fair we could find. We did a lot of outreach” They also began to hold meetings in their home every Friday evening.

They found out just how hard it is to get people’s attention on a commuter campus. “It’s just not known for having much going on,” Mary Beth said. The students in the chapter decided to sponsor their own cultural event. It was called Soulscape, and reflected the multi-cultural campus culture. Performances included hip-hop, poetry, dance, rap, and jazz. The performers shared Gospel testimonies between and during their performances. The students provided all of the food for the event.

This particular campus culture is also very international. “Our chapter is like an ISM (International Student Ministries) chapter, just by being here in Miami,” Mary Beth said. She joined the executive board of the international students organization and started developing relationships with international students, to invite them to chapter activities.

The trio also started Bible studies, one almost every day of the week. “We tried to be convenient with our Bible study times,” Mary Beth said. “We went all out to give people lots of options.” Lots of options, lots of energy, it was an intense year for the three staff members. But the light of the Gospel is shining brightly at FIU-Biscayne Bay.

With the end of the school year came the end of Heather and Shekinah’s internships. “This new school year it will be just me, so it will be different,” Mary Beth said. The students will provide more of the leadership. She will be more of an encourager and idea person.

The students are already starting to take responsibility for the chapter’s success in its second year. Mary Beth proposed bi-weekly meetings with a core of student leaders over the summer to make plans for fall activities, and they told her they wanted to meet weekly.

Looking back over her first year on staff, Mary Beth said “it was an incredibly humbling experience” to move across the state and start fresh in a new place. She said she learned more about herself than anything else. She was stretched beyond the limits of her comfort zone, but that was the kind of challenge she was looking for.

The Pioneer Year Internship program was a key element in the success of the new ministry at FIU-Biscayne Bay, and Mary Beth was thankful for it. “It enabled us to do bigger, broader events, so we could really get established the first year,” Mary Beth said. “Both of these girls were outstanding, and the program in general.”

She’s looking forward to learning even more in the year to come.




You can make a direct financial donation to support InterVarsity’s work at FIU-Biscayne Bay by following this link.