Florida International University, located in Miami, FL, does an excellent job at promoting healthy living and safe sexual practices both on and off campus. The university runs a variety of campaigns that involve different departments within the university. We were able to talk to two influential figures at FIU: Wendy Ordóñez, the outreach coordinator for ‘The Victim Empowerment Program’ and Sofia Fernandez, the project coordinator that works to promote safe and healthy practices within the greater Miami community.
How does FIU promote sexual health and awareness on its campus?
Wendy: “FIU is extremely proactive when it comes to providing students with the tools necessary to combat any issues they may face regarding sexual health. We have multiple departments that work together to strategize and create effective campaigns on campus. The program I work with deals with consent and issues related to alcohol use.”
Sofia: “The department I am in works very closely with the health clinic to provide free HIV and STD testing for students. We also work with different student run organizations in an attempt to create a partnership and a connection with our students. Because we are a locally and federally funded project, another cool thing we get to do is community outreach. We are actually able to work with the local middle and high schools to give them the information necessary to make responsible, mature decisions when it comes to their health.”
What sorts of strategies do you use to engage the students on campus?
Wendy: “We like to use a variety of approaches to tackle our mission. We give out about 100 presentations a year on consent and responsible alcohol use as part of our ‘freshman experience’ program. We also have many tabling events throughout the year where we give away free gifts and prizes. Something that has been very effective for us is doing talks in the elevator. This way, we can catch students as they’re going about their day. One of our favorite events of the year is our sex carnival, and everyone seems to enjoy it because it’s fun for the students but also creative and interactive on our end.”
Sofia: “Since we are able to partner up with student organizations, we are able to go to their meetings and give presentations. We have also done so in classrooms and at our dorms. Since we have lots of opportunities, and we are not just based on campus, we have unique opportunities such as horse therapy, or the mindfulness project. We have been thinking of innovative ways to allow our students to cope with any issue that may arise. Also, we actively promote free HIV and STD testing on campus every Monday and Wednesday. We also have a weekly outreach program on campus with the health clinic where we are able to go and hand out information.”
How did you get started in this line of work?
Wendy: “In 2004, I was a freshman at FIU and sat in on a program about consent and responsible alcohol use. The talk really sunk in and I became really interested in the topic, but I was studying graphic design at the time so I did not know how to incorporate the two. However, after entering the workforce, I saw that I could use my creative mind to create campaigns that resonate with students, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
Sofia: “I have always been interested in this type of work. I studied social work at Florida State University and got my masters degree. I then decided to enroll in the doctoral program for social welfare at FIU, and I am currently working towards that goal. I was also lucky enough to be able to come on board as a project coordinator at FIU. I’m able to further my education while also working and helping the youth at FIU and the community around us.”
How has creativity helped enhance the message behind your campaigns?
Wendy: “Being a graphic designer, I think creativity is important in almost everything. People get tired of seeing the same, boring messages again. That’s why I created a mascot for the project I’m working on. ‘Kiwi the Alien’ is a mascot that everyone on the FIU campus knows and loves. He is just as popular as our school mascot now, and the idea behind him is to create a fun way to spread health messages in a way that students will remember. And who won’t remember a giant green alien?”
Sofia: “After seeing how successful Kiwi was, Wendy has helped me create ‘Cody the Camel’, a mascot that is now used for my specific project. FIU has a lot of different organization, programs, and events, but these mascots allow students, faculty, and staff to remember us and the work that we’re doing.”
‘Cody The Camel’ ‘Kiwi The Alien’
How has partnering with Say It With A Condom enhanced the delivery of your message?
Wendy: “It’s given us a creative outlet to talk about controversial, sensitive topics. Humor works wonders, and Say It With A Condom has allowed us to use that to talk about issues like consent or alcohol related incidents in a fun and approachable way. The ‘You Mustache For My Consent” condoms made the students laugh but also allowed us to send out our message. It was a win-win situation, and we really are starting effective conversations with condoms.”
Sofia: “After seeing how Say It With A Condom has positively influenced Wendy’s campaign, we decided it would greatly benefit us as well. We’re currently in the process of creating our own campaigns to start conversations with condoms, and we’re excited to see our partnership benefit my department as well.”
We can’t wait to work with you guys more either! Keep doing what you’re doing and accomplishing great things at FIU. Thanks so much Wendy and Sofia, we’re excited to see what you both accomplish next.