Madeline Pumariega on growing up in Hialeah and leading Miami Dade College

She led the state college system and later Tallahassee Community College.

Madeline Pumariega is Miami Dade College's first female president.

Madeline Pumariega is Miami Dade College's first female president. Provided by Miami Dade College

Miami Dade College spent almost two years searching for a new president before it found her in the yearbook.

Madeline Pumariega was a scholarship basketball player at Miami Dade in the 1980s, where she even played for a state title. Now, she’s the first woman ever to serve as the president of Miami Dade, one of the largest colleges in the country.

She understands Miami-Dade College maybe better than anyone else the school might have picked.

Pumariega has always been a South Florida girl. She grew up in a big Cuban family in East Hialeah where Tias and Tios dropped by unannounced to play dominoes.

Pumariega battled South Florida traffic to get to school — like her students do now. She worked her way up for nearly 20 years at the college, rising up the ranks from an academic advisor all the way to president of the main Wolfson campus downtown.

Like a lot of people, she left South Florida. She led the state college system and was executive vice president and provost of Tallahassee Community College.

Those roads eventually led home. Today, she’s the president of all of Miami Dade College — leading a school of more than 100,000 students.

On the June 26 episode of Sundial, Pumariega joined Carlos Frías to discuss her role in shaping the college that shaped her. Listen here or on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple PodcastsStitcher or Spotify.

This story is published as part of a collaboration between City & State Florida and WLRN News

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