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

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

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 later 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 us to discuss her role in shaping the college that shaped her.

On Sundial's previous episode, Phillip M. Carter joined us to talk about his research on language diversity and how he’s become an authority on the Miami dialect.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.
Helen Acevedo, a freelance producer, is a grad student at Florida International University studying Spanish-language journalism, a bilingual program focused on telling the stories of diverse communities.