From FIU Student to State Leader: How Jeanette Nuñez’s Education Shaped Her Political Career

by | Mar 23, 2023

This alumni story is part of series of biographical profiles of prominent Florida International University graduates sponsored by the school.

Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Núñez is a trailblazer in Florida politics, having been elected as the state’s first Hispanic female Lieutenant Governor in 2018 and winning reelection in 2022. With a long list of accomplishments under her belt, one can turn to the foundational values instilled by Florida International University (FIU) as a stepping stone to her political career.

Born and raised in Miami, Nuñez attended FIU, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Political Science in 1994, ultimately returning for a master’s degree in Public Administration in 1998. She is also a lifetime member of the FIU Alumni Association.

“I was honored to receive both of my degrees from FIU,” said Nuñez as the commencement speaker at FIU’s 2022 graduation ceremony. “No other institution in this country has the stories and sacrifices, or the success that this one does.”

Following graduation, she worked as chief of staff for state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, then entered the healthcare industry, working as the Vice-President of Government Affairs at Jackson Health System. Núñez also worked for FIU as an adjunct professor and advisor.

Nuñez’s path to becoming Lieutenant Governor of Florida began in 2010 when she was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, where she represented District 119 for eight years. During her time in the House, Nuñez garnered a reputation for her focus on healthcare reform, education, and protecting the rights of individuals and groups. Her work in these areas helped her gain the support of her colleagues, as well as Florida’s then-gubernatorial candidate, Ron DeSantis.

In 2018, DeSantis selected Nuñez as his running mate for the gubernatorial race. As a Cuban-American woman, Nuñez brought a unique perspective to the ticket. Throughout the campaign, Nuñez worked to promote policies that aligned with the values of voters, including healthcare reform, tax cuts, and support for law enforcement.

The DeSantis-Nuñez ticket was victorious in the general election and Nuñez was sworn in as Florida’s 20th Lieutenant Governor in January 2019. Since then, she has continued to work alongside Governor DeSantis to promote policies that support Florida’s residents and businesses. Throughout her career in public service, Nuñez has been an advocate for policies and programs that align with FIU’s mission statement and values.

The university’s mission statement includes a commitment to “truth in the pursuit, generation, dissemination, and application of knowledge.” Nuñez has demonstrated her commitment to upholding the value by advocating for policies that are grounded in empirical evidence and research. As a state representative, she introduced legislation to improve healthcare outcomes for women by increasing access to preventative care and maternal health services.

Additionally, Nuñez’s commitment to freedom of expression aligns with FIU’s mission to create an environment where students and faculty can express themselves openly and without fear of censorship or retaliation. Throughout her time as an official in Florida, Nuñez has served as an advocate for preserving First Amendment rights, working to pass legislation that protected the free speech of students and faculty at schools across Florida.

Moreover, FIU’s mission statement emphasizes “excellence in intellectual, personal, and operational endeavors,” which Nuñez has demonstrated through her leadership and ability to work across party lines to pass legislation.

Nuñez’s journey from student to Florida’s first Hispanic female Lieutenant Governor is a testament to FIU’s commitment to excellence in intellectual and personal endeavors.


  1. MH/Duuuval

    Nuñez may soon be the Governor, but the public — outside Miami-Dade and inside the dank caverns of the Florida GOP — has no idea if she can even speak in complete sentences. My guess: Ron’s inner circle will continue to run the show in Tallahassee, assuming DeSantis runs for the Presidency.

  2. marilyn ann scrizzi ph.d

    Lt Gov J Nunez graduated from Westwood Christian Schoo in 1990. I believe her education there gave her the background for her life not FIU.

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