Ava Parker was gleaming Wednesday when she spoke about Florida Polytech as she was either encouraged by a report earlier this week about the applications coming in or just plain excited about the campus seemingly to move smoothly toward its planned opening in August.
At a board meeting on Tuesday in Orlando, it was reported that 300 students have been accepted of the 500 it plans to have when the first semester starts in August. Wednesday, Parker said it was 319. And so far more than 1,800 have applied. When Board of Trustees member Don Wilson introduced Parker, the school’s chief operating officer, at the Bartow Rotary meeting Tuesday, he said his original fears are evaporating.
“A year and a half ago, we had no employees, no trustees and just an idea,” he said. Referring to Tuesday’s meeting in Orlando, he said, “The doubts I once had are gone.” The benefits are to come.
Parker said there are about 50 teachers on staff and a number of industries have partnered with the school that has a goal of not only educating students but teaching them to solve real problems that exist with companies now.
“The focus is on applied research,” she said. “We will get real problems and search for solutions.”
When the curriculum was to be decided upon, the board of trustees looked at what is happening in Florida. One goal of the school is to train students to stay in Florida whether if it’s working for a company here or starting their own business, she said. The board looked at trends in Florida, what is growing in Florida and statistics and information from the Department of Economic Development. What they’ve come up with is two basic study areas. One is engineering and the other is in innovation and technology. Under those two categories there are a variety of areas where students can earn degrees. And, the degrees are different from what the 11 other public universities offer, she said.
“We want to show students how to start a business and we want the departments working together,” she said.
So since last summer Parker has been hiring teachers to meet the needs of what the college needs. The staff which was four last summer now is at 50 and many are already on campus.
Meanwhile the statistics show that more than 1,800 students who have applied have an average grade-point average of 3.9. The average SAT score is 1850 and the average ACT score is 26.
“We’re getting the best and brightest students,” she said.
Parker said this only means the word about how this school is offering is getting out.
Movies have been shown to market the school and currently there are tours of the campus underway. She said anyone can call at anytime to get a tour of the school.
When asked how far reaching the applications are, Hazel Sellers, who is a Rotary member and also a Polk County School Board member, asked how many Polk County students are applying.
Parker said probably about 50 percent are from Polk County, attributing that the message here is probably more known locally.
With the word though apparently known better than they thought, Parker was asked about growth and what the university is doing to accommodate more students.
“We’re thinking about growth now,” she said. “At year three we’re going to need another research building and we have to plan what other buildings will look like.” She said the school will operate on about a $30 million budget. She said it’s not a great amount of money but it will be enough to house the students and faculty they need in the goal of making this a top university and one that will be of great benefit.
“This university will not only transform Polk County but also the state of Florida,” she said.