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News Story
Updated: 05/14/2014 08:00:03AM

Poly view: Virtual library

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Vestcor Communities is building the new dorm building at Florida Polytechnic University in northeast Polk County which will provide housing for 216 of the 500-member freshman class.

By CATHY PALMER

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Florida’s newest university, Florida Polytechnic, has maxed out its first freshman class, rented all dorm rooms, hired a full staff and new president, and is setting its sights on a virtual library. All before classes begin at the northeast Polk campus in mid-August.

FPU has filled its 500-member strong freshman class and according to university spokesman Crystal Lauderdale, even has a few extra to-fill slots made available by no-shows.

“We have 505 students who have made deposits and only planned on an initial class of 500,” she said. All told, including graduate students and transfers, the student body will number about 920, Lauderdale added. She also said that in 2015, the college plans to admit more than 600 students.

Lauderdale explained that most of freshmen will be getting a free ride scholastically, with each student receiving a $5,000 tuition grant. Grad students will receive $9,000 grants each. There were more than 3,000 applicants, she continued, adding that most had grade point averages of 3.9 or better. Most of the student body hails from Polk, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Lauderdale also said there will be a staff of 30 full-time and 20 adjunct (part-time) professors who will focus on teaching STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math.

Degrees will be offered in six programs with 19 concentrations, along with two masters’ programs. The masters’ degrees will be awarded in engineering and innovation and technology.

Taking the helm of the state’s newest university will be the former vice chancellor of research and development at North Carolina State University, Randy K. Avant. Avant, 55, has agreed to take the position and salary contract talks were still underway early this week. Lauderdale did say, however, that the FPU Board of Trustees was expected to review the proposed contract on Thursday and, if approved, then be forwarded to the Florida University System Board of Governors for final approval.

Avant is expected to take the helm of the school before classes begin Aug. 15. Information on his salary was not available.

When the influx of students starts, the single dormitory building now under construction should be completed, Lauderdale said. The 90,000-square-foot building will house 216 students and consist primarily of four-bedroom suites with a large living room and two bathrooms.

The five-story building, which will be adjacent to the signature innovation building, is being built by Vestcor Communities as a public-private partnership.

“We have leased the land to Vestcor,” Lauderdale said. “And they are building the dorm and will also operate and maintain it.”

According to Vestcor’s website, the dorm has already been filled for the coming year. The units rent for from $2,995 to $4,050 for the school year. The building also will feature a community room, communal study areas, a business and computer center and recreation room complete with a pool table and pingpong tables.

Also in the final planning stages is the new FPU digital library. According to Kathryn Miller, who will direct the library operations, the library won’t be like traditional libraries. It will be primarily digital, but there will be some hardcover books available on demand.

“It’s going to be more of a communal study area where students can do research and also solve problems,” said Miller. “It will be a place to provide and promote opportunities for FPU students to connect, collaborate and anticipate technical problems and solutions.”

When asked about the size of the library, Lauderdale said, “If you can tell me how many square feet there is on the Internet, I can tell you how big the library will be.”

Meanwhile, Lauderdale said that the construction of the mega-million-dollar signature clamshell Innovation and Technology Building, which will house classrooms for the August term start was continuing and according to Skanska Construction, will be completed on schedule for the opening day of school.


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