TAMPA — Amid a sea of purple T-shirts, neckties and accessories, J. Collin Hoedtke stood out on the first day of class at Florida Polytechnic University.
He went over the top with the school color, donning a purple wig and slathering paint over his face, arms and legs to express a little school spirit as the state’s newest public university welcomed its inaugural class.
“I’m just used to it,” he said. “When I was in high school I was always That Guy.”
Traffic signage still was being hung, hardware installed in the dorm and minor cleanup underway, but Florida Poly appears to have avoided any major problems despite a mad dash to construct a campus, hire faculty and staff, and admit 500 students in two years.
“Everything seems to have resolved itself,” said Hoedtke, a first-year student from Davie majoring in logistics and supply chain management. “The two classes I have been in, everything went really well. We’re getting right into it.”
Poly’s president, Randy Avent, said Day One went smoothly — “surprisingly so.”
“We put a lot of energy in up front trying to get this all to be as smooth as it could be, and that’s having some dividend,” he said.
Students were upbeat and had few complaints on Monday. There was a brief issue with hot water in the residence hall. And there are plenty of bugs — not the computer kind, but the winged critters that are hanging around the former cow pasture at Interstate 4 and the western Polk Parkway.
It was nothing poly’s first students can’t handle, said Andrew Newquist, a sophomore health informatics major from Auburndale.
“It’s been pretty normal for a college campus – finding your classes, figuring out what books you need,” Newquist said. “It’s been pretty smooth, no hiccups or anything.”
The university was created by the state Legislature in the spring of 2012, and administrators raced to open by Monday. The signature Innovation, Science and Technology building, a residence hall, and dining/multipurpose center are completed and fully functioning.
One cloud did hang over the futuristic campus on Monday: The school isn’t expected to be fully accredited until 2016. That gave some students pause, although there was confidence on the first day of school that it would be achieved.
“They have everything sorted out,” said Newquist. “I’m sure they’ll get the accreditation done.”
Without accreditation, a college’s credits won’t transfer to many other instititions. It cannot receive federal grants or student aid — a challenge poly addressed by giving free tuition to all its students through private donations.
Kristyn Ardrey, a first-year student in mechanical engineering from Plant City, concurred. “I’m not worried about that at all,” she said.
Avent said Poly’s contentious birth and acrimonious split from the University of South Florida is now history.
“To the naysayers, I would say come join us, and let’s make this thing a success,” he said. “We’ve got a good class and we’re off to the races. Now’s the time to jump on board and make this thing the best we can make it.”