LAKELAND — Florida Polytechnic University is open for business.
Its signature Innovation, Science and Technology building is still under construction. Student housing is still on the drawing boards. There are just a handful of faculty and 25 students committed to start school in 2014.
But last week, the Lakeland university opened its first building to the public, a 5,000-square-foot admissions center that chief operating officer Ava Parker said will give prospective students, parents and advisers the ability to “see and touch” an actual piece of Florida Polytechnic.
“It’s very exciting because it gives our families, our students, our guidance counselors and folks from across the state the opportunity to come in and see our university and see what we’re about,” said Parker.
The pitch to Poly prospects had previously been somewhat virtual, with little to show of a campus that won’t open until next fall. Now, those interested in the school can meet with admissions staff, tour the campus under construction and learn about Poly’s mission, curriculum and scholarships from the new center, which is on the campus at Interstate 4 and the west end of the Polk Parkway.
A pair of public grand openings were held recently to show it off.
“We want the public to know that we’re doing what we set out to do,” said Ghazi Darkazalli, vice president of academic affairs. “We are really happy with where we are.”
Poly officials said the school now has had more than 5,600 inquiries and 1,733 applications for admission. Of those, 298 have been admitted, and 25 have put down deposits.
Poly has hired 15 of the 31 full-time and 12 part-time faculty members it will have at full strength. One of them is Robert MacCuspie, who was the first hired in June.
“For me, it’s an opportunity to design a cutting-edge program, influence the curriculum, help build industry partnerships and bring the community together,” MacCuspie said at a recent ribbon-cutting.
He said he looks forward to working with Poly’s first students. “They are going to be the first class of this university. They’re going to build the traditions and culture of this place,” he said. “This is such a phenomenal opportunity.”
Florida Polytechnic was created as the state’s 12th public university in the 2012 legislative session. The institute was on a track toward gradual independence from the University of South Florida when then-state Sen. JD Alexander of Lake Wales pushed through legislation creating the school on the spot.
An institution dedicated to the science, technology engineering and mathematics fields is “something the state desperately needed,” Alexander said last week.
“The opening of this building symbolizes the hard work that’s been going on. I’m very confident that with the work that the board and the staff are undertaking that it will fully reach the promise.”
Poly officials have recently awarded a contract for the construction of a 90,000-square-foot, on-campus residence hall that will have 216 bedrooms.