Photo: (L-R) University President Dr. Randy K. Avent, Chief Operating Officer Ava L. Parker, Provost Ghazi Darkazalli, Immediate Past Board of Trustees Chair Robert H. Gidel and the Florida Polytechnic Board of Trustees launch Florida’s newest university dedicated exclusively to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
LAKELAND, Fla. – Florida Polytechnic University is now officially open and ready to welcome its Inaugural Class. Florida’s newest state university held a public LAUNCH Celebration on Saturday to commemorate its grand opening and the completion of the iconic Innovation, Science and Technology (IST) Building.
Florida Polytechnic leaders, Governor Rick Scott, and more than 1,000 supporters and new students gathered to experience the state-of-the art University up-close for the first time. A formal ceremony was followed by an actual launch – a vivid pyrotechnics display showered a campus lake adjacent to the IST Building.
“I’m grateful to all of the special guests and supporters who have joined us to celebrate the launch of Florida’s next great university,” said Florida Polytechnic President Dr. Randy K. Avent.
“What’s truly remarkable about Florida Polytechnic is that every single component of it, including the cutting-edge IST Building, has been designed around our mission – to prepare students to become innovative problem solvers and high-tech professionals.”
Dedicated exclusively to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Florida Polytechnic’s approach to learning emphasizes real-world problem-solving, work experience, applied research and business leadership opportunities through industry partnerships.
Leaders from across the state were on-hand to celebrate the new University, including Governor Rick Scott, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, Representative Seth McKeel, Governor Wendy Link of the Florida Board of Governors and former Florida Senator J.D. Alexander.
Governor Scott said, “I would like to congratulate Florida Polytechnic University on becoming Florida’s 12th public university. Florida Polytechnic University’s strong focus on STEM education and its dedication to helping students graduate with the skills they will need to get a great job will play a key role in creating jobs for the next generation in Florida. A highly skilled workforce will ensure that companies in Florida will be able to grow.”
Saturday’s LAUNCH Celebration followed PIVOT, a philanthropic gala on Friday evening, which generated more than $3.6 million to support scholarships for Florida Polytechnic University’s Inaugural Class.
“We are grateful to those who so generously supported our Inaugural Scholarship campaign,” said Cindy Alexander, Chair of the University’s Foundation Board, which hosted the event. “Their gifts are not only an investment in the many talented students who have chosen to attend Florida Polytechnic University, but also a commitment to further developing the high-tech sector of our State’s economy.”
Both PIVOT and LAUNCH took place in and around the University’s cornerstone structure.
The IST building’s noted architect Dr. Santiago Calatrava also participated in the LAUNCH Ceremony. Calatrava, world-renowned for his stunning feats of modern architecture, shared his inspiration for the IST Building.
“I am honored to have been involved in this project dedicated to the study of science, technology, engineering and math – a set of subjects so crucial to our society and our economy. I am proud of what we have all achieved and I hope the young people that study here will be inspired to be creative and to meet their potential,” Calatrava said. “Working with the visionary university leadership and amongst the enthusiastic Lakeland community has been a privilege and I wish everyone associated with this project the best of luck in coming years.”
A moveable and functional work of art, the 162,000-square-foot, white domed IST Building features a distinctive louvered roof system that adjusts with the sun’s angle and is surrounded by a ring of curved metal pergolas that shade its outer terrace and walkways.
It houses classrooms, auditoriums, administrative offices, common areas and a number of cutting-edge laboratories, including a Supercomputer and Student Data Center, a Visualization and Technology Collaboration (VTC) Lab, and a Rapid Application Development (RAD) Makerspace Lab with 3D printing capabilities.
Construction of the IST Building took 28 months and was completed by Skanska USA. Headquartered in New York, Skanska USA is one of the largest construction and development companies in the country with expertise in construction, civil infrastructure, public-private partnerships and commercial development initiatives in select U.S. markets.
“Welcome to the cathedral of learning,” said Chuck Jablon, vice president of operations at Skanska. “If you’re a builder, this is what you dream about doing in your career. You think about it at nighttime, you think about it coming into work – it doesn’t leave you.”
With the IST Building and residence hall complete, Florida Polytechnic is now ready to welcome students for the inaugural day of classes on August 25, 2014. The University will offer six undergraduate degree programs with 19 unique areas of concentration and two masters degree programs in the College of Engineering and the College of Innovation and Technology.
“I’m awed by how much Florida Polytechnic has been able to accomplish in a little more than two years. The team has literally built a university from scratch, and today is a culmination of those efforts,” said outgoing Board Chair Rob Gidel. “I’m proud of everyone involved – from campus construction to curriculum development – and I can’t wait to watch our students and our state reap the benefits.”
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