Florida’s newest public university graduated 220 students Friday, most of whom were part of university’s inaugural class.
Florida Polytechnic University, or Florida Poly, shed its old status as the Lakeland campus of the University of South Florida back in 2012 after the Legislature approved a plan for the school to be spun off as its own institution.
Among the students receiving their degrees last week were those who enrolled when the new campus opened for classes in the fall of 2014 and stuck with the traditional 4-year track for earning a bachelor’s degree. The university’s first graduates, a class of 18, were awarded their degrees in early 2017.
“Graduates, you are so special – not just because of your vision and pioneering spirit, but also because of the unique opportunities you’ve had as members of Florida Poly’s first group of students,” said Florida Poly President Randy Avent. “I know you won’t stop after this because you also have the patience, drive and determination to reach for even greater achievements.”
The commencement speaker for Florida Poly’s historic milestone was Jeffrey Wadsworth, who recently retired as CEO of Battelle Memorial Institute, the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization.
The ceremony, held at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, also featured an address by State University System Chancellor Marshall Criser and student Chris Dowdy, who graduated Friday with a degree in mechanical engineering.
“Do something that matters and do it with passion. Your sources of pride will not be your acquisitions, nor your recognitions, but rather the lives you’ve touched and the differences you’ve made,” Wadsworth said.
“I hope those of you who are graduating take with you the vision that created Florida Polytechnic University and now contribute to creating the workforce of the future.”
Florida Poly’s student body has nearly tripled in size since the school welcomed its first 550 students in 2014. That class, now heading into the next phase of their lives, has witnessed many ‘firsts’ for Florida Poly since it became the Sunshine State’s twelfth public university.
In its brief history, the university has partnered with numerous tech corporations to help deliver career ready graduates in the private sector, and in 2016 it entered into a long-term partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation to research and test autonomous vehicles.
Last month, the university announced it had pulled in its first grant from the prestigious National Science Foundation to fund a project studying the coverage of crowd-sensing systems in isolated areas.