Chief Operating Officer Ava L. Parker is the senior executive at Florida Polytechnic University, responsible for defining the course and implementing the vision for the state’s newest university and the only one dedicated to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Appointed by the Board of Trustees in December 2012, Parker is charged with developing operations from the ground up and taking the critical first steps in establishing Florida’s first polytechnic university, which will welcome its inaugural class in August 2014. Parker reports directly to the University Board of Trustees, managing University operations in a manner consistent with the Board’s adopted policies and procedures. She is responsible for supporting the Board and carrying out its decisions on developing strategy, establishing objectives and maintaining accountability. Her chief responsibilities include overseeing recruitment and hiring of administration and faculty, supporting the creation of academic curricula and programs, supervising the development of financial management systems and establishing a centralized process for advancement, fundraising and development.
“I am proud to be leading the state’s first polytechnic university and helping to shape its mission for providing students with a cutting-edge 21st Century higher education,” Parker said. “Florida Poly, and its innovative vision for rigorous academics grounded in real-world relevance, holds such promise and opportunity for students and the future of Florida’s economy. The synergies, research and innovation that will be developed here cannot be duplicated at other institutions.”
An attorney with a decade of experience in higher education, Parker is uniquely qualified to guide and implement the goals of Florida Poly. Her background includes governance positions in the State University System of Florida, where she chaired the Board of Governors, a constitutional body created to develop and direct policies for the entire State University System. Under her leadership, Parker oversaw the education of 320,000 students at 11 public universities in Florida. Parker’s service on the BOG spanned 10 years and three Administrations. She was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush as an inaugural member and then reappointed by Gov. Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott. In addition to her role as Chair of the BOG, Parker also served as Vice Chair and Chair of the Facilities Committee, which oversaw capital expenditures for construction, development and expansion. Parker was a charter member for the University of Central Florida Board of Trustees. She led a BOG commission that explored the technology skills gap and future needs in higher education for worker education, training and skills.
Parker’s industry experience includes service as General Counsel representing Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, a private, nonprofit institution. She worked closely with the President and administration on the planning and implementation of the successful re-accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). She represented the college in all civil litigation, drafted and reviewed personnel and vendor agreements, and advised on community, public affairs and political issues.
Parker is a partner at Lawrence & Parker, PA, which offers legal services in the areas of corporate, transactional, civil litigation and public finance. She is president of Linking Solutions, a consulting firm that has produced a national symposium for municipalities exploring expansion of technology services for its citizens. Linking Solutions provides training, project management and back office support.
She is founding Executive Director of the Emerging Issues Policy Forum, which brings lawmakers and industry leaders together to address and resolve regulatory barriers in the areas of energy, communications and information technology. Parker served previously on the state’s first Internet Task Force, a position she held under Gov. Jeb Bush. She served as subject matter expert in e-laws at ITFlorida, which advances Florida’s high-tech industry.
Parker has vast experience serving on boards of directors, providing guidance and stewardship for national, state and local organizations. She is the newly elected Board Chair of the Florida Industrial Phosphate Research Institute in Bartow. She sits on the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Visitors Board at All Saints Academy in Winter Haven and the Board of Directors at Orchid Island Capital Inc., a publicly traded specialty finance company based in Vero Beach.
She is past Board Chair of the Jacksonville Transit Authority, where she helped to develop and monitor the agency’s $94 million budget for public transit and road building in the city of Jacksonville. She also is a former member of the Baptist Hospital System Board of Directors in Jacksonville.
Parker is a graduate of Leadership Florida, Class of XXI, a statewide nonprofit organization that trains individuals who show a passion and commitment to make a difference as a Florida leader. In 2013, Parker was among the Women of Influence honored by the Jacksonville Business Journal. The Girl Scouts also recognized Parker in its annual Women of Distinction Awards in 2007.
She is a graduate of the University of Florida Law School and the University of Florida’s College of Journalism. She is married and has two school-aged children.