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Conversations with the Council featuring Dr. Ava Parker, President of Palm Beach State College

"I want to make sure our students have a seat at the table of opportunity." As President of Palm Beach State College, Dr. Ava Parker leads with a strategic approach emphasizing innovation, student success, and community and business collaboration. That passion and purpose attracted her to the Economic Council of Palm Beach County. "The opportunity to work with the business community and the Council's mission of ‘creating a prosperous business environment in Palm Beach County’ goes hand in hand with Palm Beach State College's mission. As a pillar of education, talent development, and economic progress for Palm Beach County for 90 years and counting, I want to ensure that our programs align with the needs of the business community and the county's plans for future growth."

President Parker is the first female president in the institution's history. Before joining Palm Beach State in 2015, she was executive vice president and chief operating officer at Florida Polytechnic University, the state's first public university focused on applied research in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Parker also served for more than a decade on the Florida Board of Governors of the State University System and served on the University of Central Florida's Board of Trustees. Before that, she was a partner in the Jacksonville law firm of Lawrence & Parker, general counsel at Edward Waters College, general counsel for the 11th Episcopal District of the AME Church, assistant general counsel for the state Department of Transportation, and assistant public defender in Miami-Dade County. Today, she manages a team of more than 2,700 full, part-time, and temporary employees. "My focus is always on fostering a culture of open communication, teamwork, transparency, trust, fresh ideas, and collective responsibility that benefits our students, employees, alumni, and greater Palm Beach County community." 

Since 1933, Palm Beach State College has grown in stature, having earned national distinction as one of the top 150 community colleges in the country. They offer more than 130 programs of study on five campuses for more than thirty-three thousand students to choose from. "Anytime you leave your neighborhood, you're going to come into contact with someone who was either trained here or took a class here or whose life was changed at Palm Beach State." As Parker likes to say, the college is the "heart of the county." "We are also the economic engine of the county, and we provide the infrastructure, making this county work and function."

Parker says maintaining a strong economy in Palm Beach County entails facing our challenges head-on. "We need to balance economic growth with a multifaceted approach that addresses the pressing issues of the community in an environment that benefits all residents." Not one to see the glass as half empty, she is optimistic the business climate will continue to thrive in the next ten years, with Palm Beach State students playing an instrumental part in the success as they have for the last 90. "My vision is that Palm Beach State College will continue to be a primary partner in growth and innovation for the next 90 years! This includes our diverse and dynamic graduates reflected in every industry in Palm Beach County and our alumni at the upper echelons of management, entrepreneurship, and leadership across all sectors in large numbers. Palm Beach State College will continue to serve as a catalyst for economic growth through the prioritization of higher education, innovation, and collaborations with businesses as part of an ecosystem for growing talent that allows our students, businesses, and community to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world."

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