Keiser U Makes Bold Step in Naples

by Jeff Lytle

by Jeff Lytle

Students in the Naples area have yet another campus to consider for higher education.

Keiser University is opening its new site in Florida on U.S. 41 East, after working from North Naples since 2018 when it took over Wolford College, which specialized in anesthesiology. That was the private, not-for-profit Keiser’s 21st location in Florida; now it has 23.

Lynda Waterhouse, president and CEO of Keiser University in Naples.

The president and CEO of Keiser in Naples, Lynda Waterhouse of Bonita Springs, has earned an MBA and Ph.D in health care administration, and is active in civic projects such as Youth Haven, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Collier Foundation and Collier County Hunger and Homeless Coalition. A CPA, she previously served as executive director of Collier Anesthesia, a large group practice, and worked eight years in financial services in New York.

She answers questions for Life in Naples.

Life in Naples: What will be your main curriculum, and at what level -undergrad or beyond?

Lynda Waterhouse: We currently offer all degree levels, associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral. We anticipate our most significant area of growth will be at the associate and bachelor level. Approximately half of our 230 students are in either the master or doctoral nurse anesthesia programs. Undergraduate students are enrolled in nursing, medical assisting, business and psychology, to name a few. And soon, we will be offering a radiologic technology program.

LIN: Who is your typical student — straight from high school or someone with career experience?

LW: Our typical student is the adult learner with either career experience or limited post-secondary educational experience. However, as part of becoming established in the community, we are partnering with Collier County Public Schools to meet high school students’ needs to set them on an educational path and keep them local.

LIN: How large will your student body and faculty/staff be?

LW: The new building is 40,000 sq. ft. and has 20 classrooms, which will give the campus ample opportunity to grow and add additional programs. We are currently exploring other in demand program offerings and expect the student body will increase incrementally as those new programs are added. Keiser University has a low student-to-faculty ratio and we plan to be congruent with that standard. It’s hard to put a number on how large the faculty will be, but we plan to add faculty/staff to meet the student body’s needs.

LIN: What role or niche do you expect Keiser to play in the expanding higher education options locally?

LW: Keiser University prides itself on partnering with the community to fill educational gaps. We are trying to add educational programs to the campus to meet the community’s needs based on what we hear from applicants and employers.

LIN: Will you have sports?

LW: We plan to have an esport program on our campus. Esports competitions require students to use their critical problem solving skills, which will also help them develop the ability to perform well under pressure.

There will be a gaming hub for club and intramural programs. It is a place where competitive events can be watched live, in person, or via streaming services featuring games such as League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, Fortnite and Apex.

Keiser has joined more than 170 other schools partnering with the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) to advance collegiate esports and ensure fair play. We also support sports programs at the university system’s flagship campus in West Palm Beach. For example, when the Keiser University football team played Ava Maria, we hosted a tailgate picnic for our students and their families. (The KU football team was undefeated through mid-October this year.)

LIN: Your campus is part of a large Keiser operation in Florida. Tell us about that?

LW: Keiser University has 23 campuses in Florida. There are approximately 3,000 employees, 22,000 students, and over 66,000 alumni. The university’s philosophy is to build campuses locally rather than have all 22,000 students come to one centralized location. Each campus is unique. This allows the university to better serve the local communities and help the communities’ workforce by retaining local talent.

LIN: How did you get connected with Keiser?

Aerial of the new Keiser University campus under construction.

LW: We were previously Wolford College, a single purpose institution for nurse anesthesia. The program accreditor updated its standards to require regional accreditation, a lengthy and challenging process for a single purpose college. Wolford College was fortunate enough to gain the interest and willingness of Dr. Arthur Keiser, chancellor, to accept the nurse anesthesia program to continue ongoing accreditation since the university is Level VI regionally accredited. Level VI means it can offer degrees from the associate to the doctoral level.

The addition of the Keiser campus is in contrast to the scarce options available in higher education only a few decades ago. The Naples campus of Edison Community College, forerunner of Florida South West State College, was in a shopping center. There was a University of South Florida branch in Fort Myers, which was absorbed by Edison next door when Florida Gulf Coast University opened its campus in 1998.The area lineup now also includes Ave Maria University and School of Law, Hodges University, Rasmussen University, Nova Southeastern University, Barry University, Southwest Florida College and another Keiser campus in Fort Myers.

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