Southwest Florida Roundup
Quick riser: Saint Leo University's provost makes a quick leap to president
Just four months after he was hired to be Saint Leo University’s first provost, Jeffrey D. Senese became the Catholic university’s acting president following William J. Lennox’s retirement in April.
Senese came to Saint Leo from Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin, where he was provost. He was looking for another job because he wanted to eventually be a college president. He was attracted to Saint Leo, which has a traditional campus in Pasco County but serves most of its students online or at satellite campuses on or near military bases. He took the Saint Leo job knowing there was a chance he could eventually become president.
“I was looking at a couple of presidencies at other places when I saw the Saint Leo opportunity,” Senese says. “I met Bill Lennox and the board chair, and they got me excited about the reach and scope of the university, not just in Florida, but throughout the United States.”
Growth potential: “You look at our total of about 16,000 students — 2,500 are on the traditional campus. We need to be bigger here. Most of our students are from Florida, but a significant percentage is from everywhere, from New York City all the way down the east coast. We think we can be 4,000 students here. Half of our campus is open for development. Our first out-of-the-box building is something Bill Lennox was working on, a wellness and a health center. We see a new residence hall as something that’s on the horizon. We’ve got to do something to expand our basketball and volleyball arena.”
Academic advancement: “Here in Florida in particular, we’ve started to move into graduate education with more purpose. Two new programs will start in the fall, a doctorate in criminal justice and an Ed.D. in education. We’re looking at nursing and health sciences. We’re also looking at forms of engineering, digital engineering, software engineering, industrial engineering. Those sorts of programs are in very high demand but don’t require us to have a beam-breaking lab or industrial pumps. We have a project management certificate as a component of our MBA, but we think there's demand to call that out as its own program. Our military people tell us that’s something they really want.”
INNOVATION: Ticket to Ride
Last year, Judah Longgrear was a business development director at Gartner, helping increase sales for the Fort Myers IT firm, when he decided to start a ride-service company called Nickel Ride. Within a few months, his side job had become his full-time job. Nickel Ride provides free rides to residents and tourists within a three-mile radius of downtown Fort Myers. The company makes its money by selling ads on and inside its nine electric vehicles. Also, local business owners pay for the drivers to act as “brand ambassadors,” who suggest the passengers check out specific stores, restaurants or other businesses. The formula has resulted in quick growth. The company has expanded to south Cape Coral and Punta Gorda.