As one of six children in a family relying on food stamps to get by, Dr. Jennifer Peluso never dreamed of pursuing higher education. And even though she received a scholarship to attend a prestigious private liberal arts college—the first in her family to do so—the difference between her financial situation and that of the other students created a feeling she couldn’t shake that she didn’t entirely belong there.
One day, an American Studies professor of hers noticed Peluso’s discomfort on campus and shared some life-changing advice. She told her that despite how Peluso felt, she did belong at that school. She said, “You won’t be successful unless you ask questions.”
Those words stuck with Peluso, and she made it her mission to help other students feel the same sense of belonging she did. From then on, her sights were set on a career dedicated to academic administration.
Today, Peluso works for Keiser University’s West Palm Beach, FL, Flagship campus as the Dean of Academic Affairs, to help the faculty with their students-first philosophy that has been the hallmark of Keiser’s since the beginning. She likes to think of the faculty as “disruptive innovators,” people who can fill a need in a student’s education that other institutions may miss.
Many of the faculty come from the industries students hope to enter rather than theoretical academics, which makes it the perfect home for the online component of the LPGA Professionals education program, which helps people become LPGA-certified golf instructors and golf course managers. Rather than learning theory, students learn from the men and women who have taught, played, and managed their own golf programs and facilities, providing a career-based, liberal arts education.
Keiser prides itself on serving the needs of both non-traditional students—adults in the middle of a career change—and fist-time students out of high school . . . any and everyone is welcome, and each policy and program is angled to best create opportunities for the faculty and staff to help those students the best way they can.
Keiser University College of Golf faculty member and prominent figure of the LPGA Education program, Donna White, helped transition the classes to Keiser’s digital space. Peluso credits White for fully helping get the LPGA and Keiser connected. True to the spirit of Keiser’s faculty, White saw an opportunity to expand Keiser’s Golf Management Program, and as a member of the LPGA Professionals herself, she was familiar with the struggle coordinating in-person instruction was for an often-nontraditional studentship. As Keiser knows how to handle online courses well, White came up with the idea to fully embrace the online platform.
The Golf Management Program at Keiser University helps prepare students who want to turn their love of the game into a career. Instead of focusing on preparing students for a life on the Tour, they teach soft and hard skills—just like in many of their other programs—that directly translate over to the business world. The program allows for students to channel their passion for golf into marketable business skills, contextualizing their love of the game into club management or supporting their own private business.
Peluso explained that at Keiser, they give everyone a chance, especially those students who have experienced hardships somewhere else. But they know how meaningful that chance can be for students, and every day reminds her of how important it is to provide those opportunities for students to feel included as often as they can.
“When I first got here,” Peluso said of her career at Keiser, “I was surprised to see the level of time and care given to each student. And you really can see that in the golf program. They really take their time to check in with each student, and that is only going to continue.”