FGCU professor aims to keep university’s brightest graduates working in SWFL

Published: January 13, 2022 12:02 PM EST

A woman is on a mission to keep the best and brightest students here in Southwest Florida.

Her name is Dr. Sandy Kauanui. She got her start in business at 16 years old, running payroll for her parents’ company. Today, students at Florida Gulf Coast University call her Dr. K., and she works to keep the best and brightest FGCU students here, working for companies in Southwest Florida after they graduate.

“They’re going to bring new technology, new ideas,” Kauanui said. “New ways of thinking into their company. And that’s what they want. They don’t want somebody to say, ‘OK, what do I do next?’ They want somebody to come in and say, ‘I’ve got a great idea. And this idea is going to make a difference to this company.'”

Kauanui has enlisted Storm Smart founder Brian Rist. She’s asked him to share his path to business success with her students.

“When you’re in business and you make 1,000 decisions a day, they’re not all going to be correct,” Rist said. “But if I can help a few of the students to save a few steps and not make some of the mistakes I made along the way, then sure, I think it’s a win-win for all of us.”

Stormie Pruskauer is the kind of success story  Kauanui envisioned: Her Stormie Seas line of all-natural skin and hair care products is already up and running.

“I admire Dr. K so much,” Pruskauer said. “Her drive, her passion, to not only help others, but to really expand the entrepreneurial industry and help those who are launching industries and help those who are launching businesses.”

Kauanui’s name adorns FGCU’s School of Entrepreneurship, right next to the late Frank Daveler, who invented aerospace technologies.

“I don’t know where this is going,” Kauanui said. “It just keeps growing. And I keep filling the classes up to the max.”