Lucia Raatma


“Be ready to reinvent yourself and try something new.” That is just some of the advice that Chris Martinez shares with students when he talks about his career.

Currently an instructor at City University of New York, he is a retired assistant special agent in charge for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and a former counterintelligence technician for the U.S. Army National Guard. However, his career path was something of an evolution.

Growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Martinez decided to join the U.S. Navy after high school. No one in his family had gone to college, and he had earned a good score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, so that seemed like a logical step. He was stationed in San Diego and served as an air traffic controller.

Just before leaving the U.S. Navy, Martinez landed a job with the U.S. Customs Service (USCS) as a detection systems specialist, intercepting airborne drug smugglers. He went to school at night and eventually obtained his college degree. That enabled him to attain the coveted special agent position with USCS. In this role, he led a variety of investigations, including those involving narcotics smuggling, human trafficking, fraud, and financial crimes. For this position, he had a variety of posts, traveling many miles from Miami, San Diego, and Washington, DC, to Colombia and Panama. Being bilingual was an asset.

During this time, he joined the Army Reserve and served as a warrant officer. His responsibilities included using analytical and investigative skills to detect and prevent acts of espionage, sabotage, and terrorism directed against Army activities. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, Martinez was activated and served stateside in Maryland, Kansas, and California.

Shortly thereafter, all special agents in USCS, including Martinez, were transferred to the newly created U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He served as a regional attaché and advisor at the U.S. Embassy in Panama, working to enhance security and investigative benefits for DHS in seven Central American countries. Upon returning to the United States, he was assigned as a field officer in Newark, NJ, leading a division of criminal investigators, intelligence agents, and support personnel in conducting financial/money laundering, compliance, and asset identification investigations.

Along the way, Martinez began to consider what he would do next. He originally thought he might want to teach high school after retiring, but then a colleague suggested he consider teaching in college. He had earned a bachelor’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1994, but he lacked a teaching degree. So he did an Internet search, found Saint Leo University, and decided to pursue a Master of Teaching degree, which he completed in 2008.

He started as an adjunct faculty member and discovered that he loved the classroom. “I had always liked teaching training courses, so it seemed natural to me,” he said.

Now, Martinez is an instructor at City University of New York, teaching classes in criminal justice, homeland security, intelligence, multicultural policing, financial investigations, and corrections. He also enjoys advising students on course selections and career choices.

Never one to slow down, Martinez is working toward his PhD in homeland security leadership and policy from Northcentral University and is currently writing his dissertation.

What does he tell his students—as well as his own five children—about their career paths? He preaches the three D’s. Have the desire—know what you want to do. Have the dedication—work hard. And have the determination—keep going and keep applying yourself. “Be open to move for opportunities. Never hesitate to tell people what you are looking for. And remember to volunteer—it’s a great way to get face time, learn new skills, and give back.”

The mere mention of INTERPOL evokes the aura of international intrigue and the images associated with James Bond and Mission Impossible-type movies. While Hollywood cinematically glamorizes the artful and technologically advanced manner in which their characters fight crime on the international stage, INTERPOL, the organization, actually exists and operates on a much lower, but no less dramatic profile when it comes to the high-stakes game of taking down the world’s most wanted criminals and terrorists.

According to Wayne Salzgaber, acting director of INTERPOL Washington, INTERPOL is not what people see in the movies. Instead, INTERPOL performs an extremely critical role in coordinating and promoting cooperation among the police agencies of the 190 member nations that are working on the front lines to combat transnational crime and terrorism.

The United States has been a member of INTERPOL, which is an abbreviation for the International Criminal Police Organization, since 1947. INTERPOL Washington is the U.S. National Central Bureau, a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) agency that is co-managed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and serves as the nation’s connection to the INTERPOL organization and its other member countries on behalf of the U.S. law enforcement community. So, how did Salzgaber make his way to the Director’s Office of INTERPOL Washington? It was a long road, with many different assignments, enabling him to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to prepare him for this challenging role.

INTERPOL Washington is the U.S. National Central Bureau, a U.S. Department of Justice agency that is co-managed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and serves as the nation’s connection to the INTERPOL organization and its other member countries.

After completing high school in North Carolina, he decided to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Many of his family members served in the military, and he was eager to enter public service. In addition, the USCG mission of search and rescue, as well as maritime law enforcement, appealed to him. After joining the USCG in 1989, he initially served on the USCG Cutter Harriet Lane, completing multiple law enforcement and humanitarian patrols in the South Atlantic and Caribbean.

Along the way, Salzgaber married, and his wife, who is a teacher, encouraged him to go back to school and get his bachelor’s degree. At this point in his career, in the mid-1990s, he was a staff instructor at the USCG’s Maritime Law Enforcement School in Yorktown, VA, and Saint Leo offered classes nearby at Fort Eustis. “It was challenging to balance my day job and my classes,” he recalled. “But it was a great environment. The instructors understood the demands of the military, and the staff and the course offerings were flexible. The whole experience couldn’t have been better.”

Earning a degree in criminology (which he obtained in 2000 magna cum laude) had a direct influence on his career, and in 1997 he was recruited to be a special agent for the Coast Guard Investigative Service. He remained on active duty until 2001, when he transferred to the federal civil service as a special agent for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. After the nation was attacked on September 11, 2001, and the Department of Homeland Security was created in 2003, Salzgaber was selected to join the newly formed department to establish its Office of Inspector General (OIG). He served in many assignments at DHS OIG, first as senior special agent, then as special agent in charge, and later being appointed to the Senior Executive Services as a deputy assistant inspector general for investigations, in charge of the agency’s investigative field operations division.

“It is hard work, and INTERPOL Washington is about a group of dedicated people working long hours coordinating efforts and exchanging critical information with our foreign counterparts to stem the tide of transnational crime and terrorism.”

In the meantime, Salzgaber went back to the USCG and joined the USCG Reserve in 2003, receiving a commission in the Reserve Officer Corps, and remained active until his retirement in 2010. Prior to his retirement from the Reserve, he was recalled to activity duty to be part of the USCG’s Unified Area Command following the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. He remembers long days spent in efforts to secure the well in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2012, Salzgaber was tapped to be the DHS advisor to the director of INTERPOL Washington. Three years later, he was appointed deputy director. Only a year after that, in 2016, the sitting director from DOJ decided to retire early and step down, leaving two years in his DOJ-appointed term. Since the DOJ and DHS rotate the directorship of INTERPOL Washington every three years, Salzgaber was appointed to serve as acting director for the remaining two-year DOJ term, after which he will assume the DHS three-year term as director of the agency in 2018. “The co-management of the agency and the multi-jurisdictional workforce is a unique and positive aspect of INTERPOL Washington,” he explained. “We have agents, officers, and analysts assigned to the agency from the FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and others all working together to assist in international law enforcement information sharing, counterterrorism, and border security operations.”

Over the years, Salzgaber remembers many successes, including “good cases, justice for victims, and avoided catastrophes.” In today’s “charged environment,” he said that INTERPOL Washington is working hard every day to protect the United States. “It isn’t like the movies,” he reiterated. “It is hard work, and INTERPOL Washington is about a group of dedicated people working long hours coordinating efforts and exchanging critical information with our foreign counterparts to stem the tide of transnational crime and terrorism. We can often obtain vital information from our foreign law enforcement partners that you might not get through diplomatic channels. We work behind the scenes, doing our jobs to protect the public and securing our borders.”

What advice does he have for college students or young alumni who want to enter public service? “Be patient. Be prepared to start at the bottom and get the necessary experience to be successful. Public service is not for everyone, so do your research. Your career is not a sprint, but a marathon. Also, the hours are long, and there is a lot of responsibility, so be sure your family is ready for it. Your whole family is serving.”

As for his family, Salzgaber and his wife have been married for nearly 25 years and have raised three children. “She got used to my deployments,” he said. “And the 2 a.m. phone calls.”

Looking back, Salzgaber credits Saint Leo for helping him prepare for his career and for “getting the next generation ready. We need more institutions like Saint Leo.”

When a person has a bad experience or is under stress, a common reaction is to seek help and solace from friends. Sometimes such a friend has four legs and a wagging tail. For nearly a century, dogs have been used as service animals. They help guide people who are visually impaired and assist those with other physical disabilities. They can also detect seizures and fetch medications as needed.

Therapy dogs fall into a different category. These animals are brought in to comfort those who have been victims of a crime or other trauma. They provide companionship and support to military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they uplift the spirits of those who are sick, and they help first responders open up about the violence they have witnessed.

Comforting Canines (3)In September 2016, the Saint Leo community grieved the loss of Alex “Pancho” Carrera, a University Campus student who passed away. In addition to receiving aid from Counseling Services and University Ministry, many students were comforted by Kashew, a border collie. Dr. Debra Mims, an assistant professor in the Criminal Justice Department, is Kashew’s owner and trainer. She has four therapy dogs (as well as three agility dogs and a cadaver dog), and she knows the benefit that therapy dogs provide.

“Alex was a student in one of my classes, and I believed the students would like having Kashew with us as we met for the first time without Alex,” Dr. Mims said. Just the process of petting a dog can help people relax and cope, she explained.

“Dogs are my therapy, too. … They help me clear my mind.”
—Dr. Debbie Mims

A retired police officer, Dr. Mims entered law enforcement following a family tragedy: the murder of her grandparents in their home. That experience—including working with victims advocates and attending a homicide support group—was life changing. She became a police officer in 1989, starting in the Plant City (FL) Police Department, and then transferred to the Tampa Police Department in 1993. During those two decades, she served as a member of the mounted unit and the bicycle squad; was a child abuse, elder abuse, and domestic violence investigator; and acted as a community service officer. Upon her retirement, she joined Saint Leo as a criminal justice instructor and went on to earn her doctorate. She wrote her dissertation on using therapy dogs to help victimized children talk about sexual abuse.

Handling therapy dogs comes naturally to Dr. Mims. She grew up around dogs and other animals, and was active in 4-H. She has seen firsthand how smart canines can be—and how critical they are in assisting with humans’ recovery.

Dr. Mims is a certifier for the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and helps dog owners determine whether their pets are cut out for the job. Therapy dogs need to have a calm and understanding demeanor. They need to tolerate physical discomfort, such as when a child might squeeze just a little too hard. And they need to have stamina for long days at a hospital or nursing home. Some dogs, even if they are well trained, may not be suitable, she explained. If they are easily excited or have too much energy, they might react too enthusiastically to people or be spooked by loud noises and quick movements.

Comforting Canines (2)In addition to Kashew, Dr. Mims’ other therapy dogs are Disco (another border collie) and Rascal and PePe (both papillons). She finds that the smaller dogs are often best suited to young children, while adults may favor the mid-sized border collies, but every situation is different. She and the dogs work with a volunteer critical incident stress management (CISM) group that has been called to crises throughout the country. The group responded to Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the Columbine shooting in 1999, as well as to the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL. In Orlando, 911 operators and first responders were able to talk about their experiences and emotions, encouraged by petting and interacting with the dogs.

Dr. Mims and her dogs also volunteer in Judge Lynn Tepper’s court in Pasco County, FL. Children come to family court on Wednesdays, and the dogs sit with them outside, providing companionship before they talk to the judge and testify.

One thing that Dr. Mims particularly likes about working with her therapy dogs is that they are always willing to try new things. “I like new things, and I never settle,” she said.

In addition, as she balances life as a professor, wife, and mother, “Dogs are my therapy, too,” she said. “They help me clear my mind.”

When abused, abandoned, or neglected children need an advocate, Guardian ad Litem (GAL) child advocates are there to help. These volunteers collaborate with an attorney and a child advocacy manager from the GAL Program to work with families, child protective agencies, and the courts to ensure the best interests of the affected children are served. The advocates visit the children monthly, attend periodic staffing meetings and court hearings, and help ensure that the children receive all the necessary services they need.

A Voice for ChildrenJon White, a Saint Leo student working toward a Bachelor of Social Work degree at the Adult Education Center at the Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) location in New Port Richey, FL, is one such advocate. A Marine Corps veteran, he works for Veterans Affairs in the combat counseling center, but he also finds time to volunteer for the Guardian ad Litem program. White makes it a point to attend court hearings, explaining that “in court, I can speak directly to the judge.” White noted that his main goal is assessing each situation and recommending what is best for the children involved.

Dr. Marguerite McInnis, chair of Saint Leo’s Department of Social Work, first told White about the program. He agreed to get involved but did not expect it to be long term for him. However, two years later, he said that “Once you see what it’s all about, you find it therapeutic.” He observed, “You learn about yourself—you find out what is important to you. Nothing else points out what you have, what you take for granted, more profoundly than watching someone lose everything.”

A-Voice-for-Children-(2)Linda Poulette ’15, who earned her Bachelor of Social Work degree fromthe Adult Education Center PHSC location in Spring Hill, FL, is also a GAL child advocate. Helping others has always been a passion of hers, she explained. “I have seen so many unfortunate children in our community and in other countries, too. I thought, ‘What can one person do to help?’ Working through Guardian ad Litem, I can help those children. They deserve to be heard.”

Poulette assures the families she is working with that she is not a 9-to-5 person—she is a volunteer and is available to them as much as possible.

She appreciates that the GAL program offered her excellent training and continues to provide invaluable support. “It is an honor to be part of a team that strives to make a difference in the children who are abused, neglected, and abandoned. By being their voice, I strive to bring hope, happiness, love, and security, giving them a brighter future. My goal is to provide a road map, to educate the biological parents and keep the family together. However, sometimes this is not possible and the parents are not willing or ready to make that change.”

VolunteerThere are more than 900 abused, abandoned, and neglected children in the Pasco County dependency court system, so the Guardian ad Litem program is always in need of dedicated volunteers.

What advice do White and Poulette have for those interested becoming a GAL volunteer? “Children need you,” Poulette said. “And knowing that you help make a difference in an innocent child’s life will be the greatest reward you could receive. You can make a difference.”

“Just do it,” White added. “This is a good outlet for anyone who needs to give themselves a quiet purpose. Without Guardian ad Litem, things would not turn out well for a lot of kids.”

Inmates Train Companions for Military Veterans

“Working with these dogs makes me feel like I have a purpose. I find joy in helping others, instead of just being focused on myself.”

These are the words of a Lowell Correctional Institution inmate, a woman who has been part of the WOOF dog-training program for two years.

Serving Time and Serving Others (24)
Julie Drexel

The Women Offering Obedience and Friendship (WOOF) program was created in 2011 as a partnership with the Florida Department of Corrections. It is managed by Julie Drexel, a Saint Leo student who is earning her Master of Social Work degree online. She works with a number of female inmates at the Ocala correctional facility to train service dogs for military veterans, via her Patriot Service Dogs program. Prior to training service dogs, the women become familiar with canines first by walking them and then by training Marion County Humane Society dogs to make them more adoptable.

Only women who have shown the ability to be trustworthy and reliable are accepted into the WOOF program. Living with the dogs in their special dorm—with three to five inmates and dogs per room—is a privilege. The dorm is shared by inmates who work in the nearby equine program, as well as prison orderlies.

Every day, Monday through Friday, the women train the dogs for several hours, both in the dorm and in the work yard. Some of the women teach basic obedience to the Humane Society dogs, with a new class of dogs starting every eight weeks. The program boasts a 100 percent success rate in finding forever homes for the graduates.

The other women work with dogs, starting as puppies, to train them in serving military veterans who live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and physical challenges. Over a two-year period, they teach more than 80 commands and are completely responsible for the care of the dogs. They teach the canines to turn lights on and off, fetch and carry items, open and close cabinets and drawers, help with guidance and balance, and offer companionship for those with PTSD. On weekends, local residents assist by helping to socialize the dogs, by taking them to stores, restaurants, and other public places.

“This program has helped me build my confidence and learn patience,” one inmate said. “It’s hard work, but I see positive results, and I like helping men and women who have served.”

Since the Patriot Service Dogs program is a nonprofit, made possible completely by volunteers, the service dogs are offered to veterans free of charge.

Another benefit of the program is the effects it has on the inmates. Drexel encourages the women to learn not only about dog training, but about the world. She has implemented an education plan, through which the women read books and do book reports, watch educational videos, and take tests. The program also offers a wellness class and college courses.

Serving Time and Serving Others (3)

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“The program is not a success if it’s only about the dogs,” explained Drexel, a former teacher with a bachelor’s degree in education. “If the inmates leave and come back, we have failed. I want to teach them real-life skills and instill confidence, as well as woman power.”

“Miss Julie has made me feel I can do anything,” another inmate said. “I’m working on my GED.”

Working with the dogs not only gives the inmates a sense of accomplishment, but also provides stories they can tell their families when they visit. Sometimes their dogs are part of the family visits, too, which puts everyone more at ease.

“My daughter is proud of me,” one young mom said. “She sees I am doing something important.”

Drexel was inspired to learn about dog training after a young neighbor had suffered a stroke and needed a service dog, but there was a two-year wait. She started by volunteering as a puppy raiser and eventually co-founded Patriot Service Dogs with Susan Bolton in 2009. “Dogs can fix all kinds of problems,” she said.

She decided to pursue her Master of Social Work degree at Saint Leo because she believes the coursework will better prepare her for community outreach efforts, as well as her relationships with the inmates and other volunteers.

“I learn so much from these women every day,” Drexel said. “Knowing them has made me more grateful, more appreciative. I’m a better person for doing this program.”

When the women of the WOOF program talk about their dogs, they exude excitement and pride. They talk about being responsible and accountable, working hard and being organized. One mom talked about how much she misses her daughter and how prison was making her hardened. Working with the dogs “helps me know what it’s like to have feelings again.”

Another inmate who has been incarcerated for more than 15 years has big plans for when she is released. She has dreams of working as a dog trainer or a veterinarian’s assistant. “The best thing about me is working with these dogs,” she said. “My life will never be the same.”

Note: Names of the inmates have been withheld to respect confidentiality.

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When international students enroll at Saint Leo University, they often have a working knowledge of English. However, they may not be fluent enough to understand academic courses in English, and they may be unfamiliar with American culture.

To combat those challenges, the Bridge Program was created at University Campus in 2012. The main goal of this program, according to its mission statement, “is to maximize students’ opportunities for academic success through assuring their balanced language development, personal and academic growth, and smooth transition and adaptation to their new academic culture.” The program offers a wide range of courses, including Composition and Grammar for Speakers of Other Languages, Introduction to American Culture and University Life, as well as classes that focus on reading, note-taking, and listening to lectures for non-native speakers of English.

Dr. Iona Sarieva is director of the Bridge Program. She recognizes that many international students need additional help to be successful, and believes that the Bridge Program offers students the assistance they require. Dr. Sarieva is experienced in teaching English as a second language training, English for academic purposes, and Russian as a foreign language. She holds a PhD in second language acquisition from the University of South Florida and worked as a Fulbright scholar at Sofia University in her native country, Bulgaria. She serves as academic advisor for the students, who are taught by a number of faculty members, including Nataliya Glover, English instructor, and Dr. Marcela van Olphen, professor of Spanish and Portuguese.

Since the program was created four years ago, it has served approximately 150 students. The initial group was from Saudi Arabia, but in years since students from 24 countries—representing Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America—have enrolled in the Bridge Program. Each semester, the group has at least one social event, such as a picnic or potluck dinner, so the students can integrate, socialize, and feel more comfortable in the university atmosphere. Many talented student-athletes have benefited from the program, including those on the tennis, swimming, soccer, and track teams.

Dr. Sarieva credits her multicultural career in large part to her own Bulgarian, Russian, and Greek heritage. She began studying languages and cultures and observed that in many ways they are “different yet the same.” She was inspired by work she once did for the Ellis Island Foundation on digitizing the Ellis Island immigration records, studying the details of those entering the country and learning who they were, what languages they spoke, where they were going, and from what they were escaping. When she looks at the United States, she is fascinated by the fact that “so many cultures came together to make the country what it is.”

Through her efforts, the Bridge Program enables cultures to come together in a similar way, and today’s Saint Leo is defined by that same rich diversity.


Crops grow faster in Alaska than in other parts of the United States, Gena (Chiriboga) Grobarek ’07 explained. And why is that? Because during the growing season, the sun can be out more than 18 hours a day. This is just one reason why Gena and her family are thriving as farmers in Homer, AK.

The daughter of a Peace Corps volunteer who met her husband in Ecuador, Gena grew up in a bilingual household. She spent most of her childhood in Oregon but moved to Florida with her family while she was in high school. Like her two sisters, Gena enrolled at Saint Leo University. She majored in biology with an environmental sciences concentration, a program that seemed tailored to her strengths and interests. She also learned a great deal from Dr. Chris Miller, professor of biology and ecology. Under his guidance, she participated in student trips to Peru and the Galápagos Islands, and she always seemed ready for adventure.

“She had a confidence about her,” Dr. Miller remembers. “She would go and do stuff, just to try it out. She didn’t fret much.”

With Dr. Miller’s assistance, she landed an internship with an environmental consultant in Tampa. That position morphed into a full-time job that she held for about a year after graduation.

Gena and family
Brent and Gena with children Alice, Emil, and Oliver (baby Irah was on the way)

While she was fond of Florida, she had never been a fan of the heat and humidity, so when she learned of an opening for a fish biologist in the Bering Sea, she leapt at the chance. While in that role, she worked on some of the boats featured in the TV documentary series The Deadliest Catch. She also met her husband, Brent. Their next stop was moving to Petersburg, AK, and working for the U.S. Forest Service. She enjoyed mapping streams and “getting paid to hike in the woods.”

As much as they liked Petersburg, the island location can only be reached by plane or ferry. So Gena and Brent decided to move to Homer, AK, on the mainland. They bought property and spent a summer living in a wall tent while they built their home. Those were lean times, which required “living on mac and cheese.” As they settled in to life in Homer, they “fell in love with the community.” They started a family, which includes four children: Oliver (age 5), Emil (4), Alice (2), and Irah (born on June 21, 2016). They also began supporting many local causes, especially those related to conserving the environment.

Farmers market
At the local farmers market

Before long, Gena and Brent cleared some of their land for agricultural use, quit their jobs, and became full-time independent farmers. Today, they grow a variety of crops, including salad greens, carrots, onions, peppers, eggplant, beans, tomatoes, pumpkins, corn, and broccoli. In addition to feeding their own family, they sell the crops to other families through 25 Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes during the summer and operate a farm-to-table booth at a farmers market. They also raise chickens, selling free-range eggs at two local stores, and raise goats for milk. Through it all, they have learned about crop rotation, how to protect the water, and how to keep the soil fertile—which can be in stark contrast to the big commercial farms in other parts of the United States. They also “don’t spray with anything,” avoiding pesticides and herbicides.

“Organic farming is more labor-intensive,” Gena observed. “But it is viable. Our efforts help the local economy, and sustainability is really important to us.”

She also explains that she and her husband have extended their growing season through November, thanks to high tunnels, which are like unheated greenhouses. They start planting soon after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, so even in Alaska there is very little downtime for a farmer.

“There is so much more to Alaska than oil, mining, and gas,” Gena said. “For instance, did you know that carrots grown in Alaska are sweeter than they are from other places? It’s because of the cold weather.”

Farm-fresh produce

She and Brent are active in their community, and they connect with other farmers via social media. Gena is a supervisor on the board of the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District. Soil and water conservation districts are local units of government that develop, manage, and direct natural resource programs at the local level. They work with private landowners to help them learn about and manage their lands and waters, whether for forestry, agriculture, recreation, or other uses, which Gena says is key to economic sustainability and local quality of life. In addition, they are advocates for the younger generation. “Traditional farming is an art form,” Gena stated. “We want to help young people in Homer learn about it and find a purpose.”

“Gena was always asking questions,” Dr. Miller says. “And I can see her wanting to pass along that curiosity to kids. She had a sense of wanting to do the right thing. She is definitely a student I’ll remember till the day I die.”

The Grobareks can attribute their current success to a number of factors: low overhead, no debt, and being minimalist, instead of materialistic. “Dr. Miller was a wonderful mentor in that regard,” Gena said. “The things I learned from him are still with me today. He made me conscious that individuals can make an impact. If everyone cared, things would be different.”

Gena believes that her Saint Leo experience played a huge role in her life goals: “Self-sufficiency, respect for our planet Earth, and finding a better, healthier, more ecologically friendly way of life. We are part of the local food movement taking place in the United States, encouraging our local community to know where their food came from and how it was created.” She believes that another road would have taken her elsewhere, but she is happy with her choices. “I’ve worked for government and state agencies, as well as private firms, but many jobs are morally sketchy. I’ve never been happier than I am now.”

Sister Act

Gena (Chiriboga) Grobarek’s sisters, both Saint Leo alumnae, are also doing amazing work around the world. Maria Victoria Chiriboga ’05 is the undersecretary of Climate Change for the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador, and Maria Mercedes Chiriboga ’03 is a Montessori teacher in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

Growing up in Belgium, Emmanuel Diyoka Mulowayi loved playing basketball. Part of a big family from the Democratic Republic of Congo, he also developed a strong faith and a commitment to helping other people. “My mom is the one who introduced me to Christ and to the love of people,” he said. “She is a woman of great values who always pushed me to keep my eyes on Christ and pursue my dreams.” Now as a graduate student at Saint Leo, he is able to cultivate all those parts of his life at once.

He came to Saint Leo based on advice from his friends Nick Catt and Benjamin Dupont ’10, but he has made his experience his own. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies in 2015 and is pursuing an MBA with a project management specialization. A former semiprofessional basketball player in his home country, he lends his talent to the Saint Leo Lions as an assistant basketball coach—for the women’s team in 2015-2016 and this year for the men’s team.

“Emmanuel is one of the most humble young men I’ve ever met,” said Men’s Basketball Head Coach Vince Alexander. “He demonstrates the core values of Saint Leo and is a representative of our institution wherever he goes.”

In addition, Mulowayi is a graduate assistant in the University Ministry office. “It is beautiful to see students give their life to Christ,” he explained.

In 2013, he took on an internship in Congo. He worked with rape victims in Kivu, a region of war. That experience “opened my eyes,” he said. “I realized how fortunate I was to grow up in Belgium and get an education in America.”

Mulowayi notes that being a student at Saint Leo has given him the confidence to pursue his goals, which include one day working with an international organization to provide assistance to young people in Africa. He hopes to help them build skills and develop opportunities to play basketball or other sports in high school and college in America. “I hope that through sport I can impact and help kids in Congo to become the future of the country.”

Cassidy Whitaker was just in middle school when she became enthralled with the 2008 presidential election. She remembers hearing then-Senator Barack Obama speak and accompanying her mom to the voting booth. Politics has been her passion ever since, and these days she is closely watching the 2016 race.

A political science major and with a journalism minor, Cassidy hopes to start her career as a political journalist and eventually become a political analyst. She enjoys listening to Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and others, and even got the chance to meet James Carville when he spoke at University Campus in 2015. To get ready for such a career, she is a contributing writer and political columnist for The Lions’ Pride student newspaper, specifically covering the 2016 debates and campaigns. She also took part in Saint Leo’s mock presidential debate during the fall 2015 semester, serving as health care policy advisor for the Democratic campaign.

Cassidy WhitakerSaint Leo has proven to be the perfect place for Cassidy for a number of reasons. First, it is close to her hometown of Brandon, FL, but not too close. The distance allows her to be independent, but she can still easily go home for visits. She also loves the beautiful campus. But what really appeals to her are the the small class sizes. She enjoys getting to know her professors and having a relationship with them. In particular she appreciates the advice and support she receives from Frank Orlando, who is her political science advisor and “an incredible educator”; Valerie Kasper, who teaches journalism and is the faculty advisor for The Lions’ Pride; and Christopher Friend, an English professor who taught her Academic Writing class and helped her decide to minor in journalism.

Recently, Cassidy was the recipient of a Tampa Bay Business and Professional Women’s Association Scholarship, a process that involved a lengthy application and interview. In the years to come, she hopes to be an editor at The Lions’ Pride, maintain a high GPA, get more involved in Pi Sigma Alpha (the national political science honor society), and make the most of her Saint Leo education. Somehow she will juggle all that while staying glued to the 24-hour news cycle.

Every great project needs a great plan—a set of steps from conception through completion. Terri Vertes can attest to that. She spends her days helping the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL, be more efficient and streamlined. As the manager of IT Project Management, she sets the standards for putting processes in place and providing consistency. When she arrived at Moffitt, there were no project guidelines. Today, there is a color-coded system that keeps everyone on track.

Although it may seem that project management would be dominated by numbers and deadlines, “It’s all about relationships,” Vertes explained. She and her team of six project managers and a coordinator have created an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration with other departments. They focus on projects that align with Moffitt’s strategic goals. One recent project involved implementing computerized physician order entry (CPOE), which enables Moffitt to meet government regulations and reduce risk. Another project involved revamping the TV system in patients’ rooms to provide tutorials, health information, and other tools for cancer patients.

Vertes’ educational journey was initially not an easy one. She was working at Bank of America in Tampa, FL, being a mom to her young son, and trying to finish her degree at the University of Tampa. She found that rushing to class during her lunch hours was becoming impossible. Lucky for her, one of her clients suggested that she take classes at Saint Leo online. “I started with one class,” she recalled, “and was quickly ready for two.” After completing her business degree and then working for an urban planner for a time, she came back to Saint Leo for her MBA. She has been in her current position since February 2015.

As a Catholic, Vertes appreciates Saint Leo’s abiding Benedictine tradition. “There was a community feel, and the people actually cared about me. The professors always made themselves available, and it was such a great educational experience,” she said.

She is also pleased to be sharing her success with others. Moffitt and Saint Leo recently entered into an agreement for an IT and project management intern program. “Saint Leo has the only university agreement with an IT relationship,” she said. Soon Saint Leo students will be benefiting from her expertise.

When most college students are at the beach during Spring Break, many Saint Leo students have a tradition of spending their time a different way. For these young people, the best way to take a break from classes is to help others through a program called SERVE (Students Engaged in Rewarding Volunteer Experiences).

Last March was no exception. Cassy Anselme ’15 was the student leader for a group that traveled to Memphis, TN. There, they volunteered at Catholic Charities and the Ronald McDonald House that serves St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. At Catholic Charities, they made floral arrangements for Bouquets of Hope, a program through which gently used arrangements from weddings and other events are repurposed into smaller bouquets that are delivered to people in nursing homes, hospitals, and hospices throughout the Memphis area. This program benefits the people who receive the bouquets, as well as the homeless who are involved in selling the bouquets as a way to start their own businesses.

11.pdf - Adobe Acrobat Pro DCAt the Ronald McDonald House, the students cleaned and sanitized the whole facility—toys, door handles, windows, the fitness room—everything!

The group of 13 students was accompanied by staff members Mike D’Ambrosio, director of Campus Security and Safety, and Matt Battista ’08, ’12, assistant director of Career Planning.

“St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital is one of the charities that Saint Leo students raise funds for each year. The trip helped these students see where the money was going,” Anselme explained. “Taking one week off to help other people and make a difference—that was important to me. We focused on something bigger than ourselves.”

Another group of eight students, accompanied by Leann Spruell, undergraduate admissions retention advisor, and KJ McConnell, associate director of Residence Life, traveled to Ladyville, Belize, to work at Liberty Children’s Home during spring break. The Central American orphanage is a private nonprofit that provides a home for 42 children ages 4 through 17. The children are all in the government system; some are available for adoption and others have biological parents who visit when they are able.

The Saint Leo group slept in the orphanage dormitory and shared simple meals of rice, beans, flatbread, and some chicken (fresh fruits and vegetables are scarce). In the mornings they walked the children to school and then went to work. They cleaned, weeded, and planted in the greenhouse, organized the playroom, and provided groundskeeping duties. They also dug deeper drainage trenches, in preparation for the rainy season, and improved the playground by purchasing sand to replace the rough pebble surface.

The Saint Leo group enjoyed interacting with the children, playing and helping them with homework, but taking photos of the children was not allowed for two reasons. First, many of them are self-conscious and shy away from that kind of attention. Second, some of the girls have been rescued from human trafficking, so any photos could be a security risk.

“The trip was positive but eye-opening,” McConnell explained. “For a couple of our students, this was the first time they had been out of the country—and their first exposure to severe poverty.”

She notes that the staff is very protective and provides a family atmosphere for the children. “I hope Saint Leo can build a partnership with this orphanage and continue to send volunteers there for many years to come,” McConnell concluded.

When Saint Leo University launched its Doctor of Business Administration degree program in 2013, it hoped to lure the nation’s best and brightest. That aspiration has been realized with highly intelligent and experienced students joining the first two cohorts. Patrick Plummer is one fine example.

23Plummer has already enjoyed a successful career, having started two health care data businesses and subsequently selling them. In his mind, he was always guided to do what was best for medical patients, and he believes that his companies attained that goal. Along the way, he also collaborated with Virginia Commonwealth University professors on a health care strategy textbook, a project that made him begin thinking about giving back to the next generation.

Now age 50, this Mechanicsburg, PA, native decided that he wanted to go back to school and become a professor, so he began looking for just the right program. Over the last several years, he had researched as many as 30 doctoral programs, but none was exactly what he wanted. Then in January 2014, he did another Google search and found Saint Leo. Within 45 minutes of perusing the website, he knew this was the place he wanted to be.

Catherine, Patrick, Grace, and CarolynA devout Catholic, Plummer was drawn to Saint Leo’s Catholic identity and Benedictine tradition. He even commented, “If I could be a married priest, I would.” He believes that approaching matters from a Catholic basis always makes things clearer for him.

Having sold that second business in December 2013, Plummer and his wife wanted to have a meaningful family trip for themselves and their two daughters, ages 13 and 14. So in August 2014, they traveled to Italy, where they spent two and a half weeks touring the Vatican and the surrounding sites. They enjoyed seeing the pope give his weekly address, amidst tens of thousands of people. “When Papa Franco appeared,” Plummer remembered, “the crowd roared, like someone had scored a touchdown.” Even with a sudden downpour, no one’s spirit was dampened. They also toured the Sistine Chapel and St. Mark’s Cathedral, and viewed The Last Supper. His daughters agreed: “the best trip ever.”

The trip involved so much history—so much emphasis on God, religion, and faith—that Plummer returned, even more determined to make a difference for young people.“I want students to know that you don’t have to be a schmuck to succeed in business,” he explained. “Sometimes it is hard to absorb that message in corporate America. It is easy to take the wrong path if that’s what you think you have to do.”

Plummer is currently on his way to his dream of being a professor, and his goal is to complete his dissertation by December 2016. For now, he is enjoying his time as a student.

“It is a lot more work than I expected,” he said with a laugh. “There is so much reading, and writing, writing, writing. But having the cohort has been a big surprise. I am amazed at how close we have all become in such a short period of time.”

On February 6, 2015, Dr. William J. Lennox, Jr., the former superintendent of the United States Military Academy, was named the ninth president of Saint Leo University by the university’s Board of Trustees, effective summer 2015.

Since 2008, Dr. Lennox has been a member of the Saint Leo University Board of Trustees and has served as chair of the Academic Affairs Committee.

“We are so pleased that Dr. Lennox will assume the presidency of Saint Leo University,” said Cindy Brannen, chair of the Board of Trustees. “As a board member, he is already familiar with the university and understands its unique structure. We are confident that he will continue to accelerate the upward trajectory that outgoing president, Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr., initiated and sustained for 18 years.”

A retired U.S. Army three-star lieutenant general, Dr. Lennox earned his bachelor’s degree in international affairs from the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. He went on to earn a master’s degree and a PhD in literature from Princeton University, writing his dissertation on American war poetry. He was first in his class at Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Officer’s School, and he completed the Senior Service College Fellowship at Harvard University.

General Lennox became the superintendent of the United States Military Academy in June 2001. As superintendent, a role that is essentially the equivalent of president at a civilian college, he managed 4,400 cadets, hundreds of staff, the academic programs, and a $250 million budget on the 16,000-acre campus, and remained in that role until 2006. During his tenure, he provided strategic direction for the academic, military, and athletic initiatives. He helped transform the athletic program and oversaw upgrades to the core liberal arts program while sustaining the fourth-ranked undergraduate engineering program in the country. He also implemented and improved opportunities for cultural exposure and expanded semesters abroad to countries including Chile, China, Russia, and Spain. While at West Point, General Lennox completed a $150 million fundraising campaign with more than $220 million, resulting in enhancements to the academic, athletic, and military programs.

After graduating from West Point, General Lennox served in a wide variety of assignments in the field artillery. Additionally, during the course of his distinguished 35-year career, he held a number of staff positions, including a White House Fellowship, as the special assistant to the Secretary of the Army, and as the executive officer for the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans.

From 2006 to 2012, Dr. Lennox served as senior vice president at Goodrich Corporation, a Fortune 500 aerospace firm, in Washington, DC. In that role, he was responsible for developing and executing strategy for the company’s Department of Defense programs and for interacting with Congress, the executive branch, state and local governments, and aerospace contractors.

“I know first-hand that Saint Leo is a special place,” Dr. Lennox commented. “In my role on the Board of Trustees, I have seen this institution undergo remarkable growth in the last several years. Art Kirk has led this university with grand vision, innovation, and execution, and we are all grateful for his tireless efforts. In the next few months, I look forward to getting to know our faculty, staff, and students, as I prepare to work with them to make Saint Leo even stronger than it is today. I am honored to take on the role of university president.”

Dr. Lennox and his wife, Anne, have three sons: Andrew, Matthew, and Jonathan.

How did an Ogden, UT, native end up on the Saint Leo Lions volleyball team? “It’s a long story,” Britt Sederholm explains.

Britt-Sederholm3While in high school, the young volleyball player knew she wanted to compete on the collegiate level, was set on Division II, and was focused on a college in New Jersey. However, while competing in a tournament in Colorado, she caught the eye of Coach Sam Cibrone, who was there with his Tampa United volleyball club. One thing led to another, and she decided to pay Saint Leo a visit. She toured the campus, met the team, and instantly knew that the Lions were the team for her. Another important moment from that tournament? She spiked the ball on one play, hitting Maddy Powell—from the opposing team—right in the face. But no hard feelings—the two players are now roommates at Saint Leo.

Britt admits that moving to Florida was a hard transition at first, but her family has been very supportive. Her parents, who adopted her at birth, keep in touch—in fact every day her father texts her and her mother Snapchats. She explains that her parents were very eager to adopt her, as well as her older sister, Shay. “Shay is part Mexican, and the adoption agency was worried that my parents would have a problem with that. They said, ‘We don’t care if she comes out with antennas!’ ” Britt, at five-foot-eleven, jokes that she and her sister look nothing alike: “She is short and brown, but even though I look down on her in height, I look up to her in life.” And Britt claims that her niece, Kylah, is perfect. “She is my favorite person in the world—a little ball of happiness.”

Before Britt was born, her birth mother had one instruction: she did not want the baby growing up in a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) home, which is a tall order in Utah. Jeff and Tamra Sederholm had no problem with that requirement and raised their daughters to be open to all religions. Britt attended a Lutheran school through eighth grade and then a Catholic high school. She explained that at public schools in Utah, almost everyone is LDS and “you can almost feel like an outcast if you’re not.” That was another benefit that Britt sees at Saint Leo, a Catholic institution that welcomes people of all backgrounds and faiths.

What does the future hold for this talented outside hitter? She is majoring in business marketing and would like to work for a professional sports team, following in the footsteps of her best friend and godsister, Julie Johnson.

For now, when she is not studying or playing volleyball, she serves as an assistant coach for Tampa United. “Britt is a great person with awesome energy and devotion to our sport,” commented Coach Cibrone. “She coaches to learn about the game and always gives 100 percent on the court. She is a huge asset to our team.”