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Mary McCoy

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Teens today face many challenges — from drug and alcohol abuse to bullying, from broken homes to domestic violence, from very real problems to imagined slights. Andy Duran ’01 has devoted his career to helping young people.

Andy Duran serves as executive director of LEAD (Linking Efforts Against Drugs). The nonprofit organization provides drug abuse and suicide prevention information to communities in the suburbs of Chicago, as well as throughout the country.

“We go into the schools, work directly with students, make class presentations, and try to get students to make healthy choices,” Duran said. “We work with parents and educators, too.” LEAD also assists churches, park districts, and local community groups.

Helping Teens Stay on Track (3)

Following a string of student suicides, LEAD began offering Text-A-Tip, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, anonymous text crisis hotline. Middle- and high-school students may text at any time with any concern they are having, Duran said.

“Text-A-Tip was first meant to be a suicide prevention system: if you were sad, or felt like you were going to hurt yourself. Students are struggling with lots of different things. There is a lot of pressure, a lot of anxiety that our young people are dealing with. It can be bullying; it can be depression.”

Text-A-Tip is now used in more than 100 school districts. Some districts use it as a bullying hotline, while others route the teens through to more intensive help.

Each text is accompanied by a locator code, Duran said. “We take those and build them into our system so that we can know essentially the region of the country a person is [texting] from,” he said. “We recruit and train licensed mental health professionals who will respond within two or three minutes.”

It is not meant to be therapy, Duran explained. “It is meant to get a student out of a dark place. We always affirm them for texting, make sure they are safe, and then help them come up with the resource they need. It might be going into a school resource office or a licensed mental health professional.”

Duran and the LEAD team also combat the opiate crisis wracking the country. A Way Out is a law enforcement-assisted diversion program, Duran explained. “Anyone addicted to opiates or any drug can go into one of our participating police departments with any drugs and paraphernalia, and they will not be prosecuted. Their stuff is taken, and a trained officer escorts them to a treatment facility.”

Andy Duran of the LEAD Agency and his staff, (left to right) Danielle Franzese Director of Policy and Outreach, Christy Grum, Director of Operations, Somali Patel, Speakup Coalition Director in their exhibit "Hiding in Plain Sight", that displays trouble signs in a teenager's room. Photography by Joel Lerner/JWC Media
Andy Duran of the LEAD Agency and his staff, (left to right) Danielle Franzese Director of Policy and Outreach, Christy Grum, Director of Operations, Somali Patel, Speakup Coalition Director in their exhibit “Hiding in Plain Sight”, that displays trouble signs in a teenager’s room.
Photography by Joel Lerner/JWC Media

In addition, LEAD is one of the few agencies that can distribute naloxone (Narcan), a prescription medication that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose. LEAD can also train partner organizations in the use of the medicine.

To combine multiple services, LEAD developed Lake County Help, a mobile app. “It takes one click to call 911, Text-A-Tip, Narcan, or A Way Out,” he said. “We’re trying to look at all the services and bring them together so it is easier for people to access help.” LEAD’s efforts saves hundreds of youth each year.

Duran’s work with LEAD may not seem like a direct use of the bachelor’s degree in theology that he earned in 2001 at University Campus, but he is serving his community. After receiving his degree, the Jacksonville, FL, native headed to Chicago to work as a youth minister at a Catholic church for five years. “I’ve always been called to work with young people,” he said.

He and his wife, Lisa, have been married 12 years and are parents to daughters, ages 7 and 4.

Prior to joining LEAD, Duran served as executive director of the Peacebuilders Initiative, a leadership development program based on the South Side of Chicago that trains youth for advocacy and leadership around a variety of social justice issues.

“What I learned most at Saint Leo was leadership,” Duran said. “The academics were rigorous. But I learned how to be an ethical leader. … People were faithful; they were people who cared about students above everything else. And the Benedictine values came into play, too.”

Duran hopes to continue living those values and helping youths to make the right choices to lead healthy, productive lives.

‘‘Join the Army—See the World” boasts the well-known U.S. Army recruiting advertisement. While seeing the world certainly was a motivating factor for Captain Morgan Mander ’06 to join the military, she never expected she would visit 39 countries during a 36-month assignment in Europe.

With a love of travel instilled in her by her parents, she began an education and career that has led her to places far away from her hometown of Dade City, FL, near University Campus.

Athletic aspirations kept her close to home as she chose to attend Saint Leo University. As a Lion, she played volleyball and tennis along with a few cross country runs. In 2006, she received the Elaine Evans Spirit of Saint Leo Award at the annual National Girls and Women in Sports Banquet, honoring her outstanding leadership and sportsmanship.

Capt. Mander was not solely focused on Saint Leo athletics, however; she graduated with honors with a major in biology and a chemistry minor. Tackling athletics and a challenging academic schedule prepared her for what was ahead.

A love of animals and caring for them steered her to studying veterinary medicine. Besides the usual dogs and cats, Capt. Mander’s mother taught her how to rehabilitate orphaned squirrels, birds, and opossums. She also raised chickens and rabbits through 4-H. While in high school, she worked at the Dade City Animal Clinic.

“I probably wanted to be a vet since I was 3 or 4,” she said. “I even received a white lab coat one Christmas.”

Following her graduation from Saint Leo, she enrolled at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, where she earned the F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship. She graduated with Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public Health degrees in 2010, and entered the U.S. Army as a captain.

While in veterinary school, the travel for Capt. Mander began. For a conservation medicine course—the Envirovet Program—she spent three weeks in South Africa. “One main focus was the One Health Initiative,” she said. “Disciplines need to work together to obtain animal, human, and environmental health.”

That trip spurred her interest in global health. “An estimated 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases come from animals,” she said. “These diseases can then be transferred to humans. An interest in these relationships at their interfaces is what drove me to get my master’s in public health.”

While she unrealistically was hoping for a coastal assignment with the Army, Capt. Mander found herself at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota after completing her initial training at Fort Sam Houston, TX.

As a military veterinarian, Capt. Mander not only takes care of military working dogs, but also cares for the pets of servicemembers, while providing their owners with public health education. Also, one of the little known duties of military veterinarians is ensuring food safety and security. They check shipments of food and inspect food-processing plants.

Capt. Mander’s most recent assignment found her responsible for veterinary care in Spain and Portugal for three years. She also visited three African countries for work. “But most of the rest of my travel has been leisure travel,” she said.

Morgan Mander at Keukenhof Gardens
Capt. Morgan Mander at Keukenhof Gardens outside of Amsterdam

When her parents, Chip and Deanna Mander, came to visit her in Spain, there was no staying home. “I wanted to go see the world,” she said, laughing. The Manders made a road trip to the Balkans and cruised the Baltic Sea, among other travels. “The off-the-beaten-path places stick out in my mind,” she said of her trips.

Among her favorite travel moments are snowshoeing in Slovenia, hiking in Guatemala, and visiting the tulip gardens at Keukenhof Gardens outside of Amsterdam.

“The toughest part [of her overseas assignment] was being away from family and friends,” Capt. Mander said.

Her biggest regret: not learning the language while in Spain. “I learned mostly food words,” she said of her Spanish skills, “but my schedule was irregular and finding time for the classes was difficult.”

Her time at Saint Leo prepared her both academically and personally for her post-graduate education and career. “I especially appreciate Saint Leo’s core values of community and excellence,” she said.

As a base veterinarian, she experienced the camaraderie of the military family and put into practice the university’s core value of community. The leadership skills she learned on the gym floor and the tennis courts helped her lead soldiers during her last assignment.

Now, Capt. Mander is at Fort Campbell, KY, assigned to a Veterinary Service Support field unit. “The unit is actually currently deployed,” she said, so another trip could be in her future.

She hopes to pursue more travel opportunities and to focus on one-health issues. “I just love learning and trying to solve complex health concerns,” she said.

De Oppresso Liber, which means “Free the Oppressed,” is the motto of the Green Berets, United States Army Special Forces. Saint Leo University alumnus Brian Anderson ’14 embodies that motto.

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Anderson said he felt called to join the U.S. Army, and he entered as a photojournalist. Following a deployment to Iraq, he trained and qualified as a Green Beret. When the 7th Special Forces Group was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, Anderson, then a Special Forces engineer sergeant, came under fire quickly. On his last deployment, his first fire fight lasted eight hours and two teammates were killed, including his best friend, Calvin Harrison, and Air Force attachment Mark Forrester.

When he returned to base, he received a package from his mother. “One of the books was Intro to Social Work,” Anderson said. “I read it, and I was excited. That matched the Green Beret motto: De Oppresso Liber, Free the Oppressed.”

Anderson said what he was called to do as a warrior left him questioning his faith. After he read the social work book, he knew he wanted to pursue a degree in social work at a Catholic university. He chose Saint Leo.

Re-entry to the civilian world is difficult for most warriors, Anderson said. But through Saint Leo University and its emphasis on assisting military and veteran students, he was able to obtain his bachelor’s degree in social work. Most of his classes were at the Adult Education Center at Saint Leo’s Pasco-Hernando State College office. “I took one class at University Campus,” he said. “And that was with Dr. Jim Whitworth [now associate dean of the School of Education and Social Services], retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.”

“Saint Leo allowed me to take my skills as a Green Beret and apply them to real issues Pasco County was facing — including veteran homelessness. In my first year, we already were developing the Stand Down.”

— Brian Anderson ’14

Anderson said he was encouraged by Whitworth and all of his Saint Leo teachers. “The whole program has amazing instructors,” he said. “Saint Leo instructors allow you to grow. I pitched ideas [about social work projects] in Dr. Whitworth’s class.

“Saint Leo allowed me to take my skills as a Green Beret and apply them to real issues Pasco County was facing — including veteran homelessness. In my first year, we already were developing the Stand Down.” The Stand Down, coordinated by Anderson since 2012, is an annual event that provides homeless and at-risk veterans with needed services. Saint Leo’s social work students provide counseling at the event.

While he was helping others, Anderson realized he needed to help himself. Plagued by visions of his deceased friend Calvin as well as visions of war and violence, Anderson was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To combat that, he first engaged in Prolonged Exposure Therapy, but what really has helped him is Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). “One session changed my life,” he said. “ART is evidence-based and can work in as little as three to five sessions.”

ART is a type of image-replacement therapy in which a person undergoes sets of eye movements while silently recalling the traumatic scene. The “bad memories” get pushed to long-term memory rather than haunting the warrior.

Anderson said he was having a particularly bad day and decided to try yoga for relief. He found a hot power yoga class at Trinity Yoga Studio, and he gained a business partner in Janel Norton, a former combat Air Force photographer, who is the studio’s owner. The two wanted to provide restorative therapies to their battle brothers and sisters, and a nonprofit business was formed, Veterans Alternative. Their motto is Turning Post Traumatic Stress into Post Traumatic Growth.

Norton and Anderson created a business plan for Veterans Alternative and pitched it to the Pasco Economic Development Council’s SMARTstart Challenge in February 2015. They claimed the prize of $5,000 startup capital, which helped them get Veterans Alternative established. Their venture gained a huge boost when Chris Sullivan, one of the founders of Outback Steakhouse and creator of the Chris T. Sullivan Foundation, became a supporter and contributor. The foundation pays all salaries for Veterans Alternative staff.

Bromance[7]

Bromance[7]
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Anderson received a donation of the American Legion hall and property at 1750 Arcadia Road, Holiday, FL. Now Veterans Alternative serves combat veterans, military personnel who supported combat veterans, and those who suffered military sexual abuse, offering—at no cost—alternative therapies not covered at Veterans Affairs hospitals. In addition to ART, Veterans Alternative offers iRest (20 minutes of this guided meditation can equal two hours of rapid eye movement sleep), Integrative Restoration (a guided meditative yoga practice), and physical training. The Holiday site offers a contained TRX Tactical Training Locker with equipment that many military personnel are familiar with, as well as an obstacle course and swimming pool.

Yoga and Kali (Filipino martial arts) classes and other exercise sessions are offered at Veterans Alternative, as well as at community partners such as Norton’s Trinity Yoga Studio and Gulf Coast FCS Kali. While some veterans may have discounted yoga at first, Norton and Anderson said they’ve “taken the ‘Hippie’ out” of the practice and made it palatable for military personnel.

Veterans Alternative will be starting a service dog program, too. Anderson is accompanied by his therapy dog, Hero, who was trained by Patriot Service Dogs to serve those with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. Not only does he assist Anderson and calm him, Hero befriends every veteran who steps through the door of the center.

One of the most important components of Veterans Alternative is the camaraderie. Those who have served in the armed forces share a bond, and once they return to civilian life, there can be a vacuum. Every Friday, there is a 35-minute iRest session, followed by a barbecue. The center boasts a beautiful patio, with fire pit and furniture, thanks to a BB&T Lighthouse Project, offering a place where veterans can chat or chill.

In March, Veterans Alternative was presented with the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation’s Community Hero Program award. The $50,000 gift will be used by Veterans Alternative to support ongoing veterans programs. In its first year, Veterans Alternative has served 400 people.

Anderson was called to serve and has walked in the boots of his warrior brothers and sisters. Now, as part of a new calling, he helps them transition to civilian life. To learn more about Veterans Alternative, call (727) 939-VETS (8387) or visit www.VeteransAlternative.org.

On December 18, 2015, Saint Leo University alumnus Clarence Ervin made history when he became the first African-American promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the 67-year history of the North Carolina Air National Guard (NCANG).

Brigadier General Ervin graduated from Saint Leo with an associate degree in 1981 and a bachelor’s degree in 1983, both in business administration, from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. He later earned a master’s degree in health administration from Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College.

“It means a lot to me,” he said of becoming the first African-American brigadier general for the NCANG. “But it means more to inspire those minorities coming behind me. I want to inspire others to let them know this is possible. It [the promotion] gave me the opportunity to be that conduit to say ‘You can do it.’ It may take a while, but perseverance pays off.”

In this role, Ervin serves as the NCANG chief of staff, and his duties include advising the adjunct general on personnel issues, directing the headquarters’ staff, working with the guard on a national level, and helping with strategic planning.

“Saint Leo helped me understand the importance of thinking broadly, the importance of making decisions based on business principles.”

— Brigadier General Clarence Ervin ’81, ’83

Originally from South Carolina, Ervin first studied biology at Winthrop University in Rock Hill. Hard pressed for tuition, he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1979 as a fuels specialist to earn enough money to finish his degree. While stationed at Homestead Air Force Base, he enrolled at Saint Leo University’s education center at the base. “I started out [at Saint Leo] because of the convenience, but once I got in and saw the value of the classes, I was hooked,” Ervin said.

In civilian life, Ervin works for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as assistant chief for Acute and Home Care Licensure and Certification. He credits his Saint Leo education for helping advance both his military and civilian careers. Ervin points to his Saint Leo experience as one of the most important beginning points in his life—one that set him on the path to future success.

“Saint Leo helped me understand the importance of thinking broadly, the importance of making decisions based on business principles,” he said.

Brigadier General Clarence ErvinErvin left active duty in the U.S. Air Force in 1983 and joined the NCANG two years later. He earned his officer’s commission in 1988 when he graduated from the Academy of Military Science at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base near Knoxville, TN.

During his Air National Guard career, he served as the chief of military equal opportunity, commander of the 145th Services Flight, the 145th Mission Support Group, and as vice commander of the 145th Airlift Wing, all units located at the NCANG base at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, NC.

“My military career has been my ministry,” said Ervin, who added he never really wanted to join the military. “When I got out in 1983, I said I would never join again. But life events led me back.

“I have the opportunity to share my commitment to the military with so many people. I hope to provide skills to my fellow airmen to follow in my footsteps and be successful in life in general. That is my way of giving back.”

Leaping out of an airplane at 12,500 feet would make most people shake in their shoes. And for her first jump, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Jeretta “Jetta” Dillon said she was nervous, but “it was amazing.”

Originally from Bascom, OH, Dillon joined the Navy because she wanted to see the world and serve in the military. And there was a family legacy as well—her grandfather served in the Navy for 28 years. Her first duty station was Greece. Since then, she has been in Washington State, Japan, and the Philippines among other places. “And I had the opportunity to be stationed at Key West and didn’t want to pass up paradise,” she said, laughing.

While in Key West, she knew she wanted to get a college degree. She chose the Saint Leo Key West Education Center “because of the tuition assistance and the campus on base” and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration.

“My Saint Leo is the backbone of who I am today. It got me thinking on what I wanted to do and helped me decide to further my education later on.”

— Jeretta “Jetta” Dillon ’00

“I met a lot of great friends going through classes,” Dillon said of her Saint Leo experience. “I learned to network, and they helped me with my package to put in for Officer Candidate School.”

Dillon’s Navy Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is supply officer (called a logistics officer in other military branches), and now she is stationed at the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL. As the deputy executive officer to the commander, Dillon works for General Joseph L. Votel at SOCOM and makes “sure his calendar is organized, his strategic papers are thorough, and that he meets with the right people.”

Dillon’s Saint Leo classes such as Organizational Behavior and Religions of the World helped prepare her for her current job. The religion class particularly was helpful because of the study of Islam as well as other religions.

Jeretta_2“My Saint Leo is the backbone of who I am today,” Dillon said. “It got me thinking on what I wanted to do and helped me decide to further my education later on.” She earned her MBA from the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

When she arrived at SOCOM, a peer suggested she be on the ground crew and provide narration for the U.S. Special Operations Command Parachute Team known as the Para-Commandos. There are about 20 people on the team and four of them are women. While she doesn’t have many jumps, Dillon enjoys being on the ground crew and providing narration. At air shows, such as the Tampa Bay AirFest at MacDill, she said the SOCOM team usually performs two jumps a day. In addition to all air shows, they also jump into parades, MLB games, NFL games, and high school football games.

Dillon’s Saint Leo education provided her the platform to succeed and to soar—with a parachute, of course.

Known as a “quiet force,” Eric Ward ’13 was named the Tampa Police Department chief on April 30. Ward, who grew up in the Belmont Heights area of East Tampa, has served in almost every area of the Tampa Police Department. His work with the department exemplifies Saint Leo University’s core value of community.

Ward, who earned his Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice, is known for reaching out to those in Tampa. One of his main goals as chief is to make sure the community and law enforcement have a good bond. To that end, Ward often visits Grady Elementary, where his wife is a teacher, as well as Tampa PAL (Police Athletic League). He remembers that Belmont Heights Little League and Tampa PAL played a role in his life from a young age, and it is where he learned that most police officers are “good.” Those officers provided him with skills and knowledge to be successful.

“You have to interact with kids at an early age,” Ward said in a City of Tampa video. “The sooner we can interact with them, the better it is for law enforcement and the community.”

The Tampa police chief saw tensions between law enforcement and his East Tampa community when he was growing up. So when he was 21, he decided to join the police force “to make a difference from within.” He explains, “It was a lifelong goal to become a police officer, but I did not envision myself as being the chief.”

While he was a TPD officer, Ward began taking classes at University Campus, at the MacDill Education Office, and online. “I knew that Saint Leo had a highly regarded criminal justice program, and that many of my colleagues have benefitted greatly from the classes,” he said.

He faced the trials of many adult learners. “Time management was a challenge,” Ward said. “It takes a tremendous amount of discipline for a full-time police officer—with a family—to devote the appropriate time to classwork.”

His favorite memories of his time as a Saint Leo student? “I especially enjoyed networking with colleagues in law enforcement and in the military.”

On the city website, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said his selection of a new police chief was one of the most important appointments a mayor can make. “Within the department, Eric is known as a quiet force, and his methodical demeanor and certitude will serve him, the department, and our city.”

Ward will take the skills he learned at Saint Leo and his 27 years with the Tampa Police Department and use them to serve the Tampa Bay area.

“As a police officer—and now as chief—I recognize that I have a tremendous opportunity to accomplish things for this city and this community,” Ward said. “I welcome that opportunity, as well as the challenges that go with it. My favorite part is being in the community and seeing where we have made a difference, or where we can make a difference.”

Being a parent is a tough job, but being a single mom taking college classes is even tougher. Yesenia Shaffer ’14, age 26, was one of those moms who juggled and multi-tasked, finally earning her bachelor’s degree in social work in Spring 2014.

It took lots of planning,” Shaffer remembers. “I knew I had to limit how long I was gone from my son.”

Her son, Gavin-Anthony, now 4, was 2 when Shaffer began taking courses toward her bachelor’s degree. Prior to that, she earned her Associate of Arts degree from Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey, FL (now Pasco-Hernando State College, PHSC).

Gavin-Anthony was foremost in Shaffer’s mind as she began her education journey. “When I first went to school, I didn’t have him in day care,” she says. “So I went to night school. As I went through school, I got a little smarter, and I gained more strength to let go a little bit of my son. I worked nights at the Generations Christian Church in Trinity so I could afford small things, and my son was always with me when I worked in the day care area. I didn’t take on anything where I couldn’t take care of him. I was figuring out what was best for him.”

In addition to getting a college degree, Shaffer also wanted to become a pilot. When she first started her junior year at the Adult Education Center at the New Port Richey Office-PHSC, she only worked nights so that her son could accompany her. “My last semester, I got a job at the flight school and it was two hours both ways in traffic,” she recalls.

Dr. Marguerite McInnis, department chair of social work at Saint Leo, was impressed that her student wanted to be a pilot. “At first she was living in New Port Richey and commuting to Lakeland,” Dr. McInnis says. “And she still did her field placement. I was just amazed at everything she was handling. She maintained a positive attitude, but she was tired. She was juggling everything for her child’s future and for her future.”

Shaffer pursued a bachelor’s degree in social work from Saint Leo’s Adult Education Center at PHSC after not knowing what she wanted to study. It all became clear when she took her first human services class. “During the class, our teacher talked about if you wanted to be a counselor, you should get a social work degree rather than psychology,” Shaffer explains. “I had taken psychology, nursing, and education classes; I actually have my massage therapy license. I always enjoyed helping people, but didn’t know what way was going to be my way.”

Her own life mirrored what she was studying. “I happened to be in every situation,” she says. “I’m a young, Hispanic single mother, recently divorced, trying to go back to school, [with a] home that I can barely pay the mortgage for, and supporting a son.”

After some soul searching, she realized she wanted to help other people by majoring in social work. “I felt so empowered,” she says. “I was at the lowest time in my life, but I felt like I could build myself up to be anything. I had a clean slate. Everyone was so encouraging. I felt strong.”

Shaffer chose Saint Leo because family members and friends had studied at the university. “I grew up right off Old St. Joe Road and did a summer camp at Saint Leo,” she says.” I always knew it was really a great university. It was convenient. It had everything. And I could afford it. It fit all my requirements.”

Shaffer wants to combine flying with humanitarian interests. “I love, love, love to help people and fly and get to places that don’t have a lot of people coming by to help,” Shaffer explains. One of her future goals is to fly to the Caribbean islands and bring supplies. “I want to help people, meeting them where they are and helping them how I can.”

Now she is director of sales and marketing at Kingsky Flight Academy in Lakeland, a five-minute drive from her home. Gavin-Anthony attends a day care at the airfield and is proud of his mother. “He’s so vocal about it,” Shaffer said. “Maybe it comes from being my kid! He’s very verbal—every emotion is expressed. He’s always telling me how he is feeling. He knows that Mommy has worked hard.”

Animated, effervescent, driven—all are adjectives that describe Saint Leo University alumna and instructor Keisha Armistead.

Armistead is an adjunct faculty member and a virtual curriculum instructor at the Fort Eustis (VA) Education Office. She teaches compensation, organizational training and development, risk management, recruitment, selection and placement, business principles of management, and human resources management in the evening while managing a demanding career at NASA.

In federal service at NASA for 25 years, she is lead management and program analyst for the Advance Composites Program at the NASA Langley Research Center, which specializes in government aeronautics, in Hampton, VA. “I’ve supported multiple launches and research and development projects,” Armistead says. “And I share a lot of that project management experience with the students. I keep them enthusiastic about becoming future leaders.”

As the “Friday night teacher” at Fort Eustis, Armistead said she knew she had to keep the students excited about being in a classroom and learning online. “I try to keep them involved,” Armistead explains. “I say, ‘I’d love to have a hot date, but now we are here to focus on our education.’ I understand where they’re coming from. I had to do it, too.”

Keisha Armistead's pets Sprocket and Klutchiz

On occasion, her furry friends, two Maltese named Sprocket and Klutchiz, wander into view on camera while she is teaching. “They break the ice with the students,” she comments. “We always have pet lovers in our virtual room and share during first night introductions.”

The dogs get their unique monikers from Armistead’s love of motorcycles. She formerly owned a motorcycle shop and drag-raced a modified Suzuki Hayabusa 1300 motorcycle. A YouTube video of her racing dubs her “Da Professa.”

Keisha Armistead racing a modified Suzuki

The need for speed translates into her teaching as she focuses students on being efficient and effective. “It can be difficult,” she says of the mainly adult learners she teaches. “Many of my students still have to get dinner on the table before 5:30 while taking classes. I teach about app [for cellphones], shopping online.”

Armistead strives to keep a relaxed atmosphere for her online students while keeping them focused. “Even when we’re online, you have to focus on what you’re doing,” she says. “Students are trying to do laundry or other things at home hoping I don’t call their name. But I will! I talk fast!”

She earned her bachelor’s degree in management in 1999 from Saint Leo and her master’s degree in human resource management from Troy State University. In addition, she has completed some coursework in applied management and decision sciences from Walden University. Prior to studying at Saint Leo, she earned two associate degrees from Thomas Nelson Community College in Newport News, VA.

“I motivate my students,” Armistead says. “You should never stop learning. Keep taking classes. But not just through academia. Read, share your experiences with others, and formulate your legacy. Education is an ongoing process. It’s something everyone should continue.”

Armistead returned to teach at Saint Leo because she enjoyed the support she received while a student. “I really liked the fact that Saint Leo educators treated me like an adult. They treat you like family. If I had any difficulties, they reached out to do all they could to help me achieve my educational goals. It is a welcoming environment, and it worked.”

For her students, Armistead tries to relate learning objectives to issues going on in the workplace, home, or private lives of her students.

“The same techniques we are studying to use at work, we can do at home,” she explains. “It’s managing both your home and work life. In my organizational training and development class recently, I asked, ‘Who is responsible for your career?’ Some students said, ‘My boss.’ I said, ‘No, bosses are responsible for your work performance. They don’t care about you.’ You are responsible for your life and career. If you’re not happy, only one person has the real power to change it . . . you.”

Some people are known for bringing work home, but Wayn MacKay instead brings his work to the classroom at Saint Leo University’s Fort Eustis (VA) office.

MacKay earned his undergraduate degree in criminal justice with a specialization in homeland security in 2012 (at Fort Eustis and online) and his master’s in criminal justice with a concentration in critical incident management in 2013 (at the Newport News office and online). He now teaches criminal justice at Fort Eustis.

“The degree I got my undergrad in has a lot to do with what I do in my day job,” MacKay explains. “I work for a police department within the federal government. I write local policies, conduct risk assessments, identify threats, develop plans to mitigate those threats, and also do some intel [intelligence work], as well as a long list of other things.”

And that’s just what he teaches current Saint Leo students. In the fall, he taught Local Response to Terrorism. He now is teaching Terrorism and is scheduled to teach Exploitable Weaknesses in Terrorism and Intro to Homeland Defense in upcoming semesters. “I’m loving it,” he says. “The students are engaged and want to learn, and I’m very proud of them.

“Saint Leo has given me the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge, and I find that to be very rewarding,” MacKay says. “I’m engaged in it during the day and then when I teach at night; I’m among a crowd of people who want to be engaged in law enforcement and terrorism issues.”

Being at Saint Leo allows MacKay to be around “likeminded folks,” he said. He enjoys teaching students who want to excel in life and often want to start a new career.

MacKay practices what he preaches and plans to make the security industry a lifelong career. He served 20 years in the Navy and in such positions as patrolman, watch commander, career counselor, military customs agent, criminal investigator, protective service supervisor, antiterrorism officer, and physical security officer.

During his tenure as a protective service agent, he provided protection for many celebrities, high-ranking military officials, members of the U.S. House and Senate, and presidential cabinet members.

He enjoys using the critical-thinking skills necessary for intelligence, anti-terrorism, and homeland defense training. “You have to develop and maintain those skills. That’s what employers look for—critical thinkers.”

MacKay uses real-life situations students may encounter to teach them proper responses. “I give them a scenario, and then we talk about how they would deal with it,” he said. “The scenarios are challenging and require the students to think about how their particular strategy may affect or not affect operational planning and execution. It’s important to be able to identify and manage multiple challenges simultaneously.”

He retired in 2009, and the following year, he enrolled at Saint Leo using benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Thinking back on his years of studying at Saint Leo, MacKay says, “There have been many professors throughout my undergrad and graduate programs who have helped to shape me as the professional I am today. I like to think of life as a buffet . . . take a little of everything you like. Almost everyone has some quality to emulate and taking a little here and there can be of great value.

“Saint Leo is an institution that provides the foundation for personal growth through the core values coupled with many different professions. For me, it’s about the core values combined with law enforcement and homeland security.”