University Brand Marketing & Communications


In February, Saint Leo University broke ground on the Wellness Center, which will be located on the west end of campus by Lake Jovita. The 59,000-square-foot facility will create an environment for holistic health and well-being that integrates student recreation, fitness, health services, counseling services, and campus ministry.

The groundbreaking ceremony included remarks from Dewey Mitchell, chair of the Saint Leo University Board of Trustees, who welcomed everyone.

“This day is finally here; praise God,” said Mitchell. “This is a wonderful amenity for the university and the community.”

Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese, Saint Leo president; Celine-Deon Palmer, Student Government Union president 2019-2020; D. Dewey Mitchell, Saint Leo Board of Trustees chair, break grown for the Wellness Center.
Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese, Saint Leo president; Celine-Deon Palmer, Student Government Union president 2019-2020; and D. Dewey Mitchell, Saint Leo Board of Trustees chair, break ground for the Wellness Center.
Dr. Senese speaking at the Wellness Center Groundbreaking
University President Jeffrey D. Senese emphasizes the impact the Wellness Center will make on the region.

Dr. Melanie Storms, senior vice president, served as the emcee, and Sister Roberta Bailey, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida, provided those in attendance with a historical perspective on the property. University President Jeffrey D. Senese made remarks about the benefits of the Wellness Center, and Abbot Isaac Camacho, OSB, a Saint Leo alumnus, blessed the site.

Construction is underway with plans to open the Wellness Center in Fall 2021.

Saint Leo University opened its newest location in March in the master-planned Nexton community, located in Summerville, SC. The new Charleston Education Center is now serving the tri-county area of Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley counties.

Charleston Education Center classroom“This new 9,000-square-foot facility will provide more space for student resources, classes, and activities, better technology, and space to grow,” said Candis Whitfield, assistant vice president for the Central Region.

Saint Leo University’s Charleston Education Center features a dedicated computer lab, learning resource center, student lounge, and much more. A grand opening ceremony will be held at a later date.

Saint Leo opened Benedict’s Coffeehouse on January 13 in the former mail center building, following an extensive renovation. Benedict’s Coffeehouse is a We Proudly Serve Starbucks™ venue, featuring Starbucks coffees, specialty drinks and teas, and a variety of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads, and snacks.

Serving coffee at Benedict's CoffeehouseThe coffeehouse name was selected to reflect Saint Leo University’s Benedictine history and tradition. The building at the east end of the Kirk Hall lawn was renovated to create a comfortable space for the university’s students, faculty, and staff, as well as guests from the surrounding community. There is inside seating and an outside patio area.

Saint Leo students had long wanted a campus coffeehouse, and the Student Government Union and students provided a little more than half the funding for the building. “This occasion represents promises kept,” said Celine-Deon Palmer, SGU president for 2019-2020, at the grand opening. “‘Benny’s’ as it already is being called, “represents community at its very core,” Palmer said.

More information can be found at

Saint Leo University students, faculty, and the public learned more about the steps society can take to be more inclusive of those with disabilities during a February visit from author and speaker Michael Hingson.

Michael Hingson talks to Saint Leo students with his guide dog, Alamo
Michael Hingson talks to Saint Leo students with his guide dog, Alamo.

Now 70, Hingson has been blind since birth and has worked with trained guide dogs since his teen years. In 2001, he and his guide dog were at his workplace—a regional sales office of a technology company—in the World Trade Center in New York City when the 9/11 attacks occurred.

The team escaped by walking down 78 flights of stairs together, and they were able to help others out, as well. During his visit to Saint Leo, Hingson was accompanied by Alamo, his current guide dog. His public talk and multiple class visits were arranged by the College of Arts and Sciences and made possible by a special program created by the Council of Independent Colleges.

Saint Leo University is invested in the communities it serves throughout the United States and has been offering mental health first aid courses at University Campus and education center locations for several years. Just as CPR helps assist an individual having a heart attack, mental health first aid helps assist someone experiencing a mental-health-related crisis.

On February 4, the training was offered at the Gainesville (FL) Education Center. Participants learned risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations, and where to turn for help. Dr. Nancy Wood, associate professor of human services and director of the graduate human services administration program, taught the course and was interviewed by WCJB-TV.

Watch the WCJB-TV interview »

After graduation, alumni can continue to stay engaged with their alma mater in several ways. The Saint Leo University Alumni Ambassador Program helps foster connectedness and pride. It provides enjoyable volunteer opportunities for alumni. Ambassador opportunities can vary by location and time of year.

Examples of experiences include:

  • Promoting engagement events in your area to fellow alumni;
  • Representing Saint Leo as an inauguration delegate;
  • Serving as a Day for Saint Leo advocate;
  • Being a champion for Saint Leo on social media; and, 
  • Partnering with an admissions counselor in your area.

To find out how to become an ambassador, contact Sarah Olsen at or call (352) 588-8729.

A Note from the President’s Corner of the Alumni Association

On behalf of the Saint Leo University Alumni Association Board of Directors, it is my honor to welcome the Class of 2019 as valued members of the Saint Leo Alumni Association. I also want to welcome all students who are beginning or returning to their studies at Saint Leo. It is important for you to get to know about our association, too. Whether this is your first or 15th year as a Saint Leo alumnus or alumna, I challenge you to get connected and get involved. There are a number of ways to meet this challenge. Join an alumni chapter in your area, come to campus for homecoming weekend, suggest Saint Leo to a prospective student, or be a part of the conversations on the alumni social media channels from the comfort of your home. With more than 95,000 alumni worldwide, the Saint Leo alumni community is a network worth your time.
As a note of interest, this year begins a new chapter in our alma mater’s history with the inauguration of Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese as our 10th president. 

The strategic vision he has for Saint Leo is already becoming a reality with new academic programs, new education center locations, and the largest 

freshman class ever at University Campus. I encourage you to stay informed of everything that is 

happening across the university, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Go, Lions!
John E. Holladay ’75
President, Saint Leo Alumni Association

New Alumni Chapters Established 

We are excited to announce that two new regional alumni chapters are up and running. Welcome to the pride, Ocala and Jacksonville! 

If there is not an alumni chapter in your area, we’ve got you covered. Check out our new virtual alumni chapter to connect with alumni from across the globe.

Details about all of our alumni chapters, along with a full calendar of events, are available online:

Connect with your Saint Leo Career Services Office on Handshake

The Saint Leo Career Services office can be a resource to alumni well beyond graduation, helping you find new opportunities and connecting you with fellow Lions:

Services for Alumni
Whether you’re a recent graduate searching for that first job or a working professional looking to advance, Career Services offers a wide range of valuable resources online or in person. The team can help review your résumé, help you prepare for interviews, or provide you with access to job-search tools. Use the information below to connect with Career Services by phone or email, or come in for a one-on-one appointment. Career Services is located on the first floor of Kirk Hall at University Campus. 
Engage with Current Saint Leo Students
Give back to your alma mater by leveraging your network to help current students. Here are a few ways you can help them achieve their career goals:

  • Become a mentor and share your experiences, insights, and network.
  • Host students in your place of work for informational interviews, job shadowing, or credit-bearing internships.
  • Facilitate an information session or career workshop for a group of Saint Leo students.
  • Advocate that your organization’s Human Resources department recruit at Saint Leo.
  • Direct job and internship opportunities (student, entry-level, and experienced hires) through Handshake.
  • Volunteer to appear in Career Services webinars.  |  (352) 588-8346

Your Saint Leo is Hitting the Road

A variety of alumni events are planned throughout the country this winter and spring. Be on the lookout for your invitation if you are in: 

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Savannah, GA
  • Charleston, SC
  • Houston, TX
  • Key West, FL
  • New York, NY

Eileen O’Brien, associate professor of sociology and associate chair of social sciences at Saint Leo University’s Virginia education centers, was the co-author of one of the most download articles in Sociological Inquiry, a quarterly peer-reviewed journal that focuses on sociological issues. Her article, “Seeking Liberation, Facing Marginalization: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ Conditional Acceptance in Hip-Hop Culture,” ranked as one of the 20 most downloaded articles during the course of a year. O’Brien is the author of several books including The Racial Middle: Latinos and Asian Americans Living Beyond the Racial Divide (2008) and White Men on Race with Joe Feagin (2003).

In August, Saint Leo University kicked off a partnership with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that named the university as the exclusive educational partner of the National Football League team.

The unique partnership will generate new awareness for the university in the Tampa Bay area and throughout Florida. From the start of football season, Saint Leo has been featured in online, television, radio, and in-stadium promotional advertisements produced by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 Additionally, Saint Leo University now presents Bucs Trivia Tuesday on Instagram, Game Day Trivia in the stadium on game day, and the Hero of the Game presented at each home game, providing added exposure. In all, the partnership is helping Saint Leo reach millions of people.

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are strong supporters of the local community with an incredibly large reach and following,” said Saint Leo University President Jeffrey Senese. “We are excited to partner with such an engaging, community-minded organization on efforts that will help Saint Leo expand its reach and continue to deliver on its mission.”

Schoolchildren in the Savannah (GA) area went back to school with plenty of supplies and new looks thanks to Saint Leo University’s Savannah Education Center. The center hosted an event—Fresh Start—on July 13 to give back to the community and raise awareness of the educational opportunities offered by the university. The Savannah center’s efforts drew news crews with coverage from WTOC-TV; WJCL-TV; WSAV-TV; the Savannah Morning News; and Southern Cross, the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Savannah.

The children and teens were treated to free haircuts, manicures, and hairstyles to try out for their back-to-school look. They also received Saint Leo book bags with supplies. 

At the start of the summer, Saint Leo University announced it was partnering with Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA, to offer a quality online master’s degree program in public administration. Through the collaborative effort, Saint Leo provides prospective students with an easy-to-navigate admissions process, and Notre Dame de Namur University administered the degree program in public administration, which started in the fall.

This past fall, the Saint Leo community celebrated an open house for its Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence. The center is designed to serve the university’s faculty by providing resources and support on the latest best practices in teaching. Saint Leo takes pride in being a teaching university, and the center helps to ensure faculty are leaders in this sector. 

Through the center, faculty receive support and professional development for teaching in all modalities, including on ground, online, video teleconferencing, and working in interconnected classrooms, among other topics. In the past year and a half, more than 230 offerings have been provided. Additionally, the center now offers a dedicated website — — where faculty can go to access a variety of resources.

“Our goal is to support faculty, serving as one central hub for resources and professional development,” said Dr. Candace Roberts, director for the Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence. “When we support our faculty, we are empowering them to better serve our students.”

Saint Leo alumna and creative writing faculty member Brooke King ’12 held a book reading at University Campus in July to debut her new book War Flower: My Life After Iraq. This was King’s first major local reading since War Flower was released earlier this year by Potomac Books, part of the University of Nebraska Press.

Influential media including Publishers Weekly 
and Kirkus Reviews have praised King for providing an open and honest account of her deployment to Iraq, which began in 2006. She was 19 years old then and a newly enlisted soldier.

In May, Saint Leo University was one of seven Florida colleges and universities (and one of two private colleges) invited to travel on a business development trip to Israel with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Saint Leo President Jeffrey Senese attended the trip and was able to sign an agreement of cooperation with Tel Aviv University. The agreement provides opportunities for research collaborations, as well as cultural, faculty, and student exchanges.  

Saint Leo alumnus, former board chair, and philanthropist Donald R. Tapia ’05 ’07 was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Jamaica in August after being confirmed by a Senate vote in July. 

As ambassador, he will represent the president in an official capacity and work on efforts to protect and promote national interests and maintain diplomacy.

“This is a remarkable opportunity that will have national and international impact,” said Saint Leo University President Jeffrey Senese. “I am incredibly excited for Don and the great work that he will do to serve our country in this position.”

Tapia was the chairman and CEO of Essco Group Management, which grew to become the largest Hispanic-owned business in Arizona. In 2010, he retired from the company to devote his time to philanthropy.

It was nearly 17 years ago that Tapia made the decision to pursue a college degree after being inspired by his grandchildren. In just 32 months, he completed his undergraduate degree in business administration from Saint Leo’s Center for Online Learning, while at the same time managing his multimillion dollar company in Chandler, AZ. 

Tapia was deeply impressed when he visited Saint Leo’s main campus for the first time in 2005 to attend his commencement ceremony, and his relationship with Saint Leo strengthened. He joined the board of trustees in 2006, and earned his Master of Business Administration degree from Saint Leo, also online, in 2007. In 2011, he was named chair of Saint Leo’s Board of Trustees.

His generous gift of $4 million to Saint Leo was announced in 2010 and is the largest donation in the university’s history to date. The gift supported the construction of what today is the Tapia College of Business building.

In 2014, the university awarded Tapia with the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for his dedication to the university and for his great vision and sound advice.