During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saint Leo University faculty and staff demonstrated a commitment to our community in a variety of ways—from facilitating free educational webinars to help small business owners and first responders to offering complimentary, on-demand courses designed to help individuals relieve stress.
When news about the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine surfaced, Saint Leo University stepped up in another way by offering to serve as a vaccine distribution site for the Florida Department of Health in Pasco County. Since January, more than 25,000 members of the public have passed through University Campus to receive the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.
In April, the university was fortunate to offer its own vaccine clinic event for members of the university community. Faculty, staff, students, alumni, and their household members were able to come to University Campus and receive a vaccine through a drive-thru event.
Jessica Van Guilder ’12, ’15 was among the alumni who received a vaccine at University Campus. She lives in close-by Land O’ Lakes, FL, and still keeps in touch with fellow alumni and staff at the university.
“I decided it was one of the best chances for me to get the vaccine early,” she said.
Elissa Noblitt, who graduated from the university in 2020, also came to University Campus from Orlando to get a vaccine. “I drove down because I trusted Saint Leo, and I knew that the university would run the operation well,” Noblitt said.
With more than one-third of its student population being affiliated with the military, Saint Leo University claimed top honors among private, not-for-profit universities as well as No. 1 in the Southeast in Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges 2021, which was released in June. Among the 300 participating universities, Saint Leo ranked 11th in the nation in the Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges 2021.
In August, U.S. Veterans Magazine (USVM) named Saint Leo University as one of the nation’s Best of the Best 2021 Top Veteran-Friendly Schools. Saint Leo was included in the fall issue of U.S. Veterans Magazine.
These rankings recognize the university’s commitment to educating military personnel, veterans, and their families wherever they may be—even if they are deployed.
“At Saint Leo, I found an environment that was encouraging and motivating,” said Stephen Koehn, ’20. “They [faculty and staff] understood the importance of my transition from soldier to student. My academic success was their No. 1 priority.”
Saint Leo University unveiled its newest amenity, a 12-station Esports Arena, in March, in Apartment Building 5 at University Campus. The arena serves as the home to the university’s new esports team, and when not in use by the team, other students may use the state-of-the-art gaming stations.
Esports is one of the most rapidly growing sports and is on track to surpass $1 billion in revenue this year, according to Business Insider’s Esports Ecosystem Report 2021.
Saint Leo’s esports team is a school-sponsored and funded club sport that fields competitive teams in League of Legends, Rocket League, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate games. People worldwide can access the Lions’ play via Twitch while others can watch via TVs in Building 5’s lobby.
The oldest Catholic university in Florida is now calling a historic West Tampa cigar factory home for its Tampa operations. Saint Leo University in October 2020 relocated its Tampa Education Center to the building formerly known as the Berriman-Morgan Cigar Factory.
Built in 1903, the fully renovated building is iconic to West Tampa and is conveniently located off Interstate 275. Saint Leo University’s Tampa location offers 32,000 square feet across four floors. The basement and first floor are home to the Tampa Education Center; the second floor houses the Center for Online Learning Student Advising, Student Financial Services, and executive offices; and the third floor is home to the Center for Online Learning enrollment team.
Look for the Saint Leo University water tower, which you can see from I-275!
Saint Leo University is taking Dining Services on the road. The university officially opened its food truck, The Hungry Lion, in February at University Campus.
The Hungry Lion will provide fresh, delicious food “on the go’” in a variety of locations, both on- and off-campus. Simultaneously, the pictures displayed on the 34-foot truck give community members a peek at the campus.
Items on The Hungry Lion’s menu include steak, turkey, or black bean burgers; pizzas; melts; grinders; hand-cut chips dusted with cheese; and rosemary garlic butter Tuscan fries. The menu changes seasonally said Dining Services Director and Executive Chef Justin Bush.
The truck is busy serving those on campus, and it will travel in the future for community and university events.
Saint Leo University is a world champion! The Odyssey of the Mind team, in its first year of competition, claimed first place and was Division 4 champion in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. Coached by the Tapia College of Business’ Dr. Sheri Bias, the team competed virtually April 30-May 29.
Many people are familiar with the Odyssey of the Mind competition at the grade- and high-school levels. But Odyssey of the Mind also features Division IV – Collegiate & Military. The “world’s greatest problem-solving program” was established in 1978, and allows students to participate in projects that require teamwork and imaginative problem-solving.
Saint Leo’s world champion team included six then-students from Virginia: Justin Bias, Colby Baker, Zach Register, Ingrid Steinhau, Jim Bias, and Lori Steinhau, and coach Sheri Bias.
Saint Leo competed against teams from around the world, including China, Poland, and Russia in addition to the United States.
The university welcomed its largest number of new students for the Fall 2021 Semester at Saint Leo’s residential campus in Pasco County, FL.
This year, more than 1,100 new campus students joined the Saint Leo community, a number that surpasses the size of the Fall 2019 and Fall 2020 classes, previously the largest and second-largest in the institution’s 132-year history. The number of new students (undergraduate and graduate combined) at University Campus has steadily increased, with a drop in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new Lions were selected from 11,977 applicants, the largest application pool in Saint Leo’s history. This year’s applications rose 81 percent over the previous year and can be attributed to new academic programs, the D2R Program, the Tuition Advantage Program as well as the Catholic Promise Scholarship and other new financial aid programs.
And there is a lot of international flavor on campus this year, as Saint Leo welcomed its largest international class with new students from 50 countries.
Of the new students at University Campus, 59 percent are from Florida; 16 percent are from out of state; and 25 percent are from international countries.
“I’m excited for new experiences, beginning my education, and working toward my goals,” said Katelyn Guilamo as she moved in to her residence hall on August 28. A freshman, Guilamo is majoring in early childhood education. She chose Saint Leo University because, “I like the environment and the smaller classes. You get more one-on-one attention.”
Her mother, Gloria Guilamo said she was feeling a little anxious about Katelyn moving away. “But she’s got the wings, and I’m letting her fly,” Gloria Guilamo said. “This is for her education
and for her future.”
In spring 2021, Saint Leo University hit an important milestone—the university is now officially home to more than 100,000 living alumni. While Saint Leo has changed over the years—from its days as Saint Leo College Preparatory School and Holy Name Academy, followed by Saint Leo College—its commitment to providing students from all walks of life with a quality values-based education remains.
To commemorate this milestone, more than 400 Saint Leo University alumni contributed photographs to be part of this mosaic image, representing our growing network of alumni. The image features a Benedictine cross found on the exterior of Saint Francis Hall at University Campus.
On July 29, Saint Leo University signed an agreement to merge with Marymount California University, following a vote from the university’s board of trustees.
Pending regulatory and accreditation approvals, this agreement will unite the two Catholic, values-based institutions together under the Saint Leo University name, helping to provide students everywhere with a quality education. Marymount California University is in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, nearly 2,500 miles from University Campus.
“There is value that comes from two universities working together to create something powerful for our students,” University President Jeffrey Senese said. “Working with Marymount, Saint Leo University looks forward to making an even more meaningful impact on Catholic higher education from coast to coast.”
This first merger for Saint Leo is expected to offer many benefits for both institutions, providing students with more degree program options and internship opportunities, around-the-clock support for students studying online, and more university location options to consider attending, among other benefits.
Senese said Marymount California and the area surrounding it are a good fit for Saint Leo, as it serves first-generation college students, Catholics, Hispanics, and military students.
The university is in the process of gaining regulatory approvals to move forward with merging Marymount into Saint Leo as one institution. While the two institutions work to develop these plans, an immediate next step will be to work to allow new students at Marymount an immediate opportunity to consider additional degree programs.
As two universities rooted in the Catholic tradition, focused on the future for students, this newly unified community will offer an innovative, values-based learning environment inspired by individuals in pursuit of a greater purpose.
Tapia College of Business Hosts Webinar Series to Help Struggling Businesses
Realizing there was a need to assist the Tampa Bay-area business community, Saint Leo University’s Tapia College of Business offered a free, four-part webinar series, Business Re-Imagined: Insights for Small Businesses in the COVID-19 Landscape in June and July.
Saint Leo University faculty and members of the Tampa Turnaround Management Association organized the sessions, engaging with other regional industry experts to provide operational, financial, human capital, and strategic guidance for small businesses.
“We recognize that this is a challenging time and the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some really unique challenges for small businesses,” said Dr. Robyn Parker, dean of the Tapia College of Business. “We thought we would gather together a set of experts and resources to help you as you think about what some call ‘re-ing business:’” Reopening, going remote, restructuring, refinancing, rethinking, replanning, and redeploying.”
The four parts in the webinar sessions were:
The COVID-19 Factor: An Overview of How COVID-19 is Impacting Businesses;
Addressing the Pandemic Recession: HR, Business Operations, and Supply Chain Impact;
Your Business Model: Strategic Direction for Pandemic Recession Recovery; and,
Financial Frenzy: Financial Options and Resources Related to COVID-19.
Phase 2 of the series was Workplace Re-Imagined on October 8, which featured experts from three of the university’s colleges presenting a multidisciplinary look at helping employees in the “new normal.” The webinar focused on “human capital and the return to the workforce.”
“Saint Leo and the Tapia College of Business wanted to do something to give back to the community,” Parker said. “’Community’ is one of Saint Leo’s core values, and we thoroughly embrace the idea of helping others. We hope to hold more webinars in the future to assist not only the community, but also as a learning experience for our students.”
Saint Leo University Students Volunteer at Food Distribution to Help In COVID-19 Pandemic
Saint Leo University students joined in the Farm Share food distribution on May 20 with Florida Representative Randy Maggard and Pasco County Board of County Commissioners Chair Mike Moore at the Shops at Wiregrass mall in Wesley Chapel, FL.
Cars lined up near the distribution point as Saint Leo students joined others to distribute much-needed food as Pasco County, FL, residents deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are out of work and need assistance. True to the university’s core values, Saint Leo students stepped up to help.
More than 50 volunteers, including the Saint Leo students, handed out 33,000 pounds of food to about 700 people. The volunteers wore masks and followed Centers for Disease Control protocols as they loaded the food into recipients’ vehicles at the drive-thru event.
“I greatly appreciate the hard work the Saint Leo students put in volunteering with the Farm Share food distribution,” Moore said. “They worked in roles from bagging food to directing traffic to placing food in vehicles. Pasco County is a community that cares and volunteering to help others shows that.”
MBA Students Help Ybor Businesses
In the spring, the Tampa (FL) Education Center’s MBA-599 class, taught by Dr. Helen MacLennan, assistant professor of management, worked in small teams to conduct their capstone project, a business strategy analysis they created free of charge for local businesses. The students assisted Tampa-area businesses, including the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce; the Ybor City Visitors Information Center; Centro Asturiano de Tampa; and the Ybor City Saturday Market.
The analyses included an internal and external assessment, competitor and marketing analysis, and financial projections. It offered possible alternative strategies for these businesses, along with suggestions for implementation.
Lee Bell, president of the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce, indicated that the information contained in these analyses was valuable and that the chamber had started the process of implementing some of the suggestions.
Health Education and Health Promotion
The university announced the start of a new four-year degree—a Bachelor of Science in health education and health promotion—that will prepare graduates for a growing number of health education positions at community organizations, healthcare agencies, and workplaces.
Health education specialists help the public understand how to cope with health challenges they face, whether as individuals or as concerned family members. “Health education specialists are bridging an important gap between what individuals, families, and communities know and understand, and the increasing amount of knowledge available,” said Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden, associate dean of Saint Leo’s College of Health Professions.
For instance, the specialists develop and adapt group education programs, offer instruction in healthy habits and preventative measures, and provide information on what kinds of health care services are available to the public. The coronavirus is a vivid example of a situation where health education specialists have played a positive role, Van Eerden noted, by providing reliable instruction on correct handwashing techniques and social distancing. Diabetes and heart disease are two other examples of conditions where health education specialists can make a difference in individuals’ lives, she added.
Psi Chi International Honor Society
Over the summer, the Saint Leo University chapter of the Psi Chi International Honor Society in psychology learned it had been named a model chapter for the 2019-2020 academic year. Only 23 chapters of the 1,180 in the society were selected for the honor. A model chapter is distinguished by the high level of interest and activity of members, as well as sound organizational practices. The chapter had 33 members in the most recent academic year, led by chapter president Caitlin Walsh ’20. Psi Chi offers lifetime memberships.
Dr. Tammy Zacchilli, an associate professor of psychology, has been the chapter advisor for 10 years. She said she was both excited about the recognition and proud of the Saint Leo chapter members. “They worked so hard last year and continued to hold meetings in Zoom after classes moved online [because of the virus]. We had a creative group of officers who led interesting activities all year.”
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. 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.
“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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: your.saintleo.edu/chapters
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.