Tag

College of Arts and Sciences

Browsing

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.

Professor Jack McTague retires from Saint Leo University after 44 years of teaching.

Scores of alumni who studied at University Campus recognize Professor Jack McTague as the cheerful fellow who plays bass with other faculty rock enthusiasts in their band, Time Warp. Some know him as a loyal fan of the Lions men basketball team, while theater enthusiasts may think of him as a patron of campus musicals, and sometimes even a cast member.

Jack McTague throughout the years

Beyond those classic McTague vignettes, though, is a more substantive story. McTague is the history professor who has actually become part of Saint Leo history through 44 years of service to students and camaraderie with colleagues. This spring marked McTague’s final semester of teaching undergraduates before retirement.

This accomplishment has alumni and colleagues pausing in appreciation for the effect McTague has had. On one level, people have been remarking on McTague’s steadfast show of community through attendance at events outside the classroom, in support of campus lectures and programming, or at students’ athletic contests and artistic efforts.

Then there is the measure of success a teacher can have in helping students to mature intellectually. McTague has always stressed to students the importance of thinking about context when confronting big questions. Much of the time, he means they need to know or learn enough to be informed citizens.

“Should there be any restrictions on freedom of speech?” McTague asked a class of eight seniors one day in February. The young citizens in the spring History of Ideas course had just read some texts that were in philosophical agreement with the American Bill of Rights. Now McTague was asking them to articulate their own beliefs about freedoms in light of hate speech, social media, the Global War on Terrorism, and other complexities of contemporary times. And then McTague asked them another question, and another.

Emily Mincey ’16 recalls that course, one of her favorites among the many she, a history major, took with McTague. His way of posing discussion questions “gave us the space to learn,” she said. In fact, she knew any course she took with him “was going to be a productive and enjoyable learning experience.”

Because McTague has always been primarily assigned to teach history from beyond the United States, he has likely had an even greater effect in helping students understand lessons from abroad. “The world is so much more connected now,” McTague said. “We certainly need to learn a lot more about China, we need to know more about the Mideast. Being in Florida, we need to know about Latin America.”

Some military-affiliated students come to class already aware of this, owing to previous deployments abroad or potential deployments in their futures, he said. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, he recalled, a sizable enrollment of military students impressed the faculty and classmates. “They were all very serious, hard-working students. In any class they were in, they raised the level,” McTague said.

In more recent years, the pattern has reappeared. Criminal justice majors who are concentrating on homeland security studies consistently enroll in an upper-level course he teaches on the Mideast, he added. “A lot more of our students are going to be traveling and serving in that part of the world.”

The subject matter does not come easily though. American students have told McTague that courses on the histories of other nations are more challenging than the U.S. history courses. “I know it’s tough,” he responds. “You’ve never heard of these names before now, and you’ve never heard of these events.”

In truth, he literally does know what they are going through in learning about regions that are new to them. The scholar has been called upon to expand his own base of knowledge dramatically from his early teaching days.

When the young John J. McTague Jr. first came to Saint Leo from the State University of Buffalo for an interview in 1976, he had an advantage in that his doctoral research and dissertation examined Britain, the United States, and Palestine, and that he had also studied Japan. Other young academics were much more specialized in their doctoral pursuits. Saint Leo had only one opening for one historian to teach history from beyond the United States (the one other historian on staff covered U.S. history). So McTague was the most qualified academically, and he knew from his own undergraduate college days that he could enjoy a small, Catholic campus atmosphere.

He has had to continue learning though, and researching and writing. In 1983, he published a book, British Policy in Palestine 1917-1922, which drew from the same topic he researched for his dissertation topic. Numerous articles and conference presentations have followed in the decades since, primarily dealing with Mideast history and politics. He also has enjoyed writing book reviews for a variety of professional journals and newspapers.

Traveling, too, has been an important learning mode. When McTague was first offered the Saint Leo job, he recalled, he had been to Europe twice and to Israel.

But as time went on, McTague and colleagues agreed the Saint Leo world history curriculum should be expanded. And McTague always felt a history professor should have a first-person acquaintance with the culture of countries in his or her teaching areas. Saint Leo has been supportive, he said, by making professional development money available that helped him finance summer educational travel.

“My two trips to China have been very useful for my classes in Far Eastern History and trips to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan have been helpful in my Middle Eastern History classes.” His trips to 10 countries in Latin America, South America, and the Caribbean have helped inform classes on that region, as well. “I’ve now been to 40 countries,” he said.

In the future, he would like to travel more, with another trip to Israel among his planned destinations. And then he may be back to teach a course from time to time because he’s also the resident expert on Latin American history.


McTague’s Movies

Jack McTague is happy to recommend movies that have a basis in historical events. Here are some of his suggestions, organized by regions of the world.

Latin America
The Mission, Like Water for Chocolate, Frida, Roma

Middle East
Lawrence of Arabia, Argo, The Kingdom

Far East
The Last Emperor, Gandhi, Seven Years in Tibet, The Last Samurai


Congratulations

The university extends its best wishes also to these faculty, who decided to retire this academic year.

  • Francis Githieya, assistant professor of philosophy, theology, and religion, Atlanta
  • Susan Foster, professor of sport business
  • Marguerite McInnis, associate professor of social work
  • David Persky, professor of criminal justice
  • Thomas Ricard, assistant professor of physics and physical sciences
  • Joanne Roberts, associate professor of education
  • Leonard Territo, distinguished professor (graduate studies) of criminal justice

Center photo by Cheryl Hemphill. Other images courtesy of Time Warp, and from Saint Leo files

Deacon Charles Onyeneke ’17 has the kind of smile that you can hear.

Charles Onyeneke

You can easily visualize his beaming face and cheerful eyes. His laughter decorates conversation like confetti at a party and unmistakably emanates from a place of joy. For Onyeneke, his joy is in attending to God’s calling.

Onyeneke, who graduated from Saint Leo with a Master of Arts degree in theology in 2017, began his journey to Catholic religious life at his childhood home in Imo State, Nigeria. He recalled his interest began when he was an 8-year-old altar server.

“I fell in love with what priests do in the Eucharistic celebration, changing wine and bread into the blood and body of Christ,” Onyeneke said.

The youngest in a Catholic family of eight children (four sisters and three brothers), Onyeneke said he learned from his parents how the presence of Christ in the Eucharist can help resolve life’s difficulties.

Today, that zeal Onyeneke felt for the celebration of the Eucharist—and to serve people—has translated into years of study that will culminate in his ordination as a priest in the U.S. Catholic Church later this year.

“The Eucharist is the center of my life,” Onyeneke said.

It is no small coincidence then, that Onyeneke was assigned to Corpus Christi Church in the small town of Round Lake, NY, to complete his pastoral year for seminary. The church’s website states its mission as one clearly aligned with Onyeneke’s own: becoming the body of Christ by worshiping God and serving others.

Charles Onyeneke
Deacon Charles Onyeneke at Corpus Christi Church in Round Lake, NY

“He jumped right in without hesitation—into a church with a large congregation and a lot of moving parts,” said Reverend Rick Lesser, pastor of Corpus Christi Church. 

“I love to watch our community when Deacon Charles preaches,” Lesser said. “They become so engaged and are smiling back. He has this ability to elicit in others the joy he feels.”

Onyeneke quickly embraced the entire community, conducting half of the church’s daily Masses and a quarter of the weekend liturgies, developing adult education programs, and becoming involved in children’s faith formation. He also began regular visits to members of the congregation, many of whom are homebound.

Lesser also was impressed with the way Onyeneke adapted to the Catholic Church in America. “He was proactive about learning the difference between the American and Nigerian Catholic Churches,” Lesser said. “And did so with incredibly good grace.”

Onyeneke also has helped to integrate immigrants within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany (NY). His own experience provides a unique perspective on the challenges they face. 

He is completing his studies for the Licentiate in Sacred Theology, an advanced degree with an emphasis on moral theology at Saint Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, MD. He wrote, and will soon defend, his thesis on undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“Catholic social teaching says that laws should not deny any person human dignity and respect,” Onyeneke said. “Immigrants need a listening ear. Listen to their story, so they can integrate.”

For Onyeneke, as a graduate student living for the first time in the United States, that listening ear belonged to Dr. Randall “Woody” Woodard, chair of graduate studies in theology and religion at Saint Leo University. Realizing that Onyeneke knew little American English and few people but the Benedictine Monks of Saint Leo Abbey with whom he stayed, Woodard went out of his way to welcome Onyeneke into the Saint Leo University fold. 

“Woody was there for me,” Onyeneke said. “I was lonely and had little money, but Woody made sure I had food and asked me to join him at soccer games—sometimes to watch the Lions, and sometimes to play a match.” 

Perhaps more important, Onyeneke says, “We shared stories so that we learned about each other.”

He credits Woodard with helping him “fall in love with the Saint Leo community.” Onyeneke became very involved on campus, writing stories for The Lions’ Pride student newspaper and joining in student activities. He has especially fond memories of the Intercultural Student Association’s dinner, for which he cooked fufu, a West-Central African dish.

At the same time, Onyeneke says that immigrants have responsibility for their success in their adopted home country. Lesser said, “He has a very wise understanding of American culture and understands from his own experience the need for immigrants to adapt to American culture.”

Onyeneke offers this advice to those new to the United States: “Have patience, seek advice, and accept cultural differences. Rather than trying to hold onto your own culture, be open to American culture.”

Soon Onyeneke will complete his year at Corpus Christi Church. He is looking forward to his ordination and future assignment in the Diocese of Albany, NY. Lesser, with whom Onyeneke has roomed during his time at the church, said Onyeneke wakes with the Eucharist at the center of his life, so cheerful that he sings around the residence in the early mornings. 

It’s a joyful noise, reflecting  Onyeneke’s love for God and serving people, which Lesser said he wishes he could bottle. “He’s going to be a gift to the people of God no matter where he goes.”

Photos by Paul Buckowski

One of the most common complaints I hear from clients in my coaching practice is that they just don’t make the kind of progress they’d like when trying to turn their ideas into reality. I have found that these aggravating hurdles crop up when we are not yet clear enough with ourselves about why we are pursuing an idea and the way we are approaching it.

What’s your why?

It is easy for us to be attracted by ideas, dreams, or fantasies about what our future might look like, but all too often, we settle on a surface-level understanding of why we want to do something. For example, a common response I hear to the “why” question is, “to make more money.” That’s a perfectly reasonable response.

However, research has shown that after we have enough money to become comfortable, money begins to lose its luster as a motivational force. That’s when we need to dig a bit deeper and connect the goal to something that aligns with our values, allows us to tap into our strengths, or permits us to live a life we find fulfilling.

We need to go into “toddler mode” and keep asking, “why is that important?” What is it about money that makes us want more of it? How would we use the money? Having a solid “why” can reinforce each step of our progress and can help us sustain our efforts, which is crucial when life gets busy and things get in the way.

How to make progress on ideas

A commonly used technique for making progress on ideas is to have SMART goals. These are goals that are specific in nature and could be easily explained to someone else. They also are measurable, so you will know precisely when the goal has been met. While the goals may be challenging, they must be achievable in the sense that they are realistic and possible. Relevant goals relate to one’s values and to the “why” discussed above. Finally, the goals should be time-limited. They must have a specific time frame that is reasonable and that fits into one’s bigger-picture objectives.

Consider making someone else aware of the goal and the deadline you’ve set for achieving it. This goal confidante is known as an accountability partner. Having someone on your side who is expecting news about your progress can have a powerful impact.

For big, long-term goals, it can be particularly helpful to engage in backward planning. This process involves setting a reasonable time frame for achieving a major goal, such as leaving a current job and making a living by owning a business in five years. What kind of income does this business need to have in five years? Set a number and make that the goal. Working backward, what kind of target income would you set for three years from now to be on track? In one year? Six months? Then think about the steps that need to happen to reach each target and break them into SMART goals that you can track.

The next time you find yourself stuck or frustrated with a lack of progress on your goals, remember to closely examine why you’re doing what you’re doing and look carefully at how you’re going about it. Odds are that once you’ve done so, you will find your ideas will start to become real!

Highlights on recent Saint Leo University faculty accomplishments and contributions in teaching and learning.

Dr. Karen Hannel of the College of Arts and Sciences and her husband, Dr. Eric Hannel, an adjunct instructor with Saint LeoHistorical research by Dr. Karen Hannel of the College of Arts and Sciences and her husband, Dr. Eric Hannel, an adjunct instructor with Saint Leo, prompted the state of Florida to approve the placement of an official marker to note that a vibrant township once existed north of University Campus in the 1800s. The town of Chipco was a trading post established by white settlers and was named for a Seminole chief who actually lived nearby, but separately, with some members of his tribe for a time after the mid-1850s. The white town grew to have a nearby railway link, lumber-planing mill, grist mill, school, and post office, along with farms. The Pasco County (FL) town reached the peak of its commercial prominence in the 1880s, but disappeared by 1909 after a series of economic reversals. Chief Chipco and his band had long since moved to a different locale in mid-Florida, and the chief died in 1881 at more than 100 years of age, according to a newspaper account. The Hannels continue to research this settlement, as its trajectory illustrates so much about the racial interactions, intermittent wars, and economic developments of 19th-century Florida.


Dr. Iain Duffy, a microbiologist and member of the science faculty at University Campus, is president of the Florida Academy of Sciences and is now in the second year of a two-year term. The academy is comprised of scholars from the life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, computer and mathematical sciences, and science teaching, and publishes a quarterly journal.


Dr. Leon Mohan and Dr. Dene WilliamsonDr. Leon Mohan and Dr. Deneˊ Williamson of the Tapia College of Business were published in late 2019 in the International Journal of Sport, Exercise and Physical Education with their article “Youth Sport Participation as a Result of Social Identity Theory.” The article describes survey research conducted in a South Florida city with youths involved with sports through various community organizations. In particular, the researchers zeroed in on children ages 9 to 13, who were primarily African American and Hispanic, to see what role social factors played in getting and keeping the youths involved in sports. The short-term objective was to help associations find influences that can be maintained to get and keep children physically active. Sports that parents and guardians were familiar with, sports played by famous athletes, and sports played by friends and peers were motivating influences. The business professors included work by undergraduate student John-Paul West in their research and publication.


Dr. Matthew TapieDr. Matthew Tapie, theology faculty member and director of the Saint Leo University Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, was invited in February by Spring Hill College in Alabama to deliver a talk on a particularly difficult point in Catholic and Jewish relations. Since 2018, Tapie has been speaking in academic settings and published in academic theological journals on the new controversy about the forced religious conversion of a young boy named Edgardo Mortaro in Bologna, Italy, in 1858. The child was being raised by a Jewish family, in accordance with their own faith, when the Catholic Church learned the boy secretly had been given a Catholic baptism when he was an infant and facing illness. A maid employed by the family performed the baptism without permission from or the knowledge of the baby’s parents. The woman presumably was leaning on her own Catholic teaching as motivation and feared for the soul of the baby if he did not recover. The boy was forcibly removed from his home on the order of Pope Pius IX when the Church eventually learned of this, and despite an international scandal, the church never backed down and instead raised the child.

The case was known chiefly by academics in recent history, but is the subject of the film The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortaro, which was made and directed by Steven Spielberg, but not widely released.

Around the time of the film’s completion, a theologian wrote an academic article that caused hurt feelings and astonishment anew among Catholics and Jews by defending Pope Pius IX and aspects of church law. Tapie’s recent and continuing work on this helps academics and others to become informed about the facts of the 162-year-old case and Catholic reaction today.


Dr. Moneque Walker-PickettDr. Moneque Walker-Pickett, professor and associate chair of the undergraduate criminal justice program, was selected for a prestigious fellowship program in higher education. She is one of only 38 professionals to be included in the 2020-2021 American Council on Education Fellows Program. The objective of the program is to provide learning opportunities that condense years of practical higher education experience into a curriculum of a single year. Fellows receive strategic planning training, make numerous visits to other campuses, and take part in interactive sessions. Upon completion of the program, fellows return to their own campuses better equipped to address evolving challenges in higher education. Walker-Pickett joins a diverse fellowship class comprised of individuals from Georgetown University, Purdue University, the U.S. Air Force Academy, among other institutions. In addition to holding a doctorate in sociology, Walker-Pickett holds a law degree and worked previously as an attorney. She became a full-time member of the Saint Leo University faculty at University Campus in August 2012.

Saint Leo’s Florida locations came together for the first time to celebrate commencement on April 27 during two ceremonies at the Florida State Fairgrounds. The university hosted nine commencement ceremonies beginning with the Key West Education Center’s on April 19. Additional ceremonies were held in Virginia, Texas, California, and South Carolina, and in Atlanta and Savannah, GA.  

The university welcomes all of our new members of the alumni association!

_DSC3513

Picture 1 of 20

This commencement was a special one for three sisters. Brianna Murphy (center) graduated at the morning Florida ceremony, joining her sisters and fellow alumna Kaitlin Murphy ’17 (left) and Courtney Murphy ’13.

Two faculty members develop a new degree program that will help enrich the future of health care.
 

At one point or another, virtually everyone in America is a health care consumer, but not all encounters are satisfying ones. Sometimes doctors show a poor bedside manner. On the other side of the relationship, patients may not feel able to speak up for themselves or ask questions about their worries and concerns. What if there was a way to address those situations and help make the practice of medicine more compassionate and allow patients to have well-informed allies to assist them in their times of need? 

Two faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences are working toward making those goals realities by leading a new bachelor’s degree program in medical humanities at the university. 

Dr. Cheryl Kozina, a geneticist from the biology faculty, and Dr. Allyson Marino, from the English faculty, are excited to be launching the curriculum this academic year. The program offers students two tracks: pre-medical, and health and humanities, which is intended for students interested in careers in health-related nonprofits, policy, and other nonclinical roles. Kozina will oversee the pre-medical track, and Marino will supervise the latter.

These academic options were launched based on solid research and evidence. The number of baccalaureate-level majors, minors, concentrations, and certificates actively taught in medical humanities throughout the United States rose from 15 in the year 2000 to 85 in 2019, according to a study from Hiram College (OH) and its Center for Literature and Medicine. As technology and mechanized processes take on greater roles in dispensing health care, patients’ need for empathic human contact increases. Interestingly, the Hiram report shows that doctors who have pre-medical humanities training are more likely to consider understaffed medical practice areas, including primary care, pediatric medicine, and psychiatry as practice areas for their careers.

A committee of faculty volunteers from the College of Arts and Sciences, including Kozina, Marino, and colleagues from philosophy, theology, and humanities, began exploring this degree more than three years ago. The committee weighed additional factors to determine whether it would be worthwhile for Saint Leo to add a medical humanities curriculum. “We asked: ‘Is this feasible? Is there a need for this? Is there a hole in Florida that could be filled and could it be filled by Saint Leo?’” Kozina recalled.
 
In all cases, the answers were “yes.” Even though Saint Leo offers a strong biology major at University Campus that prepares future doctors, dentists, and veterinarians for professional training, there was still room for another educational option. And the committee determined an added path to a medical education would be a healthy addition to meet the persistent need for more medical professionals, including doctors, nurse practitioners, and clinically trained individuals. The pre-medical track for medical humanities majors will prepare those individuals, while some will prefer the humanities path. 

Kozina explained the pre-medical curriculum will supply the science courses needed for medical school admission while leaving room for instruction in bio ethics, medical humanities foundation courses (likely also to help with the current standardized Medical College Admission Test), and other possibilities, such as Spanish for medical practitioners. “I have seen students in the biology major who would have thrived if this program had been available,” she said of students from previous graduating classes.

She has witnessed another indication of interest at the student level, too. This happens during the semesters she teaches an elective course in cancer biology. Many families have been touched by cancer, Kozina explained, and consequently, students enrolled in the course are eager to talk and share experiences. That simply does not happen in genetics class, she has noticed. 

Marino had a parallel experience during the Spring 2019 semester, when she taught a course on literature and medicine for the first time. “All the students got personal,” she said. They got to read works, for instance, from physician-author William Carlos Williams, who is known for writing accessible poems about his working-class patients in New Jersey factory towns in the early 20th century. She is excited, too, about the possibilities of future graduates tackling problems such as disparities in health services that are dependent on race, gender, age, and economic or social class. “We need more people who can be leaders,” Marino said.

The health and humanities track takes a different curricular approach from the science-focused track. It directs majors into 18 credit hours to be chosen from courses such as psychology of aging, medical sociology, anthropology, and others to be developed, and leaves room for a minor. Marino and Kozina expect that some courses will have team teachers from differing disciplines because the subject matter is so rich: Medical history could be one example. Medical humanities students from both tracks will have opportunities to learn by completing academic projects, to take part in service-learning projects, and to seek internships. 

Eventually, the health and humanities track of the major is likely to be offered at Saint Leo education centers near hospitals and health-care hubs, Marino said. More information on the major is available from the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and Experiential Learning. 


Other New Majors Offered This Fall

Saint Leo University continues to expand the degree programs at University Campus, education centers, and online. These additions were effective at the start of the academic year in August. To learn more about Saint Leo’s degree programs, visit saintleo.edu/find-your-program.

  • Bachelor and Master of Science in Software Engineering
  • Bachelor of Science in Data Science
  • Bachelor of Arts in Theatre
  • Online Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education
  • Online Bachelor of Arts in Education Studies
  • Online Bachelor of Arts in Human Services 

Dr. Mary Spoto
After serving as acting vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for some time, Dr. Mary Spoto was named the university’s vice president for Academic Affairs by President Jeffrey Senese in November. Spoto has served in several roles during her 25-year history with Saint Leo. Before serving as dean, she was the chair of the Department of English, Fine Arts, and Humanities, now referred to as the Department of Language Studies and the Arts. She also is a professor of English. She earned her Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and doctoral degree in English from the University of South Florida.

 

Dr. Jen Shaw
In January, Saint Leo welcomed Dr. Jen Shaw as the new vice president of Student Affairs. Shaw oversees all student affairs departments, which include Dining Services, Student Activities, Counseling Services, Health and Wellness, Campus Life, Career Services, Military and Veterans Affairs, and Accessibility Services. She brings 25 years of experience in higher education to the position, serving in a variety of student affairs leadership positions. She most recently served as associate vice president and dean of students at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Shaw earned a doctorate in higher education from Florida State University; a master’s degree in college student personnel services from Miami University in Oxford, OH; and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. 

 

Dr. Robyn Parker
In February, Dr. Robyn Parker joined Saint Leo as dean of the Tapia College of Business. She has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, serving in both public and private institutions. Parker most recently served as dean of the College of Business Administration at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, an institution she joined as a faculty member in 2010 to teach management courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Parker earned her doctorate in organizational communication from Wayne State University in Detroit, and a master’s in human resource development from Boston University. For her undergraduate degree, Parker earned a bachelor’s in communication studies from the State University of New York College at Oswego.

When Saint Leo University celebrated its 125-year anniversary in 2014, Dr. Heather Parker contributed to the commemoration by starting a local oral history project that focused on people and families who were involved with Saint Leo down through the generations. This work parallels her own, more focused scholarly research into the relationship between African-Americans living locally, who were generally from Protestant congregations, and the distinctly Catholic Saint Leo.

Dr. Heather Parker with a visual display of some of her research into Saint Leo’s early history.

Among Parker’s recorded interviews is one with Gloria Billings Roberts, who had been a Saint Leo student and employee. Her husband, Levy Roberts, was also a Saint Leo employee. Roberts grew up in the local area and attended public schools during an era of mandatory integration. Her family, the Billingses, lived nearby and had many employment connections with Saint Leo. Roberts even worked part time in the girl’s cafeteria from 1967 to 1970 while in high school. It is worth knowing that during Roberts’ childhood, it was the norm for many public schools locally to be segregated. Integration in some areas in Florida and elsewhere came about as late as 1970, prompted by a court order. The atmosphere at campus apparently differed from other environs, though. Roberts entered Saint Leo College in 1970.

Parker, now associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, asked Roberts about her college experience and about the personal and family connections with Saint Leo over many years for the oral history project.

HP: When you started at Saint Leo as a student in 1970, how many other black kids were enrolled as students, do you think?
GR: Wasn’t many. Not many of us there. In fact, I’m trying to think, did I know anybody? If there were, they were on the athletic team, and I didn’t have them … all my friends were white because at that time there wasn’t that many.
HP: But you made friends just fine. They accepted you?
GR: They accepted me just fine. Because we had the orientation, we got to meet each other whatever the case may be and there were classes. That group just jelled because that group was from the North anyway, and they were more open.
HP: What was your maiden name?
GR: Billings.
HP: So you mentioned your grandfather, who was the [orange] grove keeper.
GR: For Burkes and Burkes. His name was Frank McCoy.
HP: So Frank McCoy was your grandfather, and he worked for the Burkes?
GR: He was their grove keeper, or their foreman as they call it. In fact, we lived on the property there, right behind the college.
HP: So the Burkeses owned that grove—so it wasn’t the groves the monks kept. But (your grandfather) got to know Father Marion [Bowman], and Father Marion said ‘You have this granddaughter …’
GR: Well, his daughter. I was raised by him.
HP: And Father Marion said ‘When your daughter is ready, she can come to college,’ and he let you come basically for a song. For whatever you could pay.
GR: Books. That’s all I paid, was for books.
HP: And that’s an important story, it’s what I needed to hear because we wanted to find out the connections between the college (in whatever its forms) and the community. And your mother worked for the Montessori school with the nuns. And when did that start? Was this your grandmother?
GR: No, this was my mother. My grandmother [laughter], my grandmother worked for the Abbey. She was a cook for the Abbey.
HP: For the girls, or the nuns?
GR: No, not for the nuns, for the monks.
HP: And that was while you were growing up?
GR: Yeah, because she was there when I was in college. [My mother] also worked as a cook with my grandmother there at the Abbey. She worked there for a while as a cook, but then the nuns needed a cook, so my grandma sent her over there with the nuns. So she was a cook over at the nuns, and then they needed someone to go over to the day care, so they sent her to the day care.
HP: You were right. These connections run deep and everywhere.
GR: Basically, we’ve been around. Our family has been pretty much around with the college because of the fact that we lived right there. There was a house back in there we used to live in, so that connection was there so whenever they needed something when we were there …Father Marion would tell Daddy, and Daddy would come home and say they need this or that, or whatever the case may be, and that’s what would happen.

With the availability of genealogy tools for the public’s use and prime-time television shows about people exploring their lineages, more people are becoming aware that their relatives lives’ reflect history and that the stories of everyday people are worth knowing and sharing.

Holiday gatherings can provide an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with older family members about their formative years and family history. One of Saint Leo’s history professors, Dr. Heather Parker, was interviewed last year about ways people can ask relatives to share recollections.

Fruitful conversations resemble oral histories, which Parker is experienced in collecting using formal methods. But everyone, she said, can use some common interviewing techniques to engage with older relatives even if no book, archive, or collection is planned. Her advice circulated nationally in fall 2017 through an Associated Press story that included her as a source.

Parker recommended that interested parties ask family members in advance to bring photos to the next get-together, with a promise to handle them gently. If you can, she said, bring a portable scanner to preserve digital images of the photographs, or use a smart phone with adequate memory to do so. A magnifying glass will be handy, too, she said, because details from the backgrounds in the photos might give clues about the time-period and location in which the photo was taken.

When it comes to personal stories that people may tell, Parker advised listeners against being visibly shocked if any disturbing information is disclosed as this could discourage the relative from continuing to tell the story. She also cautioned against prying or being too pushy if people don’t want to go into details, as older generations in America might have a different sense of privacy than their younger counterparts.

On her website africanamericanpasco.org, Parker dispenses even more guidance for those who want to conduct detailed research, perhaps beyond the boundaries of their own families. For instance, she conducted research on African-American families who live currently or lived in prior generations around University Campus in Pasco County, FL. Theirs is a little-represented history. Many groups including African-Americans have not been included in national or local history books and were overlooked by city or community newspapers, but Parker employed recommended historical methods to help address the void.

Her website even includes a link to a site providing consent forms for people willing to provide interviews that can be formally archived. Parker also discusses on the website ways to find and approach interview subjects, as well as the related use of photographs, census records, and other types of records and documents.


Dr. Heather Parker has offered this photo from her own family to illustrate ways that descendants can delve into their history through images. This photo shows Parker’s grandmother, Isabelle, on the left, and Isabelle’s sister Ruth on the right. They are both single young ladies in this photo. The cars in the background, as well as the purses, outfits, and hairstyles are clues that this was taken in the 1940s. And the fact that the young ladies are leaning against the tree informally rather than standing upright indicates the image was not taken by a parent or authority figure, but someone they were comfortable with and maybe out for a bit of fun.

It has been said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

During the next three years, Saint Leo University will enter into a period of renaissance that will redefine how the 21st century university prepares students for success. These bold plans will help build a strong foundation from which Saint Leo can expand and reach new heights.


By the Numbers

Saint Leo University is a leader in providing a superior educational experience to students wherever they live and study.

Nearly 12,000

students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories, and more than 90 countries

35

teaching locations in seven states, or online anywhere

52

undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs

More than 93,000

alumni in all 50 states, District of Columbia, three U.S. territories, and 76 countries

3 academic colleges

the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Social Services, and the Donald R. Tapia College of Business

Culture

We will invest in a high-performance leadership culture.

Saint Leo faculty and staff are the backbone of the university, facilitating a rich learning environment for our students. Investing in their professional development and recruiting high-performing talent will allow the university to develop an educational experience that puts the needs of students first. This will include implementing a more robust student advisory model and introducing new technology to support learning.

Academics

We will transform the student experience, ensuring they are at the center of every decision.

The future of Saint Leo will include stronger, more robust degree programs, while introducing new programs with market demand. The university also will strengthen student activities and create programs that allow students to thrive during their time with us. This will include introducing unique honors, military/veteran, and athletics programs that support the success of these groups.

Growth

Growth

We will seek opportunities for student-centered innovation and growth.

During the next few years, Saint Leo University will expand its reach in new and emerging markets and revitalize our brand recognition. This will require us to increase our footprint across the country and travel internationally to introduce Saint Leo to global prospective students. Saint Leo’s values are highly desired, and it will take investments from all of our supporters to make this growth possible.

Exciting things are happening at Saint Leo University. Here’s a top-five list of recent developments you may be interested to know:

At the start of the new academic year, Saint Leo University re-imagined its three major academic units, and each is now a college rather than a school: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Social Services, and the Donald R. Tapia College of Business. This subtle, but strategic move was made to reflect the plurality of subject areas taught within each of Saint Leo’s academic divisions, as well as the current prominence of graduate degree programs among the mix. It also positions the university for future growth. Additional colleges will be added in the coming years to reflect Saint Leo’s focus on academic excellence in teaching and learning and to make explicit particular groupings of programs and new program areas.

 
In May, the new Doctor of Education: School Leadership and Doctor of Criminal Justice (specializations offered in homeland security and education) degree programs were approved by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The programs quickly met enrollment goals for their first classes.

 
During the summer, Saint Leo University Athletics announced it will add acrobatics and tumbling to its intercollegiate athletics program in 2020. Acrobatics and tumbling, a discipline of USA Gymnastics, is the evolution of different forms of gymnastics and involves tumbling, tosses, and acrobatic lifts and pyramids. Teams participate in head-to-head competition and are scored in six events.

 
The Saint Leo University College of Education and Social Services recently launched the Educator Preparation Institute, a program that provides an alternate route to teacher certification for mid-career professionals and college graduates who were not education majors. After passing the general knowledge and one subject area competence exam and securing a letter of eligibility from the state, individuals can enroll in the program to prepare to take the Florida Teacher Certification Exam. The Educator Preparation Institute program is available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. For more information, visit saintleo.edu/educator-preparation-institute.

 
Political science major Jeanine Ramirez ’20 and social work major/American politics minor MacKenzie Jones ’19, spent two months this summer in Washington, DC, in a selective internship program. It is called the Congressional Fellows Program and admits only 35 undergraduates for the eight-week summer program. The fellows work three days a week in the offices of members of Congress. Time is also spent each week on community service and leadership development. This fellowship placement is a first among Saint Leo students.