Tag

College of Education and Social Services

Browsing
Alumnus finds value and application in a popular Saint Leo University course on terrorism in Israel.

Charlie Bird ’05 ’11 ’14 followed a time-honored path over the course of three decades to emerge as the head of law enforcement  in his Central Florida hometown. He started as an outdoorsy, active young man who was introduced to the career through a friend who was a police dispatcher, and found the work suited him. He earned his degrees near home and advanced through the ranks. 

Now, as the director of public safety for the same small city, Winter Haven, FL (population: 43,000), Bird is a proponent of providing police and other emergency professionals with an international educational perspective. Even in smaller-population cities such as his, the threats to public safety and well-being are real, he said. Parkland, the Florida city victimized by the infamous Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, estimates its current population at 32,000, he pointed out.

Through his experiences at Saint Leo, Bird came to the conclusion that approaches to keeping the public safe now have to be researched worldwide, and not just within our country’s framework.

Bird earned an associate degree from Saint Leo in 2005 and later earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the university, studying part time, while working and raising a family. Then he followed that degree with a master’s in criminal justice with a concentration in critical incident management.

That was all sound training, he says, but what made him a more forward-leaning leader was his participation in an eight-day group trip to Israel. The tour is a learning experience that is organized periodically by Saint Leo’s departments of public safety administration and criminal justice in partnership with a respected security training company for law and safety students and professionals. The group learned about Israel’s approach to counterterrorism through its public infrastructure, various protective agencies, and planning capabilities.

“It was one of the best things I ever did,” Bird said of his 2014 experience. While many fellow travelers on the trip were from large-city police forces, Bird encountered many lessons that he applies in directing safety operations for Winter Haven, and that he thinks could work for other smaller municipalities.

New perspectives

What meant the most to Bird was the emphasis placed on the prevention of attacks and cooperative measures, along with strong tactical response capabilities. For instance, he realized in Israel, police and firefighters may coordinate and act immediately at a mass casualty, rather than in a sequence with police first, then firefighters. “You’re looking at it from a different perspective,” he said.

Charlie Bird, left, with Saint Leo faculty member Dr. Robert Sullivan on a tour during a study trip in May 2014 to Israel.

The Israeli thinking about keeping schools safe from intruders and active shooters also intrigued Bird. “Their security layers for schools are not just on campus,” he said. “They are outside that. They patrol the perimeters outside the school property.” His department could examine and adjust patrol routes, he immediately realized.

When he returned to Florida, the ideas stayed, and advancement opportunities followed. Bird became Winter Haven’s police chief early in 2015 after the previous chief, a mentor, left for another position in the region. After another few years, the city’s fire chief retired.

The local city manager in 2018 proposed a new organization bringing the fire and police departments, along with code enforcement, under one city department overseen by Bird. Bird agreed and was appointed the director of public safety, a new position. He now oversees 91 police employees and a force of 71 firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

One of Bird’s current initiatives involves taking police, fire, and code enforcement officers on team walks through neighborhoods where some of the homes and yards are out of code compliance or are about to be because of overgrown grass, debris, or other deficits. Team members walk and knock on doors to talk to residents, Bird said, taking an informative approach first, and asking what the public servants can do to help the residents bring the property into code compliance.

Community members who help agency personnel may come along, too, Bird said, and sometimes identify easy solutions. Firefighters look for features of buildings that might be fire hazards and add to their knowledge of the properties under their protective watch.

Cross-functional teams

The police presence also reassures residents the department is serious about keeping the area safe from personal and property crime and fighting drug dealing. This cooperative venture is also a data-driven exercise that will track results, including numbers of code citations and calls to police for help, Bird said.

He has his eye on the longer term, too. Now that some safety department managers have been working more holistically for more than a year, he would like to send six of them on the next Israel trip that Saint Leo is able to arrange. (A May 2020 date has been rescheduled for November 2020 in hopes of better travel conditions domestically and internationally, in light of the coronavirus outbreak.)

Bird wants the group to be able to see for themselves the kinds of things he did and develop more ideas for improving the safety and well-being of the residents of Winter Haven. An anonymous foundation board has come forward to fund most of this training so that taxpayers will not have to foot any costs. The donating board—unknown even to Bird—considers the donation a way to help the 53-year-old public safety director have strong successors in place when he eventually retires. Bird said he is “extremely appreciative.” The foundation’s board is “making a heck of an investment into the future of this department and into the future of this community.”


For More Information

If you are interested in learning more about the course and trip, please contact Dr. Robert Sullivan, faculty member with Saint Leo University’s Department of Public Safety Administration and Department of Criminal Justice, at robert.sullivan02@saintleo.edu.

Photos courtesy of Charlie Bird

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.

Michele Naughton ’10 ’13 ’18 uses her Saint Leo education to invest in her community through her work with the Norfolk Police Department.

Michele Naughton is a survivor who overcame being homeless, raising children as a single mother, suffering a serious injury, and fighting cancer on her journey to becoming a police captain with the Norfolk (VA) Police Department.

A triple Saint Leo graduate, Naughton studied at education centers in Virginia, and earned an associate degree in 2010, a bachelor’s degree in business administration-management in 2013, and a master’s degree in criminal justice in 2018. She also is a graduate of Saint Leo’s Command Officer Management program.

A self-proclaimed “Army brat,” Naughton lived in Oklahoma, Germany, Texas, California, and New York prior to moving to Virginia. “I lived in the Louis Armstrong projects in Bedford Stuyvesant,” she said. “My parents had six kids, and when I was 15, my mom decided to move from Sacramento to Brooklyn to reunite with my dad. He was an Army veteran and an alcoholic. His addiction forced my mother to leave. With six kids in tow, we walked the streets of Brooklyn. We were homeless at times.”

But the strength of her mother encouraged her. “She loved us and ensured that our education was a top priority,” Naughton said. However, her educational journey stalled when she became pregnant at 19. She became pregnant again with twin sons and soon followed her mother to Norfolk so she could have her support.

“I originally became a police officer because my mom told me to!” Naughton said. “It was that simple. But once I became an officer, and I realized that every day is different and there are many opportunities, I really enjoyed it.”

She faced more challenges as she tore her meniscus after entering the police academy, delaying graduation for two years until 2002. In 2005, while pregnant, she was diagnosed with cancer. She has been in remission since 2006.

Naughton said, “I have dealt with adversity throughout my career and this accomplishment [being named captain] answered the questions I posed to God such as why I survived cancer, but my 3-year-old nephew did not, why did I get injured in the academy so completion took almost two years, why did my mom get shot and survive, and why did I meet Officer Sheila Herring in the academy, who was killed in the line of duty in 2003? I finally realized that God had a purpose for me. I believe I can inspire others to achieve their goals and to keep going even when the going gets tough.”

Norfolk Police Department Captain Michele Naughton receives a Community Heroes award from the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce
Saint Leo alumna, Norfolk Police Department Captain Michele Naughton, center, receives a Community Heroes award from the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

In 2007, she became a community resource officer assigned to the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. “I could relate to the concerns of the community as I had been a resident of the New York Housing Authority. I wanted to truly help make a safe community for the families, especially the children. I saw myself in the women in that community. I am a single mother, and I faced a lot of the same challenges as the residents. I was able to connect with them.”

Prior to being promoted to captain, she served in the patrol, detective, training, and vice-narcotics divisions throughout her career with the NPD.

Learning Curve

Naughton learned about Saint Leo University from other Norfolk police officers. “I was drawn to Saint Leo primarily because of the flexible schedule, affordable cost, and numerous degree programs,” she said. “I was a single mother of three, and when I started my educational journey, all my children were in elementary school.”

She completed most of her undergraduate degree at the South Hampton Roads Education Center at JEB-Little Creek, and also took classes online and at the Norfolk and Oceana offices. Her graduate degree program and Command Officer Management program were completed at the Chesapeake Education Center. “I enjoyed blended classes because I was able to manage the amount of time away from work and family and still able to receive classroom instruction,” she said.

Through Saint Leo, she learned skills to assist her as she moved into a command position. “Certain classes like accounting, budgeting, management, and policy courses provided the knowledge to understand the business and legal aspect of policing and the administrative side of law enforcement. I believe that, coupled with my experience, has made me a better officer today.”

Empowering Women

Captain Michele Naughton at Richard Bowling Elementary School's Black History Month presentation on March 5, 2020
Captain Michele Naughton at Richard Bowling Elementary School’s Black History Month presentation

Law enforcement needs more women, Naughton said. Women possess many special characteristics such as emotional intelligence, she said. “My advice would be that sometimes we [women and women of color] may doubt ourselves because we don’t see people who look like us in positions of authority in law enforcement, but there is a place for you. I would say, ‘you are smart enough, you are strong enough, and you are good enough. You are enough!”

While she said law enforcement is not an easy career path, it is rewarding. “Whoever made the glass ceiling wanted it to be broken—if not, it would have been made of concrete or steel.”

Naughton is motivated by the sense that she can change people’s perception of police officers. “I can truly be part of the solution,” she said. “I am motivated by knowing that I am a part of an organization that believes in fostering positive relationships and inclusivity. I am motivated because I see the example of leadership through authentic community engagement that results in crime reduction and building trust set by Chief Larry Boone.”

In turn, the Norfolk chief has great things to say about Naughton. “Not only is she an inspiration to young women, she is also an outstanding model for leadership,” Boone said. “Having overcome personal, professional, and health challenges during her career, Captain Naughton’s background authentically resonates with citizens, as she is an example of endurance and fortitude for anyone facing difficulties in their life. I am certain her legacy will impact/influence the future of recruitment for women and minorities in law enforcement by her example and mentorship.”

The Gig

In her position as captain, Naughton is the commanding officer of the Office of PRIME Affairs. PRIME is public relations, information, marketing, and engagement. She oversees the Public Information Office, Community Affairs Sections, and Community Outreach.

Naughton attributes her success and ability to move up the ranks within the police department to “the support and love of the community, co-workers, and family,” she said.

She volunteers weekly as a literacy tutor, co-hosts the bi-weekly radio talk show We Are One – NPD and You, and serves on the Cops & Curls Committee and the Fair and Impartial Policing work group. “I make time as it is important to me,” she said. “One encounter can change the path of a person’s life.”

And Naughton knows she does not do it alone. The support of her family, the Norfolk Police Department, the community, and God have encouraged her on this journey.

Photos by RGB Imaging

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.

A Saint Leo education program is helping to address the teacher shortage in Florida by partnering with school districts.

Saint Leo University is helping Florida school districts “grow their own” teachers via an innovative program. Through agreements with 19 school systems, paraprofessionals and noncertified school district employees, who have an associate degree, recieve the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in education from the university. 

The agreements vary in scope, with all providing tuition discounts. In some agreements, Saint Leo will offer classes at a school within the district, while in others, the paraprofessionals will study at one of the university’s Florida education centers and online. 

The new program allows those who work in schools to become teachers in the district where they already are employed. “This is a home-grown approach that is addressing the teacher shortage in Florida,” said Dr. Holly Atkins, chair of Saint Leo’s undergraduate education program. It takes people who are based in the community and allows them to grow, gain a degree, and become teachers. 

“You have roots there,” Atkins said of the school district employees. “You have an understanding of who the students are in the community. That leads to more success for the [school district’s] students, too.”

When district employees consider becoming teachers, the main concerns that emerge are monetary investment, time commitment—both length of the program and demand on their personal schedule—and if they will be supported by their school district and academic institution, said Jessica Starkey, director of Saint Leo’s Jacksonville (FL) Education Center. “Our para-to-pro program addresses each of those concerns.”  

Growing teachers who know the area, people, culture, and lifestyle is beneficial to Florida’s school districts—especially districts in rural areas. “It’s going to help the teachers stick and remain in the districts,” Atkins said. “We don’t want a revolving door of teachers.” 

Tackling Teaching Vacancies
Districts spend time and money recruiting teachers, and this new program will provide a guaranteed pipeline of educators. With the partnerships, districts will “know in spring of 2021, ‘We’re going to have X amount of new teachers,’” said Dr. Tammy Quick, assistant professor of education at the Ocala (FL) Education Center. “They don’t have to go out and recruit.” 

Michele Bily, instructional specialist in human resources for Clay County District Schools agrees. She says the initiative allows the district “to recruit future teachers from a talent pool that has already shown commitment to our students and the district.”  

This home-grown approach to hiring teachers appeals to school officials. The district employees already are involved with the children and the community. “That fits right in with who we are as a university and our core values,” Atkins said of Saint Leo. 

Since Saint Leo already maintains relationships with many of the school districts, the para-to-pro agreements were a natural fit. 

“We have worked with these districts for years, but now they are serious about growing their numbers since there appears to be a shortage of certified teachers in our state,” said Dr. Susan Kinsella, dean of the College of Education and Social Services.

At the Jacksonville Education Center, these partnerships are strengthened by the personal attention education students receive. “My center has been amazing,” said Dr. Alexandra Kanellis, associate chair of undergraduate education. “The students [in the para-to-pro program] know there is a person to help them. We identified roles. I handle the academics, Jessica [Starkey] handles the financials, and the assistant director of admissions helps with all the paperwork. [Education] students know who to go to for help.”

The Hernando County School District is just one district that is pleased to work with Saint Leo. 

The partnerships take down the barriers that have prevented many people from returning to college and pursuing a bachelor’s degree and qualifies them to teach in their own classroom.


“This is a home-grown approach that is addressing the teacher shortage in Florida.”
— Dr. Holly Atkins, chair, Undergraduate Education


“We are excited about this partnership and what it could potentially do for our district’s recruitment and retention efforts,” said Michael Maine, the district’s senior recruiter. Maine is the district’s first senior recruiter, a position created in 2019 to fill frequent teaching vacancies and retain teachers for longer periods.

“By partnering with Saint Leo, we hope to bridge the gap and strengthen our pool of teacher applicants who are ready and prepared to be teachers,” Maine said. “The great thing about the program is that these individuals are already our employees and are already in our classrooms. They have a love for students and in many ways are already heavily assisting the teachers who they serve by helping to boost student achievement. Why not help them with their personal development and future goals of becoming teachers? It is a win-win situation!”

The para-to-pro programs allow the new Saint Leo students to complete their field placements in the school in which they work; however, they must teach in a different classroom to meet the state’s internship requirements. They also must complete their final field placement outside of the school district in which they are employed.

The districts all make a commitment to the students, helping with tuition, allowing the time for classes, and providing health insurance. “The HR staff and the district can say this is a benefit of employment,” Atkins said. “We [the university] provide a flat-rate on tuition, additional professional development opportunities, and additional support for the three state tests.”

Hernando’s Maine considers the para-to-pro partnership with Saint Leo to be a benefit to the district’s employees.  “It is an opportunity for us to create clear pathways for our current employees to move up within the organization,” he said. “If an employee knows that they have an opportunity to increase their influence within an organization and feel valued while doing it, they will stay. It’s all about retention of these great employees.”

School districts identify and recommend employees eligible for admission and provide placement for internships, and other support. “The additional support has been unique to each district,” Starkey said. “Some school districts will provide textbooks, laptops, and financial reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses. Many districts also are working to keep participating para-to-pro students paid during their final internship and keep their health benefits.” 

In Clay County, the district collaborated with the Clay Education Foundation to provide computers for each cohort member to ensure they had the necessary technology to complete their degrees, Bily said. 

Helping Florida’s Future Teachers
Saint Leo is working with districts to meet their needs, too. “We listen to what they want,” Kanellis said. “We go to them and say ‘What do you need from us?’ We stay connected to what is going on in education and what districts need. We have to stay current and flexible.”

“We’re flexible enough to make adjustments to the current program and still have the high expectations and standards,” Atkins added.

Some of the new Saint Leo education students have been paraprofessionals for years, Atkins said. “They have a wide array of teaching skills,” she said. “The program builds on that.”

Most are nontraditional-age students, who are juggling families and employed in demanding full-time jobs. “That’s what we specialize in at our centers,” Atkins said of the adult learners. “It’s not a learning curve for Saint Leo to have a mom come in as a student, who is holding down a full-time job and now going back to school full time. That’s who we work with.”

Many paraprofessionals think, “‘I can’t go to college because of time and money,’” Quick added. But the para-to-pro program with Saint Leo is changing that with the tuition discount, and by offering classes at district offices and schools, at nearby Saint Leo centers, and online. 

The partnerships take down the barriers that have prevented many people from returning to college and pursuing a bachelor’s degree and qualifies them to teach in their own classroom. Paraprofessionals complete most of their field placements right in their place of work. Districts then commit to hiring the paraprofessionals upon successful completion of the program. 

The para-to-pro program covers a wide range of employees, Atkins said. “It could be a classroom teacher wanting to take an undergraduate class for recertification or enroll in one of the graduate education programs. It can be someone who is working in the school district on a temporary certificate, who graduated with a non-education degree, but wants to get an education degree. Some districts have included noninstructional staff, who have strong ties to their school—a front-office secretary, for example.” 

The program has provided support for employees “with the hope that they can complete their education and be a lead teacher in a classroom,” said Brenda Troutman, director of instructional personnel for Clay County District Schools. “Many of those enrolled in the program would not have had the opportunity to accomplish this otherwise.” 

The Duval County Public Schools’ partnership with Saint Leo is called the Supporting Talent and Recruiting Teachers (START) program, and it launched in December.

“There was quite a ceremony at the Jacksonville district office welcoming the new cohort,” said Kinsella. “Families were invited and students were met by their superintendent and myself while they learned about Saint Leo University and the expectations of their school district. There is plenty of support for this program from Saint Leo and the school district, so we are certain these students will be successful. There is also the added component of including the families as it is so important to have their support.”

Several of the agreements with Saint Leo require the districts to hire the students once they graduate, pass the Florida General Knowledge Test, and the state certification exam. This will allow those who previously were making minimum wage to begin making a certified teacher’s salary, Kinsella noted. 

The partnership with Saint Leo University allows current Clay County support staff, who hold an associate degree to complete a bachelor’s in education in two years, Bily said. “Upon successful completion of the program, each graduate will be guaranteed a teaching position within the district.”

Collaborating for Strong Teacher Cohorts
“The biggest support system is what they create through their cohort,” Kanellis said of the new education students. “The para-to-pro cohorts come in, and they realize that all the students are feeling the same; they have the same dreams. It’s pretty amazing to see how they keep each other going. They pray together; they have dinner together; they study together.”

Clay County’s collaboration with Saint Leo “has created a strong support system to assist those enrolled, to encourage them through the process, and to simply be their cheerleader when things become tough,” Troutman said. “Clay County is excited to have this new partnership and looks forward to building great teachers for Clay.”

Saint Leo’s commitment to its education students doesn’t end when they walk across the stage at commencement. “The Department of Education tracks and assesses our program based on the performance of our graduates,” Atkins said. “They are evaluated in a large part on the standardized test scores of their students. These are long-term partnerships with our graduates.” 

Throughout the fall and winter, Saint Leo faculty members shared their knowledge and insights with a variety of media outlets and audiences—from newspapers and television stations to group talks. Here are a few highlights of appearances and media reporting featuring our faculty.

In September, faculty member Dr. Tammy Zacchilli was quoted extensively in three articles on the digital feature news site FamilyMinded.com. As an associate professor of psychology, Zacchilli shared advice for parents on the art of disciplining children, typical fears of toddlers, and what to consider before expanding a family.

In November, faculty member Dr. Gianna Russo appeared on WEDU’s That’s All I’m Saying with Tampa Bay Times columnist Ernest Hooper. Russo talked about nurturing Tampa area authors during the 30-minute program on regional public television. The assistant professor of English and creative writing also will soon release her new book, One House Down, a collection of poems published by Madville Publishing.

Dr. Keith Jones, associate professor of marketing, shared insights on a Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey regarding holiday shopping on Thanksgiving Day and whether stores benefitted from being open (or closed) on the holiday. His commentary appeared in American City Business Journals’ publications across the nation. He also participated in a Facebook live interview for Saint Leo alumni on the same topic.

Dr. Jenenne Valentino-Bottaro, an adjunct faculty member at the Ocala Education Center, participated in a November television interview with WCJB-TV, ABC 20, in Ocala about animal-assisted therapy. Valentine-Bottaro teaches human services courses in the College of Education & Social Services and is the co-founder of the Human-Animal Interconnectedness Institute.

In January, social work faculty member Dr. Lisa Rapp-McCall was interviewed by Tampa Bay area television stations WTVT-TV, FOX 13, and WFLA-TV, NBC News Channel 8, about research conducted by the Saint Leo Polling Institute on human trafficking. That same month, Rapp-McCall and colleague Dr. Robert Lucio presented the polling institute’s survey data on human trafficking during a panel discussion hosted by the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

Everyone knows that wry saying about becoming a parent: You have to pass a test to get a driver’s license, but not to become a biological mother or father.

While that is still true, some Saint Leo students have had the option of getting some excellent grounding in the topic (with tests) through an undergraduate course called the Psychology of Parenting. It is a junior-level course, developed by Dr. Tammy L. Zacchilli, associate professor of psychology, after discussion among several peers in the discipline from various Saint Leo teaching locations. She has taught it four times so far, every other fall, at University Campus. The class typically fills up, or nearly does.

Dr. Tammy Zacchilli, a mother of three herself, has hopes of extending the course to more Saint Leo students by developing an online version in the near future.
Psychology faculty knew the course would help students who want to become parents at some point in life. Another group that stands to benefit are those who intend to go into teaching, social work, or another kind of helping profession, she points out. “Their jobs may require them to work with parents.”

For some reason, Zacchilli found there were only a few sound textbooks available on the topic—though she notes with caution for other readers that anyone can write a book on parenting without broad knowledge of the theories on how children develop psychologically. Still, she hunted until she found one and supplements the reading with videos, interactive assignments, speakers from child-related occupations, class discussions, and a required service project.

The class lends itself to being divided into three segments, she said. In the first part, the class reads and discusses what psychologists have written about parenting and discipline styles. Students are generally eager to talk about this and compare experiences. Even though most at University Campus have not yet had children, they think back to their own families and have positive exchanges about how different cultures and backgrounds play a role, she said.

“We have students from a lot of different places,” she reflects. Students from the Caribbean, for instance, may have experiences that contrast with those of students from the mainland United States.

The second portion of the course is devoted to understanding child development, and the third to special situations that include adoption, high-risk families, and same-sex parenting.

Emma Hutterli ’16 particularly recalls an assignment with a delicate prop. Students were given actual chicken eggs (with the inside liquid blown out) to carry for a week as stand-ins for infants, meaning they were not to leave the eggs unattended. It was “light-hearted, but the class took it seriously,” recalled Hutterli, who is now studying for the Master of Social Work degree from Saint Leo.

“We then talked about that experience: for example, how was it to ask for a babysitter, what was it like taking the eggs to class/home/the store, did any of the eggs break over the time period?” She still has her phone photo of her decorated egg.

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.

The 2017-2018 academic year concluded with 13 commencement ceremonies. Ceremonies took place in Florida, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, California, and Texas for the university’s education center and online students.

_W3A1029

Picture 1 of 10

Alysa Nantarojanaporn of Homestead, FL, was awarded the Thomas B. Southard Leadership Award Sabre at the undergraduate commencement on April 28. The sabre was presented to her by Virginia M. “Ginger” Judge, a member of the Board of Trustees. The sabre is given to the Army ROTC graduate who demonstrates leadership achievement in ROTC advanced camp, classes, and labs. Nantarojanaporn is the middle child of nine and the first college graduate in her family. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice.