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A new partnership provides learners in Latin America with the opportunity to earn degrees in Spanish from Saint Leo University.

While the doors to most colleges and universities stand open and ready to welcome students, the reality is the paths to these doorways can be filled with obstacles. Lack of time, strained financial resources, complicated admissions processes, and geographical distance are just some of the reasons would-be students cite for not pursuing their college dreams.

These obstacles are known to our nation’s colleges and universities, and many have been taking steps to address them.

Saint Leo University is among these institutions, and as part of its efforts to make sweeping changes to improve access, last fall the university announced a bold, new endeavor that only a few American universities have pursued. This spring, Saint Leo University began delivering its online degree programs, employing Spanish for students living in Latin America.

Called Saint Leo University World Campus, the program offers fully immersive degree programs delivered in Spanish, taught by faculty who are native Spanish speakers, many of whom live and work in Latin America. The student experience—from the website and admissions process to the university’s online coursework—has been translated and localized to provide a quality learning experience in the student’s native language.

“Our World Campus essentially removes language and location as barriers to learning,” said Saint Leo University President Jeffrey Senese. “From its beginnings, the university has been on the forefront of making college accessible with the launch of the Center for Online Learning, education centers, and programs for military servicemembers. This new endeavor is yet another way that we will continue to deliver on our mission.”

Saint Leo was able to launch into this new space quickly with the help of global education services partner AVENU Learning, which is responsible for overseeing the operations and administration of the World Campus in partnership with Saint Leo University senior leadership.

The program includes bachelor’s degrees in business administration, accounting, human resource management, contemporary studies, psychology, computer information systems, cybersecurity, and health care administration. Master’s degrees in business administration and cybersecurity are also available.

Darlyne Nava
Darlyne Nava, Curaçao in Venezuela, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology

The first day for the university’s World Campus classes began on March 8, and Darlyne Nava, from Curaçao in Venezuela, was among the first group of students. After putting her dreams on hold for five years, she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“But today, I can thank God and Saint Leo University for opening their doors to me, as well as to other foreigners around the world who, due to several circumstances, have not been able to advance in our studies,” Nava said.

Nava is interested in the study of psychology because it will provide her with an opportunity to help others.

“Apart from developing my career, one of my goals and hopes is to be able to open a foundation to help families, children, youth, and seniors who need to reconnect with society,” Nava said.

Iliandris Jose Alejandra Oviedo Manzo
Iliandris José Alejandra Oviedo Manzo, Bogotá, Colombia, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology

Iliandris José Alejandra Oviedo Manzo, a native Venezuelan who has been living in Bogotá, Colombia, for the past four years, joined Nava in the psychology program. She, too, is interested in the study of psychology because it will allow her to help others overcome obstacles in their lives. She sees many benefits for pursuing this degree at Saint Leo.

“I also very much liked that my diploma could be validated under The Hague Convention,” Oviedo Manzo said. “That seems fantastic to me since I can practice my profession in other countries.”

Dr. Andrée Bojalil is one of the many instructors who make up the World Campus faculty. An anthropologist with a specialty in archaeology, Bojalil is teaching courses in history, arts, and ethics. For Bojalil, working with Saint Leo University is a great chance to bring Latin America and North America closer together. She is excited for both cultures to locate a place for dialogue and interaction.

“Education is the perfect place to talk, complement, and engage in a greater future for our continent,” Bojalil said. “We are all part of the same universe, but we speak different languages which can be translated and complemented through human knowledge.”

As of March, nearly 300 students from Latin America enrolled in the World Campus program. At the end the Spring Semester, Saint Leo was able to expand the reach of World Campus to include students in India.


Learn More about World Campus

To learn more about Saint Leo University World Campus, visit
www.saintleo.edu/world-campus. Admissions questions can be directed to estudiantes@worldcampus.saintleo.edu.

Dr. Jeffrey SeneseDear community,

One of the things I have enjoyed the most about being the father of two is the opportunity to see my children learn and grow over the years. I can remember the excitement on their faces when they first learned to walk, play soccer, and start reading. As they grew older, I marveled at how they took initiative in cultivating their own unique talents and abilities. From their time as infants, to their teenage years and every day as young adults, learning happened quickly and often. It was a central part of their lives.

There is something special about the way in which children learn that I think is important for us to hold on to as a society. Children possess an innate joy and love of learning and are not afraid to pursue an interest that excites them. Yes, they may face challenges on their journey and get discouraged. But when they fall down, they also get right back up, sometimes with a little help and encouragement from a loving parent.

At Saint Leo University, we have an insatiable love of learning, and we want our students to cultivate this love, too, for its many benefits. A relentless passion for learning leads to a richer and more fulfilling life with greater opportunities. We become more well-rounded individuals when we have an understanding of our history, our government, and theoretical principles whose applications have led to scientific and medical discoveries. We grow when we explore new ways of doing things or acquire new skills.

Our fall issue of Spirit Magazine delves into a few of the many examples of Saint Leo University faculty, students, and alumni who share a love of learning and express their enthusiasm in laudable ways. You’ll read about several Saint Leo alumni who have earned top honors for their work in education, as well as learn about a new partnership that is helping the university educate more people.

I hope these stories serve as inspiration for you to continue to make learning an integral part of your life. Some say that as we grow older, there is less we need to learn. I tend to disagree. I think as we progress through life, our responsibility for learning expands. The challenge lies in making it a priority in one’s life.

Peace and may God bless.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey D. Senese, Ph.D.
President

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.Saint Leo and Marymount California Leaders

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.

Dr. Jeffrey SeneseDear community,

Some of you may know that I love reading books that broaden my outlook. On many occasions, a well-written book, read in the right moment, has rewarded me with clarity on issues that I have been grappling with in life. Autobiographies and biographies are among the books I find fascinating. There is something to be learned from the lives of the waymakers and trailblazers in our world.

For example, in reading about the life of the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, we find out that his path to innovate was at times slowed by uphill battles. While many celebrate Jobs for launch of the iMac, iPod, and iPhone, his struggles to bring the famous products to market are often overlooked. Jobs described his return to Apple in 1997 as one of the most difficult periods in his life. Launching a new vision for the company required a meticulous attention to detail and many difficult conversations.

Even in the case of Catholic missionary Mother Teresa, who was able to help thousands of impoverished individuals through her nonprofit organization, Missionaries of Charity, there were struggles. At the height of her charity’s success, she faced harsh criticism in the media for the methods she employed to run the organization.  

While trailblazers like Jobs and Mother Teresa are a special kind who come around only every so often, there are countless individuals who live life in the same spirit. They are the everyday people who fight against injustice in their communities, take action in times when others sit by, and pursue ideas that many may fail to discern are worthy of an investment.

In this issue of Spirit Magazine, we take a look at the trailblazing initiatives and people who are part of the Saint Leo University community—from the university’s new Center for Alternative Pathway Programs to an alumna who is advocating for change on a national stage.

I hope you set aside some time and click through the pages of this digital magazine as you would crack open a biography. By reading these stories, I am sure you’ll find engaging content that will help you learn, feel inspired, and offer new insights for your life.

Peace and may God bless.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey D. Senese, Ph.D.
President

Dr. Jeffrey SeneseDear community,

Under these historic circumstances, I have found that time, and how we spend it, is even more valuable. There is something to be learned from having to go without the same routines and practices, which we once considered simple pleasures. It reminds us that each day is significant. Indeed, when we return to the next normal, I hope to redouble my efforts to connect and engage the community.

During convocation, I like to share a similar message with our students. I encourage students to use every minute of their time at the university to learn as much as they can and not let it slip away with regrets. To illustrate this point, I started a new tradition where I assign each graduating class a wristwatch. I hold up the watch at the convocation ceremony and tell our students to make the most of the opportunity before them. I tell them, “your time at Saint Leo University starts today.”

Just like the passing minutes on the clock, I think that so much of life can easily tick by if we are not careful. If we do not purposefully make the most of the time we have, then before we know it, we will be left with only the ideas of things we had hoped to do.

Jesus told a parable to illustrate this very point recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. It is a story about a master who gave away bags of talent (or gold) to three men. Two of the three men were able to double their gifts, but the third man, who only received one bag, hid his gift for safekeeping. In the end, the master was not pleased by his actions.

Life is meant for living. We need to use our talents, time, and treasures to our fullest abilities to create and to make the world better than we found it. To paraphrase one of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau, the price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

This newly designed issue of Spirit Magazine, which was carefully developed with you in mind,  is dedicated to the theme of making investments in what matters most to you—from ideas, to passions, people, and careers. As you click through the stories, I hope you are able to reflect on where you want to make investments in your life. And maybe you will gain insights on how to achieve them, too. Our goal with the magazine is to continue to provide inspiration and encouragement for living a life with purpose, guided by Saint Leo University’s core values.

Wishing you much strength and courage to pursue the worthy investments in your life and the time to bring them to fruition.

Peace and may God bless,

Jeffrey D. Senese, Ph.D.
President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As part of the activities to celebrate the inauguration of the university’s 10th president, Saint Leo University officially kicked off a new tradition in giving with a gala that raised more than $550,000 for student scholarships.

The event brought together business and community leaders, past and present Saint Leo board members, faculty, staff, and students at The Orlo Club in the historic Spafford House in Tampa, FL. Saint Leo has never held a philanthropic gala of this scale in its history.

During the gala, President Jeffrey Senese and wife, Alicia, surprised all attendees when they announced that they decided to create an endowed scholarship at the university by making a personal gift of $350,000. President Senese and Mrs. Senese’s gift is unprecedented at Saint Leo. No other president in the university’s history has made a gift of this size.

After achieving great success, the scholarship gala will be established as an annual fundraising event, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to continue the university’s mission and educate students for years to come.

View the inauguration ceremony video and photos at saintleo.edu/inauguration and look to the spring issue  of Spirit magazine for complete coverage on the inauguration.

In December, President Jeffrey Senese represented the university at the Gold Shield Foundation’s annual meeting and announced that Saint Leo University will offer a full scholarship to one student per year through its work. The Gold Shield Foundation provides financial assistance and helps ensure a college education or vocational training for the spouse and dependent children of Florida law enforcement officers and firefighters of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Polk, and Marion counties killed in the line of duty.