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

Dr. Jacob Aguilar, a mathematician and data scientist, and several co-researchers from a cross-disciplinary team, released their manuscript about an important and little-understood aspect of virus that causes COVID-19. The team used new modeling techniques to estimate the number of people who might become infected by someone already carrying the virus, but not yet showing any symptoms. This provides insight into how contagious the illness is, and that knowledge, in turn, helps regional officials make public-health decisions. Aguilar and his fellow researchers came to the conclusion that an asymptomatic carrier could infect an average of six other people or more, which is far more than a typical strain of the flu. Aguilar and his researchers released a manuscript describing their work on a respected scientific platform created for quick dissemination of research findings.

Aguilar’s contribution to the coronavirus study was based on work he and a collaborator had only completed recently in estimating the potential for people infected with malaria—but with no symptoms—to spread the deadly illness. In other words, Aguilar was taking a modeling approach he had developed for the study of one horrible, persistent ailment, and successfully incorporating that into a new team project focused on the new coronavirus. An account of the study about malaria was released in 2020 in a peer-reviewed publication. Aguilar joined the faculty at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year as assistant professor of mathematics.


Dr. Melinda (Lin) Carver, an associate professor in the Graduate Education Department, co-wrote a ​book with colleague and adjunct instructor Lauren Pantoja, Reading Basics for All Teachers: Supporting All Learners. It was published in April 2020 by Rowman and Littlefield and provides K-12 teachers from all subject areas with ways to ​enhance their students’ reading ​and writing development. Carver and Pantoja wrote an earlier edition on this topic that was published in 2015. In the second edition, they have added new content and strategies for teachers to explore.


Renee Gould, assistant professor at the Daniel A. Cannon Memorial Library, was the co-author with two former Saint Leo colleagues of a case study about working with library-database products to meet the real-world needs of visually impaired patrons. Gould and recently retired library colleague Jacalyn Bryan, associate professor, along with alumna Brittany Leigh ’12, who until recently worked with the Office of Accessibility Services, described their work in the spring issue of the journal, Florida Libraries. Libraries with printed and electronic holdings rely on software from third-party vendors for day-to-day needs. Such resources and tools provide students and staff the means to retrieve and read books, journals, newspapers, and magazine articles. As it turns out, while many of these products may be legally compliant with regulations meant to ensure access for the visually impaired, they can still be hard to navigate and use successfully. The team described approaches adopted to remedy the situation at Saint Leo, possible steps for future exploration, and possible starting points for other libraries.  


Poet and faculty member Gianna Russo was named the City of Tampa’s first Wordsmith and will steer new projects meant to encourage creativity and expression, such as holding writing workshops in city neighborhoods. She recently edited a collection of poems inspired by regionally well-known photographs from Tampa and other spots in Florida produced by Tampa’s leading commercial photographic firm from 1917 to early 1960, the Burgert Brothers Inc. Chasing Light includes many images that capture 20th-century central Florida, from its cigar trade, to its diverse communities, agriculture, and natural surroundings. Russo contributed the forward and a poem, in addition to serving as editor. Other Saint Leo faculty and academic administrators with contributions in Chasing Light are part-time English instructor Amanda Forrester; English instructor Marissa McLargin (published as Marissa Glover); and professor and outreach librarian Carol Ann Moon. There are 48 contributors in all. The volume was published in February as a large-format paperback by the independent YellowJacket Press in collaboration with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Library and library supporters. Russo is an assistant professor of English and creative writing.


Dr. Zachary Smith, assistant professor of economics and finance, and a co-author, had a macroeconomic study published in April in the Pacific Economic Review. Their study examined the interplay between fintech—financial technologies including access to cellular phone and Internet applications and cryptocurrencies—and the policies normally employed by governments’ central banks to raise or lower interest rates, control inflation, and support overall economic growth. Their research study was based on 18 years of data from 30 nations with advanced economies (including the United States). In general, when people have access to mobile and internet technology, more money circulates throughout the economy. But the presence of cryptocurrencies—as they are substitutes from the currencies issued by governments—reduces the demand for money to spread through the economies. As the use of cryptocurrencies widens then, the authors suggested, central banks will have to consider updating their traditional policies to account for cryptocurrency-based transactions. Otherwise, the policies will become outdated and less effective in keeping economies running smoothly, Smith and his co-author said.

Thank you to all those who gave to the Day For Saint Leo giving campaign on February 7. A total of 597 donors helped raise $162,356 in just one day for our university! This equates to a 65 percent increase in dollars raised over last year. This success will go a long way to advance Saint Leo University’s life-changing purpose, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

Day for Saint Leo - By the Numbers

Families form in a variety of ways. Some members are born, while others are sought. Some members are inherited, and some are a surprise.

Within the Saint Leo community is an array of blended families. There are faculty and staff who commit to taking students under their wings, ensuring their success and well-being, and students who take care of one another.

Here, we profile the matriarchs of three such families in the Saint Leo community.

Ms. Evon, giver of hugs, drier of tears, Lions cheerleader

Ms. Evon

Great people, great children come through the doors of Saint Leo, said Ephonia McCobb, or “Ms. Evon” as she’s known to the Saint Leo community. A housekeeper in Facilities Management, McCobb takes care of the Marion Bowman Activities Center and its many student-athletes, coaches, and staff.

No one is a stranger to McCobb. Everyone is greeted with a hug and wished well with a “have a blessed day.”

At the Marion Bowman Activities Center, where she began working in 2006, McCobb does more than take care of housekeeping. She takes care of Saint Leo’s student-athletes as if they were her own children. And she takes care of their families, too, reassuring them that their children will be just fine at Saint Leo.

“There is one student, Mary, and her parents dropped her off in August,” McCobb recalled. “They were in the hallway crying. Her daddy was crying harder than her mama. I asked why. He said, ‘We’re dropping off my daughter.’ He said, ‘I just dropped my son off to the Marines last month.’”

“I told them they had done a wonderful job!” she continued. “They got their children to a good place. I asked if we could pray about it, and we did. And then I told them to go get their date night back!”

She offers student-athletes advice on life, dries their tears, and gives them hugs. “I am proud of all of them,” McCobb said. “I tell them that when they leave Saint Leo, if they see someone who is going down the wrong path, they need to take five minutes to talk to them about what they need to be doing, and then tell them ‘have a blessed day.’ Perhaps you might touch someone.”

Nancy Cheek, virtual communicator, career coach extraordinaire

McCobb’s impact on the lives of student-athletes has not gone unnoticed. “Ms. Evon is the epitome of our core value of community,” said Brad Jorgensen, head men’s lacrosse coach. “Almost every young man I have recruited has been greeted with a hug and a loud ‘welcome to the Saint Leo family!’ from Ms. Evon.”

Nancy Cheek

For nearly four years, Nancy Cheek has worked to create a close-knit community where no physical community exists. As associate director of Career Services, she helps hundreds of students each year with their career needs—no matter where they live—most times never meeting face to face.

“What I look forward to is when students tell me they are coming to graduation,” Cheek said. “After having developed a relationship with them remotely, it is so exciting to finally meet them in person.”

With a large portion of Saint Leo students attending school online or at education centers across the United States, Cheek is passionate about ensuring remote students feel supported in achieving their careers goals. While not able to physically be with them, she uses email, photographs, social media, video conferencing, phone calls, and online webinars to build relationships across the Internet.

“Our goal is to make online students feel like they are part of a community without ever coming into an office,” Cheek said.

Countless students have thanked Cheek for her support. She recalls the story of a student who decided to attend Saint Leo after retiring from a 20-year career in the military. He lived in a remote part of Florida and needed help assessing career options.

“I just want to say thank you again for all the helpful guidance you gave me,” wrote the student. “You said I did all the hard work, but I never really felt like I was doing it alone.” After working together for some time, the student Cheek helped was able to land a job with a government agency.

“I live for the days when I get an email or phone call that says, ‘Hey, I just got a job offer,’” Cheek said. “That is why I do what I do.”

Dr. Joanne Roberts, professor, advisor, retired public school teacher and principal

Dr. Joanne Roberts with spring 2018 scholarship recipient, Justina Guptill.

Every spring and fall, a new group of transfer students in their 20s and 30s enroll in the education program at the Gainesville Education Center in central Florida. The future elementary and middle school teachers form cohorts as they make their way together toward their teaching degrees.

They attend rigorous classes four nights a week while holding down full- or part-time jobs to pay expenses. Luckily, they enjoy the kinship they develop within their cohorts and benefit individually and collectively from the benevolent leadership of Dr. Joanne “Tippy” Roberts, professor, advisor, and retired public school system teacher and principal. Roberts says she understands why the classes become close-knit. These young adults—often the first in their families to attend college—receive moral support from one another as they proceed through a tough curriculum.

“Our cohorts sometimes spend more time with each other than with their own families,” Roberts said. So her approach incorporates two philosophies. The first is that the program at the center will create a sense of belonging for all committed education students. The second is that the student kinship can be nurtured into professional collegiality that will serve them well in their careers.

“Family is a good word,” Roberts said of the center environment for the education students. “It’s a learning community, but it’s a learning family. We work together, and we learn together.”

Recent middle grades education graduate Justina Guptill ’18 affirms that “the education program is special all in its own because you really get to know your professors and classmates. You spend so much time as a cohort, it becomes impossible to do anything other than care for the people around you and help in their successes as well as your own. Dr. Roberts put together a very caring faculty to help create the family atmosphere throughout the entire program!” The faculty she is referring to includes adjunct instructors and professors Roberts hired and supervises to teach the education courses in Gainesville. The adjuncts are a vital part of the family, as well.

Given Roberts’ multiple responsibilities, it is difficult to quantify the impact she has made during her years at Saint Leo. By her own count, Roberts estimates she has worked with 450 undergraduate and graduate students in various educational programs at the center.

Although Roberts considers teaching the hardest job in the world, second only to being a parent, she said she cannot imagine doing anything else with her life or finding a deeper sense of fulfillment in any other learning environment.

“During the 15 years I have worked at Saint Leo, I have become a better educator and gained more from my students and colleagues than I ever learned from textbooks.”

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.

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.

Saint Leo feels like family because I can truly relate the traditions and values of the university to my own upbringing and family morals. At home, we respect and support one another with a ‘we are all in this together’ attitude. When I was a student and now as an active alumna, I have that same feeling—a spirit of unity, every time I step onto campus, visit with alumni, or meet with staff. And I know I always will.”
— Ann Marie Lombardi ’77

“Saint Leo feels like family because of its genuinely good-natured people. Nowhere else can you go and find such a warm-hearted and welcoming community; that is a direct reflection of Saint Leo’s core values being instilled into its students, faculty, and staff. As a student and now as an alumnus, Saint Leo continues to be that amicable family I can always confide in and reach out to for help.”
— Luckson Abraham ’16

“Saint Leo feels like a family because the university always welcomes us home where lifelong friendships were formed and bonded, incredible memories deeply entrenched, and lives transformed and forever impacted by the opportunities that we were afforded. Simply put, I am who I am today, both personally and professionally, because of Saint Leo
University.”
— Greg Greiwe ’80

“Saint Leo feels like family because we enjoy a laugh, a tear, and loads of work. I was taken aback at a regional spotlight event on campus as it was all about India. Home didn’t feel far away. I may struggle to complete my syllabus, but there is always help around. Saint Leo gave me a beautiful opportunity to be a member of the alumni board, as a student representative. I enjoy our meetings especially when we meet my ‘Gang of Lion Kings.’ It was wonderful to watch Saint Leo from the outside; but being involved from inside is even more rewarding.”
— Akshita Sahgal ’19

“Saint Leo feels like family because we all share a common set of core values and experiences. All our lives have changed and have been impacted by our experiences and education at Saint Leo and whenever I am with other alumni, I always feel like we are ‘in it together.’ We share our experiences and core values in our interactions with the world.”
— Laura Chirichigno ’10, ’12

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.

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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.

griffin-clark-hsGriffin Clark, 21, a sophomore criminal justice major and member of the men’s golf team, passed away on July 4. He was involved in a car accident near his home in Chesterfield County, VA. Griffin helped lead the golf team to its recent NCAA Division II National Championship, in Denver, CO, playing in the final match-play pairing against Chico State (CA) and winning by three strokes.
“Griffin was an outstanding young man. We were so blessed to have him be part of our Saint Leo family,” Saint Leo men’s head golf coach Chris Greenwood said. “I have so many good moments with Griffin, but the one I will always remember is standing in the 18th fairway together the final day in Denver.”


Frederick “Fred” William Colby Sr. ’84, registrar emeritus, passed away on July 7. A decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy, he served from 1952 to 1979, including tours of duty in Singapore and Tokyo, as a Naval intelligence specialist. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo College and was a member of the Saint Leo staff for 24 years, retiring as registrar.


Dr. Diane Johnson passed away on May 10. She was an assistant director of the Center for Online Learning from 2005 to 2014. After retiring from that administrative role, she continued to teach as an online adjunct professor. She is remembered for being supportive of Saint Leo’s students and guiding them through their educational development.


On May 20, Dr. Kurt Van Wilt passed away at his home. A humble and devoted English professor, he dedicated his life to the education of Saint Leo University’s students, to their spiritual and intellectual growth and development. A respected poet, he was the master of the sonnet, a form that appeals to the kind of artisan who enjoys the rigor of structure, the triumphs achieved through simplicity. An expert in comparative mysticism and Native American literature, he authored three critically praised books for Millichap Books. He was also a co-founder of The Sandhill Review literary arts magazine, The Lightning Key Review electronic journal, and The Green Rabbit chapbook series.


William “Bill” Sharp ’48
May 27, 2016

Robert E. Shoyrer ’49
April 5, 2010

Glenda W. Rusin ’52
February 7, 2015

Mary (Corrigan) Grant ’54
April 11, 2016

Richard Cobb ’60
March 4, 2016

Henry Pike ’61
July 7, 2016

Mary Ellen McGrath ’62
April 13, 2016

Peter E. Feuge ’69
November 22, 2015

Eugene Fischer ’72
February 12, 2016

Beth (Dempsey) Moore ’74
May 27, 2016

E. “William” Vanderbilt ’75
March 23, 2016

Richard A. Carter ’77
December 17, 2015

Jesse J. Dean ’77
November 17, 2015

 

Stanley P. Juds ’77
October 16, 2015

Patricia (Kennedy) Lemmerman ’77
January 7, 2016

Audrey S. Henries ’79
December 16, 2015

Marie Gagne ’82
July 23, 2012

Timothy “Tim” Murphy ’82
January 29, 2016

William A. Denton ’83
December 13, 2015

Kyle A. Miller ’83
January 1, 2009

Frederick “Fred” Colby ’84
July 7, 2016

Wayne Dupree ’86
April 36, 2016

Claude H. Bader ’93
August 2, 2014

Russell “Russ” Swart ’96
May 13, 2016

Jonathan E. Weaver ’01
April 16, 2015

William T. Campbell ’04
March 31, 2013