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Tapia College of Business

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Jason Arigoni

Alumnus Jason Arigoni became a leader for The Home Depot by investing in others.

After high school, Jason Arigoni ’05 was not considering college. He already had established himself firmly in a retail career, working since he was a teenager at the Southeastern grocery chain Winn-Dixie and then joining Target after graduation.

It wasn’t until 2001, when Arigoni played a round of golf at Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club and had a casual conversation with another golfer, that he seriously thought about a degree. That golfer turned out to be a Saint Leo admissions counselor. Arigoni started classes in January 2002 and graduated in May 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Working full time while commuting and taking a full course load at University Campus left Arigoni with little time for campus social life. “My time was spent in class or at work,” Arigoni said. “I was working 40 to 55 hours each week, but I did occasionally come out to support sporting events.”

Yet, Arigoni’s Saint Leo experience made an impression.

Jason Arigoni and his team at Home Depot
Jason Arigoni (center) visits with team members in Williston, VT.

It is, perhaps, no coincidence that Arigoni is now regional vice president of the New England region at The Home Depot, a company that espouses core values similar to Saint Leo University’s.

“In all honesty, I think all of Saint Leo’s values align with Home Depot’s,” Arigoni said. “The Home Depot is a values-driven organization. We encourage entrepreneurial spirit, doing the right thing, building strong relationships, giving back, respect for all people, creating shareholder value, excellent customer service, and taking care of our people.”

Taking care of people, especially his customers and his employees, may well be what Arigoni does best.

He made time to speak with Saint Leo while waiting to board a plane on a Friday afternoon. Arigoni’s emphasis on communication skills was evident as he tuned out the airport noise and answered every question thoughtfully—even as he was headed home to (the Boston suburb) where he, his wife, Lina, and their 4-year-old daughter, Gulianna, now live.

“I was really attracted to the values and the culture of The Home Depot, that feeling of ‘We’re going to do this! We believe it! We live by it!’” Arigoni said.

“I didn’t realize how rare it was to be recruited by The Home Depot,” Arigoni said. “I really enjoyed working for Target, so when The Home Depot tried to recruit me, I went back and forth with them for a year and a half.” Once Arigoni made the decision to join the world’s largest home improvement retailer, he never looked back.

Jason Arigoni and his team at Home Depot
Arigoni celebrates the success of an associate.

Arigoni is a proponent of the “inverted pyramid” model of organization and leadership used at The Home Depot. In that business model, front-line associates (employees) are the most important people in the company’s hierarchy because they are closest to the customers.

He said he believes in investing in his associates and attributes his success to that investment.

“The moments that stick with me the most are the ones where you inspire associates who didn’t think they were capable of growing their career, for whatever reason, and you show up and help them break past that notion,” Arigoni said.

“Many of these folks go on to obtain roles that are actually life-changing,” Arigoni said. “The most motivating part is realizing in real time that you are part of one of these career/life-changing moments.”

As focused as he is on his job, Arigoni makes time for other important facets of life.  He and his wife and daughter are working their way through a list of the 100 best things to do in the Northeast. They especially enjoy exploring the Atlantic coastline and hiking.

Jason Arigoni and his team at Home Depot
Arigoni and associates at The Home Depot

Through his position at Home Depot, Arigoni is the “community captain” supporting the service work of the 800 stores in the northern United States. Outside his job, he serves on the executive advisory board for the Ron Burton Training Village, which offers a seven-year program for at-risk youth to guide, support, and mentor them in education, social skills, moral values, leadership, and fitness.

He also makes time for entrepreneurial side gigs, running among other businesses, a property management company.

Arigoni offers this advice to his team and to anyone who aspires to grow their careers: “Understand your personal balance and how that aligns with your personal vision and values. Make time for what motivates you outside of work.

“Remember that you’re in marathon, not a sprint,” Arigoni continued. “Whether you are making a lateral move to get ahead in your career or working toward a college degree that takes a long time to finish, it’s all OK, as long as you meet your end goal and help others along the way.”

Photos courtesy of The Home Depot

Joey Gandolfo

Alumnus Joey Gandolfo’s road to success was paved by passion, persistence, and patience.

During his summer breaks away from Saint Leo University, alumnus Joey Gandolfo ’08 would work in the bar at the BB&T Center near his home in Sunrise, FL. At the time, the marketing major never imagined that he would one day perform on the arena’s stage for thousands of people.

Gandolfo, co-founder of an internationally recognized music publishing company, has traveled the world to invest in his passion of music, while at the same time, investing in the musical talents and ambitions of others.

Working in his music studio, Vibes Music Group

Growing up in South Florida, Gandolfo always had a passion for music. He played in a band in high school, and from a young age, knew that music would be a part of his life. When he decided to attend Saint Leo University on a soccer scholarship, music continued to be integral. Gandolfo even kept a drum set in his room at University Campus.

After graduation, he started to look for opportunities to work in the music industry. There was something about it that kept pulling on his heart, despite the competitiveness of the industry.

“I got 10 times the amount of ‘noes,’ as I got ‘yeses,’” Gandolfo said. “But I kept putting myself out there until I could get someone to give me a ‘yes.’”

He says patience is key when pursuing a dream.

After a few years of searching, Gandolfo received the opportunity of a lifetime when he was invited to tour with recording artist Jake Miller. The job offered Gandolfo the satisfaction of living his dream, and a deeper knowledge of the music industry. He was able to see the inner workings of a professional tour from agency management to publishing and performing. He was the DJ and played guitar for Jake Miller on his 2013-2015 tour.

Joey Gandolfo performing at the BB&T Center with Jake Miller
Joey Gandolfo performing at the BB&T Center with Jake Miller.

Post tour, Gandolfo invested in an idea. He and a producer who he met during the Jake Miller tour became business partners, and they opened Vibes Music Group, a music publishing company. They work with artists, songwriters, and producers all over the world.

Latin America Music Awards
Gandolfo attending the Latin American Music Awards

“My job ranges from finding talent and putting that talent in the right place, to finding opportunities for song placement for artists who have an established presence, to finding artists who are early in their careers that we bet on,” Gandolfo said. He also works with the television and film industry so that the songs he publishes will be used in media. Recently, he had two songs featured on the hit television show The Bold Type and one song featured in the new film Missing Link.

While investing in his own dream, Gandolfo also invests in others and helps to fulfill the dreams of many artists, songwriters, and producers in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Some major artists he has worked with include Sofia Reyes and Rita Ora.

“I want to leave a legacy and impact culture through music in a new way, all in a positive light,” Gandolfo said.

While Gandolfo has come a long way and traveled as far as Tokyo, Japan, he still holds on to fond memories and lessons from his days at Saint Leo.

“Academically, I majored in marketing and even with how much marketing has evolved socially/digitally since my time at [Saint] Leo, I use so much of what I learned every single day,” Gandolfo said. “My international business courses have absolutely come in handy when doing business in other territories and overseas, knowing when I have to adjust to different standards.”

Joey with American rock band Fall Out Boy
Gandolfo with American rock band Fall Out Boy

Interaction with people is one of Gandolfo’s favorite things about his job. He said the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world and collaborate to achieve a common goal is rewarding and has brought him some of his favorite moments. He also credits learning valuable life lessons to being a member of the Saint Leo community and the men’s soccer team. Dedication, hard work, camaraderie, and community were all important things he learned while at Saint Leo, and they have stayed with him to this day.

Gandolfo offers some advice to recent Saint Leo alumni and current students: “Be hungry; keep moving forward; ask a hundred questions. Take every experience, good or bad, and turn it into a learning opportunity.”

Photos courtesy of Joey Gandolfo

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 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.

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.