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As our world changes, so do the needs of the workforce. During the next 10 years, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that we will see heightened demand for skilled professionals in health care, technology, and data science, among other sectors.

To help support the workforce of the future, Saint Leo University has invested in four new degree programs that will support future workforce needs and lead to high job placements for students. “Curriculum really doesn’t stand still; it can’t,” explained Dr. Mary Spoto, vice president of Academic Affairs. “We are constantly finding ways to create new programs and to strengthen existing programs to provide the best educational experience for the future for our students.”

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

College: The College of Health Professions
Where: University Campus
When: Fall 2021 (must be accepted as pre-nursing student for two introductory years)

What Students Will Learn: Students will receive the best in classroom education and clinical experience, preparing them to take the national licensing exam for registered nurses. Graduates will be prepared to move straight into nursing positions at hospitals, clinics, community organizations, long-term care facilities, businesses, and other settings.

Why It Matters: Population trends and stressors, including the coronavirus pandemic, have created an ongoing, critical need for additional nurses, especially in the Southeast and Florida. Saint Leo-prepared nurses will not only help fill the labor demand, they will bring to the field an orientation toward treating the whole patient, advancing the well-being of the patient’s community, and working collaboratively with clinical colleagues. This philosophy is known as the Culture of Health framework and is embedded in all health professions programs.

Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy (BSRT)

College: The College of Health Professions
Where: Online
When: Spring Semester 2022

What Students Will Learn: Students who enroll will be professionals who already have an associate degree and are employed as respiratory therapists who assist patients whose ability to breathe is compromised. These professionals already know how to attend to patients’ breathing needs, operate the requisite medical equipment, and function as part of a health care team. The online, upper-level coursework will provide additional specialized knowledge and prepare students to become team leaders or managers in the field.

Why It Matters: The role of respiratory therapists became more visible during the first wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations, but other conditions prevalent among middle-aged and older patients also require respiratory therapy care. Consequently, demand in the field is increasing, including demand for respiratory therapists with bachelor’s degrees. This program is online so that these professionals can continue working while earning their bachelor’s degrees.

Bachelor of Science in Robotics & Artificial Intelligence (BS)

School: The School of Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Science
Where: University Campus
When: Fall 2022

What Students Will Learn: Robotics is an interdisciplinary field that combines computer science, computer hardware, mathematics, electrical engineering, software engineering, and mechanical engineering. Students earning this degree will gain firm, theoretical knowledge of the essentials of computer science, robotics, and artificial intelligence, plus the skills required to design, implement, and evaluate robotics technology and systems that will solve real-
life problems.

Why This Matters: Robotics is a fast-growing field with applications in space exploration, health care, automation, manufacturing, security, and other scientific and business fields. The worldwide market for robotics and the related need for skilled robotics engineers and designers will continue growing. Because of projected job growth in Florida and neighboring states, the Florida State Legislature granted Saint Leo $1 million in 2021 to launch this program.

Bachelor of Arts in Veteran Studies (BA)

College: The College of Arts and Sciences
Where: University Campus, Online Coming Soon
When: Fall 2021 Semester

What Students Will Learn: Students, who are veterans and non-veterans, will be immersed into courses in history, art, policy, psychology, ethics, and other fields to learn how people from various generations, ethnicities, genders, and nations have been influenced by their service in the military and the transition back to civilian life. Students will be able to pair this with other majors or minors if they choose and then move into careers in business, government administration, policy, teaching, or other areas where their understanding is vital. A minor is also an option.

Why This Matters: This is a new field in which other colleges or universities offer only a certificate or minor. Saint Leo is the first in the country to offer a bachelor’s degree in the field, which demonstrates both the faculty’s vision in seeing how our society will be improved by the contributions of veteran studies graduates and the overall commitment of the university to the military and military-connected population.

While the last several months have delivered multiple bad news reports about cybersecurity breaches of customer and employee files at corporations, various government agencies, and even among certain smartphone users and car owners, there is good news in the field of cybersecurity.

CybersecurityTalented people are being attracted to the growing career field of cybersecurity to help corporations, organizations, and individuals learn how to safeguard their vital data. And Saint Leo University is helping to train the workforce with dynamic new academic programs designed to meet the most current industry hiring specifications. The first class to enroll in the master of cybersecurity degree program will graduate in Spring 2016, and the 19 degree candidates are expected to encounter ample career opportunities for promotions and higher-paying positions.

“There are strong indications that there are good career prospects for these students,” commented Dr. Vyas Krishnan, assistant professor of computer science, who helped design the MS program. One company has told Saint Leo it wants to interview master’s degree candidates in the fall for hiring in the spring. On a national scale, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the job growth rate for information security analysts (an industry term for cyber experts) during the period 2012-2022 will exceed 36.5 percent, while the growth rate for computer systems analysts will exceed 24.5 percent. “The projected job growth rates of 36.5 percent and 24.5 percent represent a substantial increase,” Dr. Krishnan said, “creating a robust demand for graduates with a degree in cybersecurity.”

The 36-hour MS program in cybersecurity is specifically marketed to those who already possess some experience in the information technology field. More than 60 students are in some stage of the advanced degree program currently. It is now offered online as well as at University Campus, with a second cohort beginning on-ground studies now.

Students are versed in the technical competencies of safeguarding operating systems, networks, databases, and other software applications. The students’ curriculum is compliant with standards established by the National Security Agency, and it prepares them to attain a number of industry-recognized certifications. “These information security professionals require proficiency in a variety of current and emerging technologies—computer and network security, operating systems security, cryptography, Internet/intranet security, biometrics, compliance and legal issues, and homeland security,” Dr. Krishnan elaborated.

CybersecurityTo be as effective as possible over the long term of their careers, graduates must also emerge from the university with an understanding of the management environments they will operate in and the needs of chief executives they will serve. Saint Leo offers students an advantage in this regard, as the academic home of the cybersecurity instruction is the Donald R. Tapia School of Business, an environment that prepares students to function in business organizations. “Securing the information assets of an enterprise depends on more than just a technical foundation in information security,” Dr. Krishnan explained. “It requires an overall security management approach that combines the business needs of the enterprise, the technical and business risks associated with those information assets, the relevant legal issues, and how the systems interact with people: the developers, the system managers, and the internal and external users.”

Many of these institutional strengths also influence positively the instruction at the undergraduate level, where Saint Leo students have been so far able to earn the Bachelor of Science in computer information systems (popular in many education centers) or the more technically oriented computer science program. They may also earn a minor in information assurance with either program to gain cyber credentials. Apart from those options, students are also invited to take part in fun activities, including a cybersecurity club, a cybersecurity competition that may become an annual event, and opportunities to make presentations on topics such as computer extortion at Academic Excellence Day (held each April at University Campus).
Still, Saint Leo as an institution is ambitious to do more, and so development of a Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity is underway. At the earliest, it would be offered in Fall 2016, at University Campus and online. The objective of the Bachelor of Science degree will be to prepare graduates for careers in developing security products and procedures, so they may work in roles such as security-application programmers, testers, analysts, and even cyber-legal analysts, Dr. Krishnan said. The curriculum proposed for the BS in cybersecurity requires core courses from the computer science degree and supplements that with six courses on technical aspects of cybersecurity and two courses from the bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice (housed in the School of Education and Social Services).

Another option is also on the table: an accelerated program just approved that will move motivated students swiftly from the BS in computer science through the MS in cybersecurity. It is called one of the Tapia School’s “3 +1” programs, explained Dr. Derek Mohammed, the chair of the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, and shortens the student’s overall time in the academic setting.

CybersecurityThere is good reason to be optimistic about the job prospects for Tapia School graduates from these programs, too, according to Dr. Mohammed. Four graduates of the class of 2015 who earned the BS in computer science with a minor in information assurance—the most cyber-intensive offering available at the time—were sw
iftly hired after graduation at a technology company, a soft-drink company, a staffing company, and the City of Tampa.

Saint Leo has also signed on to participate in a specialized program in Florida for veterans. The pilot program was created to train veterans for careers in cybersecurity by making selected online courses available to them. The student-veterans enrolled will eventually take certain industry certification tests and earn a certificate of completion.

To meet the growing instructional and advisory duties all these initiatives will create, Saint Leo has hired two faculty members for newly created positions this fall at University Campus, Dr. Mohammed noted, in addition to a faculty member hired to fill an open position. Two faculty members have been brought on in Virginia in recent years, as well. “This really demonstrates Saint Leo’s commitment to cybersecurity,” he said.

Further, Saint Leo has met head-on the particular challenges academic institutions face in preparing entrants for this fast-paced field, Dr. Krishnan commented. “There is a constant ‘arms race’ between cyber-criminals with their increasingly sophisticated methods of cyberattacks, and the efforts of cybersecurity professionals to mitigate and defend against these threats,” he said. “To be effective as a university, it is imperative for faculty teaching courses in cybersecurity to stay current with the latest trends and needs of the industry. Saint Leo faculty are committed to preparing sophisticated practitioners who are well-versed in the science of protecting vital computer networks and infrastructures from attack.”