University of South Florida


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.

Thomas J. Kaiser, MD, is achieving what many young biology majors everywhere hope for when they first walk into the science classrooms and labs.

ThomasKaiserKaiser, 30, is well on his way to becoming an orthopedic surgeon and specialist, a possibility he began contemplating as a high school and college athlete. The former Lions basketball forward (No. 25) is currently in the fourth year of the five-year residency program at the University of Florida Health System in Jacksonville. Residency is the period right after medical school (or other physician training) when licensed new graduates work under the tutelage of more senior doctors to acquire in-depth training in a particular area. Examples are family medicine, pediatrics, cardiology, or in Kaiser’s case, orthopedics—the care of the whole skeletal system of bones, muscles, ligaments, and joints.

While the young doctor (and newlywed) still has some milestones to pass, Kaiser has already completed the three most intense years of his residency program. Just getting an orthopedic residency is an accomplishment in itself. New doctors have to compete for limited spots; those who are not admitted have to make another plan.

Kaiser remembers first becoming intrigued with skeletal repair when he was growing up and attending Catholic schools in Tampa. Service projects periodically brought him to Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa, where his mother worked as a nurse. He encountered children who came from as far as Central America for procedures to repair limbs, and he discovered orthopedic medicine.

Kaiser wore No. 25 for Jesuit High School, as well as Saint Leo.

Another interest took hold during his teens that played a part in his path: playing competitive basketball for the Jesuit High School Tigers in Tampa (wearing No. 25 then, too). “My dream was to play basketball in college. Saint Leo offered a full scholarship.” That meant he could study biology seriously and play basketball where his family could attend home games. Indeed, he played for three years and graduated summa cum laude. And then he was off—straight into the medical school of his choice—at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He graduated with his medical degree in 2014.

Looking back at his time at Saint Leo, Kaiser credits the rigor of being a student-athlete with instilling in him good time-management practices. Another benefit was being able to get to know and shadow the men’s basketball team physician for a couple of seasons, which further honed his interest in orthopedics. He may even seek a fellowship in sports orthopedics after this residency.

Academically, Kaiser was influenced by Saint Leo faculty to learn to look at problems in multiple ways for solutions, and to be a lifelong learner. That adaptability is vital in orthopedics, because so many different activities, maladies, and accidents require treatment, and patients span generations. So it is vital that orthopedists be able to work with all kinds of patients and be open to new or varied treatment options.

There are multiple challenges for the patient, too. The healing process involves more than just surgery. There is usually physical therapy, and patients may feel lonely, stuck, or withdrawn for a while. Things turn for the better as patients regain mobility and their spirits lift, Kaiser said. Then comes the point where the young doctor sees in his patients’ lives his professional reward: “Getting them back to functioning, back to their life before.”

Not everyone can say his thesis made an impact on an entire country. Mpho C. Mophuting ’95 can back up that claim. Now a major general with the Botswana Defence Force, Mophuting’s topic for his 2003 thesis for his master’s degree at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, was “Expanding the Shield and Facing the Challenges: Integration of Women in Botswana Defence Force.”

At that time, Botswana was one of the few countries in the world (and the only country in the South African Development Community—SADC) where females were prohibited from joining the military. Mophuting’s thesis, which looked at the role of women in the U.S. armed services, Canadian Armed Forces, and the South African National Defence Forces (SANDF), helped set the stage for women to join the Botswana army in 2007.

At first, women joined the army as officers, Mophuting said. Then in 2015, the Botswana Defence Force began enlisting female recruits.

“I was able to see some sort of [thesis] payback,” Mophuting said, smiling.

Mophuting joined the Botswana Defence Force as a cadet officer. Following high school graduation, he was sent to Greece to serve and train. “I was about 20 years old, and I felt like I wanted to go to college next,” he said.

His superiors agreed, and offered to pay for his education if he attended a university in the United States, the United Kingdom, or Australia. “I wanted a place that was not cold,” he said. “I didn’t want a big university, and I wanted one a little bit away from town, and I wanted a Catholic university, too.”

Saint Leo was the perfect fit.

During his time at University Campus, he waspresident of the Black Student Union, which partnered with the University of South Florida to present famed poet, author, and actress Maya Angelou, and filmmaker and actor Spike Lee. He enjoyed the Catholic community of Saint Leo and often helped at the abbey and monastery. He played soccer for Saint Leo as a midfielder and sometimes as a forward, with current Athletic Director Fran Reidy as his coach.

Mophuting earned his bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo in physical education and sport management with a minor in business management. Dr. Frank Arnold, now professor emeritus, and Dr. Michael Moorman, professor of computer science, encouraged him to pursue a business degree.

“Saint Leo was such a big springboard for me,” Mophuting said.

After earning a master’s degree in international security and civil military relations and an MBA with a concentration in supply chain management, Mophuting now is pursuing a doctorate in political science.

During a visit to Saint Leo in January—he had not been at University Campus in 22 years—he said he “jokes back home that the U.S. gave me a wife and a daughter.”

He met his wife, Kuki, who also is from Botswana, when she was a student at Alabama A&M University, and their daughter, Natasha, was born in Alabama. “We sent her to the United States for high school,” he said. She graduated from Northern Arizona University and began her graduate studies in 2017 in Hawaii.

Mophuting, 47, hopes his son, Kagiso, now in what would be the equivalent of his sophomore year, will attend his alma mater. “I want him to come to Saint Leo so bad,” he said. Perhaps a Mophuting legacy is in the works.