All posts by Cassidy Whitaker

My name is Cassidy Whitaker and I am a sophomore at Saint Leo University in Florida. I am studying political science and journalism. I am a Contributing Writer and Political Columnist for Saint Leo's campus newspaper, The Lions' Pride.

Recruit, Retain, and Communicate

As Dr. Lennox prepares for year three, his priorities are clear.

University President Dr. William J. Lennox reflected on his “sophomore year” at Saint Leo as a very positive one overall.

Lennox shared that the University was initially concerned that its expenses were crossing the revenue line, but because some productive, repositioning changes were made, the operational dollars over the last two years have been positive.  

“I think a lot of people didn’t realize that Saint Leo is in very good shape financially overall. We’ve got a good reserve and we’ve been positive over the last couple of years, but we have to be good stewards as we go forward because the environment is rough out there right now,” said Lennox.

 

He shared that the number of high school seniors is flattening out and the military has downsized, but that the financial side is doing very well.

Lennox explained that people have jobs right now and the University is countercyclical. So, when people have jobs, they’re less likely to go to school and when there are fewer jobs available, they’re more likely to start going to school. “It’s a tough environment and we’ve got to be competitive. I think we’ve restructured ourselves in such a way that we’re in pretty good shape right now,” said Lennox.  

The President informed that the primary plan he intends to tackle this coming academic school year is revenue. He said that the University has three objectives for this year: to recruit more students, to retain and graduate those students, and to communicate with one another. Lennox explained that after the University went through the restructure, people and departments that had never before interacted are talking to each other now and working on building trust and communication lines.   

“When I first came in, we were much like a holding company. So, you had Saint Leo, and then you had your campus, you had your online, you had your centers, and you had the graduate program, and they really were separate entities. What we’ve done is combined everything now so that we’re one university,” said Lennox.

He shared that an example of this is the education counselors who take calls from prospective students are now talking to the centers as well, whereas they only used to deal with the online program. Essentially, the online program and the centers used to compete but are now working together to help one another out.   

Additionally, Lennox informed that the University has begun putting specific staff and faculty members in charge of different objectives for the year with the goal in mind of listening to new ideas about recruitment, retention, or communication.

It has been rumored among the faculty and staff that Dr. Lennox signed a three-year contract when he first started at Saint Leo. When asked about this claim, Lennox remarked, “I plan on staying.” He reflected on his time in the military and how people would ask him when he was going to retire. He shared that he used to say that as long as he was having fun, he was going to stay.

“There’s a lot of energy on the campus here. During the summertime, it is quiet and so it’s great having the students back. For me, I look at it as stealing the energy from the young. So, as long as I feel energized and feel like I’m contributing, I think I’ll be staying,” said Lennox.  

One of the primary changes happening at Saint Leo this academic school year will be the addition of a provost. Former Vice President of Academic Affairs Mike Nastanski will be returning to teaching this year, so the University is taking advantage of this opportunity to “elevate the stature of that position,” according to Dr. Lennox.

“I want the provost now to certainly take care of all the things that the VP for academic affairs did, [including] all of the classes and programs for the campus and also for WorldWide. But also, I want them to take care of the campus so you have that synergy between the academic side and the student success side. This way, I think you’ll get better mentoring and better advising, which is critical for retention,” said Lennox.  

Lennox expressed his belief of the importance of the University having better advising to supplement what the people that focus on retention are doing and having those two aspects work together.

“Eventually, this means that I’ll have one person as a senior vice president who’s a provost taking care of academics and the campus and then one senior vice president taking care of WorldWide and marketing enrollment, and that’s Dr. Melanie Storms. Again, it’s a move I think to put the University together and that will free me up to do more,” said Lennox.  

Essentially, the provost will be able to do more specialized things for and with the students on campus. This addition will free up the President both externally and internally. Students should expect to begin to see the provost around campus just as much as they typically see Dr. Lennox on a weekly basis.

“I think it’s critical that my vice presidents’ faces are around campus and around WorldWide,” said Lennox. “I expect that all of our faces will be around here and mine just as much as the new provost’s. I enjoy the interaction, I really do, and I would miss that if I felt like I was going to back out of this. The provost will just be an additional face taking the place of the vice president of academic affairs,” he continued.  

According to Lennox, the University has interviewed three candidates for provost so far, but their lead candidate just recently backed out. “I think he was an urban person and when they came to visit the campus, we’re out a little ways and I think the rural atmosphere might have dissuaded him,” he stated.

Lennox informed that he didn’t believe that the two other candidates were quite as good of a fit, so they’re going to continue the search. “I’m looking for somebody that is a very good academic, but also a very good leader. So, I expect that person to be out with the faculty, with the staff, and with the students, too,” said Lennox. He informed that his advisors have told him that they’re coming into a good season for hiring, so he’s hopeful that they’ll find a good candidate for provost soon.  

Having a provost would allow Dr. Lennox to have more time to handle other affairs, such as checking up on the centers.

Lennox recounted when he first started at Saint Leo that he visited the Savannah center and the director reminded him that he has about 2,220 students on main University campus, but that there are about 13,000 students WorldWide, [across other centers around the country and online] so to not forget about them.  

Currently, Dr. Mary Spoto is sitting as the interim vice president of academic affairs.

As many are aware, undergraduate admissions numbers are down so much this year that there’s a vacant floor in both Marmion and Snyder. When asked about this problem, Dr. Lennox remarked, “It’s always a concern when it [recruitment] doesn’t go quite the way you expected it, but there is a plan.”

Lennox informed that there is a campaign plan set up to remedy this problem that targets certain populations that he feels the University could do a better job at. He believes that better targeting Catholic high schools, international students, homeschooled students, and the Hispanic population will be helpful for the next recruitment season.   

“We had a great meeting over the summer with the National Hispanic Institute. We had 130 rising Hispanic seniors here on campus and they had an opportunity to see Saint Leo and we’re going to continue that relationship. We’ve got a three-year contract with them now where they’re going to come back each time,” said Lennox.

The University wants to increase enrollments both on campus and WorldWide, so they have campaign plans in place in each of those areas.  

A common concern for current students when enrollment is down is how it will affect tuition. When asked about this concern, Lennox said, “It’s not going to affect tuition. We have fought to keep our tuition low.”

Lennox informed that if you do a comparison between the private schools right now, Saint Leo has done a great job in “tamping down” tuition. “I’m not saying it’s not going to increase, but it’s not going to increase to offset this [the low enrollment numbers]. Remember, I told you that we restructured, so we’re in pretty good shape right now. We can take this and we’ve done well over the last couple years financially. So, we’re working to do that throughout the rest of the year,” he stated.  

Lennox explained that when the problem of low enrollment arises, the argument is to either increase margins or volume and that the University is aiming to increase volume. He assured that there are opportunities available to do a better job at bringing in students without raising tuition.

The President informed that he’s been asking the staff, faculty, and students what would happen if each of them brought in one student to come to the school next year and has been explaining to everyone how powerful that would be.

He also stated that one of the ideas the University is exploring is having students go home to their high schools and possibly even some neighboring high schools to talk to them about Saint Leo. The students would wear their Saint Leo gear and bring the prospective students pennants.

Lennox’s advice to returning students to encourage the new students about their first year is to tell them to get involved. “Get your ideas for increasing campus activities to the Student Activities folks. And if you see somebody in trouble, help. Raise your hand. Whether it’s academic, financial, or whatever, raise your hand. Let’s work to retain everybody,” said Lennox.

“My idea is, if we accept somebody in and they work, we ought to be able to graduate them. And I think that’s extremely important. As long as they’re working, we ought to work to get them to the finish line. And I told the parents this, too as I spoke to them the other day with the freshmen: finish in four years. Five years is an extra charge and you’re not earning money,” Lennox continued.

Last semester, Saint Leo hosted its first Town Hall Meeting with President Lennox, and many can attest to the fact that it got a bit chaotic. When asked about the rather hectic event, Lennox remarked, “Look, I’ve been in the Army 35 years, I’ve been in business and I’ve had those sessions before. That doesn’t bother me. Those are concerns and I listen to them and I think it’s important to hear them.”

“To be more efficient, I don’t know, maybe we do it by topic. Maybe that would be an important way to focus on each particular area this time,” he added.

Lennox explained that he had a couple meetings with Student Government and the activity leaders last year, so the Town Hall was not the only time he talked to students; it was likely just the most public one. He added that they were all very productive and the students had some great ideas because they want to be engaged.

“I’ve also had breakfast with them and I’m in the dining facility with them at about 11:30 every day and I sit with students, with the vice presidents, and with faculty. So, if anybody has an idea or anything, I’m willing to listen. That’s not to say that every idea is a good idea, but I’m willing to listen to hear what they have to say,” said Lennox.

As many are aware, expansion plans for “West Campus” were recently announced. When asked for an update on the plans, Lennox informed that there are a couple plans that the University is exploring, but they haven’t brought anything to the Board yet, so nothing is official.

Lennox stated that the primary thing that they’re focusing on in relation to West Campus right now is the Wellness Center. According to Dr. Lennox, the University tried to get the government to give them $4M last year, but it got cut at the very end. Despite this setback, the University’s contacts in Tallahassee have encouraged them to try again, so that’s what they plan on doing.

As everyone became aware of last semester, the University recently partnered with Florida Hospital. This partnership is how the future Wellness Center will come to fruition. “I think that long term, we’re looking at them being partners for quite a while,” stated Lennox.

Lennox believes that getting a real medical center on campus is key. “I’d ask you to go down to deChantal Hall and take a look at what’s been done down there. They’ve really done an expert job of improving conditions over the summer. But, we need a better facility and this gives us an opportunity to build that facility with a fitness center on top,” said Lennox.

“I’m not saying that it [the Wellness Center] was bad before, but there was a lack of privacy. Now, they have real examination rooms, a waiting room out in front, and they’ve been working to digitize the records so that you can actually have electronic records instead of handwritten ones. We’re just becoming more professional over there,” said Lennox. “I’m sure we’re going to have challenges because this is something new. But at the same time, I think we’ve improved what we have to offer over there,” he added.

He shared his belief that the campus fitness center is not appropriate for most students and that the school needs a better place for the athletes to workout. So, a new wellness and fitness center combined would solve both problems.

Another thought the University has for West Campus is a “freshmen experience.” Marmion and Snyder would be redone and converted into office space, a new residence hall would be built in place of Marmion and Snyder and likely in place of the ones on main campus as well, and new academic buildings for general education courses primarily would start being built. Again, these are all simply ideas being considered; nothing is confirmed yet.  

Lennox also stated that the University is looking into pursuing opportunities for various programs such as nursing and STEM programs.

Recently, some students have expressed concern that some of the scholarships that have been available for application in the past have disappeared from the website. Dr. Lennox informed that the amount of scholarships offered to students has actually gone up considerably and that the University’s donors have been very generous.

He stated that approximately 80 new scholarships will be published on Sept. 1, so students should pay attention and look out for them on the website. He also believes that there will be approximately another 50 offered in the spring for the following school year.  

“We have about 350 scholarships, whereas about two years ago, we had only about 150. But when you commit them, they’re usually committed for three or four years. So, some years look like there’s more and then some years less because if you’ve made a commitment, it takes away from that 350 for a number of years because you’re going to get that over a period of one to four years,” stated Lennox.

“Maybe what students saw last year was a slight reduction because others had been given earlier, but they’ll become available again as time passes. And we’re going to keep raising money for scholarships. I think that’s a critical area for us. That sort of goes with keeping the tuition low and providing assistance as we can,” he continued.

There has been some confusion about where the location of the ROTC center has finally landed, as it has moved a couple times recently. According to Dr. Lennox, it will now be located in St. Francis Hall. The official ribbon cutting for the new center will be on Sept. 6.

“Throughout the summer, they worked to improve it. They’re going to be in classrooms now and we’re going to get rid of those old portables over there. They’re just unattractive and that’s not the appropriate place for them. We’re trying to increase the number of people in ROTC and that was really an unprofessional looking operation,” said Lennox.  

The Military Resource Center is still for veterans, but Colonel Martis wants the ROTC program working with the veterans to serve as another place that they can go. “We want them to have a classroom environment. So, what we’re trying to do is improve and expand the ROTC program here,” said Lennox.

Lennox also informed that the ROTC program has a new Captain: Ivan De La Rosa.

With the University’s goal of graduating students in four years, many believe that implementing summer classes is a necessary step. When asked about this thought, Lennox remarked that he’d “like to see it.”

“We tried it two years ago, but I think we tried it too late. I think they announced it and everybody already had jobs and activities so it didn’t work. I’ve talked to Dr. Spoto about taking a look at it again this year,” stated Lennox.

Lennox informed that some of the faculty suggested the new incoming class taking some classes as they entered the year, which is what is now the FIRST program: First-Generations Immersed in Rewarding Scholarship to Transition Successfully. The program is comprised of 16 students who are the first in their families to attend college.

“It’s really a great concept. I think taking some of the students who need some extra help and getting them into the classroom and campus environment and actually taking classes early gives them a great advantage. They get to know their way around, they shake off any of the homesickness, and then they have a little family that they stick together with,” said Lennox.

“So on one end, maybe in the April-May time frame, we take a look at classes for the upperclassmen to supplement what they’re doing and then maybe in the August time period we take a look at some of the new ones coming in and giving them an opportunity to get ahead of the game,” he continued.  

When asked about one piece of advice he’d give to the new freshmen class, Dr. Lennox advised to “Get involved.” He believes that the key things are to get engaged, to do an activity, and to take advantage of “what we have here.” “Don’t stay in your rooms. Do your studying and if you have problems, get help. As long as you’re working, we’ll work with you to get you through the gates here,” he said.

As mentioned before, President Lennox shared that the main thing to focus on for this year is recruiting more students, retaining more students, and graduating those students. Additionally, he hopes that everyone keeps communicating with one another.

“Work together as a team to get the job done. I think that’s sort of been a hallmark of Saint Leo in the past. We want to just make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can and to do those things,” stated Lennox.

Recruit, Retain, and Communicate

As Dr. Lennox prepares for year three, his priorities are clear.

University President Dr. William J. Lennox reflected on his “sophomore year” at Saint Leo as a very positive one overall.

Lennox shared that the University was initially concerned that its expenses were crossing the revenue line, but because some productive, repositioning changes were made, the operational dollars over the last two years have been positive.  

“I think a lot of people didn’t realize that Saint Leo is in very good shape financially overall. We’ve got a good reserve and we’ve been positive over the last couple of years, but we have to be good stewards as we go forward because the environment is rough out there right now,” said Lennox.

 

He shared that the number of high school seniors is flattening out and the military has downsized, but that the financial side is doing very well.

Lennox explained that people have jobs right now and the University is countercyclical. So, when people have jobs, they’re less likely to go to school and when there are fewer jobs available, they’re more likely to start going to school. “It’s a tough environment and we’ve got to be competitive. I think we’ve restructured ourselves in such a way that we’re in pretty good shape right now,” said Lennox.  

The President informed that the primary plan he intends to tackle this coming academic school year is revenue. He said that the University has three objectives for this year: to recruit more students, to retain and graduate those students, and to communicate with one another. Lennox explained that after the University went through the restructure, people and departments that had never before interacted are talking to each other now and working on building trust and communication lines.   

“When I first came in, we were much like a holding company. So, you had Saint Leo, and then you had your campus, you had your online, you had your centers, and you had the graduate program, and they really were separate entities. What we’ve done is combined everything now so that we’re one university,” said Lennox.

He shared that an example of this is the education counselors who take calls from prospective students are now talking to the centers as well, whereas they only used to deal with the online program. Essentially, the online program and the centers used to compete but are now working together to help one another out.   

Additionally, Lennox informed that the University has begun putting specific staff and faculty members in charge of different objectives for the year with the goal in mind of listening to new ideas about recruitment, retention, or communication.

It has been rumored among the faculty and staff that Dr. Lennox signed a three-year contract when he first started at Saint Leo. When asked about this claim, Lennox remarked, “I plan on staying.” He reflected on his time in the military and how people would ask him when he was going to retire. He shared that he used to say that as long as he was having fun, he was going to stay.

“There’s a lot of energy on the campus here. During the summertime, it is quiet and so it’s great having the students back. For me, I look at it as stealing the energy from the young. So, as long as I feel energized and feel like I’m contributing, I think I’ll be staying,” said Lennox.  

One of the primary changes happening at Saint Leo this academic school year will be the addition of a provost. Former Vice President of Academic Affairs Mike Nastanski will be returning to teaching this year, so the University is taking advantage of this opportunity to “elevate the stature of that position,” according to Dr. Lennox.

“I want the provost now to certainly take care of all the things that the VP for academic affairs did, [including] all of the classes and programs for the campus and also for WorldWide. But also, I want them to take care of the campus so you have that synergy between the academic side and the student success side. This way, I think you’ll get better mentoring and better advising, which is critical for retention,” said Lennox.  

Lennox expressed his belief of the importance of the University having better advising to supplement what the people that focus on retention are doing and having those two aspects work together.

“Eventually, this means that I’ll have one person as a senior vice president who’s a provost taking care of academics and the campus and then one senior vice president taking care of WorldWide and marketing enrollment, and that’s Dr. Melanie Storms. Again, it’s a move I think to put the University together and that will free me up to do more,” said Lennox.  

Essentially, the provost will be able to do more specialized things for and with the students on campus. This addition will free up the President both externally and internally. Students should expect to begin to see the provost around campus just as much as they typically see Dr. Lennox on a weekly basis.

 

“I think it’s critical that my vice presidents’ faces are around campus and around WorldWide,” said Lennox. “I expect that all of our faces will be around here and mine just as much as the new provost’s. I enjoy the interaction, I really do, and I would miss that if I felt like I was going to back out of this. The provost will just be an additional face taking the place of the vice president of academic affairs,” he continued.  

According to Lennox, the University has interviewed three candidates for provost so far, but their lead candidate just recently backed out. “I think he was an urban person and when they came to visit the campus, we’re out a little ways and I think the rural atmosphere might have dissuaded him,” he stated.

Lennox informed that he didn’t believe that the two other candidates were quite as good of a fit, so they’re going to continue the search. “I’m looking for somebody that is a very good academic, but also a very good leader. So, I expect that person to be out with the faculty, with the staff, and with the students, too,” said Lennox. He informed that his advisors have told him that they’re coming into a good season for hiring, so he’s hopeful that they’ll find a good candidate for provost soon.  

 

Having a provost would allow Dr. Lennox to have more time to handle other affairs, such as checking up on the centers.

 

Lennox recounted when he first started at Saint Leo that he visited the Savannah center and the director reminded him that he has about 2,220 students on main University campus, but that there are about 13,000 students WorldWide, [across other centers around the country and online] so to not forget about them.  

Currently, Dr. Mary Spoto is sitting as the interim vice president of academic affairs.

 

As many are aware, undergraduate admissions numbers are down so much this year that there’s a vacant floor in both Marmion and Snyder. When asked about this problem, Dr. Lennox remarked, “It’s always a concern when it [recruitment] doesn’t go quite the way you expected it, but there is a plan.”

Lennox informed that there is a campaign plan set up to remedy this problem that targets certain populations that he feels the University could do a better job at. He believes that better targeting Catholic high schools, international students, homeschooled students, and the Hispanic population will be helpful for the next recruitment season.   

“We had a great meeting over the summer with the National Hispanic Institute. We had 130 rising Hispanic seniors here on campus and they had an opportunity to see Saint Leo and we’re going to continue that relationship. We’ve got a three-year contract with them now where they’re going to come back each time,” said Lennox.

The University wants to increase enrollments both on campus and WorldWide, so they have campaign plans in place in each of those areas.  

A common concern for current students when enrollment is down is how it will affect tuition. When asked about this concern, Lennox said, “It’s not going to affect tuition. We have fought to keep our tuition low.”

Lennox informed that if you do a comparison between the private schools right now, Saint Leo has done a great job in “tamping down” tuition. “I’m not saying it’s not going to increase, but it’s not going to increase to offset this [the low enrollment numbers]. Remember, I told you that we restructured, so we’re in pretty good shape right now. We can take this and we’ve done well over the last couple years financially. So, we’re working to do that throughout the rest of the year,” he stated.  

Lennox explained that when the problem of low enrollment arises, the argument is to either increase margins or volume and that the University is aiming to increase volume. He assured that there are opportunities available to do a better job at bringing in students without raising tuition.

The President informed that he’s been asking the staff, faculty, and students what would happen if each of them brought in one student to come to the school next year and has been explaining to everyone how powerful that would be.

He also stated that one of the ideas the University is exploring is having students go home to their high schools and possibly even some neighboring high schools to talk to them about Saint Leo. The students would wear their Saint Leo gear and bring the prospective students pennants.

Lennox’s advice to returning students to encourage the new students about their first year is to tell them to get involved. “Get your ideas for increasing campus activities to the Student Activities folks. And if you see somebody in trouble, help. Raise your hand. Whether it’s academic, financial, or whatever, raise your hand. Let’s work to retain everybody,” said Lennox.

“My idea is, if we accept somebody in and they work, we ought to be able to graduate them. And I think that’s extremely important. As long as they’re working, we ought to work to get them to the finish line. And I told the parents this, too as I spoke to them the other day with the freshmen: finish in four years. Five years is an extra charge and you’re not earning money,” Lennox continued.

Last semester, Saint Leo hosted its first Town Hall Meeting with President Lennox, and many can attest to the fact that it got a bit chaotic. When asked about the rather hectic event, Lennox remarked, “Look, I’ve been in the Army 35 years, I’ve been in business and I’ve had those sessions before. That doesn’t bother me. Those are concerns and I listen to them and I think it’s important to hear them.”

“To be more efficient, I don’t know, maybe we do it by topic. Maybe that would be an important way to focus on each particular area this time,” he added.

Lennox explained that he had a couple meetings with Student Government and the activity leaders last year, so the Town Hall was not the only time he talked to students; it was likely just the most public one. He added that they were all very productive and the students had some great ideas because they want to be engaged.

“I’ve also had breakfast with them and I’m in the dining facility with them at about 11:30 every day and I sit with students, with the vice presidents, and with faculty. So, if anybody has an idea or anything, I’m willing to listen. That’s not to say that every idea is a good idea, but I’m willing to listen to hear what they have to say,” said Lennox.

As many are aware, expansion plans for “West Campus” were recently announced. When asked for an update on the plans, Lennox informed that there are a couple plans that the University is exploring, but they haven’t brought anything to the Board yet, so nothing is official.

Lennox stated that the primary thing that they’re focusing on in relation to West Campus right now is the Wellness Center. According to Dr. Lennox, the University tried to get the government to give them $4M last year, but it got cut at the very end. Despite this setback, the University’s contacts in Tallahassee have encouraged them to try again, so that’s what they plan on doing.

As everyone became aware of last semester, the University recently partnered with Florida Hospital. This partnership is how the future Wellness Center will come to fruition. “I think that long term, we’re looking at them being partners for quite a while,” stated Lennox.

Lennox believes that getting a real medical center on campus is key. “I’d ask you to go down to deChantal Hall and take a look at what’s been done down there. They’ve really done an expert job of improving conditions over the summer. But, we need a better facility and this gives us an opportunity to build that facility with a fitness center on top,” said Lennox.

“I’m not saying that it [the Wellness Center] was bad before, but there was a lack of privacy. Now, they have real examination rooms, a waiting room out in front, and they’ve been working to digitize the records so that you can actually have electronic records instead of handwritten ones. We’re just becoming more professional over there,” said Lennox. “I’m sure we’re going to have challenges because this is something new. But at the same time, I think we’ve improved what we have to offer over there,” he added.

He shared his belief that the campus fitness center is not appropriate for most students and that the school needs a better place for the athletes to workout. So, a new wellness and fitness center combined would solve both problems.

Another thought the University has for West Campus is a “freshmen experience.” Marmion and Snyder would be redone and converted into office space, a new residence hall would be built in place of Marmion and Snyder and likely in place of the ones on main campus as well, and new academic buildings for general education courses primarily would start being built. Again, these are all simply ideas being considered; nothing is confirmed yet.  

Lennox also stated that the University is looking into pursuing opportunities for various programs such as nursing and STEM programs.

Recently, some students have expressed concern that some of the scholarships that have been available for application in the past have disappeared from the website. Dr. Lennox informed that the amount of scholarships offered to students has actually gone up considerably and that the University’s donors have been very generous.

 

He stated that approximately 80 new scholarships will be published on Sept. 1, so students should pay attention and look out for them on the website. He also believes that there will be approximately another 50 offered in the spring for the following school year.  

“We have about 350 scholarships, whereas about two years ago, we had only about 150. But when you commit them, they’re usually committed for three or four years. So, some years look like there’s more and then some years less because if you’ve made a commitment, it takes away from that 350 for a number of years because you’re going to get that over a period of one to four years,” stated Lennox.

“Maybe what students saw last year was a slight reduction because others had been given earlier, but they’ll become available again as time passes. And we’re going to keep raising money for scholarships. I think that’s a critical area for us. That sort of goes with keeping the tuition low and providing assistance as we can,” he continued.

There has been some confusion about where the location of the ROTC center has finally landed, as it has moved a couple times recently. According to Dr. Lennox, it will now be located in St. Francis Hall. The official ribbon cutting for the new center will be on Sept. 6.

“Throughout the summer, they worked to improve it. They’re going to be in classrooms now and we’re going to get rid of those old portables over there. They’re just unattractive and that’s not the appropriate place for them. We’re trying to increase the number of people in ROTC and that was really an unprofessional looking operation,” said Lennox.  

The Military Resource Center is still for veterans, but Colonel Martis wants the ROTC program working with the veterans to serve as another place that they can go. “We want them to have a classroom environment. So, what we’re trying to do is improve and expand the ROTC program here,” said Lennox.

Lennox also informed that the ROTC program has a new Captain: Ivan De La Rosa.

With the University’s goal of graduating students in four years, many believe that implementing summer classes is a necessary step. When asked about this thought, Lennox remarked that he’d “like to see it.”

“We tried it two years ago, but I think we tried it too late. I think they announced it and everybody already had jobs and activities so it didn’t work. I’ve talked to Dr. Spoto about taking a look at it again this year,” stated Lennox.

Lennox informed that some of the faculty suggested the new incoming class taking some classes as they entered the year, which is what is now the FIRST program: First-Generations Immersed in Rewarding Scholarship to Transition Successfully. The program is comprised of 16 students who are the first in their families to attend college.

“It’s really a great concept. I think taking some of the students who need some extra help and getting them into the classroom and campus environment and actually taking classes early gives them a great advantage. They get to know their way around, they shake off any of the homesickness, and then they have a little family that they stick together with,” said Lennox.

“So on one end, maybe in the April-May time frame, we take a look at classes for the upperclassmen to supplement what they’re doing and then maybe in the August time period we take a look at some of the new ones coming in and giving them an opportunity to get ahead of the game,” he continued.  

When asked about one piece of advice he’d give to the new freshmen class, Dr. Lennox advised to “Get involved.” He believes that the key things are to get engaged, to do an activity, and to take advantage of “what we have here.” “Don’t stay in your rooms. Do your studying and if you have problems, get help. As long as you’re working, we’ll work with you to get you through the gates here,” he said.

As mentioned before, President Lennox shared that the main thing to focus on for this year is recruiting more students, retaining more students, and graduating those students. Additionally, he hopes that everyone keeps communicating with one another.

 

“Work together as a team to get the job done. I think that’s sort of been a hallmark of Saint Leo in the past. We want to just make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can and to do those things,” stated Lennox.

Welcome, Class of 2021!

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Hello to Saint Leo University’s newest lions and welcome! The Lions’ Pride newspaper congratulates you on your acceptance to this incredible University. Everyone is so excited to welcome a new class to the Saint Leo community and family.

As new students, many of you may be seeking an on-campus job or real-world experience to add to your resume. The newspaper is here to tell you to look no further than The Lions’ Pride! The student-run campus newspaper is one of the many employment and resume-building opportunities available. Jobs on campus provide experience to add to your resume, a way to get involved and make friends, and of course, put some money in your pocket.

The Lions’ Pride is entirely student-run and continuously grows and improves, thereby providing its student workers with real-world experience and skills that employers seek. The first skill is the ability to write, of course. So, if you enjoy writing, are simply interested in learning about writing, or wish to improve your writing skills, this is the job for you.

Writing isn’t the only skill you can gain and practice with The Lions’ Pride, though. In addition to written skills, the newspaper also exercises other journalistic skills such as researching, interviewing, photography and videography, reporting, editing, layout, and sharing and engaging on social media. Plus, the newspaper provides tangible skills as well such as meeting deadlines, working independently as well as with a team, problem solving, and time management.

Working for the campus publication will not only allow you to have fun and make friends, but it is also very enriching. There are few things more rewarding than working hard and then being able to concretely see your hard work come to fruition by having your work published. The Lions’ Pride staffers are encouraged to share their work with their family and friends online via the newspaper’s website or Facebook page and also the physical copies of the paper on campus with their friends.

The newspaper did more throughout the last academic school year than it ever had before, and it plans on doing even more this year. It is a paid job that is offered as both a Federal Work Study and a Non-Federal Work Study position and is open to all majors. The newspaper is a place where students of all majors gain valuable experience that can be applied to any future career path.

Writing for a college newspaper is definitely not easy, though. Interviewing can be intimidating if you’re not used to it, schedules can sometimes be difficult to coordinate, deadlines can be stressful to meet, and having people who rely on your work is overwhelming at times. However, The Lions’ Pride staff is supportive and always willing to help and provide guidance.

Another benefit of this job is opportunity for growth. The Lions’ Pride provides many resources for staffers to advance in their positions. These helpful resources include open office hours and one-on-one meetings with the editors/ advisor, weekly staff meetings, certifications available for earning through the Poynter Institute, and periodic staff workshops.

The newspaper welcomes anyone with a passion and drive for hard work, but freshmen are especially encouraged to apply. As new students, you are often full of fresh

and interesting ideas and possess incredible motivation. Plus, The Lions’ Pride is a wonderful way to get involved on campus!

For more information, you can contact the newspaper’s faculty advisor Valerie Kasper via email at valerie.kasper@saintleo.edu or at her office located in room 341 of Saint Edward Hall. Also, you can stop by the newspaper office in room 106 of the Student Activities Building. Visit our website and our Facebook page to check out the staff’s work!

You can apply on Saint Leo’s employment website  and search for our job postings using the keyword “newspaper.”

Good luck, new lions! The staff can’t wait to meet you.

Drunk Driving Increase Among College Students

With each incident of alcohol-related accidents that are reported, it becomes increasingly evident that drunk driving is a significant danger that faces college students today. Whether it be the students themselves that drive under the influence or students that are affected out on the road by others driving drunk, drinking and driving can be a threat to any college student.       

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), researchers estimate that each year, 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.

The NIAAA also reported that in 2013, 39 percent of college students ages 18-22 engaged in binge drinking (which they classified as 5 or more drinks on an occasion) in the past month compared with 33.4 percent of other people of the same age  .

Alcohol-impaired driving and related motor-vehicle accidents among college students continue to be a major public-health concern, says the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network (ATTC). The ATTC cited a 2010 study that found that the prevalence and frequency of alcohol-related traffic-risk behaviors significantly increased when students turned 21 years old.

“National studies have shown that approximately 25 percent of college students report that they have driven while intoxicated in the past month, and an even greater percentage report having driven after having any amount of alcohol and/or ridden with a driver believed intoxicated,” stated the ATTC on their national website.

These statistics suggest that the problem is not only that students are driving while intoxicated, but that even more students are knowingly getting into cars with drivers that are under the influence, putting all of the passengers as well as everyone they pass on the roads in danger.

In late Feb., the consequences of driving while drunk became evident for a Wesley Chapel home when four students crashed into a yard at around 3:30 in the morning. The yard belonged to Carmen Patten and her family. All of the passengers lived, but they left the scene before authorities arrived. Patton informed that the passengers left their purses in the car along with open containers of alcohol, marijuana, and pipes.

Patten added that after the students stumbled out of the vehicle, the driver told them to run. One of the girls asked Patten to not call anyone, as they just needed to get back to Saint Leo.      

The portion of the guiderail that the students crashed into in front of Patten’s home was wrapped around a tree, intertwined between some of its front branches. Almost the entire front of the vehicle was crushed in the impact.

Some Saint Leo students have even fallen victim to people driving while under the influence.

Senior Sports Business major Courtney Fowler recounts that she was driving home one evening in Sept. of 2012 when she saw a pickup truck flying towards her in her lane going around 80 mph trying to pass the other cars in their lane. The driver tried to get back over in his lane but then spun out of control and hit her head on.

“I panicked and screamed for help after I noticed my car smashed in front of me. The guys in the truck got out and ran to hide all of their beer into the woods right in front of me, instead of helping me get out of my smoking car,” stated Fowler.  

Fowler tore her PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) and burned her knees in the accident. The police later found the hidden beer in the woods and matched it to one of the beers that was left in the truck. The driver was eventually arrested and charged with a DWI (driving while intoxicated) .  

Efforts to combat the dangers of driving while under the influence are being made all around the country. There  are not only car services available to take people home that aren’t able to drive, such as Uber and Lyft, but there are now also many services in cities around the country that have the ability to also take your car home if you’re unable to drive. Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have these types of services that take cars home as well in every county of their states, according to the National Directory of Designated Driver Services.

In Pasco County, there are two of these types of designated driver services: Brittany Nation Foundation and Dryver.

Despite the information and many resources available to help lower the number of alcohol-related accidents, the consequences of drinking and driving continue to affect college students all around the country. These statistics  and personal recounts of the effects of driving under the influence suggest that this issue will not go away or even begin to improve unless college students and young people in general are educated on the possible consequences of driving while drunk and the different options available of safely getting home after drinking.   

 

Student Code of Conduct

 

The following is what the Saint Leo University’s Student Code of Conduct handbook 2016-2017 states regarding related incidents.

The handbook states, “Excessive drinking and intoxication will not be tolerated. Members of the Saint Leo community who choose to drink alcohol irresponsibly will be held responsible for their behavior that occurs while under the influence.” In relation to this policy, it also references the Core Values of Community, Respect, Personal Development, and Integrity.

The Code of Conduct also states that any violation of Florida State laws regarding alcohol will be considered grounds for University disciplinary action, including driving with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08% or more.

“Although the University is not responsible or liable for student off-campus events or behavior, it does reserve the right, in the interest of protecting students from harm and as part of fulfilling its educational mission, to take action in response to behavior off campus that violates University expectations, Core Values and Policies and when the University determines that its interests as an academic community are involved,” states the Code of Conduct handbook.

Saint Leo Sorority Fundraises for Sex Trafficking Victims

During the week of Feb. 27, Panhellenic Sorority Alpha Sigma Tau hosted Her Week, a week-long event advocating for global sex trafficking and raising money for its victims.

The donations collected throughout the week were in support of Wipe Every Tear, a non-profit organization that advocates for women and girls trafficked in the sex trade around the globe. According to the organization’s mission on their official website, “Wipe Every Tear exists to bring freedom, hope, and a future to precious girls trafficked in the sex trade.” Wipe Every Tear’s staff and volunteers work to seek out places in which the sex trade operates so they can build trusting relationships with victims to help facilitate their transition into a normal life. The organization also provides safe houses and opportunity for education to victims.

On the first day of the week, sisters from AST set up a tabling event outside of the Student Activities Building where they passed out Her Week buttons, informed passersby about the week’s efforts, Wipe Every Tear, and statistics about sex trafficking, and encouraged and collected donations. The sisters also started a social media campaign to promote their efforts with photos of people holding up the Her Week buttons with the hashtag #ASTHerWeek.

On the second and third days, the sisters again held informational tabling events and collected donations during the day. Throughout the day on Tuesday, the sorority encouraged women on campus to wear dresses to show support for and bring awareness to women and girls trafficked in the sex trade. During the evening, the sisters hosted a free self-defense class in the Bowl taught by sophomore Taylor Grishaber, who practices Jiu-Jitsu and kickboxing.

On Wednesday, AST encouraged the Saint Leo campus community to wear white and the Her Week buttons in support of their cause and hosted a photo shoot in the SCC Courtyard in the evening. Participants wrote information and statistics about sex trafficking as well as encouraging and supportive messages in regards to their cause onto signs that they held up in the photos.

Throughout the week, people were encouraged to make donations in the names of the different fraternities on campus. For every twenty dollars raised in the name of each fraternity, one of their members volunteered to wear a dress over their clothes on the final day of Her Week to advocate for AST’s event and sex trafficking victims. This served as a way to get more people on campus involved in Her Week, to raise the greatest possible amount of money, and to bring awareness to sex trafficking and its victims around the globe. On the final day, a group of men from each fraternity on campus wore dresses over their clothes and came together during the day to take photos together.

To conclude Her Week, AST invited the campus to join them for a candle light vigil on the final day in the SCC Courtyard in honor of the victims of sex trafficking around the world.

Sophomore and Alpha Sigma Tau member Kristy Niccolls was the inspiration for the sorority’s fundraiser for Wipe Every Tear, as she traveled with the organization on their very first mission trip to the Philippines. Niccolls gave a personal testimony for the crowd at the vigil, discussing one specific girl that she connected with on the trip whose biggest dream in life was to go to college and become a professional woman. She then went on to discuss how through that trip, she learned the value of education, as it can easily be taken for granted.

“To these girls and women, high school (let alone college) was a distant dream, yet it is something that we take for granted so often. It seemed so fitting that a group of students, who are taking full advantage of the opportunities that we have in America, fundraise for those who dream of what we are doing every day,” stated Niccolls.

“The fact that our community saw the need and rushed to contribute makes me proud to be a lion. Saint Leo students live our core values every day, and I think that this is a perfect example of our unique community’s excellence,” Niccolls continued.

Alpha Sigma Tau raised a total of $2,351 during Her Week for Wipe Every Tear, exceeding their initial goal of $1,500.

“There are no words to explain how I feel about raising over $2,000. My goal was $1,500, and I was very optimistic we could reach it. Then, adding the numbers from the first twelve hours of collecting donations, I realized this goal was not only attainable, but we could surpass it. I won’t forget the moment that I was sitting in my room watching the donations come in online and finally hitting $1,500. I actually cried because we had done it. We were truly going to impact and change the lives of these girls,” stated Juliette Stratis, sophomore, Alpha Sigma Tau member, and Her Week coordinator.

Alpha Sigma Tau has committed to donating the entire $2,351 to Wipe Every Tear, with their hope of changing the lives of women and girls affected by sex trafficking all around the world.

Saint Leo Remembers Departed Student Nicholas Cusson at Candlelight Vigil

On Jan. 10, Saint Leo University students, faculty, and alumni came together to mourn the loss of and remember student Nicholas Cusson at a Mass and candlelight vigil in his honor. 

University Ministry Mentor Tiffany Fettig began the service by requesting that the attendees begin with a few moments of quiet reflection for Cusson. Chaplain of University Ministries Father Kyle then said a memorial mass in Cusson’s honor outside of the Saint Jude Chapel.

Following the Mass, Cusson’s Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity brothers were invited up to the podium to speak about their departed brother as candles were passed out and lit.

Saint Leo student and TKE fraternity president Josh Carpenter stated that Cusson was one of the best friends he ever had. He spoke of a recent conversation that he had with a fellow brother in which they both agreed that “He was the best of us,” referring to Cusson and the fraternity. Carpenter went on to say that Cusson’s friendship and ability to always make others laugh will be greatly missed.

Saint Leo University and TKE alumnus John Agnello then thanked the crowd for coming. Agnello shared that he hadn’t realized how loved Cusson was and the impact he had on others until now. He said he believed that this loss was going to take a long time to get over, but that it is in God’s hands now and reminded everyone that Cusson would only want everyone to be happy.

Over one hundred people attended the Mass and vigil, including University President Dr. William J. Lennox, Jr., students and other members of the campus Greek Life community, faculty and staff members, University Ministries staff, and several Saint Leo and TKE alumni.   

“Let us take our brother into a place of peace,” concluded Father Kyle. He also offered his condolences to the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and emphasized the support of the entire Saint Leo community during their time of grief.

“I think this said a lot about him [Cusson] and I think the words that were said tonight about him always bringing a smile to everybody and always reaching out and being a friend says an awful lot about a person. It characterizes what we’re trying to do here at Saint Leo with our sense of respect and community,” said Lennox.

“Seeing all the people that came out is really nice because I don’t think people would’ve really noticed how many Nick actually did touch and whose lives he made better, even if it was just for one moment. I think as a chapter, we’re all just happy that people came out and supported us when we needed it, so I’m very thankful,” said Saint Leo student and TKE brother Joey Fernandez. “Going forward, I think it’s really just about taking it day by day. We’re all remembering Nick in our own ways and we’re going to continue to remember him and cherish the memories we have,” continued Fernandez.   

Following the service, many approached the fraternity brothers to offer their condolences and support. Additionally, attendees were encouraged to contribute to a “memory jar” made for Cusson’s friends to share stories of their time with him. Most of the TKE brothers stayed long after the service ended to share memories about Cusson with one another.   

For anyone who would like to donate to the Meal Train account that’s been set up for the Cusson family, visit https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/7n4y42/donate/.

New Arrests Made and Trial Date Set in Smith Case

Disclaimer: The following story, photos, and accompanying items are fictionalized and are part of Saint Leo University’s Alternate Reality Learning Experience (ARLE). The events described did not occur. The characters are fictional and any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

New information provided by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office stated that they have released two suspects and arrested two more in connection with the burglary of Dr. Penny Smith on campus.

On Oct. 14, three suspects were arrested: Alicia Stumbo, a senior ornamental horticulture major; Damon Jackson, senior forestry major with a minor in fungi revitalization and president of the Beta Omega Rho fraternity; and Michael Freedman, senior fermentation science major with an auctioneering minor who is also the captain of the University’s football team. Freedman dated Stumbo during their freshman year.

Jackson and Freedman were eventually released after new video evidence was discovered. The evidence led investigators to arrest Sean Betz and Beau Franklin. Both are freshmen who are pledging the Beta Omega Rho fraternity.

Smith, professor of sociology, has been in a coma since Sept. 28, when she was found unconscious in her office by fellow staff. The incident report provided by Campus Security and Safety stated that Smith was stung by several wasps when entering her office and as a result, stumbled, fell, and hit her head. She was taken by ambulance to Florida Hospital in Zephyrhills.

According to her doctor, she had an allergic reaction to the wasp stings.

The crime scene report indicated that the incident was a burglary. According to the incident report, Smith’s office was broken into through the window on the east side. Chairs were knocked over and papers were scattered throughout the room. The report also indicated that the subjects fled the scene through the window in which they entered.

Forensics has recovered blood, gloves, a wasp’s nest, and a blue dry erase marker from the scene. Fingerprints have also been recovered from the office.

Students were shocked to learn that University students allegedly committed the burglary.

“I couldn’t believe that Michael had been arrested for the burglary of Dr. Smith,” stated electrical engineering major Isaiah Feldman. “I’ve had some classes with him and I watch him play every weekend during football season. He’s always seemed like such a great guy so I’m just glad that he’s been released.”

Other students echoed Feldman’s feelings.

“I was so surprised to hear of the recent arrest of Sean,” stated Marine Biology major Katherine Richardson. “We were in the same group for our freshmen orientation at the beginning of this semester and he was so nice to me. I was really happy for him that he started pledging a fraternity because he told me that was one of the first things he wanted to do in college.”

Saint Leo University also offered their support to Smith and her family.

The public relations firm, Prestige Worldwide, representing Vice President of Advancement and Communications Denny Moller, released a statement saying that the campus community is keeping Smith and her family in its prayers and asked that all others do the same. They said the University will provide more information as it becomes available and will fully cooperate with the investigation.

However, Ryan Smith, husband of Dr. Smith, feels that the University is not adequately communicating with him fully. He also believes the University is withholding information they gathered throughout the investigation.

Ryan Smith is convinced the first three students who were arrested played a part in the alleged burglary because his wife accused them of cheating on an exam and brought them in front of the Academic Standards Committee last semester. Although the students were not found in violation of the University’s Academic Honor Code for cheating, Smith believes that the students broke into his wife’s office in retaliation of being accused of cheating by her. For now, he is awaiting the results of the trial; however, he said he is looking into a civil suit for the future.

Penny Smith, who has been teaching at Saint Leo for more than six years, teaches courses on global sociology, globalization and social movements, climate change and society, cities in a global context, globalization and public health, as well as on human rights and democratization. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from Western Illinois University. Smith currently serves as editor of the Journal of World-Systems Research, the official journal of the Political Economy of the World-System section of the American Sociological Association. She has written and edited several books and articles on transnational and social movements and the global political economy.

The date of the trial has been set for Nov. 4 and 5 and Judge Ann Robbins has been assigned to the case.