Two undergraduate teams from Saint Leo University placed well in two distinct academic competitions in recent weeks.

Although the contests were in very different fields, they have in common an important component. They put students into fictionalized roles that mimic what professionals do and ask the students to draw upon the knowledge they have acquired to meet true-to-life professional challenges. In this way, students can gauge their level of interest in a field, and further develop their professional demeanor.

A team of four students who are majoring in global studies—and are active in the associated Global Studies Club—represented Saint Leo at the Florida Spring 2018 Model Arab League conference held at the University of South Florida in Tampa in early February. The Model Arab League was developed by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, a nonprofit and educational organization, as a program to develop student leaders. Teams play the roles of delegations from 22 member states and have to cope with international issues and conflicts in a peaceful manner. Among student development programs, the Model Arab League is similar to the more widely known Model United Nations.

Saint Leo University has sent teams from University Campus to the Florida Model Arab League for three years.

Shown from left to right before the conference: T. Colbert, L. Winslow, N. Garcia, and P. Swanson.

The most recent team included (alphabetically): Tiffani Colbert, a junior who is majoring in history as well as global studies; sophomore Natalia Garcia, who is pursuing minors in world politics and journalism in addition to her global studies major; Paige Swanson, a sophomore who is taking a minor in political science; and LeAnn Winslow, who is also interested in world politics as a minor.

Two won awards for outstanding delegate, which is considered the highest award, according to Dr. Patricia Campion, program director and club advisor.

Winslow was honored for her efforts representing Iraq on the Political Affairs Council of the conference. Colbert, the junior on the team, won for representing Jordan on the Political Affairs Council. 

Team from left to right after the awards: P. Swanson; T. Colbert with certificate; L. Winslow with her certificate; and N. Garcia.

Global studies is offered through the School of Arts and Sciences.

A team of undergraduates studying criminal justice—a major offered through the School of Education and Social Services—also performed well in a competition during an academic event in February.

Seven Saint Leo students were on a team that competed with 18 student teams to see which ones were most proficient at analyzing a fake crime scene. The competition was held during the Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society annual conference in New Orleans.

The mock crime scene gave clues to a murder that appeared to have a satanic element. Megan Tadaro, who is specializing in criminalistics within the criminal justice major, said each team had only 10 minutes to spend in the fake crime scene to observe and assess the evidence.

"We were not allowed to take any videos; we were allowed to take photos and notes of what we saw," Tadaro recounted.

Team members "were assigned different jobs before we went into the scene—that way we were all prepared. Only three of us from the group, including myself, are criminalistics majors. Since we have more background with crime scenes, the three of us took the lead for the group. I personally was the photographer of the scene. One of the biggest challenges was the time limit. The scene was very detailed and it was hard to go through the scene and take photos of everything within the time limit," she continued.

"Another struggle we faced was not being able to touch any of the evidence," Tadaro said. "As a criminalistics major, I am taught to document everything, then take it…for testing. So it was hard to just look at the evidence and not be able to take it with me. Once the 10 minutes were up, we got together as a team to come up with what we thought happened. We were able to determine who the killer was by matching handwriting on the birthday card found on the scene to the handwriting on the satanic ritual."

Other members of the team were: Ashley Mandracken, Zamara Williams, Elena Stevenson, Jennie Fields, Greg Miller, and Thomas Sayers. The team is shown in the foreground with the Alpha Phi Sigma contest coordinator on the far right.

Five full-time faculty members from the Saint Leo Criminal Justice Department, two part-time instructors, and a graduate student were also present at the same New Orleans meeting destination as a scholarly conference, the 2018 annual meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences was held at the same time. This allowed students the benefits of attending some conference sessions and being able to interact with faculty at an academic gathering, as well.