Get involved. Meet new people. Join an organization. Study hard. Enjoy the adventure. That is just some of the advice Saint Leo University's more than 1,000 new students heard this past week. The university welcomed new students during move-in day on August 15 while international students began arriving August 13.

The Class of 2023 sets a new enrollment record for Saint Leo with 45 percent more new students enrolling at University Campus than last year. Officials believe this is the largest incoming group of students in the university's 130-year history. This year, a formal convocation ceremony celebrated the beginning of the students' academic journey.

Moving In

The new students along with their parents and families were greeted by a swarm of students, faculty, staff, and alumni volunteers who busily grabbed the students' belongings and moved them into their residence halls.

Eva Diaz confessed to wiping away a mixture of tears and sweat from her eyes. More tears will come later, she said. Her son, Juan Diaz, is an incoming criminal justice student. He enrolled at Saint Leo "to get away from Massachusetts," he said, but also because he heard about the university through a friend.

Chloe Farr also expressed a desire to get away from the north. A graduate of Stillwater High School in New York, Farr said she researched Saint Leo, and she loved the campus as well as the academics. "And I love lions," she said of the Saint Leo mascot. Her best friend, Sam Ahern, accompanied her for the move-in. "The people are so nice," said Ahern, who would like to attend Saint Leo next year. 

Around The World

Hannah Burrows of Nassau, the Bahamas, fell in love with the Saint Leo campus when she visited in April for her mother's graduation and the Saint Leo Under the Stars event, which celebrated the 2019 graduates. Mom Lelani Burrows is member of the Class of 2019, having earned her master's in education-educational leadership through Saint Leo's Center for Online Learning. Hannah Burrows, a member of the Class of 2023, will major in computer information systems. 

"She was impressed," Lelani Burrows said of her daughter's visit to campus. 

Hannah Burrows moved in to Saint Leo on Tuesday, August 13, when Saint Leo's more than 180 new international students began arriving on campus. She said she is excited and a little nervous. "I'm looking forward to all the new experiences," Hannah said. "I want to meet new people."

"She likes the family-like atmosphere of Saint Leo," her mom added.

Ciontae Deveaux, also from the Bahamas, echoed that feeling. " Everyone is so friendly and welcoming," Deveaux said.

Welcome To The Pride

Showcasing Saint Leo spirit, the new students were welcomed as Lions during an afternoon event n August 15. Some of the university's new international students paraded with the flags of their countries—the Class of 2023 comes from 60 countries around the world. The students from India received applause as the country was celebrating its Independence Day while the group from the Bahamas was one of the largest.

Orientation Leaders broke into a "dance battle" to determine which orientation groups are "the best," before the new students went off with the OLs to get acquainted. Saint Leo's deans, University Chaplain Father Kyle Smith, and administrators then held a question-and-answer session for parents. Parents asked about hurricane preparation, campus safety, spiritual growth opportunities, new majors and programs, accelerated academic degrees, and more.

'Saint Leo Welcomes You As A Scholar'

This year, Saint Leo held a formal convocation ceremony to welcome the students as scholars and stress the importance of academics. Faculty and administration processed in academic, regalia.

"Welcome to your university," Jeffrey D. Senese, university president said. To the parents, he said, "Your students are here today because of the love and guidance you gave to them."

To the students, he said, "your goal is moving from being a student to being a professional in your own right."

Three current students— Celine Deon-Palmer, Julia Ortiz, and Anthony Marchitto—offered their advice.

"My best advice for success at Saint Leo is to take advantage of all the opportunities given that interest you, whether this be extracurricular activities or the open door policies of the many professors at Saint Leo," Deon-Palmer said.


Ortiz advised the Class of 2023, "My best advice for success at Saint Leo is to embrace and cherish every person you meet and every hand you have the opportunity to shake. It truly is a small world and one handshake can change your life."

"My best advice for people living and learning at Saint Leo is to form meaningful and positive friendships to last even after college ends, participate in activities that give you a sense of belonging and completeness, and always remember to market yourself as the best person that you can be," Marchitto said. "But the most important part of that advice is to have the work ethic to back it up."

Members of the university administration team distributed Saint Leo lapel pins. "Students, as a scholar, one of the most important responsibilities is to be ethical," Spoto, vice president of Academic Affairs said. "You must be honest, fair, diligent, and dedicated. Our Honor Code demands the highest principles in being part of our scholarly community. As a symbol of you becoming a scholar at Saint Leo, the university's leadership is going to present to you a symbol of this new membership."

Classes begin at University Campus on Tuesday, August 20.

New Students By The Numbers

  • 50 percent are from Florida
  • 31 percent are from out of state
  • 19 percent are from international countries
  • 24 percent are first-generation students