Saint Leo University welcomed its largest number of new students for the Fall 2021 Semester today (Saturday, August 28) as students moved into their residence halls at the Pasco County campus.

This year, more than 1,100 new campus students are joining the Saint Leo community, a number that surpasses the size of the Fall 2019 and Fall 2020 classes, previously the largest and second-largest in the institution's 132-year history.

And there will be a lot of international flavor this year, as Saint Leo welcomes its largest international class with new students from 50 countries.

Global studies major Angelica Molina, a sophomore, said she really is looking forward to the influx of students from so many countries. "I love seeing people from everywhere," she said. "I love learning about their cultures."

About the New Saint Leo Lions

Notable characteristics of the incoming Fall 2021 Semester students include:

  • 59 percent are from Florida;
  • 16 percent are from out of state; and,
  • 25 percent are from 50 international countries.

Saint Leo University President Jeffrey Senese said that close to 2,500 students will be on campus this fall. Those students along with those studying online and those attending at the university's 16 education centers, makes Saint Leo one of the largest universities in the United States.

Senese, as well as the incoming and returning students, voiced happiness at being able to interact more this year, attending classes in person, and participating in athletics and other activities. Masks are being required inside buildings and there are no inside gatherings of more than 50 people. 

"This is a great day and it's such a culmination of a huge effort by the entire university," said Maribeth Stevens, assistant vice president of University Campus & Center. She attributed the growth in the amount of incoming students to all the great things that the university has to offer, from new degree programs and small class sizes to new scholarships and financial aid programs.


New students arriving on August 28 checked in at the university's parking garage to receive their welcome packages and keys to their rooms. They proceeded to their residence halls where they were greeted by fully vaccinated volunteers, resident assistants, and orientation leaders, who shuttled their luggage, dorm life necessities, and even a few favorite stuffed animals, to their new home-away-from-home.

"I'm excited for new experiences, beginning my education and working toward my goals," said Katelyn Guilamo, a freshman, who will major in early childhood education. She chose Saint Leo University because, "I like the environment and the smaller classes. You get more one-on-one attention." 

As for her parents, dad Harold Guilamo said of his first child to go to college, "I give her everything in my hands, and I will help you," he said to her with tears in his eyes.

Mom Gloria Guilamo said she was feeling a little anxious about Katelyn moving away. "But she's got the wings, and I'm letting her fly," Gloria Guilamo said. "This is for her education and for her future."

Academic endeavors

As for classes, those begin Tuesday, August 31. Saint Leo recently launched a new college and school and will introduce several new degree programs throughout 2021-2022.

The new College of Health Professions now will offer three degree programs, including the new Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. In Spring 2022, the college will offer the new online Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy (BSRT) for those employed as respiratory therapists, who already have an associate degree.

Saint Leo recently introduced its new School of Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Science (CARDS), which is recruiting students for the new Bachelor of Science in robotics and artificial intelligence. The new degree program will be offered in Fall Semester 2022.

The university also established the nation's first Bachelor of Arts in veteran studies, which will begin in Fall Semester 2021 at University Campus. The degree also will be offered online in the future.

Week of Welcome

Many activities are planned as classes begin for Fall Semester 2021 at University Campus on Tuesday, August 31. Kicking off the new academic year, students will find an information tent to assist newcomers, and breakfast bags will be available for commuter students. Everyone can enjoy the music of Lucas Nocera, music minister for University Ministry, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Benedict's Coffeehouse, and Career Services will host a virtual Leo Great Challenge to help get students career ready.

The first day of classes will be capped off by "Aloha, Leo," which is sponsored by the Campus Activities Board (CAB). Dr. Cynthia Selph, assistant professor of music, will be joined by the Chamber Singers and music faculty to present some tunes at 5:30 p.m. at the Lakeside Patio of the Student Community Center. The GoldRush Dancers will perform, and there will be a special performance—including fire dancers—by Polynesian dancers.

On Thursday, September 2, the community will celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Saint Leo Abbey Church. In-person attendance will be limited to 50 percent of the church's capacity and the community may join the Mass virtually via the Saint Leo Abbey's Facebook page. During this Mass, students, faculty, and staff will ask for the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the academic year and for the university's activities.