Saint Leo University students attending University Campus began classes Tuesday after a day of advising and last-minute preparations on Monday.

Foot traffic on outdoor walkways and in the halls of the academic buildings perked up as the campus absorbed an incoming population of 1,000 freshman and transfers new to Saint Leo. The big group includes international students from 60 countries.

International students who wish to improve their English-language proficiency enroll in the university's Bridge Program, which helps students acquire the language skills needed for academic purposes and an introduction to American culture. This semester, 27 new students are enrolled the Bridge Program, in addition to two returning international students. 

Returning sophomores, juniors, and seniors also began classes Tuesday to continue their progress toward their undergraduate degrees.

Some new course options are being offered this semester to help undergraduates meet general education requirements, such as The Bible and Everyday Life, a humanities course that exposes students to some of the Bible's most famous stories and their enduring significance in contemporary culture. Often in sports, for example, a game may be described as "David slew Goliath." Students taking this elective will be able to make connections with the Bible and understand the significance of such statements in sports, politics, literature, and popular culture. There was so much student interest in the topic that a second class section had to be added.

Even bigger changes commence this year with the addition of four new academic majors. The added four-year degree programs are creating broader opportunities, not just for freshmen, but also returning students and incoming transfer students who have not yet settled on a major.

Technology and Health Fields

In the technology field, Saint Leo is adding software engineering (which can also be pursued online) as a new major taught by the computer information systems and science faculty. Courses required for the major cover areas including software architecture, design, development, and testing.

data scienceathematics and statistics, computer science and programming skills, and psychology. They will learn to explore very large information holdings and interpret findings to help employers in the business sector, government agencies, and scientific community. An introductory course in the major also began Tuesday.

"There is certainly tremendous job growth in the field," said Dr. Brian Camp, from the mathematics faculty, who designed the program. "We've had recent graduates from mathematics who have gone into data science. Now, this major makes the pathway more clearly defined."

Because there is so much interest in careers related to health care and patient advocacy, the College of Arts and Sciences designed another new major starting this year called medical humanities. This is an addition to the biology degree program, which interests some students who want to become doctors, dentists, and researchers. Medical humanities is offered in two tracks, and is a good fit for students who are interested not just in studying specific medical conditions, but also the way individuals, families, and societies react to illness, suffering, and the end of life.  Students who want to become doctors opt for the pre-medical track of medical humanities, where they will receive all the science courses required for medical school admission. But they will also delve into bio ethics, literature about medicine, social patterns, and other subjects that will help them relate to future patients as individuals.

Alternately, medical humanities majors can opt for a health and humanities track. This option includes less hard science because it is preparing students for opportunities in medical social work, psychology, occupational therapy, medical illustration, public health policy, nonprofit organizations devoted to patient advocacy, and more.

Arts and Cultural Opportunities

In the performing arts, students can elect to earn a bachelor's degree in theatre. Previously, Saint Leo allowed undergraduates to study theatre as a specialization in the English major. This new major delivers many more specialized courses, and required internships. Students will emerge with more preparation for creative arts careers, or for graduate study in theatre arts. Alternately, they can apply the confidence and artistic skills they acquire to other fields, such as event planning, sales, real estate, or education.

Meanwhile, this fall the student theatrical production will be a staging of The Contrast, a comedy of errors that all campus students can attend and enjoy. It was the first play written by an American to be produced professionally—in 1787—and is still considered relevant and humorous today. The performances in the Black Box Theatre on campus will take place during the last two weekends of October.