Saint Leo University not only teaches traditional undergraduates at its University Campus, but the institution also proudly teaches in communities throughout Florida and six other states. One of its locations in the central part of the Sunshine State is the Ocala Education Center.
We recently caught up with the center’s director, Rena Thomas, to get an inside glimpse of the Ocala location, which offers a variety of high-quality degree programs.
Q: Where is Saint Leo’s Ocala Education Center located?
A: The Center is located in Ocala at 1930 S.W. 38th Ave. in the Meadowbrook Office One complex at the intersection of Southwest 20th St. and Southwest 38th Ave.
Q: What is the size of the Ocala Education Center?
A: Saint Leo’s Ocala location consists of 9,172 square feet on the first floor of the building. The center features 10 classrooms that include the latest technology, such as eBeam interactive boards. We have a computer lab, student lounges, and there is ample parking with plenty of available spaces for current students attending classes at the center and prospective students interested in enrolling at the center.
Q: What is the history of Saint Leo University in the Ocala, FL area?
A: We’ve had a presence in this area since 1994. We first had a center on the College of Central Florida campus. Our current location opened in the fall of 2016.
Q: What are some of the most popular programs offered at the Ocala location?
A: Some of the most popular programs offered by the Saint Leo University Ocala Education Center include human services and both elementary and middle grades education. The Ocala Education Center works closely with many human services-related agencies and the surrounding school districts, and many students are hired for full-time positions following completion of their field placement/internships.
Q: Which academic programs are offered at the center?
A: We currently offer the following programs:
Associate of Arts (AA)
- Business Administration
- Criminal Justice
- Liberal Arts
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
- Criminal Justice
- Human Services
- Elementary Education, K-6
- Business Administration, Logistics
- Business Administration, Management
- Business Administration, Marketing
- Middle Grades Education, English
- Middle Grades Education, Social Science
- Psychology, General
- Psychology, Clinical/Counseling
- Psychology, Developmental
Bachelor of Science (BS)
- Computer Information Systems
Master of Education (Med)
- Education, Educational Leadership
Master of Science (MS)
- Human Services Administration
Q: What new programs are you offering?
A: We are excited about the recent launch of the Paraprofessional-to-Professional program with the Citrus County School District. The PTP program is a collaboration between the school district and Saint Leo to support paraprofessionals in becoming credentialed, highly effective teachers in the school district areas of elementary and middle grades education. This initiative will help school districts staff the numerous teacher/faculty vacancies with exemplary teachers who understand the culture, strengths, and challenges and needs of students in the various school districts.
Q: When are classes offered at the Ocala Education Center?
A: Most of our weekday classes (Monday through Friday) start in the evening at 5:30 p.m., but we also offer daytime and Saturday classes.
Q: What are the class sizes like?
A: Our classes typically have between 10 and 15 students. This gives all of our students a wonderful learning environment so they can easily connect with their instructors and classmates without being overwhelmed by huge lecture halls like you will find at other universities.
Q: What are the students like at the center?
A: While the average Saint Leo Ocala student is in his or her 30s, since the center is now offering dual enrollment courses and Associate of Arts degrees, we are seeing a slight increase in younger students. But for the most part, our student population consists of students who’ve been working for a number of years and are going back to school to either advance in their current careers or change careers.
Q: What are the faculty like?
A: We have about 25 adjunct faculty members who primarily work during the day in their respective fields and teach in the evening at our center. This gives students support from highly skilled instructors who have lots of real-world experience to share.
Aside from our great instructors, our team consists of myself, a staff assistant, three student advisors and one full-time faculty member who oversees our education programs.
Q: What are some other features of the center?
A: In the spirit of giving back to the community, local nonprofits can use our facilities to host large community meetings, free of charge.
Q: What kinds of events is the center involved in throughout the year?
A: Saint Leo’s Ocala Education Center is committed to the university’s core value of community. Every spring, we participate in the mayor’s annual cleanup where our staff members volunteer around town.
On National Make a Difference Day, as part of Saint Leo Serves, we worked with students at the PACE Center for Girls - Marion, which offers academic and social services for middle and high school-aged girls. The volunteers spent time with the girls and helped decorate cookies.
We also conduct holiday donation drives for local charities.
Q: What would you say makes the Ocala Education Center unique compared to other colleges and universities?
A: We offer the ability for students to attend a nationally accredited, private university right in their neighborhood. They receive a high-quality education, more personalized attention, and instruction from those working in their respective fields. For instance, we have instructors who work in the local school system teaching our education courses, and we have sergeants in local police departments teaching criminal justice courses.
Plus, we offer lots of flexibility. You can take classes at our center, only online, or do a hybrid of center-based and online courses. It all just depends on a student’s schedule, lifestyle, and what they’re looking for in higher education.
Q: How can prospective students learn more about the Ocala Education Center?
A: You can call our center at 352-671-3391 or email Ocala@saintleo.edu.