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President's Cabinet

Jeffrey D. Senese, Ph.D.

Twitter: @SaintLeoPres
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Dr. Jeffrey Senese joined Saint Leo University in January 2018. Dr. Senese comes to Saint Leo University from Cardinal Stritch University, where he was provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. He has held similar academic positions throughout his career over the past 28 years, including the following: vice provost, vice president of Academic Affairs, and professor at Johnson and Wales University (Providence, RI); vice president of Academic Affairs, dean of faculty, and professor at Philadelphia University (PA); vice president of Academic Affairs and professor at Mount Ida College (Newton Centre, MA); chief academic officer and director of academic affairs at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. Dr. Senese earned a BS in the Administration of Justice from the Pennsylvania State University; an MA in criminology from Indiana State University; and a PhD in multidisciplinary social sciences from the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University.

Melanie Storms, Psy.D.

Senior Vice President

Dr. Storms joined Saint Leo University in 2016.  Most recently, she served as vice president for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Health Sciences at Walden University.  Prior to that she held a variety of roles within academia including campus president, vice-president of academic affairs, dean, and program chair.  She also served in a variety of administrative and clinical service provision roles earlier in her professional career as a licensed clinical psychologist.  Dr. Storms earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Central Florida, and both her master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the Florida Institute of Technology. 

John Nisbet

Vice President of Business Affairs/CFO

John Nisbet joined Saint Leo University in July 2018.  Prior to joining Saint Leo, John served as Vice President of Finance and CFO for Creighton University.  John held several other leadership roles in finance and administration at Ohio State University; the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida; OhioHealth, a faith-based system of hospitals and health care providers in central Ohio; and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.  John earned his M.B.A. with a specialization in corporate finance from The Ohio State University, an MS degree in molecular and cellular physiology from the University of Cincinnati, and a BS degree in zoology from The Ohio State University.

Mary T. Spoto, Ph.D.

Vice President of Academic Affairs 

Dr. Spoto joined Saint Leo in March 1989.  Dr. Spoto is a professor of English and has served in several roles during her 30-year history with Saint Leo.  Before her appointment as vice president, she served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the chair of the Department of Language Studies and the Arts.  Dr. Spoto expanded the fine arts programs at the university and led the development of the university’s general education program, University Explorations, and new academic programs such as the Bridge Program for second-language learners and the master’s programs in creative writing and psychology.  She earned her Master of Arts and doctoral degrees in English from the University of South Florida.

Mark Gesner, Ph.D.

Vice President of Community Engagement & Innovation

Dr. Gesner joined Saint Leo in August 2021. He most recently served at Cardinal Stritch University where he was the executive director of the Hub for Innovation and Community Engaged Learning, the associate vice president for academic affairs, and the faculty chair of Community Engaged Learning and Leadership. Previously, Dr. Gesner held leadership positions at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside and Hostelling International – USA, an organization dedicated to educational travel and cross-cultural exchange. His teaching and research interests include social enterprise, leadership, and intercultural competence. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from the State University of New York at Albany, a master’s degree in education from Harvard University, and a doctoral degree in leadership for the advancement of learning and service in higher education from Cardinal Stritch University.

Senthil Kumar, D.B.A.

Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management

Dr. Senthil Kumar joined Saint Leo University in April 2018. Dr. Kumar is a recognized global leader in higher education with over 18 years of strength and a proven track record in all facets of strategic enrollment management and comprehensive internationalization planning. In his role, Dr. Kumar is responsible for the full oversight of the Division of University Enrollment Management, which consists of University Campus and WorldWide Enrollment, which includes the university’s 32 education centers, online, and graduate programs. Prior to this position at Saint Leo, Dr. Kumar served as vice president of enrollment management and dean of international programs at Bay State College (MA) and dean of enrollment management and director of institutional advancement at The National Graduate School (MA), a division of the New England College of Business. He held several positions in university admissions, including as director of international relations at Johnson & Wales University (RI), and he began his enrollment management career at his alma mater, Oklahoma City University (OK). Dr. Kumar earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business and a Master of Business Administration degree finance from the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University and a Doctor of Business Administration in quality systems management with a specialization in health systems from The National Graduate School of Quality Management.

Fran Reidy

Vice President & Director of Athletics

Reidy joined Saint Leo University in 1988 serving in the role of head soccer coach. He was a teacher of special education in Tampa for 10 years prior to joining Saint Leo full-time in 1992. During his tenure at Saint Leo he has held the role of soccer coach, sports information director, assistant athletic director and associate athletic director. He was named the athletic director in March 1999.  He earned a B.S. degree in elementary education and special education from Fitchburg State University and his M.B.A. from Saint Leo University.

Jen Shaw, Ph.D.

Vice President of Student Affairs 

Dr. Shaw joined Saint Leo University in 2019. Jen has worked in Student Affairs for more than 25 years including as a Senior Fellow for NASPA, the Associate Vice President/Dean of Students at the University of Florida (UF), Dean of Student Relations at the University of South Florida, and the Dean of Students and Coordinator for Academic Integrity at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). Dr. Shaw held Associate Professor rank at UF and UNCG and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses throughout her career. A nationally recognized crisis management expert, she has won numerous awards and has published and presented widely regarding crisis management in higher education. Jen’s Ph.D. degree is from Florida State University.

Staci Rhodes Shelley

General Counsel

Staci comes to Saint Leo University from Walden University where she led Walden’s Legal team supporting academic faculty and staff serving over 52,000 students and offering more than 100 undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs. Prior to that, Staci served in senior legal roles supporting both campus-based and online higher education institutions and hospital systems.

Staci graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Communications from North Carolina State University and with a J.D. from The Catholic University of America, serving as Associate Editor of the Law Review.

Carla Willis

Vice President of University Advancement & Communications

Carla Willis joined Saint Leo University in 2019 with more than 25 years of experience as an advancement thought leader. Most recently, she served as the vice chancellor for University Advancement and executive director of the Foundation at the University of North Carolina- Asheville. Carla has served in advancement leadership roles at Kean University, The Ohio State University, Florida A&M University, the University of Toledo and the University of Michigan. A long serving member of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Carla is a graduate of the University of Toledo with a Bachelor of Arts degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Abigail Appleton

Special Assistant to the President

Abigail Appleton joined Saint Leo University in July 2020. As Special Assistant to the President, she supports the President by managing presidential initiatives and projects, and assisting with the strategic planning process. Appleton most recently served as Executive Assistant at the U.S. Grains Council and before that was Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Prior to these roles, Appleton was an Instruction and Reference Librarian at the American University in Cairo. Appleton has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Political Science from Valparaiso University, a Masters in Library Science from Indiana University, and a Master of Arts degree in Political Science from the American University in Cairo.

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