ST. LEO — A dream of playing college volleyball led Alison Schucht to the Internet, where she and her father researched potential Division II schools that might be a good fit.
That’s how the Long Island, N.Y., native discovered Saint Leo University. She and her father came for a visit.
“As soon as I saw the campus, I fell in love with it,” Schucht said.
As it turned out, Schucht didn’t play college volleyball, but that online search changed her life, she said, and she hasn’t looked back.
Schucht, a senior math major, is among about 2,100 undergraduate students who began fall classes this week at Saint Leo, a campus where a major construction campaign continues with site work underway on a four-story, 48,000-square-foot classroom building that is expected to be ready by fall 2015.
Those undergraduate students represent just a slice of Saint Leo’s student population. Numbers for graduate and weekend students are not yet available. Also, most Saint Leo students don’t take their classes at the main campus, but instead enroll online or at one of more than 40 teaching locations in seven states.
When those other locations are added, the university’s enrollment is about 16,400 students.
Over the summer, the fourth floor of the nearby Donald R. Tapia School of Business building was completed. That floor includes a computer laboratory for the university’s new master’s degree in cybersecurity.
Students in that program will learn to combat cybercriminals who breach security at businesses and government agencies.
“We had to buy more servers and special capacity for this,” said Jo-Ann Johnston, the university’s academic communications manager.
The first class for the cybersecurity program is Saturday.
Elsewhere in the business building, students in a sport facility and event-management class absorbed the course expectations outlined by Dené Williamson, assistant professor of sport business.
Williamson, in her third year at Saint Leo University, came to the college after working at the much larger University of Missouri. She said she much prefers the more intimate classroom setting that Saint Leo provides, where class size is capped at 28 students, and 25 or fewer is typical.
The university also provides professors with the support they need for academic success and research, said Williamson, who in November will travel to Australia, where she will be a presenter at a conference sponsored by the Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand.
“This place is amazing,” Williamson said. “They are so behind you in every capacity of your being successful.”
Outside, students strolled across campus, headed to class, lunch or other destinations, while in the background heavy equipment rumbled behind a fenced area where the classroom building will rise.
Some, like Schucht, are in their final undergraduate year and plotting their next steps.
She’s pondering earning a doctorate to teach math or entering a master’s program in engineering to become a mechanical or chemical engineer.
Either way, she is happy about that Internet search that led her to Saint Leo, although she did discover one drawback for a New York native coming to Florida.
“The heat gets to you,” Schucht said.
“I haven’t gotten used to it yet.”