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Mary Beth Erskine

Recent Posts

Earning A Saint Leo Degree Online In Nigeria

Posted by Mary Beth Erskine on May 29, 2014 7:57:00 AM

The challenges that face adult online learners are universal. Whether living in Nigeria or the United States, juggling work and family with educational goals requires sacrifice and time management.

Originally from Imo State in southern Nigeria, Chukwudi Achonwa has lived and worked across the Niger River in neighboring Delta State for more than 20 years. His home is in a city called Warri, which is not far from the Gulf of Guinea.

His entire life, Achonwa had never travelled outside of Nigeria.

That was until this May when the Saint Leo University online student – and now alumnus – boarded a plane and travelled for nearly 24 hours to arrive in Florida to attend commencement at University Campus.

Despite jet lag, Achonwa couldn’t get to campus quickly enough. Arriving several days early, he was eager to meet faculty and staff, to walk the grounds, and to see first-hand the university he had come to love.

“While in Nigeria, I always imaged how the school would be,” he said. “When I arrived at the campus, what I saw was beyond my imagination. I was so thrilled.”

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Topics: Academic Success

Cybersecurity Reality Check: 6 No-Brainer Tips

Posted by Mary Beth Erskine on May 27, 2014 8:19:00 AM

If you’re an online student, your computer is your lifeline to your coursework. So you must be vigilant to prevent it from being hacked.

If you’re enrolled in an online degree program edging closer each term to earning your college degree, then you might want to offer a nod of thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee.


For all of you trivia buffs, he’s the British computer scientist who created the World Wide Web, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of his invention. His brainchild made the Internet truly accessible and useful, changing the world, including how people teach and learn.

As a result, students such as you have the opportunity to earn your degree on your own time, from the comfort of your own home.

The Web is a powerful communications medium. But just as you snap on a seat belt in your car or on an airplane before taking a trip, you need to take precautions while traveling online to keep your computer protected.

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Topics: Academic Success

Highlights In History: The Many Names Of Saint Leo

Posted by Mary Beth Erskine on May 19, 2014 8:43:00 AM

The institution has changed its name frequently over the years.

This is the third in a series of feature stories, profiles, and anecdotes recounting the significance of important events in the history of Saint Leo University, which is currently commemorating the 125th anniversary of its founding in 1889.

By Kim Payne, University Communications


June 4 is the official founding date of Saint Leo College and Saint Leo Abbey. (Holy Name Academy is established on March 11.) Over the years, Saint Leo changes identities nearly a dozen times – from a college to a military college, to a preparatory academy, back to a college, and finally, a university.

Along the way, there have been numerous incarnations of these various institutions.

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Topics: Saint Leo News

Poetry Contest Celebrates Saint Leo’s 125th Anniversary

Posted by Mary Beth Erskine on May 15, 2014 7:49:00 AM

What about Saint Leo University’s rich history impresses you – touches your heart or inspires you? Share your thoughts and feelings through poetry. Participate in Saint Leo University’s  anniversary poetry contest.

American poet James Tate said, “Poetry is everywhere. It just needs editing.”

If that’s true, then a profusion of poetry can be found in Saint Leo University’s 125-year history – and English instructor Gianna Russo, a poet herself, is looking for members of the university community who would like to do some “editing.”

To help commemorate Saint Leo’s quasquicentennial, the university is conducting a poetry contest, and all members of the Saint Leo community – students, faculty, staff and alumni – are invited to create and submit a poem that embodies the spirit of Saint Leo.

Sponsored by the Department of English, Fine Arts and Humanities, Sandhill Review, Lightning Key Review, and The Sandhill Writers Retreat, the contest welcomes a broad range of reflections, experiences and memories in all poetic forms.

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Topics: Saint Leo News

Mother And Daughter (Plus One) Share Graduation Stage

Posted by Mary Beth Erskine on May 8, 2014 7:49:00 AM

Online degree experience at Saint Leo spans generations and underscores commitment to lifelong learning.

Lorene Mervis, 73, always knew she wanted to go to college. But there were things she had to take care of first – like raising 11 children, with 24 years between them, and setting them on a path toward higher education.

It’s no wonder Mervis didn’t take her first college class until she was well past the age most people retire. And while her age presented some unique challenges, it also brought an unexpected opportunity: the chance to earn a college degree at the same time her daughter, Danielle Bunin, was earning hers.

On May 2, Mervis and Bunin received their diplomas – Mervis, a bachelor’s in sociology, and Bunin, a bachelor’s in psychology – at Saint Leo University’s Center for Online Learning 2014 Commencement Exercise.

“I’m so proud of her; it’s not very often you get to graduate with your mom,” says Bunin, who at the graduation ceremony was just days away from becoming a mom herself. “It’s such an accomplishment; she had no preparation and managed to pull a 3.85.”

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Topics: Academic Success

Enemy Fire, Connectivity Challenges Don’t Deter Grad

Posted by Mary Beth Erskine on May 6, 2014 8:15:00 AM

Counter intelligence specialist Olan Tiangco completes online criminal justice degree while working in Afghanistan amid dangerous and harsh conditions.

Earning a degree is never easy. But for Saint Leo University commencement speaker Olan Tiangco, 45, the road to graduation was paved with formidable challenges.

Enemy gunfire. Spotty Internet connections. Brutal weather. 18-hour shifts.

Tiangco, a 24-year Army veteran, was just beginning the transition to civilian life and getting started with his online criminal justice degree program at Saint Leo University in 2013 when he accepted a position in Afghanistan as a counter intelligence screener with a national security and defense company. Determined not to let the challenges of his assignment get in the way of his education, Tiangco pressed on.

“None of it was easy. Not one moment,” says the criminal justice major who was selected to speak at the 2014 Center for Online Learning commencement ceremony at University Campus.

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Topics: Academic Success

Grads Share Secret To Success In Online Degree Programs

Posted by Mary Beth Erskine on Apr 29, 2014 8:13:00 AM

For online students, earning a degree has meant balancing family and work responsibilities with educational goals -- and becoming time management experts.

Gromyko Scott is a stay-at-home mom who pushed herself to overcome the fear that she would not be a successful student so that she could model the importance of education for her three children. She is graduating with a degree in sociology and a near perfect 4.0 GPA.

As a software sales consultant, Rusty Halm spends a lot time on the road, and when he is at home, he is busy with his 10 children. He is graduating with a business-management degree and as a member of the National Honor Society.

A single mom, Jeannette Holmes postponed college for 20 years to take care of her family. She has now earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has been accepted into Saint Leo’s rigorous and highly competitive M.S.W. program.

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Topics: Academic Success

Highlights In History: When Did The Benedictine Sisters Arrive?

Posted by Mary Beth Erskine on Apr 16, 2014 8:10:00 AM

The Benedictine Sisters of Holy Name Convent establish Holy Name Academy.

This is the second in a series of feature stories, profiles, and anecdotes recounting the significance of important events in the history of Saint Leo University, which is currently commemorating the 125th anniversary of its founding in 1889.

By Kim Payne, University Communications

The year 1889 was a milestone in the history of our institution as it was officially chartered. Holy Name Convent and Academy evolved to what is now Saint Leo University.

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Topics: Saint Leo News

Saint Leo Celebrates 125th Anniversary

Posted by Mary Beth Erskine on Apr 10, 2014 7:31:00 AM

As Saint Leo marks its quasquicentennial, online students take pride in the university's time-honored reputation and traditions.

In 1889, the Eiffel Tower, the world’s tallest man-made structure, opened to the public.

The Oklahoma land rush started.

Bayer introduced powdered aspirin, and the first jukebox debuted.

The Wall Street Journal began publication.

Four states joined the United States of America, bringing the total number of states to 42.

And what is now Saint Leo University – Saint Leo College, the first Catholic college in Florida – was founded.

One-hundred and twenty-five years later, the Saint Leo University community includes more than 74,000 alumni in 72 countries, 50 states, 3 territories, and Washington D.C. The university’s 16,000 students study at University Campus and more than 40 teaching locations in seven states.

Around the world, online students are enrolled in more than 50 online degree programs and graduate certificate programs.

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Topics: Saint Leo News

Vet Credits Online Degree Program With Saving His Life

Posted by Mary Beth Erskine on Apr 8, 2014 8:23:00 AM

John Sinclair is grateful to Saint Leo University faculty and advisors for providing strength, encouragement and warmth during a difficult time.

Teachers will tell you it isn’t unusual for a student to leave a lasting impression. But what about a student they’ve never met?

A student like John Sinclair.

Dr. Tammy Zacchilli, associate professor of psychology at Saint Leo University, first encountered Sinclair in 2011, when he enrolled as an online student in her social psychology course.

“He was a great student and worked very hard in the class,” she recalls. “His discussions each week were insightful. He found ways to get his work completed and rarely asked for extra time.”

Not exactly the evaluation you’d expect to describe a student living out of his car, struggling each day to pay for food, gas and the cell phone that allowed him to connect to his classes online.

But then again, John Sinclair isn’t your average student.

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Topics: Academic Success, Military

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