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Saint Leo University Names New VP of Community Engagement and Innovation

By Meaghan Goepferich Posted on October 1, 2021

              Dr. Mark Gesner to Build Partnerships, Create New Initiatives si

Saint Leo University Names New VP of Community Engagement and Innovation

Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese, president of Saint Leo University, recently announced the appointment of Dr. Mark Gesner as vice president of Community Engagement and Innovation. He will serve as a member of the university’s senior leadership team.

Particularly focused in the areas of community impact, social entrepreneurism, and professional development, Gesner will be responsible for advancing community engagement at Saint Leo University, building community partnerships, creating new initiatives, and serving on various internal and external boards and committees.

Gesner comes to Saint Leo having served as the executive director of the Hub for Innovation and Community Engaged Learning at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, where he led the creation and implementation of programs focused on community development, entrepreneurship, leadership, and experiential education. He was the co-founder and director of a social enterprise accelerator for nonprofit leaders, the campus lead for a statewide television show, Project Pitch It, featuring Wisconsin entrepreneurs, and the host of the Mission Driven Leaders Speaker Series.

Prior to this position, Gesner was the associate vice president for academic affairs and faculty chair of Community Engaged Learning and Leadership in the College of Business and Management at Cardinal Stritch. He also has held leadership positions at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside and Hostelling International – USA, an organization dedicated to educational travel and cross-cultural exchange.

“Mark is a proven leader whose commitment to building community connections and business partnerships will enhance not only Saint Leo University, but also will benefit the Tampa area and everywhere Saint Leo teaches,” Senese said. “His leadership skills in experiential education and business innovation will be of great value as we move boldly and confidently into an even more successful future at Saint Leo University.”

Gesner has received various awards for his work, including the Milwaukee BizTimes Media Nonprofit Excellence Award for Social Enterprise and the Campus Compact Civic Engagement Practitioners Award. He recently co-authored his first book, Your Life is Your Message: Discovering the Core of Transformational Leadership (SAGE Publishing). Gesner has taught and designed courses and seminars regarding intercultural competence, leadership, entrepreneurship, and organizational development.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and journalism 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.

“I look forward to building relationships and collaborating with the many businesses and organizations in the Tampa area and beyond,” Gesner said. “I hope to explore emerging opportunities and discover powerful ways for Saint Leo University to be a catalyst and partner in yielding positive social and economic impact.”

Businesses looking to partner with Saint Leo University may contact Gesner at [email protected].

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering 57 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 18,200 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 16 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 98,000 alumni. Learn more at


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