Chef Jenn Named National 2020 Chef Educator of the Year

Friday, August 7, 2020

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, President, Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campuses

Jennifer Denlinger, professor, culinary management, continues to receive accolades in her field, as she was recently awarded a 2020 National Chef Educator of the Year Award by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).

Her win comes on the heels of an award she was given in May 2020, when she was granted the 2020 Southeast Region American Culinary Federation Chef Educator of the Year recognition, which qualified her for the national competition.

Chef Jenn, as she is known in the Valencia community, said she was “thrilled” to have received the award not only for herself but for the College as a whole.

“Valencia is emerging in Central Florida as a culinary education leader, and this will bring us more recognition and, hopefully, more enrollment,” she said. “Students can see that I care enough about how they learn and the succession to hone my craft to deliver the best education there is.”

Three chefs participated in the national competition, which required Jenn to conduct a 45-minute live cooking demo via Zoom and to answer questions from her audience, all while demonstrating the practice of peer review; something she would have expected her students to engage in in a real class.

For the competition, she prepared chicken chasseur, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots oblique cut and broccoli beurre noisette. She also included a lesson plan from Quantity Food Production 1 (FSS 1203C), which taught students “how to taste” and included an exploratory tasting lab activity. The lesson was included in a binder including information about the College, the program, the class, the lesson, evaluation techniques and overall activities, and then mailed to the judges.

Three judges — all of whom are chef educators in different culinary education arenas — evaluated her work, as well as three community college culinary art students.

“Understanding how students learn the best and how they can be successful when they enter the industry is super important. It’s a fine art,” said Chef Jenn, adding that many of her students are non-traditional and need flexible instructors who accommodate several learning styles as students maneuver the academic rigors of the program as well as its hands-on components.

“All the effort and work that has been put into culinary education can only be exemplified,” Chef Jenn shared. “I believe that not every student learns the same, and therefore it is the job of the educator to help the students who are beginning their educational journey to learn the best.”

Jennifer Robertson, executive dean, Poinciana Campus, said she is “extremely proud” of all of Chef Jenn’s accomplishments, adding that she has done “amazing work as a chef, a chef educator and as an academic leader of her discipline” since starting at Valencia in 2017 as instructor and culinary management program chair of the Poinciana Campus.

“Chef Jenn, as we all call her, has an amazing ability to combine her love for cooking with educating our future chefs of America using creative and fun techniques that keep students engaged and inspired,” said Jennifer.

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) was established in 1929 in New York City and is the largest professional chefs’ organization in North America. Now based in St. Augustine, it comprises more than 17,500 members in over 150 chapters across the United States, and is known as an authority on cooking in America. Its mission is to make a positive difference through education, apprenticeship and certification, while creating a fraternal bond of respect and integrity among culinarians.

Celebrating Victor Rivera Rodríguez

Friday, August 7, 2020

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, President, Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campuses

Victor Rivera Rodríguez is a familiar face at the Osceola and Lake Nona Campuses. He started as a part-time maintenance technician at the Osceola Campus in January 2016 and transitioned to a full-time role in March 2016. In 2018, he was promoted to the role of A/C Technician, and in 2019 began doing the majority of his work at the Lake Nona Campus.

Victor receiving the Romper Barreras Award at the Osceola Campus Awards Ceremony in 2018. 

What you might not know is that in addition to working as an employee at Valencia, Victor has also been pursuing his degree from Valencia. In fact, after moving to Kissimmee from Comerío, Puerto Rico, Victor started as a student in August 2012. He started in Level III of English for Academic Purposes (EAP), and given that he was at first required to pay out-of-state tuition rates, Victor started as a part-time student.

I first met Victor in fall 2013. While he had lived in Kissimmee for a year, he ran into some difficulties with residency for tuition purposes. I was able to connect Victor with Belen Caba, assistant director of admissions and records, who was able to help Victor with the residency process. With his residency set, Victor was able to enroll on a full-time basis and complete the EAP sequence. During this time, Victor also worked as a student employee in the Osceola Campus library. He credits Marcie Rhoads, library specialist, and Sarah Dockray, librarian, for encouraging him to answer the phone and talk with students, even though he felt nervous about his fluency in English.

I met with Victor again in 2014 as he was about to complete the EAP sequence. He asked me about Valencia’s cardiovascular technology program and how long it would take him to complete it. I clearly remember how disappointed he was when I shared how many more courses he would have to take to earn his Associate in Science degree, and he explained that he needed to complete a program quickly so that he could start a career. I walked with Victor down to our Career Center and connected him with Eva Alipieva, who served as career advisor at the Osceola Campus for several years.

After meeting with Eva, he decided that a career as an HVAC technician would be a perfect fit. He was excited about a career that would allow him to work with his hands, to earn an industry certification in a shorter period of time, and still allow him to make progress toward a college degree. He enrolled in the HVAC Technician program at Osceola Technical College (OTech).

Victor also continued taking classes at Valencia, and he credits Claudia Zequeira, who was then serving as career program advisor, with helping him select the classes he needed to complement the 24 credit hours he would earn for completing his HVAC certification through our articulation agreement with OTech.

Victor received his A.S. degree in Supervision and Management this spring. While he’s taking a brief break from classes, he plans to continue his studies to earn a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business and Organizational Leadership.

When Victor reflected on his journey to earn his A.S. degree, he shared, “I didn’t need it to be easy. I just needed a chance.” Victor’s story is such a powerful reminder of how Valencia creates opportunities for our students. My sincere thanks to everyone who worked to give Victor the “chance” he was seeking. And my sincere congratulations to Victor for your hard work, determination, and perseverance. ¡Felicidades, Victor! Lo lograste y estamos muy orgullosos de ti.


Maguire Endowed Chair in Mathematics Rewards Part-time Math Faculty

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

This year, the Maguire Endowed Chair in Mathematics was used to reward part-time mathematics faculty in the East Region. To qualify, faculty were required to submit a professional teaching portfolio to be judged by a panel of tenured faculty, including one faculty member from each campus.

All portfolios submitted by faculty included a professional teaching philosophy, a description of their best teaching practice (one classroom technique of which they were especially proud), a reflection on their student feedback of instruction and a description of a need in their teaching or classroom practice with a plan on how to address that need.

Awards were given in each category and then the overall portfolio awards (best, second, third and fourth) were based on overall rankings (cumulative totals) of the categories listed above.

The portfolio winners are:

  • Best Portfolio – Eve Gassman (East Campus)
  • Second Place – Chelsea Myers (Winter Park Campus)
  • Third Place – Huy Nguyen (East Campus)
  • Fourth Place – Liudmila Kashirskaya (East Campus)

Winners of specific categories include:

  • Best Teaching Philosophy – Eve Gassman and Chelsea Myers
  • Best Teaching Practice – Eve Gassman
  • Best Student Evaluation Reflection – Eve Gassman
  • Best Description of a Need in the Teaching Practice – Eve Gassman

Professor of Mathematics Sidra Van De Car facilitated the Endowed Chair and said, “I was overwhelmed with the care and dedication displayed by our part-time faculty. Not only did these outstanding professors engage in over 20 hours of professional development to help them craft amazing teaching portfolios, they described experiences inside their classrooms that show they are truly devoted to creating the best experience they can for their students. I feel honored to have colleagues so devoted to life-long learning and inclusive teaching practices. The effort these professors put into their teaching practice clearly illustrates why Valencia is the best place for students to start.”


Valencia Jazz Students Win Scholarships

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

The Central Florida Jazz Society held its 38th annual jazz scholarship contest on Saturday, July 11, 2020, via Zoom. The competition, for amateur jazz musicians who are high school seniors or students in their first three years of college, required students to submit two jazz recordings and a letter of recommendation.

Ten finalists were selected and performed via Zoom with an accompaniment track. Five scholarship winners were chosen, and out of these winners, four of them attended or attend Valencia College:

  • First Place ($2500) – Steven Grant Jr. [saxophone] attends the University of Central Florida
  • Second Place ($2000) – Hannah Stokes [voice] attends Rollins College
  • Fourth Place ($1000) – Justin Chisholm [trombone] is a current Valencia student
  • Fifth Place ($1000) – Marcos Gonzalez [trombone] attends the University of North Florida

“I am so proud of the professionalism in these students,” said Michelle Mailhot, part-time faculty, music. “They had to improvise and adjust their performance to meet the new demands of performing on Zoom. They rose to the occasion and exceeded all our expectations.”

Student Development Team Launches Virtual Engagement Platforms

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

Over the summer, Student Development researched application platforms to provide continuous engagement opportunities for all students through programs and activities on social media. Beginning in the fall, Student Development will use Discord, a platform where users can communicate over voice, video and text, available via a desktop or phone application. This application will be used as a virtual “front desk” where student leaders from all campuses will be available to assist and communicate by answering Valencia-related questions throughout the day. Students can create an account by entering their Atlas email.

In addition, Engage, a platform Student Development has used over the past two academic years, allows registered student organizations and departments to share engagement opportunities and information. For students to access Engage, they should visit the “My Atlas” tab where they will find a red “Get involved” button under the “Engage” window on the right side of the screen. Once the button is clicked, students will be redirected to Engage where they can sign in using their Atlas credentials to begin exploring.

Both platforms offer students the ability to learn about different engagement opportunities that are available from different areas of the College.

Student Development is also embracing more opportunities for remote engagement this fall and is excited to announce the launch of “FallOh Your Path.” With the goal to increase the physical activity levels of Valencia faculty, staff and students, “FallOh Your Path” is a fun initiative to encourage health and fitness through movement. Registration for this challenge will launch in Engage in late August 2020 and will encourage participants to become creative in their exercise routine.

To support “FallOh Your Path,” Student Development’s UFit program will lead a pre-challenge “warm-up” with virtual wellness tips, workouts and ideas. Once the challenge begins on Sunday, September 13, 2020, participants will earn one point for every minute of exercise, with the goal of earning 150 points per week. The challenge will run through Saturday, October 10, 2020, and student participants earning between 200-600 points will receive Valencia swag that will be shipped directly to them. Throughout the challenge, UFit will continue to share different workouts and wellness tips to keep everyone moving in new ways while focusing on wellness.

Interested faculty, staff and students are encouraged to contact Student Development Program Specialist Julie Wehmeyer at for questions regarding this challenge.

Title V Grant Wrap-Up

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

In October 2015, Valencia College’s East Campus was awarded a $2.6 million dollar grant under the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program by the United States Department of Education. Valencia’s aspiration for the grant was to create a collaborative infrastructure to better support student success toward graduation and to better prepare students to transfer to the University of Central Florida (UCF) or any other university of their choosing.

Over the past five years, the Title V Grant team has worked toward:

  • Creating a new discipline-based advising model for faculty to mentor students in direct partnership with advisors to support transfer and career-readiness;
  • Developing faculty mentorship, which provides co-curricular activities with discipline-specific advisors;
  • Fostering collaboration between discipline-specific advisors who are specialists in the field, teaching faculty and Learning Support staff;
  • Establishing new guided pathways for students with aspirations to major in business, education, art or psychology at UCF and for students entering Valencia’s newly created Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.S) in business and organizational leadership;
  • Fostering our Continuous Assessment Response Engagement (CARE) initiative, which has blossomed from a course into a thriving program within Learning Support and builds bridges to other divisions to foster a wide range of assistance, especially in our new distance learning efforts; and
  • Building bridges between Valencia and UCF, participating in events such as the annual Florida Summit on Accelerating Transfer Success.

Title V has continued to work behind the scenes to aid valuable student support services while navigating the changing landscape during the global pandemic. This includes collaboration with deans to utilize the EAB Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) tool in outreach efforts as a way of helping students to feel connected during this challenging time.

One of the greatest successes is the piloting of the EAB CRM advising software to facilitate targeted communication with students and track student engagement and student behaviors in order to conduct appropriate early-alert interventions.

The data received indicates that over the course of the grant, 12,557 unique students have been involved with the Title V Grant and have attended events associated with Title V initiatives through summer 2020.

Additionally, the experience of the pilot was used to inform the final selection of TargetX, the new collegewide CRM. This new software has a planned implementation timeline beginning in fall 2020.

As the grant concludes in September 2020, former Title V Project Director Jennifer Danilowski remarked, “I would like to express my feelings of gratitude to have worked with such an amazing team, especially now during this unprecedented crisis. It was an incredible journey, and I am looking forward to how these initiatives will be institutionalized for our students’ continued success.”

Dean Carin Gordon Retires; Dave Brunick Will Act as Interim Dean

Thursday, August 4, 2020

Carin Gordon Retires and Reflects on Her Years at Valencia College

Carin Gordon, dean of business, information technology and public services, is closing a chapter in her career, as she is announcing her retirement from Valencia College. Her last day will be Tuesday, August 18, 2020, and a Zoom retirement party has been planned for her on:

Date: Monday, August, 17, 2020
Time: 2 p.m.
Location: Zoom

Carin began her career at Valencia in 2003 as program chair and professor for the Paralegal Studies program. She became dean of business, information technology and public services (BITPS) at East Campus in August 2011; the first year as interim dean.

Of the past 17 years, Carin said interacting with her students has been the most gratifying.

“The students — they are motivated and committed and energizing,” she said. “Being able to be one small piece of helping students get to the next step in their lives is incredible — particularly being on the A.S. (Associate in Science) side of the house where we help students start a career.”

But also meaningful, has been working with her colleagues; the faculty and staff “who all have the same vision — to help make a difference for students.” She has also valued the support she has received from the College “to do our jobs and do the right thing.”

And she reciprocated this as well.

“I had the pleasure of working first with Carin as a fellow dean, shared Wendy Givoglu, interim president, East and Winter Park Campuses. “I quickly memorized her office extension x2556, as not only would she always pick up the phone or quickly return my call when she was available, she always had a thoughtful answer to my question or sage advice to lend. And, we could always share a laugh when needed. Further, the trust and exemplar leadership that she demonstrated with faculty, staff and all of her dean colleagues, was truly a gift to us all. Carin has amazed me with her ability to balance her heart and her head to always put our students and their success first. It has been a joy to know Carin as a colleague and friend, and we will continue forward her legacy in the BITPS division.”

Carin, said her most rewarding moments here have included helping students progress toward their degrees, attending commencement ceremonies and hearing from graduates she has taught tell her about their success in the workplace or about graduating from law school.

She’s particularly proud of seeing the Bachelor of Applied Science in computing technology and software development “go from a spark to its first group of graduates” as well as being part of the East and Winter Park Campus’ Dean Team.

She also found rewarding hiring 10 incredible tenure-track faculty members and seeing them through tenure (three of them are still completing it), a process she described as meaningful and one which “benefits the faculty member and the students.”

She was also proud to be part of Valencia’s team in helping to develop a community college for women at Princess Noura University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In addition, Carin commended the work of faculty and staff of the BITPS division, the lab staff and administrative assistants who keep “so many of all the moving parts moving forward. Their work is crucial.”

She also acknowledged her division’s faculty for outstanding work over the years.

“When I conducted my first classroom observations of the faculty in BITPS, I was inspired in each class — how much they care, how knowledgeable they are and how much I learned from each of them,” she said.”

Dean Gordon said she hopes she is remembered as a caring member of the Valencia College family.

“I hope my legacy is what every Valencia employee’s legacy is — that I cared about and helped our students, faculty and staff.”

She added that working at Valencia College “was the best job I have ever been honored to have. I cannot start listing all who have meant so much, as I will inevitably leave someone off. I have never collaborated so much, laughed so hard, and pondered and processed together, as with those with whom I have worked at Valencia. I wish all of them health and success as they continue to do the incredible work they do each day for our students.”

For the next division dean, she said, she wishes “he focuses on the ‘dean’ part of his title and not the ‘interim’ part of the title.” She also hopes the incoming dean has the opportunity to help students, faculty and staff move forward and be part of planning decisions for the future.

David Brunick Assumes the Role of Interim Dean

David Brunick, professor, computer programming and analysis, was selected as interim dean to lead the Business, Information Technology and Public Services division. He assumed his new role Monday, August 3, 2020.

Dave, as he is better known across the College, began his career at Valencia in 2002 as an adjunct instructor, moving into a four-month position in 2006, which he held until 2013 when he was selected for tenure.

Prior to Valencia, Dave served in the U.S. Navy for 22 years and later worked in the telecommunications industry in several capacities.

“Teaching is my third and by far most rewarding career,” he said, sharing that what he loves most about working at Valencia is “without a doubt, interacting with students. The current circumstances are really hard on teachers like me — I miss the kids!”

During his time at Valencia College, Dave has served on the Faculty Senate and the Curriculum Committee. He was also an inaugural member of the Learning Assessment Committee and has served as Information Technology program chair at East Campus. He said these roles helped prepare him for the interim dean position by teaching him how Valencia works but also in other ways.

“Involvement in those entities allowed me to make connections,” he said. “I can now leverage those connections as interim dean.”

Dave has been instrumental in creating a series of flex-paced courses as part of a technical certificate embedded in the Associate in Science in computer information technology.

He is also known for purchasing — and sharing — Kevin the Robot. Kevin is a telepresence robot that Dave has encouraged other departments to use to teach other subjects.

He is particularly proud of his role in helping create curriculum for the Bachelor of Applied Science in computer technology and software development and said he truly hopes to “see a bachelor’s in computer information technology at Valencia someday.”

“I am so grateful that Dave Brunick has agreed to serve the BITPS division as dean for the upcoming year, Wendy said. “Dave has always impressed me with his intellect, professionalism, ingenuity and deep care for his students and for the IT program. During the past year, I had the opportunity to see Dave’s work through the launch of the Bachelor of Applied Science in software development. He is a strong, compassionate, future-thinking leader, who will serve the division and our leadership team well. I really look forward to working with him in this new capacity.”

Dave said he wants to keep “innovation and collaboration going” as the new interim dean. He also mentioned he would like to expand Real-time Virtual course offerings for students in the not-so-distant future. These courses are held in a virtual environment but students meet online at set times.

He added that he will also focus on keeping a steady hand as he and the campus navigates uncharted COVID-19 territory.

“I’d call it keeping it between the ditches,” he said.

Racial Equity Resources Available Now and Coming Soon

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

With the summer 2020 semester coming to a close, I continue to be grateful for the East and Winter Park Region and our efforts to create welcoming and safe spaces for our community to hold honest and courageous conversations. To advance employee professional development remotely, under the leadership of Dean of Academic Affairs Michelle Foster, the East Campus Academic Affairs team, including our Print and Design colleagues, began this important work in late March 2020. The team began working collaboratively and participated in TED Talks to spearhead training in various topics, including time management, qualities of an effective team player and improving communication.

Following the death of George Floyd, the team transitioned the contents of its development sessions to focus on Black Lives Matter and racial equity topics. Michelle and her team felt compelled to act immediately to address these sensitive issues within their department. The team used TED Talks and YouTube videos as a catalyst to process raw emotions, hold a space for conversations and build trust in their colleagues.

Today, their call-to-action continues with a more formal package of resources surrounding the topic of racial equity and a Canvas training shell called “Opportunities for Conversations and Reflections” that will be shared across our region in the coming weeks. This initiative, led by Implementation Coordinator, HHS Grant Suicide Prevention, Jennifer Danilowski, Coordinator of Academic Affairs Susan Howard, Weekend and Evening Campus Manager Zachary Hawk and Manager of Academic and Student Success Charlenne Valere, was shared in depth at a recent East Region leadership team meeting and was met with deep appreciation and excitement about future use across our departments. Please look for more on this important work in future issues of the East and Winter Park Campus Concentrate.

In the meantime, here are some of their recommended resources for your consideration:

Again, I would like to recognize Michelle and the Academic Affairs team for their courageous and timely work.

Custodial Team Uses New Technology to Clean Campus

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

The Custodial team on East Campus has been extremely busy during the last few months. Team members have been trained in procedures to disinfect the campus and clean COVID-contaminated areas while maintaining safety guidelines and Center for Disease Control protocols.

Additionally, the team is using the latest technology: electrostatic fogger sprayers. These easy-to-use sprayers apply disinfectants to surfaces and kill both bacteria and viruses. The patented application system places an electrostatic charge to liquid disinfectants as they leave the spray nozzle, which causes them to attach to any surface to help stop the spread of infections. Once sprayed, the solution takes about 10 minutes to kill bacteria and germs.

Many thanks to our Custodial staff members who continue to provide exceptional service to the College.

Thank You, Valencia Family, for Doing Your Part to Make Our Community Safer

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Over the past two weeks, many of you shared photos of yourselves donning face masks, disinfecting surfaces and prepping the College for Phase 2 of our reopening.

To watch a photo montage of Valencia employees doing their part to make our community safer, click on the video below.

Thank you Valencians for being safer, stronger, together! #DoYourPartOrl