Union Election Update: Preliminary Results

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A Special Message from Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President

This morning, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) counted ballots received during the election to determine whether Service Employees International Union (SEIU) would serve as the exclusive bargaining representative for eligible part-time faculty and part-time instructors.

Today, we received preliminary election results from PERC indicating that Service Employees International Union narrowly won (a difference of only 35 votes) the right to represent all eligible part-time faculty and part-time instructors as their exclusive bargaining representative.

On behalf of the College’s entire leadership team, I extend our sincere gratitude for your engagement in, and the thoughtful consideration you demonstrated throughout this union election. This process — one that is new to many of us — yielded robust and transparent discussions about the roles of part-time faculty and part-time instructors. These discussions, and every vote cast in the election, are reflective of the rich foundation in which Valencia’s culture of collaboration and transparency in decision-making are rooted. This is the very foundation that will continue to ground us as we move forward together.

For our next steps in moving forward, Valencia will engage with PERC in all of the processes set forth by them to thoroughly review the election procedures and ultimately certify the results. We will continue to keep you informed and will follow up with more details about this process as information becomes available. This election has always been about ensuring transparency of information and that the voices of our part-time colleagues were heard. We respect the process, and most importantly, we respect the diverse perspectives shared in this election.

We look forward to continuing our work together.

Join the VAHA Summer 2021 Book Discussion

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

This summer, join the Valencia African Heritage Association (VAHA) to discuss Octavia Butler’s “Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation.” Originally written in 1979 three years after the Bicentennial, the illustrated form was adopted and published in 2017 through the work of educators and artists John Jennings and Damian Duffy.

“This graphic novel powerfully renders Butler’s mysterious and moving story, which spans racial and gender divides in the antebellum South through the 20th century… [The] work tells the story of Dana, a young Black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the pre–Civil War South…[Kindred is] held up as an essential work in feminist, science-fiction, and fantasy genres, as well as a cornerstone of the Afrofuturism movement, the intersectionality of race, history, and the treatment of women addressed in the book still remain critical topics in contemporary dialogue.” Continue reading more about the novel at Abrams Books.

In celebration of Octavia E. Bulter’s 74th birthday (1947-2006), VAHA will host the book discussion on:

Date: Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Time: 12 – 1 p.m.
Location: Zoom

Register here. The first 10 registrants will receive a copy of the graphic novel.

Participants can access the graphic novel online from the Valencia College library, by logging in with your Atlas username and password.

VAHA’s mission is to celebrate and foster inclusion of cultural and educational awareness of the African diaspora at Valencia College, as well as build inclusivity of the social and political interests and concerns of faculty, staff and students of African diaspora collegewide and in the community. The Valencia African Heritage Association has campus- and regional-based committees to promote its mission and observances of African-diaspora heritage, culture and diversity. Employees interested in learning more about their work and how they can get involved are invited to email infovahc@valenciacollege.edu.

Ergonomics and You

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Ergonomics is the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job. Valencia College’s Nurse Jessica shares some ergonomics basics and reviews tips that may help you protect yourself.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Proper ergonomics may help to reduce or prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), which are disorders that affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. Some examples of these disorders may include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendinitis
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Epicondylitis (inflammation of the elbow)
  • Muscle strains and low back injuries

Signs and Symptoms of MSD

It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of an MSD as early as possible to prevent serious injury or permanent damage. People at risk of MSD may experience some of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Numbness or a burning sensation in the hand
  • Reduced grip strength
  • Swelling or stiffness in the joints
  • Pain in wrists, forearms, elbows, neck or back
  • Dry, itchy or sore eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Aching or tingling
  • Cramping
  • Weakness

Although these symptoms may not necessarily lead to a MSD, if experienced, you should make an evaluation of the type of symptom and your current work environment.

Tech Devices

Consider these tips when using your tech devices.

  • Sit up when reading or texting
  • Keep devices at eye level to decrease neck and back stress
  • Use hands-free devices when possible 

Ergonomic Solutions in the Office

Keep these ergonomic solutions in mind for your office, whether at home or at the workplace.

  • Appropriately placed chair, keyboard, mouse and monitor
  • Consider ergonomically friendly equipment
  • Use a hands-free headset if possible
  • Make sure feet touch the floor or are supported
  • Sit up. Keep your back in a normal, slightly arched position
  • Look straight. Make sure your working surface is at the right height to prevent neck strain
  • Ensure your chair supports your lower back
  • Take “ergo breaks” every hour or use a sit-to-stand workstation.

Ergonomic Solutions for Driving

Consider these ergonomic solutions for when you’re driving:

  • Add lumbar support such as a lumbar pillow or by rolling up a small towel
  • Remove items from pockets
  • Position items you may need to minimize reaching
  • Adjust mirrors to minimize neck strain
  • Position your steering wheel to 10-12 inches from the driver’s breast bone
  • Keep both hands on the wheel (unless you are shifting) and keep your arms in a comfortable position
  • Change your hand position frequently to improve circulation and reduce fatigue
  • Grip the steering wheel lightly

Lifting Solutions

Tips to consider when you’re lifting heavier objects:

  • Stand close to the object you want to lift
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, bend from your legs, not the waist
  • Tighten your stomach muscles
  • Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up

For a holistic solution to help you better understand your orthopedic care options, from early pain onset through treatment and beyond, be sure to read about UnitedHealthcare’s Orthopedic Health Support Program.

For questions, contact Nurse Jessica at jessica_r_johnson@uhc.com or 407-866-8134.

Learn the History of Juneteenth; Join the Celebrations This Week

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Message from Carmen Laguer Diaz, Part-time Faculty, Anthropology and Alyce Miller, Professor, History

Juneteenth is a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. That’s why you will sometimes see it referred to as Emancipation Day. The word “Juneteenth” is a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth.” The color red is prominent in typical Juneteenth celebrations as it represents the strength and sacrifices, often made in blood, of enslaved people.

On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General (and future president) Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Many enslaved people did not necessarily learn of the Confederate defeat and thus their own legal emancipation for some time, and many remained enslaved until Union soldiers arrived on scene to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. The reason for Juneteenth being celebrated on June 19th is that many enslaved people in Texas did not learn of their emancipation until June 19, 1865. 1865 was a big year. The 13th amendment abolishing slavery was passed by Congress in February 1865 and ratified by the states in December 1865 as well.

After the 13th Amendment, slavery continued in other forms (such as convict labor), and former slaveholders throughout the South tried to find ways around, or just flatly ignored, this emancipation decree. Because of these efforts of slaveholders to hang onto slavery at all costs, coupled with the slow pace of communication at the time, many enslaved people did not feel the effects of emancipation right away. In fact, embracing their emancipation was actually dangerous for freedmen and freedwomen, as now former slaveholders throughout the South tried to maintain white supremacy and their access to free labor.

On the one hand, the date of June 19, 1865, seems rather odd and rather late. After all, hadn’t the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the Confederacy two and a half years earlier? Well, remember, this was only on paper, as those states in rebellion were not about to listen to what the president of the Union they were in rebellion against told them. But hadn’t approximately 200,000 Black men enlisted in the Union army to fight against the Confederacy and for emancipation? Isn’t June 19, 1865, then, rather late to be celebrating the emancipation of enslaved people?

There has actually been a lot of debate about what was the best date to celebrate emancipation. Frederick Douglass, for example, was partial to January 1st, the day the Emancipation Proclamation went into force. June 19 won out though, in part because of the success of the participants of the 1968 Poor People’s March in bringing the ideas and celebrations of Juneteenth back to their respective home communities after the March ended.

In Florida, we don’t only celebrate on June 19. This is because in Florida, Confederate soldiers surrendered to Union soldiers led by Union General Edward M McCook, and the Emancipation Proclamation was read by General McCook on the steps of the Knott House in Tallahassee on May 20, 1865. Thus, May 20 is Emancipation Day in Florida.

There are many Juneteenth celebrations throughout Florida on June 19, as well as on May 20. Please join us during these Juneteenth celebrations at Valencia College:

Tiffany Packer, Ph.D. Juneteenth Discussion
Date: Thursday, June 17, 2021
Time: 3 – 4 p.m.
Location: Zoom

The Valencia African Heritage Association (VAHA) and Valencia’s Senior Leadership Team are co-sponsoring a talk by Dr. Tiffany Packer, associate professor of history at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Dr. Packer has done extensive research on the 1979 Greensboro Massacre and has a particular focus on post-civil rights activism in Black working-class communities. She will share her insights on the impact of Juneteenth and will engage with us in an open question and answer session.

VAHA Juneteenth and Black Music Month Event
Date: Friday, June 18, 2021
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Zoom

VAHA will host a Juneteenth event as part of the Black Music Month celebrations. Stop by on Zoom for the celebration, which will include soul and gospel music.

For additional resources on Juneteenth, visit the Division of Library and Information Sciences website or the Valencia College LibGuide. You may also view the video below:

Improve Your Financial Literacy With AIG Retirement Services

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Message from Tom Keller, Director, Total Rewards

Improve your financial knowledge and retirement confidence through the following AIG Retirement Services resources to promote financial literacy and help you get your finances and retirement in order.

Navigating Student Debt Solution

Local AIG Financial Advisor Kelly Craft will present this interactive workshop to assist Valencia employees in their journey to pay off student loan debt while also trying to manage daily expenses and save for retirement.

Date: Thursday, June 24, 2021
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register. 

Date: Wednesday, June 30, 2021
Time: 9 a.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register

In this workshop you’ll learn:

  • If you are one of the tens of millions of Americans who could qualify for student loan forgiveness programs
  • Strategies using a repayment plan that makes the most sense for you
  • Who is responsible for loan repayment when the borrower dies?
  • The consequences of defaulting on a student loan

AIG FutureFit® Financial Wellness Webinar Series

In addition, AIG will offer educational workshops through their national FutureFit® Financial Wellness Webinar Series on interesting topics related to financial health, retirement and investments. Scroll down to view and register for available sessions.

Risk Management

Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register. 

You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for it. Join this webinar to learn the process of assessing risks and developing strategies to manage them. It involves identifying a risk, measuring the potential impact, managing circumstances to the extent possible, then reassessing your situation and risk.

Simple Steps to Improve Financial Health

Date: Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Time: 12 p.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register. 

If you’re feeling financially stressed, don’t miss this webinar. We’ll walk you through several simple but important steps to improving your financial health. Learn about setting goals, budgeting, minimizing debt, saving for your future and more.

On-demand Webinars

AIG Financial Services also offers on-demand webinars that you can access at any time on topics such as investment planning, tax planning, planning for retirement, college admissions and financial aid and more. Check them out here. 

Financial Planning Advising Sessions

Finally, be sure to take advantage of these individual retirement counseling opportunities offered by AIG advisors to Valencia College employees.

Don’t forget that one of your Total Rewards — for both full- and part-time employees — is meeting with one of Valencia College’s dedicated AIG financial advisors. You can schedule a WebEx or phone consultation to discuss your financial planning, voluntary retirement plan options, review your retirement goals and/or enroll in your voluntary retirement plan. Your family members are also welcome to join you for the advising session. To register for sessions, click here. 

Meet Your Financial Advisors

John Hall is the advisor for East, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses, as well as the School of Public Safety and the Advanced Manufacturing Center. To read more about John, click here. Brendan Loflin is the advisor for Downtown, West and Winter Park Campuses, as well as the District Office. Read more about Brendan here.

Emilie Buckley Interviewed in ‘Life After Pulse’ WESH-2 Special

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Kudos to Librarian Emilie Buckley who appeared last week in WESH-2’s special on the fifth anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, “Life After Pulse: Honoring the 49, looking at change throughout Central Florida.” The special honors those lost and explores what’s changed and if the tremendous loss has helped foster a new dialogue with and for the LGBTQ community.

Watch the special below. You’ll see Emilie near the end of the special at 43:58.

COVID-impacted Workers Retrain for New Careers in Accelerated Skills Training Program

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

As Central Florida’s tourism industry rebounds in the wake of the pandemic, some workers are not returning to their previous employment  — they’re retraining for new careers through Valencia College’s Accelerated Skills Training programs. Check out this piece from Spectrum News 13 that features two students who are now retraining for new careers, along with an interview with Carolyn McMorran, assistant vice president, professional and continuing education.

Submit Your Virtual Skillshop Ideas by June 25

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

It’s Skillshop planning time! This academic year you can submit all of your Skillshop proposals for fall and spring together in a single submission. Skillshops will continue to be offered in a virtual format. This means all Skillshops will be collegewide and not campus-based. If you have counter-parts at other campuses, please collaborate to submit a single proposal on each topic from your department.

The mission of the Skillshops program is to provide students with co-curricular learning opportunities to:

  • Foster skills in the areas of emotional, social, cultural, environmental, career development and financial literacy.
  • Encourage students’ holistic development through the implementation of the Seven Dimensions of Wellness.
  • Introduce skills and techniques that will help students become lifelong learners.

Submit your Skillshops proposal here by Friday, June 25, 2021.

For questions, concerns and recommendations please contact your campus Skillshops coordinator:

East Campus
Steve Tullo, counselor

Lake Nona Campus  
Cara Reynolds, staff assistant II

Osceola and Poinciana Campuses
Alina Siddiqui, counselor

West Campus
Tameka Smith, staff assistant II

Winter Park Campus
Marcia Roman, counselor

Featured Colleague: For Darla Brown, Valencia Means Personal and Professional Growth

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

By Claudia Zequeira

Darla Brown, staff assistant II, describes Valencia as a “game-changer” for students because of the College’s ability to offer better careers — and lives — to so many. The description fits her personally as well.

After years working as a cleaner, or finisher, for a boat company, Darla’s body gave out. Resolved to change her professional outlook, she began taking courses at Valencia and completed technical certificates in medical office administration.

“I decided I was going to back to college,” she said. “I was looking into being a work study student, but then a part-time position opened up, and I was encouraged to apply.”

That was 17 years ago. And Darla is still growing and learning.

Darla’s part-time position gave her the chance to lend her administrative support to several academic departments as well as to Plant Operations.

Three years later, in 2007, she moved into her current position as a key player in the Print and Design department at the East Campus (the department was then called Word Processing), where she now helps the division manage the production of various materials from printing, book binding, lamination and the creation/distribution of the monthly print report.

“Our department helps all the academic departments, their faculty, student clubs, Student Development, the Peace and Justice Institute, the School of Public Safety … we really help the College as a whole,” said Darla.

She added that she is proud of herself for having mastered new technologies and ways of working through the years. By way of example, she mentioned how one of her co-workers introduced a novel way of creating department reports that track expenses using Excel’s pivot tables.

“Our system was pretty archaic, the way the information was collected … but I am very proud of myself for learning a new way of doing things. It was tough learning to do it, but I really did conquer it,” said Darla.

Darla also mentioned that, beyond her day-to-day duties, she is proud to have volunteered for Valencia’s first calling campaign to students, which started shortly after the pandemic caused our campuses to close.

“I wanted to help because I cared about the students. It was actually a great experience,” said Darla, who was one of the top five callers collegewide and received a phone call from College President Sandy Shugart in appreciation of her work.

“It could get a little overwhelming at times because there were so many unknowns and people had questions … but the appreciation that the students expressed just from my phone call was beyond satisfying; the student response was always ‘Thank you so much for calling.’ To me that was all worth it.”

She also volunteered to participate in Valencia’s Talent Sharing program, which was instituted after COVID changed workflows for so many. In that time, she has supported the Engineering, Computer Programming and Technology department on the West Campus.

“It’s been 14 years since I worked in an academic department, so I had to refresh my memory on some things,” said Darla. “But I’ve been able to connect with other wonderful administrative assistants in other academic departments, and they have been so helpful. It’s been great.”

Her supervisor, Zachary Hawk, campus manager, praised Darla for her helping spirit and her kindness.

“Darla is always looking for ways in which to assist inside and outside of the department, said Zachary. “She has been invaluable through this pandemic and has assisted in everything from making phone calls to students and faculty, to working at the bookstore, to doing administrative work for other campuses. Her kind soul, along with her knowledge and experience of Valencia makes her a continuing pleasure to work with.”

Darla said she is inspired to help and to remain at Valencia because of the people she’s met here.

“Everyone is so different. You hear people discussing interesting ideas; there aren’t many places like it,” she said.

She also mentioned that she is thankful for the many professional experiences that have transformed her. She recently had an opportunity to participate in SEED 1 and SEED 2. SEED, an acronym for Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity, is an international project founded 30 years ago by Peggy McIntosh of Wellesley College. SEED utilizes a cohort-based, bi-weekly seminar model with the intention of creating gender-fair, multiculturally equitable, and globally informed educational spaces and workplaces.

Darla said the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, prompted her to want to know more about hidden biases, as did the spirited conversation regarding the topic of race and equity that ensued at Valencia following the event. The conversation was kick started by a communication sent out by College President Sandy Shugart in which he acknowledged his own anger at continued acts of police and institutional brutality perpetrated against people of color in the United States. That was then followed by a collegewide email sent by Professor of English Rudy Darden in which he called for Valencia to have an open discussion about race.

“I was clueless about the issues of race being discussed because I thought, ‘This doesn’t affect me.’ I was in my own little bubble,” said Darla. “But Rudy’s email was very moving. At that point, I felt, ‘This is real, Darla, what are you doing?’”

Darla also participates in Zoom conversations with East Campus colleagues twice a week to view videos and discuss books on race.

She believes the vulnerability brought on by the pandemic, the mass protests that took place in the United States, and the feeling of freedom made possible by online communication made people more likely to be honest about their own experiences; something she considers a positive outcome.

“Personally, I feel that since the pandemic, we have become closer. I think there’s more camaraderie; it’s more personal … If we had been physically at work, would it have been addressed like it was? I’m not sure.”

In her free time, Darla loves to rescue animals (she owns two dogs and 10 cats). More recently, she has taken up acrylic painting.

“My friend gave me an old, vintage, six-pane window, and I hope to paint the panes to reflect different important parts of my life. So far, I have completed one pane. This is definitely a personal ‘me’ project.”

Know of someone doing great work at the College, who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.