College Update: Planning for Fall 2021

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Special Message from Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President

In early February, I shared with you our plan to move into Phase 3 of our Roadmap for Reopening operations, beginning Monday, May 10, 2021, with expanded options for students’ learning and engagement on campus, while we continue to prioritize the health and safety of you and our students, as well as the continuity of our students’ learning.

Last month, at the start of our spring break, Valencia College received game-changing news — college and university employees were made eligible to receive the vaccine at our West Campus state/FEMA COVID site. Since that time, state eligibility has opened to include anyone 18 or older. Having vaccines available for our employees is a critical step in our reopening, and we hope you’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to be vaccinated. Vaccines continue to be available to growing numbers of citizens, and experts predict that by the end of summer, anyone who wants to be vaccinated will have the opportunity to do so.

In light of this, and in consultation with Orlando Health, we are announcing a move to a cautious Phase 4 opening, effective Sunday, August 1, 2021. This is the next step of our transition back to a new Valencia. I invite you to watch this video as Executive Vice President and Provost Kathleen Plinske and I share details about planning for Phase 4.

I recognize that you might have many questions and concerns about this Phase 4 announcement. Please know that there are many questions to which we do not yet have answers. But by making this decision now, we will have the time to carefully develop plans for a return to a more full opening. Here’s what I can tell you so far.

What does this mean for classes?

At this time, we are planning our fall schedule to meet current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, which means we will be planning for reduced onsite and mixed-mode class capacity and, as a result, we will still offer a robust schedule of online classes. We also anticipate enrollment growth and the need to offer additional sections, due to reduced onsite class capacities. We are currently exploring ways to meet the need for additional faculty.

Given our current best thinking, we anticipate that mask wearing will still be required indoors. We await new guidance from the CDC and will adjust our plans accordingly, though we are committed to keeping our fall onsite classes smaller to aid in the transition back for both students and faculty.

What does this mean for services?

All Valencia College campuses will be open and operating in Phase 4. We will create plans — under current CDC guidelines but will adjust given any changes to the guidance — for how we will offer services in a hybrid way for fall so that we can continue realizing the tremendous opportunities we’ve seen through connecting with students virtually AND provide onsite opportunities for those students who desire a face-to-face experience.

What does this mean for me?

Some of our colleagues have been on campus since the beginning of the pandemic, and many more have returned through Phase 2 and will be returning as part of Phase 3 this summer. During Phase 4, our operations will not be “opt-in” as they will be for Phase 3, as we will need to be open and ready to serve our students through a combination of on-campus and online classes and services.

All full-time faculty will be notified of their schedule by Monday, May 17, 2021, and all staff members will have received expectations for fall by Thursday, July 1, 2021.

We understand that this transition may be challenging for many reasons as we know some employees are still less comfortable with interactions because of the virus. For those of you who have a medical concern and are unable to be vaccinated, we will help you through our Americans With Disabilities Act process to determine if reasonable accommodations are needed.

We also recognize that the public schools in our area start on Tuesday, August 10, 2021. We commit to working with you if you need flexibility between August 1 and August 10 to meet your family’s needs.

In addition, we know that many of you have realized tremendous benefits from working remotely over the past year and don’t want to return to life exactly the way it was. The Senior Team is having on-going conversations to craft design principles that we’ll use to determine how we might integrate flexible work arrangements for positions where it makes sense AND we can ensure that our students’ needs are met.

We have a lot of redesign work ahead of us, and it won’t all be completed by fall, but rest assured that plans will be developed in Valencia’s collaborative nature. We’ll keep taking steps as we emerge from the pandemic to reshape Valencia in a way that serves our mission and our students in a contemporary way and look forward to partnering with you in that journey.

Now Hiring for Full-time Mathematics Teaching Opportunity

Friday, April 9, 2021

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

If you or someone you know is looking for a full-time teaching opportunity, Valencia College is now hiring individuals to serve in the role of professor and extension specialist, mathematics. This is a special opportunity to increase college-readiness among area high school students and build pathways into higher education.

In this position, faculty members will assist in the implementation of a unique, educational partnership between the School District of Osceola County and Valencia College as full-time, annually appointed professors. Selected candidates will teach mathematics for college readiness and college-level mathematics at a high school in Osceola County, as well as college-level mathematics courses at Valencia’s Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses. Read about the experiences of colleagues in this role.

To learn more about this position and to apply, click here.

This position will close on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. 

If you have any questions, please contact Organizational Development and Human Resources Team at 407-299-5000, extension (8033) or email

We Still Need Volunteers for Grad Finale!

Friday, April 9, 2021

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

Thank you to those who have volunteered to assist with the Grad Finale celebration that will be held on Osceola Campus next week. We still have a need for volunteers, so if you are interested in helping our graduates celebrate, please inform your supervisor of your interest and email Senior Executive Assistant Maritza Goodman. In your email to Maritza, include the name of your supervisor and the date(s) and time(s) of your availability during the following shifts:

Thursday, April 15: 8:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m., 12 – 3:30 p.m., 3 -7 p.m.

Friday, April 16: 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., 12 – 3:30 p.m., 3 – 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 17: 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 12.- 3:30 p.m., 3 – 7 p.m.

As we get closer to the event, volunteers will receive additional information. If you have any questions, please contact Interim Executive Dean Melissa Pedone.

Edna Jones Miller Named Orlando Business Journal 40 Under 40 Honoree

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

Congratulations to Edna Jones Miller, dean of students at the Downtown Campus, for being named one of the Orlando Business Journal’s (OBJ) 40 Under 40 honorees. Each year the OBJ recognizes 40 promising Central Florida business executives and professionals under the age of 40.

Edna was honored for being “a stellar scholar/practitioner who has committed her entire career to student success. She is an extremely driven and highly motivated higher education professional. From a college instructor and administrator to a published author in a peer-reviewed journal, she continuously strives to help students to achieve their highest potential. While small in number, she and her team are extremely dedicated to significant outcomes like campus growth, student retention and a robust campus culture.”

To view all honorees, visit the OBJ website. You may congratulate Edna in the comments below.

You’re Invited to Virtual Archaeology Day

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

Date: Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Time: 2 – 3:30 p.m.
Location: Zoom

Save the date, because Virtual Archeology Day is right around the corner.

A panel of archeologists from across the country will talk to students about their specific field of research and career, as well as their relevance. Participants will also learn about archaeology and what the work of an archaeologist entaiils.

“Archaeologists in particular search for patterns to understand why cultural events occurred while also looking to predict how cultures will change, including our own, to plan for a better future,” said Carmen Laguer Diaz, part-time faculty, anthropology, who helped organize the event and is also co-hosting it.

The event will be hosted by Carmen, as well as Emily “Emma” Dietrich, outreach coordinator for the Florida Archeology Network. Other panelists include Edward Jolie, assistant professor with Mercyhurst University; Edward Gonzalez-Tennant, a UCF lecturer and principal investigator with Digital Heritage Interactive, LLC; Chuck Meide, director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP); Uzi Baram, professor and director of the New College Public Archaeology Lab; Sarah Herr, president of Desert Archaeology, Inc.; and Joshua Torres, acting program lead for archaeology at the National Park Service.

Valencia employees, students and anyone interested in the subject are encouraged to attend. A flyer for the event can be viewed here.

Students in Chef Lucy Martin’s Class Display Stellar Work

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

Recently, students in our Individual and Production Pastries class, an advanced course within the baking and pastry program, made a highly skillful display of culinary artistry, courtesy of their instructor, Lucy Martin, professor, culinary management.

“I think it speaks to the commitment we have to our industry,” said Chef Lucy, as she is known at the College and at the Downtown Campus, where she teaches. “As chefs we have a tremendous respect for our kitchens and a loyal dedication to ‘making it happen!’ This is something we also teach our students, all the while emphasizing not only food safety, but our own safety given the current situation.”

Every term, Chef Lucy, who has taught for more than 20 years and also owns a wedding cake company — Sofelle Cake Artistry — has her students set up a buffet of goodies to teach them what goes into the production of large-scale events. Students also produce an international desserts buffet during the course of the class. This teaches the students how to design, execute and plan for production.

Items were made in the kitchen lab located on the fourth floor of the Walt Disney World Center for Culinary Arts and Hospitality at UnionWest. While the event was not open to the public, other chef instructors as well as the program’s dean were invited to view the students’ work.

“I’m amazed by the professional skills our students displayed with this showcase at their mid-term,” said Alex Erdmann, dean, School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts. “It speaks to the excellence of our school, professors and students, and rivals any baking/pastry program in the world.”

Lucy, who has been a pastry chef for over two decades and began teaching at Valencia in 2013, said she always feels exceedingly proud to see her students produce quality work.

“It absolutely delights me to see how the buffets come together and the look in their eyes when they see how all the elements join to make it such a beautiful and delicious pastry work of art,” she said.

Virtual Children’s Reading Festival Provides Service-learning Experience for Education Students

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

“Can someone tell me one thing they like about themselves?” asked Professor of Education Paula DaSilva as author Marissa Jay White-Quarles read portions of her book “I Love Your Skin” to a group of children.

“One thing I like about myself is my skin color,” said Zainabe, an elementary age student. “My hair is beautiful.”

As the conversation unfolded, other children raised their hands, eager to answer. Although the dialogue followed the pattern of traditional reading circles; there was not much that was traditional about the gathering, which took place via Zoom, one of many activities held between Tuesday, March 30 and Friday, April 2, 2021, during Valencia’s first Virtual Children’s Reading Festival.

Content for the event, attended by 225 participants, was developed by Valencia College education students registered in EDF 2005 Introduction to the Teaching Profession, who created and implemented multiple book-based, hands-on activities in order to fulfill their required 15 hours of service learning for the class.

To prepare for their 30-minute sessions — a total of 21 were created — students met as a group over the course of six weeks to discuss children’s literature, how to use technology and Zoom for meaningful engagement, and to develop an activity plan for their individual sessions, said Paula, a key event organizer. Students also had the chance to do a couple of practice runs prior to the festival.

“In addition to allowing students who facilitated sessions to complete the required 15 hours of service learning, this also enabled them to connect theories regarding technology to its actual implementation,” explained Paula.

“While we had hosted a children’s festival on West Campus in the past, this was the first time we did a virtual festival focused on reading. Based on this experience, I would love to host a similar event next year with sessions offered at all of our different campuses as well as online as a way to make the sessions more accessible to our larger Valencia community.”

A sample of a student activity facilitated by EDF 2005 student Priscila Hernandez, titled “Sesame Street’s Counting All Around.”

Besides enriching lives, Valencia’s education students also walked away feeling accomplished and more secure in their ability to perform their craft.

Marianne Hernandez, a student presenter and festival participant, said the event gave her a chance to “have a real experience with students and what it’s like to develop and facilitate a lesson. For me, it gave me an insight to what it’s like to teach during a pandemic; how to use Zoom to engage students while being on a screen.”

Butterfly Dreams Party character performers also read books while dressed in costume and answered children’s questions regarding the stories read, as did professional local actors and authors who donated their time and talent to the event.

Butterfly Dreams Party performer reads “Wonder Woman 5-Minute Stories.”

Paula said the festival would not have been possible without teamwork, which she referred to as a cornerstone of the College. In particular, she praised the efforts of Linda Shrieves, director, public relations; Craig Blazejewski, director, interactive marketing; Jeff Danser, web/portal developer; and McKenzie Lakey, public relations coordinator, who helped with planning and marketing the event, including setting up the website and providing guidance on social media posts.

Also, Keith Hill, director, campus technology services; and Steve Rukstalis, technical support specialist, provided tech support before and during the event by training the session hosts on all things Zoom-related and being on-call during the event.

In addition, she praised Susan Dunn, dean, behavioral and social sciences, for supporting the project and helping with logistics, as well as session hosts Ellen Costello, manager, teacher preparation, Educator Prep Institute; Rhonda Atkinson, professor, education; Jane Maguire, professor, education; Laurie Staiger, coordinator, program advisor; Lindsay Regruit, assistant director, Horizon Scholars; and Jefferson Crutchfield, international technical support specialist. And student Bethany Castillo was key to lining up talent, having personally reached out to 95% of the artists and authors who participated.

Jerry Reed Presents on Bringing Art and Programming Together to Engage Students

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

Jerry Reed knows how to capture his students’ interests: through an interesting marriage of programming and art.

“I have taken an increasingly ‘artistic’ approach in most of my classes over the last few years,” said Jerry, professor, computer programming and analysis. “I don’t claim to be any sort of artist, but I have always found that students liked coding programs with graphical output and found them interesting and engaging.”

Jerry recently had an opportunity to describe his teaching methods as well as showcase his students’ work during a presentation he shared recently at the Virtual Innovations Conference hosted by the League for Innovation in the Community College. To view Jerry’s presentation, click here.

“The approach that I describe has the students in my classes collaborating asynchronously on coding ‘crowd-sourced’ graphic software,” Jerry explained.

“In these projects, online students program a graphic design that they share with other students via Canvas discussions, and all students then code a composite design of their own choosing, composed of graphical code ‘blocks’ posted by other students.”

Jerry added that incorporating visuals into his coding lessons has resulted in better engaged students and reduced incentives to “copy and paste” code. The approach incorporates a concept known as generative art into teaching.

Generative art refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system (i.e. something created by machine rather than by a human).

A sample of Jerry’s students’ programming work, which makes use of visualizations, can be seen above.

The Innovations Conference, now in its 23rd year, is the foremost convening for professionals dedicated to improving and enhancing teaching and learning, leadership and management, and the community college experience.

The event also provides a forum for collaboration among academic experts and thought leaders, while granting participants exclusive access to the most inventive and inspirational community college programs from around the world.

Jerry has also presented on this topic during Valencia’s Learning Day. In addition, he has had the opportunity to present at other events hosted by the League, such as its STEMtech conference.

He said he finds these gatherings helpful and conducive to better teaching.

“I usually find it a good spot to find out what leading community colleges are doing recently,” he said.

John Scolaro’s Opinion Piece Published in Community Paper

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

Kudos to John Scolaro, part-time faculty, humanities, and senior teaching fellow, for his article, “Celebrating the first woman president of Valencia College” which appeared in The Community Paper. John wrote this opinion piece about our incoming college president Kathleen Pliinske.

View the article here.

West Region Learning Support Updates — April 2021

Thursday, April 8, 2021

A Message from Jennifer Tomlinson, Interim Dean, Learning Support

Please enjoy the news and highlights from the West Campus Learning Support department.


Valencia College Library Receives a $92,383 Grant

Recently our library applied for and received a grant from the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Sciences (DLIS).

The library faculty and staff collegewide have been working to meet the three priorities of the grant.

  • Priority #1: HotSpot program at Valencia College — Valencia launched a hotspot borrowing program starting in spring 2021 at the recommendation of a team of librarians who researched and planned how to address the challenge of students’ inadequate Wi-Fi access. The goal of this activity is to support student access to online courses and learning support via Wi-Fi access during the COVID-19 crisis. A total of 175 hotspots were obtained through the end of fall 2021. So far, 142 out of 175 hotspots have been loaned at no cost to students.
  • Priority #2: Technical Support Services — The goal of this activity is to support student access to digital content via their devices during the COVID-19 crisis. The library developed a free technical assistance service for students in partnership with the College’s Office of Information Technology pre-COVID-19. The library has expanded virtual technical support hours in response to the growing need caused by the College’s migration to a majority digital learning environment and increased enrollment.
  • Priority #3: Virtual Big Read Event — The goal of this activity is to engage students in a virtual, collective discussion of social justice issues via a Big Read event. The library will identify an author and a book that focus on the social justice issues currently experienced by Valencia students, the community and the country. Up to 400 books will be provided to students at no cost to them. A contract for the book and author is currently in review by our legal department in preparation for the summer 2021 kickoff, read and post-read Zoom event.

New Ask a Librarian Widget

The librarians have added an Ask-a-Librarian chat widget to our LibGuides. When visiting any Valencia LibGuide, after three minutes, the widget will pop up and invite the user to chat live with a librarian. We hope this will help direct students to our virtual reference services. Some of the serendipity of having a librarian visible while working in the library is lost in the virtual environment. This widget should increase our visibility to students.

A reminder that Zoom is now integrated within Ask a Librarian. Once in a live chat session, students and librarians have the option to open a Zoom session so they can interact face-to-face, with voice and screen share, if desired. This allows our Ask-a-Librarian chats to more closely resemble traditional walk-in reference services. Students who would like to schedule a Zoom appointment with a librarian can also do so at our bookings page here.


Distance Tutoring

We have received positive feedback from our students about our Distance Tutoring service.

  • Distance Tutoring and Tech Support: “Every tutor you meet is really awesome, and they break down everything to help you with your schoolwork, to able to understand.” —Valencia student
  • Asynchronous Writing Support: “This is the absolute best resource I have used, and I have already told so many classmates! Thank you for everything!” —Valencia student

Distance Tutoring Numbers

As of Friday, March 5, 2021, we have served more than 5,900 students in Distance Tutoring in our spring semester alone.

New Student Experience

New Student Experience (NSE) faculty collegewide are designing a summer high school outreach program called Valencia Voyage. The program is designed for high school seniors who have applied to Valencia College and will be enrolling in classes for the Summer and Fall 2021 terms.

Students participating in the Valencia Voyage program will complete the enrollment process after finishing a series of Canvas learning modules — utilizing College resources to navigate the registration process — and develop a finalized course schedule. This program will serve as an individualized orientation to the College with a designated NSE faculty member’s support.

Students who complete the Valencia Voyage program will be eligible for a $500 scholarship.

Benefits of the Valencia Voyage program include:

  • Having a course schedule before the end of summer;
  • Working with Valencia NSE faculty;
  • Having access to College resources;
  • Experiencing Valencia’s online learning tool; and
  • Meeting other Valencia students.

Stay Tuned!

The West Campus Learning Support department and International Students Services present the First Annual Summer Scholarship Series.

Yonitha Berryhill, coordinator, international students, and Melissa Shank, administrative assistant, are working on a scholarship series that will be offered to all Valencia College students this summer. The purpose of the series is to engage students in scholarship conversations that go beyond simply encouraging them to apply, with the aim of all students participating in the program and submitting a Valencia College Foundation Scholarship application. The series will be held from 1 – 3 p.m. on Thursdays, May 20 and on May 27, 2021; and on Thursdays, June 10 and June 17, 2021.

Scholarship dollars don’t just go to those students with the best grades and best test scores; they can also go to those who know how to find and win scholarships. In this four-session series, we will show students tools and tips on how to win scholarships. Content covered will include:

  • What scholarships, grants and financial aid are;
  • Scholarship myths, scams and success stories, including common mistakes made by students when applying for scholarships;
  • How the Career and Writing Centers can assist students with scholarship applications;
  • Real example scholarship essays and tips on scholarship letters of recommendation;
  • Crafting a personal story to use in answering common scholarship essay prompts;
  • Using a combination of the internet, books and local research to create a personal scholarship application list;
  • Hearing from Valencia College students who have earned scholarships;
  • Guest speaker presentations from various areas in the Valencia community (i.e. Valencia College Foundation, Career Center, Learning Support, Honors College), as well as the University of Central Florida and Rollins; and
  • Hand-on assistance completing and submitting the Valencia College Foundation Scholarship application.

In our April update in the West and Downtown Campus Concentrate and in The Grove, we will share a flyer containing all the information students need to sign up for this beneficial series.

If you have any questions regarding this program, please contact Yonitha at and Melissa at

Learning Support Leadership Team

  • Marg Lamb and Melissa Shank – administrative assistants
  • Ruth Smith – campus director, library
  • Michael Winters – interim manager, learning support services
  • Marsha Butler – faculty, New Student Experience and discipline coordinator

Downtown Campus Learning Support Partners

  • Mia Pierre-Wall – faculty, New Student Experience, and discipline coordinator
  • Angela Hall – librarian
  • Ning Christopher – manager, learning support services