Monthly Archives: July 2019

Provost Update — July 2019

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, Executive Vice President and Provost

As the summer term draws to a close, I wanted to share a brief update on several efforts that will continue into the fall and offer you opportunities to contribute to our important work.

Start Right Work Team

Last fall, we collectively identified several hypotheses related to the conditions that affect student learning and student outcomes at Valencia. One of these hypotheses was “new students who attend New Student Orientation near the start of a term (or after a term starts) enroll in part-of-term courses or course modalities that do not have a high likelihood of success.”

At its July meeting, the Learning Council commissioned a Start Right: Late Start Work Team to explore ways to best support students who begin engaging with the College’s enrollment and application processes at a late stage. If you are interested in serving on this work team, which will begin meeting in the fall, please email me.

Course Attendance and Withdrawal Policies Focused Inquiry Team

Another hypothesis that emerged from our conversations last fall was “course attendance and withdrawal policies may have unintended consequences; students who are withdrawn may not experience a sense of belonging and may withdraw from courses on their own when it may not be advisable to do so.”

At its July meeting, the Learning Council commissioned a Focused Inquiry Team to separate this course attendance and withdrawal hypothesis into smaller, testable hypotheses that will help to inform Learning Council on the feasibility and potential impact of commissioning work in this area. If you are interested in serving on this Focused Inquiry Team, which will begin meeting in the fall, please email me.

Honors Design Team

In the January Provost Update, I shared that Robyn Brighton, director, curriculum initiatives, would convene conversations to consider revisions to the design of our Honors program that would be responsive to challenges we face related to our increased scale and distribution. The design conversations will help identify the elements of Valencia’s Honors program that would be consistent collegewide, the elements that could vary campus to campus and a process by which campuses could propose their own unique expressions of the Honors program.

If you are interested in participating in the Honors design team, please complete this online survey by Monday, August 5, 2019.

Faculty Fellow for Sustainability

In the May Provost Update, I shared that we were looking for a full-time faculty member to serve in a new faculty fellow for sustainability role focused on curricular and co-curricular sustainability education. I am pleased to announce that Edie Gaythwaite, professor, speech on East Campus, has accepted this fellowship for the upcoming year. Edie is a tenured faculty member who has been involved with Valencia’s sustainability efforts for more than seven years. She participated in, facilitated and then partnered to redesign the Sustainability Across the Curriculum faculty development course; as part of the course, she created a lesson plan on microloans for SPC1608 that became the catalyst for a student club on East Campus. Edie has co-facilitated a variety of student workshops on sustainability and poverty during Justice Week and has taught students about the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals during Peace Week. She recently co-developed and led a service-learning student mentoring opportunity that takes students to New Smyrna Beach to learn about shoreline restoration and the impact of plastic on sea life. Edie has also served on the Central Bear Stakeholder Group, working with Florida Fish and Wildlife on legislative issues, helping with the BearWise Community efforts and serving to educate the community on securing bear attractants such as garbage and bird feeders. She previously served as a Teaching/Learning Academy facilitator and is looking forward to returning to faculty development in the capacity of Valencia’s first faculty fellow for sustainability.

Update on a Year of Math Pathways Deliberations and Kickoff Reminder

Our math faculty and deans convened in fall 2018, prompted by the state of Florida’s efforts to redesign mathematics pathways, in an effort to improve success rates in mathematics courses and increase the percentage of students completing the math required for their degrees. With support from colleagues in Teaching and Learning, Analytics and Planning, and Advising, they spent the year assessing our mathematics pathways. Two of the primary results of their rich conversations and careful review of data were the addition of MGF1106 as one of the possible prerequisites for STA2023 and the development of three working theories about students’ experiences in math.

If it’s not already on your calendar, I encourage all math faculty to attend the kickoff event for our Math Pathways Collegewide Conversations 2.0, scheduled for 12 – 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 22, 2019, after Academic Assembly. This will be an opportunity to learn more about last year’s work and to create strategies based on the working theories.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

Monthly Archives: July 2019

A Summer of Half-day Fridays; Celebrating Our Total Rewards

It’s no secret that half-day Fridays rank among Valencia College employees’ favorite Total Rewards — and some of us are probably experiencing some 40-hour work week blues. But, as Valencia faculty and staff, we do have a lot to be grateful for and, hopefully, we have a summer of half-day Friday memories to keep us energized for the work ahead.

In this video slideshow, we’ve captured some of your half-day Friday moments by collecting social media posts that used our hashtag, #OurValencia. So join us in remembering the fun we had and celebrating our incredible Total Rewards by watching the video and commenting about how you spent your half-day Fridays below.

Monthly Archives: July 2019

Learning Council Analyzes New Structure and Reviews Hypotheses at July 2019 Meeting

With the September 2018 change of the Learning Council’s size and composition to better meet its mission, the Wednesday, July 17, 2019, Learning Council meeting kicked off with a discussion on how the new structure is working and suggestions on how to make the most of future meetings.

Council members shared suggestions such as: provide opportunities to disclose ideas in small groups before reporting out to the larger group; allow more time to review and discuss work proposals during the presentation stage; change to monthly meetings, to be held on a rotating basis in the three College regions, providing increased opportunities to advance the work; establish a deadline to provide materials for the agenda; and share agendas with members one week in advance.

Other meeting topics discussed included:

Learning Council Co-chair Thank You 
As Al Groccia’s term as immediate past president of the Faculty Council is coming to an end, this was Al’s last meeting as Learning Council co-chair. Isis Artze-Vega, vice president, academic affairs, and Learning Council co-chair, and the group expressed their gratitude for his leadership, as well as the stability he brought to the Council during leadership transitions.

John Niss will become the Learning Council co-chair and Faculty Association immediate past president in August 2019.

Start Right: Late Start Proposal
One of the six hypotheses related to the conditions that affect student learning and outcomes at Valencia was related to the success of students who attend New Student Orientation (NSO) close to the start of the term. An insight team assembled to explore this hypothesis and discovered that students who attend orientation the week before the start of the term are less successful in their courses. This team recommended that the College not offer NSO the week before the start of full-term classes. When this change was recommended at Big Meeting, the general feedback was that the recommendation was incomplete, and there was significant interest in exploring how to best support students who attend NSO late, in addition to offering NSO the week before the start of the full term. As a result, the Learning Council commissioned a Start Right work team in March of this year.

In this Learning Council meeting, a revised work proposal was presented that suggested a removal of the SLS portion of the original Start Right plan, so as to narrow the focus of the work.

Council member feedback included that the draft work proposal’s charge assumed the solution to supporting students who attend NSO one week prior to the start of the fall-term semester was to offer special, late-start NSO classes. However, the council countered that the issue still requires a deeper understanding of the issue, which can be achieved by posing questions and challenges, as well as exploring trends and characteristics through data analysis. They also felt that the focus on NSO was misguided, in that the issue appears to be the fact that some students are beginning their Valencia enrollment and application process at a late stage. As a result of this feedback, the proposal will be reframed to shift the focus from NSO to the broader “late start” challenge. Reframing the proposal will also open the charge, so that additional potential solutions and strategies can be explored.

Hypotheses and Focused Inquiry Teams
As three of our hypotheses related to the conditions that affect student learning and outcomes at Valencia required additional study, the Council devised an additional step in its processes: the focused inquiry team. To advance the Learning Outcomes efforts, focused inquiry teams will analyze each of the three hypotheses further to determine if additional inquiry will assist Learning Council in commissioning work to support student learning and outcomes.

During this meeting, the Council discussed work related to the focused inquiry teams for two of those hypotheses.

Hypothesis 1: Course attendance and withdrawal policies may have unintended consequences; some students who are withdrawn may not experience a sense of belonging and may withdraw from courses on their own when it may not be advisable to do so.

Council members provided feedback on the hypothesis’ focus inquiry team proposal, specifically on section 2 of the proposal regarding the charge — to separate the course attendance and withdrawal hypothesis into smaller testable hypotheses that help inform the Council in the feasibility and potential impact of commissioning work in this area. To review the proposal, click here.

Council feedback included a request to see data regarding both student and instructor initiated withdrawals; to provide the workgroup with an initial data set with which to begin their study; and to consider both the positive and negative impacts of withdrawal as faculty often withdraw students to try to help them.

Hypothesis 3: Students may benefit from more diverse pedagogical approaches to create a more inclusive learning environment that fosters a sense of belonging.

The Council selected the third hypothesis to discuss for the remainder of the meeting and broke into groups of three to develop suggestions for the focused inquiry team proposal. The groups engaged in dialogue regarding how to determine how inclusive teaching and modality impact student success, and how we can measure a sense of belonging. Participants also considered the importance of reviewing existing data showing student engagement in classes and analyzing learning experiences that occur inside and outside of the classroom.

Several Council members felt the hypothesis language could hinder the team’s work, since it seems to combine several ideas, such as instructional practices, inclusive teaching and sense of belonging. Wendi Dew, assistant vice president, teaching and learning, proposed using the umbrella term, “equity-minded practice,” which can be used both inside and outside of the classroom.

The Learning Council will meet again on Thursday, September 5, 2019, location TBD.

Monthly Archives: July 2019

Celebrate Tax Free Day at Our Campus Stores

This weekend, Floridians across the state can save 6% state tax and local tax during the 2019 tax-free holiday. And this year, Valencia College’s Campus Stores are joining in on the savings with Tax Free Day on Friday, August 2, 2019.

Visit our Campus Stores or to save on:

  • Clothing (up to $60 each)
  • Shoes (up to $60 per pair)
  • School supplies (up to $15 each), such as pens, pencils, erasers, rulers and glue (Sorry, staplers and computer paper are not eligible)
  • Computers, printers and computer accessories (up to $1,000 each)

Please note that sales tax will be charged on food and course materials.

For Campus Store locations and store hours, click here.

Monthly Archives: July 2019

Featured Colleague: Building Downtown — A Profile of Eugene Jones

By Dani Moritz-Long

When asked about the unique opportunities and challenges of collaboratively building and operating a campus with the University of Central Florida (UCF), Eugene Jones, executive dean, Downtown Campus, laughs and refers to an analogy coined by College President Sandy Shugart.

“Working with UCF and Valencia is like teaching two elephants to dance. You’re going to have some stepping on toes.”

Nonetheless, Eugene says working with our educational neighbor, UCF, to build a first-of-its-kind, state-of-the-art campus in Downtown Orlando has been worth every awkward move and stubbed toe.

“It’s been a great professional opportunity,” Eugene said, noting the unique ability to learn so much about another institution’s processes, policies and people. “It’s been eye-opening and rewarding.”

That doesn’t mean it hasn’t come without its challenges. An aggressive construction schedule aside, Eugene said he’s faced many challenges along the way — some of which were seemingly insurmountable.

“But then you see a group of professionals from Valencia and UCF come together to solve things,” he says, “and they always keep students first.”

This student-first focus from both our institutions, Eugene says, has kept him calm through the process. Plus, a naturally calm disposition, a respect for our work and a team of incredible people are all integral pieces of the puzzle.

“When you are leading a team through these kinds of things,” he says, “it’s always important to reassure them that we will get through this. “It’s easy in the middle of those times to reemphasize the negative … and it’s easy to let that feedback loop gain more and more momentum. That’s why you break the challenges into steps.”

Eugene finds the inspiration to resist the temptation to feed the negative by remembering why he does what he does. His parents both educators before him, Eugene says working in higher education and serving students is a calling. In fact, Eugene, who has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, a master’s degree in workforce education and a Ph.D. in higher education administration and policy, has been serving Florida’s higher education institutions for more than 20 years. Also a lifelong student himself, Eugene says his own experiences as a student — from his marching band days at Jackson State University (just don’t ask him to pick up the trumpet today, or Eugene warns you’ll hear more “sick duck” than heavenly tunes) to his graduate studies at the University of Florida — all shape the framework from which he leads today.

“There aren’t many professions where you’re actually changing people’s lives,” he explained. “…This is important stuff that we’re doing. Because of that, it deserves my attention and focused effort.”

The fruit of that effort is now in sight with Downtown Campus construction nearly complete and students scheduled to begin classes on Monday, August 26, 2019.

But, this is just the beginning.

As the doors to the campus open, Eugene says he’s looking forward to continuing to partner with the Parramore Community Engagement Council to support Parramore residents by helping them to achieve their goals embedded in the council’s five strategic pillars: health, jobs and employment, affordable housing, safety, and education.

A part of that work, Eugene is especially looking forward to partnering more closely with the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) — located just steps away from the Downtown Campus.

“There’s so much we can do … to introduce the concept of college really early, so by the time they get to high school everyone knows they’re going to get some kind of post-secondary credential,” Eugene said, explaining this could be a traditional college degree or a certification in electronic board assembly through Valencia’s Accelerated Skills Training Program.

Personally, as a lifelong sports fan, Eugene is also eager to work in close proximity to local sports stadiums, and he plans to become a regular at Orlando Magic and Orlando Pride games.

“I count it a blessing to be a part of Valencia College and the Downtown Campus, to be a part of something of this scale and something of this personal nature,” he said. “We’re making a big impact for almost 8,000 students, but the personal nature is the difference this campus is going to make in the community — to that first grader or second grader who we are providing that path to.”

Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? Send the colleague’s name to us at He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.

Monthly Archives: July 2019

Valencia College Makes the National Media Spotlight

Valencia College continues to serve as a best practice on the national post-secondary college scene. Just recently, Valencia was mentioned in two nationwide publications.

In the Washington Post article, “Lots of college students drop out. There are degrees of success in preventing it,” Valencia was named along with University of Central Florida, Georgia State University, City University of New York, Rutgers University of Newark, the University of Texas and California State University at Long Beach as leaders in the movement to prevent students from dropping out of college. To read the article, click here.

Valencia was also mentioned in a recent U.S. News and World Report article, “Get a Bachelor’s at a U.S. Community College,” regarding international students turning to community colleges for a four-year degree due to affordability, the chance to study at one school only and opportunities for earning applied bachelor’s degrees. Valencia was cited for its affordable annual tuition and fees for an international student, versus the average tuition and fees for international students at a four-year college. Click here to read the article.

Monthly Archives: July 2019

College to Conserve Energy Via August Partial Shutdown

A Message from Carrie-Lynn Black, Director, Energy Conservation and Sustainability

In an effort to conserve energy and save college funds during the intersession between the summer and fall terms, Valencia College will operate in partial shutdown mode from Thursday, August 1 through Friday, August 23, 2019. During this time, Valencia College buildings will go into unoccupied mode at 6 p.m. during the week days (usually 10 p.m.). This means that at 6 p.m., the thermostat will be set at a higher-than-normal temperature to avoid cooling unoccupied buildings and rooms.

During this time, it is especially important that meetings and events are scheduled through official college channels, so that the summer partial showdown schedule can be amended as necessary for these events and meetings.

For questions, contact me at or 407-299-5000, extension 1706.

Monthly Archives: July 2019

Save the Dates for 2019-2020 PJI Events

The Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) has published its fall 2019 – spring 2020 calendar of events. Please encourage your students and fellow faculty and staff to attend. Follow PJI on Facebook and view the Valencia College events calendar for the most accurate and up-to-date schedule. 

Monthly Archives: July 2019

OIT to Conduct Fall Term Code Freeze, August 19 – September 6

A Message from Patti Smith, Chief Information Officer, Office of Information Technology

The Office of Information Technology will conduct a fall semester code freeze from Monday, August 19 through Friday, September 6, 2019. In order to provide a stable environment for our students, faculty and staff and to ensure a strong start to the fall term, OIT will not make any changes or updates to any production systems like Banner, Atlas, Canvas or email during this time.

Thank you for your collaboration and partnership as we prepare for a great semester.

Please feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me directly at or 407-299-5000, extension 5411, if you have questions or concerns.


Monthly Archives: July 2019

Lake Nona Student Services Team Celebrates Beach Day

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

On Thursday, July 18, 2019, the Lake Nona Student Services team celebrated its second annual Beach Day. What began as a fun idea when the team had to relocate services due to renovations one day last July has turned into a new tradition. For Beach Day, the Answer Center and Advising area was decorated with beach items such as flamingos, palm trees and pool floats, and the staff dressed in beach-themed attire. Fun events for staff that day included a scavenger hunt and a “sand”wich bar for lunch. A huge thank you to Coordinator, Program Advisor Nicole Burchette, Staff Assistant II Cara Reynolds and Academic Advisor Isabelle Saint Joy for coordinating the event!