Monthly Archives: April 2020

Provost Update — April 23, 2020

Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, Executive Vice President and Provost

As this distinctive spring term draws to a close, I hope you are doing well. For the next few weeks, I will be sharing important information, updates and reminders on a weekly basis. I write this week to once again extend my thanks for all that you have done to support our students, and to share a reminder and a recommendation:

Final Grades Due on April 27

Final grades are due on Monday, April 27, 2020, at 9 a.m. Please make every effort to ensure your final grades are submitted by this time; missing grades interfere with students’ summer registration and with our graduates’ ability to transfer.

Although we introduced new grade options for this term, these will not change the way faculty submit final grades. Students who elected the retake option have already been accounted for, including last date of attendance. They have been removed from Canvas rosters and will appear in Atlas Grade Entry as “Not Gradable.” Students who elected the satisfactory/unsatisfactory option will have their S+, S-, or U grades configured automatically from the traditional final letter grades that you submit.

If you assign a grade of F or I to a student, please remember that you must also enter a Last Date of Attendance (LDA). Given the unique conditions of the spring 2020 term, the Last Date of Attendance should reflect the date of the student’s last activity in your course.

W grades are not available in the final grade options this semester. If you have a student who violated your course attendance policy prior to spring break to whom you wish to assign a grade of W, please email with the CRN, the student’s VID, and the student’s last date of attendance.

If you’re not sure how to submit final grades, our Centers for Teaching/Learning Innovation have created short video tutorials to help you:

Encouraging Students’ Summer Registration

We know that many students wait to find out how they did in their spring term courses before registering for the summer. If your final grades are visible to students in your Canvas gradebook prior to Monday morning, please consider posting an announcement or emailing your students to let them know that they can see their grades and encourage them to register for summer courses in Atlas.

If students have questions about their summer courses or how to register, please encourage them to visit our Virtual Answer Center at Our Virtual Answer Center is open from 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday – Friday and 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday – Sunday.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions.

Monthly Archives: April 2020

Teaching Through the Coronavirus, Together: Wrapping Up Spring 2020, Laying the Groundwork for a Great Summer

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A Message from Wendi Dew, Assistant Vice President, Teaching and Learning and Isis Artze-Vega, Vice President, Academic Affairs

Congratulations! Five weeks ago, we asked many of you to do the unthinkable: change your course modality more than halfway through a term — and you rose to the occasion with courage, herculean effort and great care for your students. In his new book “Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto,” Kevin Gannon affirms that “teaching is a radical act of hope, … an assertion of faith in a better future in an increasingly uncertain and fraught present.” Although he could not have foreseen our specific “uncertain and fraught present,” we echo Gannon’s conviction and are deeply grateful for the steps you took to give students hope and support when they needed it, perhaps more than ever.

Today’s communication offers a quick reminder that the end of a term represents an opportunity for reflection and communication. We also include a few updates from Teaching and Learning, including an upcoming course on authentic assessment online.

Ending the Term with Communication and Reflection

“A semester is a marathon effort, and, by the time you reach the end of it, it’s quite possible that everyone — you and the students both — will be exhausted,” Georgetown University’s Teaching Commons reminds us. This term, that seems like quite an understatement. They recommend “one last thoughtful push [to] ensure that the course’s conclusion is meaningful in its own right.”

With grades due on Monday, we recommend a thoughtful “nudge” (vs. push) to provide students with a sense of closure and encouragement. Nothing fancy, perhaps a quick email, even a Canvas announcement could work. As we’ve mentioned, students from disadvantaged backgrounds often interpret bad grades as proof “that they do not belong in this strange culture of higher education” (Nilson, 2015, p. 9). Your end-of-term note could remind students that their course grades are measurements of their coursework at a given point in time and within circumstances often beyond their control, not absolute judgments of their belonging, worth or intelligence. As such, it may be most impactful to reach out to students who struggled.

We also echo the counsel of Mays Imad, coordinator of the Teaching and Learning Center and pathophysiology and biomedical ethics faculty at Pima Community College, that we use hopeful and optimistic language, and include forward-looking sentiments such as, “During your summer courses” or “When we return to our campuses …”

In addition to reaching out to students this week, we invite you to take a few moments to reflect on the Spring 2020 term. The University of Georgia Center for Teaching and Learning notes that reflection on our teaching “can be particularly useful after significant changes have been made to a course” and can also help inform our approach to teaching future courses. Given the larger-scale disruption to instruction we all experienced this semester, here are a few questions you might consider:

If these questions seem to miss your most relevant needs now, consider an open-ended question and offer yourself space to pause and reflect.

Communicating With Your Summer Students Before the Term

As the Summer term approaches, we encourage you to send a pre-term email to welcome students, establish an inviting learning environment, introduce the class syllabus and schedule, provide details on required course materials, emphasize student support services and jump-start your personal connection with students. Given that our learning (and living) conditions are still in flux, you might also reassure students that the course includes flexibility and describe course elements designed to help them succeed.

There are a couple of ways you could send this message: By this Friday, April 24, 2020, your Canvas courses will be populated with your summer student enrollments. Our colleagues in the Office of Information Technology will ensure that all Canvas courses are published at the start of term (the auto-publish script will begin on Sunday, May 3, 2020), yet if you publish your own course, you can send a pre-course message to students through the Canvas Inbox. If you prefer to not publish your course early, you can send a pre-course message to students through Atlas. Here, you might include information on how to log in to Canvas.

Teaching and Learning Update: Learning Outcomes Assessment 

To focus on the immediate goal of meeting students’ needs in the online learning environment, the convening of the new Assessment Coordination Committee and Assessment Day have been purposefully postponed. The new Program Learning Outcomes Assessment model emphasizes deep collaboration and relies heavily on a support structure. As such, we expect the launch of the new model will be a timely re-engagement activity in the fall term.

This summer, let’s continue to prioritize enhancing online course-level assessment aligned to course learning outcomes. This natural work will become the evidence we need for determining improvements to implement in the next academic year.

For faculty interested in just-in-time-for-summer collaborative activities to adjust their course-level assessments and enhance each other’s capacity for authentic assessment in online courses, please join us for one of the Authentic Assessments Online (ASMT2910) Zoom Sessions: Thursday, April 30 from 7 – 8 a.m.; Thursday, April 30 from 10 – 11 a.m.; Thursday, April 30 from 8 – 9 p.m.; Friday, May 1 from 9 – 10 a.m.; and Friday, May 1 from 3 – 4 p.m.

Circling back to Gannon’s conviction that “teaching is a radical act of hope,” he acknowledges that this can be hard to remember when we’re caught up in the teaching grind (as when calculating and entering final grades!). Yet, Gannon suggests, “our most quotidian practices — even and especially in environments of adversity — are a constant assertion that through our work with and among students we are creating a better future.” Thank you for the work you do every day to create a better future for our students and community!


  • Gannon, K. M. (2020). Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press.
  • Nilson, Linda B. (2015). Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time. Stylus.

*Note: This communication will be the last stand-alone edition of “Teaching through the Coronavirus, Together.” Future editions will be shared within the Faculty Insight.

Monthly Archives: April 2020

Celebrate Earth Day Online

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

We celebrate Earth Day 2020 on April 22, and although coronavirus has put a stop to most face-to-face gatherings, some folks have found creative ways to celebrate. At the West Region, which includes the West and Downtown Campuses, Student Development will be hosting two online events to honor Mother Earth.

West Campus Earth Day Instagram Event
Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Time: 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Location: Instagram

Valencia Volunteers and the Wellness Ambassadors will provide information regarding how the impacts of COVID-19 has affected the environment, and post a video to the Instagram wall, where they will show how to grow a little black bean plant in a jar with cotton.

Downtown Campus Virtual Scavenger Hunt
Date: Monday, April 20 – Friday, April 24, 2020
Time: All Day
Location: Instagram

Monthly Archives: April 2020

Work-study Students Awarded for Outstanding Contributions

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Every year, Valencia College recognizes the contributions of our work-study students to the College through the work-study awards program. In order for work-study employees to be considered for the Outstanding Employee of the Year awards, supervisors submit their nomination based on their work and dedication over the past year. These awards are categorized by work-study type and by campus location.

Below are this year’s Outstanding Employee of the Year winners:

Federal Work Study

  • Michael Ilojiole, West Campus
  • Laila Hamza, Osceola Campus
  • Dayane Villatoro-Vazquez, East Campus
  • Anjanette Barinas, Poinciana Campus
  • Correay Crichlow, Downtown Campus
  • Jennyfer Ledezma, Lake Nona Campus

Institutional Work Study

  • Austine Smith, West Campus
  • Noel Diaz Correa, Osceola Campus
  • Trinity Tresner, Poinciana Campus
  • Briyanne Rolle, Lake Nona Campus

Veterans Affairs Work Study

  • Alexis Sanchez

Congratulations students and thank you for your hard work.

Monthly Archives: April 2020

PJI Principle 1: Create a Hospitable and Accountable Community

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Life can be downright difficult at times, especially now as we’re journeying through illness, stay-at-home orders, virtual workplaces, children at home, and families and friends afar. To help guide us through this time, the Peace and Justice Institute will remind us of one Principle for How We Treat Each Other per week, for the next 13 weeks. This week, we feature Principle 1:

We all arrive in isolation and need the generosity of friendly welcomes. Bring all of yourself to work in this community. Welcome others to this place and this work, and presume that you are welcomed as well. Hospitality is the essence of restoring community.

Monthly Archives: April 2020

Being Present for All That Arises: An Essential Tool of Mindfulness

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

By Celine Cavalec, Professor, English, and PJI Academic Coordinator

COVID-19 has been testing us — asking whether or not we can be present with fear, overwork, upheaval, uncertainty, distractedness, sickness, isolation and loss.

I’d love to say that I have met all the challenges of this pandemic with a steady mind and a generous heart, full of grace and fortitude. I have not. But, that’s okay. I have felt deep anxiety, worrying about my 87-year-old mom in New Jersey where cases are slowly increasing, knowing her only support is my sister who is a severe asthmatic and ovarian cancer survivor. I have struggled with the loss of freedom and the deep sadness I feel for our brothers and sisters in Italy, Spain and New York who have seen many die and their health care workers and systems become overwhelmed.

But through all of this, one thing that has sustained me is my mindfulness practice. It has helped me sit with uncertainty and fear, meeting those unwanted feelings with a modicum of warmth and acceptance.

Each morning I sit quietly in stillness and attend to whatever arises. I drop into my body. I notice my breath. I acknowledge my thoughts and emotions and meet each visitor with as much kindness, curiosity and non-judgement as I can muster. Some days that isn’t much. But other days, a deep openheartedness emerges, settling my mind enough for me to examine and learn from what greets me in the present moment and watch as sensations shift and change. This is the gift of mindfulness. It offers us tools to meet whatever arises so that we can be there for ourselves and others with compassion and clear seeing.

Kindness, non-judgment and compassion — these are the qualities that we can cultivate each day as we rise once again to a day full of Zoom meetings; as we email a student who has lost a job; as we support our overworked teachers, OIT workers, administrators, homeschooling parents; or as we wake to spend one more day alone or with people we may now know too well.

Stop. Pause. Listen to your heart beat. Feel your breath. Connect with your body and integrate this body knowledge into your thinking before responding. You may not choose the perfect response, but that momentary pause may create a space for you to recognize and interrupt a habitual pattern that does not serve you or the people in the room. Listening to and integrating the heart-mind grounds a response in an integrity that is absent when only the heart or mind is considered.

I sit to bring more joy and attention to each unfolding moment. To work kindly with the unwanted. To greet each visitor with curiosity and openness. To learn to be with the uncomfortable and comfortable, joyful and heartbreaking and to learn what each has to offer before it moves on. And, it will move on.

So next time a joy or sorrow rises up, be present. “Meet them at the door laughing … because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” — Rumi

Celine Kavalec is a qualified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher through the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness. She teaches MBSR at Valencia and in the community.  

Monthly Archives: April 2020

Add Some Zing to Zoom With Virtual Backgrounds

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Want to add a little zing to your Zoom? Well, now is your chance. You can now download a host of Valencia-centric backgrounds to make your Zoom meetings professional while promoting the Valencia brand and showing campus pride.

There are two sets of backgrounds to explore:

How to Add a Virtual Background:

  1. Sign in to Zoom desktop client.
  2. Click Settings (On the top, right-hand corner of your screen. The icon looks like a wheel.).
  3. Click Virtual Background.
  4. Click on an image to select the desired virtual background or add your own image by clicking +Add Image.
  5. To disable Virtual Background, choose the option None.

You may also add a background image for your Zoom meeting by joining the meeting and clicking on the arrow next to the “Video” icon. From the menu, select “Choose Virtual Background” and add your image as instructed above.

Monthly Archives: April 2020

Featured Colleague: Dave Giordano, a Data-loving People Person

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

By Claudia Zequeira

Over the years, Dave Giordano, director, recruiting/placement, Continuing Education, honed in his sales expertise and managed many complex health systems, retail chains and physician groups, among others. With his daily decisions requiring a firm grasp on data and strong people skills, Dave also had a high tolerance for change.

And it is precisely those skills that got him hired and have served him well at Valencia College. In his current role, Dave manages a team working to attract students to the College and provides placement support for the many Accelerated Skills Training (AST) programs Valencia continues to rapidly add to its roster.

“I like data and making decisions with data support,” said Dave. “By analyzing the data and seeing our success, it is now helping to guide our current and future decisions. Also, it amazes our community partners! Graphs and charts tell a story, and I am proud to have created some of these resources for our team.”

Besides recruiting, Dave shares information with community partners and helps leaders understand ways to fund students’ education and programs. He also encourages them to consider partnerships with Valencia to assist individuals who desire to acquire new skills and a new sustainable career. This latter effort, he said, is what he considers one of Valencia’s many contributions to the community.

“Valencia signifies opportunity and support for education and skill development that can help a person to improve the quality of their lives … it’s a cornerstone to the community,” he said.

Dave explained he loves many aspects of his job, especially meeting families, community partners, local leaders and the very many employers across the Central Florida corridor, as they help him make decisions about how best to approach his current role. He also loves the variety of experiences he is exposed to on a daily basis as well as his ability to improve lives; lives he has seen change through the commitment and effort of instructors and leadership.

“Each day is different and new opportunities are identified each day,” Dave said. “I feel that I am in a job where I can directly help others, as others have done for me in my past … It’s probably said all the time when people are interviewed, but it’s the people at Valencia College who inspire me. I have worked for several large fortune 50 companies over the past years, and the commitment and passion for what people do at Valencia College is unmatched.”

Dave, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, management, from James Madison University, first started at Valencia as an adjunct instructor of team building, communicating as a leader and other workplace skills. It was this exposure to the College, incidentally, that sold him on working here full time.

His supervisor, Carolyn McMorran, assistant vice president of professional and continuing education, praised Dave for his drive, experience and team work.

“Dave is one of the most driven professionals I have ever had the pleasure to work with. [He] brought tons of much-needed experience to his role as director of recruitment and job placement, said Carolyn. “He takes pride in helping his team, working with employers and helping our students launch great careers. In addition to all of this he also cares deeply about our team and our work.”

Before joining Valencia, Dave worked for Nestle in sales and helped increase hospital contracting, protocol implementation and physician recommendations, among others. For many years, he also worked for Merck and Co., Inc. and Mead Johnson Nutrition. In these positions, Dave was responsible for multiple district and regional sales teams where he sold multi-million dollar brands and life-saving products.

In his spare time, Dave loves spending time with his family and couponing. He also loves gardening, a hobby he said he picked up after attending a gardening session on Learning Day 2020.

“I am re-living my childhood,” he said of his new hobby. “In fact, my dad, now 84, advises me on FaceTime. He doesn’t understand how the video works, but he loves how he can see what I am doing and to be a part of the garden.”

Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for one year or more? 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: April 2020

Shawn Le’Tang and Charles Ensminger Named Orlando Magic Hometown Heroes

Left to right: Shawn Le’Tang and Charles Ensminger

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Two Valencia College employees were recently honored by the Orlando Magic with the Harris Hometown Hero recognition. Both gentlemen were scheduled to receive the recognition in March and April at a Magic game before the coronavirus outbreak caused the NBA to indefinitely postponed its season. The recognition typically goes to local first responders, firefighters, police officers, emergency medical workers and military personnel who go the extra mile to protect their communities.

Shawn Le’Tang, academic advisor, student disability services, enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Private Second Class in 2008. After completing his Advanced Individual Training, he was awarded the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 15F, Aircraft Electrician. Shawn has one deployment tour to Camp Marmal, Afghanistan, where he served as an aircraft electrician, and one overseas tour to Camp Humphreys, in South Korea. Shawn was medically retired and ended his military career as a staff sergeant in 2017.

But he has done more than serve students and his country. Shawn, who earned his associate degree from Valencia College and later earned a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies and a master’s degree in defense and strategic studies from the University of Texas at El Paso, has also completed an estimated 480 volunteer hours at various locations in and outside of the military. This included Ocoee Elementary School; Child Youth Service and 127th Aviation Support Battalion in EL Paso; Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Center and Korean American Partnership Association (KAPA) Camp in Humphreys, South Korea; and many others.

“To be recommended and have the opportunity to be honored as a Hometown Hero by the Orlando Magic is truly a humbling and benevolent opportunity,” Shawn said, adding the opportunity “speaks volumes of an organization that recognizes the men and women who adorn their uniforms daily and show the country what selfless service is all about.”

Charles Ensminger, director, student development, joined Valencia in January of 2018. Prior to that, Charles was the director of diversity, equity and inclusion at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia, Washington.

Before joining the field of higher education, Charles was an active-duty enlisted service member in the United States Army, serving as a combat medic for 10 years. Enlisting in January of 2004, Charles began his military journey at Fort Carson Army Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he served as an emergency room medic. A little more than a year later, he was assigned to his first combat unit.

After dropping out of college in 1999, Charles returned to school in 2014 to complete his education and now holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in research-psychology, with a specialization in industrial-organizational psychology. He is currently a doctoral candidate in industrial and organizational psychology with Walden University.

Outside the College, Charles has served as a board member on the Thurston Group of Washington State; the Hispanic Roundtable; the FIRE Summit planning committee; and others. He has also served a coach for the Black Hills Youth Football League.

“I am truly appreciative. While I have never thought of my service to our nation and/or community as heroic, I am incredibly humbled that others do,” said Charles. “If anything, I hope that my service inspires others to serve by getting involved and giving back; our communities, states, and nation needs you.”

Monthly Archives: April 2020

Laptops Now Available for Students for Summer Term

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Great news for Valencia students who may not have access to a laptop. Valencia College’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) has acquired 1,000 new laptops to loan to students through Friday, July 31 who are registered for the summer semester and have expressed technology needs.

The brand-new, in-the-box, Acer Travelmate Celeron 1.1 GHz Windows 10 computers with 4GB RAM will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. To apply, students may visit (webpage only accessible to enrolled students) or call Enrollment Services at 407-299-5000, extension 1507. Once the application is received and the student’s eligibility is confirmed, the laptop will be mailed, unless the student indicates alternative delivery is necessary. Students can expect to receive their laptops in five to seven business days after shipping.

It’s recommended that students who receive a laptop save their files to a USB Drive, One Drive or other storage method.

If a laptop is damaged or not returned by July 31, a hold will be placed on the student’s account for the replacement value of approximately $225. Please note that OIT will not provide technical support.

Current students who have not yet registered for the summer term, as well as those who elected an R20 grade were informed of the laptop availability via email from the Office of Student Affairs. If you know of a student who may need a laptop in order to successfully participate in online learning, please encourage the student to apply at or call Enrollment Services at 407-299-5000, extension 1507.

Enjoy this time-lapse video of OIT staff preparing laptops to ship to students: