Monthly Archives: June 2020

Student Works Behind-the-Scenes on COVID-19 Testing

Tuesday, June 2, 2020 

From the moment Naia Kasik walks through the doors of Applied Ingenuity Diagnostics, she knows exactly what she has to do as she comes face-to-face with the COVID-19 virus. She puts on her personal protective equipment, her lab coat, glasses, gloves and an N-95 mask before she sits down to begin a series of testing procedures with RNA/DNA sequences.

Naia, a biotechnology laboratory services student at the Lake Nona Campus, works on the front line of COVID-19 testing after her internship with Applied Ingenuity Diagnostics turned into a lab assistant role at the start of the pandemic. Read her story on the Valencia News site. 

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Beware of Emails Soliciting FRS DROP or Retirement Consultation Services

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A Message from Tom Keller, Director, Total Rewards

It has come to our attention that some employees may have received unsolicited email messages offering FRS DROP or retirement consultation services. Employees have reported receiving emails from domain names such as “districtadvice,” “peraexplores” and “yourretiring.” The email offers an evaluation of your state retirement benefits and leads you to click a link to a site hosted at the “publicemployeeretirementassistance” (PERA) web domain to make an appointment.

Unfortunately, these emails were drafted in a manner that suggest the existence of an affiliation with Valencia College and/or the Florida Retirement System (FRS). It is important for you to know that Valencia College has no association with and does not endorse or promote Public Employee Retirement Assistance (PERA), the content of the message or the individuals who sent the unsolicited communication through the various domains.

In response, we have reported these email messages to our Office of Information Technology partners in order to block the email addresses and domain names as spam.

We want you to be informed about the providers that are affiliated with the College to assist you with your Valencia retirement plans. Your approved providers and vendors include:

  • Florida Retirement System (FRS)
  • AIG Retirement Services (formerly known as VALIC)
  • Community College Optional Retirement Program (CCORP) providers (if you are an ORP member): Voya Financial, AIG Retirement Services, AXA Equitable, MetLife Investors and TIAA
  • TSA Consulting Group, our third-party administrator for voluntary retirement plan and CCORP recordkeeping and transactions
  • Our legacy voluntary retirement plan providers, with whom you may have an account that was established prior to August 2017

We appreciate the diligence of our faculty and staff to verify inquiry emails they receive. If you receive unsolicited communication from an unknown organization that suggests an affiliation with your Valencia benefits or retirement programs, please contact me at or 407-299-5000, extension 3888.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Spotlight on Undergraduate Research — Harun Al-Ansari

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Valencia College has developed an undergraduate research initiative — based on nationally recognized models — that expands opportunities for students to partner meaningfully with faculty members to pursue a specific course of research. As most community colleges only offer undergraduate research as a very small boutique opportunity for a few students, Valencia has become a leader in community college research. Last year, hundreds of Valencia students worked in one or more modalities of research. This is vital for students exploring STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) -related professions through transfer, both to better discern their purpose and pathway, and to have experiences comparable to their peers at the university to which they transfer.

With this initiative underway, we share with you the success of our students’ undergraduate research through a bi-monthly series — Spotlight on Undergraduate Research.

To student Harun Al-Ansari, who is studying biomedical science, research means exploration into the unknown and seeing the physical world’s secrets and operations. And his very first research project a project for IDH (Interdisciplinary Honors) 2911  focused on the possibility of defending against antigens by using concepts of genetic engineering to produce antibodies prior to the encounter of the pathogen.

“I had to develop the research question, which initially started off asking if nanotechnology could cure cancer,” Harun explained. “Given a semester in between IDH 2911 and IDH 2912, I was able to further refine the crude question into the one presented in the project. I had time to also delve into researching the functions of the immune system, specifically the adaptive immune system. I mainly focused on B-cells, the antibody production factories of the immune system.”

Harun shared that the research was tedious, as he had never taken a course in immunology. But he learned a lot on his own through research papers, mostly found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information database, adding to a base of knowledge he had from a biology class he had taken previously.

“For an example, as I did research into the endosteum, a membrane that lines the interior of bone tissue, I wanted to know how it contributed to the priming of hematopoietic stem cells in order to give a more precise story of how the B-cell came to be,” he said. “However, alas, research is still ongoing. This is just one of the many unknowns that comes in the path of research — you simply don’t know exactly everything.”

By completing this research and through the support of his research mentor, Yasser Saad, professor, biology, Harun was able to get a glimpse of the field he aspires to work in, biomedical sciences and biomedical engineering, in which he’ll be continuing his studies. This fall, Harun plans to transfer to Florida A&M University to pursue his bachelor’s degree.

Harun was also one of our 3rd place winners in the Fall 2019 Poster Showcase.

To nominate a student doing great undergraduate research or for questions about Valencia’s undergraduate research initiative, contact Melonie Sexton, professor, psychology, and coordinator of undergraduate research, at or 407-299-5000, extension 5632.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Join VAHC Friday Night for Live Virtual R&B, Jazz and Neo-soul Performances

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Date: Friday, June 5, 2020
Time: 7 – 7:45 p.m.
Location: Zoom

Get ready for a night of quarantine-style fun as the Valencia African Heritage Committee launches the Black Music Month and Juneteenth Music Series this Friday, June 5, 2020. The first in the four-week Friday-night series is a tribute to R&B, jazz and neo-soul music.

Join our live hosts Stanton Reed, professor, business and accounting, and Faculty Association president; and Diane Reed, professor, nursing, and host of Valencia Radio’s Nurses Rock Show, for an exciting lineup of online performers including:

Saxophonist, Vocalist and Educator Naomi Joy
With a Psalmist style, Naomi Joy graces audiences with instrumental music as a saxophonist and vocalist. Naomi’s true joy is singing and performing instrumental music, performing instrumental worship, gospel, jazz and contemporary music. Naomi holds a bachelor’s music education from Florida A&M University and currently teaches orchestra, concert and jazz music as an Orange County Public Schools band and orchestra director.

Naomi will speak on the history and contributions of jazz music and will perform a special tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.

Singer, Songwriter, Producer and Alumnus Palmer Reed
Palmer Reed is a Valencia Music and Sound Technology program alumnus, as well as a professional singer, songwriter and producer. Since graduating, Palmer has worked with Evan Ross, Ashley Simpson, Adam Lambert, and Earth, Wind and Fire.

His R&B and neo-soul performance will be his original song, “Memory.”


Singer and Songwriter Deja Alise

Deja Alise is a student attending Bethune Cookman University majoring in music recording technology. She is a singer and songwriter striving for a career in entertainment and has been singing ever since she could remember.

Her R&B performance will feature her original song, “A Million.”


National Event Host, Businesswoman, Media Personality and Vocalist Tyesha Williams
Since 2014, Tyesha founded and hosts the biggest weekly open mic music showcase in Central Florida, Thursday Live Vibe.

Tyesha will speak on the history and contributions of R&B and neo-soul music.

There will also be some surprise tributes from Valencia College employees.

For additional information on the Black Music Month and Juneteenth Music Series and to access the event page, click here.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

A Message to My Valencia College Family

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A Message from Falecia Williams, President, West and Downtown Campuses

It is with a measure of joy and sadness that I announce I will conclude my work at Valencia College later this summer. After deep reflection on my life’s work and calling, I have accepted the college presidency at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland.

As many of you know, I came to Valencia in 1998 as a wide-eyed public educator with a passion for improving the college graduation rate for underrepresented students and community outreach. I joined the College in the Division of Students Affairs while simultaneously working as a part-time faculty member for the Student Success Department. I eventually served in a variety of capacities at Valencia, overseeing College Transitions, Recruitment and Retention of Ethnically Diverse Students, College Reach Out Program (CROP), Dual Enrollment and Workforce Development before ultimately serving all of you as campus president of West and, now, the Downtown Campus.

The experiences and knowledge I have gained at Valencia are incomparable. As I take the helm of leadership at a new institution, I do so by bringing a set of heralded fundamentals with me — passion for people, learning as the hallmark, equitable outcomes as a norm and as the community impact — all the things that I’ve been able to learn and implement at the College.

During my tenure, I have been blessed to be a part of life-changing work, and the best part is that I have been able to do this work with you. For these reasons, my emotions are mixed. Mixed because I am overjoyed by the confidence in me the Board of Trustees at Prince George’s Community College has displayed in selecting me as its ninth president, and I am earnestly looking forward to starting this new journey, this next-level leadership chapter in my life. Yet, I am sad because I will be leaving you — who have grown from being colleagues to being friends. I will forever treasure the relationships I have developed with you all over the years. It has been my distinct pleasure and privilege to work and serve alongside you.

Thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do to educate and change the lives of our students. Thank you for believing in my leadership and always pushing me to new levels of excellence and agency. Through my work, I have strived to be true to my personal values and conscientiously reflect the values and culture within our organization. I value integrity and democratic ideals and so I hope my approach, in working with you all, has demonstrated that. It has been an honor to be a part of Valencia, where we all deeply care about students, our colleagues and our community. I will truly miss you all.

Over the coming days and weeks, I will be working with Dr. Shugart on a plan for transition, and more information will be provided on operational and interim leadership plans. In the meantime, please know that I will be available and “all in” to my very last day here. So feel free to reach out to me directly.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

PJI Circles Address Grief and Resilience Within the Valencia Community

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A Message from Celine Kavalec, PJI Academic Coordinator and Professor, English, and Rachel Allen, Director, PJI

Finding the courage to talk about what we are going through is one step to growing personal resilience. Courage and authenticity are needed now, more than ever, as we navigate our current challenges.

Over the last three weeks, PJI, in partnership with Organizational Development and Human Resources, has hosted a series of healing circles to build resilience within our Valencia family by connecting through our stories. Each one of us has a story to tell about how we are walking through our days. These safe spaces are created to remove blaming and shaming and to welcome honest, open sharing of our personal experiences, struggles and triumphs.

With the grief that surrounds us due to the current racial terror tragedies, the death toll of the virus, the financial fallout of the pandemic, and the uncertainty of our future, participants express appreciation for the space to process their struggles and grief, and find support in the group setting.

As Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, writes, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” In these Circles, people are able to express their vulnerability and find support and strength from one another. Some attendees are returning to the Circles week after week to share how they are really doing — an act of courage in and of itself.

One participant said, “…the three questions and time to share personal challenges during these times helped me feel a lot less alone.” Another participant shared that, “…having this organized during the week was such a treat … It made me feel more connected than usual!”

People joining the groups represent all areas of the College and bring diverse experiences to share and relate to one another. These 75-minute “Circles” on Zoom include mindfulness practice, the Principles for How We Treat Each Other, as well as a poem, a prompt to guide the sharing, and a gratitude practice.

Part-time Faculty of Humanities Josh Bell, a Circles facilitator shared, “I have been so grateful to be part of the PJI Circles. The vulnerability of our participants has created a safe space where people can truly share their experience. This has allowed me and our other participants to feel heard and supported during this turbulent season.”

Human connection and a community of support are significant ways to build personal resilience. PJI Circles are offered weekly on the following days and times:

Please note that the last session will be held on Thursday, July 2, 2020. 

  • Tuesdays, 12 – 1:15 p.m.
  • Wednesdays, 4 – 5:15 p.m.
  • Thursdays, 7 – 8:15 p.m.
  • Fridays, 10 – 11:15 a.m.

Whether you’d like to discuss racial terror tragedies, the coronavirus, the financial fallout of the pandemic, the uncertainty of our future or another topic, come join us. This is a safe space for conversations about anger, fears, pain, hopes and responsibilities to each other during these unimaginable times.

To register for a circle, click here. Participants are always welcome to join multiple Circles.

In addition to Circles, colleagues can find support through the College’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and other resources offered through Organizational Development and Human Resources, including weekly yoga and meditation.

Faculty are encouraged to enroll in a summer session of the PJI Academy for Teachers in order to learn how to create trauma-sensitive classrooms and support students to grow their resilience in response to COVID-19. Learn more about the PJI Academy for Teachers here.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

In Memory of Carol Millenson

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Carol Millenson passed away on May 27, 2020, after an on-and-off battle with cancer for several years.

Carol came to Valencia in September 1998 and retired in 2018. She is remembered as a kind and supportive employee who motivated others by example.

While at Valencia, she worked as the manager of continuing education and clinical compliance, developing and managing the delivery of continuing education for a variety of healthcare fields. She also managed clinical compliance operations for students and faculty.

In 2008, a routine mammogram screening revealed suspicious sites that were later determined to be cancer. But she did not let that diagnosis dampen her enthusiasm for life. After the diagnosis, Carol, who frequently served as a counselor to breast cancer patients before receiving her diagnosis, became a strong advocate for breast cancer survivors.

She later joined Warriors on Water, a Central Florida Dragon Boat paddling team. Through the team’s efforts, the Warriors on Water helped awareness to help fight breast cancer. In 2011, Carol participated in the Susan B. Komen Central Florida Race for the Cure at what was then the University of Central Florida Brighthouse Stadium.

Carol held a master’s in marriage and family counseling from Stetson University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology and education from Eastern Nazarene College. Her career spanned three industries including bank data processing management, family counseling and education.

Prior to joining Valencia, she served for five years as director of patient and family services in hospice care and served clients in private practice counseling, all with a common thread of education and training.

Information about services for Carol will be posted here when it becomes available.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Celebrating Educational Advancements — Spring 2020

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Valencia’s recognition program is robust — spanning from career anniversary celebrations to appreciation badges to the educational advancement program.

In the educational advancement program, which celebrates non-instructional employees who have been employed in a full-time position for a minimum of six months and who have earned a degree from a regionally accredited institution, the College awards employees a one-time, lump-sum payment, barring any degree that is a required qualification of the employee’s current position. Please note that employees are compensated for only one award per first academic degree earned.

Through this program, the College recognized the following employees for achieving a post-secondary degree:

  • Karen Wilson, senior director, IT project management office, master’s degree
  • Amy Sorrough, administrative assistant, master’s degree
  • Aixa Rosario, coordinator, college transitions/immersive experiences, master’s degree
  • Jennifer Nelson, instructional lab supervisor, math, master’s degree

Congratulations to these employees for their fantastic achievements. Please congratulate them in the comment section below.

For more information on the educational advancement policy, please refer to College Policy 6Hx28-3C-04 Total Rewards: Recognition of Full-Time Employees for Educational Advancement. For questions, email or call the HR4U helpline at 407-299-5000, extension HR4U (4748).

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Are You Ready for the 2020 Hurricane Season?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Monday, June 1, 2020, marked the start of hurricane season. Hurricanes not only affect coastal communities, but can also have significant impact hundreds of miles inland. It only takes one to change your life and your community. As hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria remind us, it is not just major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) that we need to worry about. All hurricanes could potentially cause significant damage.

However, there is a lot you can do now to prepare financially, know your risk and stay informed as well as avoid a last-minute rush to grocery or home-improvement stores. Learn how you can develop a plan, receive emergency alerts, and how and where to evacuate. To learn hurricane terms and more ways to prepare, click here.

Valencia Alerts

If severe weather approaches Central Florida, Valencia’s public safety officials will strive to provide a timely warning. The West Campus Security Office will serve as our Emergency Operations Center to coordinate mission critical services.

In an emergency, all employees will be notified via Valencia Alerts to their cell phone, home phone, email or via the Valencia Safety App with important emergency notifications and updates. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you make sure your Valencia Alert contact information is correct. To confirm your contact information and preferences:

  • Log into your Atlas account
  • Click on the Valencia Alerts “box” on the lower right side of the main screen. If you experience any issues updating your Valencia alerts, contact OIT.

To download the safety app, please click here.

Home Preparation

Click here to test your hurricane knowledge (provided by News 13).

For a recommended list of items needed in an emergency kit, click here.

To prepare your home, check out this video from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Employee Handbook Now in the EDGE and Atlas

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Long-gone are the days of three-ring binders with pages of rules and regulations that employees spend days pouring over in search of specific information, policies and updated procedures. The Employee Handbook is now digital and available in Atlas and in the Valencia EDGE.

Although the handbook may look much different than it did 50 years ago, it still serves the purpose of providing employees with important information. In it, you may find topics of interest to a new employee, such as campus locations, IT and systems information, available benefits, payroll information and Valencia’s governance structure. Other topics employees may wish to browse down the road may include employee and faculty development opportunities, groups and associations, and community events.

At Valencia College, the Employee Handbook is a living document, updated in real-time and reviewed and published as policies and practices change. Last updated in 2019, the handbook has answers to many of  your employee needs. Most importantly, it focuses on you.

The Valencia College Handbook:

  • Is your guide to all-things Valencia. This should be your go-to for any questions you may have throughout your time at the College.
  • Is colorful and easy-to-read. Written with the intent of being both thorough and conversational, the Employee Handbook can easily be read and carries the Valencia look, as well as voice, throughout.
  • Is searchable. Along with a well-designed table of contents, the document can be searched by keywords. Have a question on leave options? Press Ctrl-F and browse your way through 42 different passages on the various types of leave Valencia College offers.
  • Is interactive. Throughout the handbook, you can find clickable links to view more information. These take you right to the websites where the information is housed and will provide you with real-time information.
  • Is written with YOU in mind. Not only does it touch on the cultural, operational and logistical pieces of Valencia, it also includes a glossary, which includes terms and acronyms specific to Valencia. No need to scout out a colleague to ask what CDC means. Simply search the glossary to find out that it stands for, the Collaborative Design Center, located on West Campus.
  • Is inspiring. Kicked-off with a letter from Amy Bosley, vice president, organizational development and human resources, the handbook reminds us all that no matter the reason we chose Valencia, we all serve students and transform lives.

Accessing the Employee Handbook

The handbook is available both In Atlas and in the Valencia EDGE.

To access it via Atlas:

  • Log into Atlas
  • Click on the Employees tab
  • Click on the Employee Support Channel (on the lower left hand side of the screen)
  • Select Helpful Resources

The Employee Handbook is also available in the Valencia College Compass: New Employee Onboarding courses and you can find it directly via the link here.