Monthly Archives: June 2020

The 2020 Commencement Recast Launches Sunday

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Valencia College’s 2020 Commencement Recast will be available for viewing on the Graduation webpage and on Valencia’s YouTube channel beginning this Sunday, June 28, 2020, at 9 a.m. Student feedback and planning involvement helped to create this redesigned, online ceremony to celebrate their accomplishments in a more meaningful way.

As part of the celebration, each graduate received via mail a Graduation Box containing a letter from College President Sandy Shugart, a graduation cap, tassel, a commemorative Valencia College “Stole of Gratitude,” and tech stickers to place on laptops or other devices. Students will also receive their diploma and diploma covers via mail in late July.

The pre-recorded event features addresses from Dr. Shugart, President of West and Downtown Campuses Falecia Williams, Vice President of Academic Affairs Isis Artze-Vega and the sharing of 2019-2020 Mary S. Collier Distinguished Graduate Tamyia Paul’s video speech. Also, District Board of Trustees Chair Tracey Stockwell confers degrees to all graduating students.

In the recast, students’ names are shown on the East Campus Performing Arts Center stage screen and read by Valencia College staff.

Participating graduates are invited to attend the next live, in-person commencement ceremony that Valencia College holds and will receive a gown for the event.

To view the recast, visit this site after 9 a.m. on Sunday: The video will remain available on the College’s website through July and on its YouTube channel through 2020.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Continuing the Conversation on Race: Join Valencia’s Optum EAP Discussion Sessions

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A Message from Tom KellerDirector, Total Rewards

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of employees have engaged in a heartfelt, spirited email discussion on racial inequality in the United States. To continue those discussions, as well as provide support for employees who may be experiencing overwhelming feelings of grief, anxiety or anger, here are some resources available available to help.

Optum EAP Virtual Group Discussion
In conjunction with Optum, our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider, Valencia is hosting two virtual EAP dialogue sessions led by one of Optum’s licensed counselors. All Valencia faculty and staff are invited to these informal group discussion sessions. During these sessions, the Optum counselor will invite participants to communicate their thoughts about the current conversation on race with the group. Coping, stress management and self-care techniques will also be shared by the counselor.

Join the discussion at one of the times below:

Date:  Thursday, June 25, 2020
Time:  1 – 2 p.m.
Location: Zoom

Date:  Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Time:  9 – 10 a.m.
Location: Zoom

Optum Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
If you’re unable to join one of the virtual sessions or would like to talk to a counselor one-on-one, Optum also offers counseling opportunities through Valencia benefits and their own free, public emotional support help line.

For full-time employees, Valencia College’s Optum Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to you, your dependents, and members of your household to help you cope with these types of life events. Call 866-248-4094 (24 hours a day, 365 days a year) and use the access code: Valencia. You may also log on to and use the access code: Valencia. Optum EAP provides confidential, short-term counseling at no cost to the employee.

For part-time employees, Optum is offering a free emotional support help line. This help line will provide those affected access to specially trained mental health specialists. Optum’s public toll-free help line number, 866-342-6892, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for as long as necessary. This service is free of charge and open to anyone. Specially trained Optum mental health specialists help people manage their stress and anxiety so they can continue to address their everyday needs. Callers may also receive referrals to community resources to help them with specific concerns, including financial and legal matters.

Virtual PJI Circles
Additionally, don’t forget about the Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) Virtual PJI Circles, designed to build resilience within and among us. These safe spaces are created to remove blaming and shaming and to welcome honest, open sharing of personal experiences, struggles and triumphs.

Circles are offered weekly on the following days and times:

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

To register for a circle, click here.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

PJI Principle 10: Turn to Wonder

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

To help guide us through this time, the Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) has been sharing one Principle for How We Treat Each Other per week. This week, we feature Principle 10:

“In times so emotionally charged in relation to the racial terror, human death toll, economic devastation and mass unemployment, turning to wonder is a critical skill, so as to be able to stand in each other’s shoes and imagine what the other is experiencing at this moment,” shared Director of the Peace and Justice Institute Rachel Allen. “Being in a place of judgment allows me to feel secure and righteous. During times like these, there is no security. My ability to stand in a place of not knowing, of openness and wonder, creates a possibility for conscious relationship and a movement toward peace.”

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Juneteenth — A Special Celebration

A Special Message from Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President and Danielle McKinnon, Academic Division Coordinator and Valencia African Heritage Committee Chair

Today marks a special celebration in the life of our country and our college. Juneteenth, a term that combines the month of June and the Nineteenth day of the month, is widely celebrated as an important moment in the history of the emancipation proclamation, whereby four million African-Americans were freed from the abomination of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two years earlier, it was on this day in 1865 in Galveston, Texas, that U.S. General Gordon Granger publicly read orders for the immediate liberation of all enslaved people in the state and the active enforcement of liberation began in the remotest of formerly slave states. Annual celebrations began exactly a year later and continue to be recognized worldwide. You can learn more about the significance of Juneteenth in this Juneteenth LibGuide, created by our Valencia librarians.

We proudly celebrate the end of slavery and the long and difficult struggle for real equality before the law and in every aspect of life. We also celebrate and recognize the champions of freedom in this struggle, the work we have left to do, and the many contributions of Black Americans to the life we all share.

At Valencia, we are fortunate to have a leader in this celebration and recognition, the Valencia African Heritage Committee (VAHC). The VAHC works to foster inclusion of cultural and educational awareness of the African-diaspora at Valencia College, and seeks to build inclusivity of the social and political interests and concerns of faculty, staff and students of the African-diaspora collegewide and in the community. The VAHC has partnered with and sponsored many departments and student clubs for meaningful events and co-curricular opportunities throughout the College.

Tonight, we invite you to join our Juneteenth and Black Music Month celebration via ZOOM. Enjoy the live entertainment and rich history through a collection of performances, guest speakers and tributes by your Valencia colleagues. You can find the event line up and login information here.

We hope to connect with you tonight and at future events.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

NEA Awards Grants to Orange County Library, in Partnership with Our Southern Region Libraries

Friday, June 19, 2020

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

Valencia’s Southern Region has partnered with Orange County Library System (OCLS) for the 2020 NEA Big Read grant. NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

This $15,000 grant aims to inspire conversation and discovery in the community through contemporary titles reflecting different voices and perspectives. For 2020, we are focusing on “Pretty Monsters,” a book of horror and fantasy short stories by Kelly Link. Through our partnership, all Valencia students, staff and faculty can attend programming related to the grant at OCLS, regardless of county of residency. We will kick off three weeks of virtual programming on Sunday, August 23, 2020, with a keynote from author Kelly Link.

For more information and a schedule of events, click here, or contact Librarian Sarah Dockray at

In addition, we have been awarded the NEA Big Read grant for 2021. We will focus on geochemist and geobiologist Hope Jahren’s memoir “Lab Girl.” The book focuses on her journey as a woman in STEM struggling with her mental health.

Congratulations to our librarians on their work with our community partners.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

What Do You Do? Pandemic Edition

Friday, June 19, 2020

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

This week, we will meet Karen Owens, part-time faculty, humanities, at the Osceola Campus. Karen teaches art classes as well as humanities classes.

Scott Creamer, dean, humanities and social sciences, says that Karen has been helping many faculty members with transitioning their courses online while also keeping the Student Art Show alive by turning it into a virtual show instead. “She helped keep spirits up of both faculty and students,” Scott added.

Marlene Temes, interim dean, academic affairs, reports that Karen is taking a graduate painting class online this summer to learn techniques for teaching painting online to her students. Marlene notes, “Putting ourselves in the role of student teaches us a lot about teaching and learning.”

To read about what Karen does, click here.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Commemorating Juneteenth

Friday, June 19, 2020

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

Juneteenth is the oldest known commemoration of the liberation of enslaved African Americans. A combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth,” Juneteenth recognizes the significance of June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger publicly read orders in Galveston, Texas, for the immediate liberation of all enslaved people in the state, more than two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

While Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery, much work remains to be done to advance racial equity. Earlier today, our Student Development team hosted the first conversation in a series titled “Free-ish,” organized by 2020 Valencia graduate and student leader Donasia Harry. Donasia interviewed Danielle Strong-Robinson Smith, part-time faculty, English, about the significance of Juneteenth on Instagram Live. Please follow @valencia_osc on Instagram for future sessions in the series, scheduled for 12 -1 p.m. on Thursday, July 2, Thursday, July 16 and Thursday, July 30, 2020. I also encourage you to review our Student Development Online Magazine.

Tonight you are invited to an online celebration of Juneteenth and Black Music Month hosted by the Valencia African Heritage Committee. You can join via Zoom at 7 p.m. to hear from guest speakers and enjoy performances from local and national artists. Part of a four-part series, tonight’s musical focus will be on blues, gospel and rock.

To learn more about the history and importance of Juneteenth, you might find the following resources helpful:

Monthly Archives: June 2020

May Supervisor Summit Addressed Engaging Teams Through Feedback

Thursday, June 18, 2020

On Friday, May 22, 2020,  more than 180 supervisors joined the the Employee Development team for a special Supervisor Summit on Engaging Your Teams Through Feedback.

Amy Bosley, vice president, organizational development and human resources, and Carla McKnight, assistant vice president, organizational development, shared information on Valencia College’s summer hours and a reminder to ensure all hours worked are being documented by non-exempt employees. They also introduced exciting new development opportunities on the horizon, including the Supervisor Summer Series. College President Sandy Shugart then shared a few words with the Valencia family regarding the importance of stress management and taking time away from work to recharge.

Chanda Postell, assistant director, organizational development and human resources, then discussed engagement and its relationship with performance. She presented various levels of engagement, ranging from creative excitement to rebellious. We learned that how we choose to interact with our employees can have a significant impact on employee engagement. Regular one-on-one meetings are the key to assessing where your employees are on the scale of engagement and supporting them appropriately. Supervisors shared the questions they asked to their teams to make sure they are connecting, drawing out any issues or interests and finding solutions for moving forward. Supervisors suggested asking the following questions to team members:

Leverage opportunities to connect:

  • Do you have any fun plans coming up?
  • How are you and your family doing lately?
  • How is home-schooling?
  • Are you reading any good books lately?

Draw out employee issues or interests:

  • What are you most concerned about?
  • Where do you feel we should be focusing more of our time?
  • Is there anything that you would like me to do more of?

Find Solutions:

  • Do you have any ideas on how you want to solve that issue?
  • What resources do you need to help accomplish your goal?

Next, Trisha Whitmire, assistant director, equal opportunity, showed us the value of providing feedback, which includes increases in engagement, performance, retention and overall employee growth. In a remote setting, feedback may look and feel different, and special attention to which medium of communication you’re using should be given based on the nature of the subject.

Additionally, supervisors were provided the “SBI model,” and teams had the opportunity to practice the model with given scenarios. They were asked to identify the situation, behavior, intent and impact of each scenario, in order to clearly provide feedback to their employee.

For specific information on the session, review the Summit presentation.

Looking for more? Take a look at some supplemental resources below:

What’s Next?

The Employee Development Team invites you for another exciting Supervisor Summit via Zoom on Friday, July 17, 2020,  from 9 – 10:30 a.m. Check your email for an Outlook Calendar appointment with more information. If you haven’t received the invitation, email Organizational Development at

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Policy Update: Animals on Campus

Thursday, June 18, 2020

In this Policy Update series, you’ll receive information about recently updated, repealed or approved policies to ensure you are kept abreast of key policy changes. We are excited to provide you with relevant and timely policy information to assist you in your role and your team’s contributions to the College. 

By Michelle Sever, Director, Policy and Special Projects 

Valencia College is committed to affording individuals with disabilities in our College community an equal opportunity to access College property, courses, programs, activities and employment opportunities. In creating a more inclusive environment, the District Board of Trustees recently approved College Policy 6Hx28: 02-03 Workplace Accommodations for Applicants and Employees and College Policy 6Hx28: Animals on Campus.

The previous Workplace Accommodations Policy Update article provides a foundation of how the College works with individuals who request a reasonable accommodation because of a disability. A service animal is an available disability accommodation. As an employee of the College, do you know what is allowable by law?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, services animals are defined as dogs or miniature horses that are specifically trained to perform tasks or work for individuals with disabilities. Service animals must accompany their handler at all times and in all public areas of College property, including but not limited to classrooms, restrooms, administrative buildings, meeting areas and dining areas.

Employees or individuals performing work on behalf of the College who bring a service animal onto Valencia College property do not need to make a formal request for permission to bring the animal on campus. However, it is recommended for those individuals to notify Organizational Development and Human Resources Access Services Office at 407-299-5000, extension 3801 or of the service animal’s presence.

Students also do not need permission from the College to bring a service animal onto College property. However, it is recommended that the student notify the Office of Students with Disabilities at 407-299-5000, extension 2236 or of the service animal’s presence.

Please refer to the College policies above and frequently asked questions for more specific information on service animals:

For additional questions on the policies or resources, you may contact Organizational Development and Human Resources at or call the HR4U helpline at 407-299-5000, extension HR4U (4748).

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Help Your Team Members Develop as Leaders in New Pilot Program

Thursday, June 18, 2020

As you continue working to develop your goals and your team’s goals for 2020-2021 in the new remote environment, now is the time to start thinking about and investing in development.

The Organizational Design and Development team is creating a new virtual leadership development program focusing on Valencia’s emerging leaders — those who are open to learning, failing forward and growing. This is a pilot program that is designed to evolve based on the needs of the participants during the program. There will be more information available in July, so start thinking about who might be a good fit.

If you have any questions in the meantime, please reach out to Natasha McIlmurray, coordinator, organizational design and development, at or 407-299-5000, extension 1819.