Monthly Archives: June 2020

In Memory of Gehrig William Chambless

Thursday, June 11, 2020

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

Our deepest condolences to Professor of Economics Jack Chambless whose son, Gehrig William Chambless, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 21 on Sunday, April 26, 2020.

Gehrig, a Valencia College graduate, served as an editor and contributor to the “Phoenix” literary magazine. Following his time at Valencia, he played college baseball for Palm Beach State.

He grew up in Oakland where he was a home school student. Gehrig played both football and baseball for Legacy Charter High School where he holds numerous records — including the national high school record for most triples in a game.

He was passionate about the outdoors, having spent much of his life camping, hiking and canoeing all over the United States and Canada. He was an avid defender of human rights causes, giving freely of his resources to the International Justice Mission and his friends who are missionaries in Africa.

After college he became a very successful entrepreneur in The Villages. He was a member of Mosaic Church and is remembered as an extremely passionate, honorable and giving young man who loved his friends and family and whose loyalty, honesty and work ethic was admired by all who knew him.

To view Gehrig’s online celebration of life, sign his guestbook or donate to his favorite causes, click here. Please note that the celebration of life video begins at 3 minutes, 50 seconds.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Downtown Campus Displays Rainbow Lights in Remembrance of Pulse Tragedy

Thursday, June 11, 2020

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

In remembrance of the Pulse tragedy, Valencia College’s Downtown Campus, in collaboration with the University of Central Florida Downtown Campus, is lighting up the Dr. Phillips Academic Commons building this week in rainbow colors.

The lighting also honors the seven Valencia students who perished on June 12, 2016, when 49 people were killed and 53 others were wounded in a mass shooting inside Pulse, a nightclub located in Orlando.


Monthly Archives: June 2020

West Campus Roundabout Construction Forges Ahead

Thursday, June 11, 2020

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

Since many of us have been away from campus, construction of the West Campus roundabout has forged ahead, making significant progress toward completion.

Located at the intersection of Metrocenter Boulevard and Valencia College Drive, work on the site began in mid-May and is on schedule to run through Monday, August 10, 2020. Currently, the intersection is closed through traffic for the duration of the project.

This project was approved by the District Board of Trustees in the Wednesday, April 22, 2020, board meeting.

For a video of the construction in action, watch below.

Please contact James Traola, project manager, facilities, if you have any questions regarding this project at or 407-299-5000, extension 1437.


Monthly Archives: June 2020

PJI Principle 8: Identify Assumptions

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

To help guide us through this time, the Peace and Justice Institute has been sharing one Principle for How We Treat Each Other per week. This week, we feature Principle 8: Identify assumptions.

As we move through our country’s racial crisis, which is urging people to face their biases, paired with the unrelenting challenges of COVID-19, we must remember to pause and take stock of the assumptions that undergird our worldview. Most of us unknowingly possess beliefs stemming from white supremacy. We practice creating a peaceful and respectful community when we do the self-reflective work of identifying our biases and assumptions. Let’s take a moment to check in on the notions we hold about one another and ourselves, this week and from now on.

Practice the work of identifying assumptions by reading “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Embedding Industry Credentials Into Degree Programs Helps Students Get Ahead

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

For years, Malone Drakes Jr. worked and raised his children, but the desire to complete his education and learn about the world kept nagging him. So, at 49 years old and with both children out of college, he enrolled at Valencia College to pursue his dream.

In May, Malone, who currently works for the City of Orlando as a lead supervisor at the Orlando Venues Amway Center, was among thousands of graduates who completed an Associate in Arts degree. He also earned a Hospitality Security Specialist technical certificate. Malone said he hopes to use those credentials to move up in this field.

“I decided I’m going to go back to school and do what I taught my kids to do,” he said. “I had a great time at Valencia.”

Malone said he particularly enjoyed the hospitality and criminal justice courses he took toward his technical certificate, which was created with support from the Title V grant.

Among the goals of the $2.65 million Title V Osceola grant is to develop new Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs like the Hospitality Security Certificate. “We created a program that did not exist in the past, which has given students like Malone more options than they had before,” said Jennifer Keefe, the grant’s former project director and current implementation coordinator. She added that one of the grant’s goals was to increase the number of students gaining technical certificates by 10%.

James McDonald, executive director, BASBOL, who until recently oversaw Career and Technical Programs at the College’s Osceola Campus, said the certificate demonstrates how the College seeks to constantly look for ways to embed industry credentials into programs. One of the certificate’s courses Malone completed — CJE 2140 Introduction to Security — has the content of the Class D security license embedded in it.

“By doing this, we created a situation where current security officers could earn articulated credits for CJE 2140 or current students could earn the Class D license after taking the course,” said James.

“I am proud to hear the certificate was one step on Mr. Malone Drakes’ path to an associate degree. I hope his academic journey does not stop there,” he added.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

A Conversation on Race Sparks Solidarity, New Initiatives

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Hundreds of Valencia employees engaged in a heartfelt, spirited email discussion surrounding the topic of racial inequality in the United States last week.

On Monday, June 1, 2020, College President Sandy Shugart emailed all employees a College Update in which he acknowledged his own anger at continued acts of police and institutional brutality perpetrated against people of color in the United States. In that email, he urged employees to “make space for the challenging conversations.” He also pledged to “recommit to a workplace without bias, where each of us can expect to be treated with respect, courtesy, equanimity and full equality.” Sandy added Valencia would be convening a collaborative design team to develop concrete, actionable plans to make “real progress toward this central value.”

Following Sandy’s email, the discussion was kick started by Rudy Darden, professor, English, who sent an email message (via two email threads) to faculty and staff  across campuses in which he pointed out the need for all of us to pause and acknowledge recent nationwide and global turmoil triggered by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. Rudy also wrote a response to the email thread this week. Read his response here. 

Rudy pointed out the need to open up a dialogue surrounding race at Valencia College, including the need for the institution and its leaders to have additional “challenging conversations” about the topic without fear of being perceived as biased.

“Who are we at Valencia if we can’t hold intentional conversations with each other for fear that we will be perceived as “taking a side”? How could one be looked at negatively for taking “a side” in conversations around racial unrest and systemic racial injustices,” Rudy asked in the email.

His message resonated quickly, and hundreds responded in a thread that lasted into this week. Many responses were supportive and included a message from Valencia College President Sandy Shugart.

“Thank you, Rudy, for speaking from the heart. I hear you. Many hear you,” said Sandy in the response. “Thanks for helping to make Valencia a place where courageous conversations take us toward new understanding. I am on a journey. I need your companionship along the way as I learn to lead in a world of pain and struggle and wonder.”

Messages triggered by Rudy’s email were largely supportive. During the email thread, many employees thanked him for bringing up the topic and then shared numerous resources to help combat racism, which included links to videos, literature and other writings.

Katie Tagye, director, organizational design and development, shared a Google doc which includes webinars, workshops, recordings and other resources that all employees, including supervisors, are encouraged to access on multiple topics, including racial equity. Other employees said they would be hosting or attending Zoom meetings on these topics in coming days and weeks.

Not every message was supportive, however, which other employees said provided evidence of the urgent need to have discussions about racial equity.

On Friday, June 5, 2020, in her weekly Provost Update, Executive Vice President and Provost Kathleen Plinske encouraged employees to participate in upcoming Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) Circles. The circles are a series of weekly meetings that create a safe space for conversation and allow participants to find support and strength in one another.

Kathleen also urged employees to take advantage of the Employee Assistance Program, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provides confidential support at no cost. For more information about our Employee Assistance Program, including how to access support, please review this flyer. Kathleen is also hosting Zoom regional meetings at the Osceola Campus for those who wish to share what’s on their mind.

Interim President of East and Winter Park Campuses Wendy Givoglu invited employees in her respective region to a Town Hall that will utilize the PJI Circle format to help employees to process their feelings and experiences.

PJI released a message to members titled “The Urgency of Now,” encouraging employees to engage in more conversations surrounding these topics. In addition to promoting the PJI Circles, the PJI team announced it will facilitate workshops on race, bias, white privilege and supremacy. More details on these workshops are coming soon. PJI also recently released dates for its summer Academy for Teachers, which is open to all educators seeking to create more inclusive classrooms.

Meetings will also be set up with Vice President of Student Affairs Joe Richardson and Student Development to hear students’ feedback. Sandy and Kathleen will also participate, and a counselor will be on hand for students. More details will be shared as the information becomes available.

The Organizational Communication team encourages all Valencia College employees to submit stories surrounding all efforts to push institutional racial progress forward. If you would like to share a particular initiative, please email The Grove.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Join VAHC Friday Night for Live Hip-hop, Rap, Afrobeat and Caribbean Music Performances

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Date: Friday, June 12, 2020
Time: 7 – 7:45 p.m.
Location: Zoom

Get ready for another night of quarantine-style fun as the Valencia African Heritage Committee hosts the Black Music Month and Juneteenth Music Series this Friday, June 12, 2020. The second event in the four-week, Friday-night series is a tribute to hip-hop, rap, Afrobeat and Caribbean music.

Join our live host Rudy Darden, professor, English, and social justice advocate, for an exciting lineup of online performers and speakers including:

Educator, Businessowner, Arts Activist and Performing Artist Don Harrell

Don Harrell is an adjunct professor at Valencia College, where he teaches African American Humanities, and an adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida, including the Burnett Honors College, where he teaches the Evolution of Hip Hop in the Africana Studies Program. Don will discuss hip hop’s connection to a long continuum of music genres that have played central roles in the black American liberation and civil rights struggle, as well as present a musical narrative on African rhythm-centered music culture.

Artist, Professor, Father, Son, Brother, Partner Francisco Perez

Born and raised in Orlando with Puerto Rican and Cuban roots, New Student Experience Faculty Francisco Perez, aka Frankie Toma, was exposed to hip hop culture up close and personal with yearly trips to New Jersey with his family as a child. As an emcee, writer and educator, Frankie has been blessed with many opportunities to travel the world connecting with various communities and cultures.

Frankie Toma will perform an original song titled “Traveling Man.” “In my short time on this Earth, I have traveled and experienced a great deal of beautiful people, places and love. In the end, we are all traveling on this planet around the sun, and it is up to us how we choose to experience it.”

Business Owner and Musician Alvin Colbert, Jr., aka T.E.C.

As owner and chief information officer of Authentic Artistry Entertainment Group, Alvin utilizes his passion for instrumental music performance by providing live entertainment services and a positive environment for music lessons. With 28 years of music and social work experience, Alvin enjoys connecting with young people in the community and promoting the joys of music education. Alvin will perform a medley of two Bob Marley classics with the AAEG Band, led by Maya the Magi.

There will also be more additions to the lineup, to include some surprise tributes from Valencia College employees.

For additional information on the Black Music Month and Juneteenth Music Series, click here.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Zoom Updates and Tips

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Zoom has become synonymous with meetings due to the pandemic, and many of us have had to become expert “Zoomers” overnight. Like any technology, certain Zoom features and protocols have evolved and changed. To that end, we encourage employees to consider the following important items when using the application.

– Meeting IDs must be private. Employees should not share meeting IDs with passwords in any public forum. Instead, please include links to the meeting you are scheduling within the meeting invitation and require a password to help secure the meeting.

– If you are creating an event with open links (which anyone within or outside Valencia College can click on to access the event), you, the host, should monitor the event.The Office of Information Technology (OIT) advises employees to refrain from this practice to the extent possible, as there are nefarious actors taking advantage of open/public meetings. However, there are times when open links for events make sense. When they take place, OIT encourages the event host to ensure that any inappropriate behavior is identified and addressed by removing the individual. OIT has been communicating best practices to ensure employees have the knowledge and skills to conduct an online meeting.

– If you need assistance, please review this list of FAQs on Zoom or contact the OIT Service Desk. Faculty can refer to Teaching and Learning team for assistance.

– If you see a request to update your Zoom application, update it. Zoom has been pushing out regular updates to add features and security to applications. It is advisable to keep all applications up to date.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Winter Park Campus Library Launches New Family Resource Guide

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Winter Park Campus Library has a new online resource for Valencia families. The Family Resource Library Guide is an online tool for students, faculty and staff who are parents or caretakers of young children to help them navigate difficult situations such as COVID-19 and separation and divorce, with additional subjects coming soon.

The guide provides access to adapted versions of activity kits created by The Healing Library, an internationally acclaimed program designed to support families through difficult situations.

Each topic also includes a section with healing activities for family members to complete together. Activities are designed to be hands-on and engaging for children and adults alike, while also allowing space for conversation and questions to arise.

These kits traditionally consist of physical print resources, but a team of dedicated library staff, led by Miranda Scotti, library assistant, have adapted them for online use during our campus closure. All of the eBooks and materials within the guide are either free to access or can be borrowed from our library remotely with your VID. The guide will continue to grow and adapt to the needs of our collegewide patrons, so please stay tuned for new additions.

We encourage you to share this new resource with your students and team members.

Monthly Archives: June 2020

Protect Your Eyes From UV Rays This Summer

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Outdoor activities are some of the best parts of summer, but when you head outside to enjoy the warmer weather, it may have an effect on the health of your eyes. You probably know to protect your skin from the sun, but may not always think to protect your vision, too. It’s important to be mindful of the potential dangers as you celebrate summer and all that goes with it.

If you’re planning an outing at the beach, pool or any summer activity that involves multiple hours in the sun, your eyes may be exposed to radiation. UV rays are known to cause sunburns, but can also lead to long-term damage to your eyes and vision.

“Exposure to ultraviolet radiation may contribute to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration, which can result in blindness,” said Dr. Scott Edmonds, vice president of UnitedHealthcare Vision.

Even if you’re not bathing in the sun, your eyes can still be exposed to UV rays while participating in outdoor sports, like baseball or soccer. You may be focused on catching a pop fly, but many times you are looking directly at the sun. This may cause an “eye sunburn,” which may cause your eyes to feel gritty and painful.

“Too much exposure can contribute to skin cancer around the eyes and sight-threatening conditions,” Dr. Edmonds said.

Here are some quick tips to protect your eyes this summer:

  • Wear polarized sunglasses. Beyond being a great accessory, they can also help block out UV rays. When picking out the perfect pair, look for sunglasses that block out 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation. Also make sure the lenses are large enough to completely cover your eyes.
  • Throw on a wide-brimmed hat. Not only will this add some flare to your style, but it’ll also block about half of the UV rays. A brimmed hat helps to protect from the UV rays that sneak in from above or around your glasses.
  • Don’t avoid natural sunlight. It’s important for people — especially children — to get outside and take a break from digital devices. Some studies show that natural light can promote healthy vision, especially among children and teens with developing eyes.

Employees are reminded to use their vision benefits before the end of the calendar year. To learn more about your UnitedHealthcare vision plan, log into your account or call 800-638-3120. Our summer 36-hour workweeks are a perfect time to schedule a vision exam.

For questions about Valencia’s Total Rewards, including the UnitedHealthcare Vision Plan, contact Organizational Development and Human Resources at, or call the HR4U helpline at 407-299-5000, extension HR4U (4748).