Monthly Archives: October 2020

Featured Colleague: At Valencia College, Francisco Quintero is Living the American Dream

Tuesday, October 20 2020

By Claudia Zequeira

Francisco Quintero personifies the quintessential American Dream story. Needless to say, it all took hard work and dedication. Today, Francisco, emerging technologies library specialist, is glad of the choices he made and of choosing Valencia as a place to study and build his career, for the College was key in making that dream possible.

“I see people with many backgrounds here, with many stories, but they all have a common goal: they want to succeed,” said Francisco. “For some, perhaps there was a situation in their lives and they couldn’t fulfill a dream … but when they return to pursue it, Valencia represents that opportunity to succeed and accomplish your dreams.”

After moving to the Orlando area from his native Colombia in 2004, Francisco completed his Associate in Science in computer engineering technology (Networking) at Valencia. While he pursued his degree, Francisco also worked at Valencia as a federal work study student and then as a part-time audio visual specialist.

He was later promoted to the role of instructional technology computer support technician as he also went on to pursue — and earn — a Bachelor of Applied Science in software development from the University of Central Florida.

Today, Francisco’s role consists of managing a team of four at the East Campus while bringing emerging technologies to the College that might help the library and learning support areas.

More recently, and as a result of changes due to COVID-19, he and his team moved to an online platform to assist students who are in need of technology support via Zoom and troubleshooting issues with Canvas, Microsoft Office products, software compatibility and many others. He was also instrumental in creating a Canvas course to train a much larger, collegewide team in its new duties.

“I am so thankful for my team. That’s another accomplishment I’m proud of,” he said. “And of how we moved from face-to-face support for students to an online platform.”

Among the many things he has accomplished while at Valencia College, Francisco helped create a collegewide online platform to assist students with technology questions and helped equip the literacy collaborative classroom with a voice-activated device to control other devices within it.

He also created an application that allows students to complete the agreement form to check out equipment and resources (this was also eventually adopted by several campuses) as well as another web application for the library’s circulation department to help it track reserves inventory.

“I am the type of person who is always researching, and since I have a background in software development, I always see what else I can do to enhance a procedure to make things better for staff and students,” he said.

His supervisor, Leonard Bass, dean, learning support, referred to him as a “technology mastermind.”

“Francisco is an avid student of emerging technology and an incredible problem-solver … He is an incredible asset to our department, and I have enjoyed learning from and with him over the last eight years.”

“In his role as emerging technology library specialist, he is always innovating around the student learning experience in the library,” added Leonard.

Incidentally, it is our students that most inspire Francisco.

“When you make technology work for a student, it’s such a beautiful thing,” said Francisco. “That little help that you give to that student, it can make a big difference.”

By way of example, Francisco shared the story of how, due to software issues, a student came to him in distress and was about to drop his class because he was unable to complete his online course on a Macintosh computer.

“I referred him to a software that allowed him to do the work on his Mac, and he was able to participate in his class,” he said. “He stopped by later to thank me. That’s something that really inspires me to work at Valencia College.”

He also appreciates the comradery he has found here.

“What I like best is you feel you’re working with your family,” he said. “It’s a good environment. You get to establish a friendship and relationship with your co-workers. That is something you appreciate.”

In his free time Francisco, who was both in a rock and a salsa band in Cali, Colombia, loves playing the guitar and rollerblading.

He also enjoys spending time with his wife, and especially his two daughters, who are 9 and 14.

“I love spending time with my family,” he said. “Computers are awesome, but they can really take up your time if you don’t watch the clock.”

Know of someone doing great work at the College, 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: October 2020

Global Peace Week Brings Positive Practices, Resilience and Conflict Transformation

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Global Peace Week 2020 was a virtual success with more than 1,500 Valencia students, employees and community members attending Zoom workshops on positive peace practices, resilience, conflict transformation and peace practices focused on social justice, Celebrating Peace Day and the culture of peace.

Organized by the Peace and Justice Institute (PJI), workshops were intergenerational, included film and panel discussions, and applied practices such as mindfulness, self-compassion, and empathy.

One of the special new additions this year was the Children’s Hour. These events were designed specifically for children in their elementary school years and created with the notion that this is a critical time to incorporate peace practices for every generation of the household.

Some participants attended multiple workshops each day due to the value and sense of community created by the facilitators and transformational topics. The virtual delivery allowed for a more inclusive environment, creating a rich dialog from many perspectives and living up to the PJI vision: “All People. All Voices. All Matter.”

The four-day conference with six events per day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and brought in $1,611 in community donations. In all, 18 faculty members, six staff members, two students and 16 community members joined us in facilitating these conversations.

Partner organizations included Global Peace Film Festival, Student Development, Valencia College Libraries, the Orange County Library System, the METTA Center for Nonviolence, the Creating a Resilient Community Network and K-Ready Community.

Thank you to all the Valencia faculty, staff and students who facilitated and attended these workshops. We could not have done this without your support. We look forward to seeing you at Conversation on Justice in January via Zoom and this upcoming workshop:

Becoming an Ally Virtual Workshop
Date: Thursday, October 29, 2020
Time: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Location: Online

At a time fraught with social unrest, many people are wondering what they can do to get in and be a part of the seismic change. What does it mean to be an ally? Facilitated by Kari Whaley, part-time instructor, PJI, this workshop is designed to help participants develop knowledge, self-awareness and skills to best support and advocate with and for others as we work toward equity, inclusion and justice for all. The event is free with a Valencia College I.D. Participants may register here.

Monthly Archives: October 2020

Addition Financial Offers Financial Incentive to Valencia Employees Who Open an Account

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Addition Financial can’t help you grade midterms, but when it comes to helping you achieve your financial goals, count them in. As a faculty or staff member at Valencia College, you’ll automatically receive $100* when you open a checking or savings account with Addition Financial.

You can also get a Valencia College-branded debit card, so you can show your school pride wherever you shop.

With tap-to-pay card technology, mobile and online banking, bill pay and other services, Addition Financial is here as Valencia’s preferred financial institution to make banking easy as 1-2-3. Managing your money with Addition Financial is more convenient than ever, with ATMs on campus and in the Presto! ATM network at Publix, and 25 branches across six counties in Florida.

Experience the Addition Financial difference yourself. Click here and open your account today.

For questions, please contact Richard Barbari, Addition Financial’s relationship manager, at (407) 896-9411, extension 2333, or

*Limit one per household. Certain restrictions apply. Not valid with any other offer. If the account is closed within 90 days, the account holder will reimburse Addition Financial the coupon amount. Offer available for first new checking or savings accounts only. Member requirements apply. Please contact us for details. Offer expires Friday, December 31, 2021.

Monthly Archives: October 2020

2021 Benefits Open Enrollment Begins Today

A Message from Tom Keller, Director, Total Rewards

Today marks the beginning of the Valencia College Open Enrollment period. Now, more than ever, is the time to review your benefits and determine which selections are right for you and your family. This year’s Open Enrollment period is Monday, October 19 through Friday, October 30, 2020, and is your once-a-year opportunity to enroll, opt out or make changes to your health, dental and vision plans, flexible spending accounts, and life and disability insurance.

Open Enrollment Process
Like last year, you may participate in passive enrollment, which means that most of your 2020 benefits selections will roll over to 2021, unless there is an active change made during Open Enrollment. To review your current 2020 benefits elections, open the Benefitfocus portal and click “Employee Summary Report” under My Documents on the left menu.

However, you should participate in active open enrollment in the Benefitfocus Portal or via the Benefitplace app if you want to:

  • Add, drop or change any of your benefits coverage
  • Add, drop or change any dependents’ benefits coverage
  • Participate in a Medical or Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for 2021 (the 2020 enrollment amount does not roll over for 2021)
  • Enroll in, increase or maintain your Health Savings Account (HSA) employee contribution for 2021 (the 2020 employee HSA payroll deduction will not roll over as a payroll deduction amount for 2021)
  • Opt out of medical coverage in 2021
  • Decline medical coverage in 2021
  • Add medical coverage if you opted out of medical coverage or declined medical coverage in 2020

So, how do you enroll? Watch the video below for steps on how to complete the enrollment process:

To start the process to enroll in your 2021 benefits via the Benefitfocus Portal from your computer:

  1. Log in to your Atlas account.
  2. Go to the Employees tab.
  3. In the My Human Resources channel, select Benefits & Wellness.
  4. Click on the Benefitfocus Portal link.
  5. To review your current 2020 benefits elections, click “Employee Summary Report” under My Documents on the left menu.
  6. To start your 2021 enrollment, click the “Get Started” button. Then, you’ll be on your way to making the most of your Valencia Total Rewards.

To enroll in your 2021 benefits via the Benefitplace app:

  1. Search for Benefitplace in the Google Play Store for Android users and Apple Store for iPhone users, and download the app.
  2. Open the app and enter valenciabenefits as the company ID.
  3. Log in using your Atlas Username and Password.

Win an Amazon Gift Card

Review and complete your 2021 enrollment in Benefitfocus or the Benefitplace app during the first week of Open Enrollment, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for one of three $100 Amazon gift cards*. The deadline for entry is Sunday, October 25, 2020, at 11:59 pm. Be sure to click the “Complete Enrollment” button at the end of your review in order to be entered in the drawing.

Dependent Eligibility Verification and Re-verification Review
In January 2021, Consova will conduct a verification of new dependents and re-verification of select dependents enrolled in the medical, dental and vision plans for 2021. The review will be conducted on behalf of Valencia to ensure that only eligible dependents are enrolled in appropriate plans:

  • All newly enrolled dependents added to the plans for 2021 will go through an initial dependent eligibility verification review.
  • Spouses, domestic partners and some child relationships, except natural born or adopted children, that were previously verified prior to Wednesday, July 1, 2020, will be re-verified.

Need help? There are resources available to assist you with making the best 2021 benefits decisions:

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

*Any property or service provided to employees of the College valued at $100 or more is taxable and will be added to your W-2 earnings.

Monthly Archives: October 2020

The Creatologists Present: Design and Politics

Friday, October 16, 2020

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

Join the Creatologists Student Club on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, from 1 – 2 p.m. for a virtual event, “DESIGN and POLITICS.” Guest speaker Rene Alvarez, adjunct professor of political advertisement at the University of Florida and digital strategist at Impact Politics, LLC, will speak about the role of graphic design in political propaganda as well as some of the current design trends that politicians are using to influence the events of politics. The talk will be followed by a short Q&A and a design poster exhibition with the theme “Black Lives Matter” by some student members of our art and design programs.

For more information, contact Professor of Graphic Design Julio Falú at

Monthly Archives: October 2020

The Osceola Humanities Department Presents Stories from the Pandemic

Friday, October 16, 2020

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

Date: Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Zoom

Join Humanities Professor Kathryn Cairns as she moderates student narrators Nicole Moreno Taborda, Karen Sanchez Crespo, Isabella Figuero and Marta Crespo, along with Humanities Professor Betty Fenner and Student Development Programming Specialist Julian Duque, on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, at 1 p.m. for “Stories from the Pandemic,” the second show and the first virtual one in The Narrators series. The narrators will share their experiences of navigating their lives while living during COVID-19. The group will be joined by Counselor Alina Siddiqui.

Monthly Archives: October 2020

Counseling Resources Are Available to Students

Friday, October 16, 2020

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

With the midterm upon us, students are vulnerable to high levels of stress. In addition, the grief and loss brought on by COVID-19 may further affect students’ motivation and performance.

If you are noticing stress-related behaviors in your students, for example, lack of engagement, or if students have shared they are experiencing distress to you directly, please complete a counseling referral form, so a counselor can reach out to them and provide emotional support. You can submit a referral through

If students are interested in contacting a counselor on their own, they can do so through These forms are ideal for non-emergency situations. If students are experiencing an emotional crisis, such as suicidal ideation, please encourage them to contact BayCare (Student Assistance Program) by dialing 1-800-878-5470, and they will be able to speak to a licensed mental health professional.

Monthly Archives: October 2020

Poinciana Campus Plaza Tutors Team Stays Focused on Helping Students

The Plaza Tutors team, in pre-pandemic times

From left to right: Josue Guedes, Miguel Santiago, Marisela Varela-Russian, Samuel Stadtlander, Rey Maldonado De Leon (also in pre-pandemic times)

Friday, October 16, 2020

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

During the last several months of online classes, many of our student services, including tutoring, have moved online as well. The Poinciana Campus Plaza Tutors team, under the supervision of Charminta Brown, manager, learning support services, Garret Gaudens, instructional lab supervisor, and Diana Budach, instructional lab supervisor, hasn’t missed a beat.

One of the team’s tutors, Miguel Santiago, first stumbled in to the Tutoring Plaza as a student looking for help with an assignment for ENC 1101. Today, he works as a tutor himself, and says, “The best part of my job is experiencing invigorating eye-opening moments with students. Having the opportunity to experience a moment of fulfillment that many students strive to achieve and not to mention work extremely hard to reach, makes my job marvelous.”

Now, having switched to tutoring online, he notes, “Embracing change and having acceptance has truly helped me adjust.”

Miguel has a vivid memory of a satisfying interaction with a speech student, who told Miguel that because English is her second language, she was nervous to present a speech. The two worked together, starting with small steps and then practicing the entire speech. Miguel says proudly, “After her speech day, she came back to the Plaza and thanked me for all the help. Being able to see the transformation the student had while becoming more comfortable was one of my most satisfying interactions.”

Marisela Varela-Russian, another Plaza tutor, also originally became familiar with the tutoring center as a student seeking help with her classes. Now, she pays it forward, having been a member of the tutoring team since 2017. She says, “The best part of my job without a doubt is when a frustrated student comes to me for help, and I am able to break the material down in a way that they can see it and understand it. To see their eyes light up is my motivation to do what I do.”

Marisela has also made some adjustments due to the pandemic, but notes that she had taken online classes, so she was familiar with Canvas. She says, “The online training to help tutors become familiar with Zoom was of great help, but the support of my direct supervisor who went into the Zoom space and helped each tutor practice and become proficient using the tools made the difference.”

Marisela treasures an email she received at the end of the summer semester from a student whom she tutored. The student shared her excitement about the grades she had earned (two As and a B), and thanked Marisela for all of her help.

The group’s supervisors shared this quote: “The Poinciana tutors are an incredible group of people with a wide range of interests and expertise. They have worked hard to adapt to the changes across the tutoring platforms while continuing to provide compassionate and reassuring support for both students and each other. We are truly grateful to be a part of this remarkable team, and we constantly in awe of the work that they do.”

Monthly Archives: October 2020

Addition Financial Offers Credit Card for Valencia Employees

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Get paid to shop with the Addition Financial — Valencia College’s preferred credit union — Premier Rewards credit card. With this card, you’ll get points every time you swipe (or insert, or tap-to-pay, or … you get the idea.).

You’ll receive five points for every one dollar spent in a rotating category every quarter, such as dining or entertainment; three points on travel; two points on gas and groceries; and one point for everything else.

Plus, cardholders earn five points for every dollar spent on all recurring payments. That means for things like gym memberships, Netflix subscriptions and bill payments, you’ll receive five times the points.

The Additional Financial Premier Rewards card features:

  • Reward points with every purchase;
  • Redeem points for cash, travel or select merchandise or gift cards from the CURewards catalog. Or donate points to A Gift for Teaching or Kid’s House;
  • No annual fee, balance transfer fee or cash advance fee;
  • Low variable rates;
  • An introductory bonus: Get 10,000 bonus points after $1,000 in purchases within three months of opening;
  • A waived foreign transaction fee;
  • Free fraud monitoring; and
  • Discount offers from participating merchants.

Please note that when you open a credit card account, you will also receive a free savings account along with the credit card. For more details and to apply, click here and complete the online form.

Monthly Archives: October 2020

Supervisor Summit Helps Supervisors Recognize and Manage Stress

Thursday, October 15, 2020

By Deanne Abrams, Director, Employee Development

On Friday, September 25, 2020, the Employee Development team hosted a special Supervisor Summit with guest facilitator, Wendy Wollner from Optum EAP. In the session, “Navigating Uncertainty and Building Resiliency,” she shared how to recognize stress, manage it and develop positive coping strategies to maintain a high level of resilience in our lives. This information is essential to our work as supervisors — we need to take care of ourselves in order to best support our teams.

“I really appreciated that the College is focused on our well-being,” one participant shared in the event survey. “Wendy’s talk about resilience was encouraging and a great reminder to take care of yourself and to be there for one another.”

Another participant shared that “having an external professional to bring in a global perspective and remind us that we are not alone in this challenge” was valuable. Participants also shared some key takeaways from the session in the event survey:

“Take care of yourself first,” one supervisor commented. “Then you can take care of someone else or something else.“

Another shared, “On top of our weekly meetings, I will try to meet with everyone one-on-one.”

For more specific information on the session, please review the Powerpoint and accompanying workbook. Additionally, below is a list of the books Wendy recommended during the session:

  • “I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One” by Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair
  • “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy” by Sheryl Sandberg
  • “Man Searching for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl
  • “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person” by Shonda Rhimes
  • “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World” by Admiral William H. McRaven

Don’t forget about our resource of Optum Employee Assistance Program (EAP):

For full-time employees, Valencia College’s Optum EAP is available to you, your dependents and members of your household. 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.

For part-time employees, Optum is offering a free emotional support helpline for all people impacted. 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.

Our next Supervisor Summit is:

Date: Friday, November 13, 2020
Time: 9 a.m.
Location: Online

An Outlook calendar appointment will be sent from