Monthly Archives: December 2020

Paul Blankenship Makes It to ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ with a Christmas Parade Gone Bad

Thursday, December 10, 2020

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

Kudos to our very own Paul Blankenship, dean, mathematics, who recently made it to “America’s Funniest Home Videos” for participating in a “Christmas parade gone bad.”

The funny moment was captured by Paul’s neighbors and sent to the show, which aired this past Sunday on ABC.

In the video, Paul is seen driving a golf cart hidden inside a giant wrapped gift. At some point along the parade, the gift box hit a curb and a surprise ensued.

“When I realized the damage, I just drove on through the top of the box,” said Paul.

For a few laughs, you can watch Paul’s video here.

Monthly Archives: December 2020

Scholarship Essay Writing Workshop Helps Valencia Horizon Scholars Access College

Thursday, December 10, 2020 

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

Administrative Assistant Melissa Shank presented a Scholarship Essay Writing Workshop to Director of Horizon Scholar Kelly Astro’s Horizon Scholars SLS 1122 RTV course last November. The workshop centered on helping dual enrolled and first time in college students who are a part of the Horizon Scholars program to discover and write their “stories” to then translate them into answers for common scholarship essay prompts.

Melissa, who works in the Learning Support department on West Campus, is also a current student at Rollins College and has funded most of her college classes through scholarships. In her workshop, she shared her story with the class and an essay she wrote for a recent scholarship she won.

Additionally, the presentation included tips and tricks for writing essays. It also mentioned other benefits — besides money — that scholarships can provide, such as networking opportunities with local business people. During the workshop portion, students were led through a series of questions to help get their creative juices flowing and show how each experience in their lives could serve to answer essay prompts such as, “tell us about a time when you were a leader,” and “why are you applying for this scholarship?”

The workshop was designed to help students learn how to write about their experiences in such a way as to set their essays apart from others and to make the daunting task of writing the essay portion of their scholarship application less frightening, thus encouraging students to put themselves “out there” and try.

“Students shared during and following the presentation that they had never thought about writing a scholarship essay like this and that this session completely opened their eyes to being more creative and proudly sharing ‘their story’ when competing for awards”, said Kelly. “I look forward to having Melissa present this to my future classes and to our Horizon Scholars.”

All the students surveyed after the workshop said they would apply for scholarships following the session.

Students also shared that they liked learning how to write their own essay, as well as learning the importance of their own story and how it correlates to a scholarship.

The Valencia Horizon Scholars program provides low-income Orange County students in grades nine through 12 with the opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship with a mentor and to participate in co-curricular programs that help them grow personally, professionally and academically. Upon successful completion of all program requirements, students receive a scholarship that, combined with the skills they’ve learned through mentoring and other programming, enables them to break the cycle of poverty.

Monthly Archives: December 2020

Downtown Campus Celebrates First-generation College Students

Thursday, December 10, 2020

A Message from Terri Graham, Interim President, West and Downtown Campuses

During the week of November 8, 2020, many colleges and universities celebrated the National First-generation College Celebration. Initiated by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) in 2017, the First-generation College Celebration encourages campuses to celebrate their first-generation students in creative ways.

This year, Student Engagement at the Downtown Campus, in collaboration with the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) First Gen Knights committee, hosted a week of activities and programs for students both virtually and in-person to celebrate the accomplishments of first-generation students, faculty and staff.

Throughout the week, digital banners were displayed on campus that offered words of encouragement written by Downtown Campus faculty and staff members who were first-generation students themselves.

On Tuesday, November 10, 2020, students were invited to participate in a panel discussion with faculty members from Valencia College and UCF. Librarian Angela Hall and Professor of Biology Cory Blackwell delivered compelling stories about their college experiences as first-generation students and encouraged students to take advantage of the many resources provided to them on campus.

Additionally, students taking classes on campus and residing in UnionWest were able to stop by a tabling event on Thursday, November 12, 2020, in front of the Communications and Media Building to pick up “first-gen swag” and enter for a chance to win gift cards to Publix, Chick-fil-A or Buffalo Wild Wings provided in partnership with the First Gen Knights program.

Student Engagement hopes to continue the tradition of celebrating First-Generation Student Week in partnership with the First Gen Knights program annually to show our appreciation for our current first-generation students and celebrate the success of first-generation college students, faculty and staff at our institutions.

Monthly Archives: December 2020

Need a Laugh? You’re Invited to Comedy Hour with Sara Schaefer

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

If you need a laugh during this year of all years, the Faculty Council invites all Valencia College employees to comedy hour with comedian Sara Schaefer, this Thursday, December 10, 2020.

Date: Thursday, December 10, 2020
Time: 1 p.m. 
Location: Zoom 

Sara Schaefer is a critically acclaimed stand-up comedian, writer and producer currently based in Los Angeles. She was the co-host of MTV’s late night show “Nikki & Sara Live.” Her “Comedy Central Stand Up Presents” half-hour special debuted in November 2019.

She won two Emmy awards for her work at “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and won a WGA Award for her work on Ed Helms’ Comedy Central special “The Fake News with Ted Nelms.”

Sara has also written for numerous programs including “The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor,” Comedy Central’s “Problematic with Moshe Kasher” and “Not Safe with Nikki Glaser.” Her digital series “Woman Online” debuted on Seriously.TV in February 2017, and her stand up show “Little White Box” debuted to a sold-out run at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Her scripted web series “Day Job” was named one of 100 Best Web Series by “TimeOut New York“.

Monthly Archives: December 2020

UnitedHealthcare Update on COVID-19 Vaccines

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

As you may have heard, several COVID-19 vaccine trials from multiple companies are happening now, with promising results. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has a review process it completes before it will authorize vaccines for emergency use by the general public.

For frequently asked questions from UnitedHealthcare (UHC) about COVID-19 and the vaccine, click the following button.

Monthly Archives: December 2020

Students in Distress? Refer Them to a Counselor

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

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

If you notice stress-related behaviors in our students, lack of engagement or if students have shared they are experiencing distress to you directly, please encourage students to complete a counseling support form, or faculty can complete a counseling referral form, so that counselors can reach out to them and provide emotional support.

Students may contact counselor on Atlas, under the Students tab and under Health & Wellness on the right hand side of the screen. Students may select then select the Counseling Support Form.

Faculty can submit a referral through Atlas, under the Faculty tab. Then, under Faculty Tools on the right hand side of the screen, select the Counseling Referral Form and complete it electronically.

Both the Counseling Support Form and the Counseling Referral Form 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: December 2020

Learning Council Focused on Its Development and Welcomed New Members This Fall

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Given the unconventional fall term, the Learning Council thought it would be helpful to provide a synthesis of its efforts in late fall, representing the work of its October, November, and December meetings.

The council welcomed its 13 new members* in October. Stanton Reed, accounting professor and Learning Council co-chair and Michelle Foster, dean, academic affairs, East Campus, facilitated a discussion of the first parts of Dr. Ibram Kendi’s book “How to be an Antiracist.” They asked members to reflect on what we need to clearly define as a Learning Council that will give us a foundation for the work toward racial equity at the College. Responses included the council’s responsibility to provide definitions for race as it relates to academia that are appropriate for teaching and learning; that it should be the Learning Council’s work to understand common language; and that when we define our policies as either racist or anti-racist, we are then able to hold ourselves accountable.

The council discussed the broader college context for equity work and invited members to describe equity efforts in their areas. Members also reviewed a summary of the book “How Learning Works: Seven Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching” by Ambrose and colleagues, and they committed to continue engaging with the science of learning to enhance the council’s ability to do its job and help develop the institutional Learning Plan in the spring.

A discussion on antiracism and the role of the Learning Council

The November meeting of the Learning Council, held on Thursday, November 5, 2020, was condensed to 55 minutes, so that council members could participate in the presidential search semi-finalist interview process. The brief discussion focused on chapters 2-8 of “How to Be an Antiracist” and was facilitated by new Council member LaVonda Walker McKnight, faculty, New Student Experience. She asked, “How has your definition of racism changed as a result of reading chapters 2-8? How has that impacted you personally?”

Among the responses were: “I see racism more now as policies/laws/structures. This has changed my focus on where to dig in and do the work,” and “Kendi has taught me that policies and decisions (even on a personal level) are either racist or antiracist. There is no racial neutrality.”

After sharing excerpts from the book that caused them to think differently about their work individually and the work of the council, members were asked “Now What?” and examined policies at the College that could be reframed to be more equity-minded. Responses ranged from student conduct, hiring processes, and employee onboarding, to the selection of instructional materials, classroom management, and attendance policies

Putting our equity and learning discussions to work 

Finally, the December meeting, held on Thursday, December 3, 2020, had three primary goals: to reflect on and celebrate the work of the year and begin looking ahead to spring, begin to recalibrate how the council reviews work proposals/plans, and review two work proposals.

Nichole Jackson, director, learning assessment, guided members in an activity during which they each recalled their experiences as a student which resonated with one or more of the “How Learning Works” principles of learning science; for instance, a specific time they benefited from a teacher employing one of the principles, and/or a time when a teacher didn’t take into account the science of learning.

Building on that discussion and drawing on the Council’s equity work, Wendi Dew, assistant vice president, teaching and learning, facilitated an application exercise. “Given what we have read and discussed, what criteria do we now know to look for when we commission work through proposals/plans?,” she asked.

Small groups generated ideas, and the council isolated two new criteria through which to review the work proposals under consideration that day: 1) the extent to which the proposal makes explicit how equity-minded practice is a lens through which research and work will be completed, and 2) How will we know if the work has been successful?/What is the primary goal and/or learning outcomes?

Isis Artze-Vega, vice president for academic affairs and Learning Council co-chair, introduced the two work proposals, one focused on classroom-based early alert work and another on the Post-COVID Learning Support model. Wendi represented the early alerts proposal, which she will co-lead, and Leonard Bass, dean, learning support, East and Jennifer Tomlinson, interim dean, learning support, West, represented the learning support.

Feedback was shared via Google Docs and verbally. For instance, Lauren Thomas, professor, math, noted that she “would want to make sure that the alerts are not triggered by stereotypical behavior that is racialized but [rather by] research-backed indicators that identify students who require outreach and help.” James McDonald, executive director, BASBOL, asked of the learning support proposal if the team planned to look into the characteristics of the students using services during the pandemic to see if there are differences by race/ethnicity from prior to the pandemic.

Wendi and the learning support team will update their proposals based on the council’s feedback and share the updated proposals with the LC prior to its first spring meeting.

*New members:

Monthly Archives: December 2020

Save the Date for Learning Day 2021

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Date: Friday, February 12, 2021
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Location: Online

Save the date to join your colleagues to be inspired, to learn and to celebrate together for Learning Day 2021 on Friday, February 12, 2021.

All faculty and staff members are invited to attend Learning Day, which will be held virtually from 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. The day will tentatively include a keynote speaker and breakout sessions.

Please note that all Valencia campus locations will be closed on Friday, February 12, 2021, in observation of Learning Day, and all full-time employees are required to attend. Make sure to create an out-of-office e-mail message, post signs or record a voicemail to remind students of the closure. 

If you’re interested in presenting on a topic in one of this year’s Learning Day’s themes — adaptability and change, equity and inclusion, remote and virtual technologies, personal development, or wellness —  watch for a call for proposals in The Juice and The Grove in early January.


Monthly Archives: December 2020

Featured Colleague: Rebekah Lane Makes Space for Creative Vision

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

By Claudia Zequeira

She has spent her life acting, performing and directing, but Rebekah Lane also has an eye for “the big picture” within Valencia College’s School of Arts and Entertainment (SAE). As SAE professor and director, Rebekah has played a pivotal role as connector of multiple departments spanning 10 academic disciplines.

“Essentially, I feel like I’m assisting in the creation of a vision … but the goal is to create that vision collaboratively,” said Rebekah. “We are figuring out how we come together, and each campus is different, but we are trying to foster that conversation.”

In her role, which she assumed last year, she is most proud of having grown Spring Arts Week, a collegewide arts festival featuring workshops, performances and exhibits by students, faculty and staff that seeks to celebrate all the arts being produced at the College.

“We have gone from a 33 events in 2019 to active collaboration from eight campuses with 58 events in 2020,” said Rebekah.

“The infrastructure is being created. We’ve created a website and measurable outcomes … My hope is that once we have that established, that we can grow it. The next step is how do we bring the community in, how do we bring larger artists in…all with the potential to work as a recruitment tool. But first, we have to celebrate us.”

During her time at Valencia, Rebekah has contributed in both artistic and practical ways. This year, for example, she directed a play titled “She Dreams of Heroes,” a piece created by the Valencia ensemble which was broadcast online due to the pandemic. Rebekah also served as liaison to the digital media department to ensure the event was streamed successfully and worked with Valencia’s legal team to navigate copyright issues prior to sharing the work online.

She has diligently communicated with Marketing and Organizational Communication to publicize all events produced during the SAE’s art season. She is also currently in the process of developing an artist-in-residency program.

Her supervisor, Rob McCaffrey, interim dean, SAE, agrees Rebekah has been a force for good and a welcome addition to the College.

“What’s special about Rebekah is her high level of engagement,” said Rob. “No matter what project she’s had to take on this year, she’s been thoughtful, thorough and active in moving the work forward.”

At Valencia, where she began teaching as an adjunct in 2011, Rebekah said she is inspired by co-workers who are invested in the community because they themselves are artists who regularly contribute to it.

She is also inspired by the students themselves.

“I have worked at a lot of different colleges … but I feel like the Valencia students are here because they have a sincere interest in bettering their lives,” she said. “And it feels good to help them; to help them make their lives better.”

The care and service Valencia continually offers the community is also important to her.

“Valencia is invested in improving the Orlando area; in making Orlando a little bit better. I certainly feel that is true,” she said. “What I think Valencia signifies to the community is possibility.”

And she also appreciates the College’s leadership culture.

“I feel the leadership culture at Valencia; it’s very much that service leadership,” she said. “They are striving to empower the students, striving to empower the staff, striving to empower the faculty. I know that I feel like people are striving to empower me. And that’s just a wonderful place to be. That just feels good and that culture isn’t everywhere.”

Before joining Valencia, where Rebekah also teaches theater and acting, she worked as a theater instructor at St. Leo University. She has also taught public speaking at Full Sail University and Towson University, in Maryland.

A Central Florida native who expresses great pride in the Orlando arts, Rebekah holds a bachelor’s degree in theater performance as well as a masters’ degree in communication from the University of Central Florida (UCF). She also holds a Master of Fine Arts in theater arts from Towson University.

Rebekah has a long history of involvement in the Central Florida theater community, having had ties with the Orlando International Fringe Festival and the Creative City Project where she has directed several plays; MicheLee Puppets, where she served as both an actor writer and project manager; and Opera Orlando, where she worked as a stage director.

In addition, she has worked as director of puppetry for Phantasmagoria, a unique theater group created by John DiDonna, professor, artistic director and Valencia Theatre Department chair. It is known for bringing steampunk/Victorian-era ghost stories to life. Rebekah, who has also worked with Mad Cow Theater is currently collaborating with the group on a performance tied to the Orlando Science Center’s Pompeii Exhibit.

When she is not busy honing her craft, which is rare, Rebekah enjoys practicing yoga. More recently, she has taken up gardening.

Ultimately, however, theater and the ability to see a creative vision through, always win out for her.

I love creating. I’m really a person who loves the process,” said Rebekah. “For me, it is not about that final performance; for me it is about generating something new and going through the process of generating something that really encapsulates a vision.”

“I just believe in making work, and I believe in creating space for work to be made,” she added. “And I believe in teaching people how to support each other in that risk.”

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.