A Message from Kathleen Plinske, President, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses
Last month in my Provost Update, I asked for feedback on our organizational structure and the timing of our campus president searches. I’m so thankful that many of you participated in the Town Halls or shared your input personally with me. Overall, I heard lots of enthusiasm and interest in spending time to collaboratively design campus leadership roles for the future to best support our work. I did not hear a sense of urgency to conduct campus president searches this spring; rather, I heard gratitude for the talented interim leaders we currently have in place and accolades for their ability to create a sense of stability during these uncertain times.
So, while we will not conduct campus president searches this spring, I want to make sure that the Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana campuses are in good hands prior to my transition to the role of college president. Later today in my collegewide Provost Update, I will be requesting a letter of interest from any employee who would like to explore the possibility of serving as interim president of the Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana campuses. I imagine that our new interim leader would start around the beginning of April. While you might wonder why I simply don’t appoint someone to the interim role, I am confident that there is a great deal of talent within the organization and I am interested in knowing who might aspire to serve in a campus leadership role. By appointing someone without a process, I fear I would miss an opportunity to identify emerging leaders within the college.
The Campus Concentrate was delivered a bit earlier than usual today because I wanted you to hear this news from me via our campus communication vehicle prior to the message being delivered collegewide. It feels bittersweet to reach the proverbial “end of the road” as your campus president, but I am most certainly looking forward to continuing to serve the College, our students, and our community in my new role. And, please know how much care I will exercise in finding just the right leader for the Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana campuses for the future.
A Message from Kathleen Plinske, Executive Vice President and Provost
I hope this month’s Provost Update finds you in good spirits and health. In this message, I’m sharing an update on our organizational structure and campus president search timeline, including an opportunity to serve in an interim leadership role, as well as our summer credit course offerings.
Update on Organizational Structure and Campus President Searches
In last month’s Provost Update, I asked for your feedback on our organizational structure and the timing of our campus president searches. I’m so thankful that many of you participated in the town halls or shared your input personally with me. Overall, I heard enthusiasm and interest in spending time this spring to collaboratively design campus leadership roles for the future to best support our work. I did not hear a sense of urgency to conduct campus president searches this spring; rather, I heard gratitude for the talented interim leaders we currently have in place and accolades for their ability to create a sense of stability during these uncertain times, as well as a desire to ensure we had the capacity to fill other critical roles, such as key dean positions.
As such, we will delay our searches for campus leaders until the fall. This will allow us an opportunity to consider some adjustments to our organizational structure, as well as search for two dean positions this spring. First, Ana Caldero Figueroa has graciously served as both interim dean of communications and dean of arts and humanities on our West Campus for nearly two years (thank you, Ana!). Serving in multiple roles for an extended period of time takes a toll, and it will be important for us to conduct a search for a dean of communications at West this spring. Second, Dave Brunick has announced his retirement (congratulations, Dave!), so we need to conduct a search for a dean of business, information technology and public service at the East Campus. You can expect to hear more details about the timeline and process in the coming weeks in The Grove.
Furthermore, it is important to me that the Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campuses are in good hands prior to my transition to the role of college president. Since we will not be conducting campus president searches this spring, now is an appropriate time to begin an internal search process for an interim president of the Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campuses.
While you might wonder why I simply don’t appoint someone to the interim role, I am confident that there is a great deal of talent within the organization, and I am interested in knowing who might aspire to serve in a campus leadership role. By appointing someone without a process, I fear I would miss an opportunity to identify emerging leaders within the College. I invite anyone who would like to explore the possibility of serving as interim president of the Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campuses to send me a letter of interest to email@example.com by Monday, March 15, 2021. I plan to convene a small team from the campuses to provide their counsel to me in selecting an interim leader and envision that our new interim leader would start in the role around the beginning of April.
I continue to welcome your feedback about our organizational structure. Please feel free to continue sending your input by email, or let me know if you’d like to set up a time to chat via Zoom.
Summer Course Schedule
As we prepare to move into Phase 3 of our Roadmap for Reopening in summer, our focus remains on our two key priorities: the health and safety of our students, employees, and community; and providing for continuity of student learning. Phase 3 allows for certain programs, services and departments to add on-site engagement, including courses where faculty and/or students prefer an on-campus experience.
To support the development of the summer credit course schedule, our Course Schedule Design Team, composed primarily of faculty and deans, developed design principles for summer course offerings. In addition, we surveyed full-time faculty with a summer contractual teaching obligation, as well as annually appointed and part-time faculty in specific disciplines, to identify those individuals who would prefer to teach on-site this summer. Furthermore, we invited all current students to share with us which courses they planned or hoped to take this summer and in which modality they preferred to take each course.
As a result, our deans and faculty are putting the finishing touches on a summer schedule that will include more on-campus courses than we have offered over the last three semesters. In addition to the courses and programs that were offered during Phase 2, we expect to offer a limited number of on-site courses in accounting, biology, business, chemistry, earth science, English, history, humanities, mathematics, physics, political science and psychology. We are confident that thoughtful campus coordination with our facilities and operations teams, plans for smaller class sizes to accommodate physical distancing within classrooms, and our continued safety and sanitization protocols will allow for a safe increase in the number of students and faculty on campus this summer.
After Spring Break, we will begin the process of identifying which services and departments will add on-campus engagement in the summer. Please know that if you are currently working from home and prefer to continue doing so during Phase 3 this summer, your preference will be honored.
I hope that you are looking forward to a restful and relaxing Spring Break. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with your thoughts, questions, comments and concerns.
A Message from Wendi Dew, Assistant Vice President, Teaching and Learning and Isis Artze-Vega, Vice President, Academic Affairs
How does learning-centeredness, a core element of Valencia College culture, relate to the College’s recently reaffirmed commitment to equity? And what are the implications for faculty and teaching? In this communication, we embark on a journey, critically examining key ideas from the College’s learning-centered initiative. In March, we’ll describe additional ways that equity and learning intersect, building on our foundational learning-focused efforts.
Our Original Learning-Centered Initiative
In 1995 — more than 25 years ago — Valencia College launched an institutional transformation initiative focused on collaborating to become more learning-centered. As described in a series of essays, the culmination of that systemic change in Valencia’s culture and infrastructure was the collaborative development of a Strategic Learning Plan. In it, the College articulated seven strategic learning goals:
To highlight a couple of ideas bearing on our current teaching for equity efforts, the Learning First essay includes two questions that began to govern planning and decision-making deep within the organization, ones that have become a natural part of our everyday practice and language: “How does this enhance student learning?” and “How do we know?” The Learning by Design essay expressed the “need to continue studying the best research on and consider the best practices of learning in college — what we call the ‘scholarship of teaching and learning’ [and] also … study our own practice at Valencia to learn what we’re doing well and where we need to do better.”
Equity-Minded Features of the Learning-Centered Initiative
Among the tools developed to realize the goals of the learning plan were a set of working theories that became known as “Big Ideas.” Perhaps chief among them is the conviction that “anyone can learn anything under the right conditions.” As described in this summary document, “this idea mark[ed] a change in belief about our students. Most of the culture of education is built on a long-standing myth that talent for learning is relatively scarce and that many, perhaps the majority of our population, just aren’t ‘college material.’” The essay then explains that “the fact is nearly anyone can learn nearly anything, under the right conditions … is a matter of scientific truth,” referencing neuroplasticity.
Given the essential role that language plays in advancing equity, it is important to point out that our Valencia leaders not only avoided the deficit-based language that pervades education and educational institutions; they explicitly rejected deficit-mindedness as an enduring and problematic myth. The “Diversity Works” essay also framed our diversity goals as an asset-based, comprehensive, mission-centered imperative.
Moving from Intention to Impact
Again, our aim in this communication is to examine artifacts of our learning-centered initiative and begin to explore the questions, How does learning-centeredness, a core element of Valencia College culture for more than 20 years, relate to the College’s recently reaffirmed commitment to equity and the equitable outcomes we have set? And what are the implications for faculty and teaching?
First, we must acknowledge what our student outcomes data communicate unambiguously: Despite our intentions and the inclusion of diversity in our learning-focused strategies, we have not yet created the right conditions for many of our students; in particular, for our Black and Latinx students. We will therefore need to work diligently, together to identify and implement fundamentally new approaches (including systemic changes) to attaining the ambitious, equitable goals in our Impact Plan. Here are just a few considerations for the next phase of our work drawn from the analysis above:
We might consider asking a third question when doing and designing our work at the College, one that will implicitly remind us of our commitment to equity and that learning is powerfully influenced by identity: “How does this enhance student learning?” “How do we know?” and “For whom?”
Given our stated commitment to “applying our understanding of the ways that people learn best in college,” what if we commit to enhancing our individual and collective understanding of how race and ethnicity shape learning in college? (Note: The efforts of the Focused-inquiry Team on Equity-minded Practice in pedagogy and curriculum will help a great deal with this.)
We can extend and enhance a fundamental component of the learning-centered initiative –that we “study our own practice at Valencia to learn what we’re doing well and where we need to do better.” Each of us can assume responsibility for advancing equity as an integral part of our role. As CUE affirms, equity-minded practitioners “use inquiry to gather evidence about the problem and to carefully examine existing practices to determine how they may be related to inequities.” They also “question their assumptions about students, recognize how stereotypes and implicit biases may harm racially minoritized students, and use disaggregated quantitative data and qualitative inquiry findings to guide their practice.”
Finally, we might reflect on our own language with respect to our use of deficit-, asset-, and/or other lenses in our communications with students and key course materials like syllabi, as our language may be influencing our students’ learning in ways we have not yet recognized.
How else might we build on the foundation of our learning initiative and advance equity in our teaching practice to achieve the ambitious, equitable goals in our Impact Plan? Feel free to provide your ideas in the Comments or email us directly, so that we can engage with your insights and use them to inform our work and future communications.
When service learning opportunities diminished for her Introduction to the Teaching Profession students as a result of the pandemic, Paula DaSilva, professor, education, did not skip a beat.
Quickly, and beginning last summer, Paula rose to the occasion by relying on her professional network and personal connections to create a virtual summer program that enabled some of her education students to earn their required 15 field experience hours.
“I thought, why don’t we develop a program that will help students complete their hours, while also helping families that were not expecting to have their children at home during the summer?” she said. “I also wanted to help families engage students in a meaningful manner and make sure we were still having fun.”
To accomplish the task, Paula, who began teaching at Valencia in 2016, paired up Valencia students with families of elementary age children. The goal? To help Valencia students gain firsthand experience in the virtual classroom while learning to adapt to a completely new teaching environment.
In addition, the summer program sought to help children who suddenly saw most of their summer activities shut down due to the pandemic and whose parents wished to keep them engaged in enrichment activities as they themselves worked from home.
“Equally important for me is that my students who are future teachers have the opportunity to be challenged and to sort of be in the moment of these challenges and figure out solutions,” said Paula, adding that these teaching methods will prove invaluable as virtual teaching gains prevalence as a mode of instruction.
To develop an appropriate curriculum, Valencia students scheduled a time to meet children’s families via Zoom to ask about their academic backgrounds as well as about areas they wanted their children to work on and then created activities tailored to their specific needs.
Jordan, one of the summer program students, playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” using the water xylophone he created after a lesson on pitch and tone.
Over the course of six weeks, Paula’s students met twice a week with the children assigned to them and once a week as a group to develop and plan. Toward the end of the program, they were tasked with creating an engaging lesson, to be delivered virtually. They also had to communicate with parents ahead of time to alert them of the materials that would be needed for the activity they prepared.
Paula also enlisted the help of colleagues, such as Jefferson Crutchield, international technical support specialist, who developed hands-on STEM activities, including one where students build their own solar oven and another in which they collected leaves around their neighborhood to use in an experiment related to photosynthesis.
A father and daughter engaged with guest speaker Jefferson Crutchfield’s hands-on lesson on Photosynthesis.
Another applied activity involved using GPS as a tool, which allowed children to safely explore and share general information about their neighborhoods.
“It really offered those young children an opportunity to feel closer at a time when that was really challenging because they were being asked to stay home,” said Paula.
Students also produced a digital journal, which they used to share the activities they created.
Paula said she was encouraged by her students’ feedback (many of them completed more service learning hours than their course required), so much so she decided to offer the virtual summer program again in summer 2021. She and her students are also in the process of creating a new Children’s Virtual Reading Festival for children and families, to be held at the end of March 2021.
The festival’s goal will be two-fold: to accommodate service learning opportunities shortages and to work around Valencia students’ busy schedules. Students will meet for four days, Tuesday through Friday for two hours in the afternoon and will offer fun and educational book-based activities to children of different ages.
Paula, who admitted she loves creating programming for students and co-advises for Valencia’s Future Educators Club (VFE) as well as serving on the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County’s Board, said that while the pandemic has undoubtedly presented challenges, it has also brought forth immense opportunities for creativity and collaboration.
“If I thought I needed to do all this alone, it might be super scary,” she said. “But I think when you’ve got people that are really talented and willing to collaborate, it’s just sort of about bringing those different pieces of the puzzle together. There’s no place to work like Valencia, in terms of collaboration.”
Do you know a faculty member doing great work? Or, perhaps you’d like to share the work you’re doing? Send the colleague’s (or your) name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and include Faculty Highlight Nomination in the subject line of your email. We might just feature your colleague (or you) as an upcoming Faculty Highlight.
The Collegewide Faculty Association announces the opening of the nomination period for the Faculty Association Awards for Excellence in Teaching, Counseling and Librarianship.
The purpose of this award is to recognize five faculty members who have demonstrated effective and innovative teaching methods and a continuing commitment to student success through student engagement both inside and outside the classroom.
All faculty members, both full-time and part-time, are eligible. Nominations may be submitted by students, faculty and staff.
Nominations will be accepted through Friday, March 19, 2021.
Nominees will be asked to submit a portfolio for consideration by a committee of faculty members who will choose up to five winners.
First, I am so excited to see another day, week and month. My presidency has proven to be different and so will my messages. As we leave this month of February, Black History has been on display, and I have had the opportunity to enjoy wonderful presentations of our history. In this month alone, we have lost some historical icons of fame: Cicely Tyson, Hank Aaron, Mary Wilson of The Supremes and Chadwick Boseman, just to name a few. I expressed this because so often we are caught up in the day-to-day struggles of work, family and life in general.
If I have learned anything from facing cancer for the second time around, it’s that I take nothing for granted and to live life to the fullest each day. I have also learned to show some form of kindness to someone every single day. We have become a society that depends on electronics to communicate and not sharing how we feel to those people around us face-to-face.
I’d love to know how you are showing kindness. Please email me how you shared an act of kindness this month, and then I’ll share some them in my next message next month. My mother always says, “It’s just nice to be nice.” So many of us have forgotten this.
As many of you may or may not know, I have lost the ability to speak for now. Nevertheless, as I am fighting to speak again to be able to verbally share my thoughts, I respect and care for each of you and all that you do to make our college phenomenal. So many of you have shown me acts of kindness through this very troubled journey I have encountered in 2020-2021. I believe that if we start at home simply being kind and saying a kind word, it will spill over into our offices, classrooms, Zoom meetings or wherever you are throughout the day. I personally believe that this will make Valencia even stronger, and the world will see why we are the best at what we do.
I am so proud to be a part of such a wonderful institution that has shown kindness and love beyond measure. I cannot thank you enough for being a college of not only higher learning but a college of love and concern for everyone around.
Again, I want to encourage faculty, staff, students, leadership, administration and whomever is reading this month’s message to continue to do the fantastic jobs that you are doing and live your lives to the best of your ability.
On a business note, here are some important items the Faculty Council covered in our Thursday, February 11, 2021, meeting:
Advancing Data to Faculty
Interim Executive Dean of the Winter Park Campus John Niss shared the history behind the Data to Faculty work group and the long-standing idea that if faculty are to make data-based decisions then they need access to student data. Since 2017-2018, when faculty members gained access to more detailed student success data, there have been connections made to College efforts like the Math Pathways work, action research, student outcomes discussions, and equity and inclusion conversations.
Assistant Vice President of Teaching and Learning Wendi Dew informed the council that a new work team will be formed to build upon and advance the well-established Data to Faculty work — the Advancing Data to Faculty work team. The goals for this team are to increase data literacy, provide opportunities for critical, equity-minded reflection and to provide opportunities for improvement of teaching practice at the college. The team of faculty and deans will evaluate and make revisions to the current faculty development course through which faculty gain access to the data, create a reflection tool to deepen conversations related to student learning and determine how the data, development course and reflection tool can be used.
Professor of Biology Tim Grogan spoke with the council about the Academic Integrity Standing Committee and concerns that faculty are expressing with academic integrity at the College. One of the main points in this conversation was that academic integrity encompasses a variety of things, and the integrity of both students and faculty members should be considered in the discussion.
After a lengthy discussion regarding academic integrity, it was decided that the council leaders will schedule a meeting with Vice President of Teaching and Learning Wendi Dew to discuss this further.
A Message from Campus Directors of Faculty and Instructional Development Shara Lee, Dori Haggerty and Sally Leslie and Faculty Director of the Teaching/Learning Academy Claudine Bentham
Mark your calendars for Destination 2021, which will take place virtually during the first five Friday afternoons of the summer term — May 14, 21, 28, June 4 and June 11, 2021.
Destination is an annual professional development program that brings Valencia College colleagues together to explore teaching and learning innovations, challenges and solutions. We hope you will join us at our first ever entirely virtual, synchronous program to connect and learn alongside colleagues from diverse fields in this collegial, immersive, learning experience. We guarantee that your learning environment will never be the same.
This year, we are planning another robust program focused on equity-minded teaching practices and Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED). Further details will be available on the Destination webpage after Spring Break, including the application to participate.
All tracks will award participants $500 for successful completion and, since a stipend is awarded, Professional Development (PD) hours are not available.*
If you would like more information or have any questions about the program or process, please reach out to a campus director from your campus.
*Your employment status at the time of application will determine compensation. Full-time, non-exempt staff and part-time staff are paid their hourly wage; overtime may be paid, if applicable. Please note that overtime is paid after 40 hours of work, not inclusive of leave or paid time off. If you have any questions about how you would be compensated for participation in the program, please contact Organizational Development and Human Resources at HR4U@valenciacollege.edu, or call the HR4U helpline at 407-299-5000, extension HR4U (4748).
A Message from Geni Wright, Director, Online Teaching and Learning
During our migration from Blackboard to Canvas, the College entered an agreement with Blackboard to maintain a Blackboard archive containing course content — such as folders, modules and assignments — for three years. Many faculty moved their course content from Blackboard in the beginning stages of the migration to Canvas.
The contract to retain the Blackboard archive terminates on Wednesday March 31, 2021, and we would like to offer faculty one last opportunity to retrieve content. Keep in mind that there may be limitations on what the Office of Information Technology can recover for courses older than 2017.
A Message from Amy Bosley, Vice President, Organizational Development and Human Resources
As we make preparations to enter Phase 3 and plan for the Summer 2021 term, we invite you to join us for one of two town halls with Orlando Health, our planning partner.
Valencia College is continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students and preserve the continuity of learning as we move forward with our phased approach to reopening. Currently, we are continuing to offer the majority of our courses online and reserving face-to-face for courses that are unable to be offered online.
As shared by Dr. Shugart in his College Update on Tuesday, February 9, 2021, our successful launch and implementation of our Phase 2 operations in both the fall and the spring semesters, and now with COVID-19 vaccinations becoming more widely available, we are making plans to gradually move into Phase 3.
To help inform our plans to transition to Phase 3, Orlando Health will join us for two town halls to provide an update on the coronavirus, the various strains of the virus, transmission data and impacts of the virus within schools and controlled settings. We look forward to engaging in discussions about our current cleaning and safety protocols, including any revised guidance on mask wearing, physical distancing, holding events and quarantining after travel.
Joining us from Orlando Health for these town halls will be Chief Quality Officer of Medicine Christopher Hunter, MD, and Chief Nursing Officer Kelly Edmondson, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, to answer our questions and assist us we continue to develop plans for a science-based approach for our reopening plans.
Dr. Hunter has held several positions at Orlando Health including assistant program director for the Orlando Health Emergency Medicine Residency and the medical director for the Orlando Health Air Care Team. He currently works with leadership and medical staff to develop and adopt an organizational culture of quality and safety.
Nurse Edmonson is a skilled healthcare leader with over 20 years of critical care, emergency and executive nursing practice. She collaborates closely with the healthcare team and nursing staff to drive sustained improvement in the patient experience, quality outcomes and the work environment.
Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from experts and get your questions answered. I look forward to seeing you there.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-299-5000, extension 8255. You may also contact Organizational Development and Human Resources at HR4U@valenciacollege.edu, or call the HR4U helpline at 407-299-5000, extension HR4U (4748), where an Organizational Development and Human Resources team member will be ready to assist you.
Faculty and staff from across the College came together with their colleagues to think about and discuss how Valencia College will support student access and success. Between our Forum and Brainstorming Sessions, more than 400 employees participated, allowing us to generate high-quality ideas.
Over 14 core sessions were offered, with an additional two on Learning Day and several held for teams by requests. Each session had its own collection of wonderful ideas, generative discussions and thoughtful suggestions.
Our survey will stay open until the end of the week for additional idea submissions. Special thanks to everyone who submitted their ideas through our Digital On-Demand and Onsite Idea Collection stations.
I am grateful for all of the participation and the ideas and suggestions that were shared during this process. I feel confident that with our amazing collaboration we will be able to build on this great work to inform our institutional plans.
We look forward to reviewing your input and ideas, and will send updates on emerging themes and the next steps in the strategic impact planning process in the coming weeks. Please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com if you have questions or would like additional information about the strategic planning process.