Monthly Archives: March 2021

Faculty Highlight: Ellen Costello Brings Exciting Changes to EPI

By Claudia Zequeira

The saying “it takes one to know one” applies perfectly to Ellen Costello, manager, teacher preparation, Educator Prep Institute.

Years ago, Ellen was a psychology major who decided being a K-12 teacher was her calling. But making the leap to education, an entirely different profession, was made possible thanks to an educator preparation institute she attended in Washington, D.C., her former home.

Today, she is paying it forward at Valencia College by leading significant changes to the Education Preparation Institute, or EPI, as it’s usually referred to at the College. The EPI program offers an alternative pathway to teaching for people whose bachelor’s degree is in a subject other than education. It uses a combination of classroom experience and general courses in basic pedagogy that help provide a foundation for aspiring teachers and also helps prepare them for one of several state teacher certification exams.

“Alternative certification programs are a great pathway for people who have diverse interests but who have a love of teaching or have found a calling,” she said. “We have a number of folks who come to us to change careers, and the EPI program provides that access.”

Ellen has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom, both at the K-12 and college level. In addition, she serves as a mentor and presenter for the Horizons Scholars program and serves on the Parramore Education and Innovation District (PEID) Teacher Recruitment and Retention Committee, which is collaborating with the University of Central Florida, Valencia and Orange County Public Schools on a Pathways to Teaching virtual expo scheduled for Thursday, April 1, 2021.

But the institute, which she began leading in 2018, has become “her baby.”

Over the past 18 months, Ellen and a team of colleagues have endeavored to revamp the program. The effort, which will roll out in the fall, came about after internal conversations at the College and after changes in state requirements for educators.

Ellen and the team in charge of redesigning the EPI regularly met on Zoom last year to accomplish the task. In the photo, clockwise from top left: Ellen; Susan Dunn, dean, behavioral and social science; Clair Yates, faculty development and instructional designer; and Rhonda Atkinson, professor, education.

Although students can still complete the program in the same amount of time — it takes anywhere from three semesters to three years to finish it — course content is different and will go from offering institutional credits to offering for-college-credit courses moving forward.

“We’re opening it up to a broader range of students so that we will still have those alternative certification candidates, but also people interested in learning more about a student-centered learning environment who would be able to take the classes as well,” said Ellen. “This is in addition to teaching recertification folks [who need to maintain their professional credentials].”

The program’s new curriculum will also offer students the first four competencies of Florida’s reading endorsement. Ellen hopes to add a fifth course that will complete participants’ full reading endorsement requirements.

In addition, the program took a close look at Valencia’s Rubric for Online Competencies (ROC), which pushes for best practices online, something local school districts indicated they wanted in their new recruits, and changed the number of credit hours required from 26 to 24 to meet state and school district partner needs.

A sample of one of the many curriculum changes Ellen and her colleagues developed when they could still meet in person. After the pandemic caused campus closures, the team moved all of its collaborative work online.

Courses are also now infused with “sustainable and culturally relevant” pedagogy throughout, promoting concepts and actions of equity, opportunity and access for students from diverse racial and ethnic communities.

Ellen hopes all these new changes help create better teachers for tomorrow and meet partner districts’ demands for quality educators.

“This was a lot of pieces sort of coming together, so that it seemed opportune at the time to say ‘let’s start this revision and make it something Valencia can continue to be proud of,” she said.

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 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.

Monthly Archives: March 2021

College Update — We’re All in This Together

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

A Special Message From Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President

I write again in the wake of tragic violence against vulnerable neighbors. The mass murders of spa workers in and near Atlanta a week ago and Monday’s attack on a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, are graphic reminders of our shared vulnerability to evil, violence and hatred. I am filled with outrage and many swirling questions about these events.

I know you are wrestling with these matters, as well. One thing has become clear in the days since the Atlanta tragedy — the past year has seen a marked increase in aggression and violence against our neighbors of Asian heritage. This is yet another form of despicable racism and is intolerable. I want all of our Valencia community to know that we stand with all of the victims, against racism, against violence, against evil. And we stand together for human rights and dignity, for embracing our diversities as gifts, and for an ethic best described long ago: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

At every level of the College, in SEED groups, in staff meetings, in the Senior Team and the board, in formal learning experiences with the Peace and Justice Institute and deep personal reflection, we are wrestling with these and related challenges. If you feel threatened, mistreated, traumatized or especially vulnerable, please reach out to colleagues and leaders in the College. We will support you. Formal processes and programs are at the ready, as always. So are the informal, but often powerful, resources of friends and colleagues in the College. We are all in this together.

Monthly Archives: March 2021

Accommodating the Religious Observances of Students

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

By Michelle Sever, Director, Policy and Special Projects 

Valencia College is committed to reasonably accommodate the religious observance, practice and belief of individual students with regard to admission, registration, official ceremonies and attendance in class. In our continued work and commitment to foster an inclusive and accessible college environment, the District Board of Trustees recently approved College Policy 6Hx28: 02-08 Accommodation of Religious Observances by Students.

Students may potentially have to miss class and/or other important school events in order to observe their religious practices. This policy and the procedures seek to balance student academic responsibilities with their religious practices. Detailed in the procedures of College Policy 02-08 are expectations of students regarding how to communicate to their faculty any potential conflicts in scheduling.

Religious accommodation requests may take different forms (e.g. spiritual observance request of accommodation, modified course requirement accommodation, etc.) and on very rare occasions there may be questions from faculty involving requests when a lesser-known religious holy day(s) is(are) involved, and faculty may need to seek additional guidance or direction in order to best support their students. To assist our faculty and students, contact resources are listed in the procedures of this policy to help navigate these types of requests as needed.

Please refer to College Policy 6Hx28: 02-08 Accommodation of Religious Observances by Students for more specific information. For additional questions on the policy or resources, contact the Equal Opportunity Team at; or 407-582-5000, extension 3421.

Monthly Archives: March 2021

Employees Share What They Did on Their Much-needed Break

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Whether it was strawberry picking, baking, boating, fishing or working on home improvements, Valencians maximized their time off during Spring Break. Check out this photo montage of how Valencia employees spent one of our favorite total rewards.

Monthly Archives: March 2021

Strategic Planning Update: Next Steps for Institutional Plans

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

A Message from Brandon McKelvey, Vice President, Analytics and Planning

Building on the ambitious goals of our Strategic Impact Plan, work is underway to map out the way we will achieve those goals and create a blueprint for opportunity and equity.

Before spring break, I shared an invitation to join one of four Institutional Planning Work Teams that would help build the plans that will inform our Impact Plan goals. I received an overwhelming response for service on the Institutional Planning teams and am looking forward to continuing the strategic planning work.

The four Institutional Planning Teams are:

  1. Academic Program Plan
  2. Equity Plan
  3. Learning Plan
  4. Student Experience Team

A fifth team will be established for Community Impact after a community survey is conducted.

Institutional Planning Meetings

Each institutional planning team consists of between 15 and 25 participants including faculty, staff, administrators and students. Each planning team is co-chaired by a campus administrator, district administrator and/or faculty council member. These teams will meet bi-weekly.

Next Steps for Institutional Planning

Following the institutional planning kick-off meeting on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, each of the institutional planning teams will meet at least four times to:

  • Review the feedback from the ideation sessions along with draft, emerging strategies that have been gathered from this feedback.
  • Edit the draft, emerging strategies.
  • Add additional strategies when appropriate.
  • Complete a high-level, work plan for each strategy.
  • Place the strategies on a three-year timeline to monitor and track progress.

Communicating Results

Between each week of meetings, an update of the progress will be provided. At the conclusion of the institutional planning process, the teams will have identified strategies, built work plans and constructed a three-year work timeline. This information will be shared at the end of the institutional planning process. Please stay tuned to your email for updates via The Grove and employee newsletters.

Thank you to all of you who have participated and continue to engage in this strategic planning process. As always, please feel free to reach out to me at if you have questions or would like additional information on the work teams or the institutional planning.

Monthly Archives: March 2021

Roadmap for Reopening: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers on Ventilation

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Facility safety is paramount to our learning environment. Last summer, as we prepared for Phase 2 operations for the Fall 2020 term, we shared how we were preparing our facilities to welcome back a small number of faculty, staff and students to our campuses. As we prepare to move to Phase 3 operations for the Summer 2021 term, it seemed like the perfect time to talk with Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Maintenance Shaun Andrews — who leads our Custodial, Grounds, Maintenance and Construction teams — to discuss the frequently asked questions he receives about air quality on campus.

Shaun — a Certified Hospital Facilities Manager who previously worked within hospital and medical facilities management and construction, designing constructing and operating hospitals, surgery centers and medical office facilities — is no stranger to providing the safest indoor environment possible. In fact, he was attracted to Valencia College because of the investments the College had already made in computerized controls to efficiently control and monitor the indoor environment, as well as the excellent facilities professionals who were on our team to monitor and repair our complex mechanical systems.

Here are questions he receives most often about campus safety and air quality.

Can you explain the air filtration that is used at the College and any changes in air filtration that may have developed in response to the pandemic?
I get asked about building sanitation and air quality daily since COVID-19 altered our learning environment last March. We are fortunate here at Valencia, since our buildings are engineered and designed to provide exchanges of outside air, and some of our newer buildings also utilize bi-polar ionization and ultraviolet technology to further eliminate contaminates in the indoor air. We also monitor CO2 levels in areas to be sure that the systems are maintaining proper fresh air levels.

Prior to COVID-19, Valencia College utilized different Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) filters to clean the indoor air as recommended by the space usage, so a lab space that may have certain contaminates would have a different MERV filter than say an atrium or a lecture space. We are currently moving to a MERV-13 filter in all of our systems to provide hospital-grade air filtration. Our goal is to not only address the immediate need to combat COVID-19 but also help in the fight against other infectious viruses and bacterial contaminates.

How often are the filters changed?
We have air conditioning technicians and maintenance technicians checking or changing filters at least every three months. We monitor filter appearance and proper fit to be sure that all air is passing through the filter and that there is no abundance of airborne materials that are potentially clogging the filter. We also base our filter change frequency on airflow data collected to ensure that filters are changed when they are no longer providing designed airflow to meet design parameters. Different types of systems require filter changes at a different frequency, and with the move to MERV-13 filters in all of our systems, we will most likely see a required frequency of filter change for some areas.

Do you feel that our facilities are safe?
In general, the larger the building, the more likely it is engineered and designed for outdoor air exchange, so that is one reason that I feel much safer here in my office at West Campus than I do at home, where there is no designed outdoor air exchange, or in a small establishment that also most likely does not have a system designed to utilize outdoor air exchange. Combine our building engineering and design with our preventive maintenance, filtration and systems monitoring, and I believe that we provide a really safe indoor environment.

Looking back over the past year, is there anything that you would have done differently?
I am very impressed with Valencia’s leadership over the past year. I felt that every decision mirrored what I believed to be the safest response and set up the facilities team to succeed in providing the safest environment given the circumstances. Leadership also included Facilities in discussions and planning throughout the pandemic and vetted all plans through Orlando Health, so from my perspective there is very little that I would go back and change. I think that our success is evident in that we made decisions with health and safety being paramount.

Do you feel that Valencia will continue to be a safe place?
I never fathomed that my past experiences as a Certified Hospital Facilities Manager would be needed to help the College safely maneuver through the current pandemic, but that experience allows me to feel confident that Valencia will continue to be a safe place for everyone.

I was responsible for creating emergency management plans and performing drills in the hospital on how the Facilities team would prepare and respond to outbreaks such as Ebola and other airborne contaminates, and I am now using those experiences to safely address our current battle with COVID-19. As we progressed through the scientific findings of how COVID-19 spread, we were able to adjust the facility response and prepare the team to be successful.

As we all adjust toward eventual Phase 4 operations, what will be needed?
Patience, communication and trust will be important for all of us moving forward. You are all our customers, and we will continue to support everyone in the best fashion possible to ensure that our facilities are safe, functional and aesthetically pleasing. The team is always available, and we appreciate the opportunity to serve Valencia College.

Do you have other questions about campus safety and air quality? Ask them in the comment section below or send them to Shaun directly at or call him at 407-299-5000, extension 1179.

Monthly Archives: March 2021

Important Zoom Notice for Mac Users

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Mac users, if you previously installed the Zoom plugin in Outlook, in order to continue scheduling Zoom meetings directly from Outlook, you must download and install the Zoom for Outlook add-in (versus the plug-in) by Saturday, May 1, 2021.

As of May 1, the plug-in will not load when you attempt to schedule or start meetings. While it is recommended that you download and install the add-in for the same ease of experience, you can also schedule Zoom meetings from Zoom’s Web Portal.

To install the Zoom for Outlook add-in, follow these steps:

  1. In the Outlook for Mac Home ribbon, click on Get Add-Ins (or Store if running an older version of Outlook for Mac).
  2. Search for Zoom for Outlook.
  3. Click Get It Now.
  4. If prompted, enter your Valencia email address and password.

How do I know if I have the plug-in or add-in installed?

If your ribbon menu looks like this, you have the plug-in installed and should install the add-in. 

If it looks like this, you already have the add-in installed:

You do not need to uninstall the former plug-in, as once the change takes effect, Outlook will ignore and not load the plug-in.

For assistance or questions, submit a request for the OIT help desk online, via email or by phone at 407-299-5000, extension 5555.

Monthly Archives: March 2021

You’re Invited: Black Advisory Committee Incentive Awards

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Date: Friday, March 26, 2021
Time: 6:30 – 8 p.m. 
Location: Zoom 

You’re invited to join the Black Advisory Committee to recognize our students — who have persisted in their academic success and endeavors despite adverse circumstances — during the 44th Annual Incentive Awards on Friday, March 26, 2021.

For an event flyer, click here. 

Monthly Archives: March 2021

Grad Finale to Feature Two Campus Photo Opportunities

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

As a part of our commencement celebration, Valencia College will host Grad Finale, a three-day, drive-through photo experience.

Graduates may select a time from Thursday, April 15 through Saturday, April 17, 2021, between 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. to visit either the East, Osceola or West Campuses. The experience, which will be led by the campus’ leadership teams, will be the same on each campus. Upon arrival to campus, students will have two photo opportunities:

  • An official graduation photo of the student and a Valencia College leader in regalia on an outdoor stage, taken by a professional photographer; and
  • A celebratory selfie station where the student may take photos with family and friends.

To continue the experience, the Marketing team is designing a commencement social media toolkit that will contain Valencia graduation-themed filters, frames, GIFs and other digital assets for  students, their families, and our faculty and staff members to celebrate graduation on social media.

Since we know that an important part of the graduation experience, and this photo opportunity, is our students taking their photos in their caps and gowns, decorating their caps and tossing them in the air, we’ve mailed each 2021 graduate a box that contains a cap, gown, tassel and diploma cover. And as a special gift from the Valencia College Alumni Relations office, a Valencia College license plate holder is also included (perfect for a drive-through event).

To be inclusive of our participating 2020 graduates and provide them with an in-person recognition event to honor their achievements, we are inviting them to reserve a spot to join in on the celebration. We expect approximately 200 individuals from our 2020 graduating class to participate, in addition to our 2021 graduates. As 2020 graduates received a cap and tassel but not a gown last year, they will have an opportunity to request a gown.

All 2021 graduates and those 2020 graduates who expressed interest in attending Grad Finale will receive an email on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, to register for the date and time to attend. To view a sample of the email that will be sent to 2021 graduates, click hereTo view a sample of the email 2020 graduates will receive, click here.

If you’re interested in volunteering to be a part of the on-campus experience to help celebrate our graduates, please contact your campus leadership.

Monthly Archives: March 2021

Collegewide Student Awards Nominations Now Open

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

This year, Student Development is introducing a new collegewide opportunity to recognize and celebrate student achievements as part of our end-of-the-year, college-life celebrations.

Nominations are now open for the 2020-21 academic year to recognize students in the following areas: academic excellence, outstanding event and program, and student of the year. Please click on the buttons below to nominate a student, club or organization.  

All Valencia College employees are encouraged to submit a nomination on behalf of a student, club or organization.

Please submit by Sunday, March 28, 2021, at 12 p.m.

Recipients of these awards will be recognized during Student Development’s Virtual Awards Ceremony at the end of the term. All nominators will receive details about the Virtual Awards Ceremony so that they and their nominee(s) may participate.

If you have any questions, email