Monthly Archives: October 2021

We Want to Hear from You

Friday, October 29, 2021

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

As the semester has passed the midpoint, we want to know how faculty and staff are doing. The COVID-19 season has brought new challenges to our work, and we would like to hear from you. Please use the comment section to let us know how your teaching experience is going this semester. Are you missing anything during this season of the pandemic? In what ways have you adapted? Have you learned anything new about yourself through this time?

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Humanities Department Hosts ‘The Narrators: Changes’ via Zoom

Friday, October 29, 2021

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

Date: Thursday, November 4, 2021
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Zoom

“The Narrators” is a storytelling show that features people telling true stories based on a theme. True stories can be just as profound and powerful as masterworks of fiction. Storytelling can bring people together, foster empathy, combat isolation, loneliness and have a genuine therapeutic benefit for both the storyteller and the audience.

The theme for the fourth show of “The Narrators” is changes. Valencia students, a faculty member and a friend will share their stories.

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Faculty, Staff Encouraged to Sign Up for Grad Finale

Friday, October 29, 2021

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

Grad Finale will be held at the Osceola Campus from Thursday, December 9 – Saturday, December 11, 2021, between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and faculty and staff are needed to help out in a variety of ways.

Volunteers can sign up to help with check in, photo stations, name reading, and assisting graduates and their families. To sign up for times and activities click here.

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Faculty Governance Update — October 2021

Thursday, October 28, 2021

A Message from Michael Robbins, President, Collegewide Faculty Association

Hello Valencia Faculty!

Knowing how busy faculty are in October and November, and in the spirit of concision and focus, I wanted to use this opportunity to keep you all updated on the business of the Faculty Council. I remain excited to participate in these conversations, and welcome faculty to reach out if you’d like to bring any issues to the Faculty Council’s attention.

At our October 14 meeting, Faculty Council made the following appointments and held the following discussions:


We appointed faculty to the following committees and work teams:

  • Retention of Continuing Contracts by Administrators Work Team: This work team begins in November 2021 and will review our current procedures for faculty applying for an administrative position with the College.
  • Calendar and Scheduling Committee: This committee reviews and approves the upcoming academic calendars for the College. Discussions will include alignment of modalities to the Final Exam schedule and discussion of observation of the federal holiday for Juneteenth.
  • Sabbatical Committee: This committee reviews applications for sabbatical by faculty and administration and makes recommendations to the College.
  • Appointment of LaVonda Walker-McKnight, professor of New Student Experience, to the Governance Communication Work Team: LaVonda will be working with our Governance Communication Work Team, focusing on best practices for communication between councils at the College.


We have initiated a conversation about the updated reporting tools for Academic Integrity at the College. Specifically, we intend to work with the Academic Integrity Team to discuss best practices and possible updates to policy for reporting incidents related to academic integrity at the College. We will also begin a conversation about future practices for faculty to provide feedback to academic deans.  These will be ongoing conversations that will continue throughout fall 2021 and into spring 2022.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me via email at

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Faculty Highlight: Kirsten Holt Says Transparency Is the Key to Solid Teaching

Thursday, October 28, 2021

By Jennifer Keefe 

East Campus Professor of English Kirsten Holt does a lot of things to make writing relevant to her students, but one of her most successful approaches is simple — she keeps it real. In addition to poetry and creative writing, Kirsten teaches English Composition I and II, classes that are required for most majors but are not always a favorite among students. Her advice to others teaching required classes is, “Be transparent. Tell them when you’re struggling, too, so they know it’s okay. Model how to find answers when you don’t know the answer.”

Kirsten firmly believes that “empathy facilitates learning and communication.”

Hired in 2013, Kirsten is in the last year of her tenure process, having completed her portfolio. She looks forward to

receiving tenure in April 2022. She says she “never grew up wanting to be a teacher, but I believe in the work I’m doing.”

That work includes teaching a lot of students for whom writing does not come easily. Kirsten says she has a particular soft spot for students majoring in the sciences, probably because she once completed half a major in physics herself, before switching to English. Her key to helping them do well? She says they “just have to translate the language in different ways” from other students who might inherently write well. For instance, Kirsten uses the scientific method as a metaphor for the research and drafting process to highlight the investigation and development of strong questions as vital steps in the planning phase.

Part of Kirsten’s teaching philosophy also has to do with her views on failure. She wants to help her students come to terms with making mistakes and correcting them.

“I don’t think students [today] are as well-prepared for failure and how to grow from it as they used to be.” she says. “I know there are generational trends that worry every decade of teachers, but in this case, I think we got off track somewhere and forgot to teach them how to cope with discomfort and disappointment. They experience higher rates of anxiety than our generations ever did. I can’t make those realities disappear. But I can help them feel empowered to tackle the emotions that come with it.”

Kirsten allows students to revise and resubmit assignments (within reason) if they are not happy with their first attempt and understand where the work got off track. She calls it “gaining experience through making mistakes.”

Some of those mistakes become lessons in Kirsten’s classes. She often takes snippets from student papers, makes them anonymous, and uses them as group teaching tools. She also “calls herself out” in class when she makes a mistake. She explains that she “tries not to hide a lot from them (her students), and I make my own errors part of the conversation in class.”

She also tries to teach her students to manage their expectations of both full- and part-time professors at the College. Whether it’s understanding how to read and receive feedback or getting an answer to an email, Kirsten wants to ensure students understand that instructors and students, both, have to manage tricky schedules and work-life balance. She also includes a note to parents of dual enrolled students on her faculty front door to keep the conversation going.

Before the pandemic, one of Kirsten’s most successful classes involved working with students for several weeks on writing a single paragraph. She met with each student in the class several times, providing written and verbal feedback until the students had mastered the concepts of the assignment.

For her action research project, Kirsten taught students a new approach to essay writing that moves beyond the standard five-paragraph model.

“It’s hard at first, but once they get comfortable with the freedom, they are more comfortable with research and writing their own ideas,” she explains.

The first step in her project was to get students to recognize the five-paragraph model and their perceptions of the “safety” that goes along with it.

Then, she teaches them a more argument-based approach to writing, one that allows them more control of their content. Kirsten notes, “Voice has a lot more power when they can decide how their paper is organized.”

She says that most students like the new approach to writing once they get the hang of it. Teaching this new approach to writing also led to a revelation for Kirsten.

“I’ve accepted that I will be the bad guy who drags them kicking and screaming into new things,” she shares. “I don’t want them to feel like they are starting over. They are expanding on what they already know.”

Kirsten also incorporates some fun into her classes. Each summer, she teaches a horror-themed section of ENC 1102 that’s all about literary analysis. The students look at the historical roots of the horror genre including novels and short stories, but also film, video games, music videos, comics, memes, and the uniquely Millennial tech-based genre of ARGs (Alternate Reality Games). Students examine texts like “Dracula” and “Frankenstein,” then create the last unit of the class, on GenZ horror, by selecting their own examples from film and other media.

Kirsten’s favorite lesson that she teaches is one she calls Questions and Opinions. It’s something she describes as “a completely ridiculous day” where students learn to ask different kinds of questions by selecting a random topic. One example she gives is from a class that selected “eyes” as a topic. Among the questions, the students came up with were things like “why can’t eyes smell.” From these questions, she says that students learn how to do credible research, which is something that can help them in classes across the College.

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: October 2021

Get Resources From the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative Session

Thursday, October 28, 2021

A Message from Laura Blasi, Director, Institutional Evaluation

Several faculty members recently participated in Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) sessions in which they discussed the ways CITI certification — which typically lasts for three years — can be used in their courses and as part of their careers. Topics covered in CITI courses included: Good Clinical Practice (GCP); Human Subjects Research (HSR); Biomedical and Social/Behavioral Research; Information Privacy and Security (IPS); and Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).

“As Allied Health professionals, our students need a basic understanding of research in order to stay current with evidence-based medicine in their own fields,” shared Sharon Shenton, professor, cardiopulmonary sciences, who attended the session. “Many of our students go on to graduate school, and several of our graduates have gone on to work with cardiology research teams at area hospitals. We offer a basic Research and Information Literacy course in our curriculum, but our programs would be greatly enhanced with additional content that focuses on ethical research, integrity and professionalism in research. Some of the modules in the CITI program could potentially be incorporated into our B.S. level courses to better prepare our students to understand and participate in research.”

If you missed the session, watch the recording or download a copy of the PowerPoint.

Please contact me with questions at

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Check Out the Upcoming TLA Workshop: Inclusion and Diversity

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Date: Thursday, November 4, 2021
Time: 2 – 4:30 p.m.
Location: Online

Date: Friday, November 5, 2021
Time: 2 – 4 p.m.
Location: Online

Join the Teaching/Learning Academy (TLA) workshop, INDV2151 Inclusion and Diversity — facilitated by Hank Van Putten, part-time faculty, New Student Experience, and Shari Koopman, professor, English. Participants will investigate learning opportunities that acknowledge, draw upon and are enriched by student diversity and create atmospheres of inclusion and understanding. Participants will reflect on power differentials in the classroom, theoretical underpinnings of inclusion and diversity and ways to increase inclusion and minimize exclusion.

TLA is a community of practice that supports new professors, counselors and librarians as they develop Individualized Learning Plans, a fundamental phase of the tenure process designed to assist tenure candidates to expand and improve their professional practices and students’ learning.

View the event flyerRegister on the Valencia EDGE. (Note: This link will work after the College’s Banner suite and related systems move to the cloud is complete on Monday, November 1, 2021.)

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Encourage a Student to Apply To Be the 2022 Distinguished Graduate

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Valencia College Foundation needs your help to identify the 2022 Mary S. Collier Distinguished Graduate, who will serve as the keynote speaker for our commencement ceremonies.

We know from experience that many of our eligible students are too humble to see themselves in this role, so please encourage eligible, praiseworthy students to apply by providing them with a letter of recommendation. The student is responsible for applying, and he or she will include your letter of recommendation as part of the application packet.

These are the students who inspire our mission, who tell our story and empower others to overcome whatever challenges they face. These are the students who tell their peers, “we don’t settle; we succeed” and who demonstrate the power of commitment and dedication.

For example, our 2021 Distinguished Graduate Samantha Tanner had to overcome obstacles to complete a degree, including leaving a harmful relationship, seeing a counselor to overcome self-doubt and joining the College once again after dropping out to improve her career outlook. Last year, we learned about Tamyia Paul (2020) who was accepted to six different colleges and universities but selected Valencia because it matched her personality and made her feel safe and comfortable. And, Dalton Joseph (2019), a son of Haitian immigrants, fell in with a gang of young men who broke into homes but later turned his life around by working hard and earning a GED.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • Must have a minimum overall 2.5 GPA.
  • Must have two letters of recommendation from two separate Valencia faculty or staff members. When the student applies, he or she must include a faculty or staff letter of recommendation as a part of the online application packet. We recommend providing the student with a digital/electronic letter of your letter of recommendation when you encourage the student to apply and he or she agrees.
  • Must graduate during the academic year in which the scholarship is awarded. This includes Summer 2021, Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 terms.
  • Must be available to attend all commencement ceremonies and give a commencement speech. Information on our 2022 commencement will be shared at a later date.

The application will open on Monday, November 1, 2021. Students can apply online by visiting the Valencia College Foundation website and clicking on the Student Log-in button. After entering their Atlas username and password, students will be redirected to the Distinguished Graduate application. The deadline for students to apply is Friday, January 28, 2022. Don’t let this opportunity to recognize a deserving student slip by.

As faculty and staff, we must seek out these students, offer them our support and champion their perseverance. In doing so, we cannot only lift them up but highlight their efforts to others who, amidst their own struggles, require inspiration to succeed.

If you know of a student who would make a great Distinguished Graduate candidate, please consider sending him or her a personal invitation to apply. Click here for an invitation template.

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact Elvin Cruz, director, philanthropic programs and recognition, at or 407-582-3154.

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Faculty Ombuds Representatives Provide Tips on How to Handle Conflict

Thursday, October 28, 2021

A Message from Ramon Velez-Cruz and Ann Heiny, Faculty Ombuds Representatives

Conflict can be unsettling or even scary for many people. It’s not unusual to avoid conflict and just hope it goes away, but rarely is that a strategy for a successful resolution. Often, workplace conflict can be resolved with some “front end” effort on your behalf.

As your Valencia faculty ombuds representatives, we offer the following tips — inspired by Valencia’s 13 Peace and Justice Initiative (PJI) Principles for How We Treat Each Other — to help you handle conflict in the workplace:

  • Practice grace and empathy. We’re all dealing with higher stress levels than usual, and we’re also re-acclimating to being together on campus, and our social skills may be a bit rusty. Treat your colleagues as you like to be treated. Becoming upset or being impolite when you encounter conflict will not resolve it, which may only complicate the real problems. Consider how you would like to be approached by someone who disagrees with you or would like you to change a behavior.
  • Clarify your thoughts: What outcomes do you want? Are there other suitable options, even if not your first choice?
  • Read carefully, including all information available to you through our Office of Organizational Development and Human Resources. No worries, we can help you find and interpret policies as needed.
  • Ask questions. If encountering a conflict with a colleague, ask open-ended questions to help you clarify the situation. Having this insight may help ease tensions.
  • Seek to understand. When asking clarifying questions, seek to comprehend and not to challenge.
  • Supervisor conflict. If having a conflict with a supervisor’s decision, determine if the conflict is based upon a policy or procedure. It may be helpful to ask your supervisor to identify the policies and procedures that informed the actions.

To learn more about our role as faculty ombuds, watch the video below:

When you contact one of us for support, keep the following tips in mind for our initial conversation:

  • Be organized and prepared. Be ready to tell your story and express your concerns. Have all the information and documentation (like summary notes or relevant emails) available that you may need in our conversation and write down your immediate questions.
  • Don’t be shy about reaching out for assistanceand don’t be afraid to ask questions. We’re here to serve you and help make your work environment positive and supportive.
  • For the conversation with us, it can be helpful to ask clarifying questions and be aware that there might be research and follow-up that needs to happen.

To connect with us individually, contact Ann at and Ramon at

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Apply for Spring 2022 SEED Cohorts

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Applications for the upcoming Spring 2022 Valencia SEED program cohorts are currently being accepted.

SEED, an acronym for Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity, is an international project founded more than 30 years ago by Dr. Peggy McIntosh of Wellesley College. SEED utilizes a cohort-based, seminar model with the intention of creating gender-fair, multiculturally equitable, and globally informed educational spaces and workplaces. The synchronous, virtual sessions are experiential in nature with interactive exercises and conversations, deepening participants’ understanding of themselves, expanding their knowledge of the world, and pointing the way to making learning environments more inclusive.

Over the 2020-2021 academic year, SEED enrollment increased 800% with more than 240 Valencia colleagues successfully completing SEED I or SEED II. Recent program participants have shared:

  • “My absolute thanks. Words can’t describe how this program has helped me grow.” — SEED I participant
  • “Thank you so much to our wonderful facilitators. This is very important work and I am proud of and grateful for Valencia and all SEED facilitators.” —  SEED II participant

Facilitators of the SEED cohorts include Shari Koopmann, professor, English; Hank Van Putten, part-time faculty, New Student Experience; Aida Diaz, professor, Spanish; Jennifer Tomlinson, interim dean, learning support; Stanton Reed, interim president, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses; Jeannie Rodriguez, library office systems manager; Lauren Thomas, professor, mathematics; Doug Kern, professor, English; Danielle Strong-Robinson Smith, professor, English; Jenny Charriez, administrative manager, HRIS projects: and Michael Winters, interim manager, learning support.

The spring 2022 SEED I and SEED II cohorts will meet for three hours bi-weekly over Zoom and have approximately four hours of homework over the semester. There are day and evening options for SEED I and SEED II, and the specific dates are included in the application. Please keep in mind that to participate in SEED II, you must first successfully complete SEED I.

Successful completion of the cohort program earns faculty and exempt staff (those who do not complete a timesheet) up to 28 professional development hours recorded on Valencia professional development transcripts, and non-exempt staff (those who complete a timesheet) are paid their hourly wage; overtime may be paid, if applicable.

If you would like to apply, please have a conversation with your supervisor about your interest before completing the application. Valencia views SEED as a professional development opportunity that can positively influence one’s cultural competence and is committed to determining a reasonable way to incorporate the time into your work schedule.

Ready to apply to be part of the 2022 SEED program? To view SEED cohort dates and to apply, complete the application by Monday, November 22, 2021, by clicking the button below.

If you have any questions about SEED at Valencia, please contact Shara Lee, campus director, faculty and instructional development, at and Celine Kavalec, professor, English, and PJI academic coordinator, at