Monthly Archives: October 2021

East Region Raises Awareness of Suicide Prevention

Thursday, October 7, 2021

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

Each year, the month of September is reserved for sharing information relating to the awareness and prevention of suicide. On average, there are 123 suicides each day in the United States, and in 2019, a reported 47,511 Americans died by suicide. It is the second leading cause of death among college students. Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Many friends and loved ones can miss the signs that someone they care about is considering suicide.

Left to right: Andrea Bealler and Jocelyn Morales

The East Campus Counseling team created an educational display on East Campus that would attract attention and share important information with the Valencia community. The informational exhibit, which was displayed the entire month of September, in front of the advising department in Building 5, included six powerful myths listed on folders. When the folder flaps were opened, facts were displayed regarding each myth. In addition, a flyer was available that included a list of suicide warning signs and resources available.

Counseling Services at the Winter Park Campus hosted a labyrinth walk “Out of the Darkness” on Wednesday, September 8, 2021, in the Courtyard. Students, faculty and staff were invited to walk the labyrinth to remember loved ones affected by suicide and to set an intention around suicide prevention. The labyrinth is rooted in an ancient spiritual custom found in many cultures. The rhythm of walking, placing one foot in front of the other, quiets the mind, relaxes the body and refreshes the spirit. Twelve students participated in the event and Student Development partnered with Counseling Services to offer and host the space.

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Looking Back on Our Global Peace Week Celebrations

Thursday, October 7, 2021

A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses

The Peace and Justice Institute celebrated the International Day of Peace with Global Peace Week festivities and events, which began Tuesday, September 21, 2021, with the human peace sign on Peace Day, and continued Monday, September 27 – Thursday, September 30, 2021. Attendees participated in mindfulness practice, peace education, guest speakers and free film screenings in partnership with the Global Peace Film Festival.

Thank you to our East Region faculty and staff who facilitated events during the collegewide Global Peace Week:

  • Morning Meditation– Pamela Ocana, part-time faculty, physical education
  • Peace Day Celebration– Rachel Allen, director, Peace and Justice Institute, and Cade Resnick, part-time faculty, humanities
  • Exercise Your Empathy!– Kelsey Visser, part-time faculty, New Student Experience and community project manager, PJI
  • Morning Meditation– Celine Kavalec, professor, English
  • Allyship and the LGBTQ+ Community– Jennifer Danilowski, implementation coordinator, HHS Grant Suicide Prevention, and Jon Taylor, academic advisor
  • Veganism: Towards a More Peaceful Path – Andi Michaels, visiting professor, English
  • Mirroring, Validation and Empathy – Strategies for Open, Healthy and Honest Communication– Scott Erker, visiting professor, humanities
  • The Language of Equality: How to Peacefully Foster Gender Equality with Our Words – Jessica Kavalec Miller, curriculum assistant
  • Exiting the Matrix – Jim Belcher, professor, biology

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

Thursday, October 7, 2021

National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated each September and October to honor the history, heritage and contributions of Latino and Hispanic Americans. This celebration began on September 15, the independence anniversary for Latin American countries El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. The independence days of Mexico and Chile fall on September 16 and 18, respectively.

On East Campus, the Student Development team invites our campus to join in the recognition and celebration of the people, places and culture that live within our campus community. Focusing on awareness and community connection, Student Development plans on virtually educating the campus community on the countries that make up Latin America. The events will also explore the difference between Latino, Hispanic and Latinx cultures and share insights into the many influences of Hispanic cultures.

Earlier today, the campus community participated in a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration and enjoyed a plate of authentic Hispanic cuisine while listening to both old and new Spanish music played by DJ Orlando of Press Play Entertainment.

East Campus Librarian Erich Heintzelman has curated the following list of resources for exploring local events and information regarding Hispanic Heritage Month:

– Valencia LibGuide: Native Americans: Latino-native Americans

– Orange County Library:

– Library of Congress: National Hispanic Heritage Month

– TED Talks: Ten Great Talks by Hispanic and Latinx Speakers for Hispanic Heritage Month

Our friends at the University of Central Florida (UCF) have invited us to join them in their first Latin/American Latinx Film Festival, which is free to the public and offering film screenings online and in-person. This festival continues through November 2021. The festival is sponsored by UCF’s School of Politics, Security and International Affairs, Modern Languages and Literatures/Latin American Studies, UCF Global, and the Florida Prison Education Project (FPEP).

“It is a point of pride that Valencia, as a High Hispanic Serving Institution, ranks fifth among the nation’s colleges in the number of associate degrees awarded to Hispanic students,” commented Wendy Givoglu, interim president, East and Winter Park Campuses. We celebrate our diverse Hispanic and Latinx students, faculty and staff with a focus on infusing the rich culture, history and heritage into our shared work together at Valencia. “With one week left of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, I invite everyone from our East Region to attend events (virtually and in-person) within the community.”

Monthly Archives: October 2021

The East Campus Cafeteria Is Now Composting Food Waste

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Now you can recycle food scraps in the East Campus cafeteria — think coffee grounds, leftover pizza and French fries — with our new food waste recycling program that is estimated to convert more than a hundred pounds of food scraps into compost each week. The College is partnering with O-Town Compost, an Orlando-based small business that gives local residents and businesses a sustainable way to recycle their food scraps.

Read about the program on the Valencia College News site… 

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Paralegal Grad Excels in the Classroom and Courtroom To Become a Defense Attorney

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Some students know exactly where their education might lead them –– they enroll in classes and immediately they set out on a course to pursue the career they’ve always dreamed of having. But for students such as Laura Cepero, a Valencia College graduate, the path to her career as a defense attorney was never her initial destination, rather it was something she discovered more throughout her educational, professional and personal journey over the last several years. Read Laura’s story on the Valencia website…

Monthly Archives: October 2021

College Update: Provost Search, Student Affairs Model, and Organizational Changes

A Special Message From Kathleen Plinske, Valencia College President

I hope this message finds you healthy, safe, and well. As I promised in my College Update in August, I write today with updates on our search for provosts, plans for designing Student Affairs for the future, and additional updates to the organizational structure of our Senior Team.

Provost Search
I am pleased to share that our search for five provosts is underway. The new academic leadership structure supported by these five provosts, who will report to Isis Artze-Vega, our College Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, will help position us to meet our bold and ambitious equity-minded Strategic Impact Plan goals. For example, this realignment will create capacity for campus provosts to invest in building deeper connections with the local communities in which each campus is located, to better respond to their unique needs and build new pathways for access. The new structure is also intended to create time for provosts to invest in serving as learning partners with deans and faculty to support the achievement of equitable student outcomes. Moreover, the Provost of the Downtown and Winter Park Campuses will also have special collegewide responsibility for developing and nourishing successful transfer partnerships, including DirectConnect to UCF. Furthermore, the alignment of our full portfolio of career and professional programs will allow us to expand the accessibility and reach of our workforce offerings, ensuring that everyone in our community has the opportunity to achieve economic prosperity.

The search for our five provosts marks a pivotal time at Valencia. We are committed to conducting an inclusive, equity-minded search, guided in part by the recommendations of the Equity Mindedness in the Employee Experience work team. Please consider reviewing the full job description and encouraging individuals from within and outside the College to apply by Monday, October 18, 2021. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information about the interview process and ways to be engaged.

Student Affairs Model
As our new academic leadership structure intersects with the structure of Student Affairs, we also find ourselves at a unique moment in time needing to reimagine our student services delivery model.

Several years ago, well before the pandemic, Valencia developed an Online Learning Plan, which outlined intentional resource investments in technology and training in order to improve the quality of online learning. These investments enabled the College to pivot quickly from a blend of in-person and online classes to an almost exclusively virtual learning environment during the pandemic.

While our Student Affairs team moved from an almost exclusively in-person model to providing almost exclusively virtual services, they did so without a similar investment in resources. They identified ingenious ways to use the tools, technologies, and processes that we had in place, ones that were designed for on-campus interactions, to serve students as best we could in a virtual model.

We have heard their feedback about the complexities of offering both on-site and online student services, as well as their frustrations with the inefficiencies of our systems that were not designed with virtual services in mind. Nevertheless, it is clear that offering both in-person and virtual services will be a vital component of serving students in the future. It is, therefore, critically important to make a similar investment in online student services as we did in online learning.

In September, our District Board of Trustees approved a plan to invest approximately $1.8 million in our Student Affairs service delivery model. This will include hiring an external partner to perform an in-depth business process analysis to understand our current systems capabilities and limitations. The partner will also help us design a Student Affairs model that intentionally supports on-campus and online interactions that is well-supported by technology and based on a culture and practice of equity-mindedness.

We are currently collecting feedback and input from our Student Affairs teams through surveys, town halls, and individual meetings. This work will continue as we identify the best external partner to lead us through an analysis of our strengths and opportunities, to be announced at the October District Board of Trustees meeting.

Updates to Senior Team
Similar to the changes in our academic leadership structure, we have identified several opportunities within our Senior Team where adjustments will better align our work in support of achieving the goals in our Strategic Impact Plan:

  • Vice President for Equity Strategy and Partnerships – Based on the findings of the Leadership for Equity and Opportunity work team, as well as your feedback and input over a series of conversations and town halls over the last several weeks, we will add a Vice President for Equity Strategy and Partnerships. The Vice President for Equity Strategy and Partnerships will be a member of the Senior Team, and their team will include our Assistant Vice President for Educational Partnerships for Equity as well as our Director for the Peace and Justice Institute. In addition to serving as a strategic thought partner as we intentionally design for equity, this new vice president will also serve as a liaison for our community advisory groups and employee affinity groups.

We will plan to post the position in November with a goal of hiring our new vice president by mid-spring. Please stay tuned for opportunities to engage in the search process.

  • Vice President for Institutional Planning and Development and Chief of Staff – At our summer Governance Meeting, our governance councils recommended ways to expand our capacity for strategic work, improve our internal communications, and include more voices in our governance model. Their recommendations included the addition of several councils to align with our Institutional Plans: an Academic Program Council, an Equity Council, and a Student Experience Council. The new councils will be in addition to our already existing Faculty Council, Learning Council, and Senior Team. While I am very optimistic about the possibilities for accelerating progress toward the goals outlined in our Strategic Impact Plan that will be afforded by the intentional coordination between our governance model and our Institutional Plans, I believe that dedicated leadership will be required to benefit from this alignment.

In order to provide this leadership, I’ve asked Amy Bosley to serve in a new role as the Vice President for Institutional Planning and Development and Chief of Staff. Amy is uniquely prepared for this new role as she has served in several capacities in her 21 years at Valencia, most recently as Vice President for Organizational Development and Human Resources, and previously as Associate Vice President for Organizational Development, and as a full-time, tenured faculty member. In this new role, Amy will integrate our planning, governance, internal communications, and resource development efforts to support the attainment of our impact plan goals.

  • Vice President for Organizational Development and Human Resources – As Amy assumes her new role, I’ve asked Carla McKnight to serve as Vice President for Organizational Development and Human Resources (ODHR). I am looking forward to Carla’s expanded leadership role in ODHR, including her partnership in the implementation of recommendations made by the Equity Mindedness in the Employee Experience work teams. Carla has served in ODHR for five years, and also as a full-time, New Student Experience faculty member, as well as a staff member in Student Affairs at Valencia.
  • Vice President for Technology, Research, and Analytics – With leadership for planning and resource development moving to Amy, I’ve asked Brandon McKelvey to serve in a newly constructed role as Vice President for Technology, Research, and Analytics. In this role, Brandon will provide leadership for our technology and analytics teams, including for our Chief Information Officer and our Assistant Vice President of Analytics and Reporting. Much of our strategic work will be informed by data and supported by technology, and I’m looking forward to the closer alignment of these divisions.
  • Vice President for Public Affairs and Advancement – Following the theme of alignment, I’ve asked Jay Galbraith to serve in an expanded role of Vice President for Public Affairs and Advancement, providing leadership for a number of our community and externally facing divisions, including public affairs, marketing, public relations, college events, and the Valencia College Foundation. Geraldine Gallagher, who has served as the President and CEO of the Valencia College Foundation, has announced her resignation; I will be working in consultation with the Foundation board to develop an interim leadership plan. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to Jay directly with any Foundation-related matters.

I appreciate your partnership in helping to re-imagine our organizational structure to best serve our students’ and community’s needs today and in the future. I also look forward to continuing to make progress toward filling many of the faculty and staff positions that have remained vacant during the pandemic.

As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly at or join me for our next Town Hall meeting on Friday, October 15, 2021, at 10 a.m. via Zoom.

Wishing you a healthy and safe October.

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Sick Leave Pool Enrollment Opens Next Week

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Next week, full-time employees who are eligible, will receive an invitation to join Valencia’s Sick Leave Pool (SLP). Invitations will be delivered via email on Monday, October 11, 2021.

Designed to aid participating members who have exhausted all their individual sick leave, the Sick Leave Pool, is a reserve of sick leave hours contributed by SLP members. The Sick Leave Pool is available for full-time employees who enroll during a designated open enrollment period.

You will receive an invitation for the Sick Leave Pool if you meet the following criteria:

  • Have been employed full time with the College for 12 consecutive months;
  • Have accumulated 10 days of unused sick leave; and
  • Have not declined a previous enrollment opportunity as a regular employee of the College.

If you meet the above criteria, please keep an eye on your email for the invitation. Employees who receive an email invitation to join the Sick Leave Pool on Monday, October 11, 2021 will have until Friday, October 22, 2021, to enroll. Participation in the SLP is voluntary, and those who do not respond to the invitation will forfeit their opportunity to join the pool and may not be eligible for future invitations.

Even if you have a reasonable amount of sick leave, you may not have enough accrued to cover a long hospital stay or needed recovery time. So don’t miss your chance to join Valencia’s Sick Leave Pool — a benefit aimed to provide peace of mind in the event that you have an accident or prolonged illness. For additional information refer to the Sick Leave Pool Frequently Asked Questions.

For questions, contact Jennifer Page, director, leave and access services, at or 407-582-8032.

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Grad Finale Returns for the Fall Term

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

With the success of our Spring 2021 Grad Finale events on the East, Osceola and West Campuses, we’re bringing our Grad Finale events back for the Fall 2021 term. All eligible summer and fall graduates will be invited to celebrate their achievement during Grad Finale, which will be held for three days in December — again on our Osceola, East and West Campuses.

Graduates may select a time from Thursday, December 9 – Saturday, December 11, 2021, between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., to visit one of the three 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.

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

More details will be coming soon.

For general event questions, contact Shauna Anstey, director, conferencing and college events, at or 407-582-5490.

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Spotlight on Undergraduate Research — Shaelyn Taylor

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Valencia College has developed an undergraduate research initiative — based on nationally recognized models — that expands opportunities for students to partner meaningfully with faculty members to pursue a specific course of research. As most community colleges only offer undergraduate research as a very small boutique opportunity for a few students, Valencia has become a leader in community college research. Last year, hundreds of Valencia students worked in one or more modalities of research. This is vital for students exploring STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) -related professions through transfer, both to better discern their purpose and pathway, and to have experiences comparable to their peers at the university to which they transfer.

Valencia College student Shaelyn Taylor became interested in conducting research as an undergraduate student after participating in Valencia College’s Undergraduate Research Summer Series, in which students heard from experts in their fields about how students can get the most out of their undergraduate research experience. After this event, she met with Melonie Sexton, professor, psychology, and coordinator of undergraduate research.

“She [Melonie] insisted that with my educational goal, I get my feet wet and see how I like research by taking an Intro to Research Process course,” Shaelyn explained. “Shortly after the course, I moved on and conducted my research project with a research mentor.”

That mentor was Diane Thompson, professor, psychology.

Shaelyn’s research focused on the effects of COVID-19 on college faculty members, with an emphasis on mental health.

“During the pandemic, there were many journals or articles written on how students are affected by the pandemic, but very few were published looking into how faculty members were handling the pandemic,” she explained.

Shaelyn sought to answer how faculty members are adjusting to working from home and, what are institutions doing to make sure their employees are receiving enough support?

One of the research methods she used was an online anonymous survey sent to 1,600 full- and part-time Valencia College faculty members, and she received 483 responses.

View her presentation about the results below:

“Getting into research has given me ample opportunities to network, further myself educationally speaking, and given me the opportunity to understand issues and increase public awareness at the same time,” Shaelyn said. “Enrolling in the Undergraduate Research Track within Seneff Honors College has given me all of the steps to build a solid foundation to not only grow as a student in this research program but to continue and produce more research projects in the future.”

And she will have the opportunity to conduct more research, as she plans to transition to the Honors Program at the University of Central Florida to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in psychology. She plans to take the MCAT to attend medical school to become an obstetrics-gynecologist.

To nominate a student doing great undergraduate research or for questions about Valencia’s undergraduate research initiative, contact Melonie Sexton, professor, psychology, and coordinator of undergraduate research, at or 407-582-5632.

Monthly Archives: October 2021

Heal Your Body, Mind and Heart at the PJI Virtual Retreat

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 

Date: Saturday, November 6, 2021
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. 
Location: Online. Register here

In these times of stress and discomfort, you’re invited to slow down, engage in reflective practices, explore the Principles for How We Treat Each Other, and practice the art of asking honest and open questions as a means of knowing self and others, during the Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) Fall Retreat, titled “Radical Compassion: Healing the Body, Mind and Heart.”

The virtual retreat will be facilitated by Lianna McGowan, faculty, New Student Experience; Jason Mills, PJI instructor; and Celine Kavalec, professor, English.

All participants will receive the Zoom login and reading materials before the retreat begins.

The cost for full-time employees is $100 and can be paid for by Employee Development Funds. The cost for full-time employees not using Employee Development Funds is $50. There is no cost for part-time employees.

For questions contact Britney Pierce, implementation coordinator, at or (407) 582-6531.