Monthly Archives: June 2022

Summer STEM Institute Starts July 25

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Do you teach new Valencia College students who are interested in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics discipline? If so, encourage them to sign up for the Summer STEM Institute.

As a part of our National Science Foundation grant, coordinated through the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, the Summer STEM Institute (SSI) offers freshmen students an opportunity to engage in hands-on STEM experiments, develop new friendships, connect with faculty and staff, and learn about STEM degrees and careers in fun and meaningful ways — even in a virtual setting. The program is open to students who have recently graduated high school and are now entering Valencia for the first time, or students with less than 9 credit hours who started Valencia during the summer term.

The Summer STEM Institute is a week-long event that is free of charge for freshman students interested in STEM majors. Students will virtually meet community guest speakers, participate in special projects and prepare for a successful fall semester.

SSI will be held via Zoom from Monday, July 25 to Friday, July 29, 2022. Although this will be a virtual opportunity, set meetings and conference calls will be made. The time commitment is estimated to be around 30 hours for the week, including the set times online and independent assignments. A final schedule will be sent closer to the week.

Students participating in the SSI will receive:

  • A free math course in fall
  • Access to an online community that provides information about STEM speakers, fun events and opportunities for professional development
  • Opportunities to engage with STEM professionals and learn about their day-to-day work
  • A dedicated STEM advisor to provide guidance and mentoring to help students develop their educational plans and access resources to support their STEM education

Registration for the Summer STEM Institute is accessible here:

Click the button below to download a SSI flyer.

For more information about the Summer STEM Institute or the LSAMP program, contact Damika Sanders, interim LSAMP project director, at or call 321-682-4035.

Monthly Archives: June 2022

Faculty Governance Update — June 2022

Thursday, June 30, 2022

A Message from Michael Robbins, President, Collegewide Faculty Association

As June ends, I’ve found myself traveling again for professional development opportunities. I think the universe is trying to make up for missed travel experiences over the last two years, as I’ve had multiple conferences, seminars, and spent a lot of time in car rental agencies and airports this past month. As of writing this, I’m currently in Pensacola. Little personal disclosure: I’m bad at geography. I’ve never been to Pensacola before, but I assumed it would be easier to drive here rather than fly here. I figured: How bad can it be? Two hour, maybe three hour drive tops?

There are smarter people than me reading what I just wrote and laughing.

No one mentioned to me how far west Florida goes; how do you enter a different time zone while still being in Florida? If anyone’s curious: It’s more like a six to seven hour drive. So I imagine I’ll be catching up on podcasts when I get ready to leave in a bit.

I bring this up, not because I want to embarrass myself by confessing my inability to check a map before planning a trip, but because I’ve been interacting with faculty from different colleges and universities. The majority of those conversations have been interesting dialogues about assessment strategies, curriculum design, tricks in various modalities I hadn’t considered and other professional development conversations that have caused me to re-imagine how my classroom works. I think my favorite was a presentation that a faculty member gave about asking students to visually map, and then later re-map, various spheres of writing to, as they wrote, “[provide] students with structured opportunities to map their spheres of writing and the recursivities between spheres [that] can help them perceive and draw upon their prior writing knowledge” (Hart, et al.). It’s a metacognitive exercise asking students to see connections between different acts of writing to improve their current writing practices and deepen their analysis of rhetorical strategies in varied writing circumstances!

…trust me, it’s cool.

Despite all that coolness, I haven’t left all of the conferences and seminars feeling refreshed. I wish I were writing this to tell you all about how fantastic professional development can be, but my motivation has to do with the concern I feel after having conversations with faculty about classroom policy and procedure. At one of the conferences, while eating lunch, I overheard a faculty member from a different college discussing an incident involving academic dishonesty. Their student had plagiarized, and this faculty member had caught the student in a way that felt like they had achieved a victory. They were bragging about failing this student.

Bragging about failing a student.

I wish this were the only incident I had, but there were several others I could have shared from the various conferences I’ve attended this month alone. I consider it a deep moral failure that I didn’t have a discussion with that particular faculty member, but I couldn’t do so without feeling like a hypocrite. So many of us have those incidents where a student used an excuse or tried to pull something in our class, and we caught it, and in hallways or at lunch tables at conferences we brag about it to get a quick laugh over the absurdity of the incident or a pat on the back.

I know I’ve done it. I really wish I hadn’t, but I’d seen other faculty do it, and I thought it would make me look like I was part of some cool club of faculty — savvy and smart and capable.

Every conversation I’ve had with faculty about policy or procedure in the classroom has done the opposite of invigorate me. It’s made me worried about higher education. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have policy and procedure in our classrooms; we need structured classrooms to promote best practices in our students, and many disciplines rely on strict procedures for safety purposes. I acknowledge that.

But we can’t keep striving to create policies that are ironclad and universal, nor can we continue to frame our policies in exclusively punitive language. I’m asking that we demonstrate some of the critical thinking we encourage from our students and understand varied circumstances that will arise. I believe when we begin to discuss classroom policy as a learning tool, rather than in terms of punishment, we get more buy-in from the students. We’re not here to figure out how to fail them or kick them out or prepare them for some cruel harsh world, but to get them to understand the value in our policies.

I suppose I’m asking this: When you’re sharing best practices, and discussing incidents where policy or procedure has been violated, please remember that experience was likely more devastating for the student than it was for you. I’m also asking this: If you catch me sharing an incident where I had to discipline a student, call me out if it sounds like I’m bragging. Because a student’s failure is never a victory for us, regardless of the reasons it happened.

I intend to spend the remainder of my term as the president of the Faculty Association helping to prepare policy and procedure for the fall semester: Reactions to new legislation, shifting guidelines for health and safety on campus, etc., I look forward to hopefully developing some recommendations that promote student learning.

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

Monthly Archives: June 2022

Announcing Our Newly Tenured Professors

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Congratulations to our professors who earned tenure in 2022 and who were celebrated during the Tenure Candidate Reception on Thursday, June 9, 2022, at the West Campus Special Events Center.

For the past two years, we have hosted the tenure celebration virtually and this year, we were able to honor all of them in person.

The Teaching/ Learning Academy would like to commend this group for successfully completing the tenure-track process during the unprecedented time of COVID-19 and overcoming many challenges. We celebrate your accomplishment and future achievements at Valencia.

East and Winter Park Campuses

  • Jason Balserait, professor, English
  • Tanya Bizon, professor, EAP
  • Shea Faulkner, professor, English
  • Nicole Hill, professor, humanities
  • Kirsten Holt, professor, English
  • Alycia LaFavor, professor, speech
  • Donna Matthews, professor, mathematics
  • Mollie McLaughlin, professor, speech
  • Rebecca Newman, professor, mass communications and journalism
  • Amanda Norbutus, professor, chemistry
  • AnnMarie O’Neil, professor, mathematics
  • Sanika Paranjape, professor, computer programming and analysis
  • Steve Purtee, professor, mathematics
  • Andrea Rediske, professor, biology
  • Melissa Sierra, professor, sociology
  • Susan Yawn, professor, criminal justice technology

Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

West and Downtown Campuses

  • Tiffany Baggs, professor, dental hygience
  • Ronda Bailey, professor, speech
  • Precious Cristwell, professor, mathematics
  • Laura D’Alessio, professor, biology
  • Sandra Draper, professor, mathematics
  • Ashley Evans, professor, electronic engineering technology
  • Mukesh George, professor, radiologic and imaging sciences
  • Heather Johnson, professor, nursing
  • Matthew Kenney, professor, business
  • Alyce Miller, professor, history
  • Katie Pridemore, professor, mathematics
  • Devika Ramsingh, librarian
  • Sarah Rosario, professor, biology
  • Bryan Spangler, professor, emergency medical services
  • Kat Wells, professor, English

Also, congratulations to the award winners:

Portfolio Awards

  • Action Research Project: Kirsten Holt
  • Inclusion and Diversity: Kathryn Wells
  • LifeMap: Ashley Evans
  • Model Portfolio: Laura D’Alessio

Campus Innovation Awards

  • East Campus: Kirsten Holt
  • Osceola Campus: Jay Perez
  • West Campus: Tiffany Baggs

You may congratulate faculty in the comments below.

Monthly Archives: June 2022

Faculty Highlight: Susan Yawn Improves Students’ Ability to Identify Parts of a Crime

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

By Jennifer Keefe

For some, criminal justice might seem cut and dry, right and wrong, but for Professor of Criminal Justice Technology Susan Yawn, criminal justice is a conversation. Susan uses a variety of techniques to encourage her students to actively take part in class, from interactive lectures to giving students terms to look up and use during class.

“There is a lot of back and forth in my lectures and that keeps students engaged. I am constantly injecting questions into lecture material,” she says.

Susan also relies upon current events to keep her classes relevant.

“Sharing current events, and there are many in criminal justice, gives students a look into the real world of policing, corrections and the courts. It seems I am constantly adding new material to a module when something happens in the world of criminal justice, whether it be at the local, state or federal levels,” she explains.

Susan embraces the cultural diversity of her students and uses videos and assignments that reflect that diversity in all of her classes.

She also relies upon unique assignments and discussion topics and offers a lot of feedback on student work.

“Students love to hear about their work. I compliment them when they engage in online discussions and you can just tell they did so much more than they were asked to do,” she says.

Susan also enjoys getting a little feedback from her classes.

“When a student comments, ‘I really liked this assignment…’ that means a lot to me.”

She also assigns presentations to students in her face-to-face classes, even if they don’t like public speaking.

“Encouraging some students to make presentations can be challenging, but if they are looking for a career in criminal justice, communication skills are paramount, so I try to ease them into speaking to classmates,” she says.

Scenario-based learning is also a huge part of Susan’s teaching arsenal, but for students in her criminal law and report writing classes, she’s not the one setting the scene. In those classes, Susan has her students create the scenarios that show they understand the material they are learning.

Susan earned her tenure at the College in spring 2022. Her action research project centered on improving student ability to identify and define the two main elements of a crime.

“For students who may ultimately work in policing, corrections or law, it is imperative that they be able to explain both the criminal act and the criminal intent defined in a criminal statute,” Susan explains. “This isn’t as easy as it may sound, and students were struggling with this.”

Her project focused on creating a module with multiple activities and assessments that helped students improve their identification and explanation of the key elements of a crime.

“Susan says that her students who go on to work in the law enforcement professions will have to create reports sufficient for a prosecutor to build and prosecute a criminal case. That’s why they must comprehend the basics of criminal law, report writing, the criminal statutes and the elements of crimes.”

As for a teaching philosophy, Susan credits her more than 460 hours of Valencia College professional development classes with helping her shape her thoughts on teaching and learning. She views her role in the classroom as initiator, facilitator, guide and helper. One of the ways she helps her students is by scheduling conferences with them as soon as she recognizes there is an issue with their performance in the class.

“I have found that we cannot rely on the student to contact faculty first. Some will not do that and end up dropping out of the class. So, early conferencing has saved a few students from failure,” she explains.

Susan started teaching part-time at Valencia in 2000 while she was working full-time for the State of Florida Department of Corrections. After working in probation and parole for 35 years, she “retired” and applied for a full-time teaching position at the College in 2017.

Even with all of her experience, she still sees her teaching as a work in progress.

“I still experiment with different teaching strategies, and I’ve never been afraid to try something new,” she says.

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: June 2022

Destination 2022 Brings Discussions on Educational Equity and Mitigating Toxic Stress

Thursday, June 29, 2022

A Message from Sally Leslie, Director, Faculty and Instructional Development

More than 140 Valencia College faculty completed the second fully virtual Destination on Friday, June 10, 2022. This year’s five-week program included two tracks — one on Foundations of Educational Equity, and a second on Understanding and Mitigating the Impacts of Toxic Stress with Mays Imad, neuroscientist and Pima Community College Teaching & Learning Center founding coordinator.

Foundations of Educational Equity

This track explored the historical inequities within education, and participants developed a plan to eliminate these inequities in their own learning environment. Participants collaboratively examined how traditional practices have influenced their own learning and considered how these structures have evolved into today’s educational ecosystem. At the end of this experience, participants presented examples of how they would eliminate an inequity in their learning environment.

Understanding and Mitigating the Impacts of Toxic Stress: Co-creating Conditions for Healing (with Mays Imad)

In “The Book of Joy,” the Dalai Lama invites us to develop our “mental immunity”: the skills we need, individually and collectively, to help ourselves and our communities guard against chronic stress so we may continue to learn and thrive. A key to developing such pivotal skills is understanding how our brains perceive and react to stressors and what makes our brains feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

In this interactive series of workshops, we asked two overarching questions. First, in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, how will we welcome our students and colleagues to our institutions and classrooms this year and beyond? Second, reflecting on the current moment, why must there be a fierce urgency to slow down, to pause and reflect on self- and community care, on purposeful actions and on co-create conditions for healing?

Participants began by considering the recent research on the neuroscience of toxic stress, especially as it relates to work- and school-related experiences. They considered the research behind the “burnout epidemic” and why this global phenomenon is something we must, as educators and leaders, not take lightly. Dr. Imad also led participants through the examination of the notion of healing, at the individual and community levels, and what key ingredients are needed for us to move forward in a meaningful, elevating and sustainable way. A combination of theory and practice was used, and participants worked separately and together to develop community support and coping plans.

Thank you to our wonderful participants for your energy, dedication and patience as we worked through and co-created this virtual Destination experience.

The Faculty Development team looks forward to Destination 2023. See you next year!

Monthly Archives: June 2022

New Flexible Work Arrangements Policy for Non-instructional Employees

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

To promote a work environment that will enhance Valencia College’s ability to serve students and other key constituents, Valencia College’s District Board of Trustees approved the adoption of a new policy — Policy: 6Hx28:3C-02: Flexible Work Arrangements for Non-instructional Employees — to formalize flexible work opportunities and arrangements based on position and job characteristics.

The policy, which also outlines the process for flexible work arrangements and work location determination, focuses on non-instructional employees, as there are current policies that allow for flexibility in faculty work schedules. The guiding principles, as outlined in the policy, provide the conditions by which we will include flexible work arrangements as a sustained part of our culture. They include:

  • Enhance the College’s ability to serve students, employees, other key constituents and the Central Florida community;
  • Reflect essential job duties as outlined in the respective job descriptions;
  • Respond to the changing needs of the College and the individuals served;
  • Help attract and retain a diverse workforce; and
  • Have positive effects on the business operations of the College.

Each vice president/provost will partner with their leadership teams to review the work location option for each position within their division in consideration of the guiding principles. The work location options include:

    • Fully On-site: Employee performs all of their job duties at a Valencia College location, with flexibility in the work schedule, if appropriate.
    • Majority/Primarily On-site: Employee performs the majority of job duties on-site, but may occasionally work remotely.
    • Primarily Remote: Employee performs the majority of job duties remotely and may occasionally work on site, based on operational needs with advance notice, when possible.
    • Fully Remote: Employee performs all job duties off-site, typically at home or another suitable location. When possible, the fully remote employee may occasionally be required to work on site with advance notice.

Following vice president/provost and their leadership teams’ discussions, leadership will share their recommended list of positions to be considered for primarily remote or fully remote work with the Senior Team for discussion and approval. If approved, department leadership will determine work schedules.

Read the full policy here.

Once final determinations are made, information will be shared with each employee by their department leadership.

For determination of work schedules, contact your department leadership. For questions about the policy, contact Organizational Development and Human Resources at, or call the HR4U helpline at 407-582-HR4U (4748).

Monthly Archives: June 2022

Valencia College Hosts A Gift for Teaching Great Big Backpack Build Event on West Campus

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Valencia College hosted the A Gift for Teaching Great Big Backpack Build event on Thursday, June 22, and Friday, June 23, 2022, on West Campus.

More than 200 volunteers from local businesses, WKMG News 6, and A Gift for Teaching and Valencia College employees packed 15,000 backpacks for back to school.

A Gift for Teaching is an organization dedicated to supporting students and teachers in the Orange and Osceola County K-12 schools. For nearly 25 years, A Gift for Teaching has provided educational resources for free so students and teachers can concentrate on learning.

“Much like Valencia College — they believe in equipping students (with supplies) that can give them the tools, confidence and opportunity to learn and grow,” shared Traci Bjella, assistant vice president, marketing who serves on the A Gift for Teaching Board of Trustees and co-hosted the event along with Trooper Steve from WKMG News 6.

Volunteers not only packed backpacks with notebooks, pencils and other essential school supplies but with the gift of opportunity in school that many children will not receive otherwise.

“It gives students confidence and if they can start there, they can listen, they can experience a classroom, their teachers, their peers and they can really be engaged,” Traci said.

Thank you to all Valencia College volunteers who helped plan, set-up, stuff backpacks and tear down the event.

To learn more about how to support and get involved with this organization, visit or contact Traci at or 407-582-1016.

Monthly Archives: June 2022

Plant Science and Agricultural Technology Students Learn About Industry During Roundtable

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

By Bob Gessner, Dean, Science

In support of Valencia College’s Strategic Impact Plan’s 2030 Career Credential Goal, the Plant Science and Agricultural Technology (PSAT) Associate in Science program continues to experience an increase in students seeking the credential.

With the recent addition of the Sustainable Agriculture specialization — in addition to specializations in Horticulture and in Landscape — faculty, staff and students have been working to make the program’s greenhouse on West Campus, south of the AHS building, a showcase. A permanent storage “barn,” a small aquaponic pool and a small demonstration farm have been added to the reorganized greenhouse lab space, and more is planned.

Students often choose the PSAT program because working with plants can be relaxing and therapeutic and also because they are looking for meaningful and personally satisfying employment when they graduate. Where to get guidance about how to secure a job with their A.S. degree is something many students appreciate.

With that in mind, on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, Denise DeBusk, professor, horticulture, facilitated a business professionals roundtable where her Types and Systems of Agricultural Operations students could ask questions specific to the plant science and agriculture industries.

What do companies in the industry look for in a new hire? How can students make their resumes more attractive when applying for a job? What professional and industry organizations should students belong to in order to get the best value and networking opportunities? What conferences and trade shows should students participate in, and what should they do to make those experiences more meaningful?

The Zoom roundtable meeting was open to all PSAT students, and 15 students attended the live, recorded session. Members of the roundtable panel included Filip Edstrom from Green Masters Inc. in Apopka, Eric Brown from Massey Services and Jon Shultz from Universal Studios. Ty Strode from AgriStarts also submitted responses to the questions asked of the panelists.

Students learned what types of jobs are available in the industry as new graduates and what salaries they could expect with their certificates and degree. Additionally, they received guidance about internships and how to make those experiences more meaningful. Several students have aspirations to start their own businesses, and the panelists gave them advice about how to begin that process.

All of the advice was invaluable, and students learned that experience is not usually as important as showing personality, passion and a track record of proactiveness and seeing things through. There are currently many jobs in the industry, and our students have even received job offers before graduating.

If you want to learn more about Valencia College’s Plant Science and Agricultural Technology program and the greenhouse on West Campus, Javier Garces, professor, biology and PSAT program chair, and Denise DeBusk are always willing to speak to groups to promote the program. Both are plant doctors. Robby Pletcher, lab supervisor, aquaponics and hydroponics and graduate of the program, is also happy to show faculty, staff and students the lab facilities available to our students.

Monthly Archives: June 2022

Celebrating Educational Advancements — Summer 2022

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Valencia College’s recognition program is robust — spanning from career anniversary awards to appreciation badges to the Educational Advancement program.

In the Educational Advancement program, which celebrates non-instructional employees who have been employed in a full-time position for a minimum of six months and who have earned a degree from a regionally accredited institution, the College awards employees a one-time, lump-sum payment, barring any degree that is a required qualification of the employee’s current position. Please note that employees are compensated for only one award per first academic degree earned.

Through this program, the College recognized the following employees for achieving a post-secondary degree:

  • Maria Guisandes Bohorquez, coordinator, college transition, Bachelor’s Degree
  • William Christman, enrollment services advisor, Associate Degree
  • Brandon Cunningham, implementation coordinator, Bachelor’s Degree
  • Charles Ensminger, director, student development, Doctorate Degree (Juris Doctorate)
  • Natasha Maurice, coordinator, program advisor, Master’s Degree
  • Kellie Robertson, coordinator, procurement/Pcard, Bachelor’s Degree
  • Melissa Shank, administrative assistant, Bachelor’s Degree
  • Adriana Shaw, coordinator, dual enrollment, Master’s Degree
  • Andrea Rukstalis Villafuerte, coordinator, program advisor, Master’s Degree
  • Jennifer Wood, staff assistant II, Bachelor’s Degree

Tenure-track and tenured faculty who complete the advanced degree process will be placed at the salary commensurate with the advanced degree earned at their current step upon successful completion of their degree. In order to be considered for the salary change, faculty must make sure their course of study is approved in advance by their supervisor and submit evidence of degree completion.

Annually appointed faculty members also receive a salary adjustment commensurate with the advanced degree upon completion of the advanced degree process.

Through this program, the following faculty completed a post-secondary education recently:

  • Kristin Bartholomew, professor, nutrition, Master’s Degree
  • Shawna Defriece, professor, cardio technology, Master’s Degree
  • Barbara Peters, professor, nursing, Master’s Degree
  • Craig Rapp, professor, hospitality and tourism, Doctorate Degree
  • Niraj Wagh, professor, math, Doctorate Degree

Congratulations to these employees for their fantastic achievements. Please congratulate them in the comment section below.

For more information on the educational advancement policy, please refer to College Policy 6Hx28-3C-04 Total Rewards: Recognition of Full-Time Employees for Educational Advancement. For questions, email or call the HR4U helpline at 407-582-HR4U (4748).

Monthly Archives: June 2022

Don’t Lose Your Vacation Days

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

As you think about your summer plans, remember to take a look at your vacation balance.

In accordance with College Policy #6Hx28:3D-03, the number of vacation days employees can carry over into the new calendar year is limited. Accrued vacation days in excess of the maximum for the calendar year will be transferred to sick leave. These transferred days will be treated as a separate category and automatically will be subtracted first when sick leave is used. Any hours that are transferred will not be used in the calculation for terminal pay. The maximum number of vacation hours you can carry into a new calendar year are:

  • Executive: 520 hours
  • Administrative: 400 hours
  • Grant: 80 hours
  • All Other Employees (except grant): 352 hours

Due to the nature of their funding, grant employees are only able to carry over 80 hours into the new calendar year and will forfeit the remaining balance.

Depending on your employee class, any excess vacation leave must be taken before the first day of Winter Break or these hours will be transferred to “Sick Converted From Vacation” or lost. Please keep in mind that any hours submitted for days in 2023 will not count for 2022, even though those hours reduce the available amount displayed.

For questions or additional information, contact Organizational Development and Human Resources at, or call the HR4U helpline at 407-582-HR4U (4748).