College Update: Campus Provosts, Vice President of Student Affairs, Leadership for Career and Professional Programs and for Advancing Equity, and More 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

A Special Message from Kathleen Plinske, College President 

I hope that you are having a wonderful summer and have enjoyed a few Fabulous Fridays! In this message, I welcome our Campus Provosts and Vice President of Student Affairs, share an update on our search for a Vice President for Equity Strategy and Partnerships, and encourage you to take time to pause and reflect.

Welcoming Our Campus Provosts

I am pleased to share that all four of our campus provosts have started in their new roles! Based on the feedback I heard from you at several open forums in Spring and Summer 2021, we reimagined our Campus President positions as Campus Provosts. And, instead of being organized around regions, we have asked our Campus Provosts to provide leadership for two campuses each: Wendy Givoglu provides leadership for the Downtown and Winter Park Campuses (as well as for our transfer initiatives); Lance Gooden provides leadership for the Osceola and Poinciana Campuses; Danny Hoey provides leadership for the West and future Horizon West Campuses; and Sobia Khan provides leadership for the East and Lake Nona Campuses. I know that you will join me in welcoming them to their new roles over the Summer — we’ll have opportunities to meet them more formally this Fall.

Welcoming Our New Vice President of Student Affairs

We had originally imagined a fifth provost, a Provost for Career and Professional Programs, for which we had hired Lesley Frederick. However, after Joe Richardson announced his desire to return home to Georgia at the conclusion of his contract on June 30, I asked Lesley if she would instead be willing to serve as our Vice President of Student Affairs. She accepted this call to serve the institution in a different way than imagined and will begin on June 27, jumping in to support the team during peak registration for Fall. Please also join me in welcoming Lesley!

Leadership for Career and Professional Programs

Absent a Provost for Career and Professional Programs, we imagined, based on feedback from our faculty and deans, a different leadership structure for our workforce programs. You can read more about this new distributed structure on The Grove.

Leadership for Advancing Equity

Finally, to add leadership and discipline expertise to continue to advance efforts related to equity, we had created a new role: Vice President for Equity Strategy and Partnerships. We posted the position in February and received 120 applications. A search committee of more than 20 faculty and staff provided me with excellent counsel and guidance, ultimately identifying four candidates to whom we extended an invitation for an on-campus finalist interview. While all four originally accepted our invitation, three of the four ultimately withdrew from the search process before participating in the finalist interviews, citing concerns about relocation.

While it would be normal, at this stage, to simply declare a failed search and post the position again in six months or a year, I am unwilling to wait to make progress toward advancing equity. Fortunately, the Leadership for Equity and Opportunity work team identified several different models of institutional leadership for equity. While one potential model consists of centralized leadership under one person, other models that have proven successful include distributed leadership for advancing equity. As such, based on feedback from employees and students, I’ve identified three high-priority areas of work and established leadership partnerships for these areas for the upcoming academic year.

First, to support members of Campus Safety and Security team in their important efforts to advance equity, I have asked Lauren Sykes, Professor of Criminal Justice, to serve as an Equity Fellow, partnering with Loren Bender, Vice President of Business Operations and Finance and CFO, to better understand the experiences of our students and employees of color when they engage with our Campus Safety and Security Team. She will also collaborate in the development of a training and professional development program for our Campus Safety and Security officers that will further equity-minded practices. In addition, she will continue in her role as a Faculty Fellow for Equitable and Just Policing at the School of Public Safety, in partnership with Executive Dean Jeff Goltz.

Second, I have asked Jorge Valladares, Professor of Psychology, to serve as an Equity Fellow, partnering with Joe Battista and our Accelerated Skills Training (AST) team, to better understand the experiences of our growing number of AST students and employees of color. Together with our Teaching and Learning team, they will develop and offer professional development opportunities in equity-minded teaching for our AST instructors, many of whom come to Valencia directly from an industry and without teaching experience.

Third, I’ve asked Bill Mullowney, General Counsel and Vice President of Policy, to partner with Carla McKnight, Vice President of Organizational Development and Human Resources, to explore, identify, and implement equity-minded strategies to recruit diverse and talented applicant pools and ensure that we are incorporating equity-minded practices in our hiring processes. This will continue the work that was initiated by the work team focused on Developing and Integrating Equity Mindedness in the Employee Experience.

Finally, as part of our Governance Refresh, we have established an Equity Council that is charged with coordinating and overseeing plans to deploy specific and targeted strategies to advance the College’s equity goals for students, employees, and the community. Specifically, some of the Council’s first work will include investigating options for an institutional climate survey to better understand how our students and employees experience the College to inform future work related to advancing equity.

I look forward to providing updates on these areas of work throughout the upcoming year.

Moment to Pause and Reflect

There is no doubt that this continues to be a difficult season. Many of us are still dealing with the personal impacts of COVID-19. We are reeling from the horrific shootings in Buffalo, Laguna Woods, and Uvalde. A few weeks ago, we remembered the two-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, and this past weekend marked the sixth anniversary of the Pulse tragedy, in which 49 individuals senselessly lost their lives, including seven Valencia students.

This is a heavy time. Please take care of yourselves and one another; allow for the space and time to breathe and grieve. Don’t hesitate to make use of our Employee Assistance Program. And know that at Valencia, we are striving each and every day, through our amazing students and our talented colleagues, to make our community a more inclusive place in which every one of us can flourish and thrive.

Personally, I find hope in our students and the difference that they are striving to make in the world. For example, two of our recent graduates, Leah Basaria and Miranda Rublaitus, were selected as Jack Kent Cooke Scholars, one of the most prestigious scholarship programs for students with financial need. Leah, our 2022 Distinguished Graduate, plans to study psychology and dreams of strengthening and healing others through holistic innovations in mental healthcare and promoting patient-centered care. Miranda will be continuing her education at Yale University, studying data science with a focus on public policy, to better serve underrepresented communities. While their stories are extraordinary, it’s important to remember that these are just two of the thousands of exceptional alumni who graduated this Spring, poised to make a positive impact and leave their “Puma prints”  in our community. Our students and graduates make the future brighter for all.

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