Continuing Education is Changing – International Student Services

This past year, Valencia’s Continuing Education (CE) division moved from the Sand Lake Center to Building 10 on Valencia’s West Campus, received grant funding to develop a training program aimed at certifying veterans and the unemployed, and assumed responsibility for the International Student Services department. In light of these changes, we will share information about each area of CE in the coming weeks, including updates on new projects and developments.

International Student Services Department Reorganization

This week, we begin with CE’s International Student Services (ISS), which was recently reorganized as part of Valencia’s strategic plan for international education. Previously, ISS staff reported to different departments within the division of student affairs. With this change, all ISS offices have transitioned to the CE division.


Top Row (from left to right): Kenia Liriano, Marieta Chemishanova, Lisa Mellin, Carmen Sepulveda, Christopher Alvarez. Bottom Row (from left to right): Michelle Torres, Mildred McCausland, Rocky Blesso, Lisa Eli, Ruth Wu.

This restructuring and merging of personnel will provide expanded support to international students. Continuing Education’s chief operating officer, Joe Battista, explains that “the new department structure will foster synergies between Continuing International Education and ISS and promote cross-training between all personnel at the college who support international students.”

Continuing the theme of connecting purpose with pathway, College President Sandy Shugart expressed that “our Intensive English Program at the language institute has been remarkably successful and this move could make it a great new pathway for international students into our degree programs.”

Rocky Blesso, the new director of ISS, provides oversight of the department, reporting to Lisa Eli, managing director of continuing international education.

Rocky started at Valencia this past May and brings more than nine years of experience in the field of international education (including admission, programming and student advising) from the University of Central Florida. In his current role, he supervises the ISS department college wide, which includes offices at the West and East Campuses and provides services to international students on all campuses. Click on the organization chart below for a full preview of the ISS department structure.


Functions of the ISS department include: recruiting, admissions, advising and student programming. A major part of this initiative is to contribute to the internationalization of the college by increasing the number of international students coming to Valencia.

Lisa shares that “the majority of our students are not able to travel overseas during their program of study, so bringing international students here is a great way to expose our students to different perspectives and cultures and to broaden their way of thinking.

The new recruiting team will play a key role in providing prospective students from other countries the information they need to get started. This team will consist of a manager of international student recruitment and two part-time international recruitment specialists. In addition, ISS will focus its energies on student retention and engagement.

“Our goal is to make students feel at home and to provide opportunities for them to feel engaged in the Valencia and greater Orlando area community,” Rocky said.

New employees Marieta Chemishanova and Michelle Torres are coordinators of international students in the ISS offices on the West and East Campuses, respectively. As coordinators, they are responsible for managing the work of ISS staff on those campuses, including front office, admissions, and student assistants.

Bliss Thompson, who has played a vital role in ISS for many years, continues to serve as a senior-level international student advisor (counselor), by providing support to coordinators and students, overseeing staff training, data integrity, student engagement activities, and more.

“With these changes,” Joyce Romano, vice president of student affairs, stated that “the ISS team is poised to bring a higher visibility of international students and their unique contributions to our learning community.” She looks forward to participating and supporting this new initiative.

“We are very appreciative of all the efforts and groundwork accomplished by the former ISS team that transitioned to the new ISS department” Lisa commented, and “we appreciate the efforts of the ISS department and their passion for student success.”

With a new name and a new location, CE is primed for change and new endeavors. Whether helping individuals get CEU credit, become better managers, enhance information technology skills, or learn a new language, this division offers many programs and certifications designed to help both individuals and businesses succeed. As we develop this series, we would like to know more about the questions you have related to Continuing Education, so please take a moment and click on “Leave a Comment” below.

For more information or student inquiries about ISS, please contact Rocky Blesso at or call extension 5287.


  • Barbara Frazier said:

    Great to see your team assembled! I know that will be an asset to the College.

    PMWed, 12 Jun 2013 12:08:30 +0000Wed, 12 Jun 2013 12:08:30 +0000pm13,12:08 pm

    • Lisa Eli said:

      Thanks Barbara! Yes, we are making good progress, and soon the new international recruiter is starting!

      PMWed, 12 Jun 2013 14:07:47 +0000Wed, 12 Jun 2013 14:07:47 +0000pm13,2:07 pm

  • cindy said:

    That's awesome Lisa, very proud of you !!!!

    AMFri, 14 Jun 2013 11:45:28 +0000Fri, 14 Jun 2013 11:45:28 +0000am13,11:45 am

  • Kenia said:

    Go team!!!

    PMTue, 18 Jun 2013 15:09:32 +0000Tue, 18 Jun 2013 15:09:32 +0000pm13,3:09 pm

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