By Laura Knight
Heidi Shugg has 12 years of experience working in higher education, and all of those years have been dedicated to Valencia’s students. She began her career as an academic and honors advisor on East Campus in 2001 and spent the next six years immersed in shaping the student experience from enrollment to graduation.
A former Valencia student herself, a large part of her time in that advisor role was acting as a beacon for freshmen by advising them during orientations. She also worked concurrently as a reading lab instructor until 2002.
In 2003, Heidi was promoted to student services specialist in the East Campus Answer Center. She was still a first-point-of-contact for students, but also began leading a team of colleagues and managed work-study students.
After four years in the East Campus Answer Center, she was promoted to coordinator of the Atlas Access Lab and honors academic advisor at the Osceola Campus.
In that new role she led the Atlas Lab staff and served as a success coach by providing student support in LinC classrooms. In addition, she was involved with resolving financial aid complaints and became chair of the Student Services Managers Group (PEPPERS). Members of PEPPERS serve as functional experts in their areas, and are called upon to resolve complex student service situations. During that time, she also served as the Osceola Campus representative for the Professional Staff Leadership Team. In 2008, just a year after beginning her journey at Osceola Campus, her dedication to her work and to the Campus were honored when she was recognized as “staff member of the year.”
Last fall Heidi completed the Leadership Academy, and in July 2013, she joined what she calls her “fire science family” at the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) as the coordinator career program advisor for the fire science degree program that was launched earlier this year. While this may be bittersweet for her Osceola colleagues, Heidi is thrilled about this opportunity.
Kaitlyn Brooker, student services advisor at Osceola Campus and the person who recommended Heidi as a featured colleague, reveals, “Heidi is the know all, do all, kind of employee and friend. She has taught me a lot throughout my career here at Valencia, and I can only wish her the best in her new journey in her new career within the Fire Science Degree Program! They are lucky to have her. I can think of no better person for the job!”
The new Central Florida Fire Institute at CJI will offer an associate of science (AS) degree in fire science and fire service certifications. It will also provide students who earn an AS degree with the opportunity to continue their education via the UCF DirectConnect program.
Valencia prides itself on meeting the needs of the local community and offering programs that will provide solid pathways to jobs for students, and Heidi shares that her students at CJI are validating that vision.
“Through the eyes of my students, I am seeing the impact that Valencia has on the community. Fire Fighters are seeking out Valencia due to [its] reputation and this new door that we have opened for them. They are excited about what we are doing for them and for the community. They are excited about finishing or continuing their education. Their excitement is contagious, because I am excited for them.”
Heidi shares that several people have inspired her over the years and she is grateful to each of them. She recognizes Celeste Henry, counselor at Osceola Campus, and Professor of humanities, Tammy Gitto-Kania, as esteemed mentors that support her in her continuing education and professional growth. “They are amazing, strong women who I will always look up to,” she shares.
Heidi’s aspirations have taken her from student to advisor – and perhaps one day, professor.
She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in liberal studies at Rollins College, and is expected to graduate in May 2014.
In addition to her schoolwork at Rollins and her work at Valencia, Heidi is an avid volunteer. She recently was a mentor with Take Stock in Children, and has volunteered with the Autism Society of Greater Orlando and Nathanial’s Hope, a special needs organization.
Twelve years and five positions later, Heidi says that the opportunities for growth and the support she receives from the Valencia community keep her going and so do her newest group of students. “The students that I currently work with are amazing individuals who dedicate their lives to their professions. I learn from my students every day, and I try to be their support system through their Valencia journey.”
Heidi earned her associate in arts degree at Valencia. She has also earned a bachelor’s degree in humanities and philosophy, with a certificate in Judaic studies from the University of Central Florida.
Know of someone doing great work at the college? Send their name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu so they can be one of our featured colleagues!