By Dani Moritz-Long
Five years ago, Ben Taylor, assistant director, equal opportunity and employee relations, and his wife were relocating from Texas, where Ben previously served at the University of North Texas as a residence hall director. Energized by the opportunity to start anew, he was open to just about anything — especially under the vast Student Affairs umbrella where he had spent most of his career. Anything except student conduct.
“I am not going to do student conduct work,” he stubbornly told himself. “That’s the only thing I do not want to do in Student Affairs.”
The world had other plans for Ben.
“Well,” he laughed, “then I applied to Valencia and the job was a coordinator of student conduct and academic success.”
Looking back, Ben, who has a bachelor’s degree in communications studies and a master’s degree in higher education, says he was weary of the kinds of challenging — even adversarial — tasks that aren’t uncommon in student conduct work. But, he says, he soon discovered that his strengths, such as responsibility and inclusion, worked well within student conduct, and he found the type of work, which often led to developmental conversations and coaching, highly rewarding.
As his career progressed further at the College, Ben would find an increasing interest in developing others and supporting people in similar roles — though he transitioned from supporting students under Student Affairs to supporting employees and students when he joined Organizational Development and Human Resources in 2016 as the assistant director of Title IX and Equal Opportunity and later as the assistant director of Equal Opportunity and Employee Relations.
Ben explains these roles are more alike than they may seem. All of his positions have been founded in serving people, helping others’ navigate challenging situations and forging collaborative solutions. Essentially, he says, all of his roles have been akin to solving puzzles as, similar to puzzles, his roles have involved assessing situations, seeing a big picture and identifying problems and solutions.
Lauren Kelly, director, equal opportunity and employee relations, says Ben is the perfect person for job, calling him “a uniquely steady and reliable presence, even in the most stressful and complex situations.”
“I know that he will be dedicated to doing right by the College and for students and employees in any situation,” Lauren said. “Ben is also deeply committed to our college community and routinely volunteers to serve on committees and work teams, providing unique and impassioned perspectives along the way.”
Ben finds that passion by drawing inspiration from programming like commencement, an annual reminder of the importance of our work.
“Graduation is such an inspirational moment, especially as I reflect on the effort that goes into each student completing that academic goal,” he said. “It’s an exciting time. Sometimes our work may not have us interacting directly with a student but, ultimately, everything we do here serves students and that makes graduation pretty special when I can see how excited the students are. It can be easy to forget why we do what we do, but on that day it all comes together and is a great reminder of why we are here.”
Outside of his work at Valencia, you’ll often finding Ben channeling his inner creativity — which could mean anything from woodworking to cooking. He also enjoys spending quality time with his family, which includes his wife and daughters.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.