Featured Colleague: Building Downtown — A Profile of Eugene Jones

By Dani Moritz-Long

When asked about the unique opportunities and challenges of collaboratively building and operating a campus with the University of Central Florida (UCF), Eugene Jones, executive dean, Downtown Campus, laughs and refers to an analogy coined by College President Sandy Shugart.

“Working with UCF and Valencia is like teaching two elephants to dance. You’re going to have some stepping on toes.”

Nonetheless, Eugene says working with our educational neighbor, UCF, to build a first-of-its-kind, state-of-the-art campus in Downtown Orlando has been worth every awkward move and stubbed toe.

“It’s been a great professional opportunity,” Eugene said, noting the unique ability to learn so much about another institution’s processes, policies and people. “It’s been eye-opening and rewarding.”

That doesn’t mean it hasn’t come without its challenges. An aggressive construction schedule aside, Eugene said he’s faced many challenges along the way — some of which were seemingly insurmountable.

“But then you see a group of professionals from Valencia and UCF come together to solve things,” he says, “and they always keep students first.”

This student-first focus from both our institutions, Eugene says, has kept him calm through the process. Plus, a naturally calm disposition, a respect for our work and a team of incredible people are all integral pieces of the puzzle.

“When you are leading a team through these kinds of things,” he says, “it’s always important to reassure them that we will get through this. “It’s easy in the middle of those times to reemphasize the negative … and it’s easy to let that feedback loop gain more and more momentum. That’s why you break the challenges into steps.”

Eugene finds the inspiration to resist the temptation to feed the negative by remembering why he does what he does. His parents both educators before him, Eugene says working in higher education and serving students is a calling. In fact, Eugene, who has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, a master’s degree in workforce education and a Ph.D. in higher education administration and policy, has been serving Florida’s higher education institutions for more than 20 years. Also a lifelong student himself, Eugene says his own experiences as a student — from his marching band days at Jackson State University (just don’t ask him to pick up the trumpet today, or Eugene warns you’ll hear more “sick duck” than heavenly tunes) to his graduate studies at the University of Florida — all shape the framework from which he leads today.

“There aren’t many professions where you’re actually changing people’s lives,” he explained. “…This is important stuff that we’re doing. Because of that, it deserves my attention and focused effort.”

The fruit of that effort is now in sight with Downtown Campus construction nearly complete and students scheduled to begin classes on Monday, August 26, 2019.

But, this is just the beginning.

As the doors to the campus open, Eugene says he’s looking forward to continuing to partner with the Parramore Community Engagement Council to support Parramore residents by helping them to achieve their goals embedded in the council’s five strategic pillars: health, jobs and employment, affordable housing, safety, and education.

A part of that work, Eugene is especially looking forward to partnering more closely with the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) — located just steps away from the Downtown Campus.

“There’s so much we can do … to introduce the concept of college really early, so by the time they get to high school everyone knows they’re going to get some kind of post-secondary credential,” Eugene said, explaining this could be a traditional college degree or a certification in electronic board assembly through Valencia’s Accelerated Skills Training Program.

Personally, as a lifelong sports fan, Eugene is also eager to work in close proximity to local sports stadiums, and he plans to become a regular at Orlando Magic and Orlando Pride games.

“I count it a blessing to be a part of Valencia College and the Downtown Campus, to be a part of something of this scale and something of this personal nature,” he said. “We’re making a big impact for almost 8,000 students, but the personal nature is the difference this campus is going to make in the community — to that first grader or second grader who we are providing that path to.”

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.

13 Comments

  • Melonie Sexton said:

    A great example of a great leader! Looking forward to the opening of our new campus.

    PMTue, 30 Jul 2019 16:59:48 +0000Tue, 30 Jul 2019 16:59:48 +0000pm19,4:59 pm

    • Eugene said:

      Thanks Dr. Sexton. Glad you're on the DTC team!

      PMWed, 31 Jul 2019 16:45:06 +0000Wed, 31 Jul 2019 16:45:06 +0000pm19,4:45 pm

  • Rob McCaffrey said:

    Great work, Dr. Jones!

    PMTue, 30 Jul 2019 17:12:07 +0000Tue, 30 Jul 2019 17:12:07 +0000pm19,5:12 pm

    • Eugene said:

      Thanks Rob! And thank you for all your work supporting DTC!

      PMWed, 31 Jul 2019 16:45:46 +0000Wed, 31 Jul 2019 16:45:46 +0000pm19,4:45 pm

  • Stanton said:

    Thank you for your continued commitment, leadership, passion, and hard work.

    PMTue, 30 Jul 2019 21:12:47 +0000Tue, 30 Jul 2019 21:12:47 +0000pm19,9:12 pm

    • Eugene said:

      And thank you Stanton for your support of DTC!

      PMWed, 31 Jul 2019 16:46:23 +0000Wed, 31 Jul 2019 16:46:23 +0000pm19,4:46 pm

  • Ana J. Caldero said:

    Great leader and colleague. Looking forward to an exciting new beginning as the DTC opens soon!

    PMTue, 30 Jul 2019 21:13:44 +0000Tue, 30 Jul 2019 21:13:44 +0000pm19,9:13 pm

    • Eugene said:

      You are too kind Dr. Caldero! 🙂

      PMWed, 31 Jul 2019 16:47:09 +0000Wed, 31 Jul 2019 16:47:09 +0000pm19,4:47 pm

  • Mia Pierre said:

    I am excited to be opening our new campus, with a fantastic leader.

    AMWed, 31 Jul 2019 09:19:31 +0000Wed, 31 Jul 2019 09:19:31 +0000am19,9:19 am

    • Eugene said:

      Mia! I'm glad you're on the team!

      PMWed, 31 Jul 2019 16:47:38 +0000Wed, 31 Jul 2019 16:47:38 +0000pm19,4:47 pm

  • April Montallana said:

    Looking forward to seeing the fruits of the DTC under this wonderful leadership. Thank you Dr. Jones for your endearing positivity and hard work.

    PMWed, 31 Jul 2019 15:59:48 +0000Wed, 31 Jul 2019 15:59:48 +0000pm19,3:59 pm

    • Eugene said:

      Hi April! Thanks for your support and kind words!

      PMWed, 31 Jul 2019 16:49:31 +0000Wed, 31 Jul 2019 16:49:31 +0000pm19,4:49 pm

  • Shawn said:

    Looking forward to seeing the fruits of the DTC for students and the Paramore residents and community under your leadership, Dr. Jones.

    AMWed, 14 Aug 2019 08:51:00 +0000Wed, 14 Aug 2019 08:51:00 +0000am19,8:51 am

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