By Wendy Jo Moyer
Which of our colleagues has hitchhiked more than 2,000 miles across the U.S., fell down a mine shaft temporarily paralyzing her lower body and held the Olympic Torch? That is Cathy Campbell, workforce data analyst for Career and Workforce Education.
When Cathy was 19, she hitchhiked across 22 states, one of those Texas, where during a mine town exploration, she and a friend fell into a mine shaft. A spinal injury temporarily paralyzed her legs — fortunately, only lasting about two hours. After five hours in the mine shaft, her friend climbed out of the shaft using a pickaxe that just happened to be given to them as a gag gift. He then helped Cathy out with a rope.
If you’re wondering about her Olympic debut, when the 1996 Summer Olympics was held in Atlanta, the soccer matches were actually held in Orlando at what is now Camping World Stadium. Cathy heard about a volunteer opportunity through her role at Valencia and jumped at the chance. It was there that she held the Olympic Torch — for a runner who was tying his shoe.
She has another tie to the Olympics that is near and dear to her heart. Cathy escorted her daughter, who has a disability, as she competed in relay races, volleyball, tennis, swimming and bowling in the 1999 Special Olympics.
As a single mom with a daughter with a disability, Cathy’s Valencia introduction was as a student in 1992 in the Displaced Homemaker Program at the Osceola Campus when it was in portables. “I was on welfare. I was renting small apartments with clunker vehicles and had nothing to fall back on,” she explained. Valencia gave her the chance she needed to improve her and her daughter’s lives, and she graduated with an Associate in Science in graphic design. While a student, Cathy held her first Valencia job as an intern in the print shop.
“After graduating in 1994 and beginning my career here, I have accomplished so much more than I ever dreamed of — that is what I believe Valencia signifies to the community — a place to achieve your dreams and even those you have yet to have,” she shared.
It was after that internship that she landed in Career and Workforce Education, where she’s been ever since in roles including staff assistant II, technical support specialist, career and workforce education specialist, career and workforce research specialist and now, since July 2017, workforce data analyst.
She holds a behind-the-scenes job that’s very important to the College, conducting labor market research on job opportunities, wages and employers to make sure that students have job opportunities when they earn a Valencia degree; producing annual program reviews on certificates, associate and baccalaureate programs; and using visualization software and her graphic design skills to prepare presentations to help the College understand the data more easily, so we can spot trends, identify opportunities and make data-driven decisions.
Cathy loves every aspect of her work, especially playing such an important role in helping our students access viable jobs. “Our students need to know they have a concrete place to go when they graduate, and that we don’t offer programs that don’t have jobs,” Cathy said. “That’s a primary focus of my work.”
In addition, she enjoys seeing the data firsthand of our students’ successes. “There are a lot of successes that we see that no one else does,” she reflected.
Her great work is being noticed. “Cathy is a very valuable member of the Workforce team,” said her supervisor, Nasser Hedayat, assistant vice president, career and workforce education. “She is very passionate and dedicated to her work and does an exceptional job in preparing the data analysis for our workforce programs.”
Cathy has a long list of accomplishments in her 24 Valencia years. She was part of the team that was awarded the Dale Parnell Outstanding Tech Prep Program Award in 2007. Cathy explained that the late Dr. Parnell conceived Tech Prep, now known as Career Pathways, as an articulated high school/community college program focusing on the neglected majority of the middle and high school students who neither prepare for nor aspire to baccalaureate study.
She’s also proud of being a member of the team that prepared the data that eventually led to Valencia receiving the inaugural Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and the group that conducted research and gathered curriculum information for four Associate in Science degrees to be offered at the first all-women community college in Saudi Arabia, Princess Nora Bint AbdulRahman University.
When not researching and analyzing data, Cathy enjoys spending time with her daughter, visiting her mother in Michigan, scenic photography, painting, sewing, crocheting, taking long scenic drives, helping friends and listening to praise and worship.
Check out her photography and artwork above. Cathy took the photo (left) in Tennessee, laying on a wet stone slab right by the edge of a cliff (apparently her mine shaft experience was not top of mind). In her drawing (right), she used oil pastels that she blended with her fingers. It took four months to complete.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for one year or more? 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.