Monday, April 4, 2022
By Jennifer Keefe
You might know Danielle Strong-Robinson Smith for her work as a professor of English, but there is much more to her than just thesis statements and supporting paragraphs.
For example, Danielle is a blogger and author. She describes herself as a “sci-fi and supernatural junkie” who “has no interest in Star Trek or Star Wars.” Instead, she chooses to write about topics that interest her, for example, she’s written two books that focus on time travel.
“It’s a window into my life, which I hope becomes a mirror to others,” she explains.
In one chapter of her life, she also started also a blog about her personal battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma called “Cancer Called.”
Danielle closed the cover on that book, though. Her cancer has been in remission for five years.
While she was fighting it, she refused to allow her diagnosis to punctuate her life. Instead, she used the blog to help others with similar diagnoses to navigate the world in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In that time, she also made her mark helping students navigate the real-time virtual learning environment, which was created to make a modified version of face-to-face learning possible during the pandemic.
Wesley Johnson, dean, communications, says her contributions have not gone unnoticed.
“Danielle is an important asset to the West Campus Communications division,” he says. “She takes a holistic approach to education which connects Valencia and its services to the students.”
Jackie Zuromski, professor, English, and West Campus English discipline coordinator, notes, “Danielle is one of those professors that students love right away, and her excellent reputation often precedes her.”
Since she joined the College in 2016, Danielle has also been cited by her peers for being able to help students find their voice in their writing. But writing isn’t all that she teaches. Danielle also facilitates the Peace and Justice Institute’s SEED program as well as classes about implicit bias and microaggressions. Her current masterpiece in progress is a student version of SEED.
That’s not the only thing about her Valencia experience that Danielle is proud of. She’s used the College’s faculty development programs to help her understand ways to be a better educator and student mentor, skills she’s putting to work in the classroom, as well as volunteering for the Valencia African Heritage Association and the Black Student Union.
“I’ve gone completely out of my introverted shell in my participation with Valencia African Heritage Association events and co-advising the Black Student Union,” she explains.
Danielle’s conclusion? The key to connecting with students comes down to this: “Making sure my classroom always feels like a safe space with wild adventures,” she says.
Danielle sees Valencia as “a mirror of the community” with students from all walks of life and in different stages of life. She also really appreciates the support she receives from her colleagues as she works to help write the stories of her students’ lives.
She explains, “The fact that I can say something wild like, “I want to teach a LinC Comp II course with a biology professor,” and the College makes sure I have the necessary resources to make that happen. I loved that experience. Not all workplaces are that supportive.”
That LinC class may have come more easily to Danielle than the rest of us. That’s because in addition to earning a master’s degree in English and creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University, she also earned a bachelor’s degree molecular and microbiology from the University of Central Florida.
In her free time, Danielle likes working on DIY projects, writing and singing songs she “doesn’t have the vocal range for” and traveling.
She explains, “I always have a bag packed.”
Danielle also volunteers at the Fringe Festival so she can see the shows for free. Her record in one season is 27 shows.
“I know I can do better than that, though,” she says.
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.