Featured Colleague: Darren Smith’s Transition From Valencia Fan to Valencia Family

By Dani Moritz-Long

When Darren Smith, now Valencia’s director of institutional effectiveness, first heard College President Sandy Shugart speak at an event in North Carolina, he was hooked. And not just by Dr. Shugart’s charismatic speaking style.

“I really responded to the vision he articulated during the address,” Darren said, “and I’ve been following Valencia ever since.”

That’s why when Darren, whose degrees include a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering and a master’s in biological sciences (he’s working on his dissertation for a doctorate in educational research and policy analysis), was looking for a new opportunity after completing his Education Policy Fellowship, Valencia was on his radar. Fortunately, the timing was right. Valencia was seeking a director of institutional effectiveness and Darren, who had served in the same role at Sampson Community College in North Carolina, was the perfect fit for the job.

“I was thrilled to have Darren join our team,” said Karen Borglum, who was the director of curriculum and assessment at the time. “I knew he would be instrumental in the expansion of the college conversation on assessment and institutional effectiveness.”

Karen was so confident, in fact, that she was willing to wait an extended period for Darren to start — four months to be exact.

That’s because after Karen invited him to join Valencia on a Friday, Darren experienced an unfortunate accident, leaving him hospitalized for a month and bound to an external fixator for two months after that.

It didn’t feel too comical then, but now Darren says he can laugh about it.

“It was quite a journey,” Darren chuckled.

A couple years (and a metal knee) later, Darren’s happy to be here.

As director of institutional effectiveness, Darren draws upon his natural aptitude for strategy and development to support the College’s ideas. He helps various individuals and departments to converge ideas into strategies that align with the College’s strategic plan.

“I help translate unit and campus planning efforts and help them make connections to institutional goals,” he said.

You can find more information about Darren and his team’s work by reading this article.

Commenting on Darren’s impact at the College, Vice President of Analytics and Planning Brandon McKelvey said, “Darren is an excellent leader in our planning process who thinks carefully about strategy and its impact on student learning.”

In his spare time, you’ll find Darren reading, working with plants, playing games and working toward his personal fitness goals. You might also spot him playing the trombone, although Darren admits he’s a little out of practice these days.

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.

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