By Dani Moritz-Long
A 17-year staff member at Valencia College, Campus Dean of Learning Support Landon Shephard began his Valencia career in 2000 as a part-time academic advisor and never looked back.
The reason, Landon says, is simple. “Valencia is an amazing place with incredible people,” he said. “It’s very fulfilling to be able to come to work every day and be surrounded by talented people who want our students to be successful and genuinely believe that any student can learn under the right conditions.”
As a natural developer, Landon enjoys creating those conditions in his role as a dean of learning support on Osceola Campus. Whether he’s developing the New Student Experience (NSE) curriculum and training new faculty, assisting with the development of programs like REACH and the Future Teachers Academy, or improving testing and assessment, Landon says he’s happy to play his role in helping students succeed.
Particularly as someone who was born and raised in Osceola County, he finds a constant stream of inspiration to find new ways to improve the student experience and make college accessible for as many people as possible. After all, he was once one of the students we serve.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to have the opportunity to grow up in Osceola County and serve the community,” he said. “It means a lot to me. Specifically, [I enjoy serving] the Poinciana area since I graduated from Poinciana High School. It has had a rather significantly lower college-going rate [than surrounding areas], so to be able to, in any way, help Osceola County and specifically Poinciana means a lot to me.”
He also finds inspiration in the stories of our students, like Alex Castro — who, before graduating from Valencia and attending the University of Central Florida, rode the bus from Poinciana to Osceola Campus for four hours a day to prove to her younger siblings that college is possible.
These stories remind Landon of the life-changing impact our work has and inspires his feverish dedication to benefiting the Osceola community.
“Landon is tremendously creative and willing to pioneer new ideas in an effort to find what might better support student success,” Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campus President Kathleen Plinske said. “It is obvious that he has a huge heart and always wants what is best for our students.”
Faculty Developer and Instructional Designer Alex Penn mirrored Kathleen’s sentiment. “He truly cares for his faculty, staff, students and those in the surrounding community,” she said. “In the past year that I have been collaborating with him, he has not only demonstrated excellence in what he does, but a true commitment to success of those around him.”
Beyond his role as a dean, this commitment is also demonstrated as an adjunct faculty member, as Landon has been teaching part-time since 2004. Having wanted to teach in high school, Landon enjoys the opportunity to fulfill his passion for teaching and to gain a different perspective on students’ classroom experience.
“It makes a big difference as a dean who oversees the NSE program,” he said. “It’s helpful to know what it’s like in the classroom from the student perspective by being in the classroom with them.”
Landon earned a bachelor’s in social studies education, a master’s in higher education administration and a doctorate in social studies teacher education — from the University of Central Florida.
In his free time, you can find Landon enjoying time on the water with his 7-year-old son, Isaiah. Fishing, swimming and boating all feature prominently in their weekend activities, and Landon hopes that, one day, their outdoor hobbies may turn into a career for Isaiah. In addition to once aspiring to be a school teacher, Landon also previously considered life as an environmental scientist — so, he says, maybe he’ll return to school alongside his son when he’s ready to start his next career.
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.