Featured Colleague – Debra Hollister

By Stephanie McMillen

Debra Hollister, professor of psychology at the Lake Nona Campus, is a faculty member who is interested in motivating students to learn for the sake of learning.

She first joined Valencia as a student after graduating from Boone High School. When she completed her associates degree in general studies, Debra went on to attend the University of Central Florida (UCF) where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology, as well as a doctorate in curriculum and instruction.

“I worked in the community mental health setting for several years prior to beginning as an adjunct on Valencia’s East Campus,” Debra said. Since beginning her career here in 1982, Debra has become a full-time psychology faculty and now works at the Collegiate Academy at Lake Nona High School – an accelerated academic program that provides advanced educational opportunities to Lake Nona High School students.

“The Collegiate Academy at Lake Nona is an amazing place to work,” Debra said. “We have a small group of professors and staff that all work together, [and] are busy getting ready to open our new campus this fall.”

Debra finds all components of teaching at Valencia fulfilling because it further demonstrates the broad spectrum of influence that psychology has. “It is reinforcing when students discover this connection and take this information with them in their future careers,” she said.

Last year, Debra and her colleague Brian Macon, professor of mathematics at Lake Nona, received an Endowed Chair for Learning Leadership that allowed them to help a group of students determine their educational and career pathways – a struggle that many new students often have.

Together, Debra and Brian worked to enhance the students’ college experience by providing assistance and guidance through the stress of their first year. Most importantly, they helped students choose the college degree that they need to obtain the professional career they desire.

Through a series of self-assessments, the students were able to learn about different aspects of their lives, from time management and self-worth, to critical thinking and learning preferences.

“This project has demonstrated that students want to be successful, but do not always know what options they have to be able to flourish in their college careers,” Debra explained.

Debra has also been involved in other projects that have enhanced the student experience, such as developing internship positions that involve animal training and animal husbandry at both SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. Through these internships, students gain an understanding of how important psychology is, not only in their lives but in diverse areas such as animal training.

Debra and her husband have two children and as a family they enjoy many different interests and activities including golf, water sports and traveling. Debra is happy to report that her son is working on his doctorate in computer engineering, while her daughter recently earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Florida.

Know someone doing great work at the college? Send your recommendation to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and he or she may be one of our featured colleagues.


  • Mike Bosley said:

    We are so proud to have Debra on our Lake Nona team. We all can't wait to welcome you all to the Lake Nona Campus!

    PMTue, 19 Jun 2012 17:47:46 +0000Tue, 19 Jun 2012 17:47:46 +0000pm12,5:47 pm

  • Brian Macon said:

    I love our small family at Lake Nona! What a great team we have!! Thanks for all of your hard work Deb, you are a rock star!

    PMTue, 19 Jun 2012 18:45:07 +0000Tue, 19 Jun 2012 18:45:07 +0000pm12,6:45 pm

  • Celeste Henry said:

    It is a pleasure to know you and work with you, I look forward to our future projects.

    AMWed, 20 Jun 2012 04:20:36 +0000Wed, 20 Jun 2012 04:20:36 +0000am12,4:20 am

  • Debra Jacobs said:

    Great job Debra!

    AMWed, 20 Jun 2012 05:59:36 +0000Wed, 20 Jun 2012 05:59:36 +0000am12,5:59 am

  • Barbara Frazier said:


    Is a star internship faculty supervisor. She has made enormous contributions to the internship program. We are fortunate to have her.

    PMThu, 03 Apr 2014 14:03:05 +0000Thu, 03 Apr 2014 14:03:05 +0000pm14,2:03 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts

    Featured Colleague: Damika Sanders Launches STEM...

    Tuesday, September 20, 2022 By Jennifer Keefe If you put a pencil in Damika Sanders’ hand, she can do a lot of things. “I can draw. I’m pretty good at still life, animals and drawing hands,” she says. “Hands are unique and expressive, simple looking, yet challenging.” But this project director for the Louis Stokes Alliance […]

    Featured Colleague: Dan DeRosa Puts the ‘Fun’ in...

    Monday, September 12, 2022 By Jennifer Keefe Dan DeRosa is a huge fan of mysteries. When he’s not digging into the latest works of John Grisham, Tom Clancy or John Sandford, he’s helping students uncover the intricacies of math. Dan serves Valencia College as the instructional lab supervisor in the Math Depot at the Osceola […]