Featured Colleague: Education is a Family Affair for Donna Matthews

By Dani Moritz-Long 

In remembering our childhoods, most of us clearly recall go-to dinner table conversations. For some of us, it was grandma’s latest faux pas. For others, it was the day’s news or, perhaps, the neighborhood’s gossip. For Donna Matthews, now a math professor on East Campus, it was education.

“I come from a highly educated and education-focused family,” Donna explained, noting that her parents both worked for Chicago Public Schools and her sister became a seventh grade language arts teacher.

Unsurprisingly, Donna, who is also a lifelong scholar, followed in her family’s academic footsteps. After graduating high school, she attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she played varsity volleyball and studied physics and engineering, before transferring to the University of Illinois at Chicago. Ultimately, she earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Methodist University, her master of education in mathematics from Campbell University and her doctorate degree in higher education administration and policy from the University of Florida.

Between her time at the University of Illinois and her graduation from Methodist University, another learning opportunity presented itself. She married a military officer, which meant traveling the world while learning about different cultures as well as discovering ways to support other military families.

“I spent over 20 years providing philanthropic assistance to many military and educational organizations as I lived all over the country and the world,” she said.

She also continued pursuing her love of teaching, first as a high school math teacher and volleyball and soccer coach and later as a professor at higher education institutions across the south before landing at Valencia.

“As a professor at Valencia College, I believe my primary focus is to help students learn whatever they need to meet their educational and professional goals so that there is value to their learning,” she explained. “I have many roles as a professor. I am a teacher, a guide, a mentor, a friend, a helping hand, an academic advisor and maybe even a mother at times.”

Donna also, she explained, served as an assistant to Mathematics Dean Maryke Lee, who says she appreciates Donna’s dedication to students. “You often see several students gathered in her office working on homework problems and asking questions,” Maryke said.

Donna added, “I am proud of being a Valencia College professor, but I am also proud of my role as the assistant to the dean of mathematics on East Campus, Maryke Lee, for two years. I’ve helped all types/levels of students with their mathematics’ concerns. I’ve comforted them, advised them, helped place them in the correct mathematics pathway and even offered them math help when they needed it.”

Here at Valencia, Donna explained, she’s found a home within the math department.

“We laugh together and cry together and hug each other (when needed),” she summarized. “We support each other so freely. This is the first math department of which I’ve been a member that doesn’t try to compete with each other. Instead, we offer each other our active learning activities, worksheets, quizzes and tests…and time. We teach each other Canvas and drive each other to events. We are MATH STRONG!”

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.


  • Dr. Yasmeen Qadri said:

    Congratulations Donna, so happy to have you as my office neighbor:)

    Your international travels and respect for other cultures show well in your interactions with diverse students!

    Very nice article.

    PMTue, 03 Jul 2018 19:27:35 +0000Tue, 03 Jul 2018 19:27:35 +0000pm18,7:27 pm

    • Donna said:

      Thanks Jasmine. I’ve enjoyed our conversations…as well as the occasional goodies!

      PMWed, 04 Jul 2018 13:26:03 +0000Wed, 04 Jul 2018 13:26:03 +0000pm18,1:26 pm

  • Hatim said:

    I am happy with Donna is around; Thank you Donna!

    PMWed, 04 Jul 2018 12:12:48 +0000Wed, 04 Jul 2018 12:12:48 +0000pm18,12:12 pm

    • Donna said:

      I am happy to call you a friend! You always provide a smile and happiness when I see you.

      PMWed, 04 Jul 2018 13:31:01 +0000Wed, 04 Jul 2018 13:31:01 +0000pm18,1:31 pm

  • Al Narcum said:

    Great article, Donna! I'm proud to have you as my friend and colleague. You bring a breath of fresh air to Valencia and we're lucky to have you.

    PMThu, 05 Jul 2018 12:45:46 +0000Thu, 05 Jul 2018 12:45:46 +0000pm18,12:45 pm

    • Donna Matthews said:

      Thanks for your kindness Al. We are glad are in the department too!

      PMMon, 09 Jul 2018 16:04:22 +0000Mon, 09 Jul 2018 16:04:22 +0000pm18,4:04 pm

  • Cristina Balan said:

    Congratulations Donna! You are an amazing professor, colleague and friend! We are fortunate to have you at Valencia!

    AMMon, 09 Jul 2018 08:06:11 +0000Mon, 09 Jul 2018 08:06:11 +0000am18,8:06 am

  • Donna Matthews said:

    Hi Cristina. Thank you for the congratulation. I wish we had more opportunities to see each other on campus. You have provided me with campus support in so many ways that have improved my classroom and student outcomes.

    PMMon, 09 Jul 2018 16:25:18 +0000Mon, 09 Jul 2018 16:25:18 +0000pm18,4:25 pm

  • Judy Chubb said:

    Congratulations my special friend and colleague! You are such an excellent teacher and you definitely deserved to be recognized for all you do and have done to make our Math Department here at Valencia East a great one.

    AMTue, 10 Jul 2018 11:09:25 +0000Tue, 10 Jul 2018 11:09:25 +0000am18,11:09 am

  • Donna Matthews said:

    Thank you for such meaningful and heartfelt comments. I will always appreciate your introducing me to the Valencia culture when you mentored me my first semester here. You're amazing!

    AMTue, 10 Jul 2018 11:18:23 +0000Tue, 10 Jul 2018 11:18:23 +0000am18,11:18 am

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