By Dani Moritz-Long
A great man once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” That man was Nelson Mandela, and his words have inspired many — including Academic Advisor Gwendolyn Noel, who meets each day with a passion and vigor for transforming lives with that very weapon.
Each of us, she explains, are world changers. Each of us have the opportunity to touch the lives of students, make the impossible possible and, through these efforts, change the world — one student at a time.
So, when Gwendolyn steps through the door each day, she doesn’t clock in with the mindset that she’s here to work. Instead, she walks through the door every day eager for the chance to make the world a little brighter.
“Each day, each student brings something different,” she explained. “When I meet a student for the first time, I want to engage them in a meaningful dialogue. In doing this, I gain information and, together, we come up with a course of direction in pursuing their degree and career goals.”
Commenting on the impact of this kind of transformative advising, she added, “Advising is not simply providing resources but building relationships. I want each student to know that they have a support system at Valencia and that nothing is impossible if they set their sight on the goal of their education. I want each student to feel a sense of purpose no matter what life throws at them. If they come against a stumbling block, I encourage them to dust themselves off and move forward. I want students to know that I care and am there for them.”
Without doubt, students do know — and do appreciate Gwendolyn’s mentorship.
“The students really enjoy working with her — many requesting her by name,” said Mindy Smith, director, student services.
Recollecting one of her favorite student interactions, Gwendolyn shared the story of a student who needed the kind of mentorship and care that Gwendolyn has become known for.
“In one of my advising sessions, I had a student who did not know what she wanted to do for a career. After talking with her and seeing her frustration, I advised her to take the Career Assessment and come back and let us talk about the results. When she returned, I saw a different person. After taking the assessment, she realized that she always liked helping people. She found that she wanted to pursue being an EMT. I encouraged her to speak with someone in the field and, when she returned, she had a pep in her step and a smile on her face. She studied hard, and I was happy to hear that she is a Valencia graduate. She even came back to say thank you! That was a great moment for me.”
But Gwendolyn doesn’t take all the credit. In fact, she attributes much of the student’s success to the nurturing culture of Valencia.
“She, like many others, just needed someone to listen, guide and be there along the way,” Gwendolyn explained. “That is Valencia!”
Gwendolyn, who earned her associate degree at Valencia before earning her bachelor’s degree in Christian education and a master’s degree in management, has worked at the College for 13 years, starting as a work study student in financial aid and working up to being an academic advisor in 2014. Needless to say, she’s enjoyed every second and looks forward to the years ahead.
“Being here for almost 13 years, I have seen many changes within the College,” she said. “Many innovative ideas have been implemented, student resources have expanded and Valencia continues to grow in each community that our campuses are located. We are now doing more community events, which draws individuals to want to be a part of the Valencia community whether they are students or want to work at the College. Seeing the growth inspires me.”
When she isn’t working, you can find Gwendolyn finding even more ways to give back to the community.
“I work alongside my husband, who pastors a church in the Osceola/Orlando area,” she said. “You will often find me teaching a study group or doing a workshop for our women group. Along with others, we do a lot of community service as we continually provide food, clothing and toiletries to the homeless community. I also enjoy spending time with my family and spending time with my eight awesome grandsons!”
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.