By Dani Moritz-Long
As a father of two young girls, family is an important part of Information Technology Professor Heith Hennel’s life — so much so, that as Heith explains, he has two families: one at home and one at Valencia.
While his Valencia family may look a little different (and be exceptionally larger) than his biological family, the similarities between family life at home and at work are striking. Both families bring unbridled joy and pride at family members’ accomplishments; they both boast diverse personalities and talents; and they even experience some family feuds over unavoidable differences of opinions. And Heith loves it all.
He joined the Valencia family in 2003 after working in the IT industry around the world — from Crete, Greece, to Cincinnati, Ohio. While he gained incredible experiences and insights, he was ready for something different, something more fulfilling, so he set out to teach.
It didn’t take long for him to realize he made the right decision.
“Valencia has really allowed me to enhance my learning and teaching practices,” he said. “I love working with other faculty to get involved with things like Learning in Community (LinC), student clubs and study abroad.”
Heith, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and business administration, a master’s degree in computer systems management and graduate certificates in information assurance and systems security, is also grateful that he earned tenure. As Heith explained, it was “a rigorous process, especially coming from industry and not knowing much about how an educational institution works.” Luckily, as with most challenges Heith has met along the way, his Valencia family has been there to help.
“My former dean, Joe Lynn Look, was my mentor,” he explained. “She really taught me the ropes of the College and how to help students learn more effectively. I also look up to David Brunick, professor, computer programming and analysis. While we differ in opinions quite often and bump heads, he really has the passion to ensure that our students learn.”
Throughout his time at Valencia, Heith has been incredibly active in enhancing student learning experiences, particularly through the study abroad program.
According to Carin Gordon, dean, business, information technology and public services, “Heith is always looking for ways to be innovative in his classes and to bring in real-world applications. He also does incredible work in leading study abroad trips with an IT focus.”
Most recently, Heith returned from a study abroad trip to London, England. He’s also planning a trip to Santiago, Chile, to learn about how technology is used in the country.
But whether he’s serving the College from Florida or across the ocean, he’s thrilled to have found his second family.
“Valencia is the community,” he said. “We represent all walks of life in the Orlando area. From people still in high school to retirement, education binds us all together. When I first came to Valencia, I knew its reputation and involvement in the community, and it only seems to get better each year.”
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