Featured Colleague: Inspired by Valencia’s Values, Sam Dunham Connects People to Their Purpose Through LearningShare
By Dani Moritz-Long
Learning. People. Diversity. Access. Integrity.
These aren’t just words carelessly strewn around campus to strategically elevate Valencia College’s public image. Much to the contrary, they’re deep-set ideologies that Valencia — as an institution and a collection of distinct and passionate individuals — live by. They’re the pillars that drive our work, our vision, our mission. They’re our Valencia values; they’re who we are.
They’re the reason people like Assistant Director of Employee Development Sam Dunham choose Valencia.
“I believed in Valencia’s mission and values so much that when I was applying for jobs a few years ago, I received an offer for a job from another major Florida university and I declined — before I had been informed that Valencia even wanted an in-person interview with me,” Sam said.
It was a risky move, but one he needed to take.
“It was Valencia or nowhere,” he said.
That’s because Sam knew Valencia offered more than most institutions could offer. His pursuit of Valencia far transcended finding the perfect job description coupled with an impressive compensation and benefits package. Valencia offered the chance to be a part of something bigger.
“I believe that Valencia signifies a light of hope to the community,” he said. “So many great students come through Valencia and, though many of them were underestimated or counted out, they continue to shine in our classrooms as well as outside of Valencia. Not only that, but the employees give so much to the community through their time, talents and resources. Valencia is so deeply integrated within the community, and I love it.”
While Sam primarily works with employees, he finds the theme of hope and light to be relevant in all of our roles within the Valencia community. He likens his own role to that of a lighthouse.
“As the assistant director of employee development, my role is to help employees navigate the waters of their personal careers,” he said. “I try to shine light on employees’ strengths and the options that they have available in regards to training, development, resources and recognition opportunities.”
He added, “I believe that everyone has a purpose and is valuable. It is from that place that I try to approach my interactions with people and the work that I do. I also believe that most people do not know how great they are, and I try to find moments where I can share that with them.”
In doing this work, Sam’s day-to-day activities can vary from one-on-one consultations to consultative work with an entire team or department. He also coordinates many of Valencia’s recognition and leadership programs, such as the PIVOT 360 leadership program, works as an administrator for the Valencia EDGE, and serves on various committees, like the Valencia Foundation Scholarship Committee. More recently, he’s also helped champion the development and implementation of Valencia Compass, the College’s new onboarding experience. In an effort to stay connected to students, Sam also participates in opportunities to engage with our student population. Recently, for example, he facilitated for the Student Leadership Series.
In all of this work, Sam draws upon this bachelor’s degree in psychology, master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology and — perhaps most importantly — his reflective demeanor, wisdom and gift of emotional intelligence.
Describing the many reasons Sam is an asset to the Employee Development team, Director of Employee Development Deanne Abrams said, “Sam is a meticulous thinker. He is adept at reading a room and offers his insights willingly, generally dropping the mic with his knowledge. It is awesome when Sam is leading a work group. In the midst of large voices and perspectives, Sam is able to find a common thread among the group and create an atmosphere where all voices are heard and acknowledged.”
Outside of Valencia, Sam’s passions are eclectic. They include photography, music (he listens to an interesting combination of 90s rap, Christian and jazz — but, he says, “good music is good music”), sports (flag football and basketball rank among his favorite to play) and video games (racing and role-playing games top his list, along with anything featuring the Sega star, Sonic the Hedgehog). Something you might not know about Sam — he not only enjoys listening to music, but he can also play it. Sam can play three instruments, the French horn, trumpet and trombone, and played the French horn in this college orchestra on a scholarship.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? 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.