Featured Colleague: Kassy Holmes Builds Up STEM One Activity at a Time

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

By Claudia Zequeira

Analyzing how the pH balance of hair products can negatively impact hair, exploring the effect of white noise on plant growth and examining contaminant levels in tap and reclaimed water are activities one might associate with being present in a lab environment.

And yet these tasks — and many more — have been accomplished remotely through the pandemic thanks to the work of Kassy Holmes and her colleagues who facilitate the efforts of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program at Valencia College.

In her role as LSAMP project director, Kassy is responsible for overseeing activities associated with the Central Florida STEM Alliance (CFSA) — a multi-institutional project funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF), and in which Valencia College is the lead institution.

The overarching goal of the LSAMP program at the College is to support racially and ethnically minoritized students who have been traditionally at a disadvantage within STEM fields. The goal? Seeing them complete associate degrees and go on to pursue baccalaureate degrees in STEM.

More specifically at Valencia, this means facilitating meaningful programming for underrepresented minority students which includes the LSAMP Scholars program, a two-semester opportunity for students to engage in hands-on research under the guidance of a faculty or staff mentor, the Summer STEM Institute, a summer bridge for incoming freshmen interested in STEM, and the STEM Summit, a yearly alliance-wide conference. LSAMP also hosts numerous other events for students that include industry field trips, college tours and travel to attend national STEM conferences.

This all sounds somewhat dry on paper, but Kassy says it’s far from what her job entails.

“This job is actually a lot of fun,” she said, adding that besides coming up with programming ideas, she also gets to experience her students’ success firsthand as she and her colleagues cheer them on.

“I enjoy the opportunities to see our students present their research at national STEM conferences and to hear students reflect on their own STEM story and share what they have learned in front of peers and the Valencia community during our LSAMP showcase. It is a very rewarding job.”

At Valencia, where she started in 2018, Kassy is proud of helping students transition online during the pandemic, including offering them virtual lab opportunities.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure if we would be able to continue to support students in research without being able to meet on campus,” she said. “But we have continued the LSAMP Scholars program with the support of our wonderful faculty mentors and students have completed research virtually and at-home on a variety of fascinating topics.”

She also expressed satisfaction with the LSAMP team’s efforts to support students in completing the Summer STEM Institute virtually. Students completed hands-on STEM activities from the comfort and safety of their own homes, participated in virtual field trips and interacted with guest speakers.

The LSAMP team has also leveraged technology during the pandemic to offer webinars for students, which have included notable and inspiring industry speakers, such as astrophysicist Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi; and former NASA astronaut Nicole Stott.

Kassy enjoys the extensive collaboration among other colleagues who support LSAMP. She also praised the involvement of academic STEM deans and faculty across the College as well as Valencia’s robust support services offered to students, such as advisors, librarians, lab staff and many others.

“It is thanks to the hard-work of the LSAMP project team, specifically our dedicated STEM advisors and our project implementation coordinator, and the support of other departments at Valencia that our programs have been successful” she said. “LSAMP really wouldn’t be possible without the kind of cross-division collaboration we currently have.”

At Valencia, she said she is also deeply inspired by the students she meets.

“The students in the LSAMP program are incredibly inspiring as many of them are first-generation college students, working multiple jobs, pursuing challenging STEM degrees and are often faced with other personal and academic challenges that could easily derail their journey in STEM and yet they continue to persist in pursuit of their goals,” she said. “As we continue to cope with a global pandemic, I am particularly inspired by our students’ abilities to adapt to these challenging and unprecedented times.”

But she is also inspired by Valencia, a place where students can access opportunity and feel comfortable and “as though someone genuinely cares about them.”

“I know everyone who works in the LSAMP program genuinely cares about the students we serve and work with. And we want students to feel comfortable around us and to come to us if they are struggling in an LSAMP assignment or program.”

Her supervisor, Eda Davis Lowe, assistant vice president, partnerships for educational equity, agrees that Kassy has made significant contributions to her team.

“Kassy started her position at Valencia during a busy event season for the project team,” said Eda. “Early in her tenure, she demonstrated how well equipped she is to lead a project designed to advance diversity in STEM degrees and careers. Kassy makes significant contributions at Valencia and beyond, as she fosters collaborations around equity-minded practices to engage and retain in STEM racially and ethnically minoritized students.”

Before joining the College, Kassy, who holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Rollins College and a master’s degree in environmental conservation education from New York University, worked as program manager for the Girl Scouts Citrus Council and as a climate program coordinator for the Rainforest Alliance in New York City.

In her free time, Kassy enjoys reading, riding her bike and spending time outdoors or with family. She also finds time to volunteer at the Nehrling Gardens, a historic garden in the Orlando area, where she is also a board member and where she continues to assist with programming.

“It is a lovely historic property,” she said. “Walking around the gardens is great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.”

Know of someone doing great work at the College, 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.

9 Comments

  • Eda Davis-Lowe said:

    Kassy, you are doing an excellent job! I am excited for you that others at the college also have opportunity to learn about the contributions you are making and the passions and commitments you bring to the work and to the college. Thank you for saying yes to the offer to join us here at Valencia.

    AMWed, 27 Jan 2021 08:29:29 +0000Wed, 27 Jan 2021 08:29:29 +0000am21,8:29 am

    • Kassy Holmes said:

      Thank you for the kind words, Eda! It has been a pleasure working with you and our colleagues at Valencia.

      AMThu, 28 Jan 2021 10:01:46 +0000Thu, 28 Jan 2021 10:01:46 +0000am21,10:01 am

  • April Montallana said:

    This is wonderful work! Kudos and thank you for the job well done and for fostering growth in this important area of work.

    AMWed, 27 Jan 2021 11:21:27 +0000Wed, 27 Jan 2021 11:21:27 +0000am21,11:21 am

    • Kassy Holmes said:

      Thanks very much, April!

      AMThu, 28 Jan 2021 10:02:42 +0000Thu, 28 Jan 2021 10:02:42 +0000am21,10:02 am

  • Isa Suarez said:

    Kassy, I am very happy to see you as a featured colleague!!! You have done an AMAZING job and deserve the recognition. It has been a pleasure working with you. You rock!!! 🙂

    AMThu, 28 Jan 2021 10:17:14 +0000Thu, 28 Jan 2021 10:17:14 +0000am21,10:17 am

    • Kassy Holmes said:

      Isa! Thank you! It is wonderful working with you and you are a very, very important member of the extended LSAMP team – we'd be lost without your budget and accounting expertise!! 🙂

      AMMon, 01 Feb 2021 09:56:29 +0000Mon, 01 Feb 2021 09:56:29 +0000am21,9:56 am

  • Nardia Cumberbatch said:

    This is an excellent piece and I loved learning more. Kassy is an excellent colleague and I learn something new every time I work with her! She does a fantastic job with students (and colleagues)!!!

    PMTue, 02 Feb 2021 16:19:47 +0000Tue, 02 Feb 2021 16:19:47 +0000pm21,4:19 pm

    • Kassy Holmes said:

      Thank you so much, Nardia!! It's truly great working with you (and your fellow librarian colleagues!) and thank you for always being so very helpful and supportive of the LSAMP program and students!

      PMWed, 03 Feb 2021 12:17:37 +0000Wed, 03 Feb 2021 12:17:37 +0000pm21,12:17 pm

  • Jennifer Bhagirath said:

    Kassy, this is an amazing feature! So wonderful to see all of the amazing things happening in our world of STEM! Truly wonderful, hats off to you for all that you do.

    PMTue, 02 Mar 2021 16:45:01 +0000Tue, 02 Mar 2021 16:45:01 +0000pm21,4:45 pm

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