By Chara Young
In 2010, Valencia welcomed its youngest campus president, Dr. Kathleen Plinske, to lead both the Osceola and Lake Nona Campuses, and in the past two years, she has demonstrated Valencia’s spirit of collaborative leadership.
Since coming aboard, Kathleen has worked with her team to lead the development of the new Lake Nona Campus, as well as the design of Building 4 at the Osceola Campus, which will house our new library.
Kathleen cites “the groundbreaking ceremonies for both the Lake Nona Campus and Building 4” as the most memorable moments in her two years at the college. She explains that “the groundbreakings represented the culmination of hundreds of hours of our best thinking and work, with dozens of employees and students playing significant roles in the design of the buildings.”
Throughout the construction process she has been most proud “that we took the time to listen to our students, to our faculty and staff, and to our architects and advisors, to weave together many innovative ideas into a coherent learning space.” Her hope “is that students will feel like the buildings ‘make sense’ as a result of the intentionality behind their design.”
Further demonstrating her collaborative leadership, Kathleen, when charged with developing a campus plan, cultivated an open, for us by us approach. This involved engaging “faculty and staff in several conversations to take an honest look at where they wanted to go in serving students, employees and the community,” shares Jenni Campbell, dean of communications and humanities on the Osceola Campus. “The development of the Osceola/Lake Nona Campus plan is a great example of how Kathleen motivated the entire campus to develop our vision together.”
Most recently, Kathleen was named the “Woman of the Year – 2012” from among the Orlando Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40, an award that recognizes men and women throughout the region who have played a key role in shaping our community. “In Osceola County,” Kathleen explains, “the community feels that the Osceola Campus is their college, as we’re the only public institution of higher education in the county.”
Kathleen treasures “the opportunity to give back to [her] community, and truly enjoys serving on many boards,” including the Education Foundation of Osceola County, the Osceola Center for the Arts, and serving as the president-elect of the Rotary Club of Lake Nona. When members of the community ask her about Valencia, she responds “without hesitation,” that Valencia “is the ‘Harvard’ of community colleges.”
Valencia’s secret to success may very well lie in the genuine care that our faculty and staff have for our students. They “will bend over backward to support their success,” shares Kathleen, who is amazed by our “extraordinarily talented” students.
When not working to “help every student in Osceola County believe that college is possible,” Kathleen loves to spend time with her nephews in Illinois, cousins in Winter Garden, and enjoys playing golf – she “particularly appreciates being able to play year-round in Florida.” A lifelong learner, she is currently enrolled at the University of Florida in the Master of Business Administration program.
Prior to coming to Valencia, Kathleen was the interim president of McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, Illinois. She graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor of arts in Spanish and physics, and went on to earn her master of arts in Spanish from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois. In 2008, she completed her doctoral program in educational technology at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
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