By Claudia Zequeira
Michelle Ames is a creative foodie who loves a challenge.
“I like to get in the kitchen and create things,” said Michelle, executive assistant, senior. “Somebody will look at the fridge or pantry and say ‘Oh, there is nothing to eat,’ but I will look at them and create a create a one-of-a-kind, fabulous meal out of it.”
That approach to situations has served Michelle well at Valencia. Although she only started in 2019 and was a few months into her new role before the pandemic hit and her work moved online, Michelle is now a key player within Valencia’s East Region.
As executive assistant to Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses Wendy Givoglu, Michelle’s job functions include scheduling multiple meetings, making budget requests and organizing events, among many others.
In her short time here, she has worked on redesigning a collegewide form professors use when their time is reassigned. She has also organized monthly town hall meetings for the East Region; gatherings that have been instrumental in keeping all faculty and staff well informed and connected during COVID. She also helped organize the region’s Welcome Back events.
“We try to showcase a different area of the region every month during our remote work,” said Michelle. It’s really just an opportunity for everyone to receive updates on where the College is going. I’m proud of coordinating that effort.”
Since the College has moved to working remotely, Michelle has become a Zoom expert, having been described as “Zoomtastic” by her colleagues.
And after COVID changed many aspects of her work life, she did not hesitate to volunteer and help where needed during the many special projects the College embarked on to ensure students were served well.
“While Michelle has been invaluable to me in my role, I often hear how amazingly supportive she is of our entire East leadership team,” said Wendy, her supervisor.
“Michelle is the epitome of someone who ‘leans in;’ she will jump in and give 110% — from the calling campaigns, to [helping] in the bookstore, to learning everything there is to know about Zoom — she is a dynamo! We are so very lucky that Michelle Ames chose to lend her many talents to us here at Valencia.”
Before joining the College, Michelle worked as a program assistant for Orange County Public schools, where she helped screen children for hearing problems. Prior to that, she was the senior director of administration for Super Vision International, where she led multiple human resources functions. She also worked for Graseby Electro Optics, where she handled human resources and security tasks.
After finding her way to Valencia (she first fell in love with the field of education as a volunteer in her children’s schools), Michelle said she is glad of her choice.
“I worked for OCPS, so for me staying within FRS [Florida Retirement System] was important,” she said. “Then I found out about the benefits here. Having such a robust benefits package is important.”
Michelle added that besides offering tangible benefits, the College offers a “friendly and welcoming” environment. The fact that many of her co-workers have been at Valencia for many years, she said, is further proof Valencia is a good employer.
“So many people have spent most of their lives here. It is not common any longer to have that with an organization. It is refreshing to see and makes coming to work in this environment more enjoyable,” she said.
The College also holds personal meaning for Michelle. A Valencia College graduate herself (she then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources management at the University of Central Florida), Michelle experienced firsthand Valencia’s support as a student.
“A student at Valencia still has a face and a name with professors that care about you succeeding,” she said.
“Here I am 30 years later and I still believe that same thing. I encouraged my children and their friends to go to Valencia straight from high school or during high school with dual enrollment. Now that I work here, I see it (and hear it) everyday … The students are priority number 1. Every decision that is made is done so with the students’ best interest in mind. I am proud to work here and encourage any student I speak with to start here.”
Michelle, who has a creative side, loves to cook and has done catering for special events and weddings. She has also tried her hand at acting as a scare actor at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights.
In her free time, she loves spending time with family and going to the beach, especially Cocoa Beach.
“The beach is my calming place,” said Michelle. “When life gets to be overwhelming, I like to get my toes in the sand and listen to the waves crash on the surf, That clears my head and soothes my soul.”
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.