By Wendy Jo Moyer
“Valencia signifies a place where all are welcome to continue their education,” praised Nikkia Gumbs. “What I love about the population we serve is that it is very diverse. It’s great to have students who come from such a wide variety of backgrounds.”
And as coordinator, disability support services, Nikkia is a major part of supporting diverse students as she manages and operates the Osceola Campus Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD).
In this role, which Nikkia started in May 2015, she supervises academic advisors and staff assistants; collaborates with student services offices to ensure students are referred to the OSD when services are required; provides training opportunities to the campus community about best practices when working with students with disabilities; addresses concerns about student accommodations in the classroom; collaborates with state and local agencies to provide their clients with services; provides training about Valencia’s documentation requirements to local school guidance counselors to assist with the transition of local high school students to Valencia; and manages escalated disputes and appeals directed to her office.
“I’m so excited to grow, not only at Valencia, but also within my department,” Nikkia shared. “My new position means that I can continue working with students with disabilities and have the opportunity to work with colleagues on the Osceola Campus.”
Nikkia has her hands full, but she’s a pro as she’s been in disability services roles for six years, three with Valencia. Prior to her current role, she served as an academic advisor in Valencia’s OSD and previously worked at Rollins College in the Office of Disability Services as an assistive technology specialist and assistant to the director.
At Valencia, Nikkia believes that her colleagues are what makes the College special. “I get to work with some of the best, most wonderful staff members,” she reflected. “I love to see how dedicated and passionate the Valencia community is about students and their success.”
Of those colleagues, there are three who have strongly inspired her.
Trish Anderson, coordinator, disability support services on East Campus, hired Nikkia as an academic advisor and gave her a chance at Valencia. “Trish provided me with fantastic training and advising skills that I continue to use today,” Nikkia said. “I love that I can call her up when I have a problem I cannot figure out, and she has a new way of tackling it.”
Deborah Larew, director, students with disabilities and Nikkia’s supervisor, and nominator for this Featured Colleague, has also been a wonderful role model. “She continues to help me gain confidence in my abilities and gave me the push to apply for my current position.”
And Deborah is happy she did. “Nikkia has a unique and empowering sense about her. She surrounds herself and, thus, her students with confidence-building quotes and inspirational thoughts,” Deborah said. “She is also a strong pragmatist who faces the hard tasks that go with the job. In a short amount of time, she has developed strong ties at the Osceola Campus and been a wonderful OSD representative.”
Here’s just one example of Nikkia’s inspirational thoughts she shares with students:
A graduate of the 2015 PIVOT 180 leadership development program, Nikkia selected Sonya Joseph, assistant vice president, student affairs, as her mentor. Now Sonya also serves as one of the colleagues who has most inspired Nikkia.
“We met monthly to discuss work, the future and everything else,” Nikkia said. “It was Dr. Joseph who gave me the final push to pursue my doctorate. And I’m happy she did. Without her encouragement, I would have continued to delay my decision.”
Now, 2016 will be a very busy year for Nikkia, as she started the Leadership in Educational Administration doctorate at the University of Florida. Once achieved, this doctorate will add to her list of accomplishments, including having earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Human Resource Management with a concentration in recruitment, training and development from Rollins College.
In her spare time, she likes to participate in 5K events, play with her dog Duchess and work in her garden.
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.