Tuesday, September 15, 2021
By Jennifer Keefe
Caring for her community is a way of life for Ruby Alvarez, interim dean, School of Nursing. A Florida native who grew up in Lake Wales, Ruby has seen a lot of change in her 20-year career as a nurse. “It’s not at all like you see on TV,” Ruby says. “Nursing is a challenging profession that’s changing all the time.”
While her profession has changed a lot, Ruby also found change in herself. She worked as a nurse at AdventHealth in a hospital setting from 2003 to 2011 and started teaching as a part-time instructor in the nursing A.S. degree program at the College in 2006. She became a full-time professor in 2007, earned tenure, and continued working at Advent Health part-time until she started her doctorate, which she finished in 2020. That was also the year she was named interim dean of the College’s School of Nursing.
Today, she describes her job as “promoting the College’s mission, supporting faculty and helping the students to be successful.”
She says the best thing about working at the College is, “the caring aspect. When people ask how you’re doing, it’s genuine. They care if you’re not having a good day.” She’s inspired by the ability the College gives us “to think out loud about any idea and have the support to initiate those ideas.” Ruby says collegewide leadership has been very helpful to her in her transition to her interim dean position.
Those warm feelings are mutual. Terri Graham, interim president, West and Downtown Campuses, sees all the good Ruby is doing for our future nurses. She says, “we are honored to have long-time nurse educator Ruby Alvarez leading our team as the dean of our School of Nursing. Her depth of experience as both a nurse and faculty member ensures high-quality compassionate programs for our students.”
Ruby says she’s happy to be part of such a well-known and respected program at the College. “Our community partners tell us all the time that our students are the best and I just move with it.” One challenge she faces as interim dean has been managing the College’s nursing program at two campuses, West and Osceola. She’s happy to do it, though, because having the program on two campuses creates a lot of opportunities for students.
Something you might not know about Ruby is that she’s incredibly competitive. Even though she works in an industry that’s based on teamwork, she finds herself always looking for ways to be the best. In fact, when Student Development recently asked for donations to re-open Pooky’s Pantry, her first thought was “let’s have a race.” She encouraged the nursing students and her colleagues to donate and, the last time she checked, the nursing program was “at the top of the leader board” for donations.
Fifteen years into her Valencia career, Ruby offers this advice for students in the nursing program and those considering nursing as a career, “keep an open mind because nursing is forever changing and not black and white. If you do, you won’t have a problem going up the career ladder.”
Ruby says she continues rolling with the changes due to the ongoing pandemic. While most of the College went online, nursing students were still coming into the on-campus nursing arts labs to train, but the groups had to be smaller. It was up to Ruby to figure all those changes out.
Ruby’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, a bachelor’s degree from University of Texas, Arlington, and a master’s degree from University of Phoenix. She also received a post-graduate certificate from the University of Central Florida in nursing education and a doctorate from Capella University. While earning her doctorate, this nurse, unfortunately, became the patient; she was diagnosed with breast cancer while completing her degree but still powered through to earn her degree. Now, Ruby is a two-year breast cancer survivor.
She’s also the mother of an 18-year-old freshman at Eureka College in Illinois. Her son took the field this past weekend as a defensive back in just his second college football game. Ruby loves action and thriller movies and when she’s not cheering on her son, you can find her relaxing at home watching her favorite television show “Sistas” or out shopping.
Ruby serves as a volunteer with the local chapter of a national organization called Black Nurses Rock. She also served as the former president of the West Campus Faculty Senate, the former president for the Florida League for Nursing, as well as a former chair for the Quality and Unity in Nursing Council of Florida.
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.