By Dani Moritz-Long
Known around East Campus as the student whisperer, Samantha Pabon, administrative assistant, academic affairs, takes pride in her work supporting students — even when that means answering disgruntled students’ calls. Without doubt, Samantha’s uncanny ability to handle these sometimes trying situations can be attributed to her compassionate and empathetic nature, as well as her 14 years of Valencia experience. But, she says, her status as both a Valencia College alumna (she proudly earned her associate degree in 2014) and a current student enrolled in Valencia’s bachelor of applied science in business and organizational leadership program also plays an important role.
“As a student myself, I’m better able to understand student needs,” Samantha explained. “I always try to advocate for students and tell them I understand, I’ve been in your shoes.”
This ability to connect students to the resources they need and support them in navigating their concerns drives Samantha — serving as constant inspiration to plug in to Valencia’s mission of changing lives, one student at a time.
“It’s such a good feeling when a student comes in, and I’m able to make a call and get them an answer,” she said. “When they leave here with that satisfied feeling it’s all you can ask for.”
This kind of intimate, one-on-one environment is also what attracted Samantha to Valencia as a student. While she’s long considered enrolling at the University of Central Florida to earn a bachelor’s degree, she never quite felt comfortable registering. When Valencia announced the new program, however, everything changed.
“It was love at first sight,” she said. “I felt like they created it just for me.”
Samantha also enjoying the familial atmosphere of the College as a staff member, and happily calls the East Campus Academic Affairs team her second family.
“You come here and you make connections with the people you work with,” she said. “You look forward to coming to work and working with the people you work with and you build these friendships.”
Laughing, she added, “You understand what it means when people say your second family. I mean you spend more time with them than your own family.”
When she isn’t changing lives at Valencia with her work family, though, Samantha enjoys every second she can with her actual family — whether that means bonding with her son or visiting her sisters in New York, where Samantha was born and raised. You’ll also find her frequenting local pool lounges, as this administrative-assistant-by-day also leads a life as pool-shark-by-night. (Hint: playing a game against her is not recommended; she’ll probably win.)
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.