Featured Colleague: Umu Graham Offers Students a Road to Success

By Wendy Jo Moyer

When we think about Valencia’s value of “access,” employees such as Umu Graham come to mind. As an academic advisor for the Bridges to Success (BTS) program, Umu offers a path to a brighter future for our students in this program, which supports them with the post-secondary transition from application to enrollment and then graduation, helping them to achieve their educational and career goals.

“My primary role is to serve as the ultimate guide for our students,” Umu explained. “This means facilitating not just their academic success during their time here at Valencia College, but also providing the resources and support needed to ensure they are excelling in other areas of their lives, from personal enrichment to professional development. One of our mantras in the BTS program is that we are in the business of creating global citizens, so my role aligns with that mission.”

This role keeps her quite busy. Not only does she advise BTS students in individual and group settings, and assists them with creating academic goals and university transfer plans, but she also works closely with community partners to coordinate volunteer opportunities for BTS students and is a co-leader of ROAR (Reach Out and Realize), a BTS initiative for female students that serves as a platform for self-empowerment. Umu works tirelessly to coordinate guest speakers and develop curricula and engaging activities. These activities expose participants to individuals on campus and within the community who share their stories of overcoming adversity while working to reach their career and professional goals.

Her supervisor, Tanisha Carter, director, Bridges to Success, is thankful for Umu’s excellent work. “Umu started with BTS in September of 2014 and has since demonstrated the core values and mission that Valencia College employees should strive for,” she shared. “Her integrity and honesty are something that I admire more than anything.”

Tanisha described the BTS program as very fast-paced and explained that as a high-touch department, mistakes can easily be made. “In the off chance that Umu makes an error that can negatively impact a student, she will immediately take ownership and work quickly with her colleagues to resolve the issue,” Tanisha said.

For Umu, the hard work pays off. “It is always incredibly gratifying to have a front-row seat to our students’ academic journey over the course of the two years they are here at Valencia College,” she reflected. “I always feel a sense of pride when one of my students comes in for an exit interview during their graduating term, because I got to witness their transition from being a high school student to now heading into the next phase of their educational path. It is a privilege to know I had a hand in helping them navigate the unknown that comes with being an overwhelmed, first-time college student, knowing the dedication it took for them to attain their degree.”

As Umu inspires her students to excellence, they, in turn, inspire her. “Seeing the commitment they demonstrate to meeting the rigors of the BTS program is awe-inspiring,” she said. “Many of our students work, so when you consider having to juggle their employment along with their academic obligations and meeting program requirements (such as completing community service and skillshops), I cannot help but be impressed with their commitment to investing in their future goals.”

She is also inspired by her Valencia family. “There is a sense of kinship that is unique to Valencia College,” she noted. “You cannot help but get swept up in the wave of belonging you feel when interacting with colleagues. It makes it that much more fulfilling to know that everyone who works here shares the same goal: making sure we are doing everything we can to make our students shine.”

Prior to her work at Valencia, Umu was a program advisor and assistant for seven years at her alma mater, Florida State College of Jacksonville, where she earned her Associate in Arts and a Bachelor of Applied Science in supervision and management. She is currently working on a Master of Arts in educational leadership at the University of Central Florida and expects to graduate in summer 2019.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time on the beach year round with her husband, Ron, and children, Roni and Ronald. She also calls herself a voracious reader. “My happy place is when I can get lost in a book. And only hard-copy versions … I shudder to think of a world without bookstores and libraries,” she said.

Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), 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.

3 Comments

  • Nicholle Trapp said:

    Congratulations on such a worthy recognition! Your service in the Bridges family makes all the difference for our students!!!

    PMTue, 23 Jan 2018 17:38:49 +0000Tue, 23 Jan 2018 17:38:49 +0000pm18,5:38 pm

  • Amy Kleeman said:

    A Valencia Rock Star!

    PMTue, 23 Jan 2018 18:13:36 +0000Tue, 23 Jan 2018 18:13:36 +0000pm18,6:13 pm

  • James Vrhovac said:

    Umu is phenomenal! As a sometimes Bridges instructor, I have found her guidance and help invaluable.

    AMThu, 25 Jan 2018 07:50:27 +0000Thu, 25 Jan 2018 07:50:27 +0000am18,7:50 am

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