By Dani Moritz-Long
When Vannia Ruiz, administrative assistant, study abroad and global experiences (SAGE), moved to the U.S. from Ecuador to give her son (who is now a Valencia graduate) a better life, it wasn’t exactly the seamless transition she had hoped for.
“At the beginning, things were really difficult for us to fit in a new environment in a totally different world,” she recalls. “My son did not speak English, and I spoke it very little, so we struggled. It was tough for me to find a job and support my son.”
But, sometimes the best things in life don’t come easily and, with endurance, determination and faith, Vannia created a home for her family.
“I have worked really hard to live and become part of this beautiful country, but everything I have accomplished has been possible first because of God and the amazing people that have come into my life for good,” she said. “I am so grateful for every single person who has helped me to become a better person.”
Specifically, Vannia said, she feels blessed to have joined the Valencia family — first as a student and, subsequently, as an employee.
During her tenure at the College, which began in 2012, Vannia has served the SAGE office as a work study student, part-time administrative assistant, and, more recently, a full-time administrative assistant. In her role, Vannia supports international curriculum initiatives, study abroad programs and so much more.
“I love my job, and this means that I do not want to work anywhere else,” Vannia explained. “I picture myself coming to work here until I am literally ready to retire. I do not really care about how much other institutions are willing to pay me to go and work for them, because I am in love with this institution, the people and the students. I am devoted to the people here, to my team, to my supervisor, Dr. Robyn Brighton, and my co-workers. They are just amazing. I care about them like they were my family. I honestly feel Valencia is my second home, not just my workplace.”
Adding to Vannia’s passion for Valencia, of course, is the impact we have on students and, in her department, the ability to show students the world through travel abroad experiences and other international opportunities.
“What really inspires me is when I have the opportunity to interact with our students,” Vannia said. “They are wonderful. I love to see their faces when they are participating in our SAGE orientations, and they are about to go on a trip abroad. It is so satisfying to know how their lives are improved and enhanced when they have the opportunity to see the world and experience other cultures. I love listening to their stories; some of them have never traveled abroad or never traveled by airplane.”
Commenting on Vannia’s commitment to these students and promoting a positive work atmosphere, Assistant Vice President of Curriculum and Assessment Karen Borglum said, “Vannia is a very dedicated employee who has a passion for international travel. We are fortunate to have her in the SAGE office because of her meticulous preparation for faculty and student trips and her cheerful manner. All of the background work she does gives the travelers a sense of confidence as they embark on their journeys.”
In her time outside Valencia, you can find Vannia working on her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies or participating in one of her favorite hobbies, which include reading, watching movies, relaxing at the beach, visiting museums, watching ballets and enjoying time with family. As if that wasn’t enough, Vannia also gives back through community service efforts at least once every year.
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.