Valencia College Foundation Seeks Faculty Volunteers to Review Scholarships

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Valencia College Foundation is looking for faculty volunteers to review student scholarships that will be awarded for fall 2022. The review period will be from Monday, June 27, through Sunday, July 30, 2022.

The Foundation has moved to a new platform, ScholarshipUniverse, which is easy to use and allows volunteers to complete their reviews and make their recommendations within the system.

An orientation session will be provided to volunteers. The date for this orientation has not yet been established but will be shared with confirmed volunteers once the date is determined. The orientation will also be recorded, so all volunteers have an opportunity to learn about the new platform and are prepared to navigate in it.

If you would like to volunteer, please work through the Faculty Association to ensure a timely response to Eda Davis-Lowe, assistant vice president, partnerships for educational equity, by Friday, May 27, 2022, at Volunteer information should include name, faculty rank, discipline and campus.

Get Up and Go to Get Fit: Exercise Tips to Help Your Health

Monday, May 16, 2022

A Message from Jessica Johnson, UnitedHealthcare Nurse Liaison

How much exercise is needed for good health? The good news is you don’t have to be a non-stop fitness fan. In fact, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week may provide many of the same benefits as strenuous exercise. Physical activity is anything that gets the body moving, including walking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity a week (or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity), and two or more days of the week of muscle strengthening activities for all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, shoulders and arms).

Did you know?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, less than 5% of Americans participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Where do you stack up with that fact?

A moderate exercise program might help improve:

  • Heart and lung efficiency
  • Muscle strength and flexibility
  • Fat burning, which may help control weight
  • Quality of sleep
  • Overall well being
  • The reduction of other health risks

So what is vigorous and moderate activity?

Vigorous activity is when you feel challenged by the activity and when your breathing is hard enough that conversation becomes difficult and broken. Just think of jogging, swimming continuous laps or riding a bike uphill, which causes rapid breathing and a faster heart rate.

Moderate activity is slightly less than vigorous, where you can speak, but you feel you are exerting yourself and making an effort. Moderate activities include walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming or bicycling on level terrain.

Getting 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days, along with two or more days of muscle strengthening activities, has been proven to provide health benefits. Here are some examples of activities that are considered moderate intensity:

  • Walking 2 miles in 30 minutes (a 15-minute mile)
  • Gardening for 30–45 minutes
  • Pushing a stroller 1.5 miles in 30 minutes
  • Raking leaves for 30 minutes
  • Shoveling snow for 15 minutes
  • Stair climbing for 15 minutes
  • Bicycling 5 miles in 30 minutes
  • Dancing fast (social) for 30 minutes
  • Swimming laps for 20 minutes
  • Wheeling yourself in a wheelchair for 30–40 minutes
  • Running 1.5 miles in 15 minutes (a 10-minute mile)

Consider these tips to help add physical activity into your daily life:

  • Wake up a little earlier. Start by setting your alarm clock just five minutes earlier. Do stretches and jumping jacks before getting in the shower, or follow a short exercise video.
  • Find a workout buddy. Exercising with a friend can be more fun than working out alone, and it’s a good motivator. Ask a coworker to go for a walk during lunch or see if a neighbor wants to walk after work.
  • Schedule your fitness activities. If you put exercise on your calendar like other appointments, you may be more likely to do it.
  • Create a home (or desk) gym. If you always have equipment ready, it may be easier to steal five minutes to use it. A jump rope, a stability ball, exercise bands and dumbbells may not cost much or take up much room.
  • Exercise while you work. You may raise your activity level and productivity with neck rolls or arm raises (push hands out to the side and then up toward the ceiling). Or do a few modified push-ups on the edge of your desk.
  • Park your car furthest away. Get more steps in each day by picking the last parking spot available wherever you go.

Did you know?

Keeping your body hydrated helps the heart pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, this helps the muscles to work more efficiently. For most people, water is the best beverage to drink for proper hydration. A good recommendation to follow is to aim for eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about half a gallon of water each day. Other sources of water include fruits and vegetables, which contain a high percentage of water. Sports drinks with electrolytes may be helpful for people doing high intensity and vigorous exercise in very hot weather. Because these drinks tend to be high in added sugars and calories, they should be consumed in moderation.

I hope you have found these exercise tips fun and motivating, and they encourage you to get up and go! I’d also like to remind you to join Rally, an interactive, personalized and digital health experience, for more healthy living tips and resources. If you have any questions, contact me at or 407-866-8134.

Spotlight on Undergraduate Research — Miranda Rublaitus

Monday, May 16, 2022

Valencia College has developed an undergraduate research initiative — based on nationally recognized models — that expands opportunities for students to partner meaningfully with faculty members to pursue a specific course of research. As most community colleges only offer undergraduate research as a very small boutique opportunity for a few students, Valencia has become a leader in community college research. Last year, hundreds of Valencia students worked in one or more modalities of research. This is vital for students exploring STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) -related professions through transfer, both to better discern their purpose and pathway, and to have experiences comparable to their peers at the university to which they transfer.

Miranda Rublaitus, a Distinguished Graduate finalist who graduated from Valencia College with an associate degree in statistics, plans to attend an undergraduate research summer program at the University of Rochester focused on data science.

During her time at Valencia, she conducted a research project alongside her mentor, Professor of Mathematics Sidra Van De Car, on poverty measurement in the United States. The calculated percentage of the population that lives in poverty is used to gauge the status of our nation and the funding for social programs.

“Congress will use this number when considering policy regarding those in poverty. If this number is skewed or inaccurate, we do a disservice to our most vulnerable populations,” said Miranda as she described her research.

When she enrolled at Valencia, Miranda was not aware of the opportunities she would get to participate in a research project. When she found out about the VECTOR program, she applied immediately.

“The VECTOR program introduced me to research and the ethics of research. I have worked on a research project of my choosing this past semester,” she shared.

From a young age, Miranda was interested in research and factual data.

“It all started with my first trip to EPCOT in 1988. I am from a small rural town in Louisiana and the most progress at that time was the newest John Deer tractor,” she explained. “When I saw the vehicles of the future and the ride Body Wars, I was hooked. Since then, I have been in awe of progress, and the process that leads the way to progress is research and ingenuity. We do not live in a perfect world, but every step we take toward progress and the betterment of humanity is a step closer to a more equitable life.”

To Miranda, research means a better tomorrow through the research of today.

“There is an important difference between when you think you know something and when you actually know something. I knew that our poverty measurement was outdated and likely misrepresenting the number of people who live in poverty, but now I know it does and can prove it. More importantly, it could foster much-needed changes in measuring poverty. Directly, research benefits us daily, but being a part of research means actively working on a solution. For me, this is the most valuable part of the research.”

Miranda, who was recently awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship, has future plans of transferring to a few schools (Columbia University and Georgetown University), and she is already scheduled for an interview with the Eli Whitney Students Program at Yale University.

“I am eager to continue my education and research on poverty measurement in the United States. I plan to finish my undergrad and go on to graduate school,” she said.

Miranda also plans to work with Congress to ensure data from underrepresented and impoverished communities are considered and counted when policies are introduced or reformed.

To nominate a student doing great undergraduate research or for questions about Valencia’s undergraduate research initiative, contact Melonie Sexton, professor, psychology, and coordinator of undergraduate research, at or 407-582-5632.

Featured Development Opportunities

Friday, May 13, 2022

A Message from Natasha McIlmurray, Coordinator, Employee Development

Supervisors are invited to attend an upcoming virtual EAP session: How to Manage Change.

This virtual discussion will focus primarily on workplace transitions and how to help employees navigate these changes.

During this session, leaders will:

  • Determine how to respond proactively to workplace transitions
  • Examine employee morale and how that affects transitions
  • Identify managerial transition strategies
  • Develop strategies to ease transitions for employees and for yourself as a supervisor

How to Manage Change: A Discussion for Supervisors

Date: Thursday, June 2, 2022
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Location: Zoom. Join the session here.

There is no pre-registration required.

In addition, check out the following self-paced courses via LinkedIn Learning to learn more about how you can help your employees cope with work changes.

Creating the Conditions for Others to Thrive

Find greater meaning, well-being and productivity by learning how to make transformational changes — in your own life and the lives of others. Continue your thrive journey and discover how to become a more effective leader by creating the conditions for others to thrive. In this course, Arianna Huffington, Frances Frei and Anne Morriss discuss practical changes that allow you to reduce stress and increase impact by focusing your energy on the people you lead.

Click here to access.

How Leaders Generate Energy and Cultivate Commitment

Leading your team through periods of crisis is akin to a kind of art. It challenges you to leverage your entire professional skill set, as both a leader and a human being. It’s tough work, though, and over time it can take a toll on you: stress, burnout, poor performance — you name it. In this course, instructor Jan Rutherford shows you how to generate, share and sustain creative energy to drive engagement on your team.

Discover the roles and responsibilities that befall leaders in today’s workplace. Learn about some of the challenges associated with these roles, especially during periods of uncertainty. Explore practical techniques drawn from the Head, Hands and Heart framework, an innovative approach to group leadership through transformational learning and creative change. Get the skills you need to set a pace that’s appropriate for your team, alighting hope and commitment, eliminating distractions, and turning moments of crisis into opportunities for growth.

Click here to access.

SpaceX Rocket Soared Above Osceola Campus

Friday, May 13, 2022

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Outgoing Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday, May 6, 2022. Jason Fagnant, equipment mechanic, captured a shot of the rocket soaring above Valencia’s Osceola Campus at 5:30 a.m.

May Is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Friday, May 13, 2022

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Outgoing Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a celebration of the innumerable contributions, vibrant cultures, and rich heritage of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in this country.

A rather broad term, Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

Like most commemorative months, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month originated with Congress. According to the official Asian Pacific American Heritage government website, in 1977, Rep. Frank Horton of New York introduced House Joint Resolution 540 to proclaim the first ten days in May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week. In the same year, Senator Daniel Inouye introduced a similar resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 72. Neither of these resolutions passed, so in June 1978, Rep. Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 1007. This resolution proposed that the President should “proclaim a week, which is to include the seventh and tenth of the month, during the first 10 days in May of 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’” This joint resolution was passed by the House and then the Senate and was signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978, to become Public Law 95-419 (PDF, 158kb). This law amended the original language of the bill and directed the President to issue a proclamation for the “7 day period beginning on May 4, 1979, as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’”

During the next decade, presidents passed annual proclamations for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week until 1990, when Congress passed Public Law 101-283 (PDF, 166kb), which expanded the observance to a month for 1990. Then in 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102-450 (PDF, 285kb) which annually designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843 and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Check out this thought-provoking article about heritage from The Atlantic.

Humanities Department Hosts Summer Cultural Events

Friday, May 13, 2022

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Outgoing Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

The Osceola Campus Humanities Department is happy to have cultural event opportunities available for our students this summer, including museum and gallery exhibits, theater performances and a speaker series.

On Wednesday, May 18, 2022, Professor of Humanities Adriene Tribble will host a field trip to see “Beauty and the Beast” at the Garden Theater in Winter Garden.

For details about tickets and other upcoming events, visit the Humanities Digital Venue. Please promote and encourage your students to participate in these events.

Faculty Development Opportunity: Introduction to High Impact Practices

Friday, May 13, 2022

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Outgoing Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

Expand your knowledge of the Essential Competencies of a Valencia Educator by participating in this upcoming Faculty Development course:

LCTS1214 Introduction to High Impact Practices
Date: Wednesday, May 25 through Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Location: Online. Register here.

This six-hour professional development online course introduces participants to the concepts of evidence-based, high impact practices and provides an opportunity to explore and share strategies for curriculum infusion.

High Impact Practices (HIPs) are a collection of strategies for teaching and learning that are supported through research linking them to increased retention, completion and satisfaction rates of students. When done well, HIPs provide intentional and integrative approaches for learning that encourage transference of skills and the creation of meaningful connections between experiences.

For additional information about PD courses, certifications, instructional design and more, please reach out to a member of the Faculty and Instructional Development team.

Thank You for a Successful Spring Semester!

Friday, May 13, 2022

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Outgoing Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

We would like to thank our faculty, staff, and deans for a successful spring semester. Your tireless work is appreciated! Additionally, thank you for your work kicking off our summer semester.

Take a moment to thank a colleague by leaving a comment below.

Student Profile: Miranda Rublaitus

Friday, May 13, 2022

A Message from Melissa Pedone and Stanton Reed, Outgoing Interim Presidents, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses

When Miranda Rublaitus started at Valencia College at the age of 37, she knew that a place like Valencia would give her all the help she needed, even when she struggled.

“I would be a person, not a number,” she said. “I am not originally from Florida and did not have any prior knowledge of the Florida college system. Valencia College’s Osceola Campus is just down the road from my home. Though I didn’t have a car when I moved here, occasionally, an Uber ride would take me past the campus. I would have a sense of longing every time I saw it. When I finally decided to take the dive, Valencia was undoubtedly my first choice.”

Originally from a small town called Mamou, Louisiana, Miranda said her favorite pastime as a child was playing in the mud with crawfish. She graduated high school in 2001 from Eunice High School. She noted that Eunice was the “big city” just down the road. It was not a big city, but it did have a Walmart.

“I came to Valencia after a 19-year gap in schooling,” Miranda said. “I thought I would fail every class. I finished my degree with a 4.0! Dr. Kim Foster, faculty, new student experience, believed in me and cheered me on from day one. The resources offered are abundant, and I reached out anytime I needed them. I quickly learned that my age and world experience gave me a more profound respect for what I was learning about and my professors. I quickly knew that my age gap was not a hindrance but a blessing.”

Miranda graduated from Valencia on Sunday, May 8, 2022, but during her time at the College, she was active in the Student Government Association (SGA), serving as president for the 2021-2022 year. She was also a Valencia College Distinguished Graduate Finalist, Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholar, Seneff Honors College Student 2021-2022 and the PTK/Alpha Phi Zeta Vice President of Leadership 2021-2022.

“My time with SGA has been the most valuable experience,” she said. “I knew I wanted to make a difference in my community, but honestly, figuring out where to start is intimidating. SGA allowed me to help students in need, meet with and build relationships with Valencia College President Dr. Kathleen Plinske and other administrators, be involved in events that enriched student life, propose the idea for a new mascot, voice concerns from the students, learn from excellent staff like Mr. Nelson Sepulveda, director, student development, and to grow. Because of SGA, I was able to gain an internship with Congressman Darren Soto, travel to Tallahassee to meet legislators with the Valencia College Board of Trustees members and help lead an effort to get our students vaccinated. The opportunities I have had have been instrumental in my success.”

Miranda’s major is in data science for public policy. In the long term, she wants to work with legislators to ensure that data from underrepresented and impoverished communities are considered and given equal status at the table when legislation is being made or reformed.

So far, Miranda has been accepted to Columbia University, the University of Rochester, Temple University and UCF.

“I hope to attend Yale University’s Eli Whitney Students Program (EWSP),” she said. “I have had two interviews and am hopeful about my chances. The EWSP is for non-traditional students who have had a significant gap in their educational journey. This program helps Yale add diversity and world experience into the classroom — similar to how I was able to help students in my classes at Valencia College.”

For students considering attending Valencia, Miranda has some words of encouragement.

“Do it!” She said. “For young people, Valencia College offers you opportunities that larger schools simply cannot. If you think you cannot get into a great school as a transfer student, I am proof that it is possible! Columbia University is tied with Harvard University as the No. 2 school in the United States! It is an Ivy League school that offered me admission without even interviewing me! Why? Because of my time at Valencia College and what I was able to accomplish.”

“To adults, moms, dads and grandparents: it will always be hard to scale back work/life to go to school. However, it will never get better until you go for it. One of my greatest fears about going to school was how I would afford tuition and feed my family. I understand how difficult it is with rising rental costs and inflation, but, for that very reason, go to school now! It never hurts to fill out the application and see what financial aid you could be offered. I was fortunate enough not to work and not take on debt during my two years. Valencia wants you to succeed and survive. I never thought I would be able to have my tuition paid for with some funds left for housing and food costs, but I did! Apply and see what happens; it could change your life,” Miranda added.

Miranda is grateful for the faculty, staff and students who helped her through her Valencia journey.

“My professors were always invested in my success and that of others. Dr. Foster has remained an advisor, supporter and friend throughout my Valencia Journey. She was my NSE professor, Service Learning professor and wrote at least 15 letters of recommendation over the last two years.”

“Dr. Rita Luther, professor, biology, is the principal investigator for VECTOR. Still, she and I have had an excellent relationship that spread to collaborations for SGA and incredible Zoom sessions to talk about research and life. When applying for summer REU programs, she offered remarkable letters of recommendation.”

“Dr. Brian Sage was my biology I and II professor. This was my first on-campus class after returning to campus. His lectures were entertaining, his class was challenging and he was always available. I appreciate the difficulty of his classes, because they prepared me for my next journey. He also wrote beautiful letters of recommendation for me.”

“Dr. Sidra Van De Car, professor, mathematics, was my faculty mentor for my undergraduate research project. I already miss our weekly Monday meetings. We discussed my project, but we also discussed life. She gave me valuable insights during the most challenging time of my semester that helped me make it through successfully. I have made connections with these teachers that will last for years. Part of that is because of the kind of person that I am and that they are, but a part of that is Valencia’s ability to foster an environment that supports these kinds of relationships.”

“Several staff members and administrators have inspired me and supported me along the way,” she added. “Dr. Plinske, Mr. Jay Galbraith, vice president, public affairs and advancement, Dr. Joe Richardson, vice president, student affairs, Dr. Andel Fils-Aime, dean of students, Mr. Steven Sobel, photographer, videographer, Stanton Reed, outgoing interim campus president, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses, Dr. Melissa Pedone, outgoing interim campus president, Osceola campus, Mr. Nelson Sepulveda, director, student development, Dr. Charlie Ensminger, director, student development, Mrs. Abi Zepeda, staff assistant II, Mrs. Janice Casillas, student activity accounting specialist, Ms. Karissa Rodriguez, assistant director, alumni Engagement, Mr. Max Arb, manager, campus operations, Ms. Misty Ellis, director, campus security, Mr. Mike Favorit, managing director, safety and security and so many more. Every one of these people had an impact on my journey. A larger school would never have afforded me these wonderful contacts.”

“Lastly, I want to mention the students who inspired me: Ella Beattie, Edwin Rosa, Julia Keske, Andrea Schiappacasse, Ty’Jon Streets, Abigayle Watts, Toby Hand, Bella Bravo, Patricia Escobar, Luis Tineo, Mafe Story, Lillybeth Zaldana, Shania Fertil, Madhav Solanki, Leah Basaria, Wytosia McMillan, and so many more. I am among many great students at Valencia College.”