Why You Should Invest In Self-Care

Monday, April 25, 2022

After the past couple of years that we have endured together, it is more important than ever to invest in your own self-care to help maximize your well-being. In the presentation below, Nurse Jessica Johnson discusses the key investments in self-care to address physical, mental and emotional well-being.

After watching the video below, you will be able to define “self-care” and create an action plan to incorporate key investments that may help improve your overall well-being.If you have any questions, contact Nurse Jessica at jessica_r_johnson@uhc.com or 407-866-8134.

April Is Distracted Driving Awareness Month: The Dangers of Vehicle Automation

Monday, April 25, 2022

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Throughout the month, Marc Gentzler, professor, psychology, will share his expertise on driver safety discovered through years of research. Marc, a professor at Valencia since 2013, obtained his doctoral degree in human factors psychology in 2014 from the University of Central Florida, with a focus on the neuroscientific aspects involved in driving. His dissertation was titled “Driving performance adaptation through practice with and without distracters in a simulated environment.” He has 14 peer-reviewed publications, 15 conference presentations and 14 conference poster presentations. Further, Marc reviews papers in his field and has previously done consulting analyzing the perceptual and cognitive factors involved in real car accident cases.  

By Marc Gentzler, Professor Psychology

One type of automation that has existed for a long time is cruise control. In new cars today, we have many different modes of automation. We now have the possibility of fully autonomous cars that can literally drive themselves without any driver input (in theory). But before I get more into that, I want to explain how over-reliance on automation in aviation can be deadly.

Possibly the most famous crash involving automation was Eastern Airlines Flight 401 in the Miami Everglades back in the early 70s. The L-1011 was a very technologically advanced jet for its time, and, in fact, Lockheed loved touting that the plane could land itself. One night in late December, as Flight 401 was getting ready to land in Miami, the crew noticed that the nose gear light indicated the gear was not down. The crew then put the plane on autopilot while trying to figure out what the problem was and what to do about it.

At some point, the autopilot got shut off and no one noticed. The plane began slowly descending into the Everglades, and by the time the crew realized what was happening, it was too late. The saddest part is that the gear was down the whole time, and the problem was just a bad lightbulb in the cockpit.

So what can we learn from aviation accidents such as this one regarding automation in driving? Many cars today have automatic braking if it detects a hazard in front of it, lane monitoring (usually a small light in the side rear-view mirrors to indicate when there is a hazard to the side) and even technology to keep the car maintained in the lane. These technologies can certainly help reduce the chance of an accident.

But what are the potential cons? Could the driver become over-reliant on the automation, much like in some aviation accidents? Could the driver not bother looking to change lanes if they have lane assistance, or not pay as much attention and decide to text while driving because they know that they have automatic braking? Could this automation lead to a degradation in driving skills because they are not relied on as much?

Drivers must always be ready to take over if the automation fails; thus, they must pay attention regardless of how much automation their vehicle has. I’m not arguing that these examples of vehicle automation mentioned above are bad ideas, but I am suggesting that we be cautious when implementing these technologies in terms of the possible disadvantages.

Another potential con is that drivers might lose a sense of situational awareness (where they are and other objects are in relation to them) if they rely on automation. Take the crash of Air France 447  for example. The pilots were caught off guard during cruise flight over the Atlantic when the autopilot suddenly shut off. They seemed disorientated, not knowing what was happening or how to correct the issue.

The situation is analogous to a driver who fails to pay attention to the road, gets startled when the automation disengages and then does not have enough time to get orientated to the current driving situation.

There have been several crashes involving Tesla’s semi-autonomous vehicles over the years. In one example, a Tesla driver appeared to have their hands off the wheel while driving and was focusing on something like a cellphone just before the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the crash was “due to inattention and overreliance on the vehicle’s advanced driver assistance system; the Tesla Autopilot design, which permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task.” Tesla has stated that those driving their semi-autonomous vehicles must pay attention and be prepared to take over.

I will say that I am against fully autonomous cars. Many people assume that with a fully autonomous vehicle, they could just read a book or take a nap while the car drives them to their destination. But that is not really the case. Again, the automation could always fail, and the driver needs to be ready to take over at any second. The more distracted they are, the less situational awareness and longer reaction time they will have.

The problem with vigilance tasks (monitoring the automation) is that it can lead to boredom and fatigue — both of which are not great for driving. Many claim that driving is boring, especially when traveling long distance. But one can imagine that the levels of boredom will increase if the driver is not actually controlling the vehicle and is just monitoring the automation.

Having to drive the vehicle should enhance alertness. Many suggest that fully autonomous cars will help elderly individuals with transportation if they are no longer safe to drive. But I would argue that if they are not safe to drive, then they may not be ready to take over when needed.

In the end, I think it is better to have a human driving and the automation help the driver, as opposed to the other way around where the automation drives and the driver is just there to help aid the automation. Just because we have the technology to do something, doesn’t mean that we should.

We are actually pretty good drivers when we are focused. Many accidents occur daily, but you need to compare the accident rate to the number of cars on the road and miles driven.

Can we create a machine that drives as well as a human? Probably never, because replicating the human brain will likely always be an impossible task. Our brains are just too complex.

Going back to aviation, modern airliners can fly themselves. Nevertheless, a human needs to monitor the system.

I will leave you with this question: Would you feel comfortable if there were no pilots aboard an airliner on which you were traveling?

I would like to thank you all for reading this article series on driving safety. I hope that it was both interesting and informative, and maybe made you think about driving in some different ways.

Featured Colleague: Sunni Prevatt Pays It Forward for Today’s Students

Monday, April 25, 2022

By Jennifer Keefe

When Coordinator of Student Development Sunni Prevatt first set foot on a Valencia College campus 20 years ago as a student, she couldn’t have imagined she would be here today, using her own experiences to build co-curricular programming that engages students outside of the classroom and inspires them to learn about themselves.

Sunni was a first-generation, non-traditional, student. That may not make her all that unique, but what she did to get here is unlike many of her peers. For example, did you know Sunni is a decorated veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps? Her accolades include a Navy Achievement Medal, two Certificates of Commendation and a Good Conduct medal. She also worked as a licensed massage therapist and even worked in art galleries as a custom art and conservation framer.

Sunni did all of this before being hired by the College in 2002 to work on the Academics In Motion program, which was part of a federal grant. After the grant, she served as a student services specialist at the Winter Park Campus before becoming taking the lead in student development there in 2008.

Sunni describes her role as “creating opportunities for students to learn about themselves and those around them, to connect to one another and to develop skills to help them on their personal journeys.”

What’s the most fulfilling part of Sunni’s job? It’s not the long list of co-curricular programs she’s created or the time spent working with faculty and staff. Sunni’s passion and inspiration lie in her interactions with students. She says it is especially meaningful when “a student that I’ve worked with makes the time to come back or somehow communicates that they valued the time and interactions they’ve had here and how it has benefitted them and their journey beyond just their time at Valencia.”

Sunni also enjoys the collaboration she finds on campus and across the College and how much everyone she works with believes in the Valencia mission of helping students to achieve their goals.

“Valencia is access and opportunity,” she says. For her, the College signifies “true opportunity” for the community to get a “life-changing education, no matter where a person may be on their journey or where they may be headed — from a certificate program for a trade career with a living wage to a two-year A.S. degree or a four-year or more degree that leads to more.”

Charles Ensminger, director, student development, has a deep appreciation for Sunni and the contributions she makes to the work of enhancing students’ lives.

“Sunni is amazing!” he says. “Her passion for supporting our students and dedication to our college is inspiring. Sunni is an incredible leader and someone I am proud to have on our team.”

In addition to earning her associate degree with honors from Valencia, Sunni graduated summa cum laude from Rollins College with a bachelor’s degree in organizational behavior. She also earned a master’s in education with an emphasis on student affairs counseling from the University of Nebraska.

In her free time, Sunni likes to read, learn new things and explore her creative side. That’s when she’s not spending time with her husband, her pets or her “chosen” family. She also likes to try new coffee shops and restaurants. You might also find her at a museum or attending an arts and crafts festival.

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.

Still Paying Off Student Loans? Apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is a program that helps borrowers who work for nonprofit and government agencies have their student loans (direct, subsidized, unsubsidized and consolidation loans) forgiven after 10 years of service and payments. This may include you as a Valencia College employee!

This program has been expanded through a limited-time waiver, which provides an opportunity for even more federal student loan borrowers, who work for a 501(c)(3) employer, to qualify and receive PSLF. The waiver period ends Sunday, October 31, 2022, meaning borrowers who work for a qualifying employer need to take action now.

“Personally, I had $102,000 of student loans forgiven under this program, and I want to make sure that anyone at Valencia who qualifies does not miss it,” shared Daniel Barkowitz, assistant vice president, financial aid and veteran affairs.

To qualify for PSLF, you must:

  • Be employed by a U.S. federal, state, local or tribal government or not-for-profit organization (federal service includes U.S. military service);
  • Work full time for that agency or organization;
  • Have direct loans (or consolidate other federal student loans into a direct loan);
  • Repay your loans under an income-driven repayment plan; and
  • Make 120 qualifying payments.

Valencia has partnered with Ascendium by Attigo to assist both our students and employees regarding student loan repayment assistance.

To gain a better understanding of Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and to view information for live webinars, please visit this website. These live webinars are a great opportunity to have your questions answered by the experts. Informational videos are also available on-demand.


Thank You Employees for Donating to the Valencia College Foundation

Monday, April 25, 2022

A Message from Erin Ohlsen, Director, Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving

Thank you to the Valencia College faculty and staff who have donated more than $1 million to the Valencia College Foundation through payroll deduction and one-time gifts. These donors are the backbone of the foundation’s annual giving and represent about 20% of all gifts donated to the foundation annually.

Within this group of donors, 66% are Valencia College alumni (of the College’s roughly 5,000 employees, 32% are alumni).

We celebrated our employees who have donated to the Valencia College Foundation during a luncheon on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, for their dedicated and continuous support.

If you would like to donate to Valencia College Foundation to be a part of a student’s success story, visit the foundation’s website.

March 2022 Hellos and Goodbyes


Roberto Maldonado, security officer, Osceola Campus
Uchenna Ilojiole, business office specialist , West Campus
Angela Rey, implementation coordinator , School of Public Safety
Darneshia King, admissions specialist, Osceola Campus
Wilfred Figueroa, accounts receivable specialist, West Campus
Barbara Gallentine, workforce data analyst, District Office
Larissa Garay, business office coordinator, Osceola Campus
Marisela Juarez, career advisor, East Campus
Diane Duffy, security officer, Osceola Campus


Congratulations to our Retirees:

Celeste Henry, career counselor, West Campus (Retirement date 03/05/2022)
Marcelina Camacho, accounts payable specialist, District Office (Retirement date 03/19/2022)

Introducing Scholarship Universe

Monday, April 25, 2022

Valencia College is introducing a new, easy, mobile, personalized process that makes it easier for students to find and apply for scholarships — ScholarshipUniverse. Launching on Friday, April 29, 2022, ScholarshipUniverse is a one-stop shop with vetted, verified and matched relevant scholarship opportunities including Valencia College Foundation and external scholarships.

When students visit ScholarshipUniverse, they are asked a series of questions. Based on their answers, ScholarshipUniverse intuitively matches the students with the scholarship opportunities that best fit them.

Students can view scholarship metrics to determine their chances of receiving each scholarship and sign up for alerts of new, matched scholarship opportunities or for reminders about outstanding tasks and next steps. When they are ready to apply, they may apply online, all on one website.

Visit ScholarshipUniverse at valenciacollege.scholarshipuniverse.com, and log on using your Atlas username and password.

Students Honor Miya Marcano by Planting a Tree

Monday, April 25, 2022

Students on the Osceola Campus honored student Miya Marcano by planting a tree in her memory on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. They were joined by a family representative and College President Kathleen Plinske at an afternoon ceremony on campus. Our memorial tree will ensure that Miya’s legacy will live on in our community.

Additionally, Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis declared Tuesday, April 26, 2022, Miya Marcano Day. It would have been Miya’s 20th birthday.

The Puma: Florida’s Big Cat Survivor

Monday, April 25, 2022

In light of the recent selection of the Puma as Valencia College’s new mascot, Chris Brown, teaching lab supervisor, shares his findings on the puma’s presence in Florida history. 

By Chris Brown, Teaching Lab Supervisor

In 1832, a bounty was placed on the Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi), and Florida’s big cat was hunted to near extinction. In 1982, after years of struggling to protect the big cat and its natural environment, students in Florida voted the puma as Florida’s state animal. As of 2022, about 120 Florida puma’s are left in the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.

The cougar represents a history that is familiar to Florida. Settlers came to St. Augustine in 1565, and the Timucuan Indians greeted the 800 Spanish travelers. Tattooed head-to-toe, the indigenous people of Florida were immediately labeled in Spanish diaries as pagans, and some settlers worked to tame the native people of the Americas through violence and subjugation. Though it is estimated that there were 100-200,000 Timucua in the southeastern U.S., the people themselves vanished. More accurately, they were enslaved, assimilated and chased away. This is part of the dark history of Florida and the U.S., and as such it’s ever more important that we remember the facts of our history and this land.

The Florida puma was nearly erased from Florida. But this big cat is a survivor, and with patience and care we can preserve what is left of our everglades and the amazing diversity she harbors. Likewise, Valencia College is a place that flourishes with diversity. With patience and care for our community, we grow with some of the most outstanding students, staff and faculty anywhere in the world.

The puma represents native and natural Florida, and these places and the animals that inhabit them will one day be the most precious resource on the planet. In the last 40 years, humans have cut down 40 billion hectares of forest, a total square mileage of Florida 60 times over, roughly the size of Europe.

Diversity is not just a remnant of our difficult past; its preservation is the key to our future. Thank you for making the puma a part of our history at Valencia College.

May Is National Pet Month: Share Your Photos

Monday, April 25, 2022

Did you know that about 70% of United States households have an animal family member?  According to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), about 90.5 million families own a pet.

May is National Pet Month — a time to celebrate all of the benefits that our furry, feathery and slithery friends bring to our lives. In honor of this fun, month-long holiday, we invite you to submit photos of your pets.

Please send us photos along with their name to the_grove@valenciacollege.edu by Friday, May 6, 2022, so that we can compile a slideshow you can then share with co-workers, family and friends.

National Pet Month is also a good reminder that there are many pets in shelters waiting to be adopted.

Want to adopt a new friend? Here are some pet adoption resources in our area: