Spotlight on Undergraduate Research — Kevin Rivera-Lopez

Monday, March 28, 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.

When student Kevin Rivera-Lopez graduates from Valencia College with an associate degree in general studies in summer 2022, he plans to enroll in the University of Central Florida Physics bachelor’s program with the end goal of obtaining a Ph.D. in physics.

Kevin has have been involved in scientific research since he was in middle school.

“I have a passion for unveiling the mysteries that surround us,” shared Kevin, who worked on projects regarding ethnoastronomy, engineering, chemistry and statistics. “As soon as I knew about the Honors Research class, I applied as an Honors student and signed up for it.”

For his independent research project, Kevin worked closely with Jay Perez, professor, physics at Osceola Campus. Kevin‘s research focuses on the importance and application of symmetries as a theoretical tool, highlighting the importance of the discoveries made by Emmy Noether by using group theory to write a mock potential. This past fall, Kevin presented his research at the bi-annual Undergraduate Research Showcase, where he won first place.

“Research is an amazing experience that challenges you to go out of your comfort zone and think outside of the box by using your academic skill to work on real-life applications and generating a final product that you can be proud of,” Kevin said. “It has allowed me to learn about time management, being a leader, planning long-term projects, and it has significantly helped me improve my academic writing skills. It is an experience unlike the classroom type, which I would highly suggest for anyone to try at least once.”

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.

In Memory: Chris Russom

Monday, March 28, 2022

Chris Russom, part-time faculty, culinary management, passed away on Monday, March  21, 2022, after a short battle with brain cancer.

Chris taught Advanced Decorating Skills at the Downtown Campus since August 2019, and the creation of 3-D cakes was an essential component of his curriculum.

Chris launched “Let Them Eat Cake,” his first bakery and coffee house, in 1998. The bakery grew into an international success and eventually became Christopher Garren’s Inc., a corporation that executed thousands of celebration cakes yearly for corporations, design houses, movie premieres and movie and television personalities, from Will Smith to Oprah Winfrey. He retired from retail service in 2013.

He and his wife participated in multiple Food Network competitions from 2002 to 2007, and from 2008 to 2011, he filmed four seasons of the reality television show “Amazing Wedding Cakes.”

His work was featured on various television networks and shows, including: “Entertainment Tonight,” “Access Hollywood,” “Blind Date,” “The Tyra Banks Show” and international TV commercials. He also made numerous appearances on local radio and news programs, and his art found coverage in dozens of national and international magazines.

In addition to teaching at Valencia, he traveled throughout the United States, teaching continuing education and culinary classes.

“Sometimes, even as this comes as a shock to us all, it is hard to find words. As providence would have it, Chris’ life intertwined with our chef team here at Valencia in a way that you can’t make it up. (if that makes sense). Chris was here, out of anywhere he could have gone in the world, he planted his feet at Valencia! We remember as a team coming up with the Advanced Technical Certificate in Cake Artistry just so we could capture Chris’s talent and not lose him to another school. What was crazier to us was that he was willing and really wanted to go in that direction. In three years, he transferred as much knowledge as he could to the students who are better for it. There were many conversations about his wrestling with the feeling that it still wasn’t enough to give back to the students. He stated at one point that teaching here, at Valencia, were the best years of his life ever! So words can’t describe, even in tears, what a privilege it was to have him here! What can we say? When Chef Chris made a decision to do something, he was all in! His cakes and his classes speak for themselves!.” — Kenneth Bourgoin,  professor, culinary management

We will share information about services for Chris as it becomes available.

Cafeterias to Temporarily Close on Friday

Monday, March 28, 2022

Due to a large catering event on West Campus — the Department of Education All-Florida Academic Team Awards Ceremony Lunch —  all cafeterias and cafés will be closed on Friday, April 1, 2022.

This event will require the entire staff of Aladdin to deliver effective, high-quality services for this important and impactful event.

Signage will be posted informing our students and employees of this temporary closure.

Cybersecurity: Protect Yourself From Ransomware and Phishing

Monday, March 28, 2022

A Message from Patrick Criss, Director, Information Security

With the events that are ongoing in Ukraine, it is important that we are vigilant and take extra care to protect ourselves and Valencia College. The most common method of cyberattacks is through email (phishing) — attempts to trick users into clicking a link or downloading a file.

To protect yourself from ransomware and phishing:

  • Pay attention to every email you receive;
  • Look for suspicious wording or grammar within that email;
  • Pay close attention to the URLs you type when going to a website; and
  • Always make sure you have good antivirus software loaded that will help protect you from known ransomware attacks.

If you receive a suspicious email, make sure you report it.

Through Outlook, you can report an email as phishing. This can be done by clicking “Report Message” (on the far right of the “Home” ribbon), expanding the drop-down menu and selecting “Phishing.” Please note the button will only function when the message is open or when using “Preview” mode in Outlook.

If you have any questions, please contact the OIT Service Desk at or 407-582-5555.

Why We Engage in Preventative Care No Matter Our Age

Monday, March 28, 2022

A Message from Jessica Johnson, UnitedHealthcare Nurse Liaison  

No matter your age, everyone can benefit from participating in preventive care such as healthy eating, exercise and regular doctors’ visits. The goal of preventive care is to potentially prevent or catch a health-related problem before it becomes a bigger problem.

Preventive care is an investment in your health and well-being, because the reality is there’s no way to predict what will happen in the future and no way to guarantee absolute health. That said, much is known about actions you can take to improve your chances of living a healthy life and avoiding serious health problems. If you happen to have a chronic health condition — and many of us do — there are things you can do to manage that condition and be as healthy as can be. And if you don’t have a chronic health condition yet, embracing wellness can help ensure you stay as healthy as possible.

Everyone can benefit from a healthy diet and adequate physical activity by developing and incorporating the following wellness habits:

Along with living a healthy and active lifestyle, certain routine well exams, screenings and immunizations are recommended for all age groups to prevent or avoid illness or other health problems. Biometrics, mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, colon cancer screenings, vaccinations, dental and vision evaluations, and annual wellness exams fall into this “preventative care” category. Click here to determine which tests and screenings are recommended for your age and gender preventive care.

Routine preventive care helps you manage and maintain your health and is generally covered at 100% by your Valencia College UHC insurance plan as long as you see a network provider. Click here for assistance in finding a network provider.

If you have further questions or need additional assistance, call the member services number on the back of your insurance card or contact me at or 407-866-8134.

Celebrate Spring With Music: Attend East Campus Concerts

Monday, March 28, 2022

Valencia College’s School of Arts and Entertainment will celebrate the arrival of spring with a series of April concerts. Events are free, but tickets are required.

Live Music and Live Art Concert

Date: Tuesday, April 5, 2022
Time: 7:30 p.m. 
Location: East Campus Performing Arts Center
Get Tickets

The eighth annual Live Music and Live Art concert features members of our Valencia art studios creating art on stage during live performances of the Valencia Symphonic Band and Jazz Ensemble. This year’s theme is “Folk Songs.” On the same stage, while both musical ensembles play familiar melodies, art will unfold for the audience to observe. You will be totally immersed in 90 mins of visual and musical art!

House Band Concert

Date: Wednesday, April 6, 2022
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: East Campus Performing Arts Center, Outdoor Stage
Get Tickets

Spring has sprung in songs from the Commercial Music Ensemble. From Bill Withers to Corinne Bailey Rae and the Beatles to George Michael, our students have prepared a program with gems from the 1970s to the 2000s, with technical support by our sound and music technology students. This 45-minute concert will be outside on the School of Arts and Entertainment stage during lunchtime, starting at 12:30 p.m.. Enjoy the sun and the sounds of spring.

Choral Concert

Date: Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: East Campus Performing Arts Center
Get Tickets

This dual-ensemble concert features the Valencia Singers and the Contemporary Ensemble. The Valencia Singers will perform madrigals, folk song arrangements, spirituals and other choral works by Lojeski, Johnson, Forrest, Leavitt, Montsalvatge, Stroope, Shaw and Thomas. Two student conductors and a number of soloists will be featured in this set. The Contemporary Ensemble will feature musical theatre selections from “Beauty and the Beast,” “Avenue Q,” “Six,” “Amelie,” “Moulin Rouge,” “Little Women,” “Full Monty,” “Rent” and “West Side Story,” and will conclude with a tribute to one of the greatest composers of American Musical Theatre who we lost this past November, Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim, a prolific composer who elevated the world of musical theatre to a whole new level, won several awards, including eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, a Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Spring Opera Theatre Workshop Presents: The Threepenny Opera

Date: Friday, April 22, 2022
Time: 8:30 p.m. 
Location: East Campus Performing Arts Center
Get tickets. 
Tickets will be available beginning Friday, April 8, 2022.

Date: Saturday, April 23, 2022
Time: 7:30 p.m. 
Location: East Campus Performing Arts Center
Get tickets. Tickets will be available beginning Friday, April 8, 2022.

Our Opera Theater Workshop ensemble will be presenting “The Threepenny Opera” by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. This musical drama, a socialist critique of the capitalist world, tells the story of Macheath, or “Mack the Knife,” an antihero who is a vicious criminal. In a twist of fate, he avoids execution when the queen pardons him. Premiering in 1928, this work includes great songs like “Mack the Knife,” which was number one on the U.S. Billboard charts for nine weeks in 1959 when the great Bobby Darin performed his iconic jazzy big band version of the song.

Performance Management: Addressing a Concern for the First Time

Thursday, March 24, 2022

By Ben Taylor, Assistant Director, Employee Relations, and Courtney Demings, Coordinator, Employee Relations

Employee Development and Employee Relations partnered on a three-part supervisory series focusing on various aspects of performance management and documentation.

If you didn’t make it to our first session, Performance Management: Addressing the Concern for the First Time, here is some information we hope you will refer to as needed.

Performance management is often one of a supervisor’s most significant, rewarding and challenging responsibilities concerning guiding their employees. According to UC Berkeley, “Performance management is an ongoing process of communication between a supervisor and an employee that occurs throughout the year, in support of accomplishing the strategic objectives of the organization. The communication process includes clarifying expectations, setting objectives, identifying goals, providing feedback and reviewing results.” This definition highlights that performance management is a continuous process that encourages active communication and listening between the supervisor and employee. There are several reasons undergirding the “why” of effective performance management:

    • It’s about employee retention;
    • It’s about supporting employees toward their goals and department/division goals;
    • It’s about knowing what employees are working on and what they may need help/support with; and
    • It’s about recognizing that employees want and need feedback on their performance.

Giving Feedback is Difficult 

These reasons highlight the importance of performance management and how it connects to the employee experience. However, we understand that conversations surrounding this topic can be difficult, especially where constructive or corrective feedback may be necessary. Thus, we recommend that you discuss issues related to performance as soon as an issue arises. Addressing a concern when you first notice it can help in the development of an employee and set them up for lasting success. Often some issues begin small and progress to be more severe. Addressing something in the beginning allows for improvement and may prevent a small issue from becoming a large one. Checking in with an employee can also ensure they have the support they need and that the first time something happens won’t become part of a larger pattern.

While some may be cautious about giving constructive feedback, it is vital for your role as a supervisor and to the success of the employees on your team. When addressing something the first time, the conversation need not be challenging. This may be a brief conversation highlighting the performance or behavior, seeking clarification and then providing feedback on how the employee should proceed in the future.

Additionally, these conversations are an opportunity to seek understanding from both parties allowing for the invaluable employee perspective to be highlighted and considered.

Create a Culture of Feedback 

Addressing concerns the first time they arise also helps to create a culture of feedback. Equally as important to giving employees feedback is to seek feedback from employees. When feedback is an expectation rather than an exception, the conversations to provide feedback become easier to hold and can minimize the shock when they do occur. Creating the space to address concerns the first time allows for feedback to be reciprocated and helps build a good relationship within our teams based on open communication and accountability.

When to Use Disciplinary Action 

As a supervisor, we ask you to consult our Disciplinary Action Policy and understand that each situation is unique. The policy suggests: “All disciplinary actions issued by appropriate College personnel are determined on a case-by-case basis.” Though you have discretion in determining the disciplinary action to be issued, the type of disciplinary action should be proportionate with the behavior and/or performance concern(s). At Valencia College, supervisors can utilize formal disciplinary actions and informal corrective actions.

Currently, the Disciplinary Action Policy consists of several formal disciplinary actions that a supervisor may employ, including the following: Performance Improvement Plan, Written Reprimand, Suspension, Demotion, Return to Annual Contract and Dismissal. A future article will provide a more detailed explanation of these types of actions. Let’s explore Informal Corrective Actions available to supervisors such as Coaching, the Individual Action Plan and Written Counseling. Please see the definitions included in the Disciplinary Action Policy:

  • “Coaching conversations are informal, should allow the supervisor to provide direct feedback to the employee on the concerning performance and/or behavior, the impact of the concerning performance/behavior, and allow the employee an opportunity to respond to the concerns.”
  • The Individual Action Plan (IAP) is an informal performance management tool with the documentation maintained by the supervisor. This tool allows a supervisor to document performance/behavior concerns and work collaboratively with the respective employee to formulate an action plan to facilitate improvement.”
  • “A Written Counseling is an informal written corrective measure or a follow-up email to the respective employee that should include the date of the conversation, a summary of the concerns discussed, and if applicable, a highlight of prior conversations of a similar nature.”

The informal corrective actions are denoted as developmental rather than punitive in nature as they are designed to help employees improve. It’s important to note individuals will make mistakes throughout their employee journey, and each action does not warrant formal corrective action or informal corrective action. Therefore, supervisors should consider the following when desiring to discern when either of these disciplinary actions is necessary:

  • A pattern of behavior or performance issues
  • Consistently late for work/meetings
  • Incomplete work or lack of productivity despite feedback and support being provided
  • Some situations can be so egregious that they warrant immediate action, such as theft of College property

ODHR Is Here to Help 

Additionally, you may enlist the support of Organizational Development and Human Resources (ODHR) to help determine when either formal corrective action or informal corrective action is appropriate. ODHR can also provide advice on how to have a conversation with an employee and offer an outside perspective.

In conclusion, addressing a minor issue at its first occurrence helps you and guides your employee’s performance. We suggest the following best practices for improving employee performance:

  • Regular, recurring conversation with your team members’ in one-on-ones, touch bases, coffee and catch ups;
  • Seek feedback regularly;
  • Giving feedback is one part of the puzzle — find out what employees need from you and be interested.

As a department, Employee Relations is here to serve as a resource for you. The team members are available to talk with you about your specific situations to offer an outside perspective. For more information or assistance from Employee Relations, please contact HR4U at or 407-582-HR4U (4748) to ensure timely support and direct connection with Employee Relations team members.

Guidance for a Smooth Visiting Professor Transition

Thursday, March 24, 2022

A Message from Chanda Postell, Director, Employee Experience 

Oh, how time flies! As you may remember, we were delighted to have more than 265 part-time faculty join us as 8-month, temporary visiting professors in the fall of 2021. As we approach the end of the spring term, these contracts will conclude on Monday, May 2, 2022.

Throughout this academic year, our visiting professors have not only taught 18 hours of instruction per week, but they have also engaged in vital, directed and focused student engagement — supporting our students in myriad ways. By serving in these roles, they made it possible for us to reduce onsite class sizes as part of our commitment to health and safety, as well as to increase student engagement during an extremely difficult moment in time.

We thank our visiting professors for their service in this role and intend to provide as much information to them as we can to ensure a smooth transition into their previous part-time positions. We will be sending direct communication to all visiting professors in a “Transition Information Packet” that contains important information about their part-time faculty workload, Total Rewards transition, common questions and what they can expect next. Here are a few highlights to note:

      • The College’s check-out process will be completed for all visiting professors returning to a part-time position or leaving the College. This process will take place virtually, through DocuSign.


      • At the conclusion of this contract, visiting professors may be placed in their previously held part-time positions. Please be advised that scheduling decisions and communication are based on departmental needs and should be communicated accordingly.



      • Health, dental and vision benefits will end on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. Flexible spending accounts (FSA) and long-term disability (LTD) benefits will end on Monday, May 2, 2022.


      • Visiting professors returning to part-time faculty status will be required to return their Valencia-issued electronic devices to the Office of Information Technology. Drop off locations will be set up on the East, West and Osceola campuses and appointment times can be scheduled here.


      • The final Time and Effort Report is due by Monday, May 2, 2022. Please encourage your visiting professors to complete this directly after they turn in grades to ensure the document is completed in a timely manner.


As we continue to work out the details, additional information — including a copy of the Transition Information Packet — will be emailed to deans. We appreciate your continued partnership in this ongoing effort.

If you have any questions, please contact me at or 407-582-3422.


Managing Smart: Remaining Resilient Through Change

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The many changes we face in our world and our organization can bring intense emotions.

For some people, change is an energizer, a motivator; in fact, these people may seek out change and appear to thrive on change. For other people, it is just the opposite, and change is experienced as exhausting and demotivating, something to put up with and be endured.

Whatever that reaction may be, in order to be successful in our work, we need to remain resilient through change. Being resilient in this case means that you are able to sustain your energy and motivation during times of stress associated with change.

Many people think about resilience as “bouncing back,” as if things will go back to the way they were before. However, a different approach is to think about resilience as “bouncing forward” to a new place.

As supervisors, cultivating emotional resilience in ourselves and our employees plays a crucial role. In order to do this, you must start from the inside out to create trust, compassion and courage for yourself first.

Here are two journaling exercises for increased resilience during times of change that you can try for yourself and share with your employees:

    • Write down a change event in a circle on a page, then draw spokes and note what other changes resulted from that one change event. Doing an inventory of the changes you have experienced and taking note of the changes that are impacting you can assist you in getting a clearer picture of the volume of change and transition you are dealing with.


  • Think of a current change that is going on. Draw three columns as follows: 1. Out of my control 2. Have some influence 3. In my control. Fill out each column with as many things as you can think of. Then choose your next action steps based on something in your area of influence and control.

Check out some additional tips to help yourself and your team members deal with change.

Valencia Libraries Celebrate National Library Week

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Valencia Libraries will celebrate National Library Week from Sunday,  April 3, through Saturday, April 9, 2022. The American Library Association first sponsored the observance of National Library Week in 1958, and since then, libraries around the world have participated annually.

Valencia Libraries are sponsoring a drawing for a Kindle Fire, a desk lamp and a snack box. Only Valencia students are eligible for the drawing, and they can participate by clicking here.

The American Library Association is also hosting events and offering $100 Visa gift cards as prizes. To be eligible for the prize, you and your students can use the hashtag #MyLibrary on Twitter, Instagram, or the I Love Libraries Facebook Page. Visit the  ALA 2022 National Library Week Event Page for more details and information.

If you are on campus, be sure to stop by your library for research assistance or to find out if there are any upcoming events and promotions. Librarians are also available to assist virtually at Ask A Librarian.

Remember to follow your campus’ Library on social media for all the latest information on resources, upcoming events, giveaways and promotions.