Rally Mission of the Month: Have a Laugh

Monday, April 4, 2022

A Message from Jessica Johnson, UnitedHealthcare Nurse Liaison

With our launch of Rally, on the first Tuesday of every month, I will share a Rally Mission and Recipe of the Month — a fun and healthy suggestion on an activity and recipe that we can all enjoy and participate in together.

This month’s Rally Mission of the Month is: Have a Laugh

Here’s a fun fact — every time you get together with friends and laugh over jokes or funny stories, you’re doing something good for your body. Laughing is not only great for dealing with a bad mood, but it may reduce your stress and make you less sensitive to pain. Shared laughter is actually a sign of a healthy relationship.

Here are some ways laughter does a body good:

  • It improves your mood. We all know that laughing can put us in a better mood. Studies show that this can help lessen depression and anxiety, especially in people who are dealing with a chronic illness.
  • It’s a great stress-buster. When you laugh, your heart rate goes up and you take in more oxygen, invigorating your major organs and muscles. After a laughing spell, your heart rate slows down, your muscles loosen up and relax, and your stress hormones drop.
  • It’s good for your heart. A study of older adults found that laughing every day was linked to lower rates of heart disease and stroke.
  • It may boost immunity. Negative thoughts can stress your system and drag down your immunity. But positive thinking may help counter stress, boost immunity, and stave off illness.
  • It may dull pain. Laughter might help you cope better with everyday aches and pains. Laughing triggers the release of “feel good” brain chemicals called endorphins, which act like opiates in our brains and help us feel less pain. In one study, people watched either a serious show or a comedy show. The comedy group could tolerate more pain after the show than the drama group.
  • It may be the key to a long life. One large-scale Norwegian study found that a sense of humor was linked to lower mortality from heart disease and infections.

Want to participate in this laughter mission to track your laughs? Simply follow these directions to track your laughs to earn more than 275 coins that can be used to register for prizes.

  • If this is your first Rally visit, go to myuhc.com and select “See if you have Rally.” Then sign in with your UnitedHealthcare username and password. You will be directed to create a separate Rally username and password as well.
  • Following your initial registration, you can go directly to this mission here. Then click join.
  • The mission will provide you with ways to get your laugh on.

To earn coins, log your progress tracking your laughter, three times a week for four weeks. You’ll earn 10 coins for completing a day, 30 for completing a week and 105 for completing the entire mission.

Rally is available at no additional cost to members, as part of health plan benefits with UnitedHealthcare. For more information, view this flyer and Grove post.

This month’s Recipe of the Month is: White Chicken Chili

Check out this dish featuring chicken breast, cannellini beans, green chilies, a dab of cream cheese and spices. Top it with crushed tortilla chips, shredded Monterey cheese, diced avocado, fresh cilantro and some plain Greek yogurt and you’ve got a really, really good bowl of chili.

For UnitedHealthcare or Rally questions, contact me at jessica_r_johnson@uhc.com or 407-866-8134.

Lake Nona Hosts Media Censorship Series

Friday, April 1, 2022

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

Date: Tuesday, April 12, 2022 and Thursday, April 14, 2022
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Lake Nona Campus, Room 106, and Zoom

Lake Nona Campus Librarian Emilie Buckley will offer a two-part series on media, censorship and First Amendment rights. These sessions were designed to engage students in conversations about the differences in the U.S. versus Russian media, current topics on censorship, de-platforming and accountability, and lastly, the role of First Amendment Rights within these topics.

After the 2016 election discussion on disinformation campaigns, Emile wanted to expand her field of study. She is now completing a master’s degree in mass communications in media studies, and this series is part of her final project.

For questions, contact Emilie at ebuckley3@valenciacollege.edu.

Former Student Profile: Marcela Pullas Giraldo

Friday, April 1, 2022

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

Valencia College has provided a starting point for many successful graduates who have continued to shine brightly in their respective careers and communities. Marcela Pullas Giraldo is one such graduate.

Marcela graduated from Valencia in spring 2019 with an Associate in Arts in business administration.

“I moved to the United States from Ecuador in 2016 and did my senior year of high school at Liberty High School,” Marcela said. “At the time, I didn’t know much about the American college system, and because I came to this country a little late into my high school journey, I resorted to my safest and best local option, Valencia. Moreover, my high school counselors and teachers encouraged me to start my college career locally and take advantage of my time there.”

During her time at Valencia, Marcela was involved with the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) club and was part of the club’s New York trip to the financial district in 2019.

“Selected business and accounting students had the opportunity to travel to NYC and visit Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley, BlackRock and the New York Stock Exchange,” said Sonia Casablanca, interim dean, career and technical education. “Students received information about scholarships and internships with these organizations. After the trip, Marcela applied for a Bloomberg internship. Although she was not selected, Marcela was part of the final round of interviews. All these experiences prepared and inspired Marcela.”

Marcela completed her bachelor’s degree in accounting at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and she will finish her master’s degree at Florida Atlantic University in December 2022. After graduation, she has already been selected to complete a two-year fellowship with McKinsey & Company in Massachusetts. As part of the fellowship, Marcela will collaborate and participate in several functional areas such as recruiting, people analytics, finance and communications. One of Marcela’s main goals is to create more opportunities for Hispanic students and communities.

“I will be starting a new job at McKinsey & Company this summer. I recently accepted an offer to join them as a business insights fellow in Massachusetts for two years,” Marcela said. “I’m extremely excited about this opportunity, and I hope it allows me to launch my career in consulting. The position is mainly research-focused, and I’ll have the opportunity to explore several industries that McKinsey works with. I aspire to eventually pursue another graduate degree, but at the moment, I’m thrilled to get real-world experience and apply all the skills that I’ve learned at Valencia and FAU.”

Marcela gives credit for many of her successes to her time at Valencia.

“I think I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support that I received at Valencia,” she said. “My mentors and peers enlightened me about the countless possibilities I could pursue. My advisor and dear mentor, Maritza Gaviria, coordinator, new student orientation, was probably the most influential person during my time at Valencia. She helped me overcome hurdles and always pushed me to thrive higher. Professor Casablanca also opened new doors for me by introducing me to ALPFA. During our trip to New York in 2019, I discovered opportunities that I didn’t think were within my reach, and she has continued to support me even after I graduated from Valencia. As a student leader, I had the chance of meeting remarkable members of the community who shared their experiences and wisdom with me and motivated me to break down the limits I had set for myself.”

Marcela said she encourages others to attend Valencia despite the stigma sometimes associated with attending two-year colleges.

“I would definitely encourage others to attend Valencia,” she said. “There is a big stigma around attending two-year colleges after graduating high school, but I think that it is the best decision a person could take; especially if (1) they don’t have the resources to attend a four-year institution, (2) don’t feel ready or don’t want to be far from home, and/or (3) if they haven’t figured out what they want to do yet. Valencia students have the flexibility to explore different fields and learn from real professionals. After I transferred to a four-year university, I realized the value of the education offered at Valencia. Professors there tailor their curriculum to align with the interests and needs of students and take the time to ensure you succeed.”

For Marcela, those professors included Sonia Casablanca, Stanton Reed and Deidre Holmes DuBois.

“Professor Sonia Casablanca has always been incredibly supportive and resourceful. I never had the chance to take one of her classes, but having her as the advisor of the ALPFA club allowed me to learn from her regardless,” she said. “Stanton Reed, interim, campus president, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses, was awe-inspiring from the first moment I met him. I took Accounting Principles with him, and to this day, he is the only professor that has ever made me interested in accounting. My speech professor, Deidre Holmes DuBois, still resonates in my head. Her honest feedback made me a better public speaker, and I still follow her advice to communicate effectively.”

Marcela had some additional advice for current and future Valencia students.

“Faculty and staff members at Valencia are open and willing to help you out,” she said. “Their knowledge and experience make them the best guidance to succeed. Lastly, enjoy your time at Valencia and dream big. Your college years fly by and you won’t get them back, so make the most of the resources Valencia has to offer. I would like to thank all the people that made my time at Valencia unforgettable. This summer will be five years since I first set foot on the Osceola Campus, and I’m grateful for all the moments I spent there.”

Do you have an exceptional student you’d like to see highlighted in the Campus Concentrate? Suggestions are welcome. Please email Meredith Morris.

Faculty Governance Update — March 2022

Thursday, March 31, 2022

A Message from Michael Robbins, President, Collegewide Faculty Association

As we leave March and enter into spring proper, I’m thinking a lot about renewal. I wanted to take a moment to recognize that we’ve gone through numerous transitions over the last year. The College has seen many changes: New leadership, refreshed models for governance, renewed organizational structures and transitions back to campus after having to completely rethink some of our practices for teaching.

I know this has been difficult for some faculty. Transitions, changes, revising, assessing: These practices uproot comforts that we’ve grown accustomed to. I too have felt this, from time-to-time. But assessment and change is a vital part of higher education. In my mind, it is the most vital part. There’s a need to evaluate and ask questions, to really consider if our previous practices were what’s best for the College, and if what we’re doing will improve the lives of our students and our community.

That’s why I’m excited for what’s coming. Our new practices are striving for equity. We’re looking for ways to bring more voices into the College, and really questioning if we’ve reached everyone we could reach in the past. This isn’t an indictment of our previous practices; change doesn’t mean previous practices weren’t successful. But change recognizes that previous practices weren’t perfect, and change recognizes a landscape that’s shifting and requires new ways of thinking.

I bring this up because I can often hear an edge of cynicism when speaking to some of my colleagues. I’m not talking about healthy skepticism or questioning authority … I always approve of healthy skepticism and questioning authority. Rather than seeing appropriate skepticism and questioning, I see blind speculation. Conspiratorial rumors. Unfounded concerns.

I don’t ask any of you to stop being appropriately skeptical or to stop questioning. I’m feeling optimistic, not foolish. But I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my students: Blind naysaying isn’t the same as being skeptical. Skepticism is only helpful with appropriate research, or when coupled with discourse. It requires a capacity for critical thinking, not just of ideas you find disquieting, but of your own ideas and reactions. It requires conversation.

If you have a concern, reach out to someone in the know. Contact me, or contact a leader at your campus in the Faculty Association. Contact a leader at the College. Find out if there are conversations happening on topics you’re concerned about. I try to respond to as many inquiries and messages as I can. If I miss a message you sent, please don’t hesitate to reach out and remind me that you had an inquiry. I may not have the exact response you want, but I can at least tell you more about the conversation or any existing plans the College has.

I wanted to end on a high note: We have faculty who have volunteered to continue the important conversations we’ve had over the last two years. In the next month, I’ll be sending you all our nominees for the next Faculty Association vice president (2022-2023), who will eventually serve as your Faculty Association president (2023-2024). Keep an eye on your email, and please remember to vote when you receive your ballot. And if you’re still concerned about what’s happening at the College, remember that change is guided by those who show up. Participate in conversations and discussions, and come ready to offer solutions.

If you have any questions, please contact me via email at mrobbins9@valenciacollege.edu.

Sunsetting Our COVID-19 Protocols

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Message from Amy Bosley, Vice President, Institutional Planning and Development, and Chief of Staff  

After more than two long years of living through the coronavirus pandemic, we have learned so much about our ability to innovate while working through change and uncertainty. Our resilience and commitment to learning, as we kept our health and safety a priority, was made evident by our transition of more than 4,000 course sections to online in less than two weeks, moving our in-person student services to a virtual environment, establishing illness reporting and contract tracing protocols, and updating our cleaning, sanitation and indoor air quality — just to name a few. Thank you for each and every way you contributed to helping us serve our community and one another during this remarkable time.

The past two years have brought much innovation in new ways of keeping ourselves healthy and safe. Vaccines and tests are now widely available and accessible, effective treatments for the virus are readily available, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID county tracker transmission status shows the transmission rate for Orange and Osceola counties as low. The CDC guidance continues to reflect that people may choose to wear a mask at any time, and those with symptoms, a positive test or exposure to someone with COVID-19, should wear a mask.

In conjunction with lower transmission rates in Orange and Osceola counties, at Valencia, we’ve also experienced a reduction in the number of COVID cases for individuals who have been on campus during their infectious period. Our COVID Case Management team is currently tracking four cases (as of Tuesday, March 29, 2022), which is down significantly from this year’s peak of 136 cases tracked on Friday, January 7, 2022.

Based on this data, Valencia College will adjust our COVID-19 protocols and operations as follows:

Mask Protocol
In accordance with our previously communicated plans, when Orange and Osceola COVID transmission has been “medium or low” for 30 days, we will change our mask protocol to “masks welcomed.” On Friday, March 4, 2022, both counties moved below high transmission and have remained at low transmission since.

As of Saturday, April 2, 2022, we will move from “Masks Expected” to “Masks Welcomed” on all Valencia campuses and locations. The signage on our campuses and locations will be changed over the weekend to reflect the change in protocol. Masks will continue to be available in our Campus Security offices and our classrooms for employees and students.

Sunsetting Our COVID-19 Protocols
Effective at the end of the spring term on Saturday, April 30, 2022, we will sunset our COVID-19 protocols. Starting on Sunday, May 1, 2022, operations will return to pre-pandemic conditions including:

  • The COVID-19 Case Management team will cease operations, including illness reporting and contact tracing. COVID will be handled as other illnesses, such as the flu, where employees report their illness to their supervisor and are encouraged to stay home if feeling ill. Please join us in thanking Tanya Mahan and Angelica Munoz Garcia for their steadfast, thorough, and compassionate work throughout this remarkable time.
  • We will add additional in-person classes during our summer term as we ramp up for fall, and on-site classes will return to regular capacity in the Fall 2022 semester. We look forward to welcoming more students to on-campus services, classes, and co-curricular experiences.
  • Work locations, whether in-person, remote or hybrid, will be determined by your vice president-level supervisor or interim campus president/provost, based on the needs identified to best support our students.
  • COVID leave with pay will be discontinued.
  • Vaccination leave with pay will end on its previously scheduled date of Tuesday, May 31, 2022.
  • If you have a disability that may impact your ability to perform the essential functions of your job, you may contact Jennifer Page, director, leave and access services, at jpage@valenciacollege.edu or 407-582-8032 to inquire about reasonable accommodations through the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For questions about these upcoming changes, I invite you to attend the final Roadmap to Reopening town hall:

Date: Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Time: 3 – 4 p.m.
Location: Zoom

You may also reach out to me directly at abosley@valenciacollege.edu or 407-582-8255.

As we return to more in-person interactions, I encourage each of you to continue to support each other and give grace to your colleagues and students who may feel sick and need to stay home.

Thank you again for your hard work, for rising to meet the challenges presented by this pandemic and your unwavering support of our students and each other. I’m looking forward to seeing our campuses bustling again this fall and I hope you are, too.

Faculty Ombuds Representatives Encourage Open Communication With Students and Supervisors

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Message from Ramon Velez-Cruz and Ann Heiny, Faculty Ombuds Representatives

In this month’s article, we explore how faculty can benefit from actively communicating with their students and supervisors.

For decades, a respectable piece of advice was to not talk openly about our feelings and troubles, especially in the workplace. Individuals may have felt tension with a co-worker or perceived disappointment from a supervisor but never created the opportunity to clarify expectations, needs and emotions. The result could be years of discomfort at work or even searching for a new job to escape the awkwardness or alienation. In regard to students, miscommunication or lack of communication with them could create perceived discrepancies over class policies, with results ranging from tense conversations to poor student performance to formal student complaints.

As faculty ombuds representatives, we encourage open communication that will result in authentic relationships and clear understanding, as well as reducing chronic stress in our lives.

As a society, we have become more open and empathetic to the idea of talking about our feelings, although some are still hesitant to reach out and talk to someone for help. Putting feelings into words helps us relate to the problem differently. Research has shown that when we put feelings into words, we activate a part of our brain called the amygdala. This activation was described as almost like hitting the brakes of a car on our emotional response.

Talking about our thoughts and feelings slows down impulsive reactions and allows us to formulate rational options. This allows us to make more productive decisions. In application, perhaps, next time we want to generate a change in communication, we can try putting feelings into words and exploring solutions rather than allowing feelings to fester and become more and more negative (Lieberman, Eisenberger, Crockett, Pfeifer & Way, 2007; Wolpert, 2007).

Right now, many faculty members may be facing issues with student absences. The question is, how do we handle students disappearing from our courses for extended periods then possibly resurfacing with the expectation that they can complete all the work late and still earn their desired final grade? Communication may be a key factor to a successful resolution.

A clear attendance policy in the syllabus creates a strong foundation for students’ understanding and decreases the need for negotiation. Classroom discussion of the attendance policy and expectations the first week of the semester also goes a long way toward understanding. We are still able to make exceptions for individual circumstances, with a clearly communicated general policy that will address most concerns on the matter. The same may be said about communicating certain needs with our dean or discipline chairs through thoughtful and meaningful communication to avoid issues in the future.

As we mentioned in our October Grove and Faculty Insight article, if encountering a conflict, communicate with open-ended questions to help clarify the situation. Having this insight may help ease tensions. Always seek to understand. When asking clarifying questions, seek to comprehend and not to challenge.

Students are responsible for communicating absences or course issues to us, and we are responsible for responding to those in careful, equitable and thoughtful ways. We need to keep our students and campus leadership up-to-date with the content and happenings in our courses, especially when novel or contentious situations arise. While we might allow students to attend certain courses via Zoom for a quarantine-related absence, it is vital to communicate these things to our students every chance we get. As instructors, we should offer equitable options that students are given to stay up-to-date in our courses. Perhaps we can ask students to share their preferred method of communication to help encourage an open dialogue. Whether with students, colleagues, or leadership, communication is key.

If you need help finding the best way to engage in open dialogue, feel free to connect with us by contacting Ann at aheiny@valenciacollege.edu and Ramon at rvelez20@valenciacollege.edu.

TLA Opportunities: Multiple Perspectives and Developing Effective Surveys

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Teaching/Learning Academy (TLA), a community of practice, supports new professors, counselors and librarians as they develop Individualized Learning Plans, a fundamental phase of the tenure process, designed to assist tenure candidates in expanding and improving their professional practices and students’ learning. The goal of the TLA is to help tenure-track faculty members develop a reflective approach to their teaching that is anchored in the tenets of action research and the Essential Competencies of a Valencia Educator. The TLA provides support on pedagogy, course design, student development and professional portfolio development.

TLA will offer the following courses:

INDV2255 Multiple Perspectives
Date: Thursday, April 7 or Friday, April 8, 2022
Time: 2 – 4 p.m.
Location: Online. Register here. 

In this seminar, participants will investigate teaching strategies to improve students’ ability to engage in conversations with alternative viewpoints. Participants will reflect on ways to reveal the importance of recognizing and engaging multiple perspectives as well as ways to motivate students to learn from reputable sources.

SOTL2272 Developing Effective Surveys
Date: Monday, April 4 – Sunday, April 10, 2022
Time: Self-paced
Location: Online. Register here.

In this hands-on session, participants will learn the benefits of the common survey types, learn tips on how to write effective survey questions, and collaboratively assess sample surveys. Participants will have the opportunity to apply these principles to their own work.

Summer Books Soon Available to Order Through the Campus Store

Wednesday, March 30, 2021

Students may now view their books and instructional materials for the Summer 2022 term through the Campus Store.

Starting on Monday, April 4, 2022, books can be ordered 24/7 and delivered by mail to the student’s home address. Free shipping is available through Monday, June 13, 2022.

Students may also have their books delivered to the VC Vault, our safe, secure and reliable, intelligent parcel locker system, where students can pick up their orders 24 hours a day, seven days a week (at most locations). For more information, visit the VC Vault webpage.

As a reminder, books will no longer be sold in the Campus Store locations.

If you have questions, contact Mona Liza Colon, director, auxiliary services, at mcolon6@valenciacollege.edu or by phone at 407-582-3434.

Now’s the Time to Focus on Building a Healthier You: Enroll in a YMCA Membership

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Message from Tom Keller, Director, Total Rewards

Valencia College, in partnership with the YMCA of Central Florida, is proud to support you on your health and wellness journey.

Through your Total Rewards, you and your family can enjoy preferred pricing on a YMCA of Central Florida membership. Valencia will subsidize 20% of your individual or household membership, and the YMCA will waive the Join Fee for full-time faculty and staff. Payroll deductions will be set up for the remaining portion of your YMCA membership after the Valencia subsidy amount is subtracted. Additionally, those enrolled in a Valencia College YMCA membership are eligible for member pricing on programs for enrolled family members, including aquatics and sports leagues.

Learn more about these special YMCA rates by clicking the button below:

The YMCA membership drive is taking place from Monday, March 28 through Friday, April 15, 2022. To enroll, change or cancel a membership, visit your local YMCA of Central Florida, let them know you want to enroll as a Valencia employee and they’ll take care of the rest. To find a YMCA location nearest you, visit ymcacentralflorida.com.

If you have questions or would like additional information about our YMCA benefit, contact the Total Rewards team at benefits@valenciacollege.edu or call the HR4U helpline at 407-582-HR4U (4748). If you have any questions about the Y’s programs, email valenciacollege@cfymca.org.

Saturday Is International Children’s Book Day; See Your Colleague’s Favorite Children’s Books

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

In honor of International Children’s Book Day, celebrated every year on April 2, we asked Valencia faculty and staff to tell us their favorite children’s books.

We loved reading your stories and viewing your photos about which books still hold a special place in your heart from your childhood, and which ones are new favorites that you’ve discovered with your children and grandchildren.

We are pleased to present the video compilation that we created from all of the submissions.