Featured Colleague: Marie Trone’s Life Experience Creates Opportunities for Growth at the College

Monday, August 1, 2022

By Jennifer Keefe

It’s hard to know just where to start to tell you about Marie Trone. Perhaps the most relatable place to dive in is that this professor of biology is a veteran of the United States Marine Corp.

After that, her story is filled with dolphins, elephants, dogs and even skunks.

Before beginning her teaching career at Valencia College in 2011, Marie trained dolphins and other marine animals professionally, including a few years working as a trainer in the Florida Keys, New York and Mexico.

There’s more to that part of the story.

“I drove my Ford Escort to Mexico from Ohio in the mid-1990s, the first time I worked there. I drove that same car back to Mexico to work with dolphins in the Cancun area a second time in 2002. Back then, there were no cell phones, and it was quite an adventure for me,” she explains.

If this isn’t exciting enough, Marie also cared for Asian elephants for Busch Gardens for two years.

Marie’s drive to pursue a career in teaching marine biology came while she was doing, well, a lot of driving with a very notable companion.

“I drove semi-trucks across the lower 48 states with my pet skunk, Highway, for a couple of years after I returned from Mexico the first time. During this interlude, some research ideas developed in my mind, and I knew I had to go graduate school to earn credentials so I could pursue these research ideas. I returned to Mexico to complete my dissertation,” she explains, noting that Highway was actually her first of two pet skunks (they only live about seven years).

Marie’s road to teaching started with earning a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in experimental and comparative psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi. She also earned a master’s in biology from Andrews University in Michigan and a bachelor’s in biology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

In summer 2016, she founded a research laboratory, which is located about 80 km down-river from Iquitos, Peru.

“I investigate the sounds produced by the Amazon River dolphins. I use this information to glean information regarding their ecology and behavior. These dolphins are pink and incredibly unique among the dolphin species,” she explains.

While she’s still learning to understand dolphins, Marie already speaks fluent Spanish.

But she doesn’t own a television, a fact she declares is “by choice.”

Instead, Marie prefers to spend her time “playing with my research data and engaging in dolphin research.”

When she’s not doing that, Marie is reading or training dogs. She’s even fostered dogs for Sniffing Snouts Pit Bull Rescue.

Her dog, Napo, also enjoys a lot of her favorite outdoor activities. You can find them out hiking, exploring caves, rappelling into slot canyons or jogging. Marie also enjoys biking and scuba diving, but she’s quick to point out that Napo stays home those days. In addition to the outdoors, she enjoys reading.

Marie is making some positive changes at the College. She was instrumental in creating the Introduction to Marine Biology class at Valencia, a class she brought with her from her time teaching at the College of the Florida Keys.

She also helped turn the Introduction to Environmental Science class into a study abroad experience. She’s taken two groups of students to the Peruvian Amazon and highlands and is already planning the next student trip. In fact, Marie loves taking her students on field trips all over Florida to help augment their in-class learning.

She’s also a mentor for Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) scholars.

Dean of Science Anitza San Miguel says Marie brings life to her team.

“Marie is a rock star. She is passionate about science and teaching students. It is a pleasure to work with her and see her grow through the years as an educator. She brings a wealth of knowledge to our team,” Anitza shares.

Marie loves that Valencia has big school resources but a small school atmosphere where she can really get to know her students.

“I am able to find ways to connect with students, helping them to not only succeed, but even thrive, in STEM courses,” she says.

She was also really proud of how quickly the College worked to get students laptops when classes went online in the spring 2020.

“Teaching through the COVID pandemic made me a better instructor. It caused me to be more aware and offer understanding and grace for the variety of students’ personal situations,” Marie explains.

Under her microscope, Marie sees Valencia as a place that really helps students.

“Valencia is a bridge to life improvement, being more affordable and less intimidating than large universities such as UCF. I am proud to be a member of the Valencia team,” she says.

Valencia is a place that has helped Marie to grow, too. She’s been encouraged to explore the use of open-source course materials as well as her own professional development.

She’s even been approached by the Conservación de la Naturaleza Amazónica del Perú (which translates to Conservation of the Amazon Nature of Peru) to lead workshops for teachers at about 50 Peruvian Amazon schools, which are a part of the small, subsistence-living communities along the Amazon River and its tributaries. These are mostly one-room school houses for all ages with no electricity, nor running water. She has the building blocks laid out for that project, but she hopes her Valencia connections and experience can help her bring it to life.

Fun fact: Marie also tinkers with photography. If you’re ever on the second floor of Osceola Campus’ Building 2, check out the photo of Marie’s dogs Julius and Luna jumping over a log and a photo she took of her partner, David, standing on an arch in Utah holding the sun in his hands. Also in Building 4, you’ll find several of her photos displayed: a dolphin from the Everglades,  a heron catching a fish action shot, an alligator, a butterfly and several of students.

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.

Improve Your Financial Literacy: Attend August AIG and FRS Retirement Workshops

Monday, August 1, 2022

A Message from Tom Keller, Director, Total Rewards

Improve your financial knowledge and retirement confidence through the following AIG Retirement Services and Florida Retirement System (FRS) workshops.


Your Retirement Plan at Work

Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Time: 9 a.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register.

Date: Thursday, August 18, 2022
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register.

With essential living expenses like housing, food and fuel rising, you may be tempted to put off saving. If this sounds like you, don’t miss this seminar. Local AIG Financial Advisor Kelly Craft will present this interactive workshop for Valencia College employees.

At this educational workshop, you’ll learn:

  • Why it’s important to start saving
  • The benefits of participating in your workplace plan
  • The features of the most common plans offered by employers
  • How to start saving for a secure future

In addition, AIG will offer educational workshops through its national FutureFit® Financial Wellness Webinar Series on interesting topics related to financial health, retirement and investments. Scroll down to view and register for available sessions.

Young Professionals

Date: Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register.

This workshop addresses the challenges that young professionals face and the strategies and resources available to help you plan for a more secure financial future. Learn about setting goals and evaluating risk when it comes to saving for the future.

Financial Wellness

Date: Thursday, August 11, 2022
Time: 2 p.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register.

Financial wellness focuses on our ability to manage all aspects of our financial life. By attending this workshop, you can learn how to gain control over your financial life and become more productive in other areas of your life, including the ability to focus on family, friends and work.

Retirement Income Strategies for Women

Date: Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register.

Women face additional obstacles when it comes to saving for retirement. Find out more about preparing for the potential challenges and risks you may face, identifying your retirement income needs and possible sources of income. All this information will help you to take the next steps in planning for the retirement you desire.

Financial Wellness

Date: Tuesday, August 23, 2022
Time: 4 p.m. 
Location: Online. Click here to register.

Financial wellness focuses on our ability to manage all aspects of our financial life. By attending this workshop, you can learn how to gain control over your financial life and become more productive in other areas of your life, including the ability to focus on family, friends and work.

On-Demand AIG Financial Services Webinars

AIG Financial Services also offers on-demand webinars that you can access at any time on topics such as investment planning, tax planning, planning for retirement, student debt solutions and more. Check them out here.

Financial Planning Advising Sessions

Don’t forget that one of your Total Rewards — for both full- and part-time employees — is meeting with one of Valencia College’s dedicated AIG financial advisors. You can schedule a WebEx or phone consultation to discuss your financial planning, voluntary retirement plan options, review your retirement goals and/or enroll in your voluntary retirement plan. Your family members are also welcome to join you for the advising session. To register for sessions, click here.

Meet Your Financial Advisors

Kelly Craft is the advisor for East, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana Campuses, as well as the School of Public Safety and the Advanced Manufacturing Center. To read more about Kelly, click here.

Brendan Loflin is the advisor for Downtown, West and Winter Park Campuses, as well as the District Office. Read more about Brendan here.


In addition, the Florida Retirement System (FRS) will offer the following educational workshops:

Using the FRS to Plan for Your Retirement

Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Time: 5 p.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register.

This 90-minute retirement planning workshop provides an overview of the FRS and helps you understand the nuts and bolts of planning for your retirement. The workshop will demonstrate how everyday living expenses and inflation dramatically reduce your fixed retirement income. You will see the role the FRS Retirement Plans play in meeting your financial goals as well as the income gap that must be made up through saving and investing. You will leave the workshop with a full understanding of the ongoing financial planning resources available to you as a member of the FRS.

Investment Planning

Date: Wednesday, August 24, 2022
Time: 5 p.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register.

This 90-minute workshop provides a six-step process for managing your investments. You’ll learn about the different types of asset classes and how to allocate funds among your investment choices. This workshop will also help you make sound investment decisions with the assistance of the MyFRS Financial Guidance Line and the advisor service. This is a great planning workshop no matter which Retirement Plan you participate in..

Taking Control of Your Finances

Date: Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Time: 5 p.m.
Location: Online. Click here to register.

This 90-minute workshop is designed to help evaluate your current spending habits and create a plan to help accomplish your financial goals. Tips for reducing expenses, managing debt, repaying student loans and making decisions on the best use of available funds will be explored. You will also learn how and when to review your credit reports and what makes up your FICO score as well as how to balance managing your everyday expenses while thoughtfully saving for your future. You will leave the workshop with a full understanding of the ongoing financial planning resources available to help you reduce debt, manage your credit and budget your way to a secure financial future.

If you have questions, contact the Total Rewards team at benefits@valenciacollege.edu, or call the HR4U helpline at 407-582-HR4U (4748).

Campus Store News

Monday, August 1, 2022

Great news! Our Campus Store has even more ways to show your Puma pride. In addition to the tech tattoos, vinyl stickers and window clings previously available, the Campus Store now has Puma key chains, badge reels, license plate frames and luggage tags. Click here to start your order.

Remember that individual orders are different from departmental orders. Our Campus Store can assist with departmental orders of Valencia College-branded or mascot merchandise for giveaway items like T-shirts, keychains, notebooks and other items. Bulk pricing is available for qualifying department purchases.

Read The Juice and The Grove for when additional Puma merchandise is available to purchase.

2022 Back-to-school Sales Tax Holiday

Additionally, the 2022 back-to-school sales tax holiday is taking place through Sunday, August 7, 2022, which includes many items available in the Campus Store including computers, supplies and clothing. During the holiday period, the qualifying items will be exempt from tax including:

  • Clothing, footwear and certain accessories with a sales price of $100 or less per item;
  • Certain school supplies with a sales price of $50 or less per item;
  • Learning aids and jigsaw puzzles with a sales price of $30 or less; and
  • Personal computers and certain computer-related accessories with a sales price of $1,500 or less, when purchased for noncommercial home or personal use.

To learn more about the tax free holiday view the guidelines or the frequently asked questions.

Shop at the Campus store today. 

The Valencia EDGE Will Be Down

Monday, August 1, 2022

The Valencia EDGE will undergo updates from 8:30 p.m. on Friday, August 5, 2022, through 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 6, 2022, and will be unavailable for use during this time.

As part of a continuous improvement cycle, we work directly with the vendor to ensure improvement to the system and develop new features and options for our employees.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause, and we hope you enjoy your weekend.

Florida Includes Me Students Visit Downtown Campus

Monday, August 1, 2022

On Thursday, July 21, 2022, students from Florida Includes Me —  an organization committed to providing purposeful and meaningful support, opportunity, acceptance and respect in the community to individuals with autism and other unique abilities — visited Valencia College’s Downtown Campus.

Florida Includes Me regularly organizes field trips, career camps and skills training events for individuals with disabilities referred to their organization from Orange and Seminole County public schools. Some are current OCPS/SCPS students; some have aged out of high school and need guidance on becoming productive citizens.

The students toured the Walt Disney World Center for Culinary Arts and Hospitality and learned about the hospitality and culinary industries and Valencia’s career options. Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Craig Rapp and Coordinator, Career Program Advisor Rita Maldonado showed them the First Stop — also known as “Answer Center” at other Valencia campuses — and shared information about housing with the students who were wowed by the baking and pastry creations on display in the halls.

The group had an interactive chat, where they talked about the hospitality industry, shared our professional pathways and helped them understand that hospitality applies to many different places. The students were engaged in the conversation and asked many questions. Rita shared that one of the most significant comments came from a young lady who said, “I never thought about going to college. I don’t do very good in high school, so I don’t think college is for me.”

Craig shared his story of early academic challenges in high school, with success today of earning his doctorate degree, and Rita explained Valencia’s offerings, including the Accelerated Skills Training (AST) programs.

“I think that surprised her with the various options and provided some inspiration that she could be a Valencia student someday,” shared Rita.

Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Joanne Goodman taught them a “college lesson” to help them understand and experience what a college class would be like. A few who were very shy blossomed in that activity and got up in front of the class to share. A huge step for some of them!

Coordinator, Career Program Advisor Jennifer Bhagirath and Rita presented the program options, including certificates. Academic Advisor for Students With Disabilities Danielle Roberts also shared what her office does and how she helps students navigate the college system.

The Quantity Food Production III class, led by Professor of Culinary Management and Program Chair of the School of Culinary and Pastry Management Ken Bourgoin, provided lunch and dessert for the students.

Print Services Now Offered Collegewide

Monday, August 1, 2022

Need brochures, bound books, syllabi, tests, flyers or programs printed? Now, all Valencia College campuses can access printing services.

Located on the East Campus, the new VC Print Services department is a merger of the former East Campus Print and Design Center and the West Campus Word Processing Center. By centralizing operations in one location, the team can better serve all campuses.

The new team, led by Larry Fox, manager, courier services, includes Craig Oberg, lead reprographic equipment operator, and Melanie Thomas, staff assistant II.

Services include copying; printing of tests, quizzes, syllabi, flyers, brochures, large-format posters and binding; small-scale lamination and other services. VC Print Services will also print on certificates and invitations provided by the requestor

Please allow three business days for standard requests for processing, printing and delivery. Complex or large requests may require more time.

Requests received after 2 p.m. will be processed the next business day. Requests will be delivered by interoffice mail.

All printing will be charged to divisional/departmental budgets with prior approval of the budget manager. Individual department guidelines will be followed regarding large requests and color printing.

To place a Print Services request, click here. Have questions? Contact printservices@valenciacollege.edu or 407-582-2258.

Please note that VC Print Services no longer provides design services including, but not limited to, designs for use on posters, flyers, brochures or signage.

As a part of the redesign and to centralize and streamline services, Graphics Processing Specialist Whitly Charles Hamilton has joined the Organizational Communication team, and Graphics Processing Specialist Jonathan Perry has joined the Marketing team.

For communication and design requests for internal promotion, please complete and submit the Organizational Communication Creative Services Request Form. To communicate with an external audience, advertise, schedule photography or create a webpage, complete the Marketing Request Form.

To further assist you with your communication and design needs, our Marketing team has resources and branded templates, including Microsoft Office templates and more. Visit the Valencia College Brand Guidelines website and at the top of the page, select “Resources.” Here you’ll find templates for flyers, posters, brochures, certificates presentations, Zoom backgrounds and more.

College Update: July 2022 Board of Trustees Meeting

Friday, July 29, 2022

A Special Message from Kathleen Plinske, College President 

I hope this message finds you well and that you are enjoying the summer.  As I did in June, I’d like to continue the practice of sharing key items from this month’s meeting of our Board of Trustees. At its annual organizational meeting on Thursday, July 28, 2022, the board re-elected Daisy López-Cid as chair and Beth Smith as vice chair, as well as Tracey Stockwell as the Board of Trustee’s liaison to the Valencia College Foundation Board of Directors.

The board members then engaged in a full-day workshop in which they reviewed the College’s mission statement, learned more about the demographics of our students and employees, heard about the impact of the pandemic on student learning and student outcomes, received an overview of federal financial aid and learned about the initial strategies our governance councils plan to pursue in order to make progress toward the bold and ambitious goals of our Strategic Impact Plan. They also provided me feedback on my goals for the upcoming year and reviewed their self-evaluation. We are very fortunate that our trustees are deeply committed to the College’s mission and passionate about our strategic goals. You can learn more about them and their impressive professional backgrounds online.

I encourage you to review the presentations that our Senior Team shared with the board — they are all available online. In fact, I’d love to hear your response to one of the questions that we asked our trustees at the end of each presentation: “What did you find particularly interesting or surprising?” Feel free to drop me a note by email if you have an observation or insight you’d like to share — I’d love to hear from you.

Student Spotlight

Earlier this week I had the privilege of meeting Torrell Wright, a student in our Residential Maintenance Technician program at our Northwest Orlando Center for Accelerated Training. A graduate of Ocoee High School, Torrell shared that he attended a university for one semester, but realized he wasn’t ready to go away to college and returned home. Since then, he had been working at Starbucks and doing handyman jobs with his uncle. He shared that he didn’t really have a plan for his career until he saw our program advertised as he was scrolling on Facebook. Upon reflection, he realized that a career in the trades appealed to him. He connected with CareerSource Central Florida and received full tuition support to participate in the 10-week program. When I met him the day before he officially graduated from the program, Torrell already had three full-time job offers, all with benefits and at least one that offered discounted rent.

I met Torrell as part of a visit by the Under Secretary of the United States Department of Education, James Kvaal. Secretary Kvaal was interested in learning more about our Accelerated Skills Training (AST) programs and had the opportunity to hear Torrell’s story. As part of the visit, we expressed our desire for our AST programs to become eligible for federal financial aid, such as Pell grants. Because of the compressed nature of the programs, they currently do not meet federal program length requirements to be eligible for aid. However, we are confident that the success of these programs, as evidenced by program completion rates and students’ ability to find high-wage careers immediately after graduation, represents compelling evidence for the consideration of these programs for Pell eligibility. Federal financial aid eligibility would significantly expand access to these accelerated career pathways to many more in our community.

Left: Torrell meeting Secretary Kvaal, with Lesley Frederick, vice president, student affairs, looking on.
Right: Torrell with Isis Artze-Vega, college provost and vice president, academic affairs, participating in the roundtable discussion with Secretary Kvaal

Stories like Torrell’s are one of the reasons why I am so passionate about our Career Credentials goal in our Strategic Impact Plan. We are so proud of Torrell and can’t wait to see what is next for him on his journey!

Looking Ahead to Fall

As our faculty members prepare for their August break, I wanted to share that we are planning several opportunities to connect with colleagues when you return for fall. Academic Assembly will be held in the morning on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. You will have a choice of participating in-person at the East Campus Performing Arts Center,  in the “overflow” seating … which always fills first, or online. More details will be provided as we get closer to the date.

Then, on Thursday, August 18, 2022, our campuses will host Welcome Back Bashes. Please stay tuned for more details including the time and location at your campus. If you do not report directly to a campus, you are more than welcome to attend the events at any of our campuses.

Finally, on Friday, August 19, 2022, we will host a collegewide Fall Kick-Off from 8- 9 a.m. via Zoom. One of the lessons we learned during the pandemic was the power of all employees — faculty and staff — coming together as a college before the academic year begins, and this virtual event will continue this new tradition. It will also provide an opportunity for you to learn more about the exciting and critically important work we have ahead of us this year.

To our faculty — I wish you a restful and relaxing break. To our staff — thank you for your continued efforts to serve our students as we prepare to welcome many more back to our campuses this fall.

Save the Date and Get Ready for Academic Assembly

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Save the date and get ready for Academic Assembly!

You are invited to attend Academic Assembly as faculty and academic leadership gather to kick off the 2022-2023 academic year and prepare to welcome our students. This annual assembly is a chance to recharge, recognize good work, unite and learn about the strategic focus for the year.

New this year: Academic Assembly will be held on Wednesday instead of Thursday. And, for the first time since 2019, we will be back in person on the East Campus, in the Performing Arts Center, for this annual event. Details are below:

Date: Wednesday, August 17, 2022

8:30 a.m. Light Continental Breakfast (Black Box Theater)
9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Program

East Campus
Performing Arts Center (PAC)
701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando, FL 32825

Academic Assembly will also be streamed via Zoom.

Plan to join this annual gathering of our learning community from all of our campuses and locations as we kick start the new academic year. Additional program details will be shared as they become available.

Welcome Back events will take place on Thursday, August 18, 2022, with a new collegewide Academic Kick-off Zoom call on Friday, August 19, 2022. Click here for more information.

In Case You Missed It: The June Faculty Insight

Thursday, July 28, 2022

A Message from the Office of Organizational Communication 

Since we sent your last Faculty Insight on Thursday, June 30, 2022, we’ve received reports that not all faculty members received the issue in their inbox. The June issue included some important articles including:

  • An announcement of our newly tenured professors;
  • A Faculty Highlight on Professor of Criminal Justice Technology Susan Yawn, who shares a variety of techniques to encourage her students to actively take part in class;
  • Information on housing available for students at the Downtown Campus;
  • The June 2022 Faculty Governance Update in which Faculty Association President Michael Robbins reflected on a recent professional development opportunity and policy and procedure in the classroom; and
  • A recap of Destination 2022, which encouraged discussions on educational equity and mitigating toxic stress.

If you missed the June 2022 Faculty Insight, view it here.

Individual Freedom and Educational Discrimination: New Resources for Faculty

Thursday, July 28, 2022

A Message from Isis Artze-Vega, Provost and Vice President, Academic Affairs and Michael Robbins, Outgoing President, Collegewide Faculty Association

State legislation known as House Bill 7 — in effect since Friday, July 1, 2022 — amends two Florida non-discrimination laws applicable to Valencia College.

The legislature’s stated purpose in adopting this law was to prohibit coercing students and employees to adopt particular beliefs. We are prohibited from espousing, promoting, advancing, inculcating or compelling anyone to believe any of eight specified concepts. Here are two examples of those concepts:

  • “Members of one race, color, national origin or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin or sex.”
  • “A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin or sex bears responsibility for or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin or sex.”

As with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, Valencia is committed to observing these new legal requirements and assisting members of our academic community in understanding how these amended laws may affect us. At the same time, we maintain our commitment to the attainment of our ambitious Impact Plan goals.

To both assist with compliance and support our faculty as they continue to engage with students and one another on topics and competencies associated with educational equity, a “flash team” was commissioned in late June to develop resources. Composed of faculty and administrators, supported by legal counsel and Faculty Development, the team worked swiftly to develop Understanding HB 7: A Guide for Faculty and Deans, a comprehensive guide consisting of the following components:

  • Explanation of the Changes in Law — a detailed description of the changes, including our best understanding of each of the eight concepts.
  • Frequently Asked Questions and Answers — responses to commonly asked questions from faculty and deans related to the recording provision of the legislation.
  • Recommended Teaching Practices — guidance on facilitating conversations while complying with the law.
  • Sample Syllabus Language — recommendations for faculty members who would like to update their course syllabi in light of this legislation.
  • Additional Resources

Click here the button below to access the guide.

We will continue to update these resources throughout the academic year. Please contact your dean if you have questions or need additional support.