Provost Update: January 2021

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, Executive Vice President and Provost

As we enter the last week of January, I would like to echo Dr. Shugart’s kudos and gratitude for your support of our students’ learning and success. I am struck by the number of December graduates who have reached out to express their appreciation for the College’s support during this difficult time. One graduate reflected on having taken her first class at Valencia College back in 1994 and marveled at finally completing her degree in the middle of a pandemic; another shared that she had lost her mom and was about to give up until she received a College email that created a sense of personal connection that gave her the courage to continue. It is clear that your efforts, big and small, make a huge difference in the lives of our students.

I am honored to have been selected as Valencia College’s fifth president and am excited to have the opportunity to continue to serve our students and community with you. Between now and July 1, 2021, I look forward to continuing to serve as executive vice president and provost and campus president of the Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campuses. This spring brings a number of opportunities to collaboratively design our future: we must plan for the summer and fall semesters as we begin to imagine emerging from the pandemic; we will continue to invest in initiatives underway to support our pursuit of equitable outcomes; we will apply what we have learned during the last year to reimagine our institution to meet our students’ and community’s post-COVID needs; and, beginning this week, each of us is invited to contribute to the development of our Institutional Plans that will describe our strategies for reaching the bold goals we have identified in our Strategic Impact Plan.

This type of work is where Valencia shines. I look forward to engaging our discipline of collaborative design to intentionally include your voice in creating the best possible future for our students, colleagues and community. And, while many of us find this work exhilarating and exciting, I also recognize that moving toward the unknown can also create anxiety, particularly in the larger context of the challenges that each of us is facing. Nevertheless, I am confident that we will emerge stronger, together.

Feedback on Organizational Structure and Campus President Searches
When Dr. Shugart announced his retirement, his original timeline, understandably so, called for conducting campus president searches this spring. Many of us are craving stability in this time of uncertainty, and the selection of campus leaders would help us move in that direction. I also personally feel a sense of urgency about finding the next campus president of the Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campuses before I begin my new role.

At the same time, I can make a strong case for delaying the search timeline. First, we have talented interim leaders who are providing stability and thoughtful leadership. Second, we already have our plates full this spring; multiple campus president searches would require significant, additional institutional and individual bandwidth. Third, as we reimagine our institution in a post-COVID world, we may wish to consider a different organizational structure, including my current position of executive vice president and provost.

In the interview process, I committed to listening with “new ears” if selected to serve as president. While I have not officially begun in the new role, I am eager to begin the process of listening and gathering your perspectives, insights, and feedback, particularly before making significant organizational decisions, such as launching searches for campus presidents.

If your schedule allows, I invite you to join me at an upcoming virtual town hall to share your thoughts about our academic organizational structure and the timing of our campus president searches. Dates and times for the town halls are as follows:

Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Time:  4 – 5 p.m.
Location: Zoom

Date: Friday, January 29, 2021
Time: 9 – 10 a.m.
Location: Zoom

Date: Monday, February 1, 2021
Time: 12 – 1 p.m.
Location: Zoom

If these dates/times do not work for you, please reach out and I’d be happy for us to set up a Zoom call or, as always, I also welcome your thoughts by email. Over the next several weeks, I will also meet with Faculty Council leadership, deans, our current interim campus leaders, and other members of Senior Team to gather additional input. I’ll share an update based on these conversations before the end of February.

Timeline for Developing the Summer Course Schedule
Many of us are eager to know what the summer and fall terms will look like at Valencia; the picture should become clearer by Spring Break. Maintaining our focus on our two key priorities of the health and safety of our students, employees, and community, as well as providing for continuity of student learning, our Conditions to Reopen Team and Senior Team continue to seek guidance from Orlando Health in order to make a recommendation about which phase of our Roadmap for Reopening would be most appropriate for the summer term. Our Course Schedule Design Team, composed primarily of faculty and deans and who crafted the recommendations for our fall and spring course schedule, will meet in early February to make a recommendation to Senior Team about the Summer Course Schedule. You can expect to hear more about our plans for summer by the last week of February.

Opportunities to Recognize Outstanding Students
Our Office of Alumni Relations is looking for your help to identify the 2021 Mary S. Collier Distinguished Graduate. The deadline for students to apply is Friday, January 29, 2021. If you know students who have graduated in summer 2020 or fall 2020 or will graduate in spring 2021 and who inspire our mission, who tell our story, and would empower others to overcome whatever challenges they face, please encourage them to apply.

Additionally, the Valencia College Black Advisory Committee (BAC) is seeking applications for the 2021 BAC Incentive Awards and the Eula Pearl Jenkins Scholarship. Both opportunities seek to honor with financial support students who highlight Black voices and stories, who may be involved in social justice and equity initiatives, and who have achieved academic success despite adverse circumstances. The BAC welcomes faculty and staff nominations as well as self-nominations from students. I encourage you to share this opportunity with your students and consider submitting a nomination of a deserving student. Nominations are due by Friday, March 5, 2021.

I hope that you are taking good care and staying safe, healthy, and well.  As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with your thoughts, questions, comments, or concerns.

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