Provost Update — May 2019

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, Executive Vice President and Provost

Update on Degree Pathways

Earlier this spring, the Learning Council commissioned a work team to develop a single tool for students to help them identify the courses in which they should enroll, not only to meet graduation requirements at Valencia College, but also to meet program prerequisites and requirements for their intended baccalaureate programs.

Because nearly 75% of Associate in Arts (A.A.) graduates from Valencia who continue their education do so at the University of Central Florida (UCF), the work team has decided to focus its initial efforts on a “Phase I Tool” that would provide information to prepare students for baccalaureate programs specifically at UCF. Future phases of the work will contemplate how to best communicate baccalaureate requirements at other institutions, including at Valencia.

The team hosted several regional and online forums this month to solicit input about the proposed tool, and more than 150 faculty and staff participated. Thanks to their feedback, the degree pathways work team has developed the following design principles for the “Phase I Tool.”

The tool, a static document which will be housed in the college catalog, should:

  1. Clarify, specify and demystify academic pathways;
  2. Facilitate student planning, including timing (when to take what) and financial planning;
  3. Advance students’ actual and perceived readiness for transfer;
  4. Explicitly/transparently communicate that select grants cannot be used past the completion of the A.A., yet other forms of financial aid may be available;
  5. Account for pre-requisite courses beyond 60 college-level credits;
  6. Support students’ independent planning (vs. assume collaboration with advisor);
  7. Support students in fostering/regaining the sense of disciplinary identity generated by terms like “pre-major”;
  8. Help students avoid accumulation of excess credit hours;
  9. Include only courses explicitly required by UCF as outlined in its catalog; and
  10. Work synergistically with the degree audit.

The team has also started thinking about possible names for the tool (which will be shared with students for their input) and working on a framework and communication plan. They will share their recommendations at an upcoming Learning Council meeting for approval.

If you have any questions or would like to provide additional input about the design principles, please email Isis Artze-Vega, vice president, academic affairs, at or Sonya Joseph, associate vice president, enrollment management, at

Faculty Fellow for Sustainability

We are looking for a full-time faculty member to serve in a new faculty fellow role focused on sustainability in the curriculum. The faculty fellow for sustainability will work with the Office of Faculty and Instructional Development to create, implement and enhance collegewide faculty development opportunities that support the integration of sustainability in the curriculum and co-curriculum. The fellow will work within a team to foster a community of practice for sustainability that supports all faculty members as they expand their professional practices and examine their ongoing development in sustainability-focused topics within the seven Essential Competencies of a Valencia Educator. The faculty fellow should have demonstrated success in teaching and collaboration, with a deep understanding of sustainability and the Essential Competencies of a Valencia Educator. To support the work, the faculty fellow will receive a six-credit hour reassigned time for the fall 2019 and spring 2020 terms; travel among campuses should be expected.

Tenured faculty, tenure-track faculty who have completed the fourth year of the Teaching/Learning Academy, or annually appointed faculty are welcome to apply. Please first speak with your dean to discuss your interest and obtain approval prior to applying, and then submit your expression of interest to Shara Lee, campus director, faculty and instructional development, by Friday, June 14, 2019. Your expression of interest, in a few paragraphs, should explain why you are interested in this role and describe how your qualifications align with the faculty fellow for sustainability expectations and required experiences. Interviews with candidates will be held the week of June 17, 2019. Please contact Shara at with any questions.

Disney Aspire and Online Degree Pilot

You may have heard of the Disney Aspire program that supports full-time and part-time hourly cast members in their pursuit of educational opportunities at network institutions, which include Valencia. There is significant interest among Disney cast members to have the opportunity to complete their degrees online; while any student already can, theoretically, complete all of the course requirements for an A.A. degree online, Valencia has not yet designed a fully online degree program. Our Disney Aspire partnership represents a unique opportunity to pilot a thoughtfully designed experience that would allow students to complete an A.A. degree fully online, including having access to all of our support services, without physically coming to a campus. We are working for a launch of the pilot in fall 2019 — stay tuned for more updates. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to Wendi Dew, assistant vice president, teaching and learning, with any questions at

The Power of Personal Connection

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to celebrate with nearly 2,000 of our graduates at our commencement ceremonies. You can review highlights from the day via our online photo album. It is always magical to be with our students as they experience such a deep sense of joy and accomplishment as they walk across the stage to celebrate their remarkable achievement at commencement.

Two of our alumni who graduated in previous years recently were highlighted for their tremendous accomplishments:

  • Angel Sánchez, who was Valencia’s 2014 Distinguished Graduate and a recipient of the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship, is currently attending law school at the University of Miami. Angel recently published a powerful essay, which recounts his experiences growing up and the challenges he faced after leaving prison, in the “Harvard Law Review.”
  • Victor Rodríguez was celebrated as UCF’s 50,000th graduate. Victor graduated from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and will continue his studies at Carnegie Mellon University to earn a Ph.D. in engineering public policy. Prior to enrolling at UCF, Victor earned an associate degree from Valencia and participated in our Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Bridges to Baccalaureate program.

As I reflected on these students’ very different stories, a common element emerged: both students made a personal connection with an individual at Valencia whom they credit with significantly shaping the course of their future trajectory. Generally, when we ask alumni about what made the biggest difference to them in their experience at Valencia, they don’t cite a building, a technology tool or a textbook — they name a person. They name someone who took the time to get to know them as individuals, helped them to recognize their own potential and helped them navigate our systems. It’s powerful to think of the impact we can have collectively when we recognize that any one of us can be that person for our students.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

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