Heith Hennel, professor of information technology: lightboards to light the way to the future

This is the second in our series introducing this year’s endowed chairs. 

This year’s winner of Valencia Foundation’s Dr. P. Phillips Foundation Chair in Free Enterprise wants to build heith-hennel09lightboards for his students: “I am really interested in seeing how technology can be leveraged to increase business efficiency and produce better products, as well as making our daily lives easier to manage.”

Great, you say. What’s a lightboard?

Professor Hennel explains, “Imagine an invisible board between you and your students. You teach facing your students. They see you and somehow everything you write hangs in the air, magically inverted so it is readable from their perspective. You can even project and interact with content on the invisible board between you.

“In information technology, there is more and more pressure to flip learning. The lightboard is the cutting edge tool teachers can use to produce flipped content. In fact, it is so new that it can’t even be bought in stores; it has to be built. Currently, only a handful of universities have it.”

Hennel’s view is that “Valencia should be a leader in bringing this technology to community colleges.” He’d like to create a lightboard challenge—similar to the “Ice Bucket challenge”—to challenge teachers in other disciplines to create cutting-edge, flipped content for their classrooms and students.

He intends to partner with Valencia’s Circles of Innovation team to spread the word about the technology and invite others to create flipped content via a lightboard challenge. “As teachers use the device and record their own flipped content, they will be able to openly challenge colleagues and friends at the college to use the tool to create their own flipped learning content. The Circles of Innovation team has indicated that they would like to feature this work on the Circle of Innovation Website and possibly even do a Circles of Innovation session around the topic.”

Rio Teachers

Professor Hennel, in Rio de Janeiro.

The entire goal here is to ensure that our current courses in Information Technology are kept up to date.

Hennel explains, “As more and more schools and programs move to online, hybrid and flipped content, we need to stay ahead of the curve. This tool will help provide teaching in a new way that will better engage today’s learners. But this tool doesn’t only benefit students in IT; the challenge will open up the technology to teachers across the college and across disciplines.”

An enthusiastic UK basketball fan, Professor Hennel was born in Lexington, KY. He served in the US Navy from 1994 to 1999. His master’s degree is from the University of Maryland, and he also holds two graduate certificates from the University of Illinois in systems security and information assurance. His wife, Teresa, was his high school sweetheart and he has two children, Sydney, 5, and McKenzie, 8.

“I am really interested in internationalizing the curriculum across disciplines to see how we can create a great global experience for our students. I am also really interested in providing students with a chance to experience another culture while studying abroad.  I will be taking students to London this year.  In past years, I have taken students to Barcelona, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janiero and the Dominican Republic.”

Professor Hennel has been teaching at Valencia since August 2003.



Start FIT at Lake Nona

BSLM Promo 2

Florida Tech is now offering a Bachelor’s degree in Logistics Management for students with an AA or AS! Classes accommodate working professionals by meeting once a week from 5:30-8:30pm at Valencia’s Lake Nona Campus. For more information, visit FIT.edu/LakeNona or contact Lauren Remenick at lremenick@fit.edu.

Endowed chairs at Valencia: Olga Vazquez, M.S., and the Health Academy

This is first in a series about the professors who recently were awarded endowed chairs at Valencia College.

Olga Vazquez


Olga Vazquez, professor of biology, spends a lot of her time hanging around fifth graders.

No, that’s not how she spends her free time, although with a 9-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl at home, one could be forgiven for thinking that was a possibility.

Actually, it’s a big part of her Valencia Foundation endowed chair project.

Armed with a bachelor of science, and a master’s in microbiology and molecular biology from UCF, Professor Vazquez heads up the Health Academy, an educational awareness program designed to supplement the fifth graders’ biology content. It includes learning about healthy lifestyles and gives students a chance to get excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers.

The project particulars include taking Valencia College student volunteers to mentor Lawton Chiles Elementary School children. Vazquez says she chose fifth graders, not only because she was following the guidelines of the Anatomy Academy at UCLA, but also because kids of that age are “mature enough to grasp the biology content behind the activities while being conscious enough to influence their families.”

Twitter screen shot of the opening of Health Academy

Twitter screen shot of the opening of Health Academy


The Valencia students teach the LCE students about making healthy food choices, and inspire them to consider STEM, allied health, or education careers. The elementary students will share their newfound knowledge with family and community members.

They’ll also develop anatomy and physiology hands-on activities.

Part of the hoped-for outcome is to use the experience to encourage education majors at Valencia to become STEM teachers “by training them in the fields of anatomy and physiology,” Vazquez says. In addition, they’ll learn how to work with youngsters.

The Health Academy mirrors the Anatomy Academy, which was founded by Jonathan Wisco at UCLA (now with Brigham Young University), she says. He developed the idea of teaching fifth graders nutrition and health.

Wisco’s work inspired Vazquez to reach out to her community and teach science at the same time. She expanded the original activities to call it Health Academy. This is the first such organization of its kind in Florida.

This is Vazquez’s second term with her project. She still keeps in touch with several of the mentors from last spring—three are interested in participating again. She plans to continue Health Academy for several more terms and to expand the project to additional elementary schools.

One memorable experience from last year includes a student who, after seeing the difference between smokers’ lungs and non-smoker’s lungs, was immediately encouraged his grandmother to stop smoking.

Prof. Vazquez is married to Rafael Vazquez and has two children in elementary and middle school. Her children have both attended Lawton Chiles. She has been teaching at Valencia since 2008.

The Health Academy

Valencia Alumni Volunteer Spotlight

Harry Halstead

Become a mentor and give back!


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