Deborah Howard, professor of mathematics

D HowardAnother in our series of endowed chairs.

Deborah Howard, professor of mathematics, is using her Lockheed Martin Chair in Mathematics to remove “barriers to success using mindset interventions.”

She says “Student success in gateway mathematics courses depends as much on attitudes and beliefs as it does on content knowledge. Many students believe that they are either inherently good or bad at math. Many claim they have had negative experiences with math by expressing two statements: ‘Math is useless in my life,’ and ‘I can’t do math.’”

She believes that implementing social-psychological interventions can empower students to overcome these barriers.

Professor Howard’s goal with the award is to build connections with external researchers with expertise in psychological interventions (i.e. mindset and utility value), so she can learn how to best train gateway math faculty to apply these interventions with Valencia’s gateway math students.

“Mindset research by Carol Dweck has found that by teaching people that the brain’s ability to grow and adapt—like a muscle—means that you can actually train it to improve intelligence and skill. This research has resulted in increased performance among students and closing of achievement gaps between race and ethnicity. Additionally, Chris Hulleman and his colleagues (Utility Value Study) have found that when students are asked to reflect on the usefulness of their class material, it actually increases their performance and interest in the course.”

She plans to bring in external researchers to work with her and other front door mathematics educators to learn together about how to make use of these strategies at Valencia. The researcher will work with Valencia’s team by collecting data, creating a continuous implement cycle on how and when they should deliver these interventions.

The opportunity to influence student outcomes (i.e. decreasing course drop rates, increasing math interest, and increasing gateway mathematics course success rates) through the researcher-practitioner collaboration will be the highlight of this project. “The mindset and utility value interventions will provide us with the opportunity to facilitate potentially life-changing psychological interventions for our Valencia front-door mathematics students. For me, the potential to help Valencia College mathematics students with the opportunity to overcome past academic / psychological barriers is the first step forward in their academic and life pursuits.”

Ms. Howard was born in Sanford, Florida, and received her MS in Mathematical Sciences from UCF. Married to Vince Howard, she has two daughters. She has been with Valencia’s math faculty since 1994. She teaches at the east campus.

 

For more information on the group grant, see also http://bit.ly/1T1W63z (Valencia college’s blog post on the grant itself.)

Christy Cheney—professor of student life skills and Jocelyn Morales—counselor

Christy Cheney and Jocelyn Morales are using their University Club of Orlando Chair in Humanities to defray the costs of study abroad for students (and counselors) in The Uncommon Scholar: REACH Study Abroad 2016 – Italy program.

The REACH (Reaching Each Academic Challenge Head On) program is a cohort-based learning community at the Osceola campus designed to support and guide students through their first 21 college credit hours. Students are nominated by their high school counselors because they demonstrate the work ethic and desire to succeed in academics, but require college readiness skills and support to begin their college career. Most REACH students question if college is right for them and are typically the first in their families to pursue a college degree.

“While certainly many of our students face financial challenges in earning a college degree, a study abroad experience benefits REACH students on a greater level as they have not only had to overcome financial barriers, but also academic obstacles, as well,” says Professor Cheney. Through integrated lessons, co-curricular programs, and fundraising for the Osceola community, students build strong connections with faculty, classmates, and the learning support service providers to help them succeed in college.

The REACH experience continues to be an invaluable opportunity for students who didn’t think college was an option for them. The Valencia Foundation Board will provide students with additional scholarship funds to experience globalized learning through a study abroad program to Italy in 2016 with an experienced Counselor to provide strategies to address personal challenges and support throughout the study abroad program.

We will provide REACH students with the opportunity to experience globalized learning through the study abroad program to Italy in July, 2016. Through Service Learning or Humanities, students will earn college credit while immersing themselves in the rich cultural contributions of Italy.

The vast majority of REACH students are the first in their family to attend college, and are on financial aid with minimal exposure to life outside of Osceola County. An opportunity to travel abroad is a dream that seems unattainable due to financial challenges, as well as having the experience to be away from their families. The endowed chair will fund additional scholarship dollars to support financial need as well as support a Valencia counselor to assist students in adjusting and acclimating to the global experience.

Prior to traveling, REACH students and the traveling counselor will participate in required meetings to discuss expectations and concerns, and learn about how to transition to the culture/country of Italy. Students will reflect through journal writing to share pre-departure plans on preparing for their trip as well as throughout their trip. Through journal reflections, students will be able to express their excitement, fears and new experiences with the support of the SLS and counselor. Faculty will participate in on going open-discussions before, during and after the study abroad experience to ensure full support and guidance for all REACH students.

Professor Cheney teaches the New Student Experience course. She says “I will have built strong connections and relationships with REACH students in the fall of 2015; therefore, my role in addition to Jocelyn’s role will help students to successfully adjust and study abroad.”

Professor Cheney teaches at the Osceola campus. She has worked with REACH students since 2010.

Ms. Morales teaches at the east campus, where she has worked with REACH students for approximately 20 years.

Robert McCaffrey—professor of digital media technology

rob_blackProfessor Rob McCaffrey is using the Sue Luzadder Chair in Communications endowment to purchase integrated media touchscreens to assist students who want to use the technology to write journalistic stories and produce video content in support…and then have a medium through which to produce it.

The Digital Media program has been working with colleagues in Communications on ways to update the classes in which our students produce periodic articles on current events (formerly ‛College Newspaper’). In spring, 2015, we began a special topics course called ‛Integrated Media Production,’ in which the students are required to write journalistic stories and produce photos, audio and videos to help support the written articles.

“I will use this endowed chair to purchase interactive touch screen monitors that could be placed on stands around campus to display this journalistic work. The ultimate goal would be to eventually have a permanent outlet for the writing and media created by students, as well as strengthen the campus community by creating a reliable source of local news,” says Professor McCaffrey.

As part of this project, Professor McCaffrey will also work to fully understand the workflow for producing content for interactive touchscreens.

The money from the chair would be used to purchase one or more large-format, interactive monitors, such as would pinapple_shootallow viewers to call up specific content, turn audio on or off, or interact with content like 3D digital maps or simple games. These monitors could be mounted for temporary display on stands, or (working first with OIT, plant operations, marketing and the campus president’s office) could be permanently mounted around campus. The screens would be used to loop current student articles and media projects. Content would originally be created by students in digital media classes, but the intent would be to eventually have content from any applicable communications or media production course added to the screens.

His goal will be to have the screens in place around campus by end of summer 2016, and at least 30 minutes of high-quality, student-produced, topical content installed on the monitors. “I’ll assess the success of the learning by the quality of the writing and media I’m able to get students to produce, and by whether the faculty, staff and students in my program area have learned how to produce effective content for touchscreens.”

He adds, “I teach in a media production area and have used social media sites for years to display student content. It’s useful to inspire students by showing off their work on a world-wide platform like

YouTube, but those platforms must be sought out, and often students don’t get to see how their work is received by the people around them. By having a local outlet for student-produced projects on campus, it’s my hope that students will be further inspired and pushed to do even higher-quality work, knowing that what they produce might be shown on-campus and that they might become personally known for what they are producing.”  One of their outlets currently is a blog.

Professor McCaffrey is the program director for Digital Media (for the past seven years or so), and last year taught a pilot class of Integrated Media Production—a mixture of College Newspaper and media production classes. Courses met synchronously on East and West Campuses and communicated with each other using Google Hangouts for real-time video conferencing and Trello boards for online organization of story pitches, research, writing and publication.

He teaches primarily at the east campus and is the faculty advisor for interns in the digital media program.

 

 

Steve Cunningham, professor of EAP

SteveCunninghamPictureThe professor of English as a Second Language for Academic Purposes (EAP) at Valencia College’s Osceola Campus is using his Tupperware Corporation Chair in Community Quality to bring in a visiting Brazilian artist: Clovis Junior.

The artist is well-known in Brazil for his outstanding use of vivid colors, painting scenes that depict Brazilian folk heroes, and for the use of the cashew fruit in his paintings. The cashew tree is native to the northeastern region of Brazil where the artist lives.  It is a large spreading tree that is rapidly losing its habitat to development.  Clovis strives to raise awareness of this issue by including a depiction of the cashew fruit in each of his works.

“I feel strongly that bringing art into a community improves the quality of life,” says Professor Cunningham.clovis

This project will accomplish this in three ways:

  1. Clovis will exhibit his paintings on both the Osceola and West Campuses during the week of February 22-26, 2016.  The exact dates and locations are yet to be determined.
  2. Clovis will give an art class at Central Avenue Elementary School. During this class, the elementary school students will work with the artist to complete their own painting. Both Clovis and the student will sign their paintings. In addition to having a healthy dose of creativity during the class, the students will also be exposed to Brazilian culture and learn a few phrases in Portuguese.
  3. Clovis will leave one of his paintings for the Valencia Foundation to be auctioned at the next Taste for Learning.  The proceeds of the sale will go to student scholarships.

clovis-junior-540x432As well, “the artist will interact with our partners in the Brazilian community, and students in Valencia’s art, humanities, and foreign language programs, who will act as local guides and volunteer translators,” adds Cunningham.

This year, Professor Cunningham completed his 15th year at Valencia College as a full-time professor of EAP.  He received tenure in 2003.

He received his bachelor’s degree in Paper Engineering at Western Michigan University and his master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language at Michigan State University.  He has also taken classes at the University of Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia.  More recently, he has studied the Portuguese language at PUC in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and at UFOP in Ouro Preto, Brazil.

Professor Cunningham teaches at the Osceola campus.

Steve Myers–professor of biology

 

Steve Myers with...a cobra.

Steve Myers with…a cobra.

The title of this piece almost ended up “Steve Myers, professor of biology and world traveler extraordinaire.” He’s been to India, Guyana…

Steve Myers is using his Valencia Foundation Board Chair for Interdisciplinary Studies to explore South Asia with an eye toward learning more about its biodiversity. “South Asia” he says, “is a biodiverse area with a large human population. The Western Ghats of India is a well-known ecological hot spot, home to eighty-four amphibian species, sixteen bird species, seven mammals,” and 1,600 flowering plant species, all of which are unique to the area, and found nowhere else on earth.

Let that sink in for a moment. All of these species are unique to this area.

“The conservation and preservation of this unique area is of global importance. Students would benefit from observing conservation efforts used by researchers at the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS) in a field biology setting. They would have the opportunity to explore and understand the hurdles of conservation in a developing country, how those differ from regulations in the states and abroad, and what effect such governance has on the ability to sustain and preserve these endemic species.”

During his next study abroad project, Myers hopes to research policies and procedures used for preservation and

Steve Myers helps students...with a crocodile? No danger here...

Steve Myers helps students…with a crocodile.

proliferation in India, and with help from his traveling students, compare them with those of the developed world, “and explore how sharing and adapting these ideas may serve to help us all, globally.” He continues, “being that global sustainability is at the forefront of our environmental concerns, I feel it is important to explore cross cultural differences between our conservation practices and those of the western world with those of the developing world.”

His project is planned for March 3–15, 2016 in Chennai, India.

In the past, his travels have taken him to other parts of India, Guyana and Venezuela. His students have gone on to work in the field of conservation and field biology.  He has also several students go on to participate in various research programs, internships and apprenticeship programs at colleges throughout the US and abroad.

“My hope is to inspire students to think about the world around them, how our actions affect nature, and what steps we can take to preserve the environments around us,” says Myers.

Professor Myers teaches at the East campus.

 

TEDxOrlandoSalon, register now!

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Don’t miss our first TEDxOrlandoSalon at 
Valencia’s Winter Park Campus!
Thursday, December 10th

 6:30-9pm

What talks will be on the program? This months TEDxOrlandoSalon attendees will vote to view two talks from the following curated selection:

  • Jennifer Doudna: We can now edit our DNA, let’s do it wisely
  • Melissa Fleming: A boat carrying 500 refugees sunk at sea: the story of two survivors
  • Genevieve von Petzinger: Why are these 32 symbols found in caves all over Europe?
  • Josh Luber: The secret sneaker market and why it matters
  • Carl Safina: What are animals thinking and feeling?
*Please note that Salon events do not feature live speakers; the focus is on participation in conversation and discussion.

Laura Sessions–professor of chemistry

Our latest in our series about endowed chairs at Valencia this year.

 

“HoDr. Laura Sessionsw can we prepare students for the challenges of STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) careers?” This is the question Professor Laura Sessions asked while creating “meaningful internship experiences” at the Lake Nona campus with her Lockheed Martin Chair in Science this year.

She adds “I am currently interested in improving the learning experience for students in the science laboratory. The Lockheed Martin Chair in Science 2015-16 has allowed me to investigate best practices for training students in research skills and to create an internship program for a first cohort of five students in spring 2016.”

The intent of this program is to help students better understand the process of science, and the mindset and skills required to do research. Students will receive training in key laboratory skills through interaction with faculty members, through the use of tutorials, and, ultimately, by addressing a research question. Students with these skill sets are more likely to find internships in research labs.

Students will be able to attend the Florida Academy of Sciences Conference on March 19-21, 2016 at the University of South Florida, thanks to funding from the Lockheed Martin Chair in Science from the Valencia Foundation.

 

“One student, Shannon Finner, has already been working in the laboratory with me this fall. She is optimizing

Dr. Sessions and Assistantship Student Shannon Finner Discuss an Infrared Spectrum in the Lake Nona Chemistry laboratory, fall 2015.

Dr. Sessions and Assistantship Student Shannon Finner Discuss an Infrared Spectrum in the Lake Nona Chemistry laboratory, fall 2015.

the recrystallization solvent for purifying a Diels-Alder adduct that students make in the Organic Chemistry 1 class at Lake Nona’s campus.”

Dr. Sessions adds, “In the long term, I hope to create a sustainable program for scientific inquiry by students at the Lake Nona campus. I would like to create an interdisciplinary team, bringing together students and faculty from chemistry, biology, and our new biotech program, so that students can experience authentic scientific research and leave Valencia with real world skills.”

Dr. Sessions is professor of chemistry at the Lake Nona campus.  She was born and raised in Winter Park,and attended the University of Florida, obtaining a B.S. in Chemistry with a minor in French. Dr. Sessions then attended Dartmouth College, where she studied organic polymer synthesis and nanoparticles. After receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Sessions was very happy to move back to warm, sunny Florida. She taught as an adjunct at Palm Beach Community College (now Palm Beach State College) for three years while performing various duties for the South Florida Science Museum including science educator, grant writer, and, eventually, education director. Dr. Sessions joined the full-time faculty at Valencia College in 2010 and successfully completed the tenure track in 2014.

Dr. Sessions is married to Dr. Hampton Sessions, also a chemist, who studies medicinal chemistry at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in Lake Nona.  They have two adorable children: Evelyn, aged 5 and Henry, aged 3.