Karen Cowden, professor of reading and EAP, and team, “Hands on Accessibility”

Dr. Cowden’s team has been working via the William C. Demetree Jr. Foundation Chair in Education for Special Needs. This project resulted in the “Hands-On Accessibility” workshop, offered in three sessions to full and part time faculty/staff. Additionally, they created the “Accessibility Advisory Group” in partnership with Dr. Deborah Larew, Director of Office of Students with Disabilities, which now has made in-roads with college-wide policy to have two full-time captionists on staff, and a required “Intro to Accessibility” course for all employees.

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“Hands-on Accessibility” means that faculty and staff were able to come to a campus-based session hosted in the computer lab and work on their syllabi, tests, quizzes and videos to update and revise such with helping hands from the O.S.D. staff. Chris Cuevas is the technical support manager for the college and not only presented valuable information to the participants, but was there to engage with them one-on-one as they worked on their course material to make such more accessible. Stephanie Crosby was just as engaged with support for their needs, and Karen Cowden provided the faculty focus on the “best practices” for all learners and inclusion and diversity concepts.

Allowing faculty to participate in workshops that allow them to work in their own course materials with support while they are doing it has really empowered faculty with the skills and understanding to create materials that are accessible.

OSD Welcome Back Panorama (1)In meeting the diverse needs of students “we want to make sure that we do not assume we know our audience’s learning needs for support and that we design all course material with ‘best practices’ not as an after-the-fact response to paperwork for special accommodations.” As an example, when “our society was first introducing sidewalks, we didn’t consider cutting the curbs so wheeled items could easy flow on and off.  However, after a push from multiple facets of society inclusive of the ADA and others, having cut curbs now supports not only wheelchair access, but also that of children on bikes, moms with strollers, and others.”

So, it makes sense that all content is designed – college-wide information and course content – to be accessible for all, regardless of having paperwork for accommodations presented or not. To be accurate in the discussion of this topic it is important to realize the burden of paying for the documentation required to support eligibility for accommodations is on the student and therefore many times goes undiagnosed, which does not remove the need for support that the college can potentially provide by making all material more diversely delivered and designed.

Valencia’s student body includes students who have every type of disability, and some who have concurrent disabilities. The curriculum materials, student services, campus activities, and media must be accessible to students who have mobility impairments, are blind, are deaf, have learning disabilities, have processing disorders, have attention disorders, as well as other types of disabilities.

In order to meet this wide range of needs, Valencia’s OSD partners with CTLI and academic departments to provide training to faculty members and staff. Under the leadership of Dr. Deborah Larew, the Accessibility Advisory Group is developing processes that can be implemented institution wide to advance the use of technologies that can be used by any student, faculty, or staff member. Each term, the OSD creates alternative format textbooks t12339208_932911686744187_2709609143336267278_o (3)hat are compatible with screen readers for students. Chris Cuevas (pictured, right) works closely with faculty to insure that their Blackboard pages and online courses will be able to be accessed by students with various disabilities. On each campus, OSD advisors provide early advising to students, to allow them to plan for the use of their accommodations and to develop a schedule that will meet any unique needs. The OSD also provides services to Valencia’s deaf population. Donna Kimmeth schedules interpreters and captionists to guarantee that deaf students will have full access to courses, meetings, activities, and tutoring. Since access is provided in collaboration with each student, accommodations may vary greatly.

Valencia has been taking large steps in advancing the accessibility of all of its online materials to all students. Patti Davis has been an incredible ally in promoting accessible technologies and web design. Craig Blazejewski has also been instrumental in developing procedures to make sure that all online marketing materials can be accessed by any student interested in Valencia.



Kenneth Bourgoin–a taste of greatness

This year, the Hunton Brady Architects Endowed Chair in Hospitality Management allowed a select few of the Culinary Art StIMG_6588udent Association club to attend the National Restaurant Association meeting in Chicago.

The show hosts purveyors from all over the world. There are about 65,000 attendees to the show and it takes about 2-3 days to see all of it. “It is like a food and beverage theme park,” says Bourgoin.

Sometimes, the trip alone is the farthest a student has ever travelled, and that can be challenging in and of itself. At the show they are networking, sharing education programs, involved in chef demos and learning about how the number one private employer hospitality industry works.

The students have to earn points doing volunteer houIMG_6595rs within and outside Valencia College to get the privilege to go to the show. They are exposed to not only the show but the food of Chicago. The faculty and students meet after the show and go to places like Frontera Grill – Rick Bayless’s famous restaurant serving Mexican Cuisine, The Berghoff– a German Restaurant, and The “Girl and the Goat.”  The Chef there is a James Beard award winner.

One student’s reaction: “Getting the opportunity to meet and network with some of the biggest names in the food industry like Thomas Keller [chef at The French Laundry], Anne Burrell and Mauricio Londono, who is the Vice President of the World Association of Chefs,” was a predictably “wow” moment, one that the student is sure will benefit him in years to come

Diane Dalrymple–enhancing information literacy

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The Freeda Foreman Chair in Collaborative and Creative Problem-Solving has been beneficial to both faculty and students at Valencia College. “The process of collaboration between myself, a librarian on east campus, and east campus composition faculty and administration was rewarding and insightful. The endowed chair offered me the opportunity to work with the east campus dean of communications (Dr. Linda Neal) and the composition division chair (Randy Gordon), which I have not had the chance to do in the past,” Diane Dalrymple, east campus librarian, says about her current project.

She brought to these administrators the concept of using a standardized test to measure the level of a Valencia student’s information literacy. In addition, Dalrymple met with classroom faculty who volunteered to offer the test through their classes to describe the test and to answer any questions or concerns they had.

This project was a larger-scale attempt to measure a general education student learning outcome than the assessment tools the librarians have been recently employing. Students polled after taking the tests related that they found the questions very enlightening.

One student responded, “I just do research. I really don’t think about how I do it. Maybe I should.” Another student added, “This was hard. I usually just go to Google to find what I need. I never knew there were special places to go for special facts.”

The results from the test showed that Valencia College students scored above average on understanding economic, legal, and social issues related to information. That is, their understanding of copyright and plagiarism is a much higher level than at comparable schools.

The areas where Valencia student need to improve are in retrieving and evaluating sources. Future students will benefit from these assessment results because faculty and librarians now know where we need to focus our efforts in teaching information literacy.

“My conversations with Dean Neal and Professor Gordon were very enlightening to me. I personally had to think about aspects of program assessment that were new to me because of discerning questions about the standardized testing raised by Dean Neal and Professor Gordon. Their questions included what type of results would be received from the testing, were the results actionable, and were the results linked to particular students in particular classes.”

The questions related to application will be answered in future conversations between the librarians as a group and fellow faculty members and administrators interested in using this type of assessment tool. Currently, future conversations have been scheduled with Dr. Laura Blasi and the Valencia College
Librarians Assessment Committee. The hope is that with the support of Dr. Blasi and the
Assessment Committee to be able to offer open sessions for faculty where the results of the test can be presented and robust conversations can be continued. Some of the assessment changes have been implemented already, and the results of the test as a whole will be shared with classroom faculty this fall.

“This project took a village to accomplish and it will take a village to determine where we go from here.”

Christy Cheney, life skills = travel

Christy Cheney, professor of student life skills, and Jocelyn Morales, counselor, headed up the REACH (Reaching Every Academic Challenge Head On) student experience, traveling to Venice, Italy. The University Club of Orlando Chair in Humanities was key to funding this project.

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The REACH student experience was transforming because these students had very little experience traveling and being away from the families, which resulted in more growth and development than we expected. “For example, one student in particular spent time in my [Cheney’s] office (almost daily) preparing for the trip. Through her questions as well as my input on expectations, she felt fully prepared for her travels. Upon arrival at the airport and saying goodbye to her mother and grandmother, it was evident she was nervous and seemed a bit unsure of her decision. She sat right next to me on the plane, but was still connected to her family and friends through her cell phone. Once we departed and arrived in Venice, Italy, her connection seemed intermittent due to lack of WIFI. She seemed apprehensive and concerned that her family would be worried about her, but we reassured her that it would be okay, and to embrace this new opportunity by ‘disconnecting.’”


The REACH students roomed together for the first couple of nights, which helped them feel a bit more comfortable, but they were eventually mixed up as they traveled throughout the country. The students quickly realized that the adult leaders were not always available for their every need, and they were forced to break out of their comfort zone and engage with other students on the trip.

The transformation/adaptation to this new environment and cultural experience became apparent as they progressed through their trip. REACH students made new friends, took advantage of their free time in unique ways (from each other) and really explored the cities separately.IMG_15601 (1)


Jocelyn’s role began in the spring term when she met with them one-on-one at their meetings. In addition, Jocelyn developed a Qualtrics survey to identify student fears and apprehensions. “We knew students were excited about their travels, but we also wanted to know their concerns about leaving the country.”


Through Jocelyn’s time with the students over the term and, of course, throughout their travels, a few viewed Jocelyn as a role model and even as an adult family figure. One student in particular didn’t leave her side for a large portion of the trip. In many ways, Jocelyn was her “safety net” and she felt very comfortable as long as she was with her.  Jocelyn slowly “let go” so that the student gained the confidence to experience her travels with her fellow classmates and embrace being in a new place with a set of different values (daily living style). “We could see their growth and development (transformation) by the second half of the trip, and we are incredibly proud of the positive impact this journey had on them.”

In addition, Jocelyn held a session on personality traits, emailed students throughout the term and also called all students (including REACH) to ensure they were prepared for the journey (moral support, tips, etc.).

They also met with the students after the trip was over, looking for additional feedback.