congratulations valencia alumnus mikhail elliott ’10!

Congratulations Valencia alumnus Mikhail Elliott ’10! As the Valencia College 2010 recipient of the prestigious Jack Cook Kent Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, Mikhail went on to graduate from the University of Tampa and now …has earned a master of science degree in development economics and policy from the University of Manchester in the U.K. Mikhail currently resides in London and is seeking employment there in economic policy/consultancy or economic research. Mikhail is also a proud member of Valencia’s Association of Honors Alumni, a.k.a. AHA! You can join him by indicating your interest when you complete your new or updated online membership form: http://valenciacollege.edu/alumni/membership_form.cfm.

Mikhail

 

a night of celebration!

You are invited to the Valencia Alumni Association’s
inaugural “A Night of Celebration” event.

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Please join us as we celebrate this first year’s
Distinguished Alumni Award recipients.

Info

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valencia alum louis gray ’98 making a difference

From “the Projects” to Gray’s Project: A Profile of Louis Gray
By Bonnie Beth Silvestri, JD, Director of Strategic Communications

Louis Gray is the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships “go-to” person in USF Registrar’s Office, helping OCEP fulfill its mission to support the service-learning curriculum on campus. Gray, the Registrar’s Office’s Academic Services Administrator, has been working behind the scenes, under the leadership of his supervisor Tony Embry and USF Registrar Angela Debose, coding each service-learning class offered on campus in Banner, the university’s administrative information system.

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Once the courses are coded, students are able to easily find service-learning offerings in OASIS; and OCEP can calculate the number of service-learning course sections and students enrolled. During the last academic school year, there were 188 sections of service-learning courses coded in the system, and over 4,000 students enrolled in these courses, which is a significant increase thanks to outreach efforts by OCEP and the Registrar’s Office.

And, it is no surprise that OCEP can count on Gray to help with these efforts, because he “gets it,” and he lives it. A natural connector, Gray said, “I’m the type to bring the community together.”

To that end, Gray started a Tampa-based nonprofit called G.R.A.Y.S. Project Inc. (Granting At-Risk Adolescents and Youth Sustainability), to provide the kind of support system for young people that he wished he had growing up in the Lake Mann Housing Project in Orlando.
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Through his eponymous nonprofit, Gray devotes evenings and weekends to tutoring young people of all ages with their schoolwork and to helping high school students with their college entrance exam preparation. Gray’s Project also partners with Second Chance Center for Boys & G3 Life Applications to provide tutoring, life coaching, and ACT Test prep to the local high school students.

Soon, he plans to expand the reach of Gray’s Project to Orlando to strengthen his partnership with Orlando’s Parramore Kidz Zone, one of eleven sites to receive a Promise Neighborhood Grant through the National League of Cities, in conjunction with the White House’s black male achievement initiative. Parramore Kidz Zone is a model program in an historically black neighborhood that has been making a difference. Additionally, the local Housing Authority has requested that he return to his roots in Lake Mann to tutor and mentor the youngest residents at its onsite Kids Café.

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(USF student volunteers with Gray’s Project)

He mused, “the projects…think about that word,” while remembering his childhood in Lake Mann.  His first eighteen years living in government-subsidized housing, often referred to as “the projects,” was challenging. There was a police presence there, but he called it a “mirage.” He said, it was more about “getting to know you to arrest you,” than to protect and serve the residents.

Gray’s work is completely self-funded, but he also relies on the help of others to keep his programs going. “When you give, give, give, people go above and beyond.”

Gray has enlisted a corps of volunteers, including twelve USF students and ten working professionals, to tutor and mentor young people.

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(Gray’s parents)

He credits his parents with giving him the support and structure that kept him on the forward trajectory that eventually led him to earning his MBA and working in academia. He said, “Family is key. Studies show family support and structure in the house [determine whether] you succeed or fail in life.”

He said that his father, who worked as a sharecropper as a child and drove a truck throughout his adult life, was home every night with his ten children. Gray’s dad told his son stories of working hard in the fields, only to get “scraps” from the owners of the farm. This made him wary of the predatory lending schemes often marketed to minority communities and informed his decision to raise his family in government-subsidized housing.

Gray is the youngest and his family refers to him as “baby boy.” He said, “We had to be in the house by the time the street lights came on or we would get in trouble.” He said that his father was both stern and playful with the large and loving family.

His mother, who worked as a housekeeper, and his father valued family dinners, getting eight hours of sleep, and a nutritious breakfast every morning before school. He said that wasn’t the case for many of his contemporaries who were often allowed to stay out late and/or would go to school hungry, which made it difficult for them to concentrate in school.

As part of his school district’s efforts to integrate the local school system, Gray attended middle school eight miles away and high school ten miles away from his home. He said, “I really think it was successful. It broke down a lot of barriers, [e.g.,] how you relate to different races as you get older.”

He was an enterprising young person, starting a small candy store and a cookie and juice stand marketed to other children. He believes he had an “internal drive to overcome his situation.”

Even with his family’s support, however, he realizes that in many ways the deck was stacked against him. He said that his lens was always “that’s just the way it is.”

After graduating from high school, he said he “stumbled across a job at Valencia Community College delivering mail from campus to campus.” He got free tuition, so he started taking one or two classes at a time over a fourteen-year period and obtained an Associate of Arts degree. Then, he completed his Bachelor of Arts at Columbia College, Orlando branch, and went on to earn an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management, while working in different administrative roles at Valencia Community College. In 2012, shortly before finishing his MBA, he began working at USF.

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Gray said he has seen “so many struggles in our country and how people just gave up and settled.” Gray’s Project, he said, is designed “to uplift, give promise and hope to all individuals.”

“I look like them,” he said; and he tells them, “I’m from where you are.” He hopes to inspire young people, “not to say, look at me, I’ve got so much, but [to show] what you can be if you stay focused.”

Gray takes time away from his own family to work with local children, which can be difficult. But as soon as he reaches them, and connects with them, it makes it worthwhile. When they ask, “Mr. Louis, are you coming back next Saturday?” he knows he is making a difference in their lives.

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In addition to his work mentoring and tutoring, Gray educates young people about the “school-to-prison pipeline.” When children are expelled, the rate of those going to prison increases tremendously. He said that he wants young people to be aware that they need to be very careful; because discipline can be meted out in a biased way impacting minority communities.

Gray is also very active on campus, including serving as the Vice Chair of the Student and Presidential Advisory Committee on Black Affairs (COBA), which advises the President on matters affecting Black faculty, staff, and students of the University.

In the fall, Gray plans to begin a Post Master’s Leadership in Higher Education graduate certificate with a goal of working toward a PhD.

He will also begin teaching Academic Foundations; and he plans to add a service-learning component into the course. Students will be able to volunteer with Gray’s Project or with the Moffitt Center.

He will incorporate his strong will to persevere into the course. “That will be a story that I can share with incoming students.”

To learn more about how you can get involved, go to Gray’s Project.  For more about the Parramore Kidz Zone, click here.  For more on the school-to-prison pipeline, click here for “Demanding Zero Tolerance for Florida’s School- to-Prison Pipeline.”

 

tedxorlandosalon at valencia!

tedAnnouncing TEDxOrlandoSalon’s next meeting on Wednesday, August 6, 2014.
Hope you can come!

When: Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Where: Valencia College Osceola Campus, Bldg 4, Rm 105
1800 Denn John Lane
Kissimmee, FL 34744
Register: http://www.tedxorlando.com/salon/
Email us: info@tedxorlando.com
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New! Book exchange! Bring a book, take a new one home. (Please remember to take unclaimed books home with you.)

Two TED Talk videos will be shown, each followed by a discussion break; the event program is determined by vote.

What we have planned for our next meeting:

  • Sarah Jones: What does the future hold? 11 characters offer quirky answers
  • Wendy Chung: Autism — what we know (and what we don’t know yet)
  • Mellody Hobson: Color blind or color brave?
  • Amy Webb: How I hacked online dating
  • Stanley McChrystal: The military case for sharing knowledge

TEDxOrlandoSalon
TEDxOrlandoSalon meets every other month at Valencia College locations. A typical meeting draws approximately 50 smart, interesting, engaged people. Some will be regulars and some will be newcomers. Some choose to eat during the event, others choose not to. Two TEDTalk videos are shown, each followed by a discussion break. The event program is determined by vote, and discussions are open-ended.

TEDxOrlando
TEDxOrlando is a one-day conference featuring live speakers. Please stay tuned for details.

Code of Conduct
TEDxOrlando and TEDxOrlandoSalon are about the exchange of meaningful ideas and deep discussion, not selling. Opportunities do sometimes result from contacts made at our meetings and we encourage that. However, we ask that you refrain from using TEDxOrlando or TEDxOrlandoSalon primarily as a platform for promoting yourself, your personal political or religious views, your business, or your organization.

TEDx
TEDxOrlando and TEDxOrlandoSalon operate under license from TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share ideas worth spreading. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks videos and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. http://tedxorlando.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=4065cf3354e5dbe3aa57ab169&id=771295dc95&e=dda8202fc9

TED
TED is an annual event where some of the world’s leading thinkers and doers are invited to share what they are most passionate about. “TED” stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design — three broad subject areas that are, collectively, shaping our future. And in fact, the event is broader still, showcasing ideas that matter in any discipline. Attendees have called it “the ultimate brain spa” and “a four-day journey into the future.” The diverse audience — CEOs, scientists, creatives, philanthropists — is almost as extraordinary as the speakers, who have included Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Frank Gehry, Paul Simon, Sir Richard Branson, Philippe Starck and Bono. http://tedxorlando.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=4065cf3354e5dbe3aa57ab169&id=30542d058c&e=dda8202fc9

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notes from the world classroom, endowed chair series

Centropa
guest author: Richard Gair, reading professor, East Campus
I attended the CENTROPA Summer Academy for Teachers, held in Berlin, Germany. The idea for attending the academy was that they use a unique approach to Holocaust education. While many institutions focus more on the horrors of what the victims went through, CENTROPA focuses on their lives before and after the Holocaust.

Many survivors have voiced concern that their identity is often tied to the fact that they are a survivor. They say the Holocaust does not define who they are. They had beautiful, rich and fulfilling lives before the horrors occurred. Likewise, they have rebuilt their lives with offspring and often many grandchildren, which they say is their greatest revenge against the Nazis. With that in mind, CENTROPA fanned out across Europe to find survivors who were willing to tell their stories. Instead of video recording their testimony, as most institutions do, they asked these survivors to tell their stories and show pictures of their families as they spoke. Recorders wrote down or audio taped their testimony, focusing on their life in the Jewish community before and after the Holocaust.

Using this material, CENTROPA works with educators to build instructional lessons for teachers to use, and places all information on their website. The philosophy is quite simple. “Nobody teaches teachers better than other teachers.” Through this process, the beauty and fabric of Jewish culture in these countries is expressed.

Students can then make their own video projects similar to the ones CENTROPA has on their website. Instruction in basic movie making with Windows Movie Maker or Apple iMovie is on the CENTROPA website in the form of video tutorials and a sample project.

Teachers can submit student or class projects that use the CENTROPA model for placement on their own website. This approach appealed to me because it was a chance to develop instructional strategies and content that focus more on life rather than death. The Holocaust as a whole is a difficult subject to teach in any case due to the sadness and horror that is such an integral part of it. Here was an opportunity to show more of the other side in my course and encourage students to pursue that line of thought in their required projects.

Those same tutorials are now on my website. Upon my return from Berlin, I added a new option for the final project in my Holocaust course syllabus: To use the CENTROPA material and style to create an original video slideshow telling the life-family story of a survivor in the CENTROPA archives and databases. A few of my students did video projects for their final in the fall. They can be viewed on the “Student Video Showcase” page of my website which is www.professorgair.com. This spring, several students will also be making similar videos which will go online when they are completed. Students are required to meet with me as they plan so I can guide them and suggest ways to make sure it is done well.

The endowed chairs are important and we at Valencia are quite blessed to have such a resource. They offer us an opportunity to hone our skills, further knowledge of our craft, and regenerate and broaden our commitment to the profession and thus directly influence student learning through better scholarships and teaching. The benefactors, as always, are the students sitting in our classrooms. The chairs give us an opportunity to enrich the already rich environment that Valencia is known for. It adds a dimension to our “learning centered approach” that the normal budgetary funds cannot cover. It adds to our skill set and makes us the leaders we are in the world of community colleges. I am so proud every single time I am a recipient of an endowed chair. My face lights up and I truly get excited with the new opportunity it provides me. Words are not adequate to express my deepest gratitude to Valencia Foundation and administration of the college for giving me the opportunity to be reborn each time my project is accepted for a chair.

a closer look: 2+2+2 architecture program model

Student project
guest author: John P. Ehrig, FAIA, LEED AP, vice president, CASE project manager, HHCP/Architects Inc.

As a New Jersey transplant to the Sunshine State, I began my career in architecture at the University of Florida, graduating with a bachelor of architecture degree. I have been involved with American Institute of Architects for over four decades, first as a student and later serving in various positions throughout the Institute. In 1993, I became the youngest Florida architect to be elected to the AIA College of Fellows. After I moved to Orlando in 2000, I served as president of AIA Orlando in 2001 and that’s where the story about the 2+2+2 architecture program begins.

As background to AIA Orlando’s relationship with Valencia, in 2002, one of our members, CT Hsu, FAIA who was also a member of the Valencia Foundation board of directors, approached the chapter with the idea of joining forces in fundraising efforts to benefit both the chapter and Valencia Foundation’s scholarship program. As discussions unfolded, Valencia’s Geraldine Gallagher made a presentation to the AIA Orlando board of directors about joining forces and as they say, “The rest is history.” Over the past 12 years, AIA Orlando has been a part of generating over $240,000 for the foundation creating a strong connection between the chapter and the college.

Central Florida architects had been talking about having an architecture school in Orlando for decades and the last big push was way back in the 1970s. At that time, creating a new school or program required legislative approval as well as approval of the Florida Board of Regents.

In the fall of 2007, the AIA Orlando chapter, created an Educational Task Force (ETF) to spearhead this effort. During this time frame we discovered that Dr. Shugart was an “architect at heart.” I heard him say once “had he not gotten into education he would’ve wanted to be an architect.” CT Hsu and Alan Helman, FAIA, told Sandy about the work of the ETF in trying to get a professional degree program here in Orlando and he said he would try to assemble the right people to discuss the possibilities.

Around that time Valencia had worked out an “articulation agreement” with the University of Florida – School of Architecture where students would graduate with an associate of arts in architecture and would go right into upper division as juniors without skipping a beat. This was important to me because when I transferred to UF, I transferred in as a junior but I had to start over in all my design coursework. Ultimately it took me six years to get a five-year degree because of that “transfer gap,” something I did not want to see happen to students today.

The articulation agreement was working and students that were graduating from Valencia were heading off to Gainesville and elsewhere. Everything was going along fine except the openings in the upper division for transfer students were dwindling year after year. Competition was exceptionally tough because of the program’s notoriety. So, the task force believed it was time for a creative solution. We knew the university wanted to increase their focus on urban design in their undergrad and graduate programs. The ETF also knew that UCF had indicated an interest in creating an architectural program in the past.

So as things were starting to evolve the ETF developed a list of things that we wanted in a program and generated a formal White Paper. This paper included what the profession would do to help move this effort forward; like providing adjunct professors, employing students as interns in local offices and securing additional funding to support the program.

We called Dr. Shugart and said, “Here’s what we’d like to do.” And he said, “I’ll set up a meeting in a couple weeks to see where this may go.” Then one day I got a phone call inviting me to a meeting consisting of people from UCF, UF and Valencia. On meeting day, Dr. Shugart made some opening remarks and immediately looked at me and said, “Okay John, you asked for this meeting, what do you want to discuss?” This was the opportunity and audience I needed to present the white paper and openly discuss the need for an architectural program in Orlando.
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The current scenario was a student would go to Valencia and get a two-year degree then they’d apply to UF or other colleges. They were accepted at major universities across the country and once they received their degree, they would very seldom return to Orlando. So our goal was very selfish – keep the talent here in Orlando. We wanted the ability for students to get an education here, complete their internship here and stay here to design their professional life in Orlando where they started.

We knew that there was a really good working relationship between Valencia and UCF in several programs involving the DirectConnect to UCF program, so that was our roadmap. And if something could be worked out with UF to obtain a two-year graduate program that was all we needed for the professional degree. UCF became the critical link to what would be a unique architectural program with three separate institutions, hence the 2+2+2.

There are always up and downs in anything new but, the bottom line for the most part is we have the consistently strong Valencia portion with the first two years, we now have the third class of graduates from UCF, and this year we graduated our first class of UF students. Sixteen walked the stage in Gainesville on May 3 and of the 16 graduates, nine went through the 2+2+2 right here in Orlando.

Read the Valencia News article on the first 2+2+2 architecture grads

I know Sandy is a Christian leader and I appreciate his direction and passion in this entire effort. There are some things that we humans try to manage and manipulate to get what we want but, there are so many things that have occurred that I know are not “coincidences”. Too many things “fell into place” at just the right time for us mortals to take the credit for it. For instance the funding for the studio space in Building 9, the building of the UCF Joint Use Facility, UF’s support of the Orlando program, and the talented students that had the faith in signing up for a program with no previous track record, just to name a few.

The Orlando architectural program is now a proven, new educational model.

This year you have the special opportunity to support the 2+2+2 program through AIA Orlando’s 25th annual golf tournament June 20, 2014 at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. Non-members can play for $175 and sponsorships start at $250. Here is a link to more information.

association of honors alumni transfer scholarship

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Student volunteers from the Honors Program will be working hard selling roses at Valencia’s Commencement this Saturday to raise funds to support the Association of  Honors Alumni Transfer Scholarship.  Donations to support their work and the scholarship can be made online .