ORLANDO, Fla. — Dr. Kathleen Plinske is the new president of Valencia College, but she's been a part of shaping the college for more than 10 years.

What You Need To Know

  • Dr. Kathleen Plinske began her role as the new President of Valencia College on July 1

  • She's taking over after Dr. Sandy Shugart retired as president after 21 years

  • Valencia plans to have about 30% of classes back on campus this fall with small class sizes

“My dream would be to spend the rest of my career here at Valencia and in this role," Plinske told Spectrum News 13.

She started this new role on July 1, but started with the school in 2010 as provost of the Osceola Campus.

President Dr. Sandy Shugart who just retired, hired Plinske for that first role with the college.

Plinske most recently served as the provost of the College System, before being promoted to president.

She's a first-generation college graduate with a passion for making sure everyone has access to higher-education.

"Regardless of your first language, immigration status, everyone is welcome at Valencia," Plinske said.

We are now 10 years into Valencia College starting bachelors degree programs with 6.62% of students currently pursuing those degrees, with most students in associate in arts or associate in science programs.

Nursing and business programs have been a hit, with engineering and hospitality programs likely growing, all in partnership with the University of Central Florida.

“I’m really looking forward to have a conversation with Dr. Cartwright in just a few weeks to look at what the next baccalaureate programs might be for Valencia that would make sense for our community," Plinske said of Dr. Alexander N. Cartwright of the University of Central Florida.

Valencia College is looking to grow with land already acquired in the Horizon West Area, and other spots in mind.

"Our top legislative priority has been a second building at the Lake Nona campus. We've really seen demand in the Lake Nona area grow dramatically, so that's something on the horizon," Plinske said.

Plinske said Valencia is the community's college and that she's here to listen, as she leads.

"I just see so many opportunities for our student and faculty and staff and community, on the horizon," she said.

This fall, Plinske expects about 30% of classes to be back on campus.

During the pandemic, faculty and staff called all 35,000 students who had to move to at least one class online. They called to check in and see how each student was doing and connect them to resources, if they needed assistance.

With safety and comfort in mind, most classes will not have more than 20 students in the fall.

Plinske also addressed the challenge that Valencia College and colleges and universities around the country are facing with decreases in enrollment during the pandemic, in particular in 2020.

She said Valencia College faculty are mentoring high school students interested in attending, to help with the application process and explain the benefits of higher education.

In December, the Valencia College Board of Trustees also approved a new strategic impact plan that Plinske is prioritizing.

"Specifically identifying a goal for the year 2030 that we would like to see more than 12,000 individuals each year earning a degree or certification that prepares them for jobs that are in high-demand in our community," Plinske said.