Faculty

Meet the Valencia College Downtown faculty who will teach a wide range of classes in different subject areas. Faculty members are leaders in their fields—helping students turn their passion into a lifelong career. And with smaller class sizes, they’re able to provide the individualized attention that students need to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed beyond the classroom.

 
Nick Bekas

Nick Bekas

Professor of English

Nick Bekas began his career at Valencia College in 1998 as a tenured faculty member in English. Through the years, he's grown and served in several capacities and roles at the college—from collegewide coordinator for college preparatory reading and writing to director of the Educator Preparation Institute to campus dean.  

At downtown, Nick will transition once again and return to the classroom. He's excited about the "chance to cultivate that same feeling of family with a small group of faculty on a smaller campus" and the "opportunity to be a part of the college's work in the community, in addition to teaching."

 
Rudy Darden

Rudy Darden

Professor of English

Rudy Darden's approach to teaching and learning involves the mechanics of grammar and composition while helping students discover their voice and grasp the value of living an examined life. His connection to Downtown Campus began in 2015 with his work on the steering committee for the campus. 

Rudy is seeking to deepen his connection with the Parramore community in a tangible way and views the opportunity to teach at the campus, as a way to be present in the community with many of the students who the college serves, and to help those students to know that college is for them. "There's no greater joy than doing work that's tied to my beliefs, and it's great to be given the platform to do the things that matter to me in my in my job, in my community and in my church."

 
Roberta Carew

Roberta Carew

Professor of Mathematics

A proud product of an HBCU (Historically Black College and University), Roberta Carew, professor of mathematics, credits her college experience for saving her life. Transferring to Downtown Campus, she says, will give her the opportunity "to be that person for someone else."

Roberta started at Valencia College in 2005 and has held various roles, including adjunct professor, full-time professor, assistant director of learning assessment and math faculty member. While on West Campus, Roberta shared that she teaches many of the students who would likely be enrolled downtown. "Moving Downtown will give me an opportunity to reach out to these students in an even greater way. We will be right there in their neighborhood and can work with them more organically."

 
Ryan Sandefur

Ryan Sandefur

Professor of Mathematics

Hailing from Kentucky, Ryan Sandefur has a long history as an educator. Prior to joining Valencia College in 2016, he served as a math teacher at high schools and in post-secondary education, and was an assistant to the dean in the Division of Math and Science.

The professor of mathematics was drawn to Downtown Campus by "the opportunity to serve the diverse needs of the downtown community, while collaborating with fellow Valencia College colleagues and university faculty." He also shared that the state-of-the-art facilities and focus on technology and innovation in the classroom," is a key part of what enticed him to want to go downtown. He's "excited and honored to part of the unique campus ecosystem that will exist at Downtown Campus."

 
Mia Pierre-Wall

Mia Pierre-Wall

Professor of the New Student Experience

Mia Pierre-Wall, a New Student Experience faculty member and part-time faculty for the Communications Department on Osceola Campus, joined Valencia College in 2006. As a part of her work at the college, she coordinates college tours for students to have the opportunity to visit various colleges throughout Florida. This experience for students motivates them to find their pathway on their educational journey. 

Mia shares that "the experience to be a part of the growing and developing downtown community" is why she chose to teach downtown and is excited about the "opportunity to contribute to a diverse community of learners."

 
Vishma Kunu

Vishma Kunu

Professor of Humanities

Beginning at Valencia College in 2006, Vishma Kunu transitioned from adjunct professor to full-time humanities faculty member in 2014. With her breadth of cultural knowledge, Vishma is especially looking for ways to connect to the arts community in downtown Orlando. "I am looking forward to taking advantage of the numerous cultural events the downtown arena offers for the benefit of our students," she shares.  

For Vishma, going downtown "is a unique opportunity to contribute to the development of a major urban, academic center in Orlando." And she is up to the challenge. "Growing up in New York City," says Vishma, "taught me the value of learning in a stimulating environment where diversity is the norm, and I feel I will flourish there."

 
Quaneisha Mcleod

Quaneisha Mcleod

Professor of Health Information Technology

A faculty member at Valencia College since 2016, Professor of HIT Quaneisha Mcleod says she's well-acquainted with how important our partnership is with UCF and, as such, looks forward to moving the HIT program to Downtown Campus. Currently, she works diligently with UCF to create pathways for her Valencia College HIT students.

"Migrating to a new environment," cites Quaneisha, "is exciting because it will offer new opportunities." Being in the same building with UCF's Health Informatics and Information Management B.S. degree faculty and staff, she explained, "will help create synergies between the two programs."

 
Kelli Lewis

Kelli Lewis

Professor and Program Chair of Health Information Technology

Professor and Program Chair of HIT, Kelli Lewis looks forward to the move downtown. Kelli has served Valencia College since 2013 and was the program's chair in its inaugural year. She was behind starting the program, establishing its certificate and obtaining program accreditation. 

"I am most excited about the HIT program being afforded the opportunity to collaborate with the UCF Health Informatics and Information Management faculty. I believe downtown an ideal location for the HIT Program, because this location will expand access and opportunities to another sector of the community. I also believe the location will increase internship opportunities for students in the program. Lastly, it will provide HIT students with a direct pathway to continue their education."

 
Ken Bourgoin

Ken Bourgoin

Professor of Culinary Management

Having served in a multitude of roles over the past 20 years, from part-time instructor to tenured professor, Culinary Management Professor and Culinary, Baking and Pastry Program Chair Ken Bourgoin looks forward to this next chapter for Valencia College's culinary programs. Citing new and enhanced teaching and learning spaces and the opportunity to work in a new community, Ken says this is an exciting opportunity that he knows will benefit students and the Central Florida community.

"This is a very bold move as a public institution, but also with our partners in being on the map as a great culinary and hospitality destination rivaling the big cities in terms of food," Ken explained. "Our area is built on making dreams reality. Orlando is about to arrive at big city status where this is the place to work in our industry and eat."

 
Mackie Hefka

Mackie Hefka

Professor of Culinary Management

An instructor at Valencia College since 2006, Culinary Management Professor and Baking and Pastry Instructor Mackie Hefka's previous experiences include working for Walt Disney World and establishing a Country Inn with a 50-seat restaurant and off-site catering business. Now, she eagerly awaits her next adventure at Downtown Campus.

"There are many aspects that I am looking forward to moving to our new campus," she said. "We have been talking about and designing the new kitchens for so long that to actually see them up and running will be exciting. Having the campus centrally located will be more convenient for all students. I believe that once we move downtown we will be able to have more space to have special events, more personal interest classes and greater resources."

 
Steven Rujak

Steven Rujak

Professor of Culinary Management

With 21 years of experience at Valencia College and 34 years in the culinary and hospitality industries, Professor of Culinary Management Steven Rujak deeply understands the value Downtown Campus will bring to the college's School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality. Eager to relocate to downtown, Steven says he looks forward to the new campus' cutting-edge building, updated technology, enhanced equipment and improved teaching spaces.

"This is an opportunity that I know will benefit students, Valencia College, downtown Orlando and the Central Florida community," Steven said. "Orlando has been on the map for years as a number one tourist destination with theme parks and attractions, amazing entertainment and  restaurants. It's well-deserved that our School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality will be on the map as a number one learning and developing center, and arrive at big city status."

 
James Inglis

James Inglis

Professor of Hospitality and Tourism

Professor of Hospitality and Tourism and the program chair for Hospitality and Restaurant Management, James' career includes more than 30 years of experience in hospitality and education. As he prepares for the move downtown, he eagerly awaits new opportunity. Specifically, he says, "the downtown move into the new facility will be a game changer for the program and its viability across the community." 

"The physical facility will be world-class and will give the program some great tools to teach with as well as serve as a showcase for the future of hospitality and culinary arts," he said. "I am very excited about the space…It will foster new partnerships we will have with all the downtown venues, and that is so exciting too."

 
Joanne Goodman

Joanne Goodman

Professor of Hospitality and Tourism

A hospitality and tourism professor the past eight years at Valencia College, Joanne boasts a career rich in education and hospitality. Prior to joining the college, Joanne worked with Marriott Hotels for 22 years, serving as a general manager for 13 of those years, before working with Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) for six years. While at OCPS, Joanne founded the National Academy Foundation Academy of Hospitality and Tourism at Oak Ridge High School.

She now looks forward to bringing her experiences downtown. "The move is definitely an exciting one," she said. "I think the collaboration with Disney and UCF is huge for the students."

 
Craig Rapp

Craig Rapp

Professor of Hospitality and Tourism

A professor since 2004, Craig has enjoyed deep-seated involvement in the college’s hospitality program-serving local industry associations, the Valencia College Hospitality Society and multiple committees. As he prepares to move downtown, he looks forward to continuing his involvement in a new space, which will bring renewed opportunity for the program.

"Like so many, I am excited to be moving to Downtown Campus," he said. "I think that being centrally located in an urban setting will really enhance our program. The thing I am most excited about is how the new facility will allow us to make enhancements to our existing programs. I also think the location will create opportunities to enhance the overall student learning experience through industry partnerships, since we will now be within walking distance to so many different hospitality venues."