DirectConnect to UCF recently awarded the first Joyce Romano Partnership Excellence Award to an innovative collaboration between Valencia College’s Learning Support Division and the University of Central Florida’s Transfer and Transition Services.

The award, which was announced during the 13th College Access Summit on April 12, recognizes an individual, institution or team that exudes the spirit of collaboration in leading and serving others toward supporting transfer-student success. The award is in honor of  Valencia’s Joyce Romano, who forged relationships to build the partnership program that includes working groups, data systems and communication plans that help sustain the DirectConnect to UCF program.

Since 2013, Valencia’s Learning Support Division and UCF’s Transfer and Transition Services have worked together to create programs that provide students a seamless learning experience from the first day at Valencia to the last day at UCF. The first co-created program was SEEUCF, a full-day immersion experience on the UCF campus for first-year Valencia students. Since the program launched, more than 1,500 students have participated.

Recognizing the need to provide Valencia students with a more extensive orientation to UCF, the partnership developed curriculum delivered in a 16-week, three-credit course called “Transitions,” taught by Valencia and UCF instructors. Class meetings are held on Valencia’s East Campus for the first two weeks and then moved to UCF’s main campus for the remainder of the semester. The program piloted last fall. Assessment results indicate that 95 percent of students who completed the end-of-semester survey were satisfied with the course and understood the steps to transfer to UCF.

Many aspects of this initiative are noteworthy, staffers say. The idea that a student enrolled at a state college during their first term would take a course at the university they plan to transfer to is uncommon in higher education. In addition, transfer-partner institutions working together to develop curriculum around preparing students for successful transfer from a state college to a university represents an innovative approach to helping students overcome “transfer shock,” a temporary drop in grade point average commonly associated with the transition to a new institution. Lastly, to run a course that is offered at both the initial and the transfer institution illustrates the commitment both institutions have displayed towards partnership, and a willingness to put student’s needs first.

Co-leads on the project are Chris Tuemer, Valencia College assistant director of Learning Support and Advising (Title V), and Jason Dodge, director of UCF Transfer and Transition Services, and the committee includes Leonard Bass, Courtney Moore, Dina El Musa, Anna Saintil and Celicia Wallace from Valencia College and Jamil Johnson and Angie Smith from UCF.

DirectConnect to UCF is a nationally recognized access program that guarantees admission to the University of Central Florida for A.A. or articulated A.S. graduates from six partner state colleges across Central Florida, including College of Central Florida, Daytona State College, Eastern Florida State College, Lake-Sumter State College, Seminole State College and Valencia College. Details about DirectConnect to UCF can be found at