Osceola Campus President Named Outstanding Female of the Year in Biz Journal’s 40 Under 40

An annual award given by the Orlando Business Journal to recognize the area’s up-and-coming leaders under age 40 has been given to Valencia’s own Dr. Kathleen Plinske, president of the Osceola and Lake Nona campuses.

Below is the article that appeared in the Orlando Business Journal.

Outstanding Female of the Year: Plinske encourages students to shatter expectations

Premium content from Orlando Business Journal by Emily Blackwood

Date: Friday, August 17, 2012, 6:00am EDT

Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia College's Osceola and Lake Nona campuses Jim Carchidi

Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia College’s Osceola and Lake Nona campuses

Kathleen Plinske — president of Valencia College’s Osceola and Lake Nona campuses — is anything but average. At 32, she’s about half the average age of a college campus president.

And Plinske — the 2012 Outstanding Female of the Year in Orlando Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 competition — was raised to do everything with excellence.

When Plinske brought home straight A’s on her report card in elementary school, her grandfather asked her where the A-pluses were. “He taught me to never settle for good enough. He always pushed me to go further.”

Later, while taking a class at a community college, she discovered “what learning was supposed to be like.”

“It was a friendly environment, and the instructor cared about what we were learning. It wasn’t like sitting in a lecture hall with 300 students.”

That led Plinske to work in community colleges. She started out as an instructional technologist at McHenry County College. And after she got her doctoral degree in education technology from Pepperdine University, she became interim president of McHenry County College in 2009.

On a whim, she applied for, and got, the job of president of Valencia College’s 16,000-student campus in Osceola County in 2010 — becoming “one of the youngest college presidents in the country,” said Valencia College President Sandy Shugart. “During her tenure, the Osceola campus has continued to be the fastest growing among Valencia’s six campuses.”

Plinske led the development of a new campus at Lake Nona, now serving more than 1,000 students and slated to open in new facilities this fall. She also led the development of a new library and science building on the Osceola campus. “She has brought amazing energy and imagination,” said Shugart.

In addition, Plinske established a new honors program for students and the opportunity for them to earn a bachelor’s degree through the University of Central Florida without leaving the Osceola campus. She’s also co-authoring a book on student success stories in the nation’s community colleges.

Meanwhile, Plinske is concerned that only 40 percent of Osceola County high school students go to college. “We have a lot of work to do to show students that college is possible.”

Another challenge: Plinske said it’s a constant struggle to maintain the balance between the quality of education and affordability for students. “We were created to serve the population that couldn’t afford to go to a university right away. We might not be able to keep our tuition flat like we did this year.”

Meanwhile, Plinske, who will earn her MBA from the University of Florida by the end of the year, encourages her students to chase their dreams and to not be thrown off by what’s expected. “No one would think a 30-year-old could be a college president, but it is possible. Don’t be afraid to be unreasonable.”

Outstanding Female of the Year: Kathleen Plinske

Age: 32

Title: President, Valencia College’s Osceola and Lake Nona campuses

Best business achievement: The collaborative design of the new Osceola campus building — 150,000 square feet with 10 science labs, 18 classrooms, academic center, library and classrooms that will function as a UCF regional campus to add bachelor’s degree programs to Valencia

Key business lesson: No one has the monopoly on great ideas.

Community involvement: Junior Achievement of Osceola County; Osceola Education Foundation; Harmony Institute

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