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Student Trustee Spotlight: Matthew Valentin


Matthew Valentin is a first-generation and Honors Program student who has thrived at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) and taken advantage of student resources to make the most of his college experience. From studying abroad in Morocco during the spring 2023 semester, participating in undergraduate research at Florida State University (FSU) during summer 2022 to now serving as HCC’s student trustee for the 2023-2024 academic year.

For him, HCC has been a place that has shown him a world outside of the classroom. After graduating from Plant High School in 2019, Matthew spent two years working and saving money so he could enroll in college. In fall 2021, he enrolled at the HCC Dale Mabry Campus to pursue a computer science engineering associate in arts pathway degree. He was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Tampa Bay Bridge to the Baccalaureate Program (TB-B2B), which encourages minority students to successfully transfer into and graduate with bachelor’s degrees in STEM majors.

Through the program, he connected with Bruce Kensky, HCC’s former TB-B2B coordinator.

“He introduced me to the Honors Program and engineering club and really helped steer me in the right direction that led me to get more involved on campus and explore all the resources that I could take advantage of. The more I networked at HCC, the more opportunities I started seeing.”

In 2022, thanks to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Louis Stokes Alliances Minority Participation (LSAMP) grant, and after being encouraged to apply by Dean BC Hikmat and the new HCC TB-B2B coordinator, María Bermúdez-Torres, Matthew was accepted into a paid 10-week research engineering undergraduate (REU) summer program sponsored by FSU and FAMU College of Engineering.

“Each week brought new and exciting workshops, from an introduction to Python to weekly entrepreneurship seminars. There was always something new to add to my arsenal of knowledge.

Our research focused on reducing time without sacrificing quality to produce a 3D print using fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers, which use a thermoplastic to build strong, durable, and dimensionally stable parts. My research was carried out in an area of FSU known as the Innovation Hub, where I had access to multiple 3D printers at all times. I learned not only how to adjust each parameter on the 3D printer, but I also got hands-on experience with different software’s used for 3D printers, such as the renowned Ultimata Cura, which is the slicer used universally for all 3D printers. I also gained some experience with 3Dprinteros, Fusion 360 and MATLAB. 

I hope that many other students are allowed the same opportunity I have had because I believe programs such as REU are an essential piece to gaining more interest in STEM majors pursuing graduate school and for our country to continue paving the path to a bright future where America is the leading nation in technological advancements.”

To his peers he says, “Take risks. College was a risk for me. I even quit a few jobs along the way to prioritize school. But if I hadn’t made those choices, I would never have had the experience I do now. HCC is a great place to figure out what you want to do and there’s plenty of room for mistakes.”

Since then, Matthew has switched his course of study to political science and hopes to graduate from HCC by spring 2024. Looking towards the future, he hopes to continue his education and pursue a bachelor's degree in international relations.

While at the College, Matthew has also been a federal work study student for the athletics department and the InLab@HCC. He is currently the AmeriCorps VISTA Corp volunteer coordinator for the Food2Finish program, a Collegiate100 and
HOPE Scholar
, part of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) and will serve as the “Adopt-A-Road” board chair for the Arete Honors club in the 2023-2024 academic year. Matthew is also one of only three non-voting student trustees in the Florida College System.

He says, "During my term I will ensure Hillsborough Community College continues to offer its students the highest-level of education and resources to be successful as well as set the bar for higher-level education and low tuition costs for community colleges across the nation."

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