My Word: Valencia’s award a community achievement

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Orlando Sentinel, My Word: Valencia’s award a community achievement

By Sandy Shugart

December 20, 2011

In the wake of the announcement that Valencia College has won the first Aspen Prize for Excellence in Community College education, we have been deeply gratified by an avalanche of “attaboys” from former students, former staff and faculty, and many community partners. The award has been especially affirming to our work because one can’t apply for it; The Aspen Institute’s process had integrity and rigor. This has made the honor authentic.

Clearly, this is a high point in Valencia’s journey from being one of the largest colleges in the country to being one of the best, but it isn’t the end point.

We will continue to place students at the center of our efforts. Their learning, their persistence to meaningful goals, their readiness to assume productive roles in our community are our reasons for being. We have tested nearly every practice in the college against the question, “How will this enhance student learning?” We pledge fidelity to this principle and know it will continue to drive our results.

The quality of our faculty and staff, their dedication to a shared vision where excellence isn’t based on exclusivity, but on opportunity, will continue to shape the deep culture of the college and all that our students experience.

Most important, we know that we didn’t achieve the distinction of the Aspen award alone. This is a community achievement, and we owe a deep debt of gratitude to many community partners: to the school systems that have worked to align their results with our expectations of a college freshman; to the University of Central Florida, with whom we share the most powerful transfer partnership in the nation; to the business, corporate and health-care leaders of our community, who partner with us to keep our programs state of the art; and to public leaders who advocate for investments in Valencia’s mission because they know the return is so powerful.

To all of Central Florida, Valencia says thank you for sharing in the achievement of the Aspen Prize. And we promise our best in partnership to take the work to yet a new level of excellence.

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