Valencia Moves to Become Valencia College

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I want to thank all of you who have taken time over the past year to share your thoughts on Valencia’s mission and how our name reflects our purpose. Many of you attended campus forums, sent emails to me, or caught up with me in person to share your views.

Scores of people took advantage of opportunities to convey what Valencia means in their lives and in the life of the community. A full “Identity Consultation” report is linked on this web page.

A year of listening has given me renewed appreciation for how deeply faculty and staff believe in our mission and how committed you are to our students. I’ve witnessed the extent to which our students have become believers as well— in both our mission and themselves.

We are at a critical point in our history as the primary entry point to higher education in Central Florida. Today, more students walk through Valencia’s “open door” and earn associate’s degrees than at any other community college in America.  That is an astounding accomplishment because it means that our highly personal, unique learning-centered approach has steadily helped to strengthen an entire region as it transforms individual lives.

In very tangible ways, our commitment to helping students earn advanced degrees, pursue continuing education and attain higher levels of achievement has transformed Valencia as well.

So we asked you and many other stakeholders: How can we best serve the community and our students in the future? Does the term “community college” still define us? And we listened. After considering all of the views shared with me, I will recommend that the District Board of Trustees change the name of the college to Valencia College, at its December 14, 2010 meeting, to take effect July 1, 2011.

The name Valencia College conveys who we are and all that we offer and what we may yet deliver in fulfillment of our mission. I have come to believe that the name Valencia College also allows us to more accurately express our position within the evolving higher education landscape, particularly in Florida where there is no longer a “community college” system. Further, it helps distinguish Valencia from the public school system and the persistent “13th grade” stereotype.

I am recommending that we continue to hold tightly to the name Valencia because it carries a great deal of meaning for all constituencies. Many people told us that Valencia inhabits a category all its own.

I realize that for some of us the removal of the word “community” from our name will bring a degree of sadness. However, I know full well that the community will remain the focus of our mission and in our hearts. I am convinced that changing our name will better serve our students as we move forward, and for all of us, it has always been first and foremost about what will best serve students.

We will be rolling out a plan to take advantage of the formal approval of our name change to reinforce and clarify who we are and what we do at Valencia. We learned that the community at large does not know our story as well as we’d like. You’ll see a concerted effort in the year ahead to tell our story and to engage you as story tellers. More will follow about that.

For now, you can read the comments from many people in the full report on my web site, including some very moving comments from students. As the report reveals, there are other lessons learned from the year-long consultation, and we will explore those in the future. I’ll close this by sharing the words of two students who, when asked what they would say, if they could, to the Valencia faculty:

“Thank you for making me feel smart.”

“I’d like to tell them how grateful we are.”

Could we hope for any higher reward for our work?

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