Sunday, December 9, 2012

President of Valencia reflects on year as 'The Best'

     ORLANDO — Valencia College was honored one year ago on Dec. 12, 2011, as it was awarded the inaugural Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

     The prize recognized Valencia as the best community college in the nation as stated on the Aspen Institute’s web site for having “outstanding academic and workforce outcomes in both absolute performance and improvements over time.”

     “It was just a terrific thrill to be able to represent the whole community college world for just a moment, and to speak to policy makers and the public on our work,” said Dr. Sanford Shugart, president of Valencia College.

(Click above to watch video)
(Produced by James Tutten)

     To reach the point of being recognized as “the best” meant a detailed evaluation process developed by the Aspen Institute that measured the nation’s top community colleges based on “student learning, degree and credential attainment, transfer, and career and earnings outcomes,” as stated by the institute’s Aspen Prize overview.

     Shugart humbly explained that he didn’t feel this award meant the college was actually the best in the nation because that is so hard to clearly define, just the inaugural winner and one of the best.

     He went on to say, “it feels like confirmation of a long, steady climb to improve student learning. We’ve had just a tremendous focus for two decades almost on improving what students experience and how they learn and how they progress.”

     The Aspen Prize works to acknowledge the achievements of community colleges with outstanding records of student success propelling them to the national spotlight which allows them to inspire other institutions looking to ratify and improve their own work with post-secondary education.

     When asked if being awarded the Aspen Prize one year ago was his highest professional accomplishment Shugart said “I feel best about our work through our student’s stories. When I hear of a student who succeeded against the odds and gone places and done things no one had ever imagined possible including the student, those are my best moments.”

     After winning the Aspen Prize the college has received more attention from the community and the national educational community and Shugart has be able to travel more to speak on national panels and explain the work of Valencia College.

     The college also has several goals for the future to go along with its ever-growing campuses and raising numbers of student enrollment. Valencia is still working on the goal of improving graduation rates for students in need of basic refresher courses and others that require more fundamental help with remediation in English, math and other skills needed to find success in college.

     There is also a continued focus on the college’s advanced degrees and continued refinement in the “DirectConnect” program, which works to guarantee graduating students a place at Valencia’s partner school the University of Central Florida.

     President Shugart’s overall message to the students at Valencia recognized that this award was based on their accomplishments just as much as the administrators, faculty and other staff members that made it possible.

     “I would call on our students to raise their aspirations, be really reticent and don’t take anything less than the best in their own academic work,” said Shugart.

     Based on the criteria of the Aspen Institute, Valencia was not eligible to win the 2012 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence because of winning last year.

By James Tutten

(Photos by James Tutten)

Large banner celebrating Aspen Prize on East Campus.

Banner proclaiming "Best in the nation," on East Campus.


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