“Engage the power of diversity to enhance learning and the College’s impact on the community.”

 by Angela Martincak, Sandy Shugart, and Geraldine Thompson

 Of the twelve Vanguard Learning Colleges, only Valencia has adopted a strategic goal dealing with diversity. Why did the College community give so much attention to this area, and what has diversity to do with learning?


Valencia is already a remarkably diverse learning community. Members of minority ethnic heritage comprise more than 42% of our students, up from 22% in 1990. The Osceola Campus is already recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution and East Campus has a rapidly growing Hispanic population, as well. On West Campus, minorities comprise 48% of the students and international students are particularly prominent in the student community. Diversity describes Valencia’s present and our future.


These same students, of course, are a rich resource for learning. The literature on higher education clearly documents significant value to learning where the power of diversity is engaged in the curriculum, classroom, and larger campus community. This is especially true of the meta-cognitive skills we value so highly, such as critical thinking, individual accountability, leadership ability, and building positive relationships.   Further, all of our students will graduate into and work in a world of extraordinary diversity of cultures, nationalities, languages, and heritages. Cultural competence, to think, value, communicate and act in a diverse world, is an essential learning outcome of a higher education. We are blessed with a learning environment that is enriched with this same diversity, a laboratory for learning cultural competence in the midst of the disciplines that form the foundation for an education.


There are a number of challenges to be met, however, if we are to create this kind of engagement for learning. Significant gaps in learning achievement across students of different ethnicities still persist, although we are already experiencing dramatic results in closing these gaps as a learning college. For example, in college prep reading, success rates for all groups of students have improved dramatically and are converging, as shown below.



College Preparatory Reading

Percent of Students Enrolled on Any Level

Who Complete the Highest Level


                        1997                1998                1999                2000

White              61.04               66.30               73.68               80.50

Black              50.00               46.51               56.78               72.07

Hispanic          63.64               66.34               67.07               79.14


Total               58.46               62.71               67.93               78.26


Both the voices of our students, faculty and staff, as well as national data suggest we cannot take for granted that every student can expect to experience a welcoming, inclusive environment even at Valencia. Here, too, there are signs of progress, as the staff and faculty increasingly represent many cultures and backgrounds and the larger campus life is enriched with the great diversity of events, collaborations, connections, and celebrations.


Our experience in collaborative work mirrors what we find in the literature. Diversity strengthens our decision-making by broadening perspectives on issues and building understanding and support deep within the organization. Our solutions to problems and our program designs have proved to be the strongest when diverse voices have helped to craft them in an inclusive environment.


Valencia’s responsibility for building an inclusive learning community extends beyond the boundaries of our classrooms and campuses to the community we serve. A learning college has a responsibility to live up to the values it professes in the community. The ways in which we engage business partners and the call to the civic virtues in the community shape our future as a learning college and demonstrate our authenticity as a servant institution. We will engage the opportunities of diversity in greater Orlando with the same energy we bring to the College.


So what does diversity have to do with learning? The diversity of our world and community places a claim of cultural competence on our curriculum. The diversity of our students, faculty and staff provides a rich resource for mastering competence in a diverse world. The engagement of persons, student to student, student to faculty, staff to staff, and so on, creates the laboratory for learning cultural competence. Finally, as a learning college, we will be tenacious in our focus on results: all students mastering high learning expectations and the College helping to build a healthier community.


This focus will enable Valencia to make the transition from the old higher education architecture and tradition of numbers equity to the more learning-centered architecture of valuing and empowering diverse voices, perspectives and experiences in College governance, campus life and community vitality. For us, an authentic regard for diversity can be neither a political refrain from either end of the spectrum, nor a compliance activity typical of many bureaucracies. Rather, it has to be a perspective grounded in our belief in the capacities of all learners, the mission of the college to the whole community, and the assurance that diversity is not a problem to be solved, but a strength to be engaged.


Our outcomes and strategies speak to each of these commitments.




  • All students are equipped by their experience at Valencia to prosper in an increasingly diverse community.
  • The College provides a welcoming and inclusive learning environment.
  • The College is deeply connected in productive partnerships with the communities it seeks to serve and build.
  • Diverse voices and perspectives are genuinely valued in College planning, policies, curriculum, and campus life.
  • The College fosters community vitality and unity, respect for diverse cultures, and the opportunity for all to participate in the prosperity we seek.




Assure a workplace and learning environment free of discrimination.


Close the gap in attainment of learning outcomes among students from diverse backgrounds.


Diversify the faculty, administration, and staff and strengthen the skills and experience base for leading learning in diverse environments.


Reach deeply into under served communities to support higher learning aspirations and preparation for college.


Expand the College’s capacity to engage local, small, and minority owned businesses in vendor and partner relationships.


Partner effectively in support of others’ efforts to celebrate, strengthen, and focus on diversity in Central Florida.