A Special Message from Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President
“Remember who you are and where you come from.”
These words have stayed with me for more than 40 years since they were spoken into my life by a teacher, one of the sages in my early development, during a time of serious school unrest when I was a school leader. They come to mind now as I read of unrest, of incidents of harassment and marginalization, and of growing fears among many people, including students on college and university campuses across the country.
I write now to assure you all, the entire Valencia community, that we are aware of the deep sense of uncertainty and anxiety some may bear in this unsettled season following such a tumultuous national election. And I echo my teacher — “Remember who you are and where you come from.”
We are Valencia. We embrace every learner, every colleague who chooses to join our learning community with respect and regard for others in the community. We believe in the potential of every human being (“Anyone can learn anything under the right conditions.”). We stand with everyone who is seeking a better world through learning. We stand against every act of violence, bigotry, coercion and objectification of another human being. We stand for respectful, civil and robust discourse, including disagreement, both in and outside the classroom.
This isn’t just a value statement; it is a lived value. It is why we are able to achieve the best results among open access colleges, why we are able to assemble such a talented and diverse faculty and staff, why we come to work with the highest expectations for our students and one another. It is why we waive tuition for every homeless student and for victims of sexual trafficking, why we have become home to one of the largest communities of foster students in transition, why our international students rank us among the most welcoming colleges in America, why we strive to be the best college for veterans, why we double the diversity of graduates at the University of Central Florida through our successful transfer students, and why we have engaged the whole community — tens of thousands of persons — in purposeful reflection on peace and justice.
Barely 150 days ago, we were reminded powerfully how important our solidarity with one another really can be, as we joined hands across every perceived difference to stand with one another and with the victims of the Pulse tragedy and all those who found themselves in an anxious place in its aftermath. Only last night, I heard a wonderful young student from our Bridges to Success program share with members of the community that she loved Valencia because “at Valencia, the faculty, the staff and even the students have your back.”
We do, indeed, have her back. We have your back, too. If you are experiencing any unacceptable treatment born out of the ignorance of others, please reach out and let us stand with you. You are surrounded by people who know you belong here and know you matter beyond measure.
This is who we are. This is where we come from. We are Valencia.