The Power of Learning – Especially Now

Over the weekend, I made time to go through my briefcase and read two months of accumulated reports, news and journal articles. The articles covered topics such as: strategies to successfully emerge from the pandemic, capitalizing on the digital age, student and faculty  perceptions of guided pathways, barriers to social and economic mobility, and the history of inequalities in higher education. Through hundreds of pages of text, the fundamental and foundational need to focus all of our efforts on learning clearly emerged as the “lifeline” through all topics. It should not be surprising that resolute and unwavering commitment to student learning is the corrective and accelerating remedy to the varied article thesis questions and challenges.  

Several years ago, I heard Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College in Florida (Aspen Prize Winner for Community College Excellence), share that his first decision as president was to focus one-hundred percent effort and college resources around the student learning experience. In 1998, PVCC made a similar organizational commitment as we began our journey to “become a more learning-centered college.” Fundamental to this commitment was the adoption of Indicators of a Learning Centered College – take a few minutes to refresh on the first four indicators. As I’ve shared many times, a meta-analysis of the student success literature points to consistent and scaled execution of these core indicators as the best predictors of student persistence and completion. 

After finishing the marathon reading Sunday night, I asked myself if PVCC was still capable of being the premier learning-centered community college in America. Can we, given the stresses and strains of learning and working in the virtual world and the real and present organizational “innovation tensions” (of implementing Futures and TACT recommendations), maintain exceptional focus on maximizing the student learning experience? Can we live up to one of the core pillars of our vision – imparting the gift of lifelong learning? Can we demonstrate that active and engaged learning is the best chance to close educational attainment gaps? Interestingly, when the stresses and strains of thriving in the virtual work world set in, it is by answering YES to these questions, I find presence, exceptional focus, and a renewed sense of energy. It is liberating to know that a focus on learning can filter out other pandemic related intrusions. 

As we move into the final stretch of the fall semester, please continue to reach out and connect with our students. Please also know that I am aware of the “heavy lifts” required to be successful in the virtual learning space – thank you for your individual and collective efforts to “go above and beyond” to bring learning alive!