Two very interrelated topics are on “my mind” this week: our core value as a Learning Centered College and the powerful role that diversity and inclusion plays in student learning and in our campus climate/culture. The genesis of these reflections comes from my attendance at this year’s Higher Learning Commission (HLC) conference in Chicago. As I attended eleven different sessions over the day and half, it was reaffirmed that our Indicators of a Learning Centered College provide for the strongest of foundations and scaffolding from which to construct our Self- Study. In fact our Indicators are aligned perfectly with each of the Criterion descriptors 1 – 5. It is also apparent to me that we are on track for a successful reaffirmation of our accreditation as many of the best practices shared (active and engaged learning strategies, innovative assessment of student learning outcomes) are clearly in place at PVCC. This is very good news.
It is critically important then that our diverse students, faculty, and staff are able to learn and work in a campus climate that fosters inclusion and respect.
According to Harper (2008) it has been shown that student interaction with diverse peers has a strong effect on cognitive outcomes including critical thinking and reasoning, perspective taking, and openness to cognitive dissimilarity and challenge. In the new Criteria, HLC has recognized the value of diversity and inclusion in the learning environment – simply take a look at the new Criteria and section 1.C “The institution understands the relationship between its mission and the diversity of society.” If you dig deeper into the new Criteria, you will find four additional core components that directly address diversity and inclusion.
Recently the PVCC Diversity and Inclusion committee forwarded to me several recommendations to enhance and improve our training and professional development programming for faculty and staff in order to improve and enhance our campus climate. To this end, the President’s Leadership Council, this summer, will be rolling out a plan to expand our efforts in this arena. In addition to the College and District resources, we will also be tapping into the Intercultural Communications Institute. Watch for more details soon.
Please join me in thanking our HLC Self-Study teams and leadership as their work continues in preparation for our November 2014 site visit especially in the context of our Learning Centered College.