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Northern Virginia Community College wants to close the achievement gap, and its new vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer has a plan.

Eun-Woo Chang started work in July by visiting all six campuses and meeting with staff. His job is to take charge of NOVA’s academic initiatives, and says that the college’s ADVANCE program, which allows for a smooth transition to a four-year degree at George Mason University, will be expanded with advisors to help Hispanic students.

“This is going to be a model,” Chang told ALXnow in a recent interview. “If we are successful, we are going to implement this to the other ethnic groups, as time goes.”

Grant funding will help, Chang said, as NOVA has secured millions in grants for the project from the U.S. Department of Education and the Association of American Colleges and Universities. NOVA has also received $40 million from the Virginia legislature to expand its health and trades programs.

With 72,000 students spread across its campuses, NOVA was forced to up its online offerings during the pandemic. In-person classes resumed in August 2020, and a lesson learned from the experience, Chang said, was to increase availability for Zoom classes.

“Forty percent of our classes are in person, 40% of percent of our classes are in a Zoom environment, and virtual classes make up 20% right now,” he said. “We anticipate that virtual online format is going to grow even more.”

All of this is part of NOVA’s adherence to the Virginia Community College System’s Opportunity 2027 Strategic Plan. NOVA’s graduation rate last year was 29%, a 2.6% increase over year before. Approximately 64% of students in NOVA are minorities.

Chang, who was previously in academic leadership at Ashland University in Ohio and Mercer County Community College in New Jersey, moved to the area in 2008 when he was hired as a program director in the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation.

He also says that having First Lady Dr. Jill Biden teaching at NOVA helps the school’s profile.

“It’s an honor for us to have her as a faculty member here,” he said.

Chang says longevity is the key to his success.

“As long as they don’t kick me out, I’ll stay here,” he said. “The longest serving provost has been here more than 15 years. And then the shortest serving provost is five or six years. So, there is a longevity, and that’s why we are successful.”

Photo via NVCC

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Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC, though the school also calls itself NOVA), which has a campus in Alexandria’s West End at 5000 Dawes Avenue, has announced that there will be some in-person classes this fall when classes resume on Monday, August 24.

“While much remains uncertain about the future impacts of COVID-19, NOVA has outlined safety considerations for limited on-site instruction, services and operations during the fall semester,” the school announced on its website. “This plan is grounded in a commitment to follow all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) guidelines for COVID-19 safety.”

Alexandria City Public Schools has put forward a plan to go online-only, with few exceptions, and NVCC said the majority of its classes will be virtual as well. Computer labs, libraries, bookstores, the business office and parking will remain open, but with limited capacity.

Some classes, like, will require in-person instruction. According to NVCC, these include:

  • Automotive Technology
  • Dental Hygiene
  • Engineering Technology
  • HVAC
  • Nursing
  • Workforce Development

“For more hands-on classes that require a physical presence at NOVA, the College is using an individualized approach to identifying and implementing safety controls in a deliberate and sensible manner,” NVCC said. “Safety planning surveys were used to gather detail of what instruction or service will occur in each classroom or area and any unique dynamics or considerations involved. CDC and VDH guidance for physical distancing, the College evaluated each space, measured distance between seats, reviewed instructional areas and prepared plans and configurations to maximize a six-foot distance, to the extent possible.”

The school is requiring that students, faculty and staff complete an online training module that includes information about COVID-19.

Campus events and meetings have also been cancelled, as is the school’s fall athletic season.

Photo via NVCC

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