Category Archives: Faculty Development

NOVA Students participate in first-of-its-kind summer study in the Czech Republic as part of new AFA in Cinema

Cinema students from Northern Virginia Community College had a unique opportunity to study film in Pisek, Czech Republic this summer, and they’ve got proof—hours of film featuring some of The Czech Republic’s top actors and an excitement one can only achieve by actually going abroad to study and experience the world firsthand!

Twenty-two NOVA students traveled with Film Production faculty Bryan Brown, Chris Stallings and Josef “Pepi” Lustig to participate in a summer study abroad program with the Czech Republic’s Film Academy of Miroslav Ondricek, also known as FAMO. This opportunity to study in another country is one that is not readily available to the average community college student in the U.S.

“This was amazing for our students,” Stallings said. “They are still digesting what they learned. Four of them had never been on an airplane before, much less to another country!”

Initial introductions between the two schools were made in Spring 2017 by NOVA Adjunct Professor Josef Lustig (AN), which resulted in a site visit by five NOVA faculty and staff to FAMO. Lustig has extensive connections to the film industry in the country, and, once the initial discussions happened, it was evident to educators on both sides that this would be an excellent opportunity both for NOVA’s film and cinema students and the Czech students and faculty with whom they would interact.

The program is unique to community colleges in general, and to most other film programs in the United States. It is directly tied to NOVA’s new Associate in Fine Arts in Cinema, and the summer program met the requirements for two NOVA courses required for that degree. The program had several goals:

  • Students gain access to industry professionals through FAMO;
  • Students collaborate with Czech film students while working on intensive projects;
  • Students work with professional actors for their projects and
  • Students have access to materials and set experience in one of Europe’s major film studios.

Besides the formal academic benefit, there is also the life-changing effect of studying in a different culture and country, an opportunity not always available to community college students.

During the four-week program, students had direct access to working professionals at the highest levels (think the Czech equivalent of Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese). They would collaborate with Czech film students, working together on intensive film production projects. The Czech Republic asks their professional actors and actresses to “give back” once they have achieved success. Therefore, students had the opportunity to work with actors of the caliber of Anthony Hopkins and Meryl Streep; and these Czech actors are featured in the students’ portfolio work produced during the program. Students had access to state-of-the-art equipment and materials, as well as the opportunity to experience Barrandov Studios, one of Europe’s major film studios, located in Prague. This level of access is nearly impossible for students to achieve in the U.S., even in some of the most prestigious film schools.

In addition, students experienced valuable cross-cultural settings by working on mixed Czech-U.S. production teams.

“I learned that, on bigger crews, there will be lots of different personalities that all have to mesh with one another,” said NOVA Student Eugene Rose. “Getting everyone on the same page and trusting each other can make or break a film.”

Overcoming creative and cultural differences seemed to be a recurring theme. Tyra McKinzie is in her first year of the program. She expects to graduate with her AFA in Cinema in 2020, move on to complete a four-year degree and then explore careers in editing, directing and screenwriting. For her, the benefits included both the historical lessons she learned as well as the intercultural and interpersonal ones.

“I thoroughly enjoyed learning how great an impact Czech cinema had on film as well as getting to learn from Prof. “Pepi” Lustig and getting firsthand knowledge and training on filming, lighting and color-grading techniques from top Czech Cinematographer Marek Jicha was outstanding,” student McKinzie said. The trip also “reinforced the importance of respecting other cultures, teaching styles and creative differences; especially when there is a language barrier at play.”

“It’s important to remember the students are getting real-world industry experience here,” said Dr. Bryan Brown. “When you are working with filmmakers, here or anywhere, you have to butt heads with the producer. You have to butt heads with the director. And you have to work it out.”

In addition to the importance of inter-personal relationships and learning to work together as a team, there are many ways the workplace can differ across different cultures.

“Czech students just get it done,” Prof. Stallings said. “U.S. students want to stand back and look from every angle, to analyze situations, to make everyone feel good. Czech students just get it done. And conversely, the U.S. students helped slow down the Czech students.”

Students also learned how to overcome language barriers, Brown said.

“At one point, a Czech actor finished delivering his lines, and the U.S. students triumphantly yelled, ‘Cut! That’s a wrap!’ The Czech students stepped in and said, ‘Wait! He didn’t say anything even close to what was in the script!’”

These are lessons rarely learned by way of lecture in a classroom. They are opportunities occasionally available to students fortunate enough to land an internship in their field of study. But, fold in the international, multi-cultural components, and it is impossible to quantify the value of the experience for community college students who, at other two-year schools, can only dream of such an opportunity.

“Both sides in a study abroad program, both the sending country and the receiving country, get mutual benefit in an amazing way,” said Syedur Rahman, NOVA’s associate vice president of International Education and Sponsored Programs. “That mutual benefit sets the ground rules for the next program, and the next and the next. It is so important to remember that ‘slowing each other down’ does not actually mean ‘slowing down.’ It means moving together.”

The Czech Film program is a new model of study abroad for NOVA and will be a regular offering as part of the AFA degree. Any AFA student from NOVA will have the opportunity to apply to the program which is planned to run again in summer 2019. For further details contact Stacey Bustillos, Associate Director, Office of International Education and Sponsored Programs (



During Spring break six NOVA faculty, provosts and administrators traveled to Brazil to advance a newly established partnerships with the Federal Institute of Science and Technology in Acre, Brazil (IFAC). An MOU was signed with IFAC as a result of the English teacher training programs NOVA has been hosting for the past two years. In March 2017, a team from Acre visited NOVA and an MOU was signed between Dr. Ralls and Dr. Rosana Cavalcante, Rector of IF-Acre formally establishing the relationship. In order to further develop the relationship, NOVA was invited for a reciprocal visit to meet with the IFAC faculty, staff and students in the hopes of finding common areas of interest to establish partnerships and exchanges.

IF-Acre is part of a federally funded system of 48 Federal Institutes (IFs) of Science and Technology with over 600 campuses located in every state of Brazil. IFs serve students at the high school, undergrad and graduate level primarily in the areas of science and technology. Like community colleges, each IF has specialty areas that meet the needs of their specific community and industries.

The state of Acre is one of the most remote in northwestern Brazil, bordering Peru and Bolivia and largely within the Amazon rainforest. Given its distance from the capital and the richer metropolitan areas on the coast, Acre is often overlooked and lacks exposure to international partnerships. It is home to many indigenous tribes which also make up part of their student populations as well as some of the most pristine rainforest and wildlife in the world.

As a result of the visit, plans are being made for faculty and student collaborations between the institutions that may include opportunities for academic and service learning projects abroad.

The visit was sponsored by NOVA’s Office of International Education and Sponsored Programs with support from the Annandale, Manassas, Woodbridge campuses as well as NOVA’s Workforce Development Division.  The NOVA delegation included; Dr. Pamela Hilbert (Provost AN), Dr. Sam Hill (Provost WO), Dr. Ghada Abdelmoumin (IT Professor AN), Dr. Rebecca Hayes (History Professor and Honors Chair MA), Ms. Keila Louzada (ACLI Coordinator, Workforce) and Stacey Bustillos (Associate Director, OIESP).

NOVA Named Fulbright Top Producing Institution for 2017-18


The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs recently announced the U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2017-2018 Fulbright U.S. Scholars. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Top-producing institutions are highlighted annually in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Professor Amy Coren from NOVA’s Alexandria campus was awarded a Fulbright grant for 2017-2018 to the University of Pecs in Hungary. NOVA was one of 25 community colleges who had Fulbright scholarships awarded this year.  NOVA faculty have consistently been awarded Fulbright scholarships over the past decade.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is supported at NOVA through the Office of International Education and Sponsored Programs.  Interested faculty can reach out to Stacey Bustillos ( who acts as the College’s Fulbright Liaison and can assist with application strategies and country selection.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 380,000 participants—chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Over 1,100 U.S. college and university faculty and administrators, professionals, artists, journalists, scientists, lawyers, and independent scholars are awarded Fulbright grants to teach and/or conduct research annually. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program operates in over 125 countries throughout the world.

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, funded by an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and supported in its implementation by the Institute of International Education’s Council for International Exchange of Scholars.

For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit


NOVA Psychology Professor Awarded Fulbright to Hungary

NOVA professor Amy Coren arrived in Pécs, Hungary (about 100 miles southwest of Budapest) at the beginning of September to begin her Fulbright fellowship in teaching and research at the Institute of Psychology and the Faculty of Law at Hungary’s oldest university – the University of Pécs, founded in 1367.

Professor Coren is proud to be one of only five Americans from U.S. universities who were selected by the Fulbright Commission to teach and carry out research in Hungary for the 2017-2018 academic year. As a result of her unique qualifications (Ph.D. in Psychology, and J.D.), she has been engaged with both the faculty of law and the psychology department in teaching courses – an advanced undergraduate and M.A. level course in cross-cultural psychology, a seminar for Ph.D. students on the psychology of consciousness, and a lecture series in forensic psychology.

In addition to her teaching responsibility, Prof. Coren is also a thesis advisor for several undergraduate research projects spanning the fields of law and psychology (including one project examining the correlation between criminality and frontal lobe processing).

During her time in Hungary, Prof. Coren has attended several conferences on neuroscience (specifically the Regional European Neuroscience Conference, FENS), and will be delivering additional lectures to students and faculty interested in the US educational system.

At the end of October, she will be delivering a keynote address on the mental health challenges facing migrants at a conference sponsored by the University of Pécs Medical School and U.S. State Department. In addition to her ongoing teaching responsibilities, the rest of the semester spent in Hungary will involve collecting data for an international collaborative research project on positive youth development and continuing to lay the groundwork for exchange programs bringing Hungarian scholars and students to the US for academic exchanges.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and offers over 500 teaching, research or combination teaching/research awards annually in over 125 countries. For more information on the Fulbright application process faculty can contact Stacey Bustillos ( in the Office of International Education and Sponsored Programs for tips and guidance.

NOVA Fulbright Scholar to Receive Honorary Doctorate from Host Institution in Russia

Phillip Imel, associate accounting professor and a Fulbright Scholar who taught at Ural State University of Economics in Yekaterinburg, Russia, from September 2012 to June 2013, will be returning there to accept an honorary Doctor of Economics degree.

Professor Natalia Vlasova, the vice rector for international relations at the University, informed him of the honor. The decision to award the diploma was made by the University’s Academic Council. Imel and his wife will travel to the city of about 1.4 million residents in the Ural Mountains of central Russia, near Siberia, in June for the ceremony.

“Since my Fulbright experience, Russia has become my second home with Yekaterinburg and the Ural State University of Economics both holding a special place in my heart,” said Imel.

“We congratulate Phillip on this great honor, and thank him for all of his hard work and dedication,” said Celeste Dubeck-Smith, Annandale Business and Public Services Division dean.

Imel’s Fulbright project was titled “Comparative Analysis of the Russian and American Business Systems.” He taught three regular courses and several seminars at the university while performing research for a paper he presented at an international conference on global capital markets at the university.

He worked to introduce methods and techniques to the finance and accounting curricula at Ural State University to allow students to transfer their academic credentials to other countries. This came out of his experience meeting students at NOVA who were respected professionals in their home countries, but had to take remedial courses to qualify for positions in the U.S.

Imel and his wife also helped students planning to transfer to U.S. colleges prepare to take the ACT college readiness assessment test. He noted that Ural State University is more international than most Russian universities.

Imel attended Ashland Community College and Morehead State University in Kentucky and has done doctoral work at the University of Virginia. Prior to coming to NOVA, he taught at Southwest Virginia Community College where he had the opportunity to travel to Russia five times through a U.S. State Department exchange program with Russian universities.

In the process, he learned to speak Russian and says he fell in love with the country. “I enjoyed Yekaterinburg so much because it is near Siberia about a thousand miles from Moscow, and you are among the real true Russian people,” he said.

He added that it is much like the mountainous rural Kentucky where he grew up.