Category Archives: Career & Leadership Readiness Institute

NOVA Graduate Spotlight – Hispanic Heritage

Alec Vaca is a NOVA graduate who received an A.A.S. in Automotive from NOVA and later pursued a degree in HVAC before switching to an A.A.S. in Engineering Technology. He interned for Micron and worked there for 3 years. Afterward he interned for Digital Realty and is now employed full-time as an IT Manager. We caught up with him at the end of Hispanic Heritage month to ask about his experiences getting to where he is now and how NOVA helped him achieve his goals:

How did you first learn about NOVA?
I heard about NOVA during my Junior (11th) year in High School. Much of what I knew originally came from rumors of being a lesser-university experience for a much lower cost.

How were you first inspired in STEM?
My fascination with STEM originated also in my Junior year in High School when I took an automotive basics class and following my senior year in High School with a trade class for small engines. I thoroughly enjoyed understanding each component’s purpose in the overall picture of manipulating energy for a specific task.

Since joining NOVA, describe your experiences?
I have learned from industry experts who teach students, such as myself, with a passion to equip the future labor force. My experiences made in each lab have been stelar thanks to NOVA cultivating a healthy culture empowering my professors to teach to their best abilities.

How has NOVA equipped you in your career path?
NOVA has equipped me through many opportunities to advance my career, ranging from a plethora of degree-specific scholarships to unique Internship paths with global companies such as Micron Technology and Digital Realty.

How have you balanced work needs while pursuing your education?
Balancing a work life while pursuing an education is admittedly my greatest weakness. I have learned early on that it is possible but sacrifice to some “me” time is required. An effective balance usually means I cut down on recreation on my down time to finish deadlines from both work and school. I have been blessed to have considerate managers and professors, so that also is a huge weight off my shoulders!

What excites you about the technology industry?
The fact that we are in a unique time in the world where competition for the “latest & greatest” is at its peak.

You recently started a new job, Congratulations! Describe how you were able to secure the opportunity?
Thanks! I put into practice my persistence in finding opportunities that would benefit me and my goals. My first step was focusing more on my classes I was taking and to see what would suit my future aspirations in the workforce. Following this I took advantage of the Career Learning Readiness Institute (CLRI) training modules, offered by NOVA, for seeking employment and had the tremendous opportunity to tour STACK Infrastructure, which sealed the deal on which industry I would love to grow into. Finally, after discussing my aspirations to my professors, I was made aware of an opportunity to intern at a leading Data Center in Loudoun, which resulted in said company knowing who I was as an individual and vice versa.

What are your ultimate career goals?
I believe my ultimate career goal would be, as my father says, “Bloom where you’re planted”.

Are there any professors or mentors who you want to recognize along your journey?
My top three professors/mentors I have been fortunate to interact with would be Reginald Bennett for his passion to teach, Laura Garcia for her counseling and Amir Mehmood for his care for us the students.

What have you most enjoyed about your time at NOVA?
My best moments at NOVA have been struggling with other students to understand the material we must learn and the relationships that have sprouted from our conflicts. Nothing says comradery like a class of students working together to get to the next part of the lab!

How does your life in the professional world differ from life as a NOVA student? What are the expectations?
Learning a topic at NOVA, with physical labs included, is different from learning in the workforce. My classes give me a great foundational understanding of STEM concepts and the ability to test controlled sections of an area being explored. In the workplace, I can develop my skills I have learned, usually without control found in labs I have done at NOVA. As far as expectations go, at work I am expected to do my best and if I do not, then my team suffers the most. In my classes, I am expected to learn and if I fail to, then I alone suffer the most.

What would you say to current NOVA IET students who would like to follow your example? What should they do and what should they expect?
What worked for me was building relationships with my professors and classmates so I could learn more about who I was as a person and where I wanted to end up at. I would not be where I am today without pushing myself out of my comfort zone to look for opportunities, to which many professors are eager to help those seeking.

Is there anything else you want to share?
My parents often say a variation of “Cherish the good times and learn in the hard times”, which I find fitting.

 

DCO Tech Advancing In-Demand Technology

NOVA’s DCO Tech Grant will be highlighted at the NSF ATE Principal Investigators’ Conference in October.

On October 26-28, NOVA SySTEMic director Josh Labrie and Stack Infrastructure’s VP (and NOVA professor) TJ Ciccone will present DCO Tech at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Principal Investigators’ (PI) Conference in Washington D.C. The conference will bring together more than 850 NSF ATE grantees and their project partners to focus on the critical issues related to advanced technological education.

NOVA’s DCO Tech Grant supports NOVA’s Engineering Tech Programs and is designed to increase regional capacity for training in Engineering Technology (ET) and Data Center Operations (DCO) through expanded recruitment, employment, training, and increased collaboration between industry, K-12 educators, and faculty.

This year, as part of DCO Tech, NOVA SySTEMic conducted successful Bridge Programs for high school juniors and seniors (bridging the gap between HS and college), and introduced students to Data Center Operations and Engineering Technology. Bridge students toured 2 NOVA campuses, visited industry partners (Micron and STACK Infrastructure) and conducted hands-on activities at NOVA’s mechatronics and data center labs. The program featured guest speakers from NOVA’s student support offices, IET faculty members, and industry volunteers. 20 high school students completed the 2-week program and earned 1 college credit with the opportunity to earn their OSHA 10 certification. NOVA provided free transportation between NOVA campuses to reduce barriers to participation.

One of the hallmarks of DCO Tech’s Bridge programs is that they can improve attitudes towards STEM disciplines and awareness of career opportunities. One student reflected “I really enjoyed building connections and understanding the different fields of STEM. I never understood data centers in this depth. I’m very glad it’s in-person and we get to see NOVA campuses.”

In addition, DCO Tech helps provide career readiness for NOVA students through the Career and Leadership Readiness Institute (CLRI), which enhances leadership skills and develops career connections, teaching students how to interview, create a standout resume, network effectively, and manage interpersonal skills. Students who complete CLRI will receive priority consideration for paid internships with industry partners. New CLRI courses begin on Oct 18 and you can sign up for info sessions on Oct 4, 6, and 11. Applications are due on October 12. Find out more and sign up at https://www.nvcc.edu/career-services/clri.html

Another component of DCO Tech is the K12 Educator Externship, which raises awareness for Engineering Technology and Data Center Operations career pathways among secondary educators. This Engineering Technology Externship is designed to provide teachers, counselors, and administrators with first-hand knowledge of engineering technology and data center operations through industry site visits and engagement with NOVA’s related programs of study. This year we had 18 externship completers who visited Micron Technology, Stack Infrastructure, and NOVA’s Fab Lab to help inform them on creating an action plan to improve the pipeline of students entering the workforce as technicians for DCO or Engineering Technology. In polling, 100% of participants rated the overall externship as above average or excellent. All participants expressed moderate to very confident abilities in educating their colleagues on guiding students to ET and DCO careers.

One educator said “we were given a clear picture of the type of student that would succeed in this industry, the skillsets needed, along with the curriculum. This, along with actually touring the facility, increased my awareness and as such, I feel more confident in sharing this with students, parents, and teachers.”

**We will be continuing the Summer Bridge Programs and Secondary Educator Externship Programs in 2023. Complete this form to be notified when registration is live. You can also sign up for the monthly NOVA IET newsletter which will have details about the 2023 programs as soon as they are available.

To learn more about Engineering Technology at NOVA visit https://www.nvcc.edu/academics/areas/applied-technologies/engineering-technology.html

For more about Data Center Operations at NOVA, go to https://www.nvcc.edu/academics/areas/applied-technologies/data-center-operations.html

To learn more about the NSF ATE PI Conference, click here

 

Staff Spotlight: Natasha Schuh-Nuhfer is a 2022 NOVA Reward and Recognition Program Awardee

Congratulations to NOVA SySTEMic’s Natasha Schuh-Nuhfer for being a 2022 NOVA Reward and Recognition Program awardee!

The Reward and Recognition Program recognizes administrative and professional faculty, classified staff, teaching faculty, and adjunct faculty who have demonstrated outstanding contributions and exemplary performance.

Natasha serves as the STEM Education Coordinator for the Manassas Campus and leads SySTEMic’s K-12 STEM teacher professional development efforts. She has been instrumental to the success of SySTEMic programs, stepping in to provide support wherever needed. Last summer, Natasha supervised the virtual cybersecurity STEM camps and taught the final Introduction to Cybersecurity camp when camp instructors had to return to their districts for the semester and were no longer available.

With COVID concerns going into the new school year, Natasha spearheaded the design of virtual professional development opportunities for STEM educators to learn to program with the BBC micro:bit, explore cyber and technology innovations, and understand the nuances of makerspace machines and software.

In January, Natasha eagerly stepped in to help support NOVA’s Career and Leadership Readiness Institute while also managing her teacher professional development responsibilities, eventually taking over the program in March and bringing it to its completion in mid-April.

Natasha can now be found supporting NOVA-awarded National Science Foundation grants focused on teacher professional development.

Thank you, Natasha, for your impact on the NOVA community and the region’s educators!