The Advancement of Military Student Success through Partnerships
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The Advancement of Military Student Success through Partnerships

Chad Knights, Vice President of Information and Engineering Technologies and College Computing, Northern Virginia Community College
Chad Knights, Vice President of Information and Engineering Technologies and College Computing, Northern Virginia Community College

Chad Knights, Vice President of Information and Engineering Technologies and College Computing, Northern Virginia Community College

The growth of education technology has led Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) to build innovative partnerships with both the private and public sectors. In fact, one of the most important parts of my job is seeking out and establishing community and industry partnerships to ensure our programs match the workforce needs of the region and our students are prepared not just for a job, but for a career in the 21st century technology industry.

NOVA was one of the first community colleges in the nation to offer a cloud computing program in collaboration with Amazon Web Services. We have also built strong partnerships with the data center operations community here in Northern Virginia, the United States Marine Corps and the United States Naval Community College.

For example, the value of partner feedback and program development can be seen in our groundbreaking data intelligence course of study that was developed hand-in-hand with subject-matter experts from the United States Marine Corps (USMC). This partnership led to the development of the first data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning courses in the Virginia Community College System. Active-duty Marines are assigned orders to attend NOVA to complete our certificate program, and in April 2022 our third cohort of Marines will complete their course of study. We are excited to continue this partnership with the USMC and have engaged several additional industry partners to help guide the establishment of a full two-year degree program in data intelligence at NOVA.  

Generally, most of our students are here in the Northern Virginia region, but we also understand that many of our students serve in the military and either are or may be required to deploy anywhere around the globe. To ensure that our students maintain access to education and are competitive in the workforce, NOVA has intentionally leveraged technology to deliver state-of-the-art technology programs, through both in-person and distance education modalities, and we have received recognition for programs that serve the needs of the military and government agencies. NOVA’s applied program in cybersecurity, now in its eighth year, is recognized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA) as a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE).

NOVA’s heralded cybersecurity program helped the institution become one of five schools in the U.S. selected to participate in Pilot I of the U.S. Naval Community College (USNCC)program, and was the only school selected to offer cybersecurity. NOVA was selected based on its excellent student outcomes; student-first mentality and unwavering commitment to student access and success.

“To ensure that our students maintain access to education and are competitive in the workforce, NOVA has intentionally leveraged technology to deliver state-of-the-art technology programs, through both in-person and distance education modalities.”

Pilot I began in January 2021, with 87 sailors, Marines and Coast Guard personnel enrolling at NOVA. Due to the success of the first pilot’s performance, NOVA was recently selected as a partner institution for the Pilot II expansion of cybersecurity programming.

NOVA was the only community college selected and became one of three institutions, alongside Western Governors University and University of Maryland Global Campus, to offer cybersecurity certificates and degrees. Designated as a Center of Academic Excellence for two-year institutions in Cyber Defense (CAE2Y-CD), NOVA is working strategically to provide students with curriculum mapped to the NSA/DHS knowledge units within the institution’s current applied associate degree.

"Having NOVA as one of our partner institutions means that our Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen have the opportunity to complete an application-based degree from a CAE-designated school," said Randi R. Cosentino, Ed.D., president of the USNCC. "This ensures our naval professionals are more capable and ready to operate in the cyber war space."

We are excited to continue in this partnership and the opportunity to deliver our cybersecurity program to active-duty sailors and marines globally. A student servicemember who joins through NOVA can expect courses ranging from six to 10 weeks that can be completed online throughout the day, which offers much-needed flexibility for students who serve. We want our servicemember students to feel that they have been supported and have achieved success through their dedication and hard work.

When we talk about the diversity of our students, we need to be able to reach them, wherever they are in the world. This type of hands-on training sets the benchmark for many of the program paths military students, military spouses and veterans can look toward as they serve their country and keep us all safe.

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