The days of the Loudoun Campus of Northern Virginia Community College as a quiet two-building institution have come and gone. Over the past years, NOVA-Loudoun has seen a level of growth equivalent to the rest of the county, and as education demands have changed, Loudoun’s community college is offering a wide variety of educational options to meet the area’s demands.
Loudoun Campus Provost Julie Leidig met with the LBJ to discuss Northern Virginia Community College and how they’ve added different options to meet the needs of the community.
While the changes and additions reverberate throughout the school, perhaps the most obvious is the recent additions to the campus architecture. The learning commons building opened earlier in the year and boasts an impressive new library, improved food services and a variety of meeting space and recreation rooms.
The campus has also seen an expansion of the science building and is preparing to break ground on the higher education center – in discussions with several four-year colleges including George Mason University, students will soon have the option of taking their bachelors classes without leaving the Loudoun campus.
Already offering a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from UVA on the campus, the higher education building will allow more students to complete their education here.
“There are students who want the full dormitory experience and they want to go away from home, but there are plenty of people who have family and work responsibilities or they just don’t want to leave the local area,” said Leidig.
Next up is a renovation of the Reynolds building with new food service options. More intriguing is the planned creation of a new campus – likely in the Brambleton area – with a set of unique programs according to Leidig.
Her goal is to make the campus both an immediate transfer and an adult completion campus over time. The vast majority of NOVA students remain first-time-to-college students taking advantage of the guaranteed admission programs existing with all of the Virginia public schools – and several private ones.
The increasingly-expensive cost of college tuition has made community college in general a much more attractive proposition to many students. Over the years, the Loudoun campus has seen a consistent increase in student enrollment.
“We’re seeing more students consider that pathway and more parents begin to realize the value of doing it that way,” says Leidig.
That means that in addition to working with students who may need a slower introduction to college-level education, there are also an increasing number of students who are very focused and driven, but need a less expensive option initially.
While NOVA does concentrate significant resources on remedial education for students with lesser math or English skills, there’s also a strong honors program that’s attractive for a transfer student. Honors students have the option of taking specific honors classes or working on an honors project with the professor in a standard class – an option that might not be available at a larger school
One of the concerns many might have about a commuter-based, two-year college is a lack of community. That’s changed too with the increase of sporting activities and the forty-plus active clubs.
The campus is also seeing results from the leadership program as well. In addition to the long-standing student ambassadors program, a student government association was initiated last year.
“It’s exciting to work with them,” said Leidig. “Some the students were underachievers in high school. I had a student come in who was one of our student government officers and he just got into UVA. He was over the moon. He said, ‘In high school, I had a 2,8 gpa and I really just didn’t think I was college material.’ He got involved in all sorts of student clubs here. We see students really blossom.”
In years past, many employers were willing to provide more on-the-job training in the new IT fields. Today, “the expectation is that IT will be ready on day one,” according to Leitig.
For that reason, the college is seeing a consistent flow of adult students seeking to add to their add skills to their resumes. The college is currently dong outreach to several large local companies, asking what the skills are that they’re looking for.
Along with IT, biotechnology and geospatial systems are among the more popular career-based training options with older students also returning for the campus’ veterinary technology, early childhood education and communications design programs.
But workforce development isn’t simply about adult education. NOVA is also receiving state funding for the Systemic Solutions program, which encourages excitement about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) studies in elementary and middle school students
Originated at NOVA’s Manassas campus and now spreading, the program connected the college’s professors and local business leaders in the STEM fields with public schools.
We just don’t have enough students,” said Leidig, “who once they get to college are going into disciplines that are actually going to pay off for them in terms of a viable career. I love the arts and humanities and I love to have people studying them, but the people majoring in them need to know that there may not be an obvious job when they get out. We just don’t have enough students who are choosing the sciences, math and IT systems because by the time they get to college they’ve already been turned off those things.”
About Julie Leidig
There’s a new sense of excitement at the Loudoun campus of Northern Virginia Community College and it’s either because of Provost Julie Leidig or she’s been infected by it.
Originally from Chicago, Leidig has served with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in Austin and later as provost of the Montgomery campus at the Lone Star College System.
Calling her own career path a “zigzag,” Leidig gets visibly excited when talking about the importance of education in general and community colleges specifically, saying, “We are called the great second chance.”
NOVA-Loudoun ... by the numbers
6 NOVA-CC locations
93 Acres on campus in Sterling
230 Seats in Waddell Theater
11,000 Students each year
250,000 Volumes spread between the different NOVA libraries
This article originally appeared in the third quarter Loudoun Business Journal for 2013.