NOVA Adapts to Growth

NOVA Adapts to Growth

With the GI Bill in hand, Jennifer Crain of Leesburg picked the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) - Loudoun Campus for a reason.

"I came here because I heard NOVA was a really good school; the teachers are actually professors, not student aides; plus the classes are smaller, so I could learn more," said Crain, 21, who served in the U.S. Army for the past three years.

By her second day of classes Tuesday, Crain was glad of her decision. "The teachers are into their teaching and try to make it interesting to you. They're about helping you succeed in what you're trying to do," said Crain, who plans to earn an associate's of science degree before studying pharmacology.

Crain joins 35 percent of students enrolled in the college's transfer program, a two-year, pre-baccalaureate program with credits transferable to four-year colleges. The transfer program, along with the career and technical programs, is similar to that of the programs at NOVA's four other campuses, which are in Alexandria, Annandale, Manassas and Woodbridge.

"All five of us are comprehensive campuses. We offer a wide array of courses," said Anthony Tardd, provost for the Loudoun campus, adding that NOVA offers a few of its programs at select campuses. "There are some courses that might be unique to a campus. Each of us tries to meet the needs of the community we are a part of."

THE LOUDOUN CAMPUS adds veterinarian technician, horticulture, historic preservation and interior design courses to the regular program, while the Annandale campus offers health courses and the campuses at Manassas and Alexandria, automotive and construction courses.

"There's an awful lot of options here besides getting your basic credits," said Marylyn Haspel, public information officer for the Loudoun NOVA campus.

NOVA includes credit and noncredit work force development courses and a continuing education program of noncredit courses, workshops and seminars.

Several of the evening courses, including those for work force development and continuing education, were offered off campus at rented sites until last year. The opening of the Waddell Building in January 2002 allowed NOVA to move a few of the evening and day courses to campus.

"What Waddell did was allow us to cut back on some of our rental space. We were all over the place," Tardd said. "We still do offer a good number of courses out in the community. ... We don't have enough space, even with the addition of Waddell, to do everything we want to."

THE WADDELL BUILDING, which includes classroom space for arts and technology courses, a theater and an art gallery, is the sixth building on campus. NOVA originally opened in Alexandria in 1965, later expanding to other sites.

In 1972, the Loudoun campus opened in a farmhouse and rented space from Loudoun County Public Schools before the main campus building was constructed. Three years later, NOVA opened the Administration Building, which now sits to the east of the Waddell Building. NOVA added another three buildings to house the science, interior design and veterinarian technician programs and a maintenance building.

The NOVA campus started with about 150 students and over the years expanded to 7,539 students, according to the latest information available that gives the student count for the 2000-01 school year. Five years earlier in 1996, 6,633 students attended the college.

"We have a lot more high-school graduates now," said B.J. Beyer, director of continuing education and work-force development and a NOVA employee since 1976. When she first started, Beyer noticed the average age of students was about 28 years and that a majority of the students were taking classes to return to the work force or to make a career change. The median age this year is 23.8 years, while the mean age is 28 years.

"Certainly, the composition of our student body has changed. It's much more international now," Beyer said. "What I really love about the Loudoun campus is the students. They're all ages, stages. They're all nationalities."

Sterling resident Maritza Horn graduated from Menwithhill High School in England in spring 2002 and chose NOVA to save her parents the expense of sending her to a four-year college. Horn, who grew up in Sterling, came back here after spending three years in England with her family.

"I figured it would be a lot easier for them, me living at home and them paying for a cheaper college," said Horn, 18, who plans to study business law after she earns an associate's degree in science. "I'm just getting used to the atmosphere here again. There, it was a lot more close-knitted. Here, you come here, you go to class. ... I'm a little person, a dot. No one notices me, and I do what I need to do, which is nice."

Horn complimented her teachers. "The teachers I've had so far are very nice," she said. "They're very supportive when I need help."

NOVA IS ONE of 23 community colleges in the Virginia Community College System and the largest institution of higher learning in the state with 63,000 credited students.

NOVA plans to open a sixth campus in Springfield in fall 2003. The college received $35 million from the 2002 state bond and plans to use some of the funds to construct a classroom building on the Alexandria campus and to build a greenhouse for the horticulture program at the Loudoun campus.

In addition, the Loudoun campus will use other state funds to construct a second entrance to the campus at Potomac View Road, beginning work this spring. In addition, the funds, which total $4.2 million, will be used to renovate the science building and to add 120 parking spaces to the 887 spaces already on campus.

"It reflects the growth that's occurring in Loudoun County," Tardd said. "Consequently, that growth extends over to us."