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Adult Career Pathways Team

Kerin Hilker-Balkissoon (Director) has a diverse professional background, including prior experience in high school, non-profit, and university settings. She joined NOVA’s faculty in November 2001 as a counselor for students with disabilities. In November of 2005, Kerin was selected to lead the Pathway to the Baccalaureate Program, which under her direction has become a highly successful, award-winning college access and success program. Pathway was showcased by the New America Foundation and described in a May 2010 edition of U.S. News & World Report as a national example for successfully transitioning and retaining more at-risk students into higher education. In August 2010, Kerin was awarded the prestigious Outstanding Service to the College Award by the NVCC Educational Foundation, and she received Recognition of Excellence Awards from the Virginia Community College System in 2009 and 2010. Kerin earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a Master of Science in Counseling from The Johns Hopkins University. She has also completed doctoral-level coursework at The George Washington University and George Mason University.

Jennifer Pocai (Project Manager) possesses numerous years of administrative, project management and customer service experience. Prior to coming to NOVA’s Adult Career Pathways program in the fall of 2011, Jennifer worked for the National School Boards Association in their Information Technology Department for more than 11 years. Her primary focus at NSBA was database management. In addition to her current role with the Adult Career Pathways program, Jennifer was the PTA Volunteer Coordinator for the Foreign Language Experience Program at Ravensworth Elementary School for the 2011-2012 school year. Jennifer earned an Associate of Applied Science Degree with a specialization in Networking in 1999, and is currently pursuing certificates in Web Design and Project Management.

Christina Hubbard (Coordinator of Counseling Services) has more than 10 years of experience in higher education. Prior to her current position as a Career Counselor at NOVA, she worked with adult college students for the federal government. Christina earned a B.A. in English at University of Maryland University College, an M.Ed. from Regent University, and a Graduate Certificate in College Counseling from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Education at George Mason University.

Wende Ruffin-Lowry (Success Counselor) entered the fields of counseling and education more than 10 years ago. She has worked with students of all ages from around the globe. Before working at NOVA as a Career Counselor, Wende spent five years as an admissions counselor for Strayer University. Wende graduated from Auburn University with a B.S. in Business Administration. She holds an M.S. in Business Administration from Strayer University and an M.Ed. in Counseling and Development from George Mason University.

Theresa Gentile (Success Advisor) originally from Fredericksburg, Virginia, Theresa graduated from the University of Virginia with degrees in Government and Psychology. After developing a deep passion for service learning as an undergraduate, Theresa joined AmeriCorps through the Virginia College Advising Corps to work as an advisor with first-generation college students. She has served the NOVA-Alexandria campus for the past two years, supporting students in the transfer process to four-year schools. Last summer, she interned with the Denver Scholarship Foundation assisting their leadership team in student retention efforts. 

Erika Coddington (Success Advisor) has more than 10 years of experience working with student success in higher education. Her recent experience includes helping to launch an Early Alert program to support academically at-risk students. Erika also developed student success webinars while working as a Success Coach for NOVA’s Extended Learning Institute. Her webinars focused on Math Anxiety and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective College Students. Prior to her work at NOVA, Erika worked at Montgomery College in Rockville, Md., as a Campus Outreach Coordinator where she launched initiatives on peer mentoring, First-Year Experience, programming and outreach initiatives involving time management, mentoring and tutoring support for returning adult students. Erika holds a B.A. in Psychology from Saint Mary’s College and an M. Ed. with a concentration in Counseling Psychology from Frostburg University.

Sonia Ponce-Martinez (Office Services Specialist) grew up in Northern Virginia. She received her high school diploma in Spring 2012 through one of ACP’s partners, Woodson Adult High School. She is currently attending classes at NOVA to pursue an AAS in Accounting. She joined ACP as a student in Summer 2012 and began working for ACP as an Office Services Specialist in Fall 2012. Sonia is fluent in both English and Spanish. She is an asset to the ACP team. Sonia brings with her seven years of administrative and customer service experience and three years of management experience.

Trasi Watson (Success Advisor) has more than 10 years of student affairs experience in higher education focusing on career counseling and academic and financial aid advising. She began her professional experience as a career counselor and graduate assistant in Career Services at Slippery Rock University. She went on to become an assistant director of the Career Center at the College of William & Mary. Her position focused on career advising, internships and multicultural outreach. During her time at W&M, Trasi was awarded the first Sam Sadler New Professional Award. She later relocated to Guam where she would become an academic advisor and program manager for the TRiO program at Guam Community College where she helped first generation college students and low-income families gain access to higher education opportunities. She also volunteered and worked in the Career Center at the University of Guam. Prior to working at NOVA, Trasi worked at the Navy College Office in Japan providing life skills trainings at the Fleet and Family Support Center. She received her B.A. in History and a M.S. in Student Personnel from Slippery Rock University.

Melissa Harrington (Access Counselor) has nine years of professional experience in higher education in the areas of academic counseling, student activities and program management. She is passionate about issues and research that pertain to first-generation college students. Outside of work Melissa is an active volunteer in the Alexandria City Public Schools. Melissa holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences with concentrations in Economics, Political Science and Communications from Virginia Tech, and a M.A. in Education, Student Personnel Services, also from Virginia Tech. She has completed doctoral-level work at the University of Maryland, College Park.