NOVA Joins Institutions Across the Nation in Recognizing Our Veterans

November 11, 2021

Like many individuals and nationally recognized educational institutions, NOVA is taking time today to recognize those who have bravely served our great nation. In a collaborative effort, the President’s Office, the Office of Veterans Services and the Office of Communications and Visual Services gathered anecdotes and stories from students and alumni who represent our amazing Nighthawk community. These stories showcase the tenacity of NOVA students and their camaraderie with one another.

“NOVA proudly serves over 2500 student veterans and we are a military friendly college. We are so honored to serve those who have served us in such an important and valuable way, said Anne M. Kress, president of NOVA. “It is also home to over 200 veterans who work as our employees. After serving our country, they have come back to NOVA to serve our students. We are honored and proud to call them colleagues and we thank them for their service as well.”

A special thanks to Kayce Baker; Tom Fortunato; Keith George; Sharwanda George; Arthur Nisbeth, III and Julian Vasquez who set aside time to share their stories and say thanks to the veteran community.

 For almost 20 years, NOVA’s Office of Military and Veteran Services (OMVS) has worked to provide comprehensive resources to veterans and military-related personnel who are utilizing the G.I. Bill and its educational benefits. Furthermore, in October 2021, NOVA was awarded a Department of Education grant for $466,000 to establish a Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success (CEVSS). This center will provide a holistic, single point-of-contact for our members of the military, veterans and their dependents. It will house a multitude of educational services related to transitioning out of the military, enrolling at NOVA, and completing their certification or degree.

Please enjoy anecdotes and memories shared by our faculty, staff and community partners:

“My dad was a 20-year veteran of the United States Marines, so that was my first introduction to military life. I was commissioned as an Army 2nd Lieutenant in June 1982 at North Carolina A&T State University, and I served seven years in the military,” said Ella Gilliam, REV Project Manager at NOVA. “The highlight of my career was meeting Gen. Colin Powell in August 1985.”

“Many recognize Veterans Day as a time off, while our servicemembers, be they retired or still serving, recognize this day as a time they have always committed to defending our great nation,” said Vonzell Mattocks, vice president and executive director of the Veteran Employment Initiative at the Northern Virginia Technology Council Foundation. “In my time at NOVA and in my current position, I continue to serve our veterans. I urge people, if possible, to volunteer with a charitable organization that helps veterans on this day.”

“Veterans Day reminds me that, while I am a veteran, there are so many that have sacrificed much more than I have,” said Jack Bidlack, director of strategic initiatives for NOVA’s Information Engineering and Technology Division. “I am honored to hold this distinction, and truly appreciate those that have come before and after me in the service of our nation.”  

“I was part of the 1970 Vietnam draft,” said Nicholas Zefran, instructor of counseling services at NOVA. “I then took the Air Force test and enlisted in the Air Force for four years in 1971. I served as a computer operator and did two tours in Thailand during the Vietnam war, stationed at Ubon, Udorn and Nakhon Phanom.”

“In the years that I’ve worked with veteran NOVA faculty and staff members, I’m continually impressed by the preparation and professionalism they bring to their work,” said Josh Labrie, director of NOVA SySTEMic. “It is amazing to see veterans excel in NOVA’s Cloud and Data Center Operations programs where they support and maintain much of the critical infrastructure they protected through their service.”

“We are always here to support our veteran students,” said Dr. Takesha McMiller. “Our Office of Military and Veterans Services has seen so many students succeed, and we look forward to expanding our services to help many more with the CEVSS grant.”

Topics: featured article