As Graduation Rates Rise, NOVA Celebrates Students’ Success with Inaugural Winter Commencement

November 16, 2021

Alexandria, Va. – As more NOVA Nighthawks graduate and soar to success each year, Northern Virginia Community College is holding its first-ever Winter Commencement to recognize its Summer and Fall 2021 graduates. The ceremonies will be held Tuesday, December 14, 2021 at the Alexandria Campus' Rachel M. Schlesinger Center. The theme, “Go Boldly,” exemplifies the tenacity of our students who are embarking on the next stage of their journey, and the faculty and staff members who have guided them to their successes. Each of the three commencement ceremonies will feature remarks by a notable NOVA alumnus or alumna who began their educational journey at NOVA and currently serves on the staff of the college.  


“Commencement is a momentously joyous day for our students and their families as they celebrate their shared success,” said NOVA President Anne M. Kress. “This year, our students will have the chance to hear from three esteemed NOVA alumni whose educational journeys began at NOVA before their careers led them back here, where they help to ensure our programs achieve and our NOVA community prospers. We are grateful for Abid Mahmood, Glenda Sorto and Maggie Emblom-Callahan, who will share their experiences and insights with our graduating NOVA Nighthawks this winter.”

Abid Mahmood, adjunct faculty member and supervisor of the Technology Innovation Learning and Teaching (TILT) Program, NOVA Alexandria
Mahmood is a first-generation immigrant who saw NOVA as a way to improve his language and technology skills. He has gone on to complete two associate degrees at NOVA as well as a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. 

“I first see newly admitted students who go through NOVA and some even progress into becoming high-level executives--I see that they progressed in front of my eyes,” said Mahmood. “That is what is rewarding for me and I get to see that at Commencement.” 

Glenda K. Sorto, counseling faculty member, NOVA Woodbridge
Sorto was the first in her family to attend college. NOVA was the first step on her pathway to success, which continued at George Mason before she returned to NOVA to serve the students here. She completed her associate’s degree at NOVA, before earning her bachelor’s and master’s from George Mason University.

“I am so excited to speak at commencement,” said Sorto. “It is like going back in time; like remembering when I graduated from NOVA in 2009. I was one of the first cohorts of students in the Pathway program. I always tell my students, ‘everyone has a unique journey here, everyone is under a different circumstance.’ I am grateful for the opportunity to see these students walk the stage.”

Maggie Emblom-Callahan, interim dean of mathematics, sciences, technologies and business, NOVA Alexandria
Emblom-Callahan worked in cancer research at George Mason University prior to returning to NOVA to teach as an adjunct. When she walked into her first NOVA classroom as an instructor, she fell in love with teaching as she realized that she was in the same classroom she was taught in as a student years before. She has gone on to earn her associates at NOVA, her bachelor’s from George Mason University, her master’s from Georgetown University and then went on to get her doctorate back at George Mason University.

“I am honored to be a commencement speaker,” said Emblom-Callahan. “I have been very blessed to work with some of the faculty who taught me and to have the chance to say thank you and express my gratitude for what they did for me.” 

The three ceremonies will be held at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Center on NOVA’s Alexandria Campus. More information on NOVA’s Winter Commencement can be found here. The full commencement event will be live streamed simultaneously and also recorded to air on NOVA’s Video on Demand. The live event page can be found here.

Topics: press release