NOVA’s Spring Commencement Celebrates the Many Unique Stories of Student Achievement

May 25, 2022

Fairfax, Va. – On Sunday, May 15th, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) held its 56th commencement ceremony recognizing students’ hard work and achievement. This year’s spring commencement was held at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena in Fairfax.

Opening with congratulatory remarks from faculty and staff, this moving ceremony reminded students of how important they are to the faculty and staff who have worked to ensure each student had the opportunity to see this day. Dr. Nathan Carter, chief diversity equity and inclusion officer, kicked off the ceremony by introducing NOVA voice students, Melissa Lee and Luigi Grande, who proudly sang the National Anthem.

Zuzana Steen, chair of the NOVA college board, offered congratulatory remarks on behalf of board and administrative council members. Steen, who represents one of NOVA’s major business partners, Micron Technology, also served as a long-time board member for the NOVA Foundation. She proudly acknowledged and recognized the efforts and achievements of the family, friends, faculty and staff who have supported graduates – as she is a NOVA graduate herself. “It is an honor to join you in this important recognition of academic achievement and perseverance,” said Steen. “This is the college that businesses look to in building tomorrow’s workforce.”

Dr. Michelle Brown-Nevers, vice president of enrollment management and student success, introduced the great talent and diversity of NOVA’s current graduating class. She cheered on graduates, asking them to stand and proudly say, ‘I am NOVA,’ which was met with cheers of excitement by the graduating class and their guests.

Tenzin Lodoe, student representative to the board, introduced commencement speaker, Ms. Arfa Syed. “She is an amazing example of what a NOVA alum can achieve,” said Lodoe.

Syed, an alumna and cybersecurity leader who personifies the commencement theme, told graduates to “Go Boldly.” She spoke heartfelt words that embodied the perseverance and strength of all NOVA alums.

Syed said she and her sister were raised by a single mom who worked and sacrificed to make sure her girls were able to get an education.

“My start at NOVA, like many of you, was non-traditional,” said Syed. “I could not initially pursue higher education due to immigration and financial constraints. I remember the day I purchased my first textbook, how long I waited to say that I was a student again. I sobbed in disbelief that my collegiate journey finally started.”

“The story of my family is one that I frequently share – not because it is unique, but because it is one that’s all too common at NOVA,” continued Syed. “It is why I have spent more than a decade returning to NOVA in various capacities to share with other students and faculty that their tears and the grind are not for nothing – and, as a result, I stand before you today. This is why Dr. Kress wanted an alum to speak to you today.”

“When you leave here today, hold your head up high that you went to NOVA. Your story, your identity, your path, your unique situation – is your superpower. Don’t shy away from owning your story and personal journey. Go from here boldly. I can’t wait to see what you all do.”

Dr. Eun-Woo Chang, chief academic officer presented the candidates for degrees and graduation to be conferred by NOVA’s president Anne M. Kress.

“On behalf of all of us at NOVA, I congratulate you, our amazing, inspiring, bold and brilliant Nighthawk alumni on your graduation,” said Kress. “When faced with the unexpected and unprecedented challenges of the past years, your commitment to your goals has not wavered. You have pushed through the pandemic and shown the grit that becomes greatness and gets you across this stage. Your success is testimony to your dedication and talent, and we are honored and delighted to celebrate you today.”

NOVA’s President further offered retirement sentiments to Dr. Sam Hill, provost of NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus, who has led the campus for almost two decades.

Once the graduates received their degrees and certificates, the ceremony concluded with the announcement that six students, chosen at random, would be recipients of the NOVA Educational Foundation scholarship, and this notification was tucked behind diploma covers.

To view the full video of the commencement event, please click here:

NOVA’s “Meet the Grad” and “Graduate Spotlight” series chronicles the many diverse and unique stories of student graduates. To view these incredible stories of accomplishment, please click here:

The commencement ceremony was live streamed and playback opportunities will be available on the NOVA website. For questions about commencement, please email For media questions, please contact Hoang Nguyen, associate director of external communications, at

Topics: press release