NOVA’s Spring Commencement Honors Hard Work and Determination of Graduates

May 19, 2023

Fairfax, Va. – On Monday, May 15th, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) held its 57th commencement ceremony recognizing student excellence and achievement. This year’s spring commencement was held at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena in Fairfax. More than 7,000 students received degrees and certificates this spring; and nearly 2,000 of those participated in commencement.

Opening with congratulatory remarks from faculty and staff, this moving ceremony honored students and the faculty and staff who supported them. Dr. Nathan Carter, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, kicked off the ceremony by welcoming graduates and their families; and the Lake Braddock Secondary School JROTC presented the Colors as the NOVA Choir Ensemble sang the National Anthem.

Zuzana Steen, chair of the NOVA college board, offered congratulatory remarks on behalf of the board and administrative council members. Steen, who is employed by Micron Technology and also served as a long-time board member for the NOVA Foundation, acknowledged the support of family, friends, faculty and staff who supported, encouraged, and sometimes even pushed their graduates to reach their goal of receiving their degree. "I am proud to know NOVA in many additional ways, as a representative of one of the college’s major business partners and, most importantly, as a fellow Nighthawk," said Steen. 

Dr. Richmond Hill, provost of NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus, stood to welcome graduates. "I have the honor of introducing you to the great talent and diversity of this class!” He cheered on graduates, asking them to stand and proudly say, 'I am NOVA,' to a series of statements, like, “If you are the first in your family to earn a college degree,” stand and say, 'I am NOVA.' "If you were born in another country, stand and say, ‘'I am NOVA.' "If you are a member or spouse of a member of the armed forces," stand and say, 'I am NOVA.' Dozens of students stood and cheered as each question was read, bringing home the tremendous diversity of NOVA and the value of a community college education for all students!

Sadia Annona, student representative to the board who also graduated yesterday, introduced the commencement speaker, Dr. Melissa Lucas, Ph.D. "She is a bright and shining example of NOVA," said Annona.

Lucas is a post-doctoral associate at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; and she is also a NOVA alumna! Her current work focuses on children and the socioemotional health of educators, especially those who represent minoritized populations, to nurture healthier and more equitable classroom and school environments.

She spoke of the incredible journey she took to get to NOVA. She noted the difference between dreams and wishes. "Dreams build conviction because you work hard to pay the price to make sure that they come true," she said. “Wishes, on the other hand, are hoping good things will happen to you, but there's no fire in your gut that causes you to put forth the effort to overcome the obstacles. You have to dream more! And I think it is this dreaming that has led me here today to be on this stage. I, just like all of you, am a proud graduate of Northern Virginia Community College!"

"I urge you to embrace your cultural heritage, embrace your personal strengths and embrace your individuality," continued Lucas. "You have so much to offer the world, and it starts with being true to yourself and your values. So, whatever your values may be, hold them close and let them guide you as you navigate the challenges that lie ahead."

Dr. Eun-Woo Chang, NOVA’s VP of academic affairs and chief academic officer, presented the candidates for degrees and certificates 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 Nighthawks on your graduation," said Kress. "Your success is testimony to your dedication, talent and resilience, and we are honored and delighted to celebrate you today."

"During your time at NOVA, your aspirations have grown, allowing you to see the boundless horizons ahead. You have accomplished so much already, and your NOVA education will help you to achieve even more."

Once graduates received their degrees and certificates, the ceremony concluded with the announcement that graduates, chosen at random, would receive a $1,000 NOVA Educational Foundation scholarship.

To view the full videos of NOVA’s 57th Commencement Ceremony, please click here:

Ceremony 1: 10:00 a.m. (last names A-K)

Ceremony 2: 3:00 p.m. (last names L-Z)

NOVA’s "Meet the Grads" and "Graduate Spotlight" series chronicles the many diverse and unique stories of our graduates. To view these incredible stories of accomplishment, please click here: 

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

Topics: press release, student success