NOVA Receives $900,000 from Mandel Foundation to Create Micro-Pathways On-Ramps for Equitable Student Workforce Outcomes

October 25, 2023

NOVA has been awarded a three-year, $900,000 grant by the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation to establish a Humanities to Career Program, which will seek to strengthen humanities/liberal arts (HLA) pathways in community colleges through intentional career preparation. With this generous grant, language, arts and social sciences faculty at NOVA will develop and implement a model that creates micro-pathways and credentials within the curricula that identify career-readiness skills desired by employers.

NOVA is one of three recipients in the nation alongside Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, MA and Lorain County Community College in Elyria, OH. Each college will receive $900,000 over three years to implement pilots that test a variety of strategies for integrating career preparation into HLA pathways. The programs will draw on a range of approaches, such as integration of curricular components that explore the world of work, professional skills training, work-based learning experiences, and wraparound supports for career navigation.

“We believe that all students should have access to quality humanities programs of study that enrich their lives, strengthen their communities, and prepare them for rewarding careers,” stated Jehuda Reinharz, President & CEO of the Mandel Foundation. “The innovative pilots that our grantee partners are pursuing hold a great deal of promise for expanding the scope and quality of humanities learning at community colleges, while delivering the training that students need to succeed in the labor market.”

The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities to Career Program reflects NOVA’s commitment to improve graduation and career outcomes for all students while strengthening Virginia’s career ready workforce. Access to micro-internship opportunities to provide students with relevant work experience is a key aspect of the project.

“NOVA is nationally recognized for connecting students to academic and workforce pathways that result in meaningful economic returns,” said Anne M. Kress, president of NOVA. “We are grateful to the Mandel Foundation for this important investment in our students who will come to the regional workforce with a greater level of the essential skills and abilities gained through an education in the humanities.”

NOVA’s pilot program will be led by Dr. Eun-Woo Chang, vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer; J.K. Daniels, interim associate vice president of academic affairs; Hemchand Gossai, interim dean of languages, arts, and social sciences; as well as other humanities faculty members.

“Our students are dynamic and resilient, and we must meet them where they are in their busy lives as they pursue educational success,” said Dr. Eun-Woo Chang. “So many of our working students don’t have the opportunity to participate in critical internships as they work to provide for their families and also attend school. These innovative micro-internships are flexible, attainable and will offer more opportunities for our students.”

The initiative grew out of an eighteen-month planning process in collaboration between the Mandel Foundation and Jobs for the Future (JFF), a leading national nonprofit that drives innovation in education and workforce systems. Together with JFF, the Foundation sought to better understand the challenges that community college students in HLA programs face as they pursue next steps in their education and entry into the workforce. Students in associate degree programs who seek to prepare for today’s economy and the future of work are frequently counseled into career-focused majors such as health care and information technology, not the humanities. Yet, a large percentage of community college students pursue or default to HLA degrees, most commonly in preparation for transfer to four-year programs, and without a clear career plan in place. For students who do not transfer, a two-year associate of arts degree without explicit career preparation offers little additional labor market value when compared with a high school diploma. This reality leaves many associate of arts degree holders with few options for accessing a family-sustaining career.

The Mandel Humanities to Career Program is built on the belief that the study of the humanities can be an asset in preparation for work: majoring in HLA, paired with the attainment of high-value, high-demand technical and professional skills and work experience, could place a community college graduate at the head of the hiring queue, as many of the skills cultivated in HLA fields are highly valued by a wide range of employers.

About the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation

Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel established their first foundation in 1953 in their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Their philanthropic legacy is continued through the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Supporting Foundation. The work of the Foundations is grounded in the belief that exceptional leaders, inspired by powerful ideas, are key to improving society and the lives of people around the world. The Foundations have identified five areas of engagement that receive support, which include: leadership development, management of nonprofits, humanities, Jewish life and urban engagement. For more information, please visit

About Jobs for the Future

Jobs for the Future (JFF) is a national nonprofit that drives transformation of the U.S. education and workforce systems to achieve equitable economic advancement for all.

JFF does this by designing solutions, scaling best practices, influencing policy and action, and investing in innovation. JFF forges deep partnerships with employers, investors, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and education and workforce development providers to break down barriers and reimagine what’s possible.

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