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Meet Our Veteran Grad, John-Albert Villanueva

Meet One of Our Veteran Grads!

Every student at NOVA brings a different story, and a different perspective on student success and achievement. John Albert Villanueva is a returning student who aspired to finish his degree here and did it exceptionally!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background: 

My name is John-Albert Villanueva and I’m a veteran and a first-generation student who is graduating from NOVA with my A.S. in Business Administration. 

What brought you to NOVA?

I came to NOVA in the fall of 2014, after graduating from high school, because of the great reviews of the faculty, education and the affordable tuition rates. Unfortunately, I was going through a rough time in my life and wasn’t in the right frame of mind to focus on my classes. On top of that, I was juggling school while serving as a waiter at a Ruby Tuesday.

Long story not short, a year had passed and, in the fall of 2015, I dropped out from NOVA with nothing much to show for it. The professors were great, but when you’re not turning in assignments or showing up for class your grades reflect that. I was disappointed in myself, but I knew my story did not end there and I needed to hit a restart button. That restart was joining the Air Force starting early the following year. Through the course of my enlistment, I served as Crew Chief for the KC-10 and moved to California where I was stationed at Travis AFB for the next 4 years. In that time, I met lots of great people from all different walks of life, learned the value of teamwork as well as how to push myself out of my comfort zone.

Eventually, near the end of my enlistment, I made the choice to return back home to Virginia and continue my education after finishing my contract. With a new perspective on life, more discipline and readiness to accomplish my goals, I signed up for NOVA in the Summer of 2020. Going to college during a pandemic presents its own problems but I was motivated to stick with it. I also had help from NOVA’s Office of Military and Veteran Services to assist in navigating my military education benefits.

Summer 2020, fall 2020, spring 2021, summer 2021 and now wrapping it up with my last semester, Fall 2021. I look back now and think, how far I’ve come from that time of confusion and feeling lost, to now taking my stride in confidence toward graduation.

One of NOVA’s core values states:

“You can come as you are and become who you want to be.”

I am proud to be a NOVA student and I am proud of my story.

What are you studying or plan to study at NOVA?

I currently study Business Administration.

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA; i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met 

A couple of powerful ladies come to mind. 

First off, want to give a big shout out to Takesha McMiller and LaChante’ Thomas for helping with all my GI Bill questions. Thanks to them I didn’t have to worry about my tuition or what steps I needed to take in order to use my military benefits.

Last but not least, I’ve had many great professors but two that stand out are professors Soo Son and Erica Thompson.

Matilda is an old movie, but in it there was this very kind and sweet teacher called Miss Honey, Professor Soo Son is literally her, but she teaches Applied Calculus. I was never the greatest at math but the professor made Applied Calculus look like simple addition and subtraction. And she always treated us with kindness and gave us ways to reach out to her if we had any questions on the assignments.

For Accounting, Erica Thompson is the CFO of giving you confidence that you can pass these Accounting courses. With her thoughtful lectures and resources for students to access study materials outside of class she is one of the best professors I’ve had.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?

It is never too late to start, and it’s never too late to finish.

My practical advice: Find good people to help answer your questions and use the resources you have to get those answers! NOVA has lots of ways to get into contact with advisors, financial aid assistance, veteran services, etc. If you have a question, they most likely have an answer, but you have to put in the effort to be bold and make the first move.

One of my favorite quotes is from Les Brown, a motivational speaker who said, "Accept responsibility for your life. Know that it is you who will get you where you want to go, no one else."

Take it from me, although they may provide the tools for success, it’s ultimately your responsibility to make your own success happen! You can do it!

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?

Great question. Early in my education journey I was focused on accounting but now I’m branching out toward other ideas. Right now, I’ve set my sights toward exploring a role in Tech Sales as a Business Development Representative. No matter what, I’m excited for what the future holds and the experiences I’ll gain along the way!

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.

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