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NOVA Student William Alexander Talks About His Non-Traditional Tech Education Journey

NOVA Student, William Alexander

William “Alex” Alexander is a student in NOVA’s Associate in Applied Science (AAS) Engineering and Technologies Data Center Operations Program, and he is excited to talk about all things technology and how much experience he has gained at NOVA traveling on his non-traditional education path.

Fun fact: Alex’s connections to NOVA are personal as well as educational and professional. His mother Debi (Drury) Alexander serves on the Board of Directors of the NOVA Foundation; his grandmother Natasha Drury joined NOVA’s faculty as one of its founding members shortly after the college opened in 1965. As one of the first ten professors hired at NOVA, Drury served as an associate professor in economics until she died in 1998. She started teaching at Bailey’s Crossroads in the very earliest days of NOVA and moved to the Annandale Campus when it opened. Also, Alex’s godmother Hannah Irsfeld currently serves as general counsel and interim director of operations for the NOVA Foundation.

Last year, Alex expanded his NOVA connections on the educational side and enrolled in NOVA’s Data Center Operations Program. This year, he added a professional component by participating in the Summer Internship Program sponsored by the Potomac Chapter of the Association for Computer Operations Management (Potomac AFCOM).

AFCOM supports the advancement of data center and IT infrastructure professionals around the world by delivering comprehensive, vendor-neutral education and peer-to-peer networking to its members. Potomac AFCOM’s annual Summer Internship Program is a 10-week program intended to introduce students to multiple disciplines in the data center industry. The program’s objective is to leverage student talent while providing students the opportunity to observe and assist with a variety of projects in the data center community. Students return to their undergraduate institution armed with references and a solid foundation in the professional application of their education. As an intern in Potomac AFCOM’s 2021 Summer Internship Program, Alex represents NOVA as part of a cohort of students from various institutions including James Madison University, Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University. 

During a recent event in which Alex accepted the internship, Potomac AFCOM also announced it was increasing its support for NOVA’s Data Center Operations Management students by kicking off the Wendy Darling Potomac Scholarship Fund with a donation of $10,000. The fund honors Potomac AFCOM board member Stu Dyer’s mother Wendy Darling, who passed away from COVID-19 in October 2020.

Here we will learn a little bit more about this NOVA student: 

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Roughly six years ago I dropped out of a liberal arts college to enter into an apprenticeship in IT Network Administration, and I’ve spent a fair portion of my time since then working on my own as an independent contractor. I maintain a strong curiosity about most things, which I honed through the Boy Scout’s Trail to Eagle Program. I intend to continue my education for as long as I live.

What brought you to NOVA? 

I learned about the AAS Engineering Technologies Data Center Operations Program entirely by chance. I was doing some volunteer work migrating a database for another school system when I happened to cross paths with Kelly Persons, executive director of the NOVA Foundation. She gets full credit for enticing me to learn all I could about the datacenter sector.

What are your educational goals?

There is always so much to know; it’s hard to choose in advance. For now, I’m more interested in government-issued certifications and courses required to get them, like the OSHA 500 through the Department of Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the MCO (Mission Critical Operator) through the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, continued studies in academia will certainly be a part of my future. While I don’t know precisely which programs I’ll be pursuing over the next ten years, I do feel I can trust NOVA to help me refine my search and focus my energy.

What are you career goals?

If I’d have been born in Egypt or the Ancient Near East at the dawn of the Bronze Age, I hope I’d have had the circumstance and presence of mind to take up metalworking. Today, I seek to understand the full breadth of internet infrastructure and how to correctly manage that technology so the most advanced portions of society might continue to function, improve and thrive. If I can fill that role for a while and then one day help others do the same, I’ll consider that a worthy goal.

How was the shift to online learning for you?

Arguably every human on Earth put forth extraordinary efforts to keep things going, during the pandemic, but online learning was not my jam. Further, as an engineering student my program returned to in-person learning before many other students.

What would you tell an incoming NOVA student?

Whether you have a steadfast focus on a particular course of study or you find yourself stumbling into the world of higher education, NOVA is a fine place to be. Count yourself blessed to be here.

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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