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Meet NOVA's Aleksander Marthinussen a Recent ECMC Spotlight

Aleksander Marthinussen

Aleksander Marthinussen, program manager with NOVA SySTEMic, has been named as a Post-Secondary Leadership Spotlight ECMC Foundation Fellow. Marthinussen’s Techniques interview appears as part of a digital-exclusive spotlight series on fellows.

In partnership with ACTE, ECMC Fellows work on their leadership abilities through this nationally recognized program that is engaging, individualized and memorable. They work alongside twenty peer professionals and an experienced mentor in a year-long professional development experience. They elevate their interpersonal skills and capacity to communicate, collaborate, network, problem solve and use time and resources effectively. This program is intended to develop the organizational leadership and management skills of postsecondary CTE professionals, with an emphasis on addressing the needs of underserved populations.

Here Aleksander shares his insights.

What brought you to NOVA?
I was working in a grant position in West Virginia doing STEM outreach for a state college and the position ended at the end of 2012. I saw that NOVA was hiring for STEM Education Coordinators for NOVA SySTEMic, and I was hired to coordinate STEM Education for the Manassas Campus working with PWCS and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park in the beginning of 2013. 

What do you enjoy about NOVA? 
On the Manassas campus where the central office for NOVA SySTEMic and my office are located, the feeling of belonging and being part of a big family. I enjoy the multitude of opportunities the college and our department are able to offer students, both academically and in extra-curricular activities, especially when it comes to the Fab Lab we manage.   

What leadership skills do you hope to develop as part of the Postsecondary CTE Fellowship?
I would like to strengthen my skills in leadership, management and communication. And I would like to improve my abilities to present information in an effective and understandable way. Further, I would like to become a better manager for the employees that I supervise, providing better leadership to my team, overall.

I would also like to leave a lasting impact on my students. The Postsecondary CTE Fellowship has helped me to think differently and to approach things in a more efficient manner. In my role at NOVA, I hope to provide input on organizational change when it comes to better serving underserved population groups in Northern Virginia.

In what ways have you innovated to engage students & inspire colleagues in CTE through the COVID-19 pandemic?
When the pandemic first hit, pretty much all hands-on activities and in-person gatherings were put on hold. We adjusted and came up with new ways of engaging students in CTE. Our team devised multiple “new” programs. For example, we launched a design challenge through our Fab Lab. The pandemic forced many people into lockdown and boredom set in quickly. Many popular activities sold out in local stores and online. So, people started to invent new methods of entertainment using recycled household items.

The design challenge--to invent and design an all-new toy or game that could be fabricated in NOVA’s Fab Lab (by 3D printing or laser cutting) using household items or materials.

What do you do to really connect with students?
I try to connect on a personal level and involve them in supporting many of our opportunities outside of the academic classes. We connect with students specifically during the summer and give them opportunities to assist with our summer camps and hire them for internships in STEM. 

As a faculty member at an institution that offers CTE courses, I think it is important to identify and examine barriers and develop strategies to increase access. We build equity-consciousness into the curriculum for students. And we reinforce this message in professional development conducted among faculty and staff.

Do you have specific advice you give to incoming students?
As an engineer by education, I tell students that it is okay to fail. It is from failure that you learn, as long as you don’t make the same mistake over and over again. Also, there are no stupid questions. If in doubt, it is always better to ask for help.

For more on the ECMC Foundation Fellows, visit https://www.ecmcfoundation.org/what-we-do/career-readiness/cte-leadership-collaborative/ecmc-foundation-fellows. You’ll find Aleksander on Page 5.

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 80,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.edu, or call 703.323.3000.

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