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NOVA Student, Dhyuthi Chegu on Being a Voice for Change

NOVA Student, Dhythi Chegu (DC) on Being a Voice for Change

Dhyuthi Chegu or “DC” as she likes to be called spoke at a photography exhibit hosted by the college and Lumina Foundation called, “Today’s College Climb.” DC talked about being a survivor and being able to advocate for others by being a voice for change. Here, she offers insight into overcoming challenges and trauma and what “today’s college students look like.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background: 
Hi, my name is Dhyuthi but I go by D.C. which are my initials. My name in Sanskrit means the radiance and knowledge of the universe, so I think it is fitting that I am very interested in pursuing an in-depth academic experience through university. I currently have a 3.8 GPA through all the classes I have taken from NOVA, between high school and now as a full-time college student. I definitely see myself as a person who aims to create change within my community. I re-launched my start-up consulting and coaching company, AcademyXlence, this past semester and I am very excited to continue working on that business. 

I definitely believe that people are in part a product of their environment, and that one’s experiences provide a sort-of guidance for how they approach life. For me, part of my identity lies in being a survivor: a survivor of a suicide attempt, a survivor of domestic abuse and a survivor of parental abuse. I believe it is important to address unhealthy relationship dynamics because the people who we spend time around—even ourselves, electively or not—have an impact on our mental and even physical health. There really isn’t an adequate way one can prepare to deal with such volatile matters, especially because much of the work is left to the survivors themselves. I truly believe that if I can be a voice for change in whatever capacity, that it is my duty to do that. 

The experience of navigating personal trauma through institutions is an alarming one. I have felt as if my trauma itself has deadlines. Before I am even able to process or work through the challenges I have been dealt, there is an almost insurmountable number of deadlines and requirements I must meet to justify my need for any accommodations, help or support. Furthermore, this information is most often not known by students. For example, I had to search for the relevant information, fill in the paperwork, send emails and make sure to get all of those action items completed before the deadlines. Furthermore, between interfacing with the police department, the college, my professors, and whoever else might get involved along the way, it truly becomes exhausting and mentally taxing. Having deadlines on your trauma and making every process bureaucratic makes getting an education and dealing with personal tragedy that much harder. 

I support the belief that Dakota brought up during the beginning of this panel—that the hardest part of education should be the learning. In my case, many personal challenges have added more obstacles to obtaining that education, but thankfully not all has been bad. I have had professors who have been quite understanding of my circumstances and treated the situation with a level of compassion I had not experienced before.

NOVA has also been especially important to me because I have been able to come and talk to people and find ways to channel my pain and experience in a constructive format and setting. NOVA being one of the largest community colleges, has many different events and extracurriculars for example, and this is how I chose to get involved and shift my focus away from the negative towards the positive. 

I would say that these external venues also helped me not only find constructive platforms to engage in, but it also helped me connect with a community, find others who are passionate about the same activities and, ultimately, build my tribe. I believe that community is especially important when one is facing tough challenges, and without NOVA, I would not have built the network I have today. 

What brought you to NOVA?
I had heard of NOVA community college by the time I was a freshman in high school. In addition to the AP classes that I was taking throughout high school, I also took dual-enrollment college classes through NOVA, so I already had an account and record with the institution. When I began doing research in freshman year on which colleges I wanted to attend after graduation, I looked at three factors, which ultimately led to me attending NOVA: financial benefit, educational exploration and my little brother.

As someone who is Asian American and seeks to study finance, there really are not many opportunities for scholarships that target my demographic. Many of the financial aid options I saw were need based, which I did not qualify for—nor did my ethnicity work for my favor. And the industry that I wanted to work in itself greatly reduced the options I had for financing my education. Furthermore, I want to pursue a dual MBA/JD program after undergrad, so it did not make sense to spend all my money on an undergraduate education when the potential need to finance more education later down the line was something I had to consider. 

The second factor that I heavily considered was educational exploration. Many students tend to change their major a couple semesters into college as their interests, goals or needs change; and, while this option being available is a good thing, it once again comes down to finances. The cost per credit at NOVA is astronomically lower compared to other institutions, which means that if I were to change my major at another institution, not only would all the classes that I would have taken up to that point cost a lot, but it would cost substantially more anywhere else to take all the required courses for the new major. As someone with interests in multiple areas and a focus on interdisciplinary approaches to education, I wanted the option of educational exploration to be there for me and If I went to a different university, I realized that it may not have been possible for me to finance such exploration. 

Finally, I have a younger brother who is four years younger than me. As soon as I graduate from college, he would be going right in, and I wanted him to have the choice to attend college where he wants as well. Because of that, I knew that spending all the money for my education would deprive him of choice and access, so I keep him in consideration always with all my decisions. 

What are you studying or what do you plan to study at NOVA?
I am currently studying Information Technology at NOVA, and I also have a certification in Business Information Technology. When I transfer, I really want to study economics, business, finance or even a combination of them. I think because of my interest in economics, I also began researching stocks and investments which led me to become the president of the finance and investing club here at NOVA. 

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA; ie, professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met.
I find that the most empathetic professors have been professors in the humanities. My English professor, Dr. Conklin, was super helpful when, at one point, everything was crashing around me. Over the spring semester, things got really bad really fast, and I had a lot of deadlines to manage along with the personal issues that I was simultaneously facing. I spoke to her about what I was going through and within a week, she set me up with every campus resource available and made me feel like things were going to be okay. 

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?
The most honest advice I would give is that going to community college is one of the most profound decisions you will make. Regardless of what brought you here or what your circumstances are, you will face stigma and judgment because of your decision to pursue a community college education. Although societal perspectives surrounding community college education have improved, it is important to work harder and be better no matter what prejudice you face. Get your education and keep moving forward toward your goals. 

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?
For school, I would really like to end up somewhere with a good networking sphere for finance, technology and politics as those are my three key areas of interest and I would love to be surrounded in an academic environment that provides me access to such opportunities. 

I definitely see myself as a serial entrepreneur down the line. I have multiple business ideas and so many areas of interest from consulting to law, finance, politics, product management and even marketing. My goal is to create businesses that marry my interests together and provide people with a useful product or service as a result. If I can enhance someone’s life in any way and make something easier it would make me happy. 



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 nearly 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.eduor call 703.323.3000.