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Meet the Grad: Nicole Mullings, Single Mother, Former Pentagon Staffer and Now Regionally Renowned Artist

Meet the Grad: Nicole Mullings, Single Mother, Former Pentagon Staffer and Now Regionally Renowned Artist

First generation college student Nicole Mullings came to NOVA with three kids and a difficult relationship at home. Originally intending to major in cybersecurity to add to her military background, she instead found healing and hope through art.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:

So, I am from New Jersey, and I am a first-generation college student. My mom is Jamaican, and she came to the United States and had us. I live in Stafford, Virginia. I have three kids, two are mine and one is my niece from my twin sister that I took on.

I am a veteran, as I joined the military right after high school in 2007. I was there for ten years. I got out in 2017, and I went into school for cybersecurity. I ended up working at the Pentagon but realized, it was not what I wanted to do with my life and left the job in 2019.

Afterwards, I started at NOVA. When COVID happened, I thought I would have to drop out as I didn’t know what would happen. However, the way that NOVA transitioned, it was seamless. It was as if the college really prepared for it.

I had a very hard relationship and school was my escape from that. Having to put on a good face online, it almost felt that I had to be two different people. I did really good in my classes, but as far as keeping it cool in a bad relationship, by the end of fall semester 2020, I left my partner.

Afterwards, things were great. Most of my artwork was a reflection of myself. It took every assignment to express what I was battling on the inside. My work was how I felt being left with an abuser and feeling like I was frustrated.

What brought you to NOVA?

My friend at the Pentagon was taking classes at NOVA and told me about it. I then just went for it. I wanted to go to a school, and I didn’t want to do anything online. I fell in love with NOVA, and the experience here has been amazing.

What are you studying or plan to study at NOVA?

I started in Spring 2020 at the Alexandria Campus. All the emotions I was feeling, I put it into my paintings, my art. The picture of confidence where I had flowers in my hair, I was doing that right when he left. I was over my last relationship, and this is my rebirth.

Tell us about your experience at NOVA; i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met:

Professor Charl Ann Brew, she was my first instructor – she was the sweetest and so knowledgeable. Angela Terry, the graphic design professor – she was a hard “cookie,” but I appreciate how knowledgeable she was. The fact that she was so hard – she wanted perfection. She wanted you to take the class seriously. She was the one that realized there was something going on at home for me, and she was the one that sent help. Professor Stacy Slaten, who became my mentor, was the one who helped me perfect my painting and colored drawing skills. She introduced me to a lot of great opportunities and people within the NOVA and art community that I would never be able to do on my own. There are so many professors that helped me along the way. I’m so grateful.

Meet the Grad: Nicole Mullings, Single Mother, Former Pentagon Staffer and Now Regionally Renowned ArtistWhere do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?

My plan in the future for my artwork is to continue to express what it is that I feel inside. I feel like any artist, whether they are a writer, a sculptor, a film writer – they push out what they feel on the inside. They express to society what they struggle with.

I am going to Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). It’s the second highest and oldest visual art school in the country. I am going to finish my bachelor’s, and it’s looking like it will be two-and-a half years. I am looking into public transportation and my mindset is I made it this far, I must make it work.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?

I would tell other students to always push yourself to the next level. Never be okay with doing the bare minimum because you will never see all that you can do. Further, if there is anything in your life that’s making your college experience hard, please communicate and let your professor know. They might be able to help to make your life easier.

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.