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750, with more expansion anticipated. Cybersecurity professor Margaret


Leary, who also is director of curriculum for the National Cyberwatch Center (a consortium of higher-learning institu- tions devoted to cybersecurity), says that NVCC works with the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency on course content and standards. The feds’ seal of approval on future employees is vitally important to government contractors who continue to make up a big, if somewhat diminished, chunk of NoVa’s economy. In addition, the government has designated NVCC’s cybersecurity program as a center for aca- demic excellence, which helps ensure that the credits students earn at the two-year college are fully transferrable. Leary’s cybersecurity students, like


the school’s student body population in general, have goals as varied as their backgrounds. Some plan to go straight to work after earning their associate degrees. Others plan to continue in four-year insti- tutions. Still others already have four-year degrees, yet either are in search of hands- on training or want to switch careers. Amy N. Thomas, 48, is an example


of one of these typically atypical NVCC students. She had been doing grant writ- ing for nonprofits when she took a career test. Thomas was startled to find that she scored higher on computers than on writing. That led her to take a class at NVCC where she “fell in love with the whole field.” Five semesters later, Thomas had an


associate degree in applied science and cybersecurity, and in May, she and her partner, Immanuel Silva, showed off their cyber chops by winning second place in the inaugural Black T-Shirt Cyber Foren- sics Challenge. The contest, sponsored by colleges and private industry, attracted 900 teams nationwide and tested such skills as file system and operating system identification, recovery of operating sys- tems and event reconstruction. Thomas now works for the Alexandria Public Schools system and says she is getting lots of interest from recruiters.


Focus on diversity Career placement is NVCC’s stated


No. 1 mission, but it gives equal impor- tance to “increas[ing] the number and


Photos by Mark Rhodes www.VirginiaBusiness.com VIRGINIA BUSINESS 97


“Getting people ready to go to work is a huge part of what we do,” says Steven Partridge, NVCC’s vice president of workforce development.


diversity of students being served” and to being “a leader in developing educa- tional and economic opportunities for all Northern Virginians.” That is a tall order, considering that


Northern Virginia is quite the melting pot. As of fall 2014, 39.5 percent of the community college’s students were white, 20.7 percent were Hispanic, 17.9


Cybersecurity professor Margaret Leary says the school works with the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency on course content and standards.


percent were black, and 15.3 percent were Asian. Another 3.6 percent were of two or more races. As Ralls notes, the school has a minority majority. The survey further showed that


only 42.1 percent of students fell into the traditional college age category of 18- to 21-year-olds, while 30.6 percent were between 22 and 29, and 23 percent


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