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NOVA and ODU Sign Guaranteed Transfer and Cybersecurity Agreements

By Jon Cawley

Northern Virginia Community College President Scott Ralls and Old Dominion University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Augustine "Austin" Agho signed a guaranteed transfer partnership agreement Nov. 9 that will strengthen an ongoing relationship between the two institutions. In addition, a cybersecurity pathway program was finalized that will help address workforce shortages in the high-demand field.

The guaranteed transfer agreement lays the foundation for a partnership designed to facilitate the seamless transfer of NOVA graduates to ODU and stipulates the criteria under which NOVA graduates are guaranteed admission to the four-year university, which is the most affordable doctoral research institution in the state. The guaranteed transfer partnership agreement also describes curricular benefits that exceed those outlined in the existing Guaranteed Admission Agreement between ODU and the Virginia Community College System. Old Dominion is one of 40 colleges with which NOVA has negotiated guaranteed transfer agreements.

Nationally, community college students lose an average of about 13 credits when they transfer, and that diminishes their chances of earning a bachelor's degree and increases tuition debt. This wasted time and money is a national problem, and the NOVA/ODU partnership represents a major step toward its resolution.

"Most students attend community colleges with the goal of eventually transferring and completing a bachelor's degree," President Ralls said. "Too often, however, they find their courses either do not transfer or were evaluated as electives, not requirements. The NOVA/ODU partnership ensures that students who follow a prescribed informed pathway will have all of their courses count as curriculum requirements and will transfer as first semester juniors."

Students are the true beneficiaries of this important partnership agreement between NOVA and ODU. They can now be assured that completing an associate's degree at NOVA, taking advantage of its low tuition and outstanding teaching, will not derail them from achieving a four-year degree in a minimum amount of time. When NOVA graduates automatically transfer to ODU, they will continue to benefit from low, in-state tuition from a first-class university.

In addition to the agreement, the two institutions formalized a 2+2 pathway program for cybersecurity in an effort to educate and prepare students to become qualified candidates for thousands of unfilled cybersecurity positions in the region.

"With new cyber-attacks dominating the headlines, the importance of a dynamic cybersecurity workforce is paramount," said Old Dominion President John R. Broderick. "Yet thousands of high-paying positions remain unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates. Old Dominion University's partnership with Northern Virginia Community College will be a tremendous asset in our joint effort to address that employment gap. It will provide a clear pathway for high-quality students to obtain a four-year degree and enter the cybersecurity field without delay."

During the ceremony, Ellen Neufeldt, vice president for student engagement and enrollment services at ODU, recognized the importance of the partnership for students and noted that the two institutions have a 30-year history of transfer agreements intended to support student success.

"It's about reaffirming who we are as partners, the pathways we desire for our students and at the core for both institutions, student success and outcomes," she said.

Lulu Fseisi, an Old Dominion communications major who transferred from NOVA, said her experiences as a student at NOVA helped her grow and prepare for the adult portion of her life and leaving her hometown of Alexandria.

"In life you should always try to get out of your comfort zone. Moving three hours away was very much outside my comfort zone. Of course, I was homesick for a while, but now ODU is my home and I'm really happy," she said. "Wherever you decide to go, make sure you realize, by yourself you have a lot of potential to better yourself. That's what I learned through this process."

Agho remarked on the strength of the transfer agreement and noted that it is a true 2+2 program that will provide a seamless transition that addresses some of the hiccups that can hold students back.

"I've been in academic administration for about 23 years and I've seen a lot of agreements. I don't think I've seen any like this and I don't think it would have been accomplished without the leadership and commitment of President Ralls and President Broderick. When we talk about transfer agreements, we talk about NOVA a lot."

President Ralls recalled sitting with NOVA transfer students at lunch during a recent visit to Old Dominion University.

"I know (ODU) is a great place for our students because that's what I heard in their voices," he said. "ODU is not just one of America's great universities, it's a great place for transfer students. How can we make that even better? That's what this agreement represents today."

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