NVCC graduation 2019

More than 3,500 students were eligible to participate in Northern Virginia Community College’s May 17, 2019, commencement ceremony. The college is the largest institution of public higher education in Virginia, and one of the largest in the nation. (Photo by Kevin Mattingly)

To accommodate an ever-increasing enrollment, spread the celebrations throughout the year and resume in-person ceremonies put on hold by the pandemic, Northern Virginia Community College will hold its first-ever winter commencement on Dec. 14.

A trio of ceremonies will be held at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on the college’s Alexandria campus.

The commencement theme – Go Boldly – “exemplifies our tenacious students who are embarking on the next stage of their journey, and the faculty and staff members who have guided them to their successes,” college officials said.

“Commencement is a momentously joyous day for our students and their families as they celebrate their shared success,” said college president Anne Kress. “This year, our students will have the chance to hear from three esteemed alumni whose educational journeys began at NOVA before their careers led them back here, where they help to ensure our programs achieve and our NOVA community prospers.”

Commencement speakers include:

• Abid Mahmood, an adjunct faculty member and supervisor of the Technology Innovation Learning and Teaching (TILT) Program at the Alexandria campus.

Mahmood is a first-generation immigrant who saw college as a way to improve his language and technology skills. He has gone on to accomplish two associate degrees at NOVA as well as earning bachelor’s and two master’s degrees.

“I first see newly admitted students, who go through NOVA and some even progress into becoming high-level executives – I see that they progressed in front of my eyes,” he said. “That is what is rewarding for me, and I get to see that at commencement.”

• Glenda Sorto, a counseling faculty member at the Woodbridge campus. Sorto was the first in her family to attend college. Northern Virginia Community College, where she graduated in 2009, was the first step of her pathway to success, which continued at George Mason University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree.

“I am so excited to speak at commencement,” Sorto said. “It is like going back in time. I was one of the first cohorts of students in the Pathway program. I always tell my students, ‘everyone has a unique journey here, everyone is under a different circumstance.’ I am grateful for the opportunity to see these students walk the stage.”

• Maggie Embolm-Callahan, interim dean of Mathematics, Sciences, Technologies and Business at the Alexandria campus.

Embolm-Callahan worked in cancer research at George Mason University prior to returning to Northern Virginia Community College to teach as an adjunct professor. She has earned advanced degrees at Georgetown University (master’s) and Mason (doctorate). When she walked into her first classroom to teach, she fell in love with teaching as she realized that she was in the same classroom she was taught in years before.

“I am honored to be a commencement speaker,” Embolm-Callahan said. “I have been very blessed to work with some of the faculty who taught me; to have the chance to say thank you and express my gratitude for what they did for me.”

The full commencement event will be livestreamed and also will be recorded to air on the community college’s video-on-demand service. For information, see the Website at https://www.nvcc.edu/commencement/.

Northern Virginia Community College is Virginia’s largest institution of higher education. Traditional spring commencement exercises earlier this year were held online due to pandemic conditions.

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