Student Life Hosts 2nd Annual Student Leadership Diversity Conference

NOVA’s Student Life hosted the 2nd Annual Student Leadership Diversity Conference on Friday, February 23 at the Loudoun Campus.

Collectively, NOVA’s work as a community college is to ensure our students are prepared for their continued education and/or workforce demands after their time at NOVA. Part of that preparation is knowing how to lead yourself and the ability to understand and talk across differences with civility and compassion for others.

How do we help our students grow into self-authorship where they view us (educators) as co-creators in discovering their purpose in life? It is a question that many colleges and universities are currently examining. It starts with letting students know you care about their experiences, what troubles and excites them, and (most importantly) that we create an environment where equal amounts of love, challenge and support are available throughout their educational journey.

Creating an environment for students to step further into their authentic selves is part of what this conference provided to our students. Diversity and inclusion efforts have the power to transform lives and to transform the education communities they populate. It was a beautiful experience observing how invested students were in this conference. It was a day that the more than 70 students will never forget!

We held 14 breakout sessions from NOVA faculty and staff in addition to hosting presenters from George Mason University and the University of Maryland. The sessions explored leadership and diversity education efforts with the following focus:

  • Identifying leadership characteristics to inform how to lead self and others.
  • Best practices to use in creating inclusive communities.
  • Understanding the multiple dimensions of diversity and how our background and related experiences inform our roles within the NOVA community.

NOVA students shared how the conference had a positive impact on them:

“I have a long-standing support of intersectionality and love that going forward when explaining diversity to others this will continue to be the cornerstone of diversity and inclusion. Intersectionality will allow others as well as myself to identify with others and come to a deeper understanding of my peers and those that may work for me and how they identify with the rest of the world. We need other people to survive and make it in this world … even if the degree of need is different for everyone.”

“When the different life experiences, perspectives, needs and abilities that people bring to the College are valued, respected and supported, the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve their full potential. These conditions help build an inclusive and welcoming environment.”

“In being a leader, I should remember to focus on myself first and fill my cup before trying to help anyone else to fill their cup. One of the sessions discussed how as a leader, many people may look to us and confide in us, and if we don’t take care of ourselves first that we may burn out and become an ineffective leader.”

“The conference made me aware that there are people in a higher position at NOVA that do care about students who are Dreamers and/or DACA recipients. That I am in good hands. Not only do they say they support me, they show support by listening to my story as a Dreamer.”

“The conference helped me understand that by diversity we should not mean the people from different backgrounds, color and religions. But, by diversity, we should mean the difference in the ideas and thoughts of people”

“It made me realize, even more than I had before, that everyone is dealing with their own struggles and we need to be mindful and respectful of that.”

“The conference helped us acknowledge and realize how diverse we ourselves are, as well as the people we encounter on a daily basis, which helped me understand the many different dimensions of diversity by incorporating them to my surroundings.”

“This conference made me aware of the importance of diversity and understanding of the various cultural values. The concept of ACE and Boldly NOVA encourages diversity to get united under one roof of NOVA.”

We value our students. They look to us to help them navigate the challenging world around them. We hope by sharing this day of learning that it further inspires you in your role at NOVA. We are a community of learners who are bold in everything we do and take great pride in helping our students be successful in all areas of their life.

Bradley Brooks, Office of Student Life Alexandria, gave the opening keynote,”Why Are We Here: Leaving a Nighthawk Legacy”.


NOVA staff member Bradley Brooks, two NOVA students, and closing keynote speaker Sonia Aranza.


Sonia Aranza, Global Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, giving the closing keynote, “The Power of Self-Leadership: Mind Your Blind Spots”.

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