NOVA and Mason Summit Encourages Business and Educational Collaboration

Taking another important step forward, the innovative partnership program between Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and George Mason University (Mason) — known as ADVANCE — recently hosted a Summit which brought together regional and national leaders from both the Technology and Health sectors to work with faculty to develop collaborations in support of current students and future needs of the business community.  This summit was the first in a series of meetings supported through an APLU Collaborative Opportunity Grant.  Mason 4-VA supports the ADVANCE initiative through personnel support and course development — aligning well with state 4-VA goals focused on access and completion.

Although the goal of the Summit was multipurpose, it focused heavily on determining the future employee skill sets desired in the two sectors with an eye toward building educational curricula for the Mason/NOVA ADVANCE students to meet those needs.  “We recognize the importance of building relationships with the business community so that we can work together to build the employee workforce necessary to be successful,” explained Janette Muir, Associate Provost for Academic Initiatives and Services at Mason, one of the hosts of the event.

A wide range of more than 40 diverse companies were represented at the event – including MITRE, Deloitte, SAIC, Amazon, INOVA, OrthoVirginia, and Sunrise Senior Living.  Leaders from these companies along with faculty from Mason and NOVA spent the afternoon in a working round-table setting, outlining the specific needs of future work forces.  “We want our students to walk into the doors these companies and others being the best prepared and effective employee. To do so, we need to identify the current knowledge gaps and determine what we can do to bridge those gaps,” continued Muir. 

The Summit produced an array of concrete steps to begin to integrate not only the hard, technical skills needed by the business community but also a detailed list of “soft” skills important in any office environment, including communication tools and techniques, office protocol, business development and team building.  

Thanks to the Summit, faculty members from both NOVA and Mason will return to their departments armed with an updated set of educational goals and guidelines to integrate into their curricula. 

Karen Underwood, the Academic Manager of Computational and Data Sciences at Mason left the Summit with an even more concrete result, a list of business community members who have agreed to visit the campus to provide seminars to students on a variety of topics.  Underwood sees real value in developing these relationships, “Learning about real world work scenarios and meeting potential future employers as an undergraduate will be a wonderful networking opportunity for our students.  This feels like the start of something very worthwhile for all.”