Thank you Julie Leidig, Provost of the Northern Virginia Community College – Loudoun Campus, for sharing your story with us!
The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility Committee shares spotlights of community members throughout the year. Learn more about the DEIA Committee here.
Where were born and raised and, if it was someplace else, when and why did you come to Loudoun?
I was born in Chicago to immigrant parents and raised in the greater Chicago area, mostly in Evanston, IL. It was a good place to grow up, but I always wanted to try living in other parts of the country. After attending college in New York state I spent many years in Austin, Texas. I moved here in 2010 to lead the Loudoun Campus of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). NOVA was very attractive because of its excellent reputation across the country and Loudoun interested me particularly because of its natural beauty and its reputation for being a place that places a high value on education.
When did you launch your first business and how did you get into your current line of work?
I majored in Political Science in college with the idea of going to law school. After working in a law office I changed my mind, and wasn’t sure what direction to take instead. After a few years I took the opportunity to go to Japan and teach English. Teaching adults was so energizing; I loved it right from the start. I stayed there for five years and came back to the U.S. knowing that I was going to work in higher education. I returned to the University of Texas at Austin and gradually found my way into the doctoral program in Community College Leadership. I chose the community college because of its potential to transform lives and to open the door to greater prosperity for people who need it the most.
Have you had any special mentors or inspirations that influenced your career?
I’ve had several mentors who have been very helpful, mostly because they encouraged me to challenge myself and reach higher. Just a few encouraging words to someone can make an enormous difference in that person’s life. I’m most inspired by people who are kind and generous as well as those who have overcome obstacles.
What is the best part of your job and why?
The best part of my job is working with our very diverse and highly motivated students at NOVA. I will never forget the day I came to interview for my job as Provost. The night clerk at the hotel where I stayed was a first-generation NOVA student who, at age 22, had bought his own town home and was preparing to transfer to Mason using the Guaranteed Admissions program. The student ambassadors who gave my campus tour were also from families recently settled in the area, and their knowledge and passion to give back to the community were so inspiring. I knew right away that there was something almost magical about the students here. When I have a difficult day, just going out and seeing the vibrant student life on campus is guaranteed to renew my sense of purpose. I feel very lucky to be making a contribution to their future.
What is it like working/leading a business in Loudoun?
I love working in Loudoun! I have found it to be a very welcoming community that genuinely cares about education. I have watched Loudoun grow and diversify while honoring the rural/suburban/urban mix here. The programs on our campus reflect that diversification. Veterinary Technology and Horticulture are foundational to our campus, but we have also added many high-tech, arts, and business programs to serve the economic diversity of our region. I have found that leaders across Loudoun County are excited when they meet NOVA students and learn how exceptionally serious and talented so many of them are.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
I’m very mindful of how far women have come in my lifetime, and, unfortunately, how easily that progress could be erased. It wasn’t all that long ago that jobs like mine were not open to women. My doctoral degree program did not admit women for the first ten years it existed. I remember that when I was growing up my mother could not get a credit card or bank account in her own name and that people relentlessly made fun of women who aspired to be more. These things seem unimaginable to today’s twenty-something women but they need to understand that they have many opportunities today because other women fought for them.
What are some of your favorite things to do when you are not working?
I love travel and new experiences, even if it’s just a day trip to a part of the DMV I have not visited before. Nature walks and visiting gardens are also favorite activities. I’m an avid reader and enjoy the world of ideas. Mainly, I like spending time with friends and family. Now that we can venture out into the world again, I’m looking forward to attending live music concerts, art exhibits, and theater productions.