Pioneers Together — Our Community Responds to COVID-19: Victoria Novak

Pioneers Together — Our Community Responds to COVID-19: Victoria Novak By Robert W. Dalton This article appeared originally in the Fall 2020 issue of Frontiers Magazine.

Victoria Novak

While much of the country was at a standstill because of COVID-19, Victoria Novak was on the move.

Novak and her husband quit their jobs, sold everything, and moved 1,100 miles – from Omaha, Nebraska, to South Carolina – in the middle of the pandemic, sleeping in their RV along the way. They landed in Spartanburg County on May 1 and have been living in their RV ever since, although they have found a house they will move into in October.

“We’re Generation X, so we’re not young and we’re not retired yet,” Novak said. “We took a big risk.”

The risk paid off, both for Novak and Spartanburg Methodist College. She began her role as Director of Certifications and Applied Technology in the Department of Student and Professional Development on July 1.

“It’s great to be part of an organization where they are truly walking the walk of their mission,” Novak said. “This organization really believes in living and breathing the diversity of the people they serve. It’s really exciting to be part of what’s happening here.”

Novak spent her first seven weeks on the job designing the course she’s currently teaching, Applied Technology. She said students will be involved in an experiential project the entire semester, and by the end will have engaged in approximately two dozen types of software applications and other technology tools, preparing them for the workforce.

“They will have an artifact as part of their digital portfolio they can take to any employer and say that even during a pandemic they were able to be flexible, adaptable, and demonstrate skills received from a high-quality education,” she said.

She’s helped students adapt by introducing them to applications that assist with collaboration, project management, and time management. About half of Novak’s students are online only, while the other half desire the “personal touch” of in-person classes. She said SMC created a “strong safety piece” to help on-campus students adapt to the new environment.

“The beauty about what SMC has done, using the HyFlex model, is that anytime a student feels like they want to learn in a different way, they can go online or come back to campus. I’ve been impressed by how responsive we've been,” she said.

Novak also is now fully immersed in her other duties – designing certification programs for the College.

“I’m now in learning mode,” she said. “I’m talking with some of the key players in Spartanburg to look at the workforce landscape – what does the state need, what do business and industry need, what do students need.”

Novak, who has a Master of Public Administration, recently completed the requirements to earn her Certificate in Online Instruction, an addition to her résumé that has been extremely valuable while SMC’s classes are either a combination of in-person and online or online only. She said she will take that, and her 25 years of work experience, to design programs that are community and student centered.

“Our focus is to help students from enrollment to employment,” she said. “So the moment they hit campus they will have soft and hard skills integrated throughout their four years in the bachelor program.”