Interview with Executive Director Megan Kobzej

Get the latest on New America College in our July 2023 interview with Executive Director Megan Kobzej: how things have changed, what’s happening now and thoughts about what might happen next.

Q: You’ve been the director of NAC for a few years now, jumping right in post-pandemic. How are you enjoying the role now versus what you did before?

It was a hard transition! I had been immersed in academics, and jumping into the business side of a school during COVID (January 2021!) was very difficult. However, post-pandemic I’ve been able to reach out to the community and work on making NAC a more inclusive, accepting, and equitable organization, and it’s been a really exciting past few years. I do miss giving advice and counseling students, but I try to get out of my office and into classrooms when I can.

Q: What changes have you seen at NAC due to the impact of COVID?

There have been two main changes. First, We have embraced technology in a way we didn’t before COVID. We use a learning management system called Populi, which we had before COVID. However, once we went all online in 2020, we started using it to its full capacity. Students are learning real-world tech skills that will help them in their lives after NAC, and we’re really proud of that.

The second big change we’ve seen is in our student population. We have a lot more “domestic” students than we did before. Historically, we were focused on F1 student visa holders, but in the past two years we’ve worked really hard to get students who are citizens, green card holders, asylees, undocumented, etc. We know these populations were disproportionately impacted by COVID, and we’re thrilled that they see the value of English and trust their hard-earned money to learning in our classes.

Q: Would you give us a “State of NAC” summary?

School year 2022-2023 (August – July) was great for us! Overall, NAC is in a really, really positive place, and I’m very pleased. We have a great admin staff and our teachers are amazing. We have positive relationships with other community organizations, and we are continuously improving. Some specific examples…

  • We moved to a new location in Aurora in May 2022 and we love it here!
  • Many of our classes have waitlists, which means we know we’re providing a valuable service to the community.
  • We opened four new evening classes, and they are all doing very well. We have a total of 14 classes in the morning and evening.
  • Our finances are in good order and we have a really great group of students.
  • USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services) has been approving change of status applications very quickly, so we have had a lot of students change their status to F1 student status.
  • We have had varying degrees of hybrid online/in-person classes since March 2020, but our last day of online classes will be on August 24, 2023! COVID allowances from SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Services) are ending, so we will be back in person four days a week. We are both excited and sad – those online Thursdays give admin a lot of time to do our paperwork!
  • We received two federal sub-grants this year. One was from the City of Aurora to offer a scholarship fund for Aurora residents. The other was from the State of Colorado, and we were one of 46 (out of 450+ applicants!) to receive funding. We will be planning pathways to work with Teach by Tech and some other organizations.
New America College enjoyed a visit from the Mayor of Aurora

Q: What are your goals for NAC over the next year and a half?

  • Maintain/expand enrollment
  • Expand the scholarship fund
  • Get our five-year accreditation renewed in 2024! 
  • Continue responsible stewardship of our finances
  • Work with foundations to receive grants
  • Keep our teachers and staff happy and satisfied
  • Keep our students happy and satisfied
  • Expand partnerships that will help with students services (i.e., more university partnerships)
  • Possible expansion of space! 
  • Delve into workforce development

Q: Do you have a favorite story or memory about NAC?

I’ve worked at NAC since July 2013, so I have a lot of memories here. I started as a teacher and had a class of 18 students. Every single one of them was from a different country. I’ve made very good friends from former teachers and students, and of course I still keep in touch with our most recent retired president. I’ve been through a million food festivals here, but each one is a joy because there’s always a food I haven’t tried before. 

We hope you enjoyed our interview with NAC’s Executive Director Megan Kobzej! If you have any questions about our programs or mission, wish to volunteer or enroll, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you!

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