By Claudia Zequeira
A love of language courses through Nissa Hopkins’ veins, giving her a kind of superpower that has allowed her to see the world and help others.
It all started when Nissa, professor, English for Academic Purposes (EAP), visited Japan as a foreign exchange student in high school, where she said she fell irrevocably in love with the country’s culture and language.
“Japanese is my second language, and the process of learning another language and living abroad really propelled me into the field of teaching language to others,” said Nissa, who holds a Master of Science in education with a concentration in TESOL from Shenandoah University in Virginia, and Bachelor of Arts in Asian studies from California State University, Sacremento.
Prior to joining Valencia, Nissa worked as a counterintelligence agent and Japanese linguist for the U.S. Army and as an English tutor for Inlingua International, an international language school. Immediately before joining Valencia, she taught EAP courses for seven years at Seminole State College as an adjunct professor teaching a full course load, while also working as a curriculum assistant.
But it was at Valencia, which she joined in 2011, that she has found her professional footing by helping a cadre of students, all of them newcomers to the United States, build a robust language foundation so that they can succeed in the college-level courses required by their programs.
All of this sounds relatively easy, but learning a language can be a challenging and uneven process. For some students, it comes relatively fast while others struggle and even begin to question whether they are “college material.” This student population also faces issues that go well beyond learning a language. They range from financial insecurity to social isolation to political turmoil in their home countries.
“In the EAP discipline, we see many students from all around the world, many of whom have come to the United States from difficult situations in their home countries or just to seek greater academic and professional opportunities. I am continually impressed by the levels of motivation and dedication I see in my classes,” she said.
Nissa shared that she is most proud of being able to help her students in their academic and “life journeys.” She is also proud to serve as the EAP coordinator for the East Campus as well as serving as a Teaching/Learning Academy (TLA) facilitator at her campus, where she helps guide candidates through their tenure process.
Her supervisor, Linda Neal, dean communications, is impressed by Nissa’s energy and dedication. “In short, Nissa has one speed: on! And Valencia is well-served by her dedicated engagement,” Linda said. “She performs her work with passion and precision, and her potential for leadership within the College has barely been tapped.”
She not only likes the professional opportunities available at the College, but is “truly grateful to work in a compassionate, forward-thinking institution filled with people who are diverse, interesting and talented. I like that we, as an institution, strive to set the standard and do what’s best for both students and faculty and staff.”
Nissa said she is also inspired by Valencia’s willingness to adapt and change when needed and to encourage others to “do better and be better.”
“I love the fact that we are a reflective institution, one that acknowledges shortfalls and works together interactively to come up with grassroots ideas and solutions. The sense of collaboration and flexibility inspires me to think outside the box and not be wary of trying something new,” she said.
Nissa also appreciates that Valencia signifies growth and opportunity.
“Valencia provides so many pathways to success for students at all different points in their lives, and I feel that fact is a grounding one which encourages community connectivity,” she said.
True to her love of cultures, Nissa’s favorite pastime is travel: she has visited numerous countries as well as 49 of the U.S.’s 50 states.
“Before the pandemic, it was definitely all about travel for me!. My partner is a commercial airline pilot, and he I and love to roam the world just to visit friends and family or simply just to explore a new place. Now that we can’t quite do that for a little while, I am focusing on other activities that I love,” she said. These include yoga, reading, writing, eating delicious food and spending time with family, her son and her dogs.
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