His own rise against long odds is what fuels Kwabena Konadu, BS Electrical Engineering ’00, MS Telecommunications ’02, every day, and it is what has makes him such an effective educator.
Konadu is a professor of computer science at Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge Campus and the college-wide program head of cybersecurity.
In March, he was recognized for his work by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia with one of the its 2022 Outstanding Faculty Awards, one of the most prestigious teaching awards in the state.
“I come from very humble beginnings,” said Konadu of the award. “So that does mean a lot to me because I’ve been spending a significant amount of time helping the next generation of cyber professionals who will help protect our infrastructure.”
Arriving in the United States from his native Ghana at 14, Konadu could barely speak English and had never laid eyes on a computer. But his persistence in learning the language and fully immersing himself in education has transformed his life and spurred him to pay it forward.
Initially Konadu struggled academically, and he credits his teachers for encouraging him to press on. In addition to earning two degrees from Mason, he also holds a degree in physics from Washington College in Maryland.
“Mason really challenged me,” he said, “but it prepared me for what I’m experiencing right now.”
After completing college, Konadu initially worked as an engineer in a number of different capacities before opting to follow his passion for cybersecurity. In 2008, he began teaching noncredit workforce courses for NOVA, eventually becoming an adjunct professor for the school in 2014 and a full-time faculty member in 2018.
His passion for his students knows no limits, as Konadu also coaches the NOVA Cyber Sports Team, which was the only community college squad to make it to the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition’s regional qualifying round finals.
He sees himself remaining at NOVA for the long haul because he feels it’s where he can make the most positive impact each day.
“This is where you see the kids most in need,” said Konadu. “I’m excited about being able to help guide those kinds of students, prepare them [for the workforce], and help them put food on the table.”
For added motivation, his own stirring personal story is among the first things he offers students at the start of each year.
“If I can do it, they can do it,” he said.