The story of personal success and higher education is about family for Samar Chopra. A Virginia Peninsula Community College alumnus, he embraced the opportunities community college afford at the urging of his late father.
His father, Dr. Sanjeev Chopra, was a VPCC faculty member for 20 years beginning in 1992. A devoted advocate for community college education, he passed away in 2021
“He took pride in teaching courses on computer technology and was well-liked by his students,” stated Chopra. “Early on, he understood the benefits of VPCC providing a more personalized education while allowing students also to save money at lower tuition rates.”
Dr. Chopra’s influence was his son’s compass. It put him on track for academic and professional excellence while inspiring him to pay it forward. With associate and bachelor’s degrees from VPCC and Virginia Tech, respectively, Chopra has enjoyed a technology career spanning more than 20 years. Having lived in northern Virginia the entire course of his career, he returned to his native Hampton Roads two years ago.
Despite the hefty responsibilities of being a husband, parent of two (15-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son) and vice president of technology solutions with Langley Federal Credit Union, he makes time for his alma mater. Chopra has served on the VPCC Educational Foundation board since 2021 and is active with the Alumni Council.
“It’s very big for me,” he said about the significance of his involvement with VPCC. “I moved back here about two years ago, and now I’m trying to reacclimate myself. I realize it has benefitted me. Now I’m trying to help other people. I am trying to give back where I can.”
Chopra’s college journey started with a hint of uncertainty. In his late teens at Grafton High School, he was unclear about a career path and not particularly interested in community college. He was interested in computers and looking to leave home for college.
"I wasn't sure this was the right way to go," he said, pointing out that Dr. Chopra’s confidence in the merits of academic offerings and other advantages at VPCC helped immensely. “My dad (an associate professor of information systems) gave me a little nudge that I needed at that time saying, ‘You need to find your interest.’”
“My dad was kind of pushing me in the direction of going into technology because it was a growing field at that time. I took some classes under my dad at VPCC, and I really enjoyed it. My dad was very confident in my choice in doing that. Looking back, it was a very good thing for me,” he added.
The decision paid off. Chopra discovered more than just an education at VPCC. He encountered a community of fellow students who were all in various phases of life. Exposure to such diverse age ranges and backgrounds had a lasting impact.
“I was a teenager, and I’m in school with people who are maybe in their 30s. A lot of the messaging I was getting was, ‘You’re starting off on the right foot. You’re saving money. I wish I would’ve done this when I was that age.’ It reaffirmed my actions … that my dad was right,” he recollected.
“By the time I transferred to Virginia Tech, I was better prepared … because I’d been in college with other students across different walks of life. So, I stayed focused. I had a plan. I took ownership of my educational path and my career path. It really made me driven. I had something to prove,” added the Williamsburg resident, noting he earned dual bachelor’s degrees in business information technology and management in 2003.
For Chopra, the road to success is an ongoing voyage, not a fixed destination. He encourages aspiring college students to view their pursuit of education as continuous evolution. He believes by embracing change and adapting, college students can chart their own paths.
“It’s a journey, and it’s always evolving. My career is still evolving today,” he emphasized. “It’s building yourself in a way where you learn how to evolve, enjoy the journey, and be successful every step of the way. And you get to really drive the ship in the direction where you want to go.”
Chopra’s notable career in the technology industry has taken him through various roles, starting as a programmer and moving up into management and leadership positions. His background includes application developer roles and service as a senior program manager providing federal government contracting services to the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Army, and U.S. Navy. Although his current role is significant, he counts working with federal government entities among the highlights.
“I have been in technology all my career of 20 plus years. A big role that I’ve had (is) I ran a national help desk for the FAA. I did that for six years (2009-2015),” he said.
“I choose my field primarily because I had an interest in computer programming. My role has morphed over the years, and I am a technology leader now. I can’t possibly learn everything because technology keeps changing so fast. So, I make sure that I build an environment around me where my teams can thrive. That’s my goal now. I have enough of a background that I want to make sure I set them up for success,” added Chopra.
Chopra’s success is a fitting tribute to his father, who set the stage for his family’s legacy of learning at VPCC.
His mother, Asha Chopra, and younger brother and only sibling, Abhinav "Abhi" Chopra, also got their career foundations at VPCC. Having completed the medical lab technician program in 1995 earning an associate degree, Mrs. Chopra has been a medical technologist with Sentara Health Systems for nearly 30 years. A chief financial officer for InfernoRed Technology and North Carolina resident, Abhi has an associate degree in business (2004) and a bachelor’s degree in accounting (2006) from Old Dominion University.
Chopra is proud of his family’s connection to VPCC and their shared commitment to education.
“It’s really about my dad. He gave 20 years to the College … Looking back, I want to do it honoring him. He pushed me, my brother, and my mother. She even looks back and says this was the right thing to do,” he said.Outside of his professional life, Chopra enjoys spending time with his family and pursuing special interests, including running, playing pickleball, biking and watching movies.