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Student speaker found her voice at TCC

Nadine Naser never thought she’d be the student speaker at her Tidewater Community College commencement.

This May, she will graduate with her Associate of Science in Engineering. She plans to continue working toward a bachelor’s in engineering at Old Dominion University this fall.

And she will be TCC’s student speaker. Pretty amazing, when you consider she’d break out in a cold sweat and have tears streaming down her face when giving any kind of oral presentation.

That all changed during her time at TCC.

Naser, 21, jumped into college life with both feet, taking part in the Chesapeake Campus’ Gear Up to Lead program soon after starting at the college.

“It was then that I knew I made the right choice coming to TCC,” Naser said. “The people here became my second family – and, man, do I have a diverse family.

“Through Gear Up, I developed leadership skills and gained 10 times more friends than I had in high school,” she said.

Naser is currently serving as president of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools. This year, she was named to the PTK All-Virginia Team for her commitment to academic excellence and public service. She was also given the Dr. Alexsandria Manrov STEM award by the college’s Women’s Center.

Naser also serves as a senator for Student Government Association and is an active member of TCC Cares, a student group with a mission of environmental and community service.

Inside the classroom, Naser excelled, enjoying the small class sizes and association with classmates and professors.

“So much self-development happens here, both inside and outside the classroom,” Naser said. “My professors pushed me, but they were also there to answer questions and support my journey.”

Nader credits professors Eric Hayes (chemistry), Pamela Dale (math) and Edward Morris (engineering) with helping her succeed inside the classroom. She also acknowledges Vince Gary, associate director of the student center, and Sara Hair, coordinator of student leadership and development, and Elizabeth Briggs, Phi Theta Kapp advisor, with mentoring her and providing leadership and direction.

“I’ve always loved math, and I really want to do work that allows me to design something, to create something that can be meaningful for other people,” she said. “I started as a business major, and took a lot of classes to get here and I know it’s the right fit.”

Naser and her family lived in Peoria, Ill., until her father lost his job due to the recession.

The family relocated for his new job, and Naser had to start over again – this time in Virginia as a freshman at Great Bridge High School.

“It was a tough transition. I remember a time when I ate lunch in the bathroom, and since I really don’t like germs, this did not sit well with me,” she said. “I was shy, and starting high school halfway through the year was super hard.”

At Great Bridge, Naser played basketball. She still enjoys pick-up games in the Chesapeake Campus Student Center, usually as the only female player, and hopes to one day volunteer as a youth basketball coach.

“My coaches were great role models and it’s now time for me to give back,” Naser said.

Paying for college was a little easier for Naser thanks to the TCC scholarships she was awarded, including the Barnes and Noble Textbook Scholarship, the Barton S. Mitchell Memorial Asphalt Industry Scholarship, the Chesapeake Campus General Scholarship and the Dr. Alexsandria Manrov STEM Award.

Naser was encouraged by her parents, Mona and George Naser, to pursue her degree. “My dad came to America during the Lebanese Civil War because he wanted an education. That’s a pretty scary thing to do as a teenager,” she said. “And my mom has always encouraged me to get a degree of my own, since her biggest regret is not finishing college.”

Naser advises new TCC students to get involved as much as possible. And go to class. And study, study, study.

“I’m not a genius, but I am a hard worker,” she said.

She added: “I’ve gained a real confidence during my time at TCC. I’m absolutely ready for what comes next.”