Skip navigation

“I’m very grateful to be earning my degree debt free.” – Paige Russell

Paige Russell discovered her passion for interior design while a student at Tidewater Community College.

She originally planned to study social sciences for a career in mental health counseling. But one semester in and she knew the field wasn’t a good fit for her.

“TCC gave me the chance to explore programs and I didn’t feel like I was wasting time and money. Once I found interior design, it was a game changer,” Paige said. “I enjoy it so much it doesn’t feel like work.”

A recent graduate of Great Bridge High, Paige is on track to earn her Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design in the spring of 2024.

Paige Russell in the Interior Design spaces on Chesapeake Campus.

“I love everything about this program. All of my teachers are great and have industry experience. They create classrooms that are really inviting and are always there to answer questions,” Paige said.

Paige followed her sister, Hailee, to TCC. They both are Outstanding High School Graduate Scholars, earning full scholarships to the college a decade apart.

“TCC was always on my radar because of my sister,” Paige said. “I knew I could complete my gen eds. What I didn’t know was how much I’d enjoy the community and the small classes.”

As an Outstanding High School Graduate Scholar, Paige also serves as a Student Ambassador on the Chesapeake Campus. In that role, she gives campus tours, serves at events and volunteers in the student center.

“I encourage everyone to try for this scholarship,” she said. “The work has helped me come out of my shell and grow. It’s been a tremendous learning experience and I’ve made a lot of friends.”

Paige also credits TCC staffers Sara Hair and Tyler Flanagan with investing in her success. “They always have their doors open and are there to provide guidance. It’s a big family here,” Paige said.

An intern at a local design company, Paige is learning the ropes from professionals in the field. She plans a career as a residential and commercial interior designer.

“I’m actually going to be job ready with my associate degree,” Paige said. “I’m very grateful to be earning my degree debt free.”

Now is the time to apply for the Outstanding High School Graduate Scholarship. High School seniors can ask their guidance counselors about the program. The deadline to apply is April 7. For more information, visit here.

TCC ranked a top school for three programs by

Tidewater Community College was named a top school by for three programs: fire science, interior design and small business management. ranks colleges and programs across the country using aggregated publicly available data.

TCC was named “Best Community College” for the Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science. The program ranked 13 out of 38 schools listed by the site. TCC’s two-year degree in fire science includes a general principles class in addition to classes in building construction, fire investigation, hazardous materials, occupational safety and health, and fire dynamics.

 TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design was among the “Best Online” programs. TCC’s interior design program is the only accredited program in South Hampton Roads, preparing students for work designing commercial and residential spaces by developing skills in visual presentation, spatial and lighting design, color coordination, material selection, estimating and contract planning. The program also includes certificates in Green Design and Kitchen and Bath Design. The program was ranked 20 out of 28 listed schools.

Also, TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Small Business Management & Entrepreneurship was listed as “Best Associate’s in the Southeast.” Offered on-campus and online, the program prepares students to launch or expand a small business. The degree includes classes in accounting, business law, finance, and marketing with special course work in entrepreneurship and business planning—as well as a cooperative internship. The program was ranked 17 out of 43 schools selected.

For information about TCC’s programs, email or call 757-822-1111.

Live! From inside the classroom

In this series, we provide a closer look at hands-on learning during

While COVID-19 means online learning for most Tidewater Community College students, some are back in the classroom for hands-on training. In fact, more than 400 sections of classes in interior design, automotive, health professions, welding, veterinary technology, culinary arts, visual arts, electronics technology and other programs have on-campus components. 

A peek at an Interior Design classroom

Step inside Theory and Techniques of Interior Design for an animated discussion about mood boards, drafting techniques and color theory. You’ll also see splashy videos on the same topics.

The course, IDS 100, covers drafting and presentation, color theory, coordination, space planning and arrangement of furnishings.

“I love being able to see my students and know they are getting the concepts,” said Professor Lana Sapozhnikov.

 “The introduction class teaches students the whole process of design from start to finish. It explains to them all the things that they will encounter in the real world.”

Tips for learning

Vonyea Pippins, a first year student, in the interior design lab on Chesapeake Campus.

During labs, ask questions! Also, bring your supplies, which for interior design students include drafting paper, colored pencils and pens. Keep your mask on and hand sanitizer at the ready.

Student voices

“I’m glad to be back in class,” said Bailey McDaniel, a second year student who transferred to TCC from Coastal Carolina University.

“I decided to come home for a cheaper, in-person option,” McDaniel said. “I love interior design.  So far, so good.”

“It feels good being here. I feel safe, and I like being in class more than online,” added Fatima Jaffar.

Vonyea Pippins, a new student said, “I like the program. It’s different because of COVID. We are spaced out, and the labs only have 10 people. I’m comfortable here.”

Recent Hickory High graduate Colleen Morris, added, “It’s better to be here than not in class. I like everything so far, and I’m enjoying more freedom than I had in high school. TCC is definitely a good option for people.”

About the professor

Lana Sapozhnikov owns her own interior design and home staging business. She is knowledgeable about green design and is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified designer.

About the program

TCC’s interior design program provides a foundation in both commercial and residential design. And it is one of two programs offered within Virginia’s Community Colleges, providing an affordable option to private design schools. TCC interior design lab includes state-of-the-art equipment and a work room full of supplies and samples to inspire any budding designer.

For more information about the interior design program, email Jennifer Hopkins.

Interior Design student places in national carpet design competition

Tidewater Community College Interior Design student Colleen Garrettson recently placed in the top five in a student competition sponsored by Delos Custom Carpets and Rugs. Students from colleges including UCLA, Canada College and the Art Institute of Atlanta submitted designs that ranged from whimsical to structured.

Garrettson’s design, “Poolside,” is a multi-hued blue, gray and white swishy pattern that is reminiscent of cool afternoons near the water.

“Poolside” carpet design by Colleen Garrettson.

DelosCarpets are used by designers nationwide and are American made, robotically tufted and hand-finished for speed and consistency. 

Garrettson is a second-year student in TCC’s associate degree program, coming back to school after years as a stay-at-home mom and bookkeeper. Her daughter, Elizabeth, is studying Funeral Services at the Virginia Beach Campus.

“I was tickled to have such a contest to enter and to gain working experience while I’m still in school,” Garrettson said. “My time at TCC has been very productive, and I’ve learned from every single class and project.”

Contest judging was completed at the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) leadership conference in Atlanta. Garrettson is a member of the student chapter of ASID and appreciates the learning opportunities provided by the group.

Garrettson will receive a produced copy of her carpet for her portfolio. Her design is with Delos for future use.

Garrettson in the Interior Design sample library and work room on the Chesapeake Campus.

 “I decided to finally follow my passion even though I was a little intimated to come back to school after so many years,” she said.  “My professors have pushed me every day to do my best work.”

Garrettson spends her free time visiting historical sites with her husband, John. She is interested in preservation and hopes to use her degree for future work in that area.

More than halfway through the program, Garrettson urges others to find competitive opportunities.

“I encourage everyone to enter contests like this one,” she said. “Put yourself out there and watch the doors open.”

From around the world, across the states to TCC graduate

Veteran Paul Cage traveled the world during his 22-year Navy career and then transitioned to driving a tractor-trailer across all 50 states. Weary of the travel, he longed for a future where he would be at home more, and he found it by completing his associate degree at Tidewater Community College.

Now he plans to make your home more inviting as an interior designer. Cage, student speaker for the 67th Fall Commencement Exercises, graduates with an Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design and a Career Studies Certificate in Associate Designer.

“I was at a VA seminar and the rep suggested the TCC program, and at that time I thought it was just decorating,” said Cage, who also holds career studies certificates in associate designer and truck driving. “But it’s a totally different ball of wax. I was watching a lot of those house-flipping shows and they were making places functional. That’s a lot of what we do in interior design.”

Cage, who used his GI Bill® benefits for his education, plans to launch Stylyn Creative design in Chesapeake after graduation.

His degree included a seminar class that involved working with instructor Ron Austin to complete a whole house design. “That was a definite highlight for me,” he said. “I learned that it’s important to measure, measure, measure. If you’re off even an inch, that’s a big problem.”

Cage works with classmate Sheila Land on her final project..
Cage works with classmate Sheila Land on her final project.

“Paul fully engaged himself as a career-changer, and added to classroom discussions and provided assistance to classmates as needed,” said Jennifer Hopkins, program head for interior design. “His leadership and professionalism were always on display.”

Cage graduates with his wife, Sherrilyn Olds-Cage. She earned an Associate of Science in Social Sciences and plans a career in social work. She is already at Old Dominion University, studying toward her bachelor’s in psychology.

“I really surprised myself being able to complete this degree after being out of school for 20 years,” Olds-Cage said. “Initially I was really stressed, but once I got my rhythm, I found I was a better student now than as a young adult.”

Both graduates agree that TCC instructors are invested in their students. “Interior Design is one big family,” Cage said.

Paul and his wife, Sherrilyn Olds-Cage.
Paul and his wife, Sherrilyn Olds-Cage.

The couple has a blended family with four children: Dezmen Cage, 26; Dedra Olds, 17; Solé Cage, 17; and Paul Cage Jr., 16.

In his speech, Cage will encourage his classmates to face adversity and turn it into the fuel to motivate them. He said, “Don’t think you have to have it all figured out, but change course if need be. And always measure twice!”

After flipping careers, alumna living Happily Ever Now

Whitney Regan never thought she’d flip houses.

Nevertheless, the hair-stylist-turned-interior-designer is doing just that.

“I’m using my degree all the time,” Regan said. “Whether it’s in my own home doing seasonal decorating and baking or doing my work, I’ve truly become a designer of my own life.”

Regan is a design associate at Why Now, LLC. She is also a partner in Your Happily Ever Now, a home staging business.

For Regan, no day looks the same. One day she is working on a rental property remodel and the next she is staging a property so it will sell quickly.

The Kellam High graduate earned her Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design at Tidewater Community College’s Chesapeake Campus in 2014.

Regan chose TCC’s interior design program because it was the only one close to home and it was affordable.

“That very first semester I decided that I wanted to do home staging because I knew I’d love taking an empty house and turning it into a place you’d love to live,” she said. “The program taught me design and design principles as well as drafting and rendering.”

She also learned the intangibles – “the business sense we gain that enables us to have the confidence to go out and making a living doing what we love,” she said.

Regan was co-president of TCC’s student chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. The group planned special projects, including a “Pallet Challenge,” which gave students the opportunity to turn a plain pallet into a design element for the home.

While the interior design program is rigorous with multiple portfolio-building projects, Regan reminds current students to give it their best effort. “You get out of the program what you put into it. The time and effort you invest in class projects is how you’ll have a portfolio of quality work to show potential clients.”

She encourages students to build strong bonds with their classmates, as they will become important business contacts.

“I’m working with Shontel Feagins who I met in class. She loves drafting, and I don’t, so I hired her to help on a project,” she said.

Regan works with TCC professor Lana Sapozhnikov for her home staging business; the pair co-write a blog under the same name. “It started after I served as a juror for a TCC class. Students were asking for feedback on so many areas, that I started writing them down and needed a place to post them,” Regan added.

The self-proclaimed homebody hopes to one day build her dream home.

“I want to build a spacious ranch home with tall ceilings and tons of light. It will be very sleek and elegant, but also cozy and comfortable. I want a place where my daughter can put down roots,” she said.

Regan and husband James have a daughter, Emerson, 3.

It’s one thing to decorate. It’s another to design. Learn how at TCC

Is your Pinterest feed flooding with the latest home design trends? Do you have an eye for color and space planning? If so, a career in interior design may be the perfect fit for you.

Complete Tidewater Community College’s Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design and you’ll be ready to enter the field with an impressive portfolio and sit for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam.

Enhance your creative and technical skills on your time

It’s one thing to decorate. It’s another to design. TCC’s program teaches you the creative skills to design commercial and residential spaces and master the technical side using the latest computer-aided design software.

Lana Sapozhnikov chats with a student in the interior design lab on the Chesapeake Campus.
Lana Sapozhnikov (left) chats with one of her students in IDS 100.

“The best part about the program is that it is really diverse,” said Lana Sapozhnikov, interior design instructor at the Chesapeake Campus. “The introduction class really teaches students the whole process of design from start to finish. It explains to them all the things that they will encounter in the real world.”

Part of the program includes working with real clients. You won’t just read about designing. You’ll actually do it!

“A lot of students fresh out of the program – or even before they graduate – are able to start their own businesses because of the portfolio they build at TCC,” Sapozhnikov said. “We had a student who designed a plastic surgeon’s office before she graduated. There’s just a lot of options for students when they are going through the program.”

Interior Design Alumna Whitney Regan
TCC alumna Whitney Regan

“This program has opened so many doors for me,” said Whitney Regan, who earned her Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design in 2014. “I do home staging, work with design clients and even real estate.”

In addition to the two-year degree, TCC’s program offers specialized career studies certificates in associate designer, kitchen and bath design and green design for interiors.

Added bonus: Day, evening and online classes accommodate your busy schedule.

Learn from seasoned pros

TCC’s interior design faculty actually work in the field and have the scoop on transforming the spaces where we work, play and live.

TCC interior design student Stephanie Adams
Stephanie Adams, interior design student

“The professors are really helpful in terms of teaching practical skills that are used every single day in the profession,” said student and career switcher Stephanie Adams.

“I chose TCC’s interior design program because I wanted to make sure I had experience with real professionals,” Regan said. “I did my research on the professors who taught the program before enrolling and they had great reviews.”

“TCC is wonderful because the professors and instructors have a wide variety of experiences. They can give real-life examples. Student really benefit from that,” Sapozhnikov said.

Words of wisdom

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Adams advised.

If you’re interested in the program, contact Jennifer Hopkins, program head for interior design, at or 757-822-5183.