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It’s never too late to be a STEM scholar

All Kellie Burchfield needed to do was enroll in one more class to complete her certificate in Geographic Information Systems.

Instead, information about Tidewater Community College’s STEM Promise Program caught her eye. The Women’s Center scholarship awards tuition and fees for four semesters to 20 students annually who choose degree paths in STEM fields.

It’s a competitive pool with as many as 100 applicants, many of them directly from STEM academies at the local high schools.

At 49 years old, “I didn’t think I would get it,” Burchfield admitted.

The senior engineering technician at the City of Suffolk’s Department of Public Utilities applied with the support of her colleagues, including the assistant director who wrote her recommendation letter.

“Shocked,” was her reaction when she was among the students selected. “I mean, it was really wonderful,” she said.

These days, Burchfield balances her full-time job with five classes, some online and evening. She’s also a regular at her daughter’s cheerleading events and the only parent home during the week as her husband, Tony, holds a job based in Fredericksburg.

“He’s home every other weekend, and that really helps,” Burchfield said. “That’s when I bury myself in my room to study.”

Traditional college wasn’t an option for Burchfield right after high school; instead, she went to work. She started in an administrative role in land surveying and learned that business from the ground up. Earning her associate in computer science at TCC helped her move into a better opportunity with the City of Suffolk.

That’s where’s she’s been for the last seven years, moving from asset management to engineering technician to her current role, a mobile one that allows her to travel all over Virginia’s largest geographic city.

Working directly with the engineers in her department made her eager to learn more about the profession herself, prompting her to apply to the STEM Promise Scholarship Program. She is working toward an Associate of Science in Civil Engineering Technology.

So far, she ranks pre-calculus as her toughest obstacle; online tutorials help.

“I’m learning everything all over again,” she said. “Sometimes I wonder, ‘What was I thinking?’ Most of the time though, I’m OK.”

When she graduates from TCC in December 2021, Burchfield will consider transferring to Old Dominion University for her bachelor’s in civil engineering. She encourages anyone, especially women, to considering applying for TCC’s STEM Scholarship.

She stresses it’s never too late to learn something new.

“We really need more women in the field,” she said. “This is a great first step.”

For information about applying to the Women’s Center STEM Promise Scholarship Program, email coordinator Jaedda Hall at

TCC’s Real Estate Foundation prepping College Point to be a dynamic, mixed-use development with open public access along the waterfront

Tidewater Community College’s Real Estate Foundation will develop what’s been deemed “the last and best large property available in Hampton Roads” into a dynamic mixed-use site. It is reminiscent of Virginia Beach’s Town Center and Norfolk’s East Beach community, which will combine businesses, residential and green spaces.

The 300-acre property in northern Suffolk, known as College Point, offers stunning water views, convenient freeway access and proximity to existing utility and communications infrastructure.

TCC's College Point is a 300-acre property in Northern Suffolk, offering stunning water views, convenient freeway access and close proximity to existing utility and communications infrastructure.
TCC’s College Point is a 300-acre property in Northern Suffolk, offering stunning water views, convenient freeway access and close proximity to existing utility and communications infrastructure.

West of Interstate 664 and south of the James River, the land, gifted to the college by the Beazley Foundation in 1968, was the original site of TCC’s Portsmouth Campus.  The property is currently home to TCC’s Center for Workforce Solutions, a truck driving training facility and four facilities maintenance buildings, all of which will be relocated.

“In real estate, we always talk about location, location, location – and this property is in a prime spot with million-dollar views,” said Matthew Baumgarten, executive director of the TCC Real Estate Foundation, in giving an update to the Commercial Real Estate Women of Hampton Roads at its monthly meeting. “The site is the gateway to South Hampton Roads. I can’t wait to see lighted walkways along the shoreline with restaurants, breweries and residences making this a great place to live, work and enjoy life.”

The Real Estate Foundation intends to transfer ownership of 1.3 miles of shoreline of the James and Nansemond rivers to the City of Suffolk to create a gathering place for residents and a community park for all to enjoy. Suffolk has recently issued a Request-For-Proposal for study and design of the waterfront feature.

“Because of the proximity to many locations from Williamsburg to Town Center, this is a great strategic location,” said Kevin Hughes, director of economic development for the City of Suffolk.

College Point has been called the deemed “the last and best large property available in Hampton Roads”
College Point has been called the deemed “the last and best large property available in Hampton Roads”

Development in and around Suffolk’s Harbour View area is thriving. In addition to the recent opening of Hampton Roads Crossing, which includes retail shopping and numerous dining options, new apartments and single-family homes continue to be built along with health-care facilities.

The Real Estate Foundation will be the master planner of the property. All proceeds from this asset will be used to further the foundation’s mission of support to TCC’s academic programs and ongoing operations. Developers may purchase or lease portions from the foundation for uses that are consistent with the plans laid out by the foundation.

“It is truly a privilege to do this work that directly benefits TCC and the entire Hampton Roads community,” Baumgarten said. “I can’t wait to move forward and see what we can accomplish together.”

For more information about College Point, visit

“TCC got me where I wanted to be”

On Dec. 15, 2005, Chad Oxton was not qualified for an engineering technician opening with the City of Suffolk.

That changed on Dec. 16, 2005, the day he graduated from Tidewater Community College.

“TCC got me where I wanted to be,” said Oxton, distinguished by hair that reaches far below his shoulders, which is often covered by a helmet given his penchant for his Harley Davidson. “The day I graduated I was qualified. The day before, I wasn’t.”

Suffolk’s Public Works Department hired Oxton for the position he wanted thanks to his Associate of Applied Science in Civil Engineering Technology. Three promotions later, Oxton is an operations superintendent II who oversees six crews that do everything from digging ditches, patching potholes, plowing snow and cutting grass for Virginia’s largest city by land at 429 square miles.

The Navy veteran didn’t fancy himself much of a college student having grown up in a trailer park in Richmond, Maine. But his GI Bill© benefits presented options he didn’t want to squander.

TCC was a good fit for the construction worker, who initially settled on engineering, but struggled with the higher-level math required by the program. A civil engineering associate made a lot more sense.

“It was a natural fit,” he said. “Part of the program was soils with a soils lab, fluids with a fluids lab and concrete with a concrete lab. We were studying concepts that were pertinent to what I was doing for a living. It was stuff I could take to work with me the next day.”

Oxton, who also holds a Career Studies Certificate in Land Surveying and an Associate of Science in Business Administration, enjoyed learning under civil engineering technology program head Chris Cartwright. He shared with Cartwright his thoughts in the importance of adding a class in blueprint reading given the growing demands placed on construction managers.

Cartwright was all for it, and today Oxton teaches Blueprint Reading along with a Contract Documents and Construction Law class and a Planning and Scheduling class, all at the Virginia Beach Campus.

Each of the classes go well beyond theory. Oxton’s expertise in blueprint reading allows him to speak to it as it relates to framing, concrete work and site development plans. “I have experience in all of those industries so I can speak to those trades from residential all the way to heavy industrial,” he said.

The documents and law class is an eye opener that demonstrates how essential wording a contract is to avoid lawsuits. The scheduling class revolves around learning Microsoft Project; students receive a copy of the software program upon completion of the course.

“I like that I am teaching to my community,” Oxton said. “Every class I teach correlates to my community. I’ve seen students rise up in their careers or have opportunities presented to them from being a part of classes here.”

As chair of the Hampton Roads Public Works Academy, Oxton particularly enjoys introducing young people to a rewarding career path.

“Anybody in construction who is trying to make a career move is a good fit for civil engineering technology,” he said. “The TCC program gives you a chance to take your tool belt off and go to work in an office or behind the wheel of a pickup truck. At least there’s AC in the pickup truck!”

In Suffolk, Oxton likes that he has both a desk and a truck in addition to that Harley that is awaiting his next trek. He and wife Alyce are also passionate about animal rescue; both are on the board of directors for Giant Hearts Giant Dog Rescue, Inc. Though they recently lost their two Saint Bernards, they are regular fosters to Great Danes, English Wolfhounds and Mastiffs – as many as four at a time.


Who said logistics can’t be fun?

Pictured, from left: Renee Felts, vice president for institutional advancement and workforce development at PDCCC; Scott Flanders, import redistribution center manager at Ace Hardware and co-founder of Hampton Roads LogistXGames; Lang Williams, CBRE Hampton Roads senior vice president and co-founder of Hampton Roads LogistXGames; LaVerne Ellerbe, director of TCC Educational Foundation.

No skis, no snow, no skateboards, either. But X Games fun came to Suffolk all for the good cause of raising scholarship money for workforce development programs at Tidewater Community College and Paul D. Camp Community College.

At the Hampton Roads LogistXGames, local logistics industry workers went head-to-head in events that included the pallet puzzle sprint, pallet jack relay, pick/pack hurdle and a box put. Translated that means teams of three competed in tasks that ranged from folding, packing and stacking boxes as fast as possible and sprinting to shelves to place items in their proper locations. Relays around obstacles? That was part of the morning, too.

Held in a warehouse at Virginia Regional Commerce Park, the LogistXGames is an unorthodox way to create camaraderie among employees from participating companies Damco, Lineage, Expeditors, The Port of Virginia, Givens Logistics, Keurig Green Mountain, Target, QVC, Tidewater Staffing, CBRE Hampton Roads, Remedy and World Market.

Quanisha Bates, distribution operator at QVC who is pursuing an Associate of Science in Science at TCC.
Quanisha Bates, distribution operator at QVC

“I love the environment and everything that goes on,” said Quanisha Bates, a distribution operator at QVC who is pursuing an Associate of Science in Science at TCC. “We give back while the colleges give back. It is just a great opportunity for everyone.”

On the leaderboard, Givens Logistics from Chesapeake claimed “Gold,” or in this case the Golden Pallet, followed by Keurig Green Mountain and Damco.

“It is definitely a unique event,” said Lang Williams, CBRE Hampton Roads senior vice president and co-founder of the event, now in its fifth year. “Most of the warehouse workforce doesn’t get to go out on sales calls or participate in teambuilding experiences other than in their own facilities. These games give them the chance to show company pride and learn more about other companies in the area.”

The games raked in $33,000 for scholarships. TCC’s portion will be used to support veterans in the college’s Truck Driver Training Program.

Kevin Hughes, Suffolk’s director of economic development, standing next to the "Golden Pallet Award" at the Hampton Roads LogistXGames.
Suffolk Economic Development director Kevin Hughes

“We wanted to keep the fundraiser very centric to logistics,” said Kevin Hughes, Suffolk’s director of economic development. “There is an opportunity to encourage more people to get into it, to be trained and to grow the industry. So, as our workforce partners in the commonwealth and in the region, TCC and Paul D. Camp are a natural fit. Both colleges have logistics programs and want to grow them. They are in the heart of this thing.”

TCC offers an Associate of Applied Science in Management with a Specialization in Maritime Logistics. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the demand for skilled logisticians will grow by 26 percent from 2010 to 2020.