Skip navigation

From TCC to the State Capitol

By now, most people know that Winsome Earle-Sears is the first woman, and the first woman of color, to serve as Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor. But you may not know that she got her start in higher education at Tidewater Community College.

On May 8, Lt. Gov. Earle-Sears will be the speaker for TCC’s 76th Commencement Exercises at Chartway Arena in the Ted Constant Convocation Center on the campus of Old Dominion University. 

She will share a message of encouragement with students, as she knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes. “I think it’s so awesome that I get to do this,” Earle-Sears said. “It’s not something I ever thought I’d be able to do when I came to TCC trying to get my life straight.”

Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears at her inauguration with husband Terence Sears.

Sears, 59, was born in Jamaica and came to the United States with her family when she was six. “My father had $1.75 in his pocket and arrived during the height of the civil rights movement, just days before Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a dream speech.’”

She added, “Growing up I had no excuse not to succeed. Education was what brought my father success and it will lift all boats.”

At 18, Earle-Sears was working as an electrician in the United States Marines. After four years of service, she left the military and married Terence Sears, a Marine officer. Earle-Sears was in her mid-twenties and a young mother of three children, all under the age of five, when she started at TCC.

Winsome Earle-Sears in her Marine uniform.
Winsome Earle when she was in the Marines.

“I remember my first English professor who was old school. She had us diagramming sentences and rewriting paragraphs,” Earle-Sears recalled. “She refused any typed papers, and we hated having to write the same paper twice. But that work taught us to understand the process of writing a paper. It was only later that we thanked her for being so no-nonsense. She would accept nothing but greatness.”

On starting at a community college, Earle-Sears says there were many things that made the experience valuable. “The small classes and affordability were helpful. And the quality of the education was not diminished because the same professors at TCC also taught at the four-year institutions,” Earle-Sears said. “TCC was a godsend for me, having been out of school for eight years. I had to brush up my skills and the administrators and professors showed such patience and encouraged returning students not to think we were less than others.”

Earle-Sears received an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from TCC in 1992. She continued her studies earning a bachelor’s from Old Dominion University in English and a master’s in organizational leadership from Regent University.

The newly elected Lt. Governor of Virginia.

On her time at TCC, Earle-Sears says she carries important lessons with her. “It’s not one thing, but the whole experience of being back in college with professors who understood you didn’t just graduate from high school, and you were quite rusty. They knew they would have to take a little bit more time with you and do a little bit more hand-holding. All while knowing that we were more like them in their current stage of life, and not a child coming into adulthood.”

She added, “You didn’t have anything to prove – except to yourself that you could do it.”

Earle-Sears doesn’t consider herself a trailblazer, but she does admire trailblazing women from the past. Specifically, her grandmother, who spent time serving the poor, the homeless and anyone in need. Also, Margaret Thatcher with her no-nonsense approach. And lastly, Nanny of the Maroons, the Jamaican who led African slaves to revolt against the British. Nanny became a symbol of unity and strength for her people during times of crisis.

Earle-Sears with her family.

As Lieutenant Governor, Earle-Sears presides over the Senate and is a member of several other state boards, commissions and councils. A former program manager for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and VISTA volunteer, Earle-Sears is a trained electrician and successful businesswoman. She is most proud of her community work of leading a men’s prison ministry and as director of a women’s homeless shelter.

During Commencement Earle-Sears will commend graduates on making the decision to start. “These graduates have made the best decision to start their lives. They are no longer wondering about the ‘what ifs.’”

She continued, “Don’t ever think that there was a time when things were easier. Times are relative. For some people, things have been historically easier, but where we are today shows we are overcomers. We must move forward for the sake of our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. We must move forward; we must forgive, and we must strive.”

Making a difference for students at home and in the nation

Psychology Professor Andrea Palmisano has been teaching at TCC since 2010. When she is not in the classroom, Palmisano serves as a general and family mediator with the Supreme Court of Virginia.

She also has her own mediation business. In May, Palmisano will help the Tangipahoa Parish School System which is under a desegregation order by the U.S. Eastern District Court of Louisiana. 

Palmisano has created an eight-hour peer mediation program for high school students. The goal is to provide students with the opportunity to become proficient in conflict resolution skills.

“We hope to reduce the number of fights and create harmony in the school,” she said. “It’s about helping students develop leadership skills and motivating them to succeed.”

During mediation at the parish school, Palmisano will present students with concrete steps to resolve conflicts. By working with a team on-site, she will help them find solutions for their problems. The final step will be to draft a binding document for those who are working to resolve a specific conflict.

“I’ve implemented a similar program at Granby High School and saw the number of fights decrease pretty dramatically,” she added. “We know this approach works, but it requires the adults there to believe in the program and then nurture it.”

Palmisano will provide the training and then stay connected as the program unfolds. “When developing a new culture, one of conflict resolution, you have to stay in close contact and be there for the students, parents and staff,” she said. “That’s what I’ve signed up to do.”

Professor Palmisano with TCC student Cecilia Cruz.

A beloved faculty member, Palmisano gets top marks – a 5 out of 5 – on In addition, 100% of her students would take her classes again.

“I care about my students’ education and their personal well-being,” Palmisano said. “I learn every student’s name and I listen. They know my classroom is a judgment-free zone so they can talk and share freely.”

A native of Brazil, Palmisano came to the United States when she was in high school because of her father’s job. “I spent my high school years in three different countries. I know what it feels like not to belong and that shaped my interest in helping people,” she said.

Palmisano is the faculty advisor of the TCC student psychology club, Psi-Chi-Phi, which meets every other week. To learn more, check them out on Instagram @tcc_psichiphi.

Palmisano holds a Ph.D. in psychology, a master’s in clinical psychology and has professional experience working as a therapist for children with emotional and behavioral issues. She has also been the director of children’s programs for a non-profit mediation organization.

In her free time, Palmisano enjoys Salsa dancing and outdoor activities with her husband, Dr. David Palmisano. The couple has two sons, Tiago, 27, and Matias, 24. Both sons are in medical school. Tiago and his wife Raygan recently welcomed Lucas James, the family’s first grandchild.

TCC celebrates Women’s History Month 2023

Tidewater Community College celebrates Women’s History Month in March with activities on every campus.

This year’s events include panel discussions, speakers, celebrations, and interactive learning events. All are designed to inform students and the community about the history of women and how women continue to overcome adversity and challenges.

Women’s History Month has been observed annually in the United States since 1987. This year’s national theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”

Dr. Paula Young – Dr. Rashida Gray – Dr. Martha Manar – Nurse Tori Tucker – Dr. Tamika Lasege

TCC’s keynote event is a medical panel featuring five medical professionals talking about the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field. The event will take place on March 22 from 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. and is Virtual. Panel participants are:

  • Dr. Paula Young, the medical director of Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital in Richmond, Va., and a pediatrician for the Bon Secours Care-A-Van mobile free clinic.
  • Dr. Rashida Gray, an adult psychiatrist and owner of Gray MD Psychiatry, LLC in Richmond, Va. She treats a wide variety of psychiatric conditions, with a special focus on mood and anxiety disorders.
  • Dr. Martha Manar, a pediatrician sub-specializing in Neonatology. She currently serves as a staff neonatologist at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. She has been involved in several research projects and has served as a physician mentor and/or clinical faculty for mid-level providers.
  • Tori Tucker, a palliative care nurse and interdisciplinary researcher. She earned her Ph.D. in nursing history at the University of Virginia. Her research explores the educational, professional, and personal lives of Black nurses in Virginia during the 1950s-1980s.
  • Dr. Tamika Lasege, a pediatrician and neonatologist with over 10 years of experience in managed care.  She currently serves as chief medical officer for the Georgia Medicaid health plan of UnitedHealthcare.

For more information and for accommodations, email

Campus Events

Campus events are free and open to students, faculty and staff. Community members are also welcome and may email Emily Hartman at for entry details.

March 1

Movie and Discussion
10 a.m. – Noon — Virginia Beach Campus Student Center
Join us as we watch “Story of a Movement.” In this documentary, female office workers in 1970s Boston inspire change with a call for better pay, more opportunities, and an end to sexual harassment. A round-table discussion will follow the film showing.

March 2

Leadership Institute – Beyond Barriers to Success 
6 p.m. — Virtual
Join Student Life and our guest speaker TCC alum Jeanine Ortiz as she shares her story and experiences regarding breaking barriers and narratives as a woman of color in higher education. Leadership Institute Sessions provide students with an opportunity to explore a variety of personal and professional development topics through the lens of leadership.

March 15

Camaraderie Speaker & Outreach for Veteran Students with Del. Jackie Hope Glass
Noon – 1 p.m. – Norfolk Campus Student Center
Del. Jackie Hope Glass is a self-proclaimed certified doer, mama and Navy veteran from the Chicagoland area and served in the United States Navy for eleven years as a cryptologist where she deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Jackie moved to Virginia eight years ago and currently resides in the heart of Norfolk at Ballentine Place. She holds a bachelor’s in Workforce Education Training and Development from Southern Illinois University.

Currently, she serves in the Virginia House of Delegates for the 89th district covering most of the city of Norfolk.  As an elected official, she was able to pass two bills in the 2022 General Assembly, with more coming for the 2023 General Assembly.

Kahoot Trivia
Noon – 1 p.m. – Portsmouth Campus Student Center
Celebrating International Women’s Day with fun facts.

Paint Party
7 p.m. – Chesapeake Campus Student Center
Celebrate Women’s History through art and expression. Seating is limited. RSVP with your name and student ID to to save your seat! 

Canvas, paint supplies, and instruction provided. Open to all TCC students, faculty, and staff. A valid TCC ID is required to participate. 

March 22

Women’s History Month Medical Panel
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. – Virtual
This educational event features a panel discussion with five medical professionals talking about the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field. Panel participants are Dr. Paula Young, Dr. Rashida Gray, nurse Tori Tucker and Dr. Tamika Lasege.

Women’s History Celebration
5:30 p.m. — Virginia Beach Campus at the Joint-Use Library
Join staff from the Virginia Beach Student Center as they partner with the Joint-Use Library for an event celebrating Women’s History Month. Come prepared to learn and grow.

President Conston to be highlighted by the Sentara Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Cultural Competency
Noon – 1 p.m. — Virtual
Join TCC President Marcia Conston and Virginia Peninsula Community College President Towuanna Porter Brannon, as they share their unique perspectives on education, leadership and the influence gender has played on their successful careers. Registration is required. Please use the link above.

March 23

Human Trafficking Awareness
Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Join us to learn about FreeKind, an organization that assists victims of human trafficking.

March 29

What Are We Watching – Women’s Stories Movie Marathon
9 a.m. – 4 p.m. — NorfolkCampus Student Center. This movie marathon features films by women directors. Films include “Lucky Grandma” (2020); “Lioness: The Nicola Adams Story” (2021); and Fruits of Labor (2021).

March 30

Noon – 1:30 p.m. – Portsmouth Campus Student Center
This event highlights and brings awareness to women in STEM fields. In addition, there will be a segment focusing on dressing for success.

Resilience as a Leadership Practice
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. – Norfolk Campus Student Center
Join us for a discussion featuring TCC alum Les Henderson, residential and hospitality coordinator at goDCgo and founder of EndoQueer.