Skip navigation

TCC alum earns first technical studies degree and a new position

Ken Magee always planned on getting his degree, but life got in the way until now.

The 53-year-old father of two is the first to earn TCC’s new technical studies degree. Designed specifically for skilled workers who need formal education to advance their careers, the program awards up to 23 hours of credit for prior relevant job-related training and professional experience.

That allowed Magee, who received all 23 credits thanks to his background working at Virginia Natural Gas, to earn his Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies in just one year.

Twenty years ago Magee started with a shovel in hand installing and maintaining natural gas service lines for Virginia Natural Gas. Today, as a college graduate, he is the manager of community affairs at the company.

Magee at the Joint-Use Library

“This promotion is directly related to my degree. My managers saw what I was capable of doing and that I had the will and determination to see the program through,” Magee said.

Launched in 2018, TCC’s technical studies transfer degree allows students to seamlessly transition to Old Dominion University’s industrial technology major. Starting this fall, the associate can be completed 100% online; students will pay nothing for textbooks.

Magee plans to transfer to ODU next year.

 “It was always in the back of my mind to get my degree, and the years continued to come and go,” he said. “It was when Virginia Natural Gas partnered with TCC to give credits for experience that I was really sold.”

Participating companies provide their employees tuition reimbursement, making their investment in education even easier to achieve.

Magee credits his own “motivational team” at his workplace with encouraging him to complete the program.

He’s not the only community college graduate in the family, either. Son Kenneth, 25, began at TCC studying business administration, and daughter Talia, 21, completed the dental hygiene program at Thomas Nelson.

 “Your degree is something that you will use the rest of your life. It opens up your value to your company,” said Magee, who graduated with 3.0 GPA.

Magee now encourages others to follow in his footsteps.

“It’s important to invest in yourself,” he said. “Never put limits on yourself, develop a strong support system and then get going!”

Technical Studies degree now offered 100% online with no textbook cost

A year after Tidewater Community College launched an associate degree designed specifically for skilled workers who need formal education to advance their careers, the program is becoming even more flexible for its students.

Starting this fall, TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies with a Specialization in Technical Supervision can be completed 100% online and students will pay nothing for textbooks.

That’s more good news for the degree that continues to garner industry support.

“We came to TCC because we saw the need for our employees and worked together to develop a program that would award credit for technical knowledge and work experience,” said George Faatz, director of growth & strategic planning at Virginia Natural Gas. “TCC heard us, acted on it and created a program that fits our needs and the needs of many in the Hampton Roads workforce.”

Students in the program can be awarded as many as 23 credits for relevant job-related training and prior professional experience, a plus for skilled workers who don’t have two years to dedicate solely to academics to earn an associate degree.

Since the program launched in partnership with Old Dominion University, companies including Busch Manufacturing, LLC, Oceaneering and Virginia Natural Gas have come on board.

Participating companies cover tuition and fees for their employees. As the program is now part of the college’s Z-Degree, students will use open educational resources instead of traditional textbooks. That translates to paying nothing for textbooks.

In addition to offering all classes online, students can also continue the face-to-face option if they prefer.

Moving forward

Mike Petrice, organizational development manager at Busch, joined two of his apprentices in pursuing the degree last year.

“Getting credits for past work was a huge morale booster and what gave me the motivation to keep going,” Petrice said. “I’ve been in manufacturing for 32 years and managing people for over 20 years. The material I’m learning in class often gives me that ‘Oh, now I know why we do it that way effect,’” he said.

Petrice received the maximum of 23 credits given his background, meaning he needs 37 more to earn his associate degree. He recommended the program to all the employees in Busch’s machine shop. “I thought I’d be the oldest student in the class at my age, 49,” he said. “But once I got there, I’m right in the middle. It’s a comfortable environment.” 

Coursework focuses on industrial supervision, technical writing, information literacy, quality assurance, team concepts and problem-solving and more.

Ken Magee, newly named manager of community affairs with Virginia Natural Gas, is anticipated to be the first student to earn the degree, completing coursework requirements this summer. He plans to transfer to Old Dominion University’s industrial technology program. Magee is one of four employees in the program from Virginia Natural Gas recently promoted to supervisory or management roles.

With the graying of the workforce in the industrial and manufacturing sectors, education and professional development are essential for the Hampton Roads economy.

“We are seeing plenty of retirements, creating opportunities for people to move up,” Faatz said. “This degree prepares employees for supervisory, management and ultimately, leadership roles.”

Guy St. John, apprentice program manager at Oceaneering, agreed. “We are responsible for bringing up new craftsmen, as well as supervisors and leaders. 

“The Technical Studies degree is a continuation of what these employees are learning in their trade and advances their knowledge in other areas, including supervision, communication and advanced technical skills.”

Want to learn more?

For more information on how your organization can get employees on track with the Technical Studies degree, email Karen Miller, program coordinator of the college’s Apprentice Institute, at

Prospective students can contact the new student support team @ for information.

New Technical Studies program bridges gap between workplace skills and college degree

Back row, from left: Thomas Stout, TCC’s dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; Todd Estes, director of TCC’s Apprenticeship Institute; Kellie Sorey, TCC’s associate vice president for academics; Brian Payne, ODU’s vice provost for academic affairs; Jane Bray, ODU’s dean of the Darden School of Education; Tammi Dice, associate dean for undergraduate education at the Darden School; Daniel DeMarte, TCC’s executive vice president for academic and student affairs. Front row: Ellen Neufeldt, ODU’s vice president for student engagement and enrollment services; Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani, TCC president

Thanks to a new transfer agreement between Tidewater Community College and Old Dominion University, adult and non-traditional students can earn college credit for their knowledge, training and skills in the workplace.

The agreement aims to address the growing needs of local business and industry partners by providing college credit to skilled workers who often need formal education to advance their careers.

Old Dominion’s Ellen Neufeldt, vice president for student engagement and enrollment services, joined Edna Baehre-Kolovani, president of TCC, at a signing ceremony on May 21.

Students who earn TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies with a Specialization in Technical Supervision, and have significant and documented occupational experience and technical training, can seamlessly transition to ODU’s industrial technology major, offered through the Darden College of Education.

“Together with Old Dominion, we have taken an innovative approach to breaking down the barriers that often inhibit adult learners with significant technical skills from furthering their education,” said President Kolovani. “We’ve created an academic pathway that they can carry over to the doctorate level if they choose.”

Various businesses, industries and agencies, such as Virginia Natural Gas and apprenticeship partners, approached TCC to explore how the college can help highly-skilled employees bridge the gap between professional expertise and formal education.

Kellie Sorey, TCC’s associate vice president for academics, said TCC welcomes opportunities to meet employers’ needs in innovative ways.

“The Technical Studies associate degree with the Technical Supervision specialization will allow TCC and ODU to recognize and reward individuals for their unique and significant work experiences in business and industry, the military and registered apprenticeship programs,” she said.

Those with documented technical skills and professional experience can receive nearly half of the associate degree with advanced standing credit, “putting them well on the way to completing the associate and bachelor degrees.” ODU will accept all credits awarded by TCC, she said.

Every student will take a new gateway course, co-created and co-taught by TCC and ODU faculty, during which their knowledge, skills and abilities will be assessed in order to award advanced standing credit.

Jim Kibler, president of Virginia Natural Gas, said his rapidly growing industry has many good employees who need formal education to advance.

“The ability to apply on-the-job experience toward furthering their education is a tremendous opportunity for our talented energy professionals to achieve their personal and professional goals,” he said. “We’re committed to rewarding and retaining an inclusive workforce to ensure our customers receive the most responsive, reliable service possible. After all, we are our customers too.”

Todd Estes, director of the Apprenticeship Institute at TCC, added, “This agreement represents an ideal intersection between higher education and workplace learning. It puts in place the framework, the assessment methods, where individuals can come in with significant experience or prior learning and actually be rewarded and acknowledged for what learning has already taken place.”

“I am very pleased to see the positive result of the strong partnership between ODU and TCC,” said ODU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Austin Agho. “This innovative, collaborative articulation agreement provides eligible TCC graduates the opportunity to seamlessly transfer into the bachelor of science occupational and technical studies degree at  Old Dominion University.

Petros Katsioloudis, chair of ODU’s STEM Education and Professional Studies Department, and a leader in creating the new agreement, said it meets a clear need.

“Currently, the industrial technology program enrolls roughly 120 students and is projected to add 300 students over the next two years,” Katsioloudis said. “We are extremely excited and confident that the new model will better serve the skilled workforce in our area and nationwide.”

Tammi Dice, associate dean for undergraduate education at the Darden College of Education, added that the College “extends the benefits of higher education to corporations. Ultimately, students can minimize unnecessary coursework based on prior learning assessments, which allows them to re-enter the workforce with a degree sooner and with advanced skill,” she said.

Those who have completed registered apprenticeships, active duty and transitioning military, and employees of companies with highly structured and robust training programs are ideal candidates.

“I can’t wait to get my journeymen, my employees enrolled in this program,” said Guy St. John, apprenticeship program manager for Oceaneering International. “ It’s going to be beneficial to the industry. It’s going to be beneficial to our community. It’s going to be beneficial to the nation.”

For details on TCC’s new associate degree, visit