When Valerie Rottink graduated from Chesapeake’s Hickory High School in 2011 with a 3.75, she didn’t want to follow the traditional path to a four-year college.

Instead she immersed herself in other cultures, informally studying abroad in Colombia and Brazil, then returning to the United States to save for college by working a retail job.

Rottink decided to attend Tidewater Community College, and thought an associate degree in general studies would be her smartest path to a four-year degree.

Then she discovered the associate degree that was the perfect fit for her interests.

The Chesapeake resident will graduate from TCC on May 14 with an Associate of Applied Science in Computer-Aided Drafting and Design with Specialization in Architectural Drafting and Design Technology.

Valerie Rottink in her own words

Rottink, 22, has been accepted into the University of Virginia for the fall and will likely attend, though she could transfer directly into Hampton University’s master’s program given TCC’s articulation agreement with the school.

“TCC was a good fit with everything I wanted to do,” she said. “Architecture encompasses everything I like, from design and art to learning. You have to keep learning in architecture.”

Architectural CADD professors Sergei Dolgalev and Jean-Claude Guilbaud were favorites.

Dolgalev’s classes fostered her creative side, while Guilbaud taught her how to combine the visual with structural specifications.

“They were both really encouraging,” she said. “I can’t say I didn’t struggle sometimes, but I enjoyed the struggle.”

Even math, a class she dreaded in high school, became enjoyable at TCC. “I even almost took differential equations for fun,” she said.

Rottink’s interest in architecture dates to her high school days when she made a spray-painted cardboard representation of Hogwarts, the fictional school of wizardry from the Harry Potter series.

Students Memorial Garden renderingHer most satisfying project to date will come to fruition next fall; she is part of a student team working to create a memorial garden on the Virginia Beach Campus dedicated to first responders and veterans.

The project is important to her as the daughter of a 20-year Navy veteran.

The garden will be near the Princess Anne Building, and her design will ensure those walking into the Students Memorial Garden will first be drawn to a plaque in memory of those who were lost.

Virginia Beach Campus Provost Mike Summers said he anticipates the project to begin this summer.

Rottink, the 2016 Female Student Government Association Student of the Year for the Virginia Beach Campus, envisions herself specializing in green buildings like the Joint-Use Library, Student Center and Bayside Building on the Virginia Beach Campus.

She will walk at the commencement exercises, supported by her parents and brother, Lance.

“TCC is a great place for anybody,” she said. “What they say about from here to anywhere – that really does work.”