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Area Residents to Benefit From TSTC Scholarships

July 07, 2020 by Daniel Perry

(RED OAK, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s North Texas campus is using the generosity of two donors to help Midlothian-area residents further their education.

The Midlothian Economic Development Corp. recently made the final contribution in a three-year giving cycle to fund the Midlothian Workforce/Careers Scholarship.

The $30,000 scholarship fund will be divided into $1,000 TSTC scholarships for area residents who live within the boundaries of the Midlothian Independent School District and are high school graduates or have General Educational Development certificates.

TSTC Provost Marcus Balch credited Larry Barnett, a former MEDC executive director and current member of The TSTC Foundation’s board of directors, for helping to bring the campus and Midlothian together.

“He really took an interest in us and connected us to a number of industry partners, city officials, and school officials,” Balch said. “It has just been an all-around good partnership from a connection standpoint.”

Another recent scholarship contribution came from Colten Crist, advertising and operations director of the Midlothian Mirror and Waxahachie Daily Light. He contributed $1,500 for scholarships for students who graduated this year from any of Ellis County’s 15 high schools to attend TSTC’s North Texas campus. Three students will receive $500 each, Crist said.

The inspiration for making the financial gift came from the for-profit Best of All-Ellis County Preps sports banquet held virtually this year. The second annual event honored high school athletes at the county’s high schools.

Crist said he felt last year’s event was missing a contribution to the community, so he reached out to Balch and talked about TSTC’s importance to the county.

“I really like TSTC and what they do, honestly,” Crist said. “I think it is something that is extremely needed in our educational system.”

TSTC’s enrollment coaches will tag students in TSTC’s registration system as potential scholarship recipients. The scholarships will be awarded once students register for classes.

For more information on how to make a gift to TSTC, go to tstc.edu/tstcfoundation/giving/.

TSTC Nursing instructor wants graduates to be equipped, passionate

July 07, 2020 by Ben Barkley

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Nursing instructor Lisa Van Cleave has one goal for graduates of the program in Sweetwater.

“We want to turn out safe RNs who are highly equipped and passionate,” she said.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing at its Sweetwater and Harlingen campuses, and Van Cleave said 34 students are enrolled at the Sweetwater campus this summer. She expects to have 35 enrolled this fall.

“Our program in Sweetwater is different because the students are coming in as LVNs,” Van Cleave said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Van Cleave said she hopes more licensed vocational nurses consider becoming registered nurses.

“Once you become an RN, that opens the gate wider for you professionally,” she said.

Van Cleave and her fellow instructors are committed to student success.

“We highly emphasize passing the National Council Licensure Examination. We want to prepare our students to pass the exam the first time they take it,” she said.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas had 251,253 registered nurses as of September 2019, the latest statistical information available. Texas leads the nation in the number of registered nurses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more interest in nursing, which has always been a profession that changes with the times.

“Everything seems to be changing on a daily basis during this pandemic,” Van Cleave said. “It has helped us in the fact that we are able to get a better look at our curriculum.”

TSTC also offers a certificate in Vocational Nursing at the Breckenridge, Harlingen and Sweetwater campuses. 

For more information on the Nursing program, visit https://tstc.edu/programs/nursing.

TSTC Automotive Technology instructor brings military experience to program

July 07, 2020 by Ben Barkley

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Gerod Strother has worked on all types of vehicles.

Strother, a 21-year veteran of the U.S. military, brings that experience to Texas State Technical College as an Automotive Technology instructor. After retiring from the military, he began working at the Sweetwater campus in January.

His experience in the military included service with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army.

“I experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in the military,” Strother said.

He said the moment he remembers the most was during Operation Enduring Freedom, America’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I was part of the first military action in Afghanistan. I loaded the bombs on the first aircraft that were going to bomb Afghanistan,” Strother said. “For a guy from small-town Andrews, Texas, I knew then I was, for the first time in my life, part of the big time.”

Strother’s first job in the Air Force was as an aircraft electrician on B-1 bombers. He also performed vehicle maintenance at several bases and served as an Air Force recruiter in Abilene.

He said one of the more unique jobs was working on a Tunner 60K Cargo Aircraft Loader, which is used to load pallets on large aircraft.

“It is the size of two or three cars,” he said. “It took a special school to learn how to operate it.”

After his time in the Air Force, Strother switched his focus and attended officer candidate school at Fort Benning, Georgia. His Army career led him to several locations, including Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Lewis, Washington; and Fort Polk, Louisiana.

While in the Army, Strother was deployed to Afghanistan for a second time but returned home for additional officer training. While in the military, he worked on earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree “without having to pay any money.”

“(During) my time in the military, I met some really good people,” Strother said.

His service has already helped him in his short career as an educator.

“I knew that I would have to deal with different types of people. I did that for 21 years,” Strother said. “I also learned from different people that there is more than one management style to use.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

TSTC Embraces Online Learning Opportunities

July 06, 2020 by Daniel Perry

(WACO, Texas) – Now is an exciting time for the development of online classes.

“I think this will open the doors to a whole new market of people who want to be part of Texas State Technical College,” said Hector Yanez, TSTC’s senior vice president of Student Learning.

TSTC shifted classes online in late March due to the COVID-19 situation, then in early May went to a hybrid format in several programs so students could complete hands-on labs. The hybrid format is being used this summer and will be used this fall.

“What we are doing is making sure the quality of our online courses has stepped up even further,” said Gina Cano-Monreal, TSTC’s associate vice president of Online Learning. “We are working with subject and content experts in each area to ensure there is the same level of quality in their online programs as we have in our face-to-face courses.”

The  Harlingen campus was the first of TSTC’s 10 campuses to have an online learning office. Since the merger of TSTC’s campuses in 2015, online learning has expanded statewide.

“With the help of the online learning office, our courses have been brought forward in a whole new light, showing the spectrum of information that we teach by giving the students numerous ways to absorb it,” said Nelson Adams, lead instructor in TSTC’s Culinary Arts program at the Williamson County campus.

Instructors are scheduling virtual office hours to further engage with students. And, instructors are working statewide to provide a library of digital content for students to utilize.

“The ability to present course material and resources in multiple formats online allows students to learn from anywhere using a variety of devices,” Cano-Monreal said. “Courses are also more tailored to the personal needs of the student.”

Shannon Ferguson, statewide chair of TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology and Web Design and Development Technology programs, said online classes on Moodle are a way to reach all TSTC students across the state. 

“It opens the door to remove the restrictions of set class times of our programs,” he said. “It is no longer Monday to Friday, 8 to 5, during class time. I am asking instructors to stay in contact with students and let them know we are here. Since we do not have face-to-face labs (for certain classes)  it does not mean they cannot reach out to us. It does not mean we will not have virtual meetings online where we see their screens.”

Some students may have a difficult time adjusting to online classes. Cano-Monreal recommended students take TSTC’s student online learning orientation to familiarize themselves on how to be academically successful online.

“If you are not understanding something, reach out to a faculty member and fellow students,” Cano-Monreal said. “The faculty that we have teaching the online courses are the same faculty that teach our face-to-face courses.”

Cano-Monreal also recommended students practice good time management but embrace flexibility.

“What a lot of our instructors are telling our students is to pretend you are coming to class and schedule that time to go to your online class,” she said.

Yanez said students taking online classes will make them digitally better.

“The students are getting tremendous experience in Zoom and Webex meetings and doing testing online,” he said. “You see dropboxes for homework and classmates doing videos. Pretty much the online students are going to have a tremendous awakening of the digital skills they are exposed to.”

Cano-Monreal said faculty and staff members realize some students can have limited technology access once they are off campus. She said students in this situation can talk to their instructor, who can pass the information on to advisement and retention services staff to determine how best to assist.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu. 

TSTC Career Services helps students find employment

July 06, 2020 by Ben Barkley

(WACO, Texas) – Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring, employees have been furloughed or laid off, leading Texas to its highest unemployment rate in years.

When government officials began reopening the state in May, employers started to hire people, including graduates of Texas State Technical College.

Kacey Darnell, TSTC’s executive director of Career Services, said employers continue to contact her office for prospective employees.

“When this first started, we did see a decline in job postings,” she said. “But the number of postings has climbed considerably since May. A lot of companies have reached out to us looking for people.”

Darnell said certain areas have not stopped looking for employees.

“During this pandemic there have always been huge needs in industrial maintenance, diesel maintenance and electrical power,” she said.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, construction jobs increased 1.8 percent in May compared to April. Manufacturing jobs statewide increased 0.6 percent over the same time period.

May’s statewide unemployment rate of 13 percent was the first time since March that it recorded a decrease, the commission reported. Texas remains below the national rate, which was 13.3 percent in May.

Darnell said Career Services is still working with companies on employer spotlights and interviews. But one thing has changed.

“There seems to be more interaction since everything is now virtual,” she said.

A recent employer spotlight was held virtually and could be accessed by students at each TSTC campus.

“It was more convenient for the employer. They could have one event and hear from 10 campuses at one time,” Darnell said.

With companies looking to hire, Darnell said students should be prepared, especially since most interviews will be conducted remotely.

“A lot of the interviews will be done over the phone. This is a good time for students to work on their interview skills,” she said.

Darnell said TSTC students can reach out to a Career Services representative for help.

“There are still plenty of job opportunities out there,” she said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

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