Author Archives: Debra Townsend

TSTC SkillsUSA Club Holds Football Ticket Fundraiser

(WACO) – TSTC SkillsUSA is holding a giveaway for two Baylor football season tickets. The tickets are for section 227, row 8, seats 10 and 11. It’s $10 to enter the giveaway.
SkillsUSA is an organization that empowers its members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens by providing quality education experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development.
In 34 years of competition, TSTC students have picked up a whopping 205 gold, silver and bronze SkillsUSA national wins, more medals than all other 2- and 4-year colleges in Texas combined. A win at SkillsUSA – a nationally recognized benchmark of technical excellence – means job skills and a great résumé.
The drawing will be held at 4 p.m. Sept. 2. Winner need not be present to win. For more information, or to purchase tickets to enter the drawing, contact James Matus at or 254-867-2690, or Autumn Outlaw at or 254-867-2248.
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AEP donates training equipment to TSTC

(MARSHALL) – American Electric Power Co. (AEP) donated a 2002 International 4900 Digger truck to Texas State Technical College. The truck, estimated to be worth about $30,000, will be used in the Electrical Utility Construction & Maintenance (Lineman) and Diesel Departments at the Marshall campus.

The lineman and diesel departments will use the truck for training students. “We’ll be able to train students to troubleshoot and diagnose engine, brake, suspension, drivetrain and electrical applications on another live vehicle,” said Diesel Instructor Arlis Elkins.

Students that attended the donation event were excited to get to use the truck. “We’ll be able to learn more things. Instead of just seeing it in a book, we’ll be able to see it in real life before we’re out in the working environment,” said Keith Pistolis, TSTC student.

AEP donated the truck in a brief ceremony at 2 p.m. on the Marshall campus. “From AEP’s perspective, y’all are training our workforce for us, which is very important to us. It’s great to have people, these young guys who are going to replace the boomer generation like me who are not that far from retiring, so it’s very important for us selfishly to have this facility. And secondly, we support economic development throughout our service territory and we know TSTC is a big piece of the engine for economic development in this region,” said Keith Honey, External Affairs Manager at AEP.

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TSTC Chancellor Announces New Leadership for West Texas

(SWEETWATER) – Chancellor Mike Reeser announces the appointment of Eliska Smith, MASCL to serve as provost for the Texas State Technical College campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater, effective August 10.

 Smith began her career in marketing and communications more than 25 years ago, spanning the economic development and consulting, publishing and health care industries, as well as higher education. Smith’s tenure with TSTC began in 2002. Today, she serves as TSTC’s statewide public relations officer and leads strategic communications from the central administrative offices in Waco. Previously, she was TSTC’s associate vice chancellor specializing in communications, public relations, and leadership development. She also was the founding director and sponsoring executive-in-charge of the TSTC Leadership Institute.

“In essence, the job of the provost is to make TSTC a great place to work and to develop our relationships with the communities in which we operate,” said Chancellor Michael L. Reeser. “I have confidence that Eliska’s keen grasp of the organizational mission and her ability to foster relationships will be an asset to our West Texas family,” added Reeser.

“Eliska’s leadership experience and broad background will serve her well as the provost and leader of our West Texas campuses,” said Gail Lawrence, President Emerita, Vice Chancellor & Chief Culture Officer.

“It will be my joy to call the Big Country home,” said Smith. “I look forwarding to helping TSTC strengthen our partnerships with community and industry leaders to strengthen our economies and to help more Texans prosper,” added Smith.

Smith received a Master of Arts in Strategic Communications and Leadership from Seton Hall University, an advanced certificate in mid-management from SMU/Cox School of Business, and a Bachelor of Arts from Baylor University.

Smith has served in leadership positions within community and professional associations including: President and past president of the board, Christian Women’s Job Corp of McLennan County; lay director of the Greater Waco Emmaus Community; member, Waco LeadershipPlenty; secretary, board member, and president of the Central Texas Chapter Public Relations Society of America; district IV executive committee member for the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations, member of the Leadership Waco Class XX, board member of the Leadership Waco Alumni Association, member of the Rotary Club of Waco, and board member of the Waco Aviation Advisory Board.

Smith is a single mother, with a son, Houston, who is attending Texas Tech University, and a daughter, Caroline, who will be attending Sweetwater High School.

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Donation to lineman program will provide more training opportunities

(WACO) – San Bernard Electric Cooperative, Inc. donated a 1997 International double-bucket truck to Texas State Technical College. The truck estimated to be worth about $35,000 will be used in the Lineman program.

“This will enable us to teach students about bucket work and safety, how to do basic line work out of a bucket and aid in pole-top rescue training,” said Instructor Bobby Mitchell. This truck also gives students the ability to have more training time towards earning their Commercial Driving License (CDL), which is a requirement for employment in the lineman field, he explained.

San Bernard Electric Cooperative, Inc. representatives Mike Boettcher, 1st Class Lineman; James Jouett, Tech Service Supervisor and Don Roberts, Electric System Manager delivered the truck to the Waco campus. The representatives said the company, which recently hired two TSTC students, wanted to give back in a way that would help improve training. Andrew Schmidt and Joesph McCarty are graduating next month and have already been hired by San Bernard Electric Cooperative, Inc. The Co-op’s representatives mingled with students and explained the features of the truck.

 “This is outstanding,” said Schmidt. “I wish more companies would be like this and put money into where they hire their graduates from.”

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TSTC Hires New Director of Instructional Support Services

(BROWNWOOD) — Texas State Technical College in Brownwood welcomed a new Director of Instructional Support Services June 1. Dr. Les Plagens took over the role after leaving Howard Payne University, where he worked for 23 years, serving the past 18 years as dean and professor for the School of Business.

Plagens provided leadership in attaining specialized accreditation with the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education and in developing the MBA programs in Brownwood, El Paso and New Braunfels.

Previously, he served as principal of Brownwood State School from 1991 to 1997 and taught distributive education in the Kerrville ISD and Shallowater ISD career and technology programs from 1977 to 1982.

Plagens earned a Bachelor of Science (1977) and Master of Arts in Teaching (1979) from Angelo State University, and a Doctorate of Education (1986) from Texas A&M University, with a major in post-secondary vocational education administration.

Dr. Plagens and his wife, Camille, have been married 38 years and have three children and two grandchildren.


Edgar Rojas

 Welding student Edgar Rojas is first graduate from TSTC’s North Texas campus.

(NORTH TEXAS) – Edgar Rojas is celebrating several firsts. He is the first in his family to graduate college. He is the first in his family to get a welding certificate. And, he is the first graduate ever from Texas State Technical College in North Texas.

The 19-year-old Ferris native walked across the stage at the TSTC’s Spring Commencement Ceremony in Waco this month to receive a Certificate in Welding.

School and studies have never come easy for Rojas.  He wanted to drop out as far back as junior high school but his parents, immigrants from Mexico who came here to give their children a chance at an education,would not let him.   And, high school was an even bigger challenge.

“I really struggled in high school.  Bookwork and paperwork just wasn’t my thing,” remembers Rojas.  The only thing I liked was FAA and Ag Mechanics.”

Rojas became increasingly frustrated with his academic disappointments. He began to hang around with the wrong crowd and eventually got into some legal trouble.

“During my junior year I got a DWI.  I thought my life was over.  I felt like a real failure,” said Rojas.

But, his parents, his five older siblings and some teachers would not let Rojas give up.  Those educators, aware of the teenager’s hands-on skills, started motivating him to apply to TSTC.

Rojas says when he submitted his welding application he didn’t expect to be accepted.  When he finally became a college student, burdened by low self-esteem and a fear of academic disappointment, he almost dropped out.

“It came to a point that I wanted to give up.  It’s hard.  I didn’t trust myself that I could do it,” said Rojas.

But Rojas’ TSTC instructors believed in him and challenged him to put in the extra time and work needed for him to succeed.

“Edgar is a great student. Yes, he kind of struggled with bookwork but he’s a real quick learner once you show him what is expected,” said Welding Instructor Samuel Elizondo. “(Instructor) Mr. (Mark) Lipscomb and I guided him and mentored him to where he was confident in completing our curriculum.”

Motivated by his instructors, Rojas persevered. Today he says hands-on learning was critical to his success.  The majority of TSTC technologies on the 11 campuses are 60 percent hands-on instruction.  It’s a cornerstone of a TSTC education that makes graduates very valuable to hiring industries in Texas.

“If you like working with your hands, TSTC is for you. I feel really proud of myself,” said Rojas.  “A hundred doors will shut in your face.  But I’ve learned, you only need one door to open and change your life.”

Today, Rojas is focusing on those positive changes and his renewed confidence.  He is presently in the middle of job interviews and remains optimistic that he’ll be joining the workforce in the near future.

In addition to North Texas, TSTC offers Welding Programs in Breckenridge, Brownwood, Harlingen, Marshall, Sweetwater, Waco  and Williamson County.   For more information, go to

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TSTC Graduate Begins Internship at Augusta National Golf Club

(WACO) – Mitch O’Brey, a May 2015 graduate of TSTC’s Golf Course & Landscape Management program, begins a year-long internship at the Augusta National Golf Club today.

The Augusta National Golf Club, located in Augusta, Georgia, is known for being the site of the Masters Golf Tournament. Typically wealthy and accomplished, members include Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Condoleezza Rice.

Joe Todaro, Golf Course & Landscape Management Department Chair, says from day one Mitch said he wanted to work at Augusta National.

“I agreed it would be a wonderful experience, but warned him that a lot of people share that same dream and he might focus on some of the great courses here in Texas,” said Todaro. “One evening I saw a tweet about the Augusta internships.  I shared the tweet with Mitch, who texted back immediately and said he already saw it and was working on his resume!”

O’Brey is excited to begin his internship, and fulfill his dream.

“I’ve always admired Augusta National from watching the Masters year after year,” O’Brey said. “My dream from day one at TSTC was to go to the historic course, and I couldn’t have picked a better school to help me accomplish my dream.”

You can learn more about TSTC’s Golf Course & Landscape Management program at

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TSTC in Fort Bend gains campus status from Legislature

(FORT BEND) – House Bill 658 passed the Senate by a unanimous vote on Tuesday, authorizing Texas State Technical College’s small extension program in Fort Bend County to expand to a full campus. With the governor’s signature, the bill will be effective immediately.

The bill was co-authored in the Texas House of Representatives by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond; Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land; Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City; Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton; and Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco. The bill was sponsored in the Texas Senate by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham and will allow TSTC in Fort Bend County to better serve the larger Houston region.

Fort Bend County is one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas. This growth has created the need for welders, plumbers, HVAC technicians and other trades for which TSTC offers programs.

“The community support has been tremendous,” said TSTC Chancellor, Michael L. Reeser. “Between area businesses, local governments, economic development corporations and foundations, the region has pledged about $40 million. A community investment of this magnitude is unprecedented for TSTC and it means that the campus in Fort Bend County will start at a much larger scale than otherwise would have been possible.”

Reeser continued, “We value the relationships that brought us to the region and look forward to expanding our presence here.”

TSTC is well known in many parts of Texas for its affordable tuition and its impressive track record of teaching job-related skills that qualify graduates for well-paying jobs.

 The TSTC Extension Center in Fort Bend County opened in 2001 as a partnership with Wharton County Junior College. Currently, TSTC offers Air Conditioning & Refrigeration, Diesel Equipment Technology, Mechanical Engineering and Machining at the WCJC Fort Bend Technical Center.

Last month, TSTC unveiled plans to build a permanent campus in Fort Bend County following requests from area residents to increase its course offerings in the area. The initial plans call for two buildings totalling approximately 150,000 square feet of space. Ultimately, the campus will have the capacity to support 4,000 to 5,000 students annually.

TSTC will break ground for Building I in June, and plans to open for classes in the fall of 2016. This first building will allow TSTC to increase its offerings to include Industrial Maintenance, Welding, Computer Networking and System Administration, Network Security and Telecommunications Technology.

Offerings will expand further when Building II opens in the fall of  2017. Offerings for this building may include Biomedical Equipment Technology, Instrumentation, Robotics, Electrical Power & Controls and Occupational Safety & Environmental Compliance Technology.


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TSTC North Texas gains campus status from Legislature

(NORTH TEXAS) – House Bill 1051 passed the Texas Senate unanimously on Monday, upgrading the status of Texas State Technical College’s extension center in Ellis County to a campus. The bill is now before Governor Greg Abbott awaiting his signature.

HB 1051 was co-authored by Rep. John Wray, R-Waxahachie, and Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Grand Prairie. The bill was sponsored  in the Senate by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and will allow TSTC to better serve the Dallas-Fort Worth region. There is a growing need for skilled workers to attract and retain employers in this area.

TSTC is well known in many parts of Texas for its affordable tuition and its impressive track record of teaching job-related skills that qualify graduates for well-paying jobs.

Local community leaders brought TSTC to the region two years ago when they contributed land and resources for the extension center. It was again at the community’s urging that the extension center be elevated to a full campus. By becoming a campus location, the TSTC in Ellis County is eligible for a wider range of funding sources,” said TSTC Chancellor, Michael L. Reeser, “It means we can better meet the fast-growing demand we think there will be in Ellis County.”

“We have enjoyed partnering with Red Oak and the surrounding ISDs,” said Reeser. “Our first graduate from the North Texas campus just walked the stage – the first of what is sure to be many – as more North Texans pursue careers in technical fields.”

“We carefully selected programs that prepare students for high-demand jobs in this region so we expect that the North Texas location could be serving thousands of students in the years ahead,” added Reeser.

On January 24, 2014, TSTC North Texas broke ground for its first major facility in Ellis County – a $10 million, 103,000 sq. ft. technical education facility, located on a 29-acre parcel of land behind Red Oak High School. The Industrial Technology Center building opened Sept. 2, 2014 and houses the Welding, Logistics, High Voltage Electrical Systems, Diesel and Industrial Maintenance Departments.

TSTC’s academic and Information Technology Departments are located at the Career and Tech Education building about two blocks away. There, students study Computer Maintenance Desktop Support, Cyber Security, Computer Systems Network Administration, Computer Aided Drafting and HVAC.

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TSTC to Hold Annual Blossom Day Camp

jessica coxJessica Cox, the first person to fly a plane with only her feet, will speak at the event.

(SWEETWATER) – TSTC will hold their annual Blossom event at the Sweetwater and Abilene campuses on May 19, and the Breckenridge and Brownwood campuses May 20. The camp will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

TSTC’s Blossom event aims to teach young women about STEM programs, and raise awareness of the different fields available to them. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. The day will include team building exercises, a guest speaker and tours of the different programs TSTC offers.

Pilot Jessica Cox will speak at the event. Cox, born without arms, is the first person in aviation history to fly a plane with only her feet. Cox holds the Guinness World Record for being the first armless person to earn a pilot’s certificate. Not only can she fly a plane, but she is also a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, she can surf, scuba dive, play the piano and live a normal life using her feet as others use their hands.

A tentative schedule for all four campuses can be seen here.

Blossom at the Abilene and Sweetwater campuses are full, but interested teachers and students (ages 13 and up) can register for the event at the Breckenridge and Brownwood campuses at


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