Category Archives: North Texas

TSTC Student Builds Leadership Skills as Campus Ambassador

(RED OAK) – Orlando Chavez, 19, of Red Oak did not look far to make his college decision.

Chavez is a Precision Machining Technology major at Texas State Technical College, which is next door to Red Oak High School, where he graduated in 2018.

“I have enjoyed getting to learn how to use the milling machines and lathe,” Chavez said. “It was a major learning curve, but it was the best thing I learned so far.”

Theo Comer, an instructor in TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program, said Chavez has been a joy to teach.

“He shows an energy to learn and the effort to do it correctly,” Comer said.

Chavez also serves as a TSTC student ambassador. Applicants for that position are interviewed by campus student recruitment staff and chosen for their academic work, along with their communication and leadership skills. He works at campus events, such as the recent Spring Counselors Update, gives tours to campus visitors and assists potential students with their TSTC applications.

“He’s not only gaining the technical skills needed to be a successful machinist, but he is also gaining valuable soft skills to enhance his employability,” said Marcus Balch, TSTC provost.

After graduation in December, Chavez wants to work in an area maintenance shop and possibly pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

He said the first time he walked into TSTC in North Texas’ Industrial Technology Center was during a spring open house event.

“I would have to say TSTC was very convenient for me,” Chavez said. “I didn’t want to go to a university because the environment was very different. I didn’t want to go as big. It’s close to home, and I didn’t really have to spend as much as at other universities.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC Hosts Spring Counselors Update

(RED OAK) – More than 40 educators on Friday learned about Texas State Technical College’s mission to help students earn certificates and associate degrees that could lead to great-paying jobs.

The Spring Counselors Update focused on dual enrollment, in-demand jobs and other components of TSTC. The gathering’s goal was to arm educators with new information to help them be advocates for technical education in their schools.

“We show them the best that TSTC has,” said Trey Pearson, coordinator of student recruitment for TSTC’s North Texas and Waco campuses.

TSTC currently has dual enrollment partnerships with 108 Texas high schools. Some of the programs that high school students can take courses in include Automotive Technology, Electrical Power and Controls, and Welding Technology. The goal of dual enrollment is to save students money and time when they get to college.

“From us, you will get 12 to 14 hours in a one-year period in technical education,” said Rene Ralston, TSTC’s director of dual enrollment.

Some of the top occupations projected to grow through 2026 in Texas with salaries above the Texas median wage of $36,168 tie into some of the technical programs TSTC teaches. They include software developing, construction and extraction work supervising, licensed vocational nursing and agricultural management, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

Scipio Igbeare, a counselor at Advantage Academy Grand Prairie East, visited TSTC for the first time. She was intrigued by the Computer Aided Drafting and Design, Cyber Security and Welding Technology programs.

“This has been really good information to better guide the students,” she said. “We have been pushing the four-year college for so many years. Not all of the students are ready for four years.”

Lisa Menton, career and technical education director for the Red Oak Independent School District, said she looks forward to sharing what she learned with her staff to better help students meet their potential.

“The challenge is to make the connection with what they can do at the high school level and at college and in high-demand occupations so they can have a good life,” Menton said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC in North Texas Holds Fall Commencement

(RED OAK) – More than 40 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Monday, Dec. 17, at the Waxahachie Civic Center.

When David Sotelo, 41, of Waxahachie enrolled in 2014, he was the first student to do so at TSTC in North Texas. Now, he can call himself a college graduate.

Sotelo earned the Associate of Applied Science degree in Industrial Maintenance – Electrical Specialization. He took classes around his work schedule and also took a semester off before taking a mathematics class this fall to finish the degree.

“I’m very happy and excited,” he said. “I didn’t think this day would come.”

He said the degree will help him in his maintenance job at Owens Corning in Waxahachie.

“It changed my life drastically going to this college,” Sotelo said.

Several other graduates already have jobs.

Peyton Allen, 20, of Palmer received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology. He chose to pursue the degree field because he grew up working on trucks and farming equipment.

He will begin work in the upcoming days in the diesel shop at Dart Container Corp. in Waxahachie.

“I am ready to make money,” Allen said.

Ethan Owen, 22, of Red Oak received a certificate in Industrial Maintenance – Electrical Specialization. He chose the major because he grew up working on a farm.

Owen did an internship this fall at LafargeHolcim in Midlothian and was recently hired to work full time doing mechanical maintenance.

“I’m ready to start my life,” said Owen.

TSTC has more than 900 students graduating this fall across the state.

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TSTC Graduates 37 at First Commencement

(RED OAK) – Texas State Technical College in North Texas celebrated its first Commencement on Monday, August. 20 as graduates walked the stage in the presence of their family and friends.

“This is a special occasion,” TSTC Provost Marcus Balch told those gathered at the Waxahachie Convention Center. “Not only are we celebrating our graduates and their accomplishments, but this is the first graduating class to celebrate in a Commencement ceremony held right here at home.”

TSTC Chancellor Mike Reeser was the keynote speaker at the ceremony. He urged the students to keep learning.

“You chose a technical field,” Reeser said. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but technology keeps moving on. It gets better and bigger, faster and stronger every day. You have to accept that this college event is not the end of your constant evolution, but the beginning. You’ve got to know that you have two choices: keep up with the constant changes or be obsolete.”

Diesel Equipment Technology graduate John O’Connell was selected for the Provost Award, a recognition given to a student who has demonstrated high academic performance, exceptional character and student leadership, and who has influenced their peers to strive for excellence.

“With everything I’ve been through, it was definitely a great honor,” O’Connell said. “I did not expect it or see it coming. I’m deeply honored that the school chose me.”

Among its summer graduates, nine Gerdau employees earned their associate degrees in Industrial Maintenance. The graduates attended classes while working full time.

Jeremy Crowder, an electrician with the company, graduated with a 4.0 GPA. He believes that the company investing in educating employees saves on-the-job training time.

“I think we’re getting guys in at a higher education level and with a better skill set when they start,” said Crowder. “Now, we don’t have to train for that skill set at the job.”

TSTC in North Texas graduates earned degrees in eight of the programs offered at the campus — Computer-Aided Drafting & Design Technology, Computer Networking & Systems Administration, Diesel Equipment Technology, Electrical Power & Controls, HVAC Technology, Industrial Maintenance, Logistics Technology and Welding.

Fall classes begin Monday, Aug. 27. For more information on TSTC, visit

First Cohort of Gerdau Workers to Graduate from TSTC

(RED OAK) – The first cohort of workers from Gerdau’s Midlothian Steel Mill will walk the stage at Texas State Technical College’s first Commencement on Monday, Aug. 20, in Waxahachie.

The company began sending employees to further their training at the campus in 2015. The eight students who will walk the stage Monday worked full-time while attending TSTC to earn their associate degrees in Industrial Maintenance.

TSTC Provost Marcus Balch said the college is looking forward to celebrating the occasion.

“We are very excited to not only be able to host our first ever Commencement ceremony here in North Texas, but also to have the opportunity to celebrate the first cohort of Gerdau employees graduating with the AAS in Industrial Maintenance,” he said.

Ryan Hube, Gerdau Midlothian Human Resources Manager, said the employees are already benefiting from their training.

“Many of them have already accepted maintenance apprenticeship positions throughout the mill,” he said. “With continued hands-on training they will hopefully have long careers as industrial millwrights or electricians here at Gerdau.”

Balch said he is proud to see area companies investing in their employees.

“What a tremendous accomplishment, and, what a great company Gerdau is to invest in their employees and provide opportunities for these employees to grow within their organization,” he said. “We at TSTC couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this partnership.”

Sixty students are eligible to graduate from eight of the college’s 10 programs in Red Oak.

The Summer 2018 commencement will be at 6 p.m. at the Waxahachie Civic Center.

TSTC Chancellor Mike Reeser will be the featured speaker at the event.

TSTC is registering now for the fall semester. The last day to register is Monday, Aug. 20, and classes begin Monday, Aug. 27.

For more information on TSTC, visit

TSTC Instructor’s Enthusiasm Earns Him Faculty of the Year Award

(RED OAK) – Employees at Texas State Technical College celebrated Employee Appreciation Day in June, a day that included fun for employees and awards for employees of the year.

HVAC Instructor Terry Robinson was chosen as faculty member of the year.

Robinson, a native of Clute, Texas, who has been teaching at TSTC for two years, said he was humbled to receive the honor from his peers.

“I was gratified to get this recognition,” he said. “I think they’ve seen my dedication and the amount of work I put into helping build the HVAC department. When I came here, they had just moved all the equipment from another location, so I had to not only start building stuff to teach with, but I had to build the lab. I think everyone was well-pleased with the effort I put into it.”

Robinson was working as a service manager when he discovered a passion for teaching.

“I enjoyed teaching my technicians and installers how to do things, so I knew that teaching was going to be something I would want to do at some point,” he said. “In 1992 I started teaching, and I’ve been teaching ever since. I’ve also taught at Tarrant County College, Fort Worth Independent Schools’ night adult program and at Cedar Valley College.”

In his teaching style, Robinson swears by his motto: “Those that can, teach passionately.”

“That’s the way I try to approach my teaching. I enjoy communicating with my students and being creative,” he said.

He enjoys showing students the significance of TSTC.

“I’ve seen all types of educational systems — private, proprietary, trade school, junior college — and I like TSTC because I think we’re the best educational value a student can have,” Robinson said. “It’s just such an incredible value for students at a relatively low price.”

Robinson and his wife, a former elementary school teacher, share a passion for education.

“My wife was there the day that I got the award, and it just totally surprised her,” Robinson said. “She had just retired after 41 years of teaching elementary in public schools. In the last 15 years or so, she was a talented and gifted teacher. I always told her, ‘Of course you teach talented and gifted — you live with me!’”

TSTC prides itself on being “a great place to work” and is currently hiring for positions at its 10 campuses statewide. For information on open positions at TSTC, visit

TSTC Visionary Murray Watson Jr. Remembered for Service

(WACO) – Texas State Technical College mourned Wednesday the loss of former Texas legislator Murray Watson Jr., who filed legislation in 1969 to separate what was an arm of the Texas A&M University system into a stand-alone institution for technical education that would become TSTC.

“If there was ever a Mr. TSTC, it would be Murray Watson,” said Elton Stuckly Jr., TSTC’s executive vice chancellor and chief strategic relations officer.

Watson died Tuesday at age 86.

Watson was a state senator when he filed legislation to make the James Connally Technical Institute independent and rename it Texas State Technical Institute (now TSTC). Gov. Preston Smith signed the bill’s final version in May 1969 in Austin.

At TSTC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in April 2015 in Austin, Watson was honored with a Founder’s Award.

Watson’s name is on TSTC’s student recreation center on Campus Drive. That factored into his wife, Greta, having been honored with the nearby Culinary Arts building being named for her.

“Murray and I walked out of the old (TSTC) system’s building, and we were about a million dollars short to build the new Culinary Arts Center,” Stuckly said. “I said, ‘Mr. Watson, I want you to think about something. Your name is on that (the recreation center) building. Wouldn’t it be nice for it (the new building) to be called the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center? If you give us a million dollars, you could look at each other forever.’ It wasn’t a couple of weeks later that he called and said he was going to do it.”

Stuckly said Watson was a mentor who would give him advice.

“He always stayed in contact with me by email,” Stuckly said. “He was always looking for ways and ideas of how to make TSTC a better college.”

Stuckly said he and Watson always found much to talk about.

“He grew up in Mart, and I was raised in Penelope,” Stuckly said. “He always wanted to ask about TSTC first, then talk about farm cattle and his feed store and what I used to do on the farm. He said, ‘Elton, there aren’t many people that I can talk to who relate to those times.’”

Verna Lastrapes, a TSTC college outreach specialist, grew up knowing the Watson family in Mart. She said Watson’s family owned the local feed store, which she would visit as a four-year-old with her father at least twice a week to catch up with residents.

“Murray Jr. was a senior at Mart High School then,” she said. “I knew him well because he and my sister, Barbara, were friends.”

Pete Rowe, TSTC’s vice president for institutional development, hauled hay for Watson when he was a teenager in Mart. Rowe also graduated from Mart High School.

“It’s a personal loss for me because I loved him so much,” Rowe said. “He was a great mentor to me. He and Mrs. Watson have always been very kind to me and have done a lot for me in my life and career.”

Lastrapes said residents in Mart thought Watson would be president one day.

“He did not become president, but he did become our state representative and our state senator,” she said. “As a teenager, I remember helping campaign for him. Just about everyone in Mart campaigned for him.”

The feed store factored into Watson’s law career.

“When he lost the campaign for U.S. representative and went into private law practice, he had his office in Waco and one in Mart above the feed store,” Lastrapes said. “For years that is where he conducted all legal transactions with my daddy and other rural area farmers and businessmen.”

Rowe said Watson raised cattle andis sure he must have encountered on his ranch some of what TSTC teaches today.

“Murray was a highly intelligent person,” he said. “He was way ahead of the curve in the education field. He really studied education. He knew what to do.”

Lastrapes worked several years at the Brazos Higher Education Service Corp. Inc., which financed student loans. Watson was one of the organization’s founders.

“He had his own time schedule,” she said. “We began to say, ‘The starting time is when Murray Watson gets there.’ That was for everything!”

John K. Hatchel, chair of the TSTC Board of Regents, worked with Watson as a member of the Brazos Higher Education Service’s board of directors.

“He was very quiet, but he was consistent,” Hatchel said. “If there was a person who needed something or help, he was the first in line to do his part. He did it not expecting any accolades or thank-you’s. He just did it as a person.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to


TSTC in North Texas to Host First Commencement Ceremony

(RED OAK) – Texas State Technical College in North Texas will host its first commencement ceremony Monday, Aug. 20. Sixty students are eligible to graduate from eight of the college’s 10 programs in Red Oak.

The summer 2018 commencement ceremony will be at 6 p.m. at the Waxahachie Civic Center.

“We’re extremely excited about having our first commencement ceremony here in North Texas,” said TSTC Provost Marcus Balch.

Balch said the ceremony gives TSTC the opportunity to showcase the success of the campus.

“This is a great opportunity to show the local community the progress we have made in growing our campus and providing our local industry partners with highly skilled employees,” Balch said. “It also allows us to invite our supporters such as industry partners and donors to be able to see firsthand the culmination of the great things we are doing here at TSTC.”

Graduates of the campus are normally hosted at the commencement ceremony in Waco. Balch said he hopes having the ceremony locally will boost participation and morale.

“I would expect that many more of our graduates and their families and friends will be able to attend, making the ceremony much more meaningful,” Balch said. “Participating in the Waco ceremony was great, but North Texas graduates will now become the center of attention.”

This semester boasts the campus’ largest graduating class so far, with students graduating from the college’s Computer Aided Drafting & Design, Computer Networking & Systems Administration, Diesel Equipment, Electrical Power & Controls, HVAC, Industrial Maintenance, Logistics and Welding technology programs.

“These graduates have worked very hard and are currently being heavily recruited by area industry partners,” Balch said.

TSTC Chancellor Mike Reeser will be the featured speaker at the commencement ceremony.

TSTC is registering now for the fall semester. The last day to register is Monday, Aug. 20, and classes begin Monday, Aug. 27.

For more information on TSTC, visit

TSTC Registration Rally Set for July 17

(RED OAK) – Texas State Technical College in North Texas will host a Registration Rally on Tuesday, July 17 – all part of an effort to make the registration process as easy as possible for students starting classes in the fall semester.

Recruiting and Admissions staff will be on standby to walk students through the registration process. They will also offer tours and help with applications.

The Registration Rally will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the campus at 119 N. Lowrance in Red Oak. Attendees will be able to meet with faculty, learn more about the different technologies offered at the North Texas campus and tour the facilities.

In addition to Recruiting and Admissions; personnel from Financial Aid, Testing, Student Success and Veteran Services will be available to answer questions and lend a helping hand. Prospective students will be able to learn all about resources available to them.

Students who need help finalizing their registration are encouraged to bring the following: copy of driver’s license, high school transcript or GED, any college transcripts, proof of bacterial meningitis vaccination and TSI scores.

For more information on the Registration Rally, go to

Gerdau donates ten thousand dollars for TSTC scholarships

(RED OAK) – Gerdau’s Midlothian Steel Mill has pledged to donate over $10,000 for scholarships to Midlothian ISD students to attend Texas State Technical College.

For the first year, Gerdau pledged $3,000, which will be matched by The TSTC Foundation to provide six $1,000 scholarships to students in the college’s Industrial Maintenance program. The second year will bring another $3,000 for first-year students, with at least $4,000 more for second-year scholarships.

Gerdau’s relationship with TSTC began in 2015, when the company sent 13 of its employees to train at the college’s North Texas campus in Red Oak. Gerdau later received a Texas Workforce Commission Skills Development Fund Grant to train an additional 189 employees at TSTC.

“Gerdau has had a very strong relationship with TSTC for the last couple of years and currently sends over 50 — and growing — of their employees to North Texas to get their associate degree in Industrial Maintenance,” said Jessica Ford, field development officer at TSTC.

With these scholarships, Gerdau hopes to help fill the expanding shortage of skilled workers.

“There is a growing resource gap in skilled trades across the U.S. And in a booming area like Dallas-Fort Worth, that gap is becoming even more challenging,” said Gerdau Midlothian Human Resources Manager Ryan Hube. “Encouraging today’s youth to enter into these programs will be instrumental in attracting them to careers at Gerdau and other domestic manufacturers.”

Hube also hopes the scholarships will encourage local high school students to look into technical fields like Industrial Maintenance at TSTC.

“Our goal is to recruit young talent with the technical aptitude we need directly from TSTC’s program,” he said. “We are confident that this scholarship is a great first step in attracting local talent to manufacturing in order to meet our future needs while at the same time continuing as a partner for this community for years to come.”

Hube said the company is proud to support the local community.

“The scholarship presented itself as a unique opportunity to give back to our community while at the same time developing a pipeline of talent to fulfill future people-needs at the mill,” he said. “We’ve had great success thus far by partnering with TSTC to develop our own employees through the Industrial Maintenance program. We’re hoping to build on that success by providing scholarships to local high school graduates and eventually give them opportunities with Gerdau.”

Besides TSTC, Midlothian students are the winners overall, Ford said.

“This benefits TSTC by allowing us to provide scholarships to students from Midlothian ISD that we could not do otherwise,” she said.

The TSTC Foundation supports the Texas State Technical College campuses across the state, supporting the critical needs of students and providing funds to enhance TSTC’s ability to provide new and emerging technical programs to support the Texas workforce.

For more information on The TSTC Foundation, visit

TSTC is registering now for the fall semester. For more information, visit