Author Archives: Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

TSTC welcomes new workforce training project manager

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Joyee Stevenson has returned to her roots in Houston and, in the midst of a career change, she found her calling at Texas State Technical College.

With only a couple of months under her belt at TSTC, the Workforce Training and Continuing Education project manager is already finding that this change was the best decision she could have made.

“I’ve always been an advocate for education,” said Stevenson. “So when I was laid off and I needed to start anew, I decided to combine my past experiences to help others find their dream careers.”

For more than a decade, Stevenson worked as a graphic designer, moving around often to follow job opportunities after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a minor in marketing from the University of South Carolina.

She worked contract and freelance jobs rebranding pharmaceutical companies, and she even had the opportunity to design and advertise for a ramen noodle manufacturer.Joyee Stevenson

“I was infatuated with all aspects of my job,” she said. “The creativity and seeing my ideas and designs come to life kept me going.”

After hitting some bumps in the road as a designer, she returned to South Carolina and worked for a technical college doing graphic design and student recruitment.

“As a single mom, I did what I had to in order to support my daughter,” said Stevenson. “But I never knew that I would enjoy working in higher education so much, that it would spark a career change.”

With her brother in Texas and retired parents who were also ready to move, Stevenson decided to relocate to be closer to family and find better opportunities.

“My mom always told me I would thrive in higher education, but I was stubborn,” she said. “It turns out she was right.”

Stevenson said that soon after she arrived in Houston she noticed the new TSTC campus under construction in Rosenberg and immediately imagined herself working there.

“I’m so glad to be part of the TSTC family,” she said. “I immediately connected with college faculty and staff. It feels like home.”

Stevenson works closely with TSTC industry partners to provide training and opportunities for advancement for their employees.

“We connect with local companies because we feel training is important for everyone and everywhere,” said Stevenson. “What we do affects companies, individuals and families for generations to come.”

Stevenson said she sees a lot of herself in some of the students. Life as a single mom has not been easy. But with a great support system, she has gone far — and she hopes she can offer support to others as well.

“I share my experiences with students; there are no secrets to success,” she said. “I want to share my experiences and knowledge with others so that they can find success too.”

She added that she sees herself growing with TSTC, climbing the ladder but never forgetting what she is advocating for: education.

For more information on the services offered by TSTC Workforce Training and Continuing Education, visit

TSTC Culinary Arts: Cooking up success

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Cooking and baking are only a couple of the skills students learn in Culinary Arts at Texas State Technical College.

Emma Creps, TSTC Culinary Arts lead instructor, said with an industry that is growing, graduates from the program can find opportunities to begin their careers.TSTC Culinary Arts

“Many of our graduates are placed in leadership positions within the food industry immediately after graduating,” said Creps. “And a lot of that has to do with the type of training they receive in our program. From technical to soft skills, we focus on making sure they are job-ready.”

Creps went on to explain what a TSTC Culinary Arts student can expect while in the program.

What is the length of the program?

Culinary Arts offers two pathways. A student can earn either a certificate in three semesters or one year, or an associate degree in five semesters or two years.

What can students expect when they graduate?

Before even graduating from Culinary Arts, program faculty and staff host a Culinary Arts job fair to expose students to different employment opportunities, resume building, and interview skills workshops to set them up toward a path of good-paying careers. A mentorship program that students and alumni can take advantage of if they have any questions or need advice is also offered.   

What skills do students learn in Culinary Arts?

Students learn a multitude of skills that include cooking and baking processes and techniques, knife skills and food preparation, but program faculty also focus on teaching soft skills such as time management, organization, leadership and communication, which are all essential when working in the food industry.

What types of technologies are used to learn these skills?

To learn these skills, students use an industrial-standard kitchen fully equipped with the tools they need to practice their skills. They also have access to a point-of-sale system, similar to what they will find in the real world, and a video tutorial they can reference.

Students also have the opportunity of participating in cooking and baking competitions hosted by the program, and they also attend community events where they can meet with clients, create a menu and follow through with executing the event.

How do these skills prepare a student for the workforce?

By learning these skills, they not only master the technical kitchen skills, but they also learn how to lead and interact with people, which affects a graduate’s success. They can be masters in the kitchen, but it’s the team you work with and your customers that help make a graduate successful. So everything they learn helps them become well-rounded and effective leaders.

What types of positions can a graduate from this program obtain?

Culinary Arts graduates can work as sous chefs, restaurant/kitchen managers, instructors, personal chefs and institutional chefs in places such as hospitals, nursing homes and detention centers. They can even open their own restaurants or catering businesses.

Local restaurants or organizations that have hired TSTC Culinary Arts graduates include the Harlingen Country Club, Valley Baptist Medical Center, Colletti’s Italian Restaurant, Stefano’s Brooklyn Pizza, Healthcare Services Group, and Healthcare Support Services.

TSTC Police Department welcomes new officer

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The Texas State Technical College Police Department added a new police officer to its force and officially swore her in this week in a ceremony attended by her family and friends, as well as TSTC faculty and staff.

Lleana Granados is the newest officer to join the TSTC family. She graduated from the police academy in 2018, and her first job application went to TSTC.

“I’ve always known that TSTC has a very community-, family-oriented environment, and that’s what I wanted to be a part of and do,” said the 24-year-old.

With a brother who used to work at TSTC as a police officer, she was somewhat familiar with the college.TSTC Police Officer Lleana Granados

TSTC Police Chief Eduardo Patino said he first met the Los Fresnos native during the interview process and, after speaking with her, knew that she was the right person for the job.

“Working for a community-oriented police department requires a special person that can be both a guardian and warrior to the community members we serve,” said Patino. “She has the competencies needed to be a police officer for our college.”

Sworn in by Judge Eloy Cano Jr., Granados took an oath to serve and protect the TSTC community and she said she is more than ready to do just that.

“My goal is that anyone who steps foot on our campus feels safe,” said Granados. “And I’m ready to serve TSTC under its core values of excellence, accountability, service and integrity.”

Patino said Granados, who is the second female officer on the force, has already proven that she has what it takes to be successful.

“She’s eager and willing to learn. So I’ve challenged her supervisors, as part of our succession planning, to coach her and mentor her,” he said. “I’m happy to have Officer Granados as a member of the department and can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.”

Granados said she has always loved serving and helping others in any way she can.

“Serving is my passion, and I’ve always known that I could do that as a police officer,” she said. “I have watched my brother serve as a police officer for TSTC and now as a state trooper, and he is my inspiration. He has been my mentor and role model through this entire process.”

She added that she feels extremely proud to have been chosen to become TSTC’s newest officer and is grateful that she was able to share this prestigious moment with her family.

“My family has been my greatest support system,” she said. “And my hopes are that I make them proud by serving TSTC well and growing the department.”

The TSTC Police Department is made up of 10 full-time peace officers.

TSTC drafting and design course to offer evening classes

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – For the first time, Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics Technology will expand its offerings with evening classes beginning Spring 2020.

TSTC Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics statewide department chair Samuel Pizano said the change comes at a time when students are seeking flexibility, and evening and online courses are growing in popularity.

In fact, the program has already seen its first registrants for evening classes.

“We’ve recently seen a lot more interest in our program from students who are unable to attend classes during the day because of other obligations,” said Pizano. “So this program expansion has been in the works for nearly a year, allowing us to cater even more to nontraditional students.”TSTC Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics

The program’s associate degree plan can be completed 100% in the evening, with classrooms and labs open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.

“Our goal is to help students create degree plans that fit their lives so that they can become college graduates and start their careers,” said Pizano. “And this is the first step toward that.”

Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics also offers the program fully online, and Pizano said evening courses will also benefit those students.

“Having our labs opened later will also allow online students to stop by and practice their skills in the lab, ask questions or have a one-on-one with an instructor,” said Pizano. “Overall, we’re giving our students options they want.”

Pizano added that offering evening and online courses is also a stepping stone toward the program’s performance-based education model that will begin Fall 2021.

Performance-based education will allow students not only to have flexibility with their schedules, but also set themselves up to graduates quicker.

Under performance-based education, the program will offer a new block of courses every midterm for those who accelerate their studies.

“Essentially we are giving students control of their schedules and timeline,” said Pizano. “And no matter which path they choose, they will learn from industry-trained instructors and gain the skills they need and can implement in the real world.”

Pizano said with the regional and statewide job market growing exponentially, the program’s graduates are in high demand by employers.

“Our No. 1 goal is to produce highly trained students who can transfer the skills they’ve learned to industry to have a successful career,” he said. “We are producing graduates that industry wants to hire, while giving students the education they deserve and desire.”

Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics is also offered as an online class at TSTC’s West Texas locations and, beginning Fall 2020, will be onsite at TSTC’s Red Oak and Marshall campuses.

For more information on Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics Technology and the pathways available, call 956-364-4973 or visit


TSTC enrollment coach finds new home at TSTC

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Tracey Clayton comes to Texas State Technical College from Tennessee, where she was first introduced to careers in higher education.

Now, with several years of experience under her belt as an educational advisor and as an enrollment coach for the college, she is helping students at TSTC find their potential and become college graduates.

“It’s so exciting to see students get ready to enter college,” she said. “My passion is to help students start their education so they can find opportunities that help them lead better lives.”

Higher education wasn’t always what Clayton had in mind as a profession.

For 15 years, the single mom practiced as a licensed massage therapist for spas, mobile clinics, chiropractic clinics and private clients.

But when the joints in her hands started giving her problems, she knew it was time for a career change.TSTC Enrollment Coach Tracey Clayton

“This profession fell into my lap by accident, but it helped me support my son,” she reminisced. “I was always giving family members and friends massages and they all told me the same thing, ‘This is your career,’  so when I couldn’t massage anymore, I decided to teach.”

She taught massage therapy for three years at a technical college in Tennessee, also serving as a new student and graduate advisor.

“This was my first go-around in the education sector and I loved it,” she said.

Then Clayton decided she was ready for a change.  So with friends and family in the area and in Dallas, she chose Houston, Texas as her new home.

“Before making the move official, I applied everywhere. I wanted to work in higher education,” she said. “And then TSTC called. The moment I walked on campus and met the people around me, I knew this was where I was meant to be.”

Ten months later and Clayton said everyone at TSTC has become a second family and her favorite part: seeing the students she assists with enrollment being successful and getting closer to graduating.

“I love what I do and where I do it,” said Clayton. “TSTC has been a great place to work and my job feels rewarding. I can see myself growing here and staying for the long run.”

Clayton’s said her goals are to continue helping students pick the careers that are right for them and keeping her positive attitude because it can make a world of difference for those she serves.

And to help in her career development, she is also pursuing an online associate degree with TSTC in Business Management Technology.

“Nothing I have done or achieved has been easy, especially as a single mom,” said Clayton. “I can empathize with many of our students and I hope my story will inspire others to not give up on their dreams. Because TSTC helps create careers for anyone willing to work hard.”

Registration for Spring 2020 begins November 11. For more information, visit

TSTC Surgical Technology shapes vital members of a surgery team

With complex surgeries on the rise and an increase in advancing robotic procedures and surgeries, the need for highly-skilled surgical technologists is on the rise and Texas State Technical College is working to fill that demand with its Surgical Technology program.

TSTC Surgical Technology Program Director and Master Instructor Robert Sanchez said the program’s faculty works and focuses on hands-on training, which prepares its students for an industry that is fast-paced with stressful environments.TSTC Surgical Technology

“The more hands-on training our students receive the more prepared they are when they enter an operating room,” he said. “And it’s this readiness and skill that employers look for, and that’s why our graduates are sought after.”

TSTC Surgical Technology is the only surgical program south of Corpus Christi and has a 100% job placement rate.

What is the length of the program?

Surgical Technology is six-semester long, or two-year program. During the first three semesters, students complete program prerequisites. It is during the third semester that a student can apply for the Surgical Technology program, and if accepted, will have three more semesters before earning an associate degree.

What can students expect when they graduate?

A graduate from the program will only be able to work as a certified surgical technologist upon passing the Certified Surgical Technologist examination. After passing the exam, graduates can obtain jobs at places such as hospital operating rooms and day surgery centers.  

What skills do students learn in Surgical Technology?

In the program students will learn numerous skills such as how to properly scrub in for surgery, sterilize medical equipment, keep an organized inventory of equipment for the surgeon, wash and disinfect incision sites, pass equipment to a surgeon, ensure that no objects are retained in patients and keep a sterile environment to prevent patient infection.

What types of technologies are used to learn these skills?

Students in the program have access to two fully-equipped mock surgery rooms and scrub-in area. They also have industry standard surgery equipment, laparoscopic training modules and mannequins to practice incision and suturing techniques.

How do these skills prepare a student for the workforce?

With a focus on hands-on training, students become familiar and know what to expect when they enter the workforce. In addition to hands-on classroom training, Surgical Technology students also complete clinical rotations at local hospitals and surgery centers where they work on actual surgical cases under observation. Many of the students’ skills are recognized during clinical rotations and most students are offered a position even before graduating.

What types of positions can a graduate from this program obtain?

Graduates from the program can work as a certified surgical technologist, but can grow in the medical field after several years and work toward becoming surgical first assistant, certified registered nurse anesthetist or physician assistant.

Area hospitals that have hired TSTC Surgical Technology graduates include Valley Baptist Medical Center, Harlingen Medical Center, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, McAllen Medical Center and Edinburg Regional Medical Center.

Students have also been placed across the state in San Antonio, Houston, Austin and Dallas area hospitals.

TSTC enhances soft skills with interview practicum

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The Career Services department at Texas State Technical College recently hosted its Interview Practicum, an annual tradition that prepares soon-to-be graduates for job interviews.

In line with TSTC’s mission of placing more Texans into great paying jobs, the two-day event brought industry partners, community members and TSTC faculty and staff together to conduct mock interviews.  

“Our interview practicum has grown so much over the years,” said TSTC Career Services Director Viviana Espinosa. “It’s popular among our faculty and students, so each practicum has expanded into more than one day.”

Interview Practicum is also hosted in the fall semester and has extended into a three-day event due to its popularity.

This year more than 100 students participated and more than 320 mock interviews were conducted.TSTC Interview Practicum

Each interview includes three, 20-minute rounds in which the student is required to dress to impress, submit a resume and answer questions as if it were an actual interview with an employer.

At the end of each round the student is given feedback on strengths and weaknesses and advice on how to improve their interview skills.

Rudy Piñon, who will be graduating from the Auto Collision & Management Technology program this semester, had a lot to reflect on after the interview practicum. 

“I’ve received great feedback from my interview coaches, even making me think back about past interviews and what I could have done differently,” said the 19-year-old. “This is an amazing opportunity that TSTC has given us and I’m ready to conquer interviews and start my career.”

Jazlyn Roque, who is a first-semester student in Auto Collision & Management Technology, said she is thankful that even though she isn’t graduating yet, she was still able to take part in the event.

“It’s never too early to polish your interview skills,” she said. “By the time I know it, I’ll be getting ready to graduate and start my career too. So this event has been a great experience.”

The Mission native said she already feels more confident with the interview process after this year’s event, and looks forward to attending other practicums throughout her college career.

Espinosa said the idea behind interview practicums is to help students gain the confidence they need to have a successful interview and get the job they want.

“When we hear that students are leaving more confident than when they arrived and their nerves have lessened, then we know that our event was a success,” she said. “And many here are industry partners so these students leave with no doubts as to what employers are expecting.”

She added that soft skills is something employers say job candidates, in general lack, and TSTC is working diligently to change that and ensure that college graduates can ace their interviews.

“Not only are we training our students with technical skills, but also soft skills that are vital to success after college,” she said. “So TSTC is meeting industry demands all the way around.”

Registration for Spring 2020 begins November 11. For more information, visit  

TSTC machining program receives large donation for scholarships

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Precision Machining Technology students at Texas State Technical College are celebrating this week thanks to a generous donation from the Gene Hass Foundation.

The foundation, with a mission of increasing the number of skilled computer numerical control (CNC) machinists out in the workforce, awarded the program $15,000 to use for scholarships to help students finish the Precision Machining Technology program strong.

“Their mission is like ours: produce highly-skilled machinist and get them placed in the workforce,” said TSTC Precision Machining Technology lead instructor Isaac Gonzalez. “We appreciate everything this foundation is doing to inspire our students and new generations of machinists, and helping them reach their goals.”TSTC precision machining receive Gene Haas Foundation donation

The scholarships will be awarded to Precision Machining Technology students based on need and will range from $250 to $2,500 to help with tuition, books, supplies or room and board.

“This type of money is a huge help for our students. Financial insecurity among students is more common than realized,” said Gonzalez. “And this gives them that motivation to finish.”

For Precision Machining Technology student Aaron Lerma, who will be graduating with his certificate in Fall 2020, this money came at just the right time.

“My family is having a hard time right now, it’s been difficult just paying the bills,” said the Brownsville native. “So this money will help not only me, but my parents. Hopefully I can help alleviate some stress and have money for gas since I commute.”

The 19-year-old added he’s excited to graduate so he can start working and contributing to his family’s finances.

“I would have loved to get an associate degree, but I really need to start working. Maybe someday once I can save up enough money,” he said. “For now, I want to give a big thank you to the organization that gave my program this money. Because this is a big deal for many of us and will allow me to graduate.”

His fellow classmate Maria Lara from Progresso shared the same sentiment.

“I’m currently not working so things have been tough,” said the 22-year-old. “And with this scholarship I can now afford to get food.”

Lara will be graduating with her associate degree in December and said she is grateful for this scholarship.

“This money is really going to come in handy and I want the organization that gave us this opportunity to know that it is greatly appreciated,” she said. “This is going to help me continue working toward my dream of starting my career and owning a business someday.”

Gonzalez said this isn’t the first time they’ve worked with the Gene Haas Foundation to give students scholarships. The foundation has donated to the program for at least three years.

And an added bonus is that this year’s donation will also go toward paying for precision machining students’ SkillsUSA uniforms, literature and tools.

SkillsUSA provides quality educational experiences for junior high, high school and college students who are in training programs focused on trade, technical and skilled service occupations. These educational experiences include conferences and hands-on competitions, which TSTC Precision Machining Technology students participate in annually.

“SkillsUSA is a big part of our year and plays a role in our students’ training, networking opportunities with industry professionals and showcasing their skills,” said Gonzalez. “And this contribution will help us continue that tradition.”

Students enrolling in Precision Machining Technology in Spring 2020 will also have the opportunity to apply for a scholarship.

“This money all around has been a great benefit to our program and its students,” said Gonzalez. “It is helping us fill a demand that is increasing in the industry by allowing our students the opportunity to worry a little less about money and more about graduating.”

For more information on Precision Machining Technology, visit    

TSTC Biology students discover a whole new world

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Pursuing an associate degree in Biology from Texas State Technical College can lead to a number of career possibilities in a field that is growing rapidly.TSTC Biology

TSTC Biology program chair Paul Leonard said that with advances and more opportunities in technology moving into the Rio Grande Valley and the state, such as Space X and oil and gas companies, the demand for biologists will increase.

“Opportunities in the field are already there, but there are more coming and we are creating the skilled workforce needed for the industry,” said Leonard.

Leonard goes on to explain what skills biology students learn, to prepare them for the workforce and the types of career opportunities available to them.

What is the length of the program?

The program is five semesters long.

What can students expect when they graduate?

After a student graduates from Biology, they will receive an associate degree and will be able to gain entry-level employment or transfer to another TSTC program such as Surgical Technology, Dental Hygiene and the Vocational Nurse to Registered Nurse transition program.

What skills do students learn in Biology?

A student in Biology will obtain skills in a wide array of areas such as general biology, botany, zoology, anatomy and physiology, and microbiology. They will also learn the soft skills needed for cataloging and indexing information and research. Ultimately, they will graduate from the program as critical thinkers who can figure out the whats and whys of experiments and studies.

What types of technologies are used to learn these skills?

Students in the Biology program have access to virtual-based labs for electronic measuring and comparisons, and hands-on labs that will allow them to gain skills in dissection; plant, respiratory and sensory testing; and organ comparisons.

How do these skills prepare a student for the workforce?

The work and testing conducted in the classroom and labs is industry-standard and what will be done out in the field. The information collection and analysis process is also what they will see when they enter the workforce.

What types of positions can a graduate from this program obtain?

Graduates from the Biology program can find entry-level positions as biological technicians, biological scientists, microbiologists, forensic science technicians, laboratory animal caretakers, and can even find government jobs in public water works or parks and wildlife. 

TSTC alum finds success at multinational energy corporation

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – With no intention to go to college, Texas State Technical College Mechatronics Technology alumnus Matt Lashbrook is now thankful that he did, because he said college took him from rags to riches.

The Rio Hondo native always put effort into his schooling, even taking dual enrollment courses while in high school, yet he didn’t think he was cut out for college.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do and when my aunt told me about mechatronics I figured I had nothing to lose,” said Lashbrook. “I did it to try it and I was surprised.”

That aunt that encouraged Lashbrook to enroll in Mechatronics is TSTC Associate Provost Jean Lashbrook and the younger Lashbrook said he’s glad he took her advice.

Today Lashbrook is the Project Automation Analyst for Chevron, where he has worked for six years with benefits and a competitive salary that continues to increase.TSTC Mechatronics Technology alumnus Matt Lashbrook

“I was still 19-year-old when I got this job,” said the now 26-year-old. “I hadn’t even graduated from the program, yet I had a career lined up for me.”

Lashbrook started at Chevron immediately after graduating with his associate degree in 2013 as a field specialist trainee, and within his six years with the company, the foundation he built in TSTC’s Mechatronics Technology program and his hard work have earned him several promotions.

“While at TSTC I found that I really enjoyed automation. It just clicked; I found what I was good at and my interest in the field grew,” he said. “And now my position allows me to hone in on those skills.”

From digging ditches to bury conduit pipes and traveling across Texas and New Mexico sites, Lashbrook said each level of his career has allowed him to support his family and remain debt- free.

“My wife and I used to live in a camper and now we own a home, a car and a truck and none of it is owed,” said Lashbrook. “This career has allowed me to save and give my wife and daughters the life they deserve.”

Lashbrook said TSTC was the stepping stone to this great career and life that he has made. From the instructors and the one-on-one, hands-on training they provided, he was able to become well-rounded in several areas and sharpen his skills.

 “I grew up working on boat motors and never, in a million years, did I think I would be where I am today,” he said. “It’s been hard work to grow, but I remain steadfast in learning and always remaining teachable.”

Lashbrook added that enrolling at TSTC was the best decision he made and he is always recommending it to others who are looking for a new career or a career change.

“I don’t just recommend TSTC, I encourage others to attend because if you’re looking for a career, this is the place to go,” said Lashbrook. “And I’m proof because with my degree I’ve found opportunities I never thought would be possible. Without TSTC I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Graduates from Mechatronics Technology can work as mechanical engineering technicians, electrical engineering technicians, field service technicians and electronic engineering technicians for companies such as Toyota, H-E-B, American Electric Power, Oncor and Schlumberger and can make an average salary that ranges from $56,000 to six-figures.   

For more information on Mechatronics Technology, visit