Author Archives: Naissa Lopez

TSTC hosts digital event to educate students about abusive relationships

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Office of Counseling and Student Rights and Responsibilities will host a digital event called “Love Is Not Abuse” on Thursday, Feb. 11, at noon in an effort to give students advice and statistics about abusive relationships.

TSTC student counselor Angela Dunn discussed what she hopes students will learn from the event, as well as what students should do if they have additional questions or are seeking more resources.

“Attendees will learn about healthy relationships and boundaries,” she said. “They will also learn about resources if they are experiencing dating violence or stalking.”

She said that college is a pivotal time in the personal lives of students, and this information will be beneficial to those in new relationships.

“It’s a crucial time for individuals to learn about red flags when they date,” she said. “Dating violence does not discriminate and can affect all genders, races, ages, cultures and socioeconomic levels.”

According to, dating violence affects 43 percent of female college students, and, according to, it affects 27 percent of males.

Dunn wants students to utilize the digital event to ask as many questions as they need to.

“Our goal is to empower the attendees to reach out to resources if they are experiencing dating violence, as well as being able to provide resources to others,” she said. “Dating violence is typically not a singular incident, so it is important to know the steps to make sure students can safely exit a relationship.”

Should students have additional questions or want to talk to a counselor personally, Dunn said they should not hesitate to contact the Student Counseling department.

“Counselors are available at TSTC to assist students,” she said. “All communication with a counselor is confidential and at no cost to currently enrolled students.”

TSTC students who wish to participate in the “Love Is Not Abuse” digital event can go to

To learn more about TSTC, go to


TSTC’s RISE program sees success with first cohorts

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Last year, Texas State Technical College deployed the Rapid Industry Skills and Employability (RISE) program to allow students to quickly learn the skills needed to help get them started on the path to a new career.

The courses were introduced to help combat the impact that the coronavirus has had on employment in Texas.

Hector Yanez, TSTC’s senior vice president of Student Learning, said that the first cohorts of the RISE program have seen success, and he expects to see additional interest from potential students as word spreads.

“The RISE cohorts have been doing well,” he said. “We have gathered data and continue to comb through it to get a better understanding of what is working great and what needs to be tweaked. In order to maintain rigor and quality, we inspect things very closely so that students can achieve success in their cohort.”

The courses are implemented in areas with high industry demand so that jobs can be readily available for students once they receive their Occupational Skills Award. However, Yanez said that he has noticed a surprising trend.

“An interesting thing that we observed immediately after the first cohort was that students wanted to continue their education and explore TSTC’s certificate programs and associate degrees,” he said. “Students enroll knowing that they could get even higher wages with just a few more courses.”

Yanez said that TSTC is currently in the process of adding 14 new Occupational Skills Award-eligible courses to the RISE program, which will double the opportunity for interested students.

“The RISE awards give the students the knowledge to work more efficiently, boost their confidence and make them a more valuable candidate for employers,” he said. “Businesses are always on the lookout for knowledgeable staff, and these RISE awards will offer the students the opportunity to attain these in-demand jobs.”

Limited scholarships are available for those interested in the RISE program.

To learn more, visit



TSTC student triumphs over adversity

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – The encouragement of a friend and a charismatic instructor helped Shyann Kocurek make the decision to enroll at Texas State Technical College.

The El Campo native recently earned her Associate of Applied Science degree in Environmental Technology – Compliance while experiencing one of the greatest hardships in life. Now she is eager to get to work, and she is grateful for the help she received at TSTC.

“My best friend had just started working at TSTC and encouraged me to talk with an instructor named Ms. (Maria) Vaughan,” she said. “I ended up loving what she had to say about the Environmental Technology – Compliance program, and I enrolled the following semester.”

Vaughan spoke fondly of Kocurek.

“Shyann has shown a great amount of initiative from the very beginning of the program,” she said. “She is always striving to improve and get ahead of the game. She is strong, dedicated and motivated.”

Students in the Environmental Technology – Compliance program learn about how environmental and safety standards are combined. Vaughan said that the creativity involved in the curriculum made for class time that was never boring.

“Students learn about the environmental regulations, what they mean, how to implement rules, and in essence how to be compliant with federal and state regulations,” she said. “Sometimes it is like ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy’ in my lab.”

Kocurek was determined to complete the program, even as she suffered a devastating loss.

“My mom passed away in June,” she said. “I had a hard time trying to keep going to finish with my goal I had set for myself.”

But Kocurek persevered. She received TSTC’s Texan Success Scholarship, which she says helped alleviate much of the worry she felt about paying for the program she grew to love.

“That scholarship helped me,” she said. “At the time, I did not have the money to pay for the first payment on the payment plan that I was on, but that scholarship took care of almost all of my tuition. It saved me.”

Vaughan recalled the resilience shown by Kocurek.

“She is an amazingly strong young woman,” she said. “Seeing her pain and loss, and seeing her good work ethic come through during that time, she reminded me how important it is to remember our ‘why.’ It was easy to see that her ‘why’ is her love for her family.”

Kocurek has some advice for those who follow in her footsteps at TSTC.

“Set goals for yourself, and do not let anything deter you from those goals,” she said. “Always ask questions, no matter the situation. There is always someone at TSTC who is willing to help. Without asking questions, you do not learn, and if you do not learn, you do not grow.”

To learn more about TSTC, visit

TSTC awarded grant to assist former students returning to college

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College was recently awarded a Texas Reskilling Support Fund Grant in the amount of $300,000 by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB).

Reskilling grants allow Texas higher education institutions to provide financial assistance to students who are experiencing adversities and have had to drop out of college because of them. The grant is supported by a portion of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund allocated by the THECB.

“As we help rebuild the Texas economy, getting individuals employed in high-paying jobs is at the forefront of our mission,” said TSTC associate vice chancellor of enrollment management Christine Stuart-Carruthers. “This grant focuses on students who have been out of college for at least a semester, have less than a year to go to graduate, and need assistance with tuition above what their financial aid covers.”

Funding will be used as a last dollar grant to cover the costs associated with tuition that a student’s financial aid package will not cover during their final year of college. A student’s eligibility may depend on whether they qualify for federal student aid, are enrolled in an undergraduate or workforce-accredited program, have been adversely affected by the pandemic, or are within 12 months of completing their program.

TSTC executive director of Resource Development Juan Garza said that these funds are specifically for students who have paused their studies.

“The money targets students that have stopped going to college in an effort to get them to return and complete a degree, or to pursue one of the eligible Occupational Skills Award (OSA) programs.”

TSTC has transitioned several programs to remote learning, a gesture that Stuart-Carruthers said may entice students to return.

“We have approximately 40 programs that are offered online,” she said. “We are hoping this will assist students who may be working to fit college into their schedule.”

TSTC students interested in seeing if they qualify for the funding are encouraged to reach out to a TSTC enrollment coach.

For more information, or to see if you qualify, please call 1-855-211-9805 or email

To learn more about TSTC, go to

TSTC instructor receives Chancellor’s Award for Excellence

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Alan Sulak has been quietly imparting his vast knowledge of cybersecurity to Texas State Technical College students for a little over four years. His efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Recently he was named a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, a recognition given to TSTC staff and faculty who have shown selfless dedication to TSTC’s mission.

In an email, TSTC Chancellor and CEO Mike Reeser said that Sulak’s colleagues described him as being an exemplary leader and a trusted colleague.

Sulak discussed what the recognition means to him, and the importance of cybersecurity.

Why did you decide on a career in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the subject of everything that is information technology-related today. With many years of experience in designing and implementing systems, including infrastructure and security appliances, it was a natural progression for me to move into the cybersecurity field.

What does it mean to you to have this recognition from your peers?

It is pleasing to see that my peers at TSTC have confidence in me and what I have been part of since I started. We really try to work together as a family at TSTC.

What do you think makes the cybersecurity program at TSTC different from that at any other college?

The Cybersecurity program tries to ensure that our students get hands-on experience in the latest technologies. We are also recognized as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love making a difference to our students, as well as helping everybody at TSTC get their job done with excellence.


TSTC recently introduced a fast-paced Workforce Training cybersecurity boot camp that will feature eight industry-grade foundational courses to equip students with the knowledge they need to get them into the world of cybersecurity. To learn more, visit

For more information about TSTC, go to


TSTC’s Cybersecurity program prepares students for rapidly growing career

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The world’s shift to all things digital means that cybersecurity will play an even bigger role in how we spend our time online.

Texas State Technical College’s Cybersecurity program is dedicated to teaching students what they need to know in order to thrive in their careers as cybersecurity analysts.

TSTC Cybersecurity instructor Alan Sulak said the curriculum that students are introduced to is similar to what they will experience once they begin their careers in the real world.

“We strive to ensure that our students get hands-on experience in the latest technologies,” he said.

Additionally, students are given insight into the process of job hunting.

“Students are assisted with resume writing and dressing for success, and they go through an interview practicum with TSTC’s Career Services,” said instructor Cesar Ibarra.

Sulak added that TSTC’s program boasts an important credential.

“We are recognized by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.”

To receive such recognition, institutions must establish standards for cybersecurity curriculum and academic excellence, value community outreach and professional development, and actively engage in solutions to issues that may arise in cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity is not just important for our safety, but it is a way of life that we have to live,” Ibarra said. “I usually tell my students to follow two important ways of living: Keep things confidential, and have integrity.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analyst jobs are expected to grow by 31 percent through the end of the decade.

TSTC recently introduced a fast-paced Workforce Training cybersecurity boot camp that will feature eight industry-grade foundational courses to equip students with the knowledge they need to get them into the world of cybersecurity. To learn more, visit

To learn more about TSTC, go to


TSTC welcomes back students for spring semester

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – On January 11, Texas State Technical College welcomed back students to its Fort Bend County campus for the spring 2021 semester.

Some students, staff and faculty returned to campus on a limited basis, following TSTC’s coronavirus safety guidelines. While some courses are being taught online only, others are a combination of online classes and in-person labs.

TSTC Associate Provost Bryan Bowling was eager to welcome students to TSTC and said that a new semester is the steppingstone to a gratifying career.

“This will be the year you recall as a new beginning,” he said. “A student’s decision to enroll at TSTC represents a critical point of origin on a life-altering journey that can lead to a lucrative career.”

Environmental Technology instructor Maria Vaughan added that she knows this year will be a positive one.

“As we start the year, students should be curious about their purpose,” she said. “It is going to be a great semester.”

TSTC is dedicated to helping enhance the Texas workforce by equipping students with the skills needed to succeed in the most in-demand careers.

Established in 2016, the Fort Bend County campus offers more than 10 technical programs that can give students the training needed for a successful career.

TSTC’s coronavirus safety protocols include wearing face masks while on campus, social distancing, and designated entrance and exit doors.

To learn more, go to



TSTC implements new tool to make sure that students graduate

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College recently added an additional resource to ensure that students succeed during their time in college.

Progress Pathway, formerly known as Early Alert, is a feature that allows students, faculty and staff to submit a referral about a student who they feel may be falling behind in the curriculum. The referral will then lead to assisting that student to help them make it past the bump on their educational journey.

Christina Vargas, assistant director of enrollment management at TSTC’s Fort Bend County campus, said that the system was created to help students get back on track when they may be struggling.

“If there is concern that a student is having problems with not only their courses, but maybe another issue, we can submit a referral that goes directly to the student’s enrollment coach,” she said. “Once the referral is submitted, the coach will reach out to the student. We have resources at TSTC to address many of the types of barriers that impede student success.”

“The objective of Progress Pathway is student success,” added TSTC enrollment analyst Robert Foshie. “We want to ensure students, staff and faculty have a way to express concern that may negatively impact a student’s ability to persist through their degree.”

He said that the tool will allow appropriate parties to offer assistance when a student needs it.

“Progress Pathway allows Enrollment Management to intervene and provide resources or additional funding as needed to ensure students stay on course to graduate.”

Issues that students may face go beyond the classroom. Access to technology, funding for supplies, or personal dilemmas are all factored into the solutions that Progress Pathway can make happen for students.

“We know there are a number of issues that could be causing a student to fall behind,” Vargas said. “The issues that can be reported on Progress Pathway reach beyond academics. Whether it be financial struggles or a lack of child care that an instructor suspects is causing the student to struggle, a referral will work in the same way.”

Foshie said that the new feature helps continue to enable TSTC’s mission of building the Texas workforce.

“Being able to assist a student with their needs is often the determining factor for whether or not a student can persist to graduation,” he said. “Our mission is to place more Texans in great-paying jobs, and our team strives to make what is impossible for some a success in their journey.”

To learn more about TSTC, go to


Instructor’s passion for cars guided him to TSTC

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – A curiosity for engines and transmissions is what drove Diego Trevino to a career at Texas State Technical College three years ago. He is currently an instructor in the Automotive Technology program and brings to the classroom not only his love for all things automotive, but also his firsthand experience.

What was your career before your time with TSTC?

Before I became an instructor, I was an automotive technician for Gillman Chevrolet Buick GMC in San Benito for several years.

Why did you decide on a career in automotive technology?

The main reason I decided on my career in the automotive industry is my love for cars. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been working on cars. On my time off, I still make time to build engines and restore classic cars.

What do you think makes the automotive program at TSTC different from other colleges?

What I think sets the TSTC Automotive Technology program apart from other auto programs is the experience of the instructors; we are all masters in the field and accredited as such. TSTC only hires the best and most capable to pass along decades of experience and skills.

Additionally, job placement is a big help for students when they graduate. Not many other colleges set up interviews or help create paid internships for students while they are enrolled in classes with some of the biggest automotive shops in the region.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

What I enjoy the most about my job is passing on my years of experience to a new generation of technicians to continue this craft.

To learn more about TSTC, go to



Automotive Technology at TSTC drives students toward thriving career

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The revving of engines is music to the ears of students and  instructors alike in Texas State Technical College’s Automotive Technology program.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers for automotive service technicians are expected to continue to rise through 2026. TSTC’s Automotive Technology program utilizes a hands-on method of learning that gives students the necessary training needed to excel in the field.

The college offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology, as well as several options for certificates of completion.

Instructor Diego Trevino said that TSTC students in the program are given the opportunity to study with working vehicles, as well as learn from instructors who have had firsthand industry experience.

“We get to teach from actual running vehicles rather than trainers on a stand,” he said. “All the instructors at TSTC are required to be Master Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified and also have an associate degree in the automotive field before they can step into a classroom.”

Bruce Schmitt, also an instructor, added that TSTC’s mission to work closely with students is what sets this program apart.

“We invest in students over a long period of time,” he said. “TSTC is a well-established college throughout the state of Texas.”

He added that the focus on students does not stop once the class ends. Job placement is also a vital component of the program.

“All automotive students are assisted with job placement through our partnerships with local industry partners, both dealership and independent,” he said.

Trevino said that Automotive Technology instructors also do their due diligence to ensure that students are given good opportunities.

“As instructors, we all take time out of our day to visit dealerships and shops across the Rio Grande Valley to create a relationship with them to help our students get their foot in the door,” he said. “We take advantage of the interview practices offered throughout the year to help our students prepare for the interviews with industry partners that we have set up for them by the time they graduate.”

Instructor Miguel Zoleta said that the automotive industry is not slowing down, as far as jobs are concerned.

“I see a rapid rise in demand for the automotive industry, especially in the electrical automotive industry, because many automotive companies are introducing electric lines of vehicles,” he said.

While current safety precautions have impacted the one-on-one time that instructors have with students, Trevino said that this has not deterred the department from finding other ways to guarantee communication, such as distancing with minimal time in the lab, virtual appointments, and even phone calls.

“We are always available by appointment,” he said. “In order for students to really master the automotive craft, whether it is practicing a skill like tire balancing or getting the finer points of engine rebuilding, we try our best to make ourselves available to students however we can.”

To learn more about TSTC, visit