Category Archives: Waco

Semien brings facilities management expertise to TSTC

(WACO, Texas) – Kevin Semien knew that the recent weather events experienced in Texas were not something to take chances with.

Semien is executive vice president of facilities and maintenance, as well as interim airport operations manager, at Texas State Technical College. 

During the weather crisis, he worked with TSTC’s physical plant, custodial and maintenance staff to identify power issues that affected TSTC’s campuses statewide. He was grateful that some staff members could get to their campuses to check on buildings.

Edgar Padilla, TSTC’s provost in Waco, said Semien was a key member of the Waco campus’ incident command team, which met several times daily to ensure the health and safety of all students.

“His calm, thoughtful and expert insight proved to be invaluable not only to the facilities and maintenance considerations, but also the student services, housing, public safety and communication pieces of the event,” Padilla said. “His commitment to TSTC will pay dividends for years to come.”

Semien sees the root of his work as having a desire to solve problems. He likes to get an idea of what is happening on each campus.

“You can’t know every single thing, but you can keep me in the loop for anything outside the norm,” Semien said.

Some of Semien’s goals at TSTC include creating standards to be used in support departments at all of TSTC’s campuses. He wants to encourage employees to be open to new ideas to make work easier. Semien wants to build relationships and foster a teamwork concept that easily allows directors and staff members to make suggestions and have productive discussions.

“He (Semien) has great ideas,” said Arturo Aguilar, TSTC’s custodial supervisor in Waco. “Overall, he is a great leader and also great as a person to work with.”

Terry Pritchett, the TSTC physical plant’s senior executive director in Waco, said Semien brings a high measure of professionalism to his position.

“He is down-to-earth and easy to talk with, whether in a work or personal matter,” Pritchett said. “He is understanding and caring of the TSTC mission and makes his decisions based on our organizational goals. I look forward to many years of service under his leadership.”

Semien said his advice for people interested in the facilities and maintenance field is to be ready to learn and work well with other people.

“The opportunity is there if they jump into it early,” he said.

Semien’s previous work has been in the casino and health care industries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

“All of the experiences have rolled into the opportunity here,” Semien said.

Semien is a graduate of Lamar University in Beaumont.

During the month of February, TSTC wants to honor the Black students, staff and faculty who make TSTC a special place to learn.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC Electrical Lineworker Technology students gain experience during winter weather

(WACO, Texas) – At least 50 students in Texas State Technical College’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program signed up to work as wire-down guards and drivers for damage evaluators during the state’s recent winter weather event.

The students were on-call contract workers for Irving-based J&S Inspections, a utility contracting firm. Robert Mitchell, lead instructor in TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program in Waco, became familiar with the firm’s work while working at Oncor.

Mitchell said he considers this work a paid field trip for students, giving them work experience that will prove valuable as they pursue their careers in the electrical lineworker industry. He said many of the students made at least $3,000 for their work during the winter storm.

Mitchell volunteered to serve as a damage estimator for 13 days, while TSTC Electrical Lineworker Technology student Conner Woodall of Hubbard was his driver. The two worked from the Austin suburbs to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to East Texas. Mitchell said the Lufkin and Nacogdoches areas were heavily impacted.

“It was the tree situation,” Mitchell said. “There were big pine trees hanging over the lines. There were bad ice storms where limbs accumulated a half inch of ice. The limbs fell and broke lines and broke poles on a big scale.”

Woodall said he saw lots of downed power lines and worked with Mitchell to prepare job tickets to get damaged circulators and insulators fixed. He said the weather was the coldest he had ever endured.

“We have to get out and know what to look for,” Woodall said. “If you cannot get to it by truck, you are going to have to walk the line.”

He said it is the first time he has done work like this in the field. He said the money he earned will go toward college costs and to buy more equipment.

“It actually benefited me being able to see a lot and see real life,” Woodall said. “I saw what the crew would have to do to come out and do the work.”

Mitchell said TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program is called on to provide assistance during major weather events one or two times a year.

TSTC offers the Electrical Lineworker Technology program at the Fort Bend County, Harlingen, Marshall and Waco campuses. TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program is a Money-Back Guarantee program. Students who sign up for the program with a TSTC Career Services representative in their first semester of study can take part in focused workshops as they work their way to an associate degree. If students do not get a job in their degree field within six months of graduating, TSTC will refund their tuition.

Texas had more than 10,000 electrical power line installers and repairers in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those workers made an annual mean wage of $58,570.

Nationally, more than 116,000 electrical power line installers and repairers will be needed by 2029, according to the federal agency. This is due to retirements, workers advancing into management positions, new housing and commercial construction, and upkeep of the interstate power grid.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 


TSTC Automotive Technology program adapts to teaching during pandemic

(WACO, Texas) – Automotive Technology students at Texas State Technical College continue to gain insight into what their careers can look like upon graduation.

“It’s a good time in the automotive industry because of how everything is advancing,” said George Williams, lead instructor in TSTC’s Automotive Technology program in Waco.

The program’s students and faculty have relied more on technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since spring 2020, TSTC’s technical programs have been taught either exclusively online or in a hybrid format that combines online lectures with on-campus labs.

TSTC students, faculty and staff continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in wearing masks, not gathering in groups and sanitizing hands and work areas. All of this is being done to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Rudy Cervantez, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Automotive Department, said the program is using a new e-learning and e-simulator learning management system called Electude. He said students are becoming prepared for what they will see in training at dealerships.

“They need to have a good understanding of the material and theory of the given learning activities, expected outcomes, and objectives before attempting the hands-on skills practicals,” Cervantez said.

Jonathan Tooke, of Teague, is pursuing the Automotive Technology – Chrysler Specialization certificate. He said his cell phone comes in handy to take photos in class of brakes, engines and transmissions before he dismantles them. He is getting experience working at a dealership in Fairfield doing oil changes and minor repair work.

Devontae Bible, of Waco, is working toward an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology and an Automotive Technology – Chrysler Specialization certificate. Bible, a graduate of Waco High School, said he chose to pursue Automotive Technology because of his appreciation for fast cars.

“I heard TSTC was the best of the best,” he said.

Bible is getting internship experience while working at a Waco dealership doing oil changes and working with technicians on minor problems.

“I like the job,” he said. “The environment is cool. It’s good to be around.”

The Automotive Technology program will adapt to another new way of teaching starting in fall 2022. Williams said the program will shift to a performance-based education model. 

Performance-based education allows students to have flexibility with their schedules as they master set competencies. Students can build on existing knowledge and may have the opportunity to graduate earlier than planned. Students will still have semesters, but the number of classes will vary.

“The students will get more one-on-one time with instructors,” Williams said. “The student will schedule lab times with an instructor.”

There were more than 51,000 automotive service mechanics and technicians as of May 2019 in Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The workers made an annual mean wage that was more than $45,000.

Automotive service mechanics and technicians will have to adapt in the next decade to the development of electric vehicles, and cameras and sensors being added to cars and trucks.

February is Career and Technical Education Month. During this month, TSTC is proud to showcase the students, staff and faculty who support its mission of being the “most sophisticated technical institute in the country” every day. To learn more about the programs offered at TSTC, go to 

TSTC graduate returns to teach in the Industrial Systems program

(RED OAK, Texas) – Jarriet Durham is fascinated by electricity. And he is eager to instruct as many people about it as possible.

Durham began teaching in the Industrial Systems program at Texas State Technical College’s North Texas campus in December 2019. Initially he was looking for a second job since he was already working in the industry. What he thought was an offer to teach part time was actually a chance to join the program’s faculty as a full-time instructor.

“I feel like, as an instructor, we look at it as teaching. But on the other side, you are a lifelong learner,” Durham said.

During the spring semester, he is teaching some of the program’s day classes.

“His enthusiasm for what he does each day is very easy to see,” said Marcus Balch, provost of TSTC in North Texas. “Jarriet, or J.D. as we call him, could be out in industry still, but he’s come back to a technical college and a program that he is a graduate of. The work that he does daily directly impacts the lives of his students, giving them a very sought-after skill set that is critical for our industry partners.”

Durham said he sees a challenge in educating others in what industrial systems are. He said there is a big need for women and minorities to pursue the field.

“It is such a varied field,” Durham said. “We touch on some of everything. We teach heating, ventilation and air conditioning; electronics; electrical; mechanical; pneumatics; hydraulics.”

Les Monk, an instructor in TSTC’s Industrial Systems program, admires Durham’s attention to detail — something that he first noticed when Durham was one of his students.

There is something else that Monk noticed early on: Durham’s love of motorcycles. Monk said Durham rides to and from campus occasionally on a motorcycle.

“He’ll ride it when it’s cold outside,” Monk said.

Durham grew up in Dallas and is a graduate of H. Grady Spruce High School. After high school, he joined the U.S. Air Force, where he worked as a postmaster and radio operator. 

“Some of the soft skills transfer when you manage a post office,” Durham said. “In my role, I had clerks under me. I am not completely new to it (teaching) in an administrative role.”

After he left the military, Durham worked in construction and studied to be an electronic systems technician.

“I was not making the money I wanted to make in construction and decided to go to TSTC,” Durham said. “I wanted to do work on electrical systems. I was doing some research, found out about TSTC and gave them a call. And the next thing I knew, I was enrolled and going to school.”

Durham graduated in 2019 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Industrial Systems – Electrical Specialization from TSTC in North Texas.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 

During the month of February, TSTC wants to honor the Black students, staff and faculty who make TSTC a special place to learn.

Army veteran’s commitment to service continues at TSTC

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Once a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, Kenneth Buford is utilizing his military skills to resonate with fellow veterans at Texas State Technical College as director of veteran recruitment at the Fort Bend County campus.

For the past 11 months, the Rosenberg native has brought his worldly experience to TSTC, and he is eager to continue helping those who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

“My military experience makes it easier to relate to the changes and challenges facing active-duty personnel,” he said. “It also helps with challenges of those who are transitioning out of military services and service members making career changes.

Buford said that assisting those with the same life experiences as his has made his job very rewarding.

“The ability to continue to serve, guide and assist my sisters and brothers in arms is a very humbling experience,” he said. “Although our contracted time in the service expires, the commitment that was made by each of us never will.”

As he rounds out his first year at TSTC, Buford thinks back on some of his favorite memories with gratitude.

“Working with the soldiers to create strategic plans capable of meeting their financial needs, while ensuring each of them receives the technical training necessary to sustain success, continues to be my fondest memory,” he said.

His commitment is easily recognized in his work.

“Words are not enough to describe that one moment in time while taking soldiers through a campus tour and you see their eyes light up with excitement,” he said. “That’s the moment you know that soldier just found their next great adventure and path in life.”

As far as his advice on education, Buford said that you cannot go wrong with following your passion.

“Do what you love and love what you do,” he said. “Never pass up an opportunity to help another student or ask for help yourself. Not only are we all truly in this together, but no one can do it alone and claim true success.”

To learn more about veteran services offered at TSTC, visit

February is Career and Technical Education Month. To learn more about the programs offered at TSTC, go to


Kenneth Buford served in the U.S. Army for eight years and is now serving as director of veteran recruitment at TSTC. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)

Round Rock-area computer technology jobs show promise for TSTC graduates

(HUTTO, Texas) – Before enrolling at Texas State Technical College, Melissa Wykes studied criminal justice and became a licensed esthetician.

But she said she needed to make a career change for financial security. 

The Round Rock resident chose to attend TSTC’s East Williamson County campus in Hutto to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity. She is scheduled to graduate this semester.

“Cybersecurity is a wide-ranging field,” Wykes said. “It has been really interesting getting exposure to different aspects of it.”

TSTC transitioned several programs to an online format last year so that students who are not close to a TSTC campus can have the opportunity to take classes in Computer Programming and Systems Administration, Cybersecurity and other TSTC programs.

“We (industry professionals) have been telecommuting and working this way for a decade,” said Joshua Schier, an instructor in TSTC’s Cybersecurity program. “We are the most unaffected by this pandemic. I would say this is the right career at the right time if you have the skill set and think you can do this.”

There are 14 students from Round Rock enrolled in the statewide Cybersecurity program this semester, along with two students in the statewide Computer Programming Technology program, according to TSTC enrollment information.

Wykes said during this time of COVID-19 that people interested in a career change should pursue cybersecurity.

“This is an amazing career field, and because it is so widely varied, there are these pockets and niches,” Wykes said. “The work is going to be so secure for the next several decades. Everything is going to the cloud. That is all cybersecurity and information technology.”

Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area in Cedar Park has designated several computer-related jobs in its nine-county area, excluding Travis County, as target occupations. Some of these include computer systems analysts, database developers and information security analysts.

There are more than 3,100 computer-related jobs in Round Rock, according to Workforce Solutions. More than 1,300 of these were in software development and software quality assurance analysis and testing. There were more than 500 for computer user support specialists and more than 300 for computer systems analysts.

Workforce Solutions predicts that in the next three years there will be a need for 400 more workers trained for computer occupations in the Round Rock area.

TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology program and Web Design and Development Technology program are taking part in the Austin Technology Council. The council focuses on supporting businesses and professional growth, providing networking and business mentoring opportunities, and giving public policy representation to the tech industry. 

Shannon Ferguson, statewide lead instructor in TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology program, said his vision is to see students in the two programs promoted to companies throughout the Austin area.

Some of the Round Rock companies that have sought technology workers in the last month include Revature, which is seeking an entry-level computer programmer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is looking for a software developer, and VCL Technologies, which is seeking a software developer, according to

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

Smashed pumpkin leads Building Construction Technology student to TSTC

(WACO, Texas) -Vanessa Loredo, of Waco, is working toward an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology at Texas State Technical College. She is scheduled to graduate in December.

What inspired you to study Building Construction Technology at TSTC? 

My mother surprised us with a pumpkin for Halloween when I was seven years old. The next day, we walked to the store to grab some milk for my little brother. When we were walking back, we could see something in the middle of the road, but it was too far to see exactly what it was. We continued walking to only find our beloved pumpkin smashed in the middle of the road. Older kids from the neighborhood were going around smashing pumpkins. 

My mother hurried us in the house to calm us, just to walk in the door and see the electricity was cut off. My mom quickly lit a few candles and sat with all of us on the living room floor, reassured us everything was going to be okay, and pulled out a few pieces of blank paper. She said we should draw our dream houses just to get our minds onto something else. With tears in my eyes, I began drawing a house with big gates around it so no one could take anything from me. The house I drew had electricity, unlimited food, water, toys, new clothes, and a car for my mom. I joined TSTC’s Building Construction Technology program inspired to give my mother that house.

What is a typical class day like for you? 

A typical class day is driving to school and not leaving my truck until my personal protection equipment is in hand. I head into the building through approved entrance doors. I enter the classroom on time and ready to learn.

What have you enjoyed learning so far in the Building Construction Technology program? 

I have enjoyed everything about the program. My instructors are excellent mentors and push me to my fullest potential. I enjoy creating with my hands the most.

What challenges have you had during the pandemic as you attend TSTC? 

I do not have too many challenges due to the hard work and endurance of my instructors. Without my instructors, the challenges I face would be astronomical.

What are your plans for after graduation, and are you optimistic about the job market? 

I plan on purchasing a few pieces of land and breaking ground for new homes. I want to buy a few already built homes and refurbish them, then flip them. I want to build my company from the ground up and provide opportunities for so many people. I am being optimistic, though life has prepared me for anything. So I know with my heart, mind, body and soul that whatever the job market looks like, God will guide my way.

Why should more women consider pursuing the construction industry? 

More women should pursue this industry because we as women are natural perfectionists, organizers, and are determined to finish what we start.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that there will be a need for more than 517,000 construction managers by 2029 due to new construction, infrastructure for upgrades and replacements, and retrofitting structures to make them more efficient. In Texas, construction managers made an annual mean wage of more than $97,000 as of May 2019, according to the agency.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology and a Building Construction – Craftsman certificate at the Harlingen and Waco campuses.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 

TSTC Building Construction Technology adapts to teaching during pandemic

(WACO, Texas) – Wearing a mask and hard hat, Chelsea Wallace hoisted a long piece of wood on her shoulder to carry so her classmates could start a project framing a floor in a Building Construction Technology class at Texas State Technical College.

She is grateful to be making good use of her hands during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s hard, and it’s challenging,” said Wallace, of Euless. “Everyone is hands-on with building construction.”

Since spring 2020, TSTC’s programs have been taught either exclusively online or in a hybrid format that combines online lectures with on-campus labs. Building Construction Technology is using virtual lectures and labs in two-hour blocks to give students the knowledge they need — safely.

TSTC students, faculty and staff continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in wearing masks, not gathering in groups, and sanitizing hands and work areas. All of this is being done to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“Nobody would deny we have a challenge,” said Tony Chaffin, statewide lead instructor in TSTC’s Building Construction Technology program.

Program staff sanitize tools, work tables and classrooms up to nine times a day. The program recently bought three fogging guns to spray disinfectant mist, making it easier to clean tools.

In late December and early January, program staff created wooden training stations divided by plexiglass. Students use them in classes early on in the Building Construction Technology program, enabling them to work on projects with more personal space.

The number of students in classes has been reduced to create more working space for projects. In labs, students work in small groups. They work together for less than 15 minutes, wash their hands, then start again. 

Chaffin said students continue to be required to wear safety glasses, work boots, heavy pants or jeans, and masks.

“It’s getting them used to what will be required on a job site,” he said.

Wallace has a degree in hospitality management and was laid off in 2020. Building construction comes naturally to her. Her father owns a residential construction company in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and her mother is in interior design. She also has a brother and a friend from high school who have graduated from TSTC’s Building Construction Technology program.

Wallace’s goal is to take over her father’s business someday.

“It’s a total 360, but it is for the better,” she said.

Corey Hartis, of Montgomery, feels good about his job prospects during the pandemic. He is scheduled to graduate this semester and is looking for internship and job opportunities in the Houston area.

“I think the construction market has not been affected that much,” Hartis said. “I found a lot of good entry-level jobs I am definitely going to apply to.”

Hartis was exposed to construction by watching his father do projects and also building deer stands in the family’s backyard. After graduating from Montgomery High School, Hartis attended a four-year university to study agribusiness but left because he felt it was not the right fit for him.

“I like how TSTC’s program is set up from start to finish, from swinging a hammer and reading blueprints to framing walls and the management classes,” Hartis said.

K. Paul Holt, president and chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America’s Central Texas Chapter in Waco, said during times when the nation’s economy takes a downturn, workers typically take advantage to go back to college and learn new work skills.

“We have an entire generation of older workers that are retiring, while at the same time we need even more employees than if they were all staying,” Holt said. “Trades workers of all sorts, such as electricians, HVAC, plumbers, are in short supply. We need to feed these pipelines with younger people who can learn their chosen craft and make very good livings.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

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 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