Category Archives: Waco

TSTC Graduate Grows Into Career

(WACO, Texas) – The last three years will be a period that Holly Herbelin will not forget.

Herbelin dealt with family health issues and worked through the COVID-19 pandemic to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Management Technology from Texas State Technical College. She completed the online program in August.

“You really have to be motivated to get your studies done if you are completely online and working,” Herbelin said.

Herbelin works at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center –  Hillcrest in Waco. She worked for18 years in the radiology department as a patient service specialist before taking a new job within the hospital in May as a supervisor of clinic operations – imaging services.

“That is the job I ultimately wanted to have,” she said.

She took her laptop to work, and whenever she could get a few spare minutes, even if it would be in the middle of a 12-hour shift before the sun rose, she would do homework.

“I would steal every single minute, every hour, during the day, night and weekends, to get everything done,” Herbelin said. “I tried to stay on top of it.”

She said that toward the end of her studies she could feel burnout coming on. She did not take a semester off during her studies.

“Holly demonstrated above-average scholastic capabilities and leadership skills while enrolled in my cooperative education course,” said Connie Moncus, an instructor in TSTC’s Business Management Technology program. “As a student, she expressed motivation through her thorough presentations, her challenging input and her insightful expositions.”

Steven Szymoniak, an instructor in TSTC’s Business Management Technology program, admired Herbelin’s work ethic throughout her time at TSTC.

“She is a very tenacious and focused student on her commitment and dedication toward success,” Szymoniak said.

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TSTC Culinary Instructor Receives National Recognition

(WACO, Texas) – A Culinary Arts instructor at Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus has received the highest recognition given by the American Culinary Federation.

Michele Brown has received the organization’s 2020 Presidential Medallion Award. 

“This is presented in recognition of outstanding representation of the ACF’s fundamental principles,” Brown said.

She said the award shows TSTC students that they can make a long and gratifying career for themselves in culinary arts.

“It sets the tone for the program,” Brown said. “We are a group of professionals teaching professionals. I take my role here extremely seriously, as I do with almost every aspect of my professional life.”

Len Pawelek, statewide chair of TSTC’s Culinary Arts department, is proud of her achievement.

“This rare award is a recognition and celebration of her dedication to serving the ACF, the culinary industry and higher education,” he said. “Our TSTC students and staff are inspired by Chef Brown’s continued excellence in all she does.”

This newest recognition is just one more step in Brown’s career.

Brown has participated three times in the IKA/Culinary Olympics. She also provided support for Epicurean World Master Chefs Society members Patrick Mitchell and Morris Salerno on the gold medal-winning regional Texas team at the 2014 Expogast Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg.

She earned the Certified Baker designation from the American Institute of Baking in 2010 and the Certified Executive Pastry Chef credential from the American Culinary Federation in 2017.

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TSTC Graduate Profile: Marisela Ferrer

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Succeeding in a predominantly male field is nothing new for Marisela Ferrer. After taking welding courses in high school, the Beasley native wanted to further her skills in another surprising industry, and she chose to attend Texas State Technical College to receive a certificate in Diesel Equipment Technology. The 20-year-old is ready to get to work and has proven that she is not afraid to get her hands dirty.

Why did you decide to pursue Diesel Equipment Technology?

I took welding courses in high school. Welding is a male-dominated field, and it showed me the perspective of entering a male workplace. While I enjoyed the work, I enjoyed proving people wrong more. I then decided to prove a point by getting my degree.

Do you have any favorite TSTC memories?

My favorite memory is when I was a part-time worker. We had on-campus events, and the other programs got to interact with one another. We had a water dunk tank and snow cones. The staff and I participated in the dunk tank.

How has TSTC helped prepare you for your career?

They helped me by showing me what day-to-day scenarios would be like in a real-life situation. I was given a lot of insight on jobs and what to be aware of.

Did you face any challenges on your journey to graduation?

The most challenging thing that happened on the road to graduation was becoming a mother and having to balance new parenthood while having schoolwork.

What has been your greatest sense of accomplishment to date?

Despite all the hardships and setbacks of working full time and being a parent, I managed to get my certificate before age 21.

What words of advice would you give to others who are about to start their journey at TSTC?

Take the experience seriously, and attendance is key. While the campus is fun and offers a lot to do, don’t get too distracted.

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TSTC Welding Technology Student Acquires New Skills

(WACO, Texas) – Emily Sanford did not pick up a welding torch until she was a student at Madisonville High School in East Texas. During that time, she did a lot of gas metal arc welding.

“I was raised around 4-H and FFA, but it was not welding at all,” she said. “None of my family are welders. I got introduced to it my freshman year of high school.”

Sanford said that she was not sure what she wanted to do after high school. But, she said her agriculture teachers played a role in convincing her to visit Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus and apply for the Welding Technology program.

“I have not regretted my decision at all,” she said.

One of the instructors she met on her campus tour was Carl Wilmeth, a lead instructor in TSTC’s Welding Technology program.

“Emily projects self-confidence, authority and enthusiasm in all things that she has done here at TSTC,” he said. “I would be thrilled to have more students like her in the welding program. Emily shows strong self-management in all her welding objectives.”

Sanford chose TSTC because of its affordability and Welding Technology program classes in automation and metallurgy. She also liked the college’s Money-Back Guarantee program, which enables students who sign up with Career Services during their first semester in five selected programs to participate in workshops. If the students do not have a job in their field within six months of graduation, they receive back their out-of-pocket tuition.

Sanford also wanted to learn tungsten inert gas welding while at TSTC.

“It is a cleaner process.  It might cost more in materials,  but you can make more money with it,” she said.

Sanford is scheduled to complete classes this fall for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology. In the spring, she plans to study for an advanced structural and pipe welding certification.

After graduating from TSTC and entering the workplace, Sanford said she wants to become a certified welding inspector, become an instructor or own her own business.

“Her training, coupled with her interest in learning, the attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile to get the job done, are all qualities that the welding industry employers are looking for,” said Richard Larson, an instructor in TSTC’s Welding Technology program. “She will be a great success in whatever career path she chooses in the welding industry.”

Texas had more than 50,000 brazers, cutters, solderers and welders making an annual mean wage of $46,940 in May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Such jobs are projected to increase to about 452,500 by 2029, according to the agency.

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TSTC Alumnus Inspired by Electricity

(WACO, Texas) – Brad Bodine’s exposure to electrical work happened early on since his grandfather was an electrician and owned his business. 

Today, Bodine is director of field services at Saber Power Services in Rosharon in Brazoria County. The Texas State Technical College graduate primarily works in the company’s testing group.

“In the testing world, we are at the customer’s mercy when they can turn power off,” he said. “They cannot do it during normal production hours. It is not a super-easy job, it is not in the air conditioning,  and you have to be ready and willing to work.”

The company specializes in electrical services for industrial and commercial businesses, including data centers and refineries. He said the company is involved with efforts to help Southern Louisiana recover from Hurricane Laura.

“In a lot of the places that are really hard-hit, our construction team is doing a lot on the pole work, distribution lines and transmission lines,” Bodine said. “But on the testing side, when the switch gear floods and it is damaged from water, we clean it up and test it and recondition it.”

The company has an aggressive five-year growth plan to expand operations.

“I am helping to oversee and grow new offices,” Bodine said. “It is everything from helping sales to overseeing the financials and making sure we are going in the right direction with all our offices.”

Bodine said the electrical field is great to pursue because of the job security. 

“Electricity is not going anywhere,” he said. “It is a necessity that is the last thing most people give up.”

Paul Beaver, Saber’s director of project development and training and a TSTC alumnus, said the company has a challenge in filling senior- and upper-level technician positions when they become open. He attributes this to a shortage of people going into the electrical field.

“Everybody has it in their heads that they can just get a two-year degree and they will not make money,” Beaver said. “They are horribly mistaken with that.”

The company has hired several TSTC graduates from the Waco campus, including recently for its San Antonio office, said Dan Bateman, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Generation, Transmission and Distribution department.  

Bodine said he sees the company working more in the future with TSTC’s Fort Bend County campus because it also offers the Electrical Power and Controls program and is close to its headquarters.

Jonathan Bonkoske, lead instructor of TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls program in Fort Bend County, said geography is a benefit to students.

“I have been noticing students are wanting more to stay close to home and not go and move out and do a lot of travel,” he said. “They want to stay close to home base.”

Bodine said he knew when he was a student at Teague High School that attending a four-year university was not for him. After attending another two-year college, Bodine enrolled at TSTC’s Waco campus. He received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Power and Controls in 1998.

During Bodine’s time at TSTC, he did cooperative work on weekends and holidays at Shermco Industries in Irving.

“It gave me 100 percent an idea of what I am getting into,” he said.

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TSTC Alumnus Pursues Video Game Industry

(WACO, Texas) – Joshua Dickens grew up in Clifton and studied music at a two-year community college.

“I still enjoy music,” he said. “But for me, now it’s something I enjoy doing with friends, with my family, that type of thing. It is not something I am trying to make money on in a career.”

After graduating and working a few years, Dickens wanted to do something different. He enrolled at Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus and graduated in 2018 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Programming Technology.

“TSTC gave me the perfect background as far as computer programming went,” Dickens said.

Dickens began work at Sickhead Games in Dallas as an intern programmer in fall 2018. In early 2019, he was promoted to a game programmer position.

Susie Watkins, a TSTC Computer Programming Technology instructor, said the degree is the first step in becoming a video game programmer.

“It introduces them (the students) to the industry-standard languages for game programming,” she said.

Dickens’ work involves taking video game components that work on a computer and transitioning them to game console and smartphone platforms.  He has been involved in less than 10 projects so far, even as he works remotely now at his home in McGregor during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dickens said people interested in the video game industry should have an interest in mathematics and physics, a willingness to learn, and good communication skills.  He said potential employers do not want to see class projects, but rather what students have created on their own.

“They are looking for people to push the industry,” Dickens said.

Dickens began researching employers and jobs during his last two semesters at TSTC. He also attended video gaming conferences in Austin and Dallas to meet people in the industry.

“That kind of gave me a better understanding of what I was jumping into to get a better mindset,” he said.

He found Sickhead Games through LinkedIn.

“When I got hired with them, they were a team of four people,” Dickens said. “I basically made the case that I am very new, it is my first gaming job, but I have a portfolio of things I have done already.”

Texas has more than 260 video game companies, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Video game industry workers earn an average of $111,559 annually, according to the association.

“Gaming is a multimillion-dollar industry, and the skills learned are very transferable  and in high demand,” Watkins said. “Interactive 3D engineers and the programmers designing them open up the use of virtual reality, augmented reality and real-time 3D visualization to areas outside of gaming, which include consumer applications, business training and industrial manufacturing.”

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TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology Program in Williamson County Ready to Fill Area Jobs

(HUTTO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Precision Machining Technology program has started using a supplemental curriculum from the National Tool &Machining Association this fall to teach students.

Darren Block, TSTC’s statewide program lead, said students will get a more thorough education in machining, combined with the professional knowledge that faculty members bring to labs and lectures.

The program is using a hybrid teaching format for classes, with some being online and others involving in-person lab work.

Block is feeling good about machining jobs in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If it is man-made, we had our hands on it,” he said.

Waggoner Manufacturing Inc. in Round Rock manufactures and services aluminum, machined plastic, and stainless steel components and parts for the worldwide semiconductor automation and communication industries. 

Michael Wohlford, the company’s plant manager, said high school students, and those who want a career change, should have a personal appreciation for machining.

“They can watch YouTube videos and see firsthand how the CNC (computer numerical controlled) machines work, and they can have stars in their eyes and say it’s really cool and they would want to learn how to get into that,” Wohlford said.

He said the company likes to have job applicants who already have experience working with CNC machines in machine shops. New hires are trained in the company’s way of doing work.

Mark Thomas, president and chief executive officer of the Taylor Economic Development Corp., has reason to be optimistic about the future.

“We have had many projects, from small companies all the way to larger ones, that would love to have some level of comfort that they can hire machinists if they moved to our area,” he said.

Thomas said there is promise for the 750-acre RCR Taylor Logistics Park west of the city. The industrial park offers Union Pacific and BNSF rail service and has Foreign Trade Zone, Opportunity Zone and Triple Freeport designations.

“Our expectation is there will be advanced manufacturing and potential suppliers that we have already been talking to coming into that rail park,” Thomas said. “If we can say there is a training capacity for graduates or there are workers out there that need good jobs, any of these we can put to a good advantage to create jobs in the Taylor area.”

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TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology Program Ready to Fill Area Jobs

(RED OAK, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Precision Machining Technology program at the North Texas campus this fall has started using a supplemental curriculum from the National Tool & Machining Association to teach students.

Darren Block, TSTC’s statewide lead program instructor, said the curriculum will give students a more thorough education in machining. That, combined with the professional knowledge of faculty members, will help program graduates be more competitive for area jobs. 

In the 16-county area that Workforce Solutions North Central Texas covers, there are more than 8,200 machinists making an hourly wage of between $13 and $25 an hour.

Information from Workforce Solutions indicates that companies posted more than 1,900 listings since Jan. 1, 2020, for jobs in machining-related fields. Some of the employers with the highest number of job postings include Amazon, Cushman & Wakefield, Sabre Industries Inc. and RPO International.

Area economic development and industrial leaders said TSTC is essential for economic growth.

“We are very supportive of what TSTC is doing and the future employees they are teaching and turning out,” said Warren Ketteman, senior director of economic development for the city of Waxahachie.

Ketteman has been making business retention visits to some of the city’s companies and has walked away encouraged about the future.

“Almost every one of the manufacturing companies are hiring,” he said. “When COVID-19 first hit, some had furloughs. But all those people are back, and they are hiring more people. Business is good.”

Grady Easdon, economic development manager for the city of Cleburne, said several existing companies are hiring, and potential ones are eyeing the city because of affordable land costs and a lower cost of living.

Easdon credits Cleburne High School’s career and technical education program for providing opportunities for students.

“They have really developed strong partnerships with our local manufacturing companies and various industries around the area to develop intern programs and offer tours,” Easdon said. “It is just whatever they need to get students interested in pursuing the careers there.”

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TSTC Graduate Profile: Stanley Harris

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Stanley Harris recently received his Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology from Texas State Technical College. The job security that comes from a career in welding is what motivated him to pursue welding technology, and he is thankful for the education he received while at TSTC.

What was your experience like at TSTC?

My experience at TSTC was great. The instructors really showed a lot of care when it came to the education of all us welders in the class, and they pushed us beyond our limits when it came to the skill of welding.

Do you have any favorite TSTC memories?

My favorite TSTC memory has to be all the hard work I put into welding every day, and learning via Moodle, allowing me to become a better welder. That made me very proud.

How has TSTC helped prepare you for your career?

TSTC equipped me with all the tools and knowledge I need to know in the field, so I know I will succeed.

 What words of advice would you give to others who are about to start their journey at TSTC?

Every day, put your focus toward mastering your craft. It is your future.

To learn more about TSTC, visit

TSTC Graduate Honored With Campus Award

(WACO, Texas)  – When Nancy Talley graduated from Texas State Technical College in August, she learned she was the recipient of a special award: the Mike Torres Jr. Leadership Award. 

Talley, of Waco, worked in technology sales for several years and took a couple of courses along the way at a four-year university. She then decided to pursue work that was more hands-on, so she went into bartending.

“It got monotonous,” Talley said. “I needed something that challenged my mind and helped me think. I wanted to get more settled, more into a routine.”

Talley began classes at TSTC’s Waco campus in fall 2018. She graduated in August with associate degrees in Environmental Technology – Compliance and Occupational Safety Compliance Technology.

“It is important that we protect people and our environment so others can have jobs and they can go to work and come home safely to be with their families,” she said. “We can provide a better place on Earth for everyone to live.”

Talley said some of the work she enjoyed in her programs took place in her Site Assessment and Safety Training Presentation Techniques courses. She also did an internship at ARC Abatement Inc. in Waco, where she learned about asbestos and lead abatement. One of the projects Talley worked on was creating a condensed version of the company’s safety guidelines for workers to use in the field.

Talley was nominated for the Torres award by Lester Bowers, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Environmental Technology department.

“Nancy is a well-disciplined, industrious student with a pleasant personality,” Bowers said in his award nomination letter. “Not only was she interested in and motivated to learn the material, but she also put great work into assimilating it into her own experience and developing her own ideas about each environmental topic that we discussed.”

The Mike Torres Jr. Leadership Award is given to honor the memory of Waco native Mike Torres Jr., who taught in TSTC’s Digital Media and Design program until his death in 2005. Torres graduated from Reicher High School and TSTC’s Commercial Art Advertising and Integrated Digital Image program, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald. 

The award signifies qualities that Torres was known for: courage, honesty and integrity. The award is given each semester at commencement to a candidate for graduation who is nominated by faculty or staff members. The award was first given in fall 2011, according to TSTC archival information.

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