Category Archives: Waco

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.”

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Granger student builds on new welding skills at TSTC

(HUTTO, Texas) – Among the drywalling and framing tasks she was doing with her father for a barn project last spring at the family home in Granger, Mikayla Larremore picked up an affinity for welding she did not know she had.

“I got into it because everything I had done in my life before, I was good at,” she said.

The discovery changed her mind about what she wanted to do in her career. Larremore went from studying psychology at a university to enrolling last fall at Texas State Technical College’s East Williamson County campus in the Welding Technology program. She said she enjoys welding because it means job security.

Larremore, now in her second semester at TSTC, did not see the program’s work area until her first day of classes. She is taking three classes at night this semester and said she enjoys using what she learns and applying it.

“I like being around people who like the same kinds of things I like,” she said.

Charli Wright, an instructor in TSTC’s Welding Technology program, said Larremore is exceptional at what she does.

“She is motivated, organized and is not afraid to get behind the hood and put in the practice to become a good welder,” Wright said. “Mikayla is very inquisitive and is able to take constructive criticism and turn it into success.”

Larremore said she has adjusted well to the hybrid teaching that program instructors are doing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lectures and reading are done online, and hands-on work is done in labs.

“It has not been a big deal for me,” she said. “I thought a lot about that. I have always grown up in the middle of nowhere. I’m used to doing things remotely anyway and not being around a lot of people.”

Larremore is around horses a lot. She said she learned how to ride horses before she could walk.

“I barrel-raced the entire time I was in school until I started playing sports in seventh grade,” she said. “I took a break and started back roping. I do calf roping and started team roping. There is an arena in Georgetown where I go to rope once a week.”

Larremore took dual enrollment classes while at Granger High School and was quickly able to earn an associate degree in psychology. She continued her education at a university and completed a semester before taking time off and deciding to enroll at TSTC.

Larremore’s career plan is to start her own business, possibly focusing on farm and ranch welding, in Central Texas. Her advice to women interested in welding is not to feel discouraged and just to be themselves.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that more than 452,000 brazers, cutters, solderers and welders will be needed by 2029.

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TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology program adapts to teaching during pandemic

(WACO, Texas) – Erik Trujillo worked with two other students on a recent morning assembling an engine in Texas State Technical College’s Diesel Engine Testing and Repair II class.

Trujillo, of Elgin, is in his second semester working on a certificate in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at the Waco campus. He is optimistic about the future as he dons a campus-required mask during the class lab.

“I enjoy learning and being here, but I also want to get started working,” he said.

Trujillo, like all of TSTC’s students, has adjusted to learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. 

For Trujillo, he said he has adapted well.

“I enjoy getting the experience of learning every day,” he said.

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.

The Diesel Equipment Technology program is emphasizing the disinfectant spraying of tables before and after classes and requiring everyone to wear Level 1 masks. Faculty members also use timers to ensure that students who work in groups only spend 15 minutes at a time together, then take a break to wash and sanitize their hands before returning to work.

David Folz, the program’s lead instructor, said there is a lot of material to cover in labs while students are on campus. He said even one missed day can put students behind and make it tougher to catch up.

Brad Brownlee, of San Antonio, is in his fourth semester in TSTC’s Diesel Equipment Technology program in Waco. He works at a tractor-trailer-washing business, where he gets to look up close at engines. He said he likes in-person lectures better because questions can be asked quicker and there is more interaction. He said instructors try to include as much information as possible during in-person labs.

“The labs here are pretty amazing,” he said. “The instructors are amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.”

The Diesel Equipment Technology program has more than 180 students this semester, Folz said. He said with smaller classes, more sections are created to accommodate everyone. The program accepts students each fall, spring and summer.

“That’s a good thing in a way,” he said. “We are limiting students to 15 per class.”

Folz said the pandemic has not diminished employers’ interest in the program’s students.

“There is still a lot of work out there,” he said. “People are wanting to get in to do interviews with our students.”

Due to campus visitor restrictions, emails are sent to program instructors to let students know where jobs are available.

Jacob Welker, of Gatesville, was recently offered a part-time paid internship at United Ag & Turf in Temple. He said the internship will work well for him because of his class schedule.

Welker is scheduled to graduate this semester from TSTC’s Diesel Equipment Technology program and is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology – Off-Highway Specialization. He is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Welker said he was glad to take classes focusing on brake systems and how tractor-trailers function.  

“I am glad I got the extra classes I needed,” he said.

The demand for diesel service technicians and mechanics is projected to rise to more than 290,000 nationally by 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Texas, workers made an annual mean wage of more than $49,000 in 2019, according to the agency.

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TSTC Aircraft Pilot Training Technology program maintains health, safety during pandemic

(WACO, Texas) – Dylan Durst said he was glad to be back in the cockpit as he took off for his first flight late last spring at Texas State Technical College’s airport in Waco after a two-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was about picking up where you left off,” he said.

Durst, who grew up in Mason and graduated from high school in Katy, is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Aircraft Pilot Training Technology at TSTC. He is scheduled to graduate this spring.

Durst and other students returned to classes and flew briefly after spring break in March of 2020. When TSTC converted classes to online and temporarily ceased face-to-face learning later that month, flight students were grounded until late May. The program then implemented a hybrid learning approach.

“We have been very fortunate that we have been able to continue operations in a manner that has proven safe,” said Greg Russell, chief instructor in TSTC’s Aircraft Pilot Training Technology program. “It may sound cliche, but our success as a department has come from the aviators’ ability to constantly evaluate and mitigate risks while adjusting to an ever-changing environment.”

The program’s 12 certified flight instructors returned to campus in early May to do training on sanitizing techniques and personal protection equipment. Students returned in mid-May for a week of their own health and safety training. The instructors and students also studied material data safety sheets to know all of the chemicals to be used for sanitizing aircraft before and after flights.

Everyone must abide by health and safety guidelines from TSTC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding hand washing, masks and social distancing when possible.

“It’s been extraordinary for sure,” said Ryan Lee, a flight instructor at TSTC. “The students have done well adapting to the protocols and procedures.”

Before students climbed back into the cockpit, they spent time using flight simulators to acclimate themselves to flying after their break. Durst said he was glad to have that opportunity to focus his mind again on flying.

Russell stressed the importance of students’ experience with actual planes.

“Our program requires that students be hands-on in the aircraft to practice procedures, checklists and aircraft control,” he said. “Students and our department would not have survived to this point without the ability to use in-person training.”

Lee said that due to the airplane sanitizing the students must undertake, flight blocks have been extended from two hours to two and a half hours. Students are required to fly at least three times a week. Lee said the increased flight time is good for students because they get to spend more time flying with instructors.

“We lost a lot of ground with our students,” Lee said. “We had a huge gap to make up with the students to make them proficient.”

There are positive aspects that Durst and Lee are taking away from the pandemic’s changes to teaching at TSTC.

Lee predicts better sanitizing operations for airplanes in the future.

“People expect to travel,” he said. “I think we are still in the golden age of transportation. I think we will bounce back really quickly.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a need for 45,000 commercial pilots by 2029. The number of airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers is projected to grow to more than 87,000.

“Right now would be the best time to start their aviation training,” Lee said. “The new students really need to know that a lot of the airlines offered early retirement to pilots. There will be a new shortage of pilots along with the preexisting shortage.”

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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 Auto Collision and Management Technology program selected for national apprenticeship program

(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College has been selected as one of four colleges nationally to take part in a program aimed at producing more workers for the automotive collision repair industry.

Enterprise Holdings, with funding from its philanthropic arm the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, and Missouri-based Ranken Technical College have launched the Automotive Collision Engineering Pilot Program. The program includes that college, TSTC, and institutions in California and Illinois.

The pilot program’s purpose is to have students get real-world experience as they learn in classes to go into the collision repair industry. Jobs for auto body and glass repairers is projected to be at 184,000 by 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Texas, workers are reported to make an annual mean wage of $36,960.

“We’re proud to be spearheading the Automotive Collision Engineering Pilot Program through this innovative pilot,” said Mary Mahoney, vice president of Enterprise Holdings’ Insurance Replacement Division. “As the world’s largest car rental provider and an industry leader in mobility and technology, we have a huge stake in the health of the automotive repair industry and are committed to doing our part to invest in its success.”

The pilot program is using a model that Ranken Technical College has developed to provide apprenticeships to collision repair students. TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program will follow this format.

Students starting this fall in TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program are eligible to join the apprenticeship program. Students that meet program requirements throughout their time at TSTC will earn the Associate of Applied Science degree in Auto Collision and Management Technology – Repair Specialization Co-op. Some of the topics that students will learn include automotive plastic and sheet molded compound repair, collision repair welding, estimating, structural analysis and vehicle hardware.

“This program is for someone who really wants to do this,” said Jannifer Stimmel, an instructor in TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program. “We are aiming for a very special kind of student. We want someone who is motivated and driven.”

Students accepted into the program will take seven weeks of classes and work at approved repair shops for seven weeks each semester. Stimmel and the students will select the best place to work, but she will visit to make sure the repair shop has the right equipment and a technician who can mentor. 

She said it will help if shops are part of the Ford Certified Collision Network. Shop staff need to keep journals each week for Stimmel to review students’ progress. A portion of each student’s pay is subsidized by the pilot program.

“The goal is to have them work wherever they are planning on living when they graduate,” Stimmel said. “The ultimate goal is for them to be in a certified shop that can offer them an opportunity.”

The collision repair field is evolving for technicians who are becoming collision engineers.

“We are handed the instructions when a vehicle has been wrecked, and it is our job to put it back the way the manufacturer had it,” Stimmel said. “We are using procedures to re-engineer the vehicle and building it just like the factory does.”

Potential students interested in the pilot program can go to

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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.

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Spring semester classes begin at TSTC in Waco

(WACO, Texas) – Sunday’s snow and ice caused face-to-face classes to be canceled on Monday at Texas State Technical College, though online classes went on as scheduled. This caused some students to have their first day of classes for the spring semester on Tuesday.

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.

“Please keep not only yourself, but your family and all that you come into contact with on your campus, safe and healthy,” said Patti Tate, interim provost of TSTC’s Waco campus.

Jack Brown, of Angleton, worked on Sunday during the snowstorm and joined a snowball fight with his co-workers. On Monday, he went back to work and enjoyed the last of the melting snow but could not attend his Diesel Equipment Technology classes because of the weather closure.

But on Wednesday, Brown attended the first day of his Advanced Hydraulics class.

“It’s getting back on a schedule,” Brown said. “It’s getting back into a routine.”

The fourth-semester student said the keys to adapting to TSTC’s hybrid programs are to pay attention, go to class and prepare for a good deal of reading. Brown said he appreciates the hands-on labs more because he can work on equipment he does not see outside of class.

“It’s a nice combination of how this college works,” he said.

Students, faculty and staff members will continue to see physical changes across campus during the semester as the $29.6 million abatement, demolition and construction project continues.

“There is much excitement with buildings coming down and others going up. And yes, we are having to find alternate routes to get to labs and work, but it will be well worth it when completed,” said Jerome Mendias, TSTC’s associate provost in Waco.

The abatement and demolition of campus houses that date back to the days of Connally Air Force Base will continue during the spring, according to information provided by Karen Waller, TSTC’s vice president for facilities, planning and construction. The first phase of abatement will be completed this month, with demolition already underway on the south side of campus. The second phase is scheduled to begin Jan. 25. 

The abatement process for Lavaca Hall, located behind the Kultgen Automotive Center, has already been completed, with demolition planned for January and February. Abatement and demolition for Patterson Hall and other structures is planned for March to July.

Griffith Hall, a student residential facility now under construction next to the Student Services Center, is scheduled to open in August.

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Longtime TSTC Creative Services employee to retire

(WACO, Texas) – Glenn Zgabay has seen a lot in his more than 40 years of working at Texas State Technical College.

“It’s rare nowadays to see someone’s career span over 40 years with the same employer,” said Nick Alvarado, TSTC’s vice president of Communication and Creative Services. “Glenn has been a strong foundation to our team with his technical experience and historical knowledge. We are truly grateful for his dedication to TSTC.”

From the evolution of technology, to a college name change in the 1990s, to buildings torn down and new ones erected, Zgabay is a walking history of the college. But at the end of January, he will retire from his position as a publication specialist in TSTC’s Creative Services department.

“I worked with so many wonderful people during my tenure here at TSTC, that it would probably be impossible to list them all and unfair to try,” Zgabay said.

Jan Osburn, a former executive director of Creative Services at TSTC, worked with Zgabay for about 30 years. She remembers his working with a paste-up board for designs and trips back and forth to the print shop to work with staff to produce camera-ready pieces.

Eventually design work became digitized, and Zgabay had to keep up. Osburn said he was great with Adobe Photoshop but also worked with Adobe PageMaker and QuarkXPress. He also contributed his skills to helping produce TSTC’s former student newspaper, the Tech Times.

“Other than being talented and skillful, Glenn is a kind person, but he has a dry sense of humor,” Osburn said.

Caitlin Hooks, interim assistant director of Creative Services at TSTC, had an office next door to Zgabay’s at the Provence Graphic Communications Center on the Waco campus.

“Although I have only worked alongside him for the last five years, I can say that Glenn has always come to my office with a smile and ready to work,” Hooks said. “He is always willing to take on difficult projects and never complains. I have never seen Glenn stressed out or upset. He is generally an easygoing and happy person to work and be around.”

Zgabay was born in Waco.

“My father worked at James Connally Air Force Base and had been an aircraft pilot. So naturally when I was very young, I wanted to be a pilot,” he said.

Zgabay graduated in 1976 from the Commercial Art and Advertising program at what was then Texas State Technical Institute (TSTI) and eventually became TSTC.

“I’ve always liked to draw and have been interested in art,” he said. “I was attracted to artwork relating to fantasy, science fiction, surrealism — the type of artwork seen on many album covers, movie posters and book covers.”

During his time at TSTI, he was a work-study student in the campus Public Information and News Office and did a paid summer internship at Southwest Advertising, an agency that was in downtown Waco’s ALICO Building. After graduation, he worked at the agency for about a year before being hired at TSTC as a graphic artist in February 1977.

“My career in this field spans over 44 years,” he said. “One of the biggest changes in commercial art production has been the introduction of personal computers, and what we referred to at the time as desktop publishing. The advent of this liberating change revolutionized the profession.”

What has kept Zgabay at TSTC is its mission to educate Texans to get great-paying jobs. He said TSTC’s contribution to the 10 Texas cities that have campuses and to the state is essential.

“Being a graduate of the college, I have felt a personal bond and kinship with our students,” he said. “Working in Waco, and being close to my and my wife’s families, was also a major factor.”

Zgabay said it feels liberating to retire.

“I have enough plans to keep me busy for years, and they will definitely include artistic endeavors of various sorts.”

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