Educate Texas gives $750K for STEM degree accelerator

College to lead regional consortium focused on preparing students for petrochemical sector

BAYTOWN – Lee College has been awarded a $750,000 grant from Educate Texas to lead a regional consortium that aims to increase the number of underrepresented students earning science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) credentials and entering the petrochemical workforce.

Posed shot with donation check
Parties involved in the Gulf Coast consortium of the Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator initiative gathered in Houston on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, to announce the grant award from Educate Texas. Pictured (left to right): Woody Paul, ExxonMobil; Debi Jordan, Lee College; Christy Ponce, Lee College; Peter Beard, Greater Houston Partnership; Allatia Harris, San Jacinto College; Dennis Brown, President, Lee College; Craig Beskid, East Harris County Manufacturers Association; Carolyn Watson, Global Philanthropy / JPMorgan Chase; Richard McKeon, Helmsley Charitable Trust; Angela Oriano, Lee College; Ann Pham, Houston-Galveston Area Council; Melissa Duarte, Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District; and Mike Krall, Lone Star College.

Lee College is one of only five institutions of higher education in Texas selected to receive grant funds for the Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator initiative. Each recipient convened a regional consortium that includes two-year colleges, four-year colleges, K-12 partners and workforce partners.

Consortium members have examined regional workforce data, identified the STEM pathways in which they plan to work and begun engaging faculty and workforce partners to achieve two goals: redesigning gateway courses in STEM majors to ensure alignment with workforce needs in the petrochemical industry, and providing professional development for faculty to improve teaching and learning in STEM fields.

“Lee College is privileged to serve as the Gulf Coast lead for the Texas STEM Accelerator Grant,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown, noting the importance of coordinated efforts to close the middle-skills gap in the region. “We have to strengthen the education to workforce pipeline through collaboration, but more importantly, through innovation. By bringing all partners — secondary and post-secondary educators, business and industry, workforce boards and others — we are more likely to build strong models that are replicable, scalable and sustainable.”

The STEM Accelerator project is developed in accordance with priorities for education and workforce outlined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Workforce Commission. The grant is funded through the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Greater Texas Foundation, Council for Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development (CREEED,) JPMorgan Chase and the W.W. Caruth, Jr., Foundation. It is the first time the Helmsley Trust has ever funded a project outside New York State.

“The Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator motivates our education and workforce partners to collaborate at a regional level to develop and refine STEM pathways,” said John Fitzpatrick, executive director of Educate Texas. “These pathways will result in an increased number of students across the state earning STEM degrees that meet regionally-identified workforce needs. We are proud to be working with a strong public-private coalition of national and state foundations, corporations, local business groups and the state of Texas on this pioneering initiative.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit