Lee earns honor for excellence in student success

Achieving the Dream logoAchieving the Dream Awards “Leader College of Distinction”

Achieving the Dream announced that Lee College has earned Leader College of Distinction status for achieving higher student outcomes and narrowing equity gaps.

“The metrics ATD established for Leader College of Distinction are meant to encourage colleges to sustain aggressive efforts that result in far greater student success and equity,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “The honor recognizes network colleges that have stayed focused on the change process and seen real improvements in student achievement across the institution.”

ATD created the Leader College of Distinction award in 2018.

Leader College of Distinction showed improvement on three student outcome metrics, including at least one lagging indicator such as completion. In addition, they showed narrower performance discrepancies in at least two metrics between disaggregated groups, such as gender, race/ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. The metrics are: (a) completion of gateway math and/or English in Year 1, (b) persistence from Year 1 to Year 2 (fall-to-fall retention), (c) courses attempted/completed with a C- or higher grade within one year of initial enrollment; (d) completion of a certificate or degree within four years of initial enrollment; and ( e ) transfer to a four-year institution and achievement of a baccalaureate degree within six years of initial enrollment.

Leader Colleges of Distinction will have their own identity as part of the ATD Network, including a new logo. Leader Colleges of Distinction also will receive priority to participate in ATD’s innovation initiatives. They will be asked to present and facilitate more sessions at ATD events and institutes and asked to serve as mentor colleges.

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 education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Debate Wins a Trio of Championships in Baton Rouge

Debate team with awards after Baton Rouge win.Despite taking a partial squad of seven Debaters and one Individual Events competitor, the Mendoza Debate Society at Lee College emerged victorious at the Louisiana State University “Mardi Gras Invitational” as they brought home a dozen awards and honors including the Overall Sweepstakes Community College Championship. Hosted by LSU in Baton Rouge on Feb. 1-3, Lee College Debaters also won Third Place in the Team Debate Sweepstakes against a banner field including Duke University, Texas Southern University, host Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, and Bossier Parish Community College.

Members of the Mendoza Debate Society brought home individual championships as well, including closing out the JV Debate division with the naming of Aria Giacona and Pamela Johnson being named Junior Varsity Debate Co-Champions. Vanessa Rangel took home the Team Debate Speaking Championship, as she and teammate Ty Young finished as Team Debate Finalists. Young also finished in Fifth Place in Team Debate Speaking.

Lee College Debaters brought home the lion’s share of speaking trophies, with Jaden Houseman being named Third Place in Junior Varsity Debate Speaking; Johnson also won Fourth Place in Junior Varsity Debate Speaking while Giacona finished in Fifth Place in Junior Varsity Debate Speaking. Rangel also finished as a Varsity Debate Quarterfinalist. They were joined in competition by teammates Adam Naiser, Dax Ramgoolam, and Hailegh Wingo.

Debate team with awards following La. Tech eventsPrior to the New Orleans event, the Mendoza Debate Society also won 14 awards and honors at the Southern Forensics Championships at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston Jan. 25-27.

Award for Lee team members included the Overall Sweepstakes Community College Championship. Lee College Debaters also finished as the Debate Sweepstakes Community College Champions against a field of over two dozen top community colleges and universities including University of North Texas, Louisiana State University, University of Central Arkansas, University of Southern Mississippi, Drury University (Missouri), Northeastern State University (Oklahoma), and Jefferson State Community College (Alabama).

Lee College Debaters also found success as individuals with the pair of Vanessa Rangel and Dax Ramgoolam earned their Quarterfinalists awards in Team IPDA Debate. Ramgoolam also finished as an Octofinalist in Varsity IPDA Debate. Pamela Johnson finished in Fifth Place in Extemporaneous Speaking, Top Novice in Extemporaneous Speaking, and as an Octofinalist in Junior Varsity IPDA Debate; she also picked up a Fourth Place award in Junior Varsity IPDA Debate Speaking. Hailegh Wingo brought home a DeSemifinalist award in Extemporaneous Speaking and a Quarterfinalist award in Junior Varsity IPDA Debate. Miguel Lopez finished as a Novice IPDA Debate Octofinalist while Maddie Orozco, in her first tournament ever, won 4th Place in Novice IPDA Debate Speaking and was named a Double Octofinalist award in Novice IPDA Debate. They were joined in competition by Lacey Gulley, Julio Martinez, and Adam Naiser.

Lee College Debaters will return to competition on Feb. 15-17 at the BPCC “Eddy Shell Invitational” in Bossier City. The Mendoza Debate Society is led by Director of Forensics Joe Ganakos and Assistant Debate Coach Christine Courteau. For more information about the Lee College Debate Team, please contact Director of Forensics Joe Ganakos at jganakos@lee.edu or 281.425.6502.

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 education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

ACCT names Lee College a 2018 regional Equity Award winner

The Association of Community College Trustees has named Lee College its 2018 Equity Award recipient for the group’s Western Region. The college will be judged against winning colleges from other regions for recognition at the national level in October.

One outstanding award recipient in each category will be announced during the Annual ACCT Awards Gala on Friday, Oct. 26, at the New York Marriott Marquis, in conjunction with the 49th Annual ACCT Leadership Congress.

AACC honors Lee College for diversity efforts

Lee College employees pose with diversity award.
Dr. Dennis Brown, Lee College President; Mark Himsel, Lee College Regent; Judy Jirrels, Lee College Board of Regents, Secretary; Jessica Falla, Lee College HSI STEM Grant Success Coach; Susan Moore-Fontenot, Lee College Regent; Victoria Marron, Lee College Executive Directory HSI Initiatives; Pete Alfaro, Lee College Board of Regents, Chair; Gina Guillory, Lee College Regent; Michael Pounds, Lee College HSI STEM Grant College Completion & Transfer Coach; Gilbert Santana, Lee College Regent.

When Lee College was recognized this week with the American Association of Community Colleges’ Award of Excellence in the category of Advancing Diversity, the honor reflected innovative work by people and departments across campus.

In announcing the award, Lee College President Dennis Brown said, “This recognition is a testament to the tremendous work being done by our faculty and staff in creating a culture that empowers our diverse student population to thrive, succeed and realize successful futures — whether they choose to continue their education or move on to rewarding careers.”

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s community colleges. The association represents nearly 1,200 two-year, associate’s degree-granting institutions and more than 12 million students. “Winning in a category or being identified as a finalist for a category is always a huge honor,” says Brown. “For any institution, it’s like the Academy Awards for community colleges.”

Joining Brown in receiving the award were Lee College’s Executive Director of Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives Victoria Marron, Executive Vice President Dr. Christina Ponce and Vice President of Workforce and Corporate Partnerships Dr. Angela Oriano.

Victoria Marron said the efforts to improve the college experience for historically under-served populations benefits all students.

“We’re really trying to plan for the future growth, not just of our community, but of the college and addressing our growing Hispanic population is important for us as a college,” she said.

“We’ve been very blessed in having several different grant awards, and by centralizing those awards it allows us to work collaboratively across Lee to help all students.”

A prime example, Marron said, is the STEM lab, which is open to all students. “When the grant was written, because it comes from the Hispanic Serving Institutions department in the Department of Education, they’re expecting certain measurements and certain other activities to target low-income and Hispanic students.”

In making the award, the AACC statement said, “Lee College has taken a strategic, proactive approach to addressing inequities hindering the persistence of its under-served students, especially the growing Latino population.

“With a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Hispanic Serving Institution division, coupled with other funding sources, the college established a centralized Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives Department.

“The HSI Initiatives Department allows the college to provide students with a centralized hub to take advantage of academic support,” the statement continued.

“The college has targeted communities with the lowest college-going rates by taking its Mobile Go Center, which includes a wide array of resources, directly to families. Lee College also has offered city-wide STEM recruiting activities.”

Marron said, “What set us apart is that we took a really proactive approach to planning for the future.”

One of the innovative programs Lee has implemented is Weekend College which enables people who are working full-time to attain an associates degree or technical certification in 24 months or less by attending class on Friday evenings and Saturdays.

Marron said, “One of the things we’ve learned over the last six years is really how to leverage different grant funds with high-impact best practices. That formula is really making a difference. As a result, for example, we were able to develop a plan and write a successful grant application for our First in The World Grant, which in turn helped us develop our Weekend College.”

Lee College’s Weekend College has achieved a three-year graduation rate of 70 percent, far exceeding the 20 percent three-year graduation rate for Texas community college students overall.

The First in the World grant requires research comparing student outcomes in the grant-funded program with similar students in traditional programs. Marron said the Weekend College students have shown higher GPAs and higher graduation rates in that research.

“Much of this success can be attributed to the pathways we created that laid their whole degree plan out for them. They knew what they were taking every single term. And they were assured that wouldn’t change. We coupled that with intensive support from a college completion coach.”

Marron said the Lee College designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution is through the U.S. Department of Education. Criteria include that at least 25 percent of full-time students are Hispanic and that the institution’s students are eligible to receive Pell grants.

The designation makes the college eligible for some additional funding sources and requires an effort to streamline and improve services.

“When you can target and provide assistance to your under-served populations, you are providing services to all students,” Marron said. “That’s the beauty of this kind of scalability of practice and resources.”

“Advancing diversity doesn’t mean that we’re saying we’re as diverse across campus as we need to be, rather we’re advancing to the point of where we’re going to be.

“We got an award and we’re incredibly grateful for it, but this is just the beginning.”

Lee College was also a finalist in the award for College and Corporate Partnership. Joining Brown in receiving that finalist award were Bob Cautadal, manager of the ExxonMobil Chemical Plant, and Connie Tilton of the ExxonMobil Public Affairs Office.

Lee College has been honored by AACC multiple times in recent years — in 2017 as an AACC Award of Excellence Finalist for Advancing Diversity, Faculty Innovation and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership. In 2016 as an AACC Award of Excellence Finalist for Faculty Innovation, Exemplary Board/CEO and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership, and in 2015 as an AACC Award of Excellence Winner for Student Success as well as an AACC Award Finalist for Exemplary Board/CEO.

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 www.lee.edu.

Mendoza Debate Society off to a winning start on competition season

Four-time national champion debate team says the focus this year is on learning & growth

Mendoza Debate Society at Lee College
A trophy case near the Mendoza Debate Society suite in John Britt Hall is packed with just a few of the hundreds of trophies and plaques the team has won in competition the last four years, including four national championship titles. The Lee College debaters have set their sights on increased learning and growth for the 2017-18 season. Pictured from left: Chrome Salazar, Steven Mena, Julio Martinez, Joselyn Mendoza, Rigo Ruiz, Aria Giacona, Ty Young, and Alyssa Hooks. Additional debaters not pictured are Ashley Cressy, Angel Estrada, Kimberly Gaytan, Maria Gelves, Ben Ginsel, Lacey Gulley, Jeff Holder, Jaden Houseman, Michael Lara, Josh Lyrock, Adam Naiser, Vanessa Rangel, and Leah Sparkman.

BAYTOWN, TX — The glass case that holds the awards earned by the four-time national champion Mendoza Debate Society at Lee College is stacked from top to bottom with gleaming trophies and plaques collected over four years of competition against some of the best college and university debate teams from around the country and across the globe.

“For a two-year college to stand toe-to-toe with universities including SMU, TCU, LSU, Tennessee and Southern Mississippi is a real testament to the quality of students we have on the team,” said Director of Forensics and 2016 International Public Debate Association (IPDA) Coach of the Year Joe Ganakos, praising the strong debaters coming from local school districts like Goose Creek, Barbers Hill and Dayton.

“These students have a work ethic that is nothing short of amazing, and I think they are proof positive of the talent we have in the Lee College service area.”

But for the debaters competing in the 2017-18 season, adding more shiny hardware to their shelves is not the primary motivation for continued success — though they already earned in October two Team Championship awards to kick off the year at the Weevil Wars tournament at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, and Top Community College honors at the Red River Swing tournament co-hosted by LSU in Shreveport and Bossier Parish Community College.

Instead, the team has set priorities they consider much more significant: to learn and mature as scholars and debaters, share the knowledge they gain to benefit others, have fun throughout the rigors of tournament preparation and participation, and cultivate the community they’ve found and built with each other through debate.

“Trophies stop mattering after a while,” said Joselyn Mendoza, who eagerly returned to the team after spending a year away. “We learn about everything from philosophy to sports and absorb so much information throughout the season, then we come home and have so much more knowledge to spread to those around us. That’s crucial to growth as a debater. So much change can stem from our education.”

Many Mendoza Debate Society members feel a strong responsibility to hone their craft and support their teammates beyond the debate suite on campus. They decided not to name captains this year, choosing instead to focus on identifying and sharpening each debater’s unique strengths. Practice sessions are centered on problem solving and analyzing global issues and current events, with each individual becoming a subject-matter expert contributing information and perspectives that make the entire team stronger and more versatile.

“Six months ago, I knew almost nothing about economics. Now I know so much that it’s something my team counts on from me. We contribute to each other’s success,” said Ty Young, an IMPACT Early College High School student recruited by his mentor and teammate Chrome Salazar.

“I’ve learned how to think critically and better assess ideas so I can better articulate my thoughts about a situation,” Salazar said. “I have people celebrating with me in good times and comforting me in hard times. I can be myself. I can have a personality.”

Despite the demands of multiple weekly practices and long weekends traveling as far away as Washington and Idaho to compete, Ganakos and Assistant Debate Coach Christine Courteau are always there to encourage the debaters, provide a listening ear or shoulder to cry on when they need it, and remind them that they’re students before all else.

The family-like bond between the students and their coaches is part of why Alyssa Hooks, who competes individually and in a two-person team with Rigo Ruiz, believes the Mendoza Debate Society is well prepared to notch more victories for Lee College and make lasting memories together this season.

“Expectations are high and we’re ready,” Hooks said. “We’ve transformed into independent thinkers who understand what’s happening in the world. We know our words matter.”

For more information about the Mendoza Debate Society at Lee College, contact Ganakos at jganakos@lee.edu or 281.425.6502.

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 education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

For fifth time running, Lee College named an Aspen Prize Top 150 U.S. Community College

$1 million prize for community college excellence recognizes outstanding achievements

Aspen Top 150 LogoBAYTOWN, TX — Lee College was named today as one of the top 150 community colleges in the United States eligible to compete for the $1 million 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance in American community colleges.

This is the fifth consecutive time that Lee College has been selected an Aspen Prize Top 150 Community College from a pool of nearly 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide.

“Everything we do at Lee College is centered on serving our community and providing a quality education that empowers our diverse students to confidently navigate their futures,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown. “Our recognition as a Top 150 Community College and eligibility to compete for the Aspen Prize is a testament to the leadership and commitment of our Board of Regents, and the value and impact of the work that our talented faculty, staff and administrators do for our students everyday. We truly believe that every Lee College student can be successful.”

Awarded every two years since 2011, the Aspen Prize recognizes institutions with outstanding achievements in four areas: exceptional student outcomes in student learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and access and success for minority and low-income students.

Lee College will move forward to the next round of the competition for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence by submitting an application to be reviewed through a rigorous evaluation for a spot on the top ten Aspen Prize finalists list. After the top ten finalists are named in May 2018, the Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits to each finalist and collect additional qualitative data. A distinguished Prize Jury will select a grand prize winner, finalists with distinction and rising stars in spring 2019.

Estimates from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce suggest that out of the 11.6 million jobs created in the post-recession economy, 11.5 million require at least some college education. The vast majority of students who enroll in community colleges do so because they believe that post-secondary education will provide them a path to rewarding work, stable employment, and family-sustaining wages.

“Especially in the current social and economic climate, it is exceptionally important that our nation’s community colleges develop the diverse talent needed to fuel democratic engagement, social mobility, and economic opportunity and growth,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “Through this competition we’re working to inspire other institutions across our country to ensure more students succeed in college and their lives beyond those campuses.”

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 education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu/

Texas Nonprofit Theatres honors Lee for hosting youth conference

Dr. Dennis brown accepts the plaque on behalf of Lee.
Lee College received an award plaque this month from Texas Nonprofit Theatres for hosting the organization’s 22nd annual Youth Conference, which brought 400 young people from across the state to campus for a week of performances and workshops. Pictured, from left: Walter Stricklin, Performing Arts Center director; Dr. Veronique Tran, Vice President of Instruction; Dr. Onimi Wilcox, Dean of Academic Studies; Ryan Martin, production specialist; Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown; Kim Martin, technical theater instructor; and Mark Hall, vice chairman of the Board of Regents.

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College earned recognition this month from Texas Nonprofit Theatres (TNT) for hosting its 22nd annual Youth Conference. The gathering brought 400 young thespians and their directors and chaperones from across the state to campus for a summer camp-style week of performances and workshops.

Kim Martin, technical theater instructor and an officer on the TNT Board of Governors, presented the honorary plaque from the organization at the June meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents. The 2017 TNT Youth Conference, held from June 6-11 at the Performing Arts Center and various buildings around campus, marked the second consecutive year that Lee College has been selected to host the event.

“The TNT executive committee and officers wanted to give deep gratitude to Lee College for the wonderful job of providing amazing facilities, extraordinary service and unwavering support as hosts,” Martin said. “They can’t stop telling me how wonderful this place is. I’m proud of that and proud to be with Lee College, and I want you to know people from around the state recognize that, too.”

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 education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.