STEM Hub opens on main campus with computers & free tutoring

Lee College cuts the ribbon on new STEM Hub
Lee College students, faculty, administrators and regents prepare to cut the ribbon at the new STEM Hub during a grand opening celebration held Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, at Moler Hall in the heart of campus. The hub is funded through a multimillion-dollar Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM grant from the U.S. Department of Education. It offers all students access to computers with instructional and professional software, as well as free printing and free tutoring in biology, chemistry, engineering, human anatomy and physiology, all levels of math, physics and process technology.

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College students tackling science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) assignments have a new place on campus to access computers loaded with instructional and professional software, and receive free tutoring for everything from algebra to anatomy.

The college and community celebrated this week the grand opening of the STEM Hub, an expanded facility in the heart of campus that provides space for students to focus on what many consider their most challenging subjects.

The hub includes both PCs and Macs equipped with programs students use in their classrooms and labs, like AutoCAD, MatLab, Visual Studio and the Microsoft Suite. There is also ample room for tutors to work with students individually and in groups on biology, chemistry, engineering, human anatomy and physiology, all levels of math, physics and process technology, as well as free printing for up to 10 pages of material through the fall semester to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

“We wanted students to have a space where STEM can be more engaging and more fun, where they can see math and science in a different light,” said Victoria Marron, executive director of HSI Initiatives. “There is no reason for a student to say they can’t be successful because they don’t have something. We will provide the resources they need.”

STEM Hub interior
STEM Hub interior

Funding for the STEM Hub came from a multimillion-dollar grant awarded to the college by the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) division of the U.S. Department of Education to increase awareness, enrollment and completion of STEM degrees for Hispanic and other underserved student populations. The college was selected to receive HSI STEM grants in both 2011 and 2016, and used grant funds to establish the first STEM Center on campus in 2013. Student feedback from the original STEM Center helped administrators plan the additions and improvements at the new hub.

“It’s a dream to have the hub located in the center of campus, accessible to all students at any time,” said Executive Vice Pres. Dr. Christina Ponce. “Our team designed a first-class space and hired the best tutors to support students in getting into STEM degrees and completing STEM degrees.”

Karen Chavez, a former Lee College student now pursuing a degree in surgical technology, knows firsthand how overwhelming STEM courses can seem. Now a tutor for human anatomy and physiology courses, she tries to keep students focused on what they want to achieve by finishing their degree program.

“I always ask students what they’re going for, because it keeps them interested in STEM when they think about how to apply what they’re learning to what they want to accomplish,” Chavez said. “We didn’t have anything like the STEM Hub when I first started college, and the fact that we have all this available now is amazing.”

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.

College to unveil new campus STEM hub, welcome special guests

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and national Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) next week with the grand opening of a new campus hub for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and special guest appearances from artist and author Marlon “Marley” Lizama and entrepreneur and recording artist Stefani Vara.

Marlon Lizama
Marlon Lizama

The kickoff for the HSI Week festivities will be the unveiling of the newly renovated STEM Hub at 11:30 a.m., Monday, Sept. 18, in Moler Hall. Funded by a multimillion-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the original STEM center opened in 2013 to provide students with a dedicated space on campus to use the Internet and printing, receive free tutoring and meet with study groups. The new hub is also funded through the federal HSI STEM grant, which is designed to increase awareness, enrollment and completion of STEM degrees among Hispanic students and other underserved populations.

Lizama — a poet, writer, author and dancer who focuses on the cultural aspect of writing and the arts — will be the special guest speaker at 9:30 and 11 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 19, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center. He is currently the program director of Iconoclast Artist, a creative writing program that focuses on underserved schools and juvenile detention centers. He has published two student anthologies of poetry through Iconoclast and is also the author of “Cue the Writer: Cheers to the Notion of Love, Hate, God and Revolution,” a collection of short stories and poetry from a young immigrant’s perspective. The recipient of the 2015 John P. McGovern Award for his work in the community with the arts, Lizama has traveled to more than 40 countries to advance his mission of using the arts as a tool to connect with others and change lives and perspectives.

Stefani Vara
Stefani Vara

Vara will be the special guest for two “Follow My Feet” sessions at 9 and 11 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 20, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center. An entrepreneur, professional foot model and recording artist who was raised by fierce Latina women in humble surroundings in Baytown, she has learned that her voice is her strongest asset and life is about diving headfirst into the unknown to blaze your own trail. Now committed to using her varied life experiences to give back to her community, Vara shares her personal journey in her “Follow My Feet” campaign to encourage others to realize their dreams are achievable and nothing is beyond their reach.

HSI Week at Lee College will also include a bash and informational table at the Student Center and gazebo; games of loteria, or Mexican bingo; an open mic session; and the “What’s Your Label” panel discussion hosted by the MAS Raza Collective student organization. All events and activities are free and open to the public. For a full schedule, visit www.lee.edu. For more information, contact Victoria Marron at 281.425.6501 or vmarron@lee.edu, or Daisy Aramburo at 832.556.4026 or daramburo@lee.edu.

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.

Marquez urges students to ‘dig deeper’ into history

Lee College Honors Program alumnus and Northwestern University professor John D. Marquez, Ph.D., isn’t surprised or disheartened when his thoughts about racism and its continued and pervasive presence in society make someone angry — in fact, he’s encouraged.

Causing disruption and stirring disagreement come along with the job of being an activist and “agitator.”

“This is the role that artists and intellectuals play,” Marquez told dozens of Lee College students last week in Tucker Hall, where he appeared as part of the third annual Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Week celebration. “Without facilitating conversations and bringing up issues, we tend to gloss over and mythologize parts of the past as though they have nothing to do with our present.”

A graduate of Robert E. Lee High School, Marquez was also the honored guest at a special reception where he discussed and signed copies of his book, “Black-Brown Solidarity: Racial Politics in the New Gulf South.” The book focuses particular attention on the history of racial tension in his native Baytown — where his parents moved their family decades ago with the hope of earning a good living and achieving the American dream — and how black and Latino citizens came together to fight inequality.

Raised in The Oaks of Baytown — one of the more notorious neighborhoods in the city — Marquez said he and other children from his community were often treated as problems by the local educational system. It wasn’t until he graduated from Robert E. Lee High School, came to Lee College and enrolled in the American Studies honors course with retired instructor John Britt that he believed he could contribute more in school than just athletic ability.

“He was the first person in my life that treated me like a student,” Marquez said of Britt, whom he still considers a role model and mentor. “I impressed a teacher as an intellectual, and I had never felt valued in that way. I’ve been all over the world as an educator and speaker, but that journey started here.”

After graduating from Lee College, Marquez went on to earn his doctoral degree and co-found the Latina and Latino Studies program at Northwestern. His academic success and scholarly pursuits only strengthened his knowledge and resolve as an activist, and he continued to protest and speak out against issues ranging from border militarization to police brutality.

Citing the high numbers of blacks and Latinos currently incarcerated against the low numbers of black and Latino males who have attained a degree, Marquez challenged students to familiarize themselves with the history of their community and its unsung heroes. Be unafraid to speak truth to power, he said.

“Some look at those statistics and blame the victims for their culture, their style of dress, their style of music; they forget that there could be residual effects of a history of oppression and racial tension,” Marquez said. “Try a little harder. Dig a little deeper. The artist in an intellectual society is a moral witness; that’s what unites us all as human beings: the capacity to be honest.”