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.

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 www.lee.edu.

CE hosts Magic of STEM for teens

STEM CampersNearly 30 local high school students discovered the magic of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) this summer as part of a week-long, all-expense-paid camp hosted by the Lee College Center for Workforce and Community Development.

Funded through a grant from the Texas Workforce Commission Governor’s Summer Merit Program, The Magic of STEM Camp was designed for participants to learn how science impacts their daily lives. Campers conducted hands-on experiments in the chemistry and biology labs; tested their engineering mettle by programming robots; explored aviation, computer technology, and computer-aided design and drafting with Lee College instructors; and toured the on-campus pilot plant, which is modeled after the facilities found at real-world petrochemical plants and refineries throughout the area. At the end of the camp, students put their new-found skills and knowledge to practice in team competitions against their peers, with prizes awarded to the winners.

“Our instructors and community partners really stepped to the forefront to make the camp a success,” said Kimberlee Whittington, director of Community Education, noting the guidance and involvement of the college’s federal Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) STEM grant staff was particularly helpful. “They generously volunteered their time to ensure the campers had an enjoyable and fulfilling experience during their week on our campus.”

The Magic of STEM campers also networked with professionals like NASA engineer Jessie Craft, who showed them how pursuing a STEM education could help build a solid foundation from which to achieve their goals.

“I learned new things about careers I didn’t even know existed,” said Ja’Von Green, a junior at Goose Creek Memorial High School and an avid gamer now considering a future in video game development and design after attending camp.

The Magic of STEM Camp will return in summer 2016. For more information or to be put on the waiting list, contact the Center for Workforce and Community Development at 281.425.6311 or visit leecollegeonline.com/workforce/ce.

STEM DAY draws more than 400

Outside instructor Margene Lenamon’s classroom last week at Lee College, a masking-tape outline on the floor — mimicking the chalk outlines of bodies found at grisly crime scenes — welcomed high school students into a lesson centered on forensic science.

Inside the classroom, students found laboratory tables piled high with bone fragments, x-rays, microscopes and kits to be used for collecting and examining DNA. College students stood close by, ready to offer a helping hand.

“We want you to interact, we want you to pick up, we want you to look at, we want you to do,” Lenamon told the students, who were among more than 400 registered participants of the college’s STEM Day event held Friday, Feb. 28, to encourage exploration of science, technology, engineering and math.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors from eight nearby school districts were invited to Lee for STEM Day, which was funded through a federal STEM grant for Hispanic-serving institutions. The students rotated through the Gray Science Building and had their pick from a wide variety of interactive, informational sessions created and led by college instructors.

In one room, a group of sophomores shared their career aspirations with instructor Yinfen Yen in a session about microbes. In another, students donned safety goggles and mixed glue, borax and water to create a bouncy, rubbery “slime” in a session about chemistry and polymers. There were also sessions about the harmonic structure of music as sound waves, forensic ballistics, the human body, environmental science and even the process of refining oil.

“Our goal is to inspire students to look at STEM fields and show them what’s really out there,” said instructor Evan Richards, who coordinated the event and taught a popular session where students used computer software to program robots. “I really want to awaken their minds to all that is possible.”