Tyler Junior College faculty and staff started their new academic year with a weather report -- of sorts -- as TJC class of 2000 alumna and local TV meteorologist Katie Vossler served as guest speaker for Fall Convocation on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
A Troup native, Vossler attended TJC on a Presidential Honors scholarship and majored in physics. She initially planned on a career at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, but a TJC internship with KLTV meteorologist Mark Scirto changed those plans.
“There’s really no telling where I would be today if it weren’t for my time at TJC,” she said. “It wasn’t just the internship with Mark, it was all of the things I learned, and not just academics. I learned to study, and I learned to retain information that was given to me. I learned to reach out to teachers and to other students for help. You may not believe it but I was actually a very shy girl, and TJC helped me to come out of my shell.”
Vossler then wrapped up her speech with a weather-themed forecast for TJC’s coming year.
“Here’s my First Alert forecast for Tyler Junior College,” she told the audience. “A storm system is headed this way, and along with it severe accomplishments and achievements. We’re tracking a wave of enrollment as students pour into TJC. And this storm system doesn’t stop here. It continues to sweep across the nation as TJC graduates make an impact everywhere they go. As the sun returns behind the front, it will become clear to everyone that TJC’s future looks pretty bright.”
To emphasize Vossler’s sunny forecast, TJC Chancellor and CEO Dr. Mike Metke presented faculty and staff with black and gold, TJC-branded sunglasses.
Metke gave TJC employees an overview of the past year and a preview of the year to come.
“Last year, I spoke about our recent additions,” Metke said. “One was a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene and the other was an associate degree in veterinary technology.
“I’m very glad to say that we’ve seen our first set of graduates and they’re off to a great start. We’ve actually graduated 14 students with bachelor’s degrees, and 11 graduates from vet tech and they’re all employed in our area.”
New TJC programs
Metke then highlighted TJC’s three new degrees -- a Bachelor of Applied Technology in healthcare technologies and medical systems, an Associate of Applied Science in industrial maintenance, and an Associate of Applied Science in culinary arts -- all poised to address workforce needs in the community.
“Our new Bachelor of Applied Technology in healthcare technologies and medical systems is a wonderful fit for this region,” Metke said. “Medical and healthcare jobs are near the top of the list for high-demand, high-skill, high-pay careers, not just here but around the country.”
Of the new Associate of Applied Science in industrial maintenance technology, Metke said, “Our region is home to several large companies and manufacturing plants, and we see more coming. Those companies need this program to keep running.
“This program prepares students for a broad range of careers -- in electrical instrumentation, pneumatics, heating and ventilation, refrigeration. All of those things that make a plant run depend on this type of technician.”
Metke said the third new program, an Associate of Applied Science in culinary arts, would be a boon for local eateries.
“Students in this area will learn culinary and baking skills,” he said, “and there’s also a management component that’s needed in our area. Students won’t just learn about preparing the food, they will learn the management theories and strategies for running a restaurant.”
“Our incoming freshmen continue the trend we have been seeing the last couple of years – the brightest and best are choosing TJC as their first choice for their college journey,” Metke said. “This incoming class will no doubt produce more shining stars for TJC in academics, athletics and community service.”
Since 2007, TJC has seen the percentage of new students holding distinguished achievements rise from 2 percent to 49 percent. Only 13 percent of students graduate from high school having earned a distinguished diploma, according to the Texas Education Agency.
“While we’ve been adding programs to meet the workforce needs in our region, we’re also proud of the continuing success of our existing programs,” Metke said.
“The TJC Criminal Justice Program is celebrating its 50-year anniversary this year. The program continues to prepare students for careers as an officer of the law, criminal investigator or in the correctional system.”
Since this year marks the 30th anniversary of TJC’s presentation of “The Nutcracker” ballet, TJC dance students took the stage for a high-energy performance, with music provided TJC music alumnus Robin Bibeau and his rock band.
This year’s “Nutcracker” production will be held Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Cowan Center, with TJC dancers performing with the East Texas Symphony Orchestra.
Faculty award presentations
TJC Faculty Senate President Gigi Delk presented Endowed Chair for Teaching Excellence Awards to this year’s recipients:
-- Ashleigh Lewis, learning framework professor, The Dorothy Fay & Jack White Endowed Chair for Teaching Excellence
-- C. Jeanie Oxler, voice professor and music department chair, The Watson W. Wise Foundation Endowed Chair for Teaching Excellence
-- Sherry Seaton, surgical technology professor and department chair, The Dorothy Fay & Jack White Endowed Chair for Teaching Excellence
Delk then announced the winner and runners-up of the Mattie Alice Scroggin Baker Excellence in Teaching Awards.
The winner was Philana Pace, art professor; and runners-up were Suzanne Cheeseman, professor/coordinator, associate degree nursing, Jacksonville; and Clint Selman, psychology professor.
Metke then presented Delk with a gavel honoring her service as faculty senate president for the 2017-18 year. Incoming president for 2018-19 is Tim Gill.
“As I stand here now in my 11th year at TJC,” Metke said, “I truly believe today is the beginning of the brightest and best year ever for TJC. Thanks to all of you, we accomplished some great things in the past years and have much to celebrate.
“What we’ve built together will change this region and all of us forever. We are all committed to making TJC the best it can be. With your help, we will continue to build on what we have accomplished together, and we will achieve even more in the year ahead.”