Category Archives: Student Success
Read about one of our outstanding alumni, Ari Rastegar, who was recently featured in a Forbes article! Ari is the CEO of the Texas-based Rastegar Property and one of the youngest investors in commercial projects across the state. Forbes recently covered his story and deemed him as the “Dallas Real Estate Underdog.”
The story mentions Richland College, stating how Ari went here for a semester before graduating from Texas A&M University, then going on to get a law degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Now, his firm boasts a multimillion-dollar diversified portfolio and builds commercial real estate in Dallas, Austin, Phoenix and other areas.
Read the full article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/candaceevans/2019/09/03/ari-rastegar-the-dallas-real-estate-underdog/#5e3446974548.
Reaching for the stars is a normal part of life for Richland College honors student Ashlynn Norris, who was recently chosen as a NASA Community College Aerospace Scholar. This hardworking young woman joined other community college STEM students from across the country in getting an authentic NASA experience.
“I felt breathlessly excited when I found out I was chosen as an NCAS,” said Norris. “I have always dreamed of being involved in a NASA program, but I generally believed that it wasn’t attainable. Seeing that email was a confirmation that I could maybe have a chance to pursue things I always believed were out of reach.”
As an NCAS student, Norris had the opportunity to engage in research and learning opportunities with NASA during a five-week online course that ended July 3. During the course, students learned about NASA’s past, present and future missions, as well as the science, technology and engineering that happen behind the scenes.
“In the last five years, we’ve only had one other NASA Community College Aerospace Scholar,” said Kathleen Stephens, Richland College Honors Program coordinator. “It is a very competitive program that requires an application and letters of recommendation. As we seek to increase the number of women in STEM fields, I’m particularly excited for Ashlynn to have this opportunity.”
Norris and the other students heard from NASA subject matter experts, including Stu McClung, project planning manager for the Orion program; Trent Smith, project manager for VEGGIE, the in-orbit garden on the ISS; and Lisa Spence, a manager in NASA’s Human Research Project.
“These talks have been wonderful because neither Stu nor Trent were linear, normal students,” said Norris. “They both had a very interesting road to NASA and offered a lot of hope and wisdom to those who aren’t standard students, showing that anyone can participate in NASA if they work for it.”
Upon course completion, qualifying students are invited to tour a NASA facility and work with NASA scientists and engineers on-site. The students will visit NASA space center nearest them and participate in a four-day on-site study of the current Moon to Mars campaign. During this trip, students will attend lectures with current engineers, research tasks and complete challenges.
“I am most excited about the opportunities that this experience can give me,” added Norris. “I am blown away with how welcoming, enthusiastic and driven every single NASA employee I’ve interacted with is, and they’ve made a point to tell everyone that there is a place for anyone here, making sure that we understand we’re welcome. Being an NCAS student comes with opportunities down the line as well.”
Norris told her Richland College Honors Program advisors about a project some former NCAS student researchers spearheaded, in which a payload of micro-algae was sent to the International Space Station for a week to see how the plant would respond under stress. The plant produces a powerful antioxidant that NASA believes may be able to help fight the heavy strain on astronauts’ bodies while in micro-gravity. NASA has agreed to ship samples of this algae to Richland College’s biology department to be studied by students to see how micro-algae grown in space differs structurally.
“Ashlynn is new to the Honors Program, but she has already excitedly shared a way to enrich the program by giving us information about space algae that could potentially be used in an honors science classroom and for the science boot camp led by Dr. Dwight Randle,” said Stephens.
Upon graduating Richland College, Norris plans to transfer to UT Dallas to pursue a bachelor’s degree in software engineering. She has always been intrigued by artificial intelligence and the advancement of the exploration of space, and she hopes to have the opportunity to work with NASA one day.
“No one should give up on themselves just because they may be a non-linear, busy or working student,” said Norris. “It is never too late to pursue things that you love, and Richland College and NCAS have done a wonderful job of reminding me of that.”
The Richland College Honors Program provides highly qualified students with an enriched and challenging academic community where they develop the capabilities necessary to excel in their educational and career goals. In May 2019, 24 students with the Richland Honors Scholar designation and 24 additional students with the Richland Honors Certificate designation graduated from Richland College. Learn more about the Richland College Honors Program at https://www.richlandcollege.edu/cd/instruct-divisions/rlc/mshp/honors-program/pages/default.aspx.
NCAS gives community college STEM students an authentic NASA experience and encourages them to finish their degrees and eventually pursue a NASA-related career. Eligible students must be U.S. citizens, high school graduates or equivalent, at least 18-years-old, registered at a U.S. community college, have concurrent enrollment or completion of 9 or more hours of STEM coursework and able to commit to a five-week online session. More information is available at nas.okstate.edu/ncas/.
In keeping with its mission of teaching, learning and community building, Richland College, in collaboration with the Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution program, has hosted each fall since 2016 the Minority Serving Institution Convening, a conference dedicated to providing higher education professionals with tools to impact the academic success of students at minority-serving institutions. After attending the 2018 MSI Convening, “Minority Student Success: Using Data to Effect Change,” last October, many attendees left the convening with more than just insight on how to achieve minority student success: some also left with a zeal to put ideas learned into practice and provide education and encouragement for others to follow in those same footsteps.
As an MSI Student Fellow, Richland College student Camryn Morrow was nominated by a faculty member to participate in the 2018 MSI Convening. Of everything Morrow heard at the convening, one thing impacted her the most: the importance of showing empathy. “The MSI Convening helped Richland College because it emphasized that professors should go beyond just teaching¾even expressing an ounce of empathy ensures that all students have the same opportunity to succeed,” said Morrow.
Overall, Morrow was encouraged by what she learned at the MSI Convening. “I found the presentations to be reassuring,” she said. “They showed that despite what we don’t see, many things are happening behind the scenes to fix what students consider to be some of the most prevalent of issues, including race. I would highly recommend others attend a future MSI Convening to learn more.” Morrow will also be attending the 2019 MSI Convening, this time to share her experiences at the 2018 conference and as a student at Richland College.
Cassandra Himes, College Connections advisor at the College of the Mainland in Texas City, also attended the 2018 MSI Convening. Upon returning to their institution, Himes and her colleague, Stephanie Dilissio, used what they learned at the convening and put together a presentation for the COM Student Services Leadership Council to share their takeaways and actionable items. Now COM is using the practices and information Himes and Dilissio acquired to examine the college’s processes, including the way COM collects data, the need for all units at COM to collect and analyze quantitative data and the importance of initiating courageous conversations about equity, inclusive excellence and quality programs.
“After attending the MSI Convening, I have a clearer understanding of equity, inclusive excellence and quality, and how to translate those into campus practice,” said Himes. “I approach my work with the guiding question: ‘How can we, at College of the Mainland, continue to improve the way we collect and use quantitative data to design, evaluate, modify and improve programs and initiatives to address the success of minority and underserved students?’ On a personal level, the MSI Convening reignited my commitment to the statement ‘all means all.’”
Himes plans on returning to Richland College to attend the 2019 MSI Convening, and she encourages all higher education professionals to do the same.
Jennifer Baggett, professor of biology at Richland College and MSI Convening faculty program chair, said, “By working hard to provide a high-quality, free conference with nationally recognized speakers, we have created an affordable opportunity for community colleges and other minority-serving institutions to convene, collaborate and learn about research and programs in a data-focused way to improve minority student success. The feedback we’ve received from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive, especially about the quality of presenters, both invited and those selected from breakout session proposals.”
The MSI Convening provides an opportunity for educators and other higher education professionals devoted to student success to gather and participate in presentations and discussions about using data to modify and improve programs and initiatives that address the success of minority and underserved students. The 2019 MSI Convening will be at Richland College Oct. 18-19. Proposals to present are being accepted now through June 7. The MSI Convening is made possible in part through a grant from the AANAPISI program of the Department of Education.
Richland College serves as more than just the host college¾it completely plans and executes the conference each year. The planning team is led by convening chair and executive dean for the School of Social Sciences LaQueta L. Wright, faculty program chairs Baggett, Michael Puente and Rolanda Randle, and faculty logistics chair M.T. Hickman. This team identified the theme and created the structure for a four-year series of conferences, “Using Data to Effect Change”; secured funding support from community partners; invited and guided nationally recognized keynote and plenary speakers; solicited and selected breakout session proposals; oversaw the creation of the conference website, call for proposals and registration system; organized and planned facilities, food and host hotels for the convening, including the evening networking reception and breakfast and lunch on both days; and oversaw the advertising and marketing of the convening, both locally and nationally.
“As the final year of our four-year, grant-funded MSI Convening series approaches, we look forward to seeing what Richland College does from here,” added Baggett. “We have built new relationships with community colleges and four-year minority-serving institutions over the last few years, and we look forward to cementing those relationships into collaborations that lead us all forward in our efforts to improve student success through data-informed programs and initiatives.”
Holding two designations by the U.S. Department of Education as an AANAPISI and a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), Richland College is one of only nine higher education institutions in the U.S. awarded the AANAPISI grant in fiscal year 2015. With 16% of Richland College’s student population comprised of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students and at least half demonstrating financial need, AANAPISI funding impacts many of the college’s underserved students. The program helps Richland College to increase the three-year graduation rate for AAPI students who have one or more risks to success and completion, such as financial need or academic challenges.
For more information about the 2019 MSI Convening, visit www.richlandcollege.edu/msi-convening.
Richland College TRIO Student Support Services honored six students as TRIO Achievers at the 2019 TRIO Day Student Success Celebration, attended by Rep. Colin Allred (TX-32), Apr. 24. The students honored were Whitney Boyer, Nick Gjonaj, Felicia Keto, Christian Lara, Cedrick Munongo and Brytha Nkrumah.
“The federal TRIO programs are a set of educational opportunity programs established in 1964 that enable either first-generation-to-college or low-income students and underrepresented special needs populations to earn college degrees,” said Kathryn K. Eggleston, Richland College president. “The Richland College TRIO Student Support Services program is a component of the federal TRIO programs.”
At the event, Rep. Allred addressed the students and other guests, praising the accomplishments of the TRIO Achievers and encouraging the students not to give up on their version of the American dream.
“I want to congratulate the students here at Richland College, and the families who supported them, who succeeded in part because of this wonderful TRIO program,” said Rep. Allred. “This program, and really the charge of Richland College generally, provides opportunities for so many students throughout north Texas.”
Following Rep. Allred’s remarks, students Keto, Lara, Munongo and Nkrumah each told their personal stories of hardship and ultimate success in a TED Talks-style format. Keto, Munongo and Nkrumah are immigrants to the U.S. and outlined the paths they took not just to arrive in the U.S., but to succeed at Richland College. Lara, a first generation American, shared his story of his troubled past, showing a determination not only to succeed, but thrive.
“Success is the biggest thing that we should strive for, and we should never let anyone take that away from us,” Lara said. “The only person that can stop us is ourselves.”
The presentation, recorded by Richland Student Media, is available in its entirety at www.richlandstudentmedia.com/videos/trio.
TRIO programs assist students in overcoming the obstacles they face as the first generation in their families to attend and graduate from a college or university. Today, an estimated 5 million students have graduated from college with the support and assistance of TRIO programs across the country. For more information about TRIO programs, visit www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/trio/index.html.
Since 1993, The TRIO-SSS program at Richland College has assisted eligible students in achieving their academic pursuits by offering several customized academic components designed to increase college retention and graduation rates. These free services include academic advisement, tutoring, assistance in financial aid application, university field trips, college success workshops and cultural enrichment opportunities. For more information, visit www.richlandcollege.edu/sss.
Congratulations to the 2019 Student Wall of Honor honorees! For more information on the Richland College Student Wall of Honor, click here.
When Hope Anderson began her educational journey as a dual credit student at Richland College when she was 16-years-old, no one knew just how far she would go. Hope’s journey is a testament to the power of purpose and planning.
As one of five siblings attending Richland College, Hope was responsible for her own higher education expenses. Undaunted by this challenge, Hope got a part-time job and created an aggressive four-year university transfer strategy.
By the time Hope completed 40 hours at Richland College, she not only was a member of Phi Theta Kappa and named to the President’s Honor Roll, but she also had a number of scholarship offers from top universities. Having an interest in human rights and wanting to stay near her family, she selected Southern Methodist University.
Hope graduated from SMU in 2017 with a 3.97 GPA and three undergraduate degrees: a B.A. in Human Rights with distinction, a B.A. in History, a B.S. in Sociology and a minor in Spanish. During her four years of study at SMU, Hope earned more than $150,000 in scholarships. Some of Hope’s many accomplishments include, but are not limited to, being a John Lewis Fellow, a Fulbright semi-finalist, a 2017 recipient of the SMU “M” Award, a Humanity in Action finalist and a member of both Phi Beta Kappa and the Dedman College Scholar University Honors Program.
In addition to her educational accolades, Hope’s human rights travels have taken her to countries including Nepal, Jordan and Chile. She served as a student leader for the Death Row Facilities in the American South program and interned with the International Rescue Committee of Dallas and the International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C.
In 2018, Hope became the community outreach coordinator for SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, and this fall she will begin her graduate studies in the field of human rights.
As a student in Richland College’s Honors Program, Kirubel Moges has been described as “fearless in his pursuit of knowledge and academic enrichment.” Instead of protecting his GPA and playing it safe, Kirubel has enrolled in honors courses in a variety of disciplines.
Kirubel grew up in Ethiopia, and when he was three-years-old his father passed away, leaving his mother to care for her three sons. The family moved into a smaller house on their property and rented out the larger main house, and it was from this rental income that the family survived.
Always having the courage to dream big, Kirubel graduated from high school in Ethiopia in 2016 and was excited to attend Richland College that fall. However, political instability in Ethiopia forced him to delay traveling for six months. He got to the U.S. just in time—his travel window to the U.S. expired only one day after he arrived in early 2017. Once on campus, Kirubel threw himself into his studies and did more than excel: he thrived.
In addition to presenting at the 2018 Richland College Honors Conference and the 2018 DCCCD Philosophy Conference, Kirubel presented research on the death penalty in the U.S. at the 2018 Great Plains Honors Council Conference, and he also became the first Richland College Honors Program student to have a poster presentation accepted at the national level by the National Collegiate Honors Council’s 2018 Conference. There, Kirubel’s presentation expanded on his previous research, utilizing computer programming and philosophy to examine interviews as a data set to find which word was most commonly said by death row inmates in their final interviews. Kirubel found the most common word was “love.”
Kirubel is also active in a variety of campus organizations, including Phi Theta Kappa, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the Male Achievement Program, the Philosophy Club, the Computer Club and more. He is on track to earn the Richland Honors Scholar designation when he graduates this May, the highest designation possible through the Richland College Honors Program.
Adeeba Muntazer has a true joy for learning, and at one time in her life she risked literally everything in pursuit of an education.
Growing up in Afghanistan, Adeeba was just nine-years-old when the Taliban gained control of nearly 90 percent of the country and adopted brutal policies that forbade women from receiving an education. People who were found violating these laws were sentenced to death. Despite this risk, many female teachers who had been dismissed from their jobs rebelled and opened secretive, underground schools for girls.
As a teacher himself, Adeeba’s father knew of some of these covert schools, and he understood the value of his daughter receiving an education. At the risk of being killed for facilitating her learning, her father enrolled Adeeba in a secret school. Every day for three years, Adeeba walked jagged roads, sometimes crawling and hiding to evade authorities, to attend the facility her teachers had made into a school. She and other girls gathered in the small, dim and dank room to learn and support each other, and it was here that Adeeba completed her 5th, 6th and 7th grades.
In 2007, when Adeeba turned 18, she honored her parents’ traditions and culture with an arranged marriage, and Adeeba was accepted to study at Kabul University the same year. She balanced her studies with motherhood and caring for a large extended family. In 2009, Adeeba and her family were provided with an opportunity to immigrate to the U.S. because of her husband’s employment with the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
Adeeba put her education on hold when she and her family moved, but in 2015 she resumed her dream and enrolled in her first ESOL class at Richland College. Since then, she has become fluent in English and has completed 58 credit hours, maintaining a 3.5 GPA. In the spring of 2018, she even earned the highest grade of her Speech 1311 class with Dr. Sherry Dean Rovelo. Adeeba has plans to soon transfer to El Centro College or Brookhaven College to complete a degree in nursing.
Thao Nguyen didn’t mean to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a nurse. But when she grew to love science through her professors at Richland College, she changed her mind, and she has been using her profession to help other people ever since.
Thao was 17-months-old when she and her parents escaped the Communist regime in Vietnam on a small fishing boat with 72 other people. The trip was harrowing and included a pirate attack in the South China Sea before they were rescued by a U.S. Navy ship. The family ended up at refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines before moving to the U.S. Once there, Thao’s parents worked hard, and Thao’s mother graduated with an associate’s degree in nursing in 1988.
Inspired by the tenacity of her parents, Thao enrolled at Richland College before transferring to Texas Woman’s University, graduating in 2004. In addition, she was awarded for having the most community service volunteer hours and was the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.
After graduation, Thao became a registered nurse with Texas Health Dallas and won multiple awards and honors, including making the 2012 Great 100 Nurses list and earning the D Magazine Nursing Excellence Award in 2013. But even though Thao has a passion for nursing, she also has a passion for helping others. Thao enrolled at Christ for the Nations Institute in 2016 as a full-time student and will graduate in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in practical ministry with a major in creative media.
Some of Thao’s humanitarian efforts include partnering with World Relief to aid Afghan refugees in Dallas and creating ArtBark, a dog-friendly event that raises money for local nonprofits. She has also taken eight mission trips since 2012 to provide health care and take family photographs that were often a family’s first photo ever. Thao also volunteers her time to photograph babies in the NICU, documenting holidays and special occasions or taking bereavement photos to capture a baby’s final moments with his or her parents.
During his tour of duty in the Vietnam War with the U.S. Air Force, Steve Rodgers found himself facing a choice when feeling overcome with emotional and physical hardships: He could focus on the bad in the world, or he could become the good and help those who suffered. He chose the latter, and his first act was teaching English to Vietnamese citizens.
Upon returning to Dallas, Steve began raising funds and promoting business investment within the Asian community. He has been instrumental in encouraging young people of Asian origin to pursue an education, even helping some of them finance their studies at Richland College.
Some of Steve’s other humanitarian contributions include: working with young addicts at the Palmer Drug Abuse Program; serving lunch at the Stewpot Ministry at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Dallas; cofounding Restart, a program that assisted homeless and unemployed individuals affected by the recession of the 1980s; volunteering with the Eritrean refugee community in Dallas through organizing and furnishing a community center that offered services including ESL courses, job placement and legal assistance; cofounding the Dick Granger Society to help individuals and families needing assistance with housing, job placement and other necessities; and currently participating in the planning for a retreat center for battered women and children in Belize.
Steve has a degree in international trade from Texas Tech, an MBA from the University of Texas and took French classes at Richland College. Steve has used these educational pursuits to further his global service. During a dangerous mission to develop a camp in Algeria in 1996, Steve hit upon the idea of drilling for water instead of oil in impoverished areas.
Steve learned about digging and repairing wells from Living Water International. Since then, Steve has channeled his oil drilling expertise to provide potable water and teach pump repair and replacement at more than 20 sites in Ethiopia, Uganda, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize.
Richland College students Lacedes Hunt and Will Frederick recently received prestigious summer internships with Shakespeare Dallas. Hunt will work with directing and Frederick will work with lighting.
“An internship with Shakespeare Dallas means that our students have the opportunity to work at one of the largest, oldest and most respected regional theatres in Dallas,” said Gregory Lush, theatre faculty member at Richland College, who will be portraying Iago in Shakespeare Dallas’ production of “Othello” this fall. “They work all summer alongside the top professionals in our field. At the end of a successfully completed internship, our students will receive personal recommendation letters.”
Internships at Shakespeare Dallas provide students the opportunity to work with top artists, designers and technicians in a professional working environment and to connect with many different theatre companies in North Texas. These unpaid internships last eight to 12 weeks and require 20-25 hours of work per week.
The Richland College Theatre program provides a well-balanced curriculum of classroom instruction and concurrent professional employment that challenges students and fosters their success in the world of drama and theatrical production. Students learn on a cutting-edge sound system and robotic lighting, giving them real-world training in all phases of production. The award-winning faculty and staff also offer in-depth classroom study and hands-on practical experience in acting, musical theatre, design and technical arts and improvisation. For more information, visit richlandcollege.edu/theatre.
Since 1971, Shakespeare Dallas has provided North Texas residents the opportunity to experience Shakespeare in a casual park setting, as well as providing cultural and educational programs to audiences of all ages. For more information, visit shakespearedallas.org.
Eight Richland College students recently received the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution 2018 scholarships. These students include Tran (Jenni) Tran, Joe Cung Tha Lian, Khiem Huynh, Ngan (Natalie) Tran, Roshan Karki, Suhail Sabharwal, Tha Blay Paw and Tho Trieu. They were honored at a scholarship reception on campus May 2.
“I am happy to see students using resources offered to them,” said Michelle Nguyen, AANAPISI program services coordinator at Richland College. “I am so proud of all of the students who received the APIASF AANAPISI scholarship, and I know this means a lot to them. I have seen that they are more confident and motivated since receiving this recognition.”
Jenni Tran, originally from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is majoring in business. Lian, originally from Chin, Myanmar, is majoring in education. Huynh, originally from Vietnam, is majoring in computer science with a minor in software engineering. Natalie Tran, originally from Vietnam, is majoring in hospitality management. Karki, originally from Nepal, is majoring in computer science. Sabharwal, from Dallas, is majoring in healthcare administration. Paw, originally from the refugee camp Umphiem in Thailand, is majoring in accounting. Trieu, originally from Chau Phu District, An Giang Province, Vietnam, is majoring in accounting.
The APIASF AANAPISI scholarship is given to students attending APIASF AANAPISI partner colleges and universities, who live at or below the poverty level, are the first in their families to attend college, are representative of the Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) community’s diversity and have placed strong emphasis on community service, leadership and academic achievement. For more information, visit apiasf.org/aanapisischolarship.
Richland College is the only higher education institution in Texas that has been awarded an AANAPISI grant due to its large percentage of APIA student population. It was awarded a second five-year, $1.5 million grant in 2015. The AANAPISI program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education under the Office of Postsecondary Education for five consecutive years. The AANAPISI program at Richland College aims to recognize and support the needs of our growing APIA student population by providing resources and opportunities for degree attainment and advancement. For more information, visit richlandcollege.edu/sliferlc/aanapisi.
Congratulations to the 2018 Student Wall of Honor honorees! For more information on the Richland College Student Wall of Honor, click here.
Fabian Castro has been described as a self-starter who has great self-direction. But one thing he has never been is self-focused.
Fabian was beginning his third year of medical school in Mexico when his family was forced to seek refuge in the U.S. due to threats from extortion groups. Fortunately, Fabian had learned English from spending a year in the U.S. when he was 12-years-old, and he was able to become a translator for his family as they began to establish a new life. For Fabian, this new life included enrolling at Richland College to continue his education.
While at Richland, Fabian considered several majors before eventually deciding on chemistry. Outside of class, he also learned all the aspects of his father’s car business, handled health emergencies his family members faced and mediated business disputes in Mexico.
But it isn’t just his family that Fabian has helped. He is active in the men’s group and is also a reader at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Richardson, where he works to bring the Latino and Anglo church members together to encourage comfortable collaboration and communication.
In labs at Richland, Fabian was known for assisting those around him, yet his own work never suffered. He was also a student lab assistant in the chemistry lab prep area. When the new General Chemistry II labs were being developed, Fabian performed the test runs, documenting results and collaborating with others on modifications. He also took the initiative to improve the sulfanilamide synthesis in Organic Chemistry II. In his last year as a student lab assistant, Fabian had matured into a true lab professional and was able to assist both students and faculty members.
Fabian is now attending the University of Texas at Dallas, where he is continuing his degree path in chemistry.
Behrang Hamadani, Ph.D., is not just a Thunderduck. He’s an inspiration to future Thunderducks and an example of how success comes with perseverance.
Behrang was born in Norman, Okla., to Iranian parents studying in the U.S., and he grew up in Iran. His parents decided to send him back to the U.S. for college, and a family friend recommended Richland College.
While at Richland, Behrang supported himself with grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, tutoring for Upward Bound and retail jobs. In 1999, he transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas with an academic excellence scholarship that covered two years of tuition. Due to a positive experience at Richland, Behrang felt prepared for junior level physics classes at UT Dallas.
While completing the final year of his bachelor’s degree, Behrang taught labs and continued tutoring at Richland. In the fall of 2001, he began his graduate work at Rice University and completed his Ph.D. in 2006. He then worked as a post-doctoral scholar for four years at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) before accepting a permanent position.
Behrang primarily works on advancing measurement science to further U.S. competitiveness standards and developing reference materials. “NIST sets standards, from the number of calories in a bag of potato chips to how to measure the intensity of light in a room,” he said. “My project focuses on evaluating the performance of photovoltaic cells and modules to develop standards and measures for industry.”
Behrang’s favorite physicist is Isaac Newton, “a man who truly loved science for the sake of science, and who questioned everything.” He has followed the same model throughout his life and believes that life becomes more meaningful for people who question the mundane and have the curiosity to explore the world around them and discover new things.
When Jewell Love enrolled at Richland College immediately after graduating high school, she had a plan in place. Little did she know one class would change everything.
Raised in a single parent household, Jewell’s original goal was to pursue a business degree with a major in marketing. She wasn’t passionate about business, but she was good at it, and it would eventually lead her to a position that would offer the salary she wanted.
Jewell studied at Richland College before transferring to the University of Texas at Dallas and enrolling in a slew of business classes. But Jewell needed an elective, so on a whim she enrolled in Introduction to Sociology at Richland.
“I had never even known anything about sociology, thus all of the material was completely new to me,” said Jewell. “However, everything we talked and learned about was so relevant and relatable to me. I knew on the first day that I needed to change my major because I had found something that was truly my passion.”
Jewell realized she had been pursuing a business degree for the wrong reasons. So, she switched her major, focusing specifically on the most important aspect of sociology that had always been prevalent in her life: race. Since then, she has participated in various research studies pertaining to how racial micro-aggressions affect students of color in higher learning institutions and women of color in interracial relationships. Her current research is looking at how the lack of diversity within the medical field affects people of color.
Jewell graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from UT Dallas in 2016. In May 2018, Jewell will graduate magna cum laude with a Master of Science in Applied Sociology, also from UT Dallas.
Even though it has been ten years since Tito Salas left Richland College, he keeps coming back. It’s because he has education and soccer in his blood.
After graduating from Skyline High School in Dallas in 2006, Tito enrolled at Richland College, where he was active on the men’s soccer team in 2006 and 2007. Coincidentally, the Richland College men’s soccer team won the NJCAA men’s soccer championship both years.
Tito transferred to William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., where he continued to play soccer. Not only did Tito graduate with a 3.9 GPA, but he was also the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. He also won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Champion of Character award and was named Mr. William Carey University his senior year, an award given to the man who best represents the ideals of WCU, nominated by faculty and staff and voted on by the student body.
Upon graduation, Tito returned to Dallas and began teaching at Franklin Middle School, where he was a physical education teacher and the athletic director. He also coached soccer at his alma mater, Skyline High School.
Tito decided to continue his educational journey and graduated with a master’s in education from Stephen F. Austin State University. He is currently the assistant principal at Emmett J. Conrad High School in Dallas.
Each August, Tito returns to Richland College to speak with the men’s soccer team and has mentored former and current team members over the years. But Tito’s influence has affected more than just the students at Richland and the schools where he has taught and worked. Since his graduation from college, his three younger siblings have also graduated, including two who attended Richland College and played soccer.
Tito is married to former Richland student and soccer player Karrina Almendarez, and together they have two children, Gabriela and Xavi.
In his personal statement submitted to the University of Texas at Dallas when he transferred from Richland College, Temesgen Zerom said he learned the basic principles of mechanical engineering before he could even read or write. When you consider how he absorbs knowledge, this makes complete sense.
Temesgen is originally from the State of Eritrea in Africa, a country known for its poor human rights record. Hoping for a chance at a better life, in 2010 Temesgen paid someone to smuggle him into Ethiopia, walking for days under the threat of death if captured. He ended up in a refugee camp for a year in Ethiopia. With his mother’s help, Temesgen finally made it to the U.S., where he enrolled at Richland College.
While at Richland, Temesgen was a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the Honors Society, and he received the All-Texas Academic Team Award, awarded to the top community college students in Texas. He maintained a 4.0 GPA despite taking some of the most demanding math and science classes offered, and graduated with an Associate of Science in Mechanical Engineering. During his time at Richland, Temesgen was also a member of the STEM Institute, mentoring middle and high school students who had an interest in science.
Temesgen’s dedication at Richland paid off, and he was awarded the prestigious Terry Foundation Scholarship as a transfer scholar from UT Dallas, where he is currently still making a 4.0 GPA.
Temesgen not only defied the odds and has a bright future, but he is also a role model for those who go through difficult circumstances. He often reminds anyone who will listen that your biography does not have to be your destiny. You can do anything.
Spring is a season of starting fresh, giving back and going green, and the Richland College Student Green Team (SGT) is doing just that and has partnered with the World Wear Project Green Fundraiser Program to host a Clothing Recycling Project fundraiser.
From Mar. 19-Apr. 8, a World Wear Project donation bin will be located in the first parking row of Parking Lot E on the Richland College campus. The SGT invites the community to stop by the bin and donate gently used clothing, shoes, purses, belts, wallets, hats, backpacks, toys, pots and pans and more during this fundraiser. Many of the donated items will be shipped globally to help businesses and disaster victims and will help reduce the amount of waste taking up space in local landfills. In addition, the SGT will earn 12 cents per pound to help fund their educational resources, project materials, supplies, field trips, team T-shirts and recognition awards.
“Last April, we conducted a test pilot of having the World Wear Project bin temporarily in Parking Lot E, and we collected 672 pounds of items, raising $80,” said Sonia Ford, Richland College sustainability project coordinator and a member of the Dallas County Community College District Sustainability Team. “This year we have selected a more visible location, extended the timeframe from two weeks to three and increased the Student Green Team member participation to bring awareness to the fundraiser and have increased our advertising efforts. We hope to collect more items to help the community recycle, divert more materials from landfills, help those in need and raise money for the SGT.”
The mission of the SGT is to promote sustainability awareness and encourage environmentally conscious behavior through raising awareness about ecological issues and engaging in environmental, recycling and conservation energy activities to build a more sustainable local and world community for a greener tomorrow.
The World Wear Project is a nonprofit organization that makes clothing and shoes affordable and available to people domestically and internationally; helps schools, places of worship, community centers, charities and other nonprofits generate needed funds; and promotes global responsibility. More information is available at worldwearproject.com.
Richland College has tracked energy consumption since 1975, and it currently provides and tracks the recycling of 38 different materials while maintaining and monitoring an onsite waste-management program. Last year alone, Richland College recycled 485 tons of materials. In 2017, Richland College became the first and only educational institution to be awarded the City of Dallas Zero Waste Management Gold Level Green Business certification for its efforts in preventing waste, incorporating recycling and promoting reuse, reduce and compost in its operations. In 2010 and 2011, Richland College was awarded the Environmental Protection Agency WasteWise Award for University and College Partner of the Year. Richland College also won the national Recyclemania Grand Championship in 2016 and the Texas Grand Championship each year from 2010 to 2017. For more information about Richland College’s green initiatives, visit richlandcollege.edu/greenrichland.
Richland College is located at 12800 Abrams Rd.
When Richland College was awarded the $3.25 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor in Sept. 2014, the potential impact on local industry was evident. The funds from this grant, along with multiple partnerships with employers in Dallas, Richardson and Garland, would equip Richland College with the tools and technology needed to train local veterans and others seeking to enter or re-enter the high-demand technology job market. In turn, local companies would receive qualified employees ready for immediate employment and trained on industry-recognized equipment.
Richland College’s Technology, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (TEAM) Center is a very tangible result of the TAACCCT grant funds. The space is fully equipped with leading edge, industry-quality technology that allows engineering and manufacturing students to have relevant, hands-on experience and career-focused training. It features an advanced manufacturing center, electronics engineering equipment, a robotics training lab and multiple classrooms for additional technology training.
It is in this innovative, technologically advanced place that the other tangible results of the grant have been taking shape as students prepare to enter the workforce.
Cisco Iturbe is an electrical engineering technology student at Richland College and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. He has been attending Richland College for several semesters and is looking forward to graduating soon with one course remaining. His immediate goal is to get a job in the electrical engineering field, and he hopes eventually to own his own business.
After completing four years of active duty and two years in the reserves, Iturbe came to Richland College because of the equipment he saw set up in the labs, which he felt allowed students the opportunity to learn in an industry-standard environment and gain vital hands-on experience. As a student, the variety of equipment available has also provided Iturbe the opportunity to enhance his electronics technology education with experience in other areas that may help him in the future, such hydraulics, manufacturing and robotics.
“For me, doing things hands-on is very important,” said Iturbe. “Once you get your hands on something, it makes a world of difference because if you’ve never touched it, you don’t know what it feels like or what it does. If you don’t know that, then how are you going to do anything with it? So Richland College gives me the opportunity to learn and embed it as a muscle memory, not just an educational memory.”
“I would recommend Richland because of the different areas they teach you,” said Iturbe. “I’m here for electronics, but I’ve learned a few other things that have helped. Richland is here to help in a lot of ways—so many people want to help you. The staff is really uplifting, and the professors really know their stuff.”
According to Garth Clayton, Ph. D., Richland College’s dean of resource development, Iturbe is one of approximately 50 veterans who are now involved in the advanced manufacturing or electronics technology programs in the TEAM Center.
“One of the things we offer here is the replication of the real experience,” said Clayton. “We have invested a great deal of our resources in offering different brands of the same equipment that people use in real life. And what happens is that [the students] learn to do everything here to walk into the job, able to work with whatever the employer provides. So they are hitting the ground running whenever they obtain one of our degrees or certificates.”
Advanced manufacturing student Monica Lee has watched the TEAM Center develop around her and become a thriving learning space as she has studied at Richland College during the past three years.
“I was looking to do something with 3D modeling and design, things like AutoCAD and industrial design. I live here in Dallas, and I was doing research and saw that Richland had those classes offered here,” said Lee. “I came down and checked out the campus and was really impressed with what was available. Even though the lab wasn’t finished when I started, I got to see it come to fruition, and it’s just an amazing facility.”
To prepare Lee and other advanced manufacturing students, the program at Richland College teaches them each step of the process, starting with designing a part on a computer that will later be manufactured. From there, students design how the machine will cut the part, and once that is complete, they simply walk down the hall to the lab and actually create what they designed, cutting the metal and setting up the machines themselves. Lee describes this start-to-finish education as hands-on support to what students learn in the classroom, which to her is key to understanding what goes into the technical requirements of manufacturing.
Lee will graduate this May with not only her class experience, but also on-the-job training through an internship obtained via Richland’s corporate partnership with Raytheon Precision Manufacturing, where she hopes to continue working and growing in her career after graduating with an associate degree.
“All the technology at this internship was the same, and all the skills that I learned here [at Richland College] were immediately used from day one,” said Lee. “It helped me be able to shine in the job because I knew firsthand what was going on. So it was actually really seamless to go from Richland to my internship.”
While Iturbe and Lee are studying in different programs and have different goals, both of them, along with many other students, have benefited from the TAAACCCT grant and Richland College’s TEAM Center.
“Cisco [Iturbe] is a great example of someone who likes our program and can see a future for himself in it, and Monica [Lee] is also an example of the way that our students are able to transition into the workforce very quickly and very easily,” said Clayton. “As part of this community, which includes a very vibrant advanced manufacturing and electronics technology group of corporations and shops, we are pleased to be able to support them in this way.”
As a direct result of the grant, Richland College’s accomplishments to date include: 14,500 square feet of renovated space; $1.3 million worth of capital equipment and $400,000 worth of minor equipment, all installed and now operating since 2016; three additional faculty members and three additional staff members hired; two credit certificate and one continuing education certificate offerings added; 37 Associate of Applied Science degrees and 39 certificates in electronics and manufacturing awarded; 32 Associate of Applied Science degrees and 136 certificates in computer information technology awarded since that program’s inclusion in the grant; 292 students enrolled in electronics and manufacturing programs and 464 students in computer information technology programs in the 2018 spring semester; and 277 passed NIMS credentials in eight different credential exams. In addition, Richland College has also completed a cognitive task analysis and received new courseware for wire EDM, another common manufacturing process.
Even though the grant has ended, Richland College will continue to offer the curricula that were promised in the grant; offer credit for prior learning; add and replace additional equipment such as hydraulics, motor controls, modular assembly systems and programmable logic controllers; and will be adding new automation courses for aerospace, defense and communication needs.
Prior to installing the new equipment in the TEAM Center, Richland College donated all its previous, usable equipment to the Richardson Independent School District and the Garland Independent School District. Richland College also has technology-based early college high school programs with Dallas Independent School District’s Hillcrest High School and Emmett J. Conrad High School, giving high school students the opportunity to earn both their high school diploma and an Associate of Applied Science degree in just four years.
A recent event at Richland College celebrated these accomplishments and the student success that came as a direct result of the TAACCCT grant funds. At the event, Richardson mayor Paul Voelker spoke about the impact the grant had upon Richland College, and as a direct result, the impact of those workforce-ready students entering the local job force, specifically in Richardson’s Telecom Corridor.
“I’m keenly aware of what you’re doing here and the value added,” Voelker told the crowd. “It’s so important today that our employers know that their talent is here, and if it’s not here, we can create it here, or we can reinvent it here because we are always constantly learning.”
“Coming full-circle and seeing the advanced manufacturing capabilities that we can do right here, not only in the USA, but in north Texas, is pretty cool. We can compete with anybody in the world, at any level, because we have the talent and what it takes to make those businesses successful.”
For more information about Richland College’s School of Engineering and Technology or the TEAM Center, visit richlandcollege.edu/et.