BY Amanda Sotelo
Texas State Technical College has recognized two Harlingen employees for their efforts in starting up a new campus almost 300 miles away in Fort Bend County.
“They’re perfect examples of what our Harlingen culture brings to our statewide organization and of how Harlingen is helping us lead this statewide college,” said Texas State Technical College’s Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Hoekstra.
Both Mary Castañon, director of instructional administration and Fort Bend County project manager; and Gisela Figueroa, associate vice chancellor for financial services were the proud recipients of the much coveted Challenge Coin.
The Challenge Coin is a tradition that started during TSTC’s 50th celebration last year and was initiated by Chancellor Mike Reeser as a way for TSTC’s senior leadership to recognize and reward employees who demonstrate an excellence in service and dedication to their duties.
“We wanted to recognize these two employees for their remarkable and continued contributions to statewide initiatives that are of high priority for us right now,” said Hoekstra.
Hoekstra said there are three major priorities this fiscal year for TSTC and one is the opening of the new campus in Fort Bend County. He said Castañon, who has been with TSTC for 12 years, has worked endlessly on this project with her team and felt it was time to recognize her for her tireless efforts.
“Mary is the tip of the spear for our Fort Bend project,” said Hoekstra. “I have received a lot of positive feedback from her colleagues regarding her management and leadership over this initiative.”
Castañon is distinguished for her professionalism, her work ethic and positive attitude. Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning Ray Fried has been working closely with Castañon and said she is doing an excellent job at managing the startup of the new Fort Bend campus.
“I appreciate her organization of all the subject matter constantly being presented to our experts,” said Fried. “She has the most effective time management I have witnessed and has set a new standard for effective and efficient use of time.”
Figueroa, who has worked with TSTC for 13 years, is Hoekstra’s team lead in the finance division. Hoekstra said there have recently been some major changes that are critical to TSTC’s success and Figueroa has been a constant, positive and persistent leader for her team, even while struggling though significant obstacles.
“We’ve really had to move fast to serve the changing organization in procurement and Gisela really inspired her team to move rapidly in response to the change,” said Hoekstra. “She’s very dedicated to our mission and what we need to get done. Her incredible attitude, loyalty and dedicated service to the college is invaluable.”
Both Castañon and Figueroa said they were surprised and humbled to be recognized for such a prestigious honor.
“I am honored to receive such an award and surprised nonetheless,” said Castañon. “When I was given the opportunity to work with on this project a year ago I did not hesitate, rather I asked how I could be of service for such a grand initiative. We have faced challenges, but I’m fortunate to work with great people at TSTC and am happy to see great strides we are making in opening our campus in Fall 2016.”
“When my name was called I was very surprised. I did not expect such an honor,” said Figueroa. “I got excited and could hardly believe all the nice things that were being said about my contributions to the college. I am humbled and this gives me more fuel to continue working hard for TSTC.”
For more information on TSTC’s Fort Bend County campus and the programs offered visit tstc.edu/campuses/fortbendco.
Registration for Summer and Fall 2016 semesters begins April 4. Apply or register online anytime at tstc.edu.