Fall 2015 semester kicks off with Professional Development, Welcome Week

With early enrollment estimates showing an increase in the number of students crossing the campus and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) re-accreditation process in full swing, the Fall 2015 semester at Lee College is officially under way.

“We are in a very wonderful environment,” Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown told faculty and staff gathered for Professional Development at the Performing Arts Center to usher in the coming semester. “You’re special,  what you do for our students is special, and I appreciate your efforts.”

Highlights from Brown’s address:

  • Preliminary data shows a 6 percent increase in student enrollment, including dual-credit students and those at the Lee College Huntsville Center.
  • The college continues to work through the SACS re-accreditation process, having met 80 percent of the association’s 85 comprehensive standards and reached 100 percent compliance with its core requirements. A re-accreditation team will make its on-site campus visit in October and begin analyzing the college’s chosen quality enhancement plan (QEP): “Navigating Your Future: Create Your Own Adventure.” The QEP is designed to combine career exploration with counseling and advising support to help first-time-in-college general studies majors clarify their career goals; develop and implement a plan to achieve those goals; and become fully equipped for their transition from Lee College to the workforce or a four-year institution.
  • The 2015-16 budget, which must still be approved by the Board of Regents at its meeting this Thursday, Aug. 27, includes a 3 percent salary increase for employees.
  • Renovations to the McNair Center, located along Interstate 10, will be complete at the end of October. The expanded center will house programs in machining, millwrighting, pipefitting and welding.
  • The Lee College Education Center in South Liberty County will open this fall with 14 classrooms. The center will serve five nearby school districts and offer dual-credit classes and coursework in process technology, CADD, electrical technology and welding. Community development organizations from Dayton and Liberty contributed a combined $382,000 to help fund the center’s operations.
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Rebel Roost unveils fresh look and menu for the new school year

If you think you know the Rebel Roost inside and out, think again! The campus eatery is unveiling a fresh look and menu to entice your eyes and taste buds this year, with new paint and a rotating selection of new salads, hot entrees and more.

Stop by the Roost in the coming weeks to try freshly-prepared salads with ingredients like spinach and fresh fruit; a customizable rice or potato bowl; a build-your-own taqueria bar; and entrees from varied tastes and cuisines, like King Ranch chicken and salisbury steak.

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Inaugural ‘Empower Me Conference’ set for Friday

Students will learn about everything from maintaining a good credit score to combatting sexual assault and domestic violence this Friday, Aug. 28, at the first-ever Empower Me Conference, sponsored by the Black Educational Access & Completion Committee and the office of Dr. Cathy Kemper-Pelle.

The 2015 Empower Me Conference will be held from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., in the Student Center, with both breakfast and lunch to be served. Participants will also be entered to win Lee College scholarships and/or a tablet.

The conference will feature several community experts and college instructors as presenters, sharing information about personal finances; buying a home; investing; sexual assault and domestic violence; the legal system; and health and wellness.

The keynote speaker for the conference will be Antonio T. Smith, Jr. Known as Rev. Tony, Smith is pastor of the Church for The Unchurched and Without an Umbrella Ministries in La Marque, and author of the best-selling book, “Keep Walking – How God Worked Through My Logic,” which was published in 2014. He is also a frequent volunteer at the Jerry Esmond Juvenile Justice Center in Texas City and other Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities in the region, where he brings messages of hope and strength through Christ.

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Volleyball to host 27th annual invitational tourney this weekend

Make plans to pack the Sports Arena this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28-29, for the 27th annual Lee College Invitational Tournament, hosted by the Lady Rebel Volleyball Team.

The Lady Rebels will take on teams from Victoria, Wharton County Junior, Garden City and Cisco colleges as part of the tournament. A full schedule of the tournament matches is available here.


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Seven Lee College students awarded petrochemical scholarships

Seven students from Lee College were among 43 scholarship recipients recognized this month by the Community College Petrochemical Initiative (CCPI), an ExxonMobil-funded collaboration between the nine Texas Gulf Coast community colleges to help train the next generation of skilled workers needed in the industry. Lee College is the lead institution in the initiative.

Representatives from all nine CCPI partner colleges came together Aug. 13 at Alvin Community College to award the $60,000 in petrochemical scholarships provided by the ExxonMobil Foundation. Students heard a rousing message from Woody Paul, manager of the ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant, who applauded their discipline, tenacity, and determination as they juggled career training with family and current jobs.

The CCPI scholarship recipients from Lee College are:

  • Javier Barajas, Instrumentation;
  • Blake Bogie, Process Technology;
  • Eleazar Cantu, Pipe Design Technology;
  • Lawrence Daniel, Process Technology;
  • Ellis Dorrance, Instrumentation;
  • Marisela Puente, Process Technology; and,
  • Martin Resendez, CADD.
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Vocational Nursing graduates receive pins and recognition

Lee College honored this month the 22 newest graduates of its Vocational Nursing (VN) Program in a special ceremony at the Performing Arts Center, where they were presented with the coveted pins and red-striped nurses’ caps emblematic of their new careers.

“This ceremony really represents the completion of our program and a welcome for these nurses into the profession,” said Tracy Allen, director of Nursing, who affixed the trademark Lee College pins to the starched white lapels of each graduate as they walked across the stage.

Graduates at the ceremony received their diplomas from lead VN instructor Nora James, and striped caps from faculty member Gary Carter. Many were also presented an additional pin from the American Red Cross, which was represented at the ceremony by Donald Sanford of the Greater Houston chapter.

Each graduate also carried a candle, which was lit with the single flame held by faculty member Mary Victory in a symbolic passing of the torch. Candles in hand, the new nurses recited the Vocational Nursing Pledge in front of their family, friends and loved ones.

“Never think of this is the end; this is the beginning,” Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown told the Class of Summer 2015, noting the rigor of the program and the considerable effort it takes to successfully complete it. “Every milestone is just the start of something bigger and better to come in your lives. We couldn’t be more proud of what you have accomplished.”

The VN program at Lee College, accredited by the Texas Board of Nursing, prepares students for the national licensing examination and performance of safe nursing care in a variety of clinical settings and situations. Applications for admission are accepted between February 1 and April 1. For more information about the program curriculum and candidate requirements, contact the Department of Nursing at 281.425.6229 or click here.

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Project Leeway honors 11 summer graduates at awards ceremony

After experiencing the tragic loss of her husband, there was one thing that kept Blanca Loza motivated to carry on and chase her dreams: the Project Leeway program at Lee College.

“It kept me from slipping into depression and gave me a reason to get out of bed every day,” said Loza, one of 11 Project Leeway graduates recognized this summer for successfully completing the federally funded program, which assists low-income adults in pursuing a college education by providing help with the cost of tuition, textbooks, childcare and transportation, among other resources.

After applying and being accepted, Project Leeway students earn college credit while completing a 5-week session that refreshes their reading, writing, math, social and study skills. They also explore 23 technical career fields they can enter through Lee College degree and certificate programs, ending the session fully registered and prepared for the next semester of classes.

“Lee College expects the best from its students, and all I wanted from them was their best,” Kewana Davis, counselor for Project Leeway, said of the Class of Summer 2015. “Anything they said they couldn’t do – that’s what we pushed them to try. We wanted to show them that whatever challenge they have, they can overcome. You have to learn to adjust and adapt; your attitude makes the difference.”

Graduate Mary Hebert counted the bond that she developed with her Project Leeway classmates among the best things she would take away from the program. The process of becoming comfortable and confident enough to connect with her peers was a valuable learning experience in itself, she said.

“It showed us that it’s never too late to make or accept new changes in your life,” Hebert said.

Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown brought a similar message to the graduates at their Aug. 6 awards ceremony.

“There are hundreds just like you who need to be where you are today,” Brown said. “However you got here, you’re here and you’ve done something important in your life. Promise me that you will not give up. Persevere, persist and finish what you started.”

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Rebel Rousing: Serving veterans & a conference presentation

Portia Hopkins, an instructor of history and American Studies and member of the Honors Program faculty, will be a featured presenter at the Houston History Alliance’s fifth annual Houston History Conference, “On the Cusp of War: Houston in the 1860s.” The conference, to be held Sept. 12 at the M.D. Anderson Library at the University of Houston, will include dozens of exhibits about local history, preservation and neighborhood organizations.

Congratulations, Portia, and best wishes for a successful presentation! 

Ehab Mustafa, director of the Lee College Veterans Center, was selected to receive the inaugural Military Veteran Peer Network Award in recognition of the significant contributions he has made to improving the lives, healthfulness and well-being of veterans and their families as a peer mentor. He was presented with the award at the 2015 Veterans Mental Health Summit, a collaborative, community event held this month at the University of St. Thomas.

Congratulations, Ehab, and thank you for all you do!

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Weekly Wellness from Jason Summers

Music More Effective Than Drugs At Releasing Brain’s Painkillers

By Joe Battaglia

400 published scientific papers have proven the old adage that “music is medicine.” Neurochemical benefits of music can improve the body’s immune system, reduce anxiety levels and help regulate mood in ways that drugs have difficulty competing.

“We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics,” says Prof. Levitin of McGill University’s Psychology Department. “But even more importantly, we were able to document the neurochemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains: management of mood, stress, immunity and as an aid to social bonding.”

The review appearing in in Trends in Cognitive Science, was prompted by the growing number of studies addressing evidence-based music interventions (as opposed to music therapy, which is something else). Prior to this review, no one had really taken the time to look at what all the new evidence was suggesting.

Indeed, music is frequently used for self-medicating purposes; many of us listen to music as a way to calm ourselves or give us a boost. And we do it as frequently — if not more so — than with coffee or alcohol.

Opoids are also responsible for music’s myriad effects on mood, pain and well-being, giving clues to how we can harness its benefits even how it affects our aging.

Like other pleasurable experiences, there are two components to enjoying music: anticipation of hearing your favorite song, and then actually hearing it. The brain signaling chemical dopamine, which is linked to reward, is involved in both phases. But neuroscientists have wondered for decades whether there was more to it — what gives music its power to induce euphoria?

The brain’s natural opioids could be key. Professor Levitin’s team showed that blocking opioid signals in the brain by giving people a drug called naltrexone reduces the amount of pleasure they report getting from their favorite song. They still enjoy the anticipation of hearing the song just as much, suggesting that, although dopamine is involved, it’s when the opioids kick in that music really starts to affect our minds.

A flood of opioids would also explain music’s effect on our body. Listening to music is known to raise people’s pain thresholds, so much so that in some cases, it can be used to reduce the need for morphine-like painkillers.

In their analysis, Levitin’s team surveyed over 400 papers, looking for patterns in the scientific evidence supporting the claim that music can affect brain chemistry in a positive way. They succeeded in isolating four areas where music can help:

• Reward, motivation, and pleasure (to help with eating disorders, as an example)
• Stress and arousal (to help reduce anxiety)
• Immunity (to strengthen the body’s immune system and slow-down age related decline)
• Social affiliation (to assist in trust building and social bonding)

The researchers connected these areas with four primary neuro-chemical systems:
• Dopamine and opioids
• Cortisol (and related hormones)
• Serotonin (and related hormones)
• Oxytocin

“We know music facilitates active neurochemical processes in a symphony of opioids which pharmaceutical intervention has been unable to match,” said Dr. Francis Chandra commenting on the study.

“We’ve had residents where we could reduce psychotropic drugs or have them come off, and we could see benefits to staff with improvements in morale and engagement.”

One study showed that patients who listened to music prior to surgery had lower anxiety levels than people who took anti-anxiety drugs like Valium — and without the cost and side-effects. The scientists speculate that music may stimulate the release of endogenous opioid peptides within the brain.

“The reviewed evidence does provide preliminary support for the claim that neurochemical changes mediate the influence of music on health,” the authors note in the study.

“Music is among those lifestyle choices that may reduce stress, protect against disease, and manage pain.”

Tom Fritz at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, and Daniel Bowling at the University of Vienna in Austria, are working with a “jymmin” machine, a special type of exercise apparatus that allows music to be paired with weight training. The sounds change as the user pushes harder, and the music’s rhythm matches that of their workout. “It makes the music really pleasurable — you have the perception that you’re being really extremely musically expressive,” says Fritz.

They have shown that after 6 minutes of using the machine, the amount of effort a person perceives they are making falls by half. Exercising with machines also seems to raise a person’s pain threshold more than a standard, music-accompanied work out, they told conference delegates.

Their experiments are further support that opioids are involved. “It’s another piece of the puzzle,” says Bowling. “You don’t need a neuroscientist to tell you that music can be invigorating, intensely pleasurable or sad, but this is an exciting time for research on music’s biological foundations.”

Fritz is working on software that can provide similar “musical feedback” to users, which he says might help relieve pain for people recovering from strokes or drug addiction. Some hospitals already use music to relieve anxiety before surgery, and pain after. But Sven Bringman of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden says it could be used more. “Music is not used as much as it should be because it takes more of a nurse’s time than just giving a sedative.”

While music has yet to be fully exploited clinically, Levitin says we routinely take advantage of its effects on our brain. “Many people use music to regulate their mood throughout the day. We use music to create a soundtrack to our lives,” he says.

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Coming soon: Lee College Education Center in South Liberty County

Compiled from reports in the Liberty Vindicator and Dayton News

Lee College will soon begin offering classes to residents of the South Liberty County area at a new education center to be housed in the former alternative school located on the State Highway 146 bypass, furthering its commitment to enhance the academic resources and workforce training offered throughout the college service area.

The Lee College Education Center – South Liberty County will partner with five area school districts — Anahuac, Dayton, Liberty, Hardin and Hull-Daisetta — to offer vocational programs including process technology, electrical technology, computer aided drafting and design and welding.

In June, the Liberty Community Development Corporation Board agreed to provide more than $191,000 to help the college cover the costs of computers, lab equipment, EMT equipment, renovations, and trainers. The Dayton Community Development Corporation followed suit in July, agreeing to award the college a grant of $191,000 to put toward the education center.

“This is long overdue for this community,” Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown said at the July meeting of the Dayton Ciy Council. “This center will provide daytime college classes to high school students — what is known as ‘dual credit’ — which allows high school students who are college ready to get anywhere between nine and 45 college credits by the time they graduate from high school. Courses leading to an associate of arts- or science-degree, or the technical courses that we want to start with when the center opens.”

The Lee College South Liberty education center project has already been endorsed by numerous community leaders in the area, including Liberty Mayor Carl Pickett, Liberty ISD Superintendent Cody Abshier and Dayton ISD Superintendent Jessica Johnson.

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