Featured Member: Ashlee Estlack

ashlee-jpgMeet Ashlee Estlack, TACCM’s board secretary and Clarendon College’s Chief of Staff.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

I honestly look forward to coming to work each day. I love what I’m doing right now. I get to sit in with the senior staff and advise the president, I am able tell the story of our school and our students and brag about our successes, and I get to be part of something that is bettering the lives of our students and making our communities stronger and more successful. I believe community colleges are the best first step for students seeking training or a degree – and finding ways to spread that message to others is the best part of each day.

What’s the most rewarding project you’ve tackled in the past year?

Clarendon College completed our SACS Accreditation visit last October and received word in June that we were approved for re-accreditation. I had never been involved with a SACS visit or QEP before, but it was an extremely rewarding experience. I enjoyed putting together the marketing materials and activities for the QEP and making sure that the visiting team was taken care of while they were here. Our team worked together and in a very short period of time made sure that we were not only prepared for the visit, but also were approved for re-accreditation. I’ve never been so proud of my coworkers – it took everyone to make the review a success and together we made it happen.

What’s your superpower?

Can multi-tasking be a superpower? Or maybe making something out of nothing? As the Chief of Staff at a small, rural college I wear many, many hats. I serve as the President’s right hand person, handle all of the college’s PR and marketing needs, work with HR and employee benefits, keep up with travel and facility scheduling, and head up most event planning on campus – not to mention “other duties as assigned.” And all of this is on a budget that doesn’t increase from year to year so I have to be creative and make dollars stretch further than they ever have. No two days at work are ever the same, and if I wasn’t busy I’d probably go a little bit crazy. While it is completely chaotic most days, I really wouldn’t change what I do for anything.

What’s something other TACCM members probably don’t know about you?

My family raises show chickens. I have silkie cochins that are named after the cast of Grey’s Anatomy – McDreamy, Meredith, The Chief, etc. We (my kids, the in-laws, and my hubby and I) show the chickens at the Tri-State Fair in Amarillo every year and this year my daughter’s white cochin won best of show – earning her a pretty swanky belt buckle and bragging rights over her brother and two boy cousins.

You hit shuffle on your music collection. What song pops up?

Probably something by Michael Buble – right now I’m enjoy his new song “Nobody but Me” and his version of “The Very Thought of You”. I have pretty eclectic taste in music so you just never know what will pop up – there’s a chance it could be something random from Merle Haggard, Justin Timberlake, or maybe John Mellencamp.

If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor, and why?

Again, after reading her book, I’d have to pick Dana Perino. I actually met Tony Snow while I was a student reporter in college, and I was completely mesmerized with his experience as a White House Press Secretary – this is probably where my interest in that position started. After he resigned for health reasons, Dana was named as his replacement. I had the opportunity to hear her speak last year and she spoke on never being afraid to move for the right position, building trust with your team, and that love and family aren’t career killers. She has proven that if you work hard enough you can do anything – she was a girl from a ranch in Wyoming who went on to advise the President of the United States. I admire what she has accomplished, and that she seems to be humble and down to earth after it all.

Last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

Dana Perino’s bio “And the good news is…” I’ve always dreamed of being a press secretary – I enjoy watching “The West Wing” and would love to be CJ Cregg. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Dana’s life pre and post White House, and she has excellent advice for young women starting a career and trying to find their way.

Community Colleges Embark on Texas Pathways


Eleven community colleges from across the state have been chosen to participate in the Texas Pathways Project sponsored by the Texas Success Center and funded by the Greater Texas Foundation. The project is geared toward transforming the way students transition from public education into community colleges on their way to certification or transferring to 4-year institutions leading to meaningful careers.

Research conducted by the Community College Research Center and various innovators from community colleges across the United States recognized low graduation rates among community college students, the high cost of education, and the high number of courses students completed that did not transfer to four-year institutions. Often, students were taking 4-6 years to complete a two-year degree or were dropping out of college. The Pathways serve as a way to provide clear and structured direction at the start of their academic journey at college as they learn about different disciplines and career options, then broaden opportunities as students become better informed.

Academic pathways will provide students a guided path of coursework and contextualized support structures for students within six major career/professional concentrations: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); Business; Creative Arts; Liberal Arts; Public Service; and Health Professions. The process allows students to explore career options while staying on pace to graduate. For instance, students interested in a STEM-related career but without a specific degree in mind would progress on a multidisciplinary path to an Associate’s Degree in Science. The first two semesters are set for the student to learn about careers and professions available through the pathway, providing opportunities to try different areas while undergoing intrusive advising by academic advisors and mentoring faculty. At the same time, the student would be required to work toward completing all required mathematics classes and be enrolled in STEM-major coursework. Once the student better focuses their interest, they will be advised into STEM metamajors with specific selection and sequencing of courses leading to their preparation in a specific discipline or area of study. All pathway curricula is also aligned with transfer degree options with partner four-year institutions and/or the local industry.

Another goal of Pathways is to build closer ties among high schools and colleges, which can be beneficial to high school students already working on college-level courses through the Dual Credit program. High school freshmen who meet the admission criteria can now begin taking college courses from a transfer block designed for students planning to attend a community college or transfer to a Texas public college or university. Once the student completes 18 college credit hours, the student is then directed into their chosen pathway. If the student continues down the pathway through their senior year, they can receive their high school diploma and an associate degree in the same year.

The Pathways program will give students the path they need to be successful and help them achieve their goals in a timely manner.

Colleges chosen to participate in the Texas Pathways Project are Amarillo College, Austin Community College, Brazosport College, Dallas County Community College District, Grayson College, Houston Community College System, Lone Star College District, McLennan Community College, Midland College, South Texas College, Southwest Texas Junior College, and Temple College. The colleges will participate in biannual institutes designed to assist participants in implementing the structured student pathways. The colleges will be joined by teams from Alamo Community College, El Paso Community College, Paris Junior College, San Jacinto College that were selected to participate in the American Association of Community Colleges’ Pathways Project, a national project designed to institute pathways at scale.


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The #TXsuccess campaign is a collaboration between the Texas Association of Community College Marketers (TACCM) and the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) to showcase the value of Texas community colleges to legislators, policymakers, and communities in Texas.

News Release: Texas students opting for quality, hands-on instruction at community colleges

eastfieldFabiola Chavez and Kingsley Scott wanted to make sure they were more than ready for their university experiences.

Chavez and Scott had every opportunity to attend major four-year institutions straight out of high school. But the two chose to use their local community colleges to provide them high-quality education while preparing them academically and socially for the challenges they would face at the university level.

Chavez, 21, graduated from Eastfield College in May 2015 and is transferring to the University of Dallas this fall to study biology and continue her pre-medicine track that will lead her to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Scott, 20, is a 2016 graduate of Victoria College and will attend the University of Texas at Austin this fall. She will study political science at UT with plans of entering the law school at the Austin campus.

Both students said familiarity, proximity and affordability played pivotal roles in their decisions to begin their careers in higher education at the community college level.

“I wanted more personal attention from my professors and more one-to-one learning experiences with faculty,” said Chavez, who graduated from W.T. White High School in Dallas. “I wanted to stay close to home. I wanted a realistic option for college, and I wanted a realistic price.”

“I felt when I first got out of high school, I wasn’t prepared to go off on my own,” said Scott, a graduate of rural Calhoun High School in Port Lavaca. “It seemed like community college would better prepare me and help me grow a little.”

Chavez and Scott are part of a continuing trend as community colleges remain the largest sector of Texas higher education. According to a study by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), there were 700,892 students enrolled in community colleges statewide during the fall of 2015. That made up 47.1 percent of all higher education students in Texas. The number of students at public universities totaled 619,284 or 41.6 percent.

The THECB also reported 70 percent of all college freshmen and sophomores statewide were enrolled in community colleges for the Fall 2015 semester.

Eastfield College graduate Fabiola Chavez poses with the President’s Volunteer Service Award she received from President Obama.

“A lot of people just want to leave home when they get out of high school,” Scott said. “Sometimes that just isn’t the smartest move. You’re not ready for that commitment and the time and effort it takes. Community college is a good in-between step to get you ready.”

Another THECB study revealed 74 percent of all bachelor’s degree graduates in 2015 attended community colleges. Of those graduates, 35 percent accumulated more than 30 credit hours at community colleges.

More students are finding that community colleges offer lower teacher-to-student ratios and effective support systems to prepare them for four-year universities and beyond.

“Instead of being bombarded with the university experience, I wanted to get a dose of college reality at Eastfield,” Chavez said.

“When you’re off on your own in a big city at a big university, you don’t know anyone, you have no real help,” Scott said. “The teachers at Victoria College helped me prove to myself that I could make it through college classes even if it meant going to the tutoring center for extra help.”

According to the THECB and Texas Association of Community Colleges Legislative Budget Board, Texas community colleges rank third in the nation in affordability, behind only California and New Mexico. The average tuition and fees for the Fall 2016 semester for Texas full-time students living in a community college taxing district was $987.

“Affordability was definitely a big reason why I chose Victoria College,” said Scott, who said she will spend approximately $14,000 on boarding alone her first year in Austin. “I’m looking at my bills for this coming semester at UT and I’m thinking, ‘Can I just stay at VC?’’’

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The #TXsuccess campaign is a collaboration between the Texas Association of Community College Marketers (TACCM) and the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) to showcase the value of Texas community colleges to legislators, policymakers, and communities in Texas.

From the President | September 2016 Update

Melinda Eddleman | TACCM President
Melinda Eddleman TACCM President

It’s hard to believe that the Texas Association of Community College Marketers is now entering its fifth year. Being a fairly young organization, we’ve come a long way in a short amount of time thanks to our hardworking board members and your involvement as TACCM members.

I’m honored to serve as TACCM’s President for the next two years with the opportunity to carry on the great work and solid foundation your volunteer boards have established since 2012. In fact, we’re always looking for volunteers, so I invite you to share your expertise with TACCM both on the regional and state levels.

This July, the TACCM board met to review work accomplished over the past year and to set goals for this next year. Read more about these throughout this newsletter, including:

  • TACCM’s collaboration with the Texas Association of Community Colleges to implement a statewide communication plan for the #TXsuccess campaign designed to tell our community college success stories and their impact statewide as we move toward the 85th Texas Legislative Session.
  • Comprehensive conference planning as we head back to Austin for the 2017 conference. Dates and location will be forthcoming later this fall. Be sure to take the survey.
  • Networking opportunities that your Regional Directors are planning for this next year. Take time to get to know your Regional Director and don’t hesitate to contact them if you have questions.

Your TACCM membership is one of the best opportunities to connect with other marketing, public relations, design, web and social media, and recruitment professionals from community colleges not only in your region but also from across the state. TACCM also provides professional development opportunities, legislative updates and a listserv that serves as a resource when you need advice about particular issues, services or products to enhance efforts at your own community college. You also have access to the Membership Directory. We also host the free Career and Technical Education (CTE) exploration site called TEXASgenuine that serves as a valuable tool for career and college advisors statewide.

Why do I point out these benefits? Because it’s also time for membership renewal! If you haven’t renewed your membership already, take time to do so today. The grace period runs through September 30. And, remember, an institutional membership means EVERYONE at your college is a TACCM member!

I’d like to close this message with a very heartfelt “Thank You” to four individuals who moved off the TACCM board this past year. The association wouldn’t be where it is today without their involvement, including:

  • Lynn Goswick, now retired and founding TACCM President from Alvin Community College
  • Shelle Cassell, now retired and founding Membership Director from Grayson College
  • Samantha Uriegas, TACCM Mentor Director from South Texas College
  • Jennifer Aries, TACCM Development Consultant and Ex-Officio Board Member from 25th Hour Communications.

Again, I look forward to serving you during this next year. Let’s keep the momentum going and continue to tell the best story Texas has to offer––the community, technical and junior college story! #TXsuccess … we look forward to seeing your stories!

Melinda Eddleman
2016-2018 TACCM President
Associate Director of Media Relations, Del Mar College

The #TXsuccess Campaign: We Need Your Help

Sample #TXsuccess social media post for September
Sample #TXsuccess social media post for September

We all know the value of Texas community colleges. After all, it’s our job to promote them in all corners of the state every single day. But while we’re thoroughly convinced of their value, there are many Texans and Texas legislators out there who don’t really understand how much of an impact community colleges make on higher education in Texas.

For the past few legislative cycles, Texas legislators have slashed community college funding.

We aren’t here to complain—what we’ve learned is that we have to collectively do a better job of helping the decision-makers in our state understand what services we provide, who we serve, and how we work every day to make this state a better place with a stronger economy. We have to help them understand that in order to achieve the ambitious goals of 60x30TX, our state must have strong, adequately funded community colleges.

The #TXsuccess Campaign is a way to help them understand, and we need your help.

TACCM is partnering with the Texas Association of Community Colleges to launch the #TXsuccess Campaign beginning this month. Based on feedback from TACCM membership, we’ve identified hot topics that affect community colleges statewide and have developed a statewide communication plan centered around those topics.

You’ll find that communication plan available for download on our #TXsuccess Campaign Resources page.

Here’s what else you’ll find there:

  • A monthly media release that can be customized to feature your college’s information, quotes and stats;
  • Social media posts that you can use as-is or customize with your own photos and colors;
  • and #TXsuccess talking points that your presidents will be using when they speak to legislators and decision-makers.

The point of this: for all of us, all over the state, to collectively promote Texas community colleges as a whole. In November, for example, we want everyone to be talking about how community colleges uniquely serve veterans.

There’s no particular entity out there campaigning for Texas community colleges. We’re it—the marketers at each community college in the state. And together, by taking just a few simple steps each month, we can make an impact.

How can you contribute? Each month, we’ll send out a notice that our new materials are available on the resources page. When you get that, we ask that you:

  • Distribute the media release to your news contacts—feel free to put it on your own letterhead and drop in your own quotes/facts/figures.
  • Schedule 3-4 #TXsuccess social media posts. You can use our images as-is, use the customizable Photoshop files to add your own photos, or just lift our talking points and make your own altogether. While we’re at it, let’s make #TXsuccess Tuesdays a thing. If you can, schedule your posts for Tuesdays.
  • Use the hashtags #TXsuccess and #txlege on everything you do. #TXsuccess will help us track the campaign, while #txlege will ensure that legislators/legislative aides will see the messaging.

And if you’re inspired by any of the #TXsuccess messaging, we hope you’ll take it a step further by writing additional media releases, creating videos, scheduling media events, purchasing ad space—whatever works best in your area. If you do, please use the #TXsuccess hashtag and share your successes with us!

Materials for September are available on the resource center right now.

Want an overview of the resource center and the #TXsuccess campaign? You can watch a recording of last week’s #TXsuccess webinar here.

Let’s show everybody in Texas the amazing work we’re doing in Texas community colleges.


Traci Pitman
TACCM Web & Social Media Director
Design & Creative Services Coordinator for Texarkana College

2016 TACCM Conference Recap, Presentations Now Online

Last month, 102 attendees representing 27 Texas community and technical colleges gathered in Corpus Christi for the 2016 TACCM Conference.

Left to right: Dr. Mark Escamilla (Del Mar College), Dr. Cesar Maldonado (Houston Community College), Dr. Shirley Reed (South Texas College) and Dr. David Hinds (Victoria College) participated in the “Straight Talk” panel discussion.

“Transitioning Tides” was a fitting theme for TACCM’s fourth annual conference. After holding the conference in Austin our first three years, the TACCM Board decided to move this year’s event to Corpus Christi in response to feedback from our membership.

Congrats to Kristina Saar with Brookhaven College who won a Chromebook as a part of the “Meet People, Win Stuff” activity!

Keynotes focused on key changes to the community college landscape, covering topics such as the new 60x30TX Strategic Plan and a statewide communication plan that will be launched this summer by the Texas Association of Community Colleges in collaboration with TACCM member colleges (more info to come soon). Most of the presentations for the keynotes and breakouts are now available online.

Dr. Steven Johnson with TACC provided an update on the 85th Legislative Session.

Members were also brought up to speed on the TACCM Board’s three goals for the year: (1) Develop regional networking opportunities; (2) engage members; and (3) strengthen collaboration between TACCM and TACC. We’ve made progress in each of these areas, but as a fairly young organization, there’s still a lot of work to do. I’ve enjoyed serving the organization as president over the last two years, but I’m also looking forward to transitioning to past president as new leadership takes TACCM to the next level. And I look forward to seeing you all again at next year’s conference in Austin!

Outgoing and incoming board members posed for a quick photo at the end of the conference.

Pictured left to right, front row, are: Jed Young, Lone Star College, Southeast Texas regional director; Tisha Sternadel, Victoria College (VC), outgoing secretary; Darin Kazmir, VC, past president; Melinda Eddleman, Del Mar College, president; and Nick Alvarado, Texas State Technical College (TSTC), newly elected vice president. Middle row: Samantha Uriegas, South Texas College, mentor director; Maria Aguirre, TSTC, West Texas regional director; Lisa Wilhelmi, McLennan Community College (MCC), treasurer; Traci Pitman, Texarkana College, web and social media director; Ashlee Estlack, Clarendon College, newly elected secretary; and Ann Hatch, Dallas County Community College District, North Texas regional director. Back row: Elizabeth Garza, VC, newly elected membership director; Lynda Lopez, TSTC, South Texas regional director; Clif-Ann Paris, MCC, Central Texas regional director; Elizabeth Steele, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, ex-officio board member; and Jodi Weber, North Texas Community College, public relations director. Not pictured are Margaret Ruff, Paris Junior College, legislative director; Lynn Goswick, retired, outgoing past president; Dr. Steven Johnson, TACC, ex-officio board member; Shelle Cassell, retired, outgoing membership director; and Jennifer Aries, 25th Hour Communications, ex-officio board member.

TACCM Central Texas Regional Meeting & Professional Development Day – April 8, 2016

by Clif-Ann Paris
TACCM Central Texas Regional Director
Senior Graphic Design Specialist | McLennan Community College


Photos courtesy of McLennan Community College

Bruce Gietzen, co-anchor for KXXV News Channel 25 – “Best Practices for Working with the Media” presented by McLennan Community College

Interactive Presentation: “Experiencing Campus without Visiting” – Presented by Texas State Technical College’s Nick Alvarado, Mark Burdine, and Caitlin Hooks

McLennan Community College Campus Tour – including Health Professions Simulation Lab and Virtual Dissector and Science Building with stained glass DNA art installation

Photos courtesy of KXXV News Channel 5 and TACCM President Darin Kazmir and Treasurer Lisa Wilhelmi