Distinguished Staff Award (DSA)

In Recognition of Exemplary Performance

Purpose Statement:

The purpose of this recognition program is to provide a framework to recognize full-time staff members in Academic Affairs, who have demonstrated exemplary performance while at South Texas College.

DSA logo

Distinguished Staff Award
2017 Recipients

Distinguished Staff Award Recipients

Front Row (L to R): Norma Longoria, Christina (Christy) Cantu, Maria Isabel Echazarreta, Rosalba Ramirez, and Erika Leal
Back Row (L to R): Leonardo Castañeda, Maria Vargas, Carlos Gonzalez, Samuel Solis
Not in picture: Azalia Barrera

Azalia Barrera, Faculty Secretary
Starr County Campus
For the past 2 years, Ms. Azalia Barrera has been serving South Texas College as a faculty secretary for the Starr County Campus. She was introduced to the operational side of Starr County Campus when she was in the final stages of obtaining her Bachelors of Applied Science in Organizational Leadership from South Texas College. Throughout her capstone, Ms. Barrera was able to establish the Starr County Campus Strategic Plan/IE Plan. In doing so, Ms. Barrera had to coordinate and communicate with administrators throughout the college district to make sure that her capstone project was up to par. Through her leadership and ability to work with others, she was able to initiate, formulate, process data, and physically input data into the IE website.

Ms. Barrera shows her commitment to South Texas College and the Starr County Campus by continuously improving all functions and processes at hand. She is not afraid to research and seek guidance to effectively implement tasks on campus, and she is constantly searching for areas of improvement in daily operations. Furthermore, Ms. Barrera has voluntarily taken on the responsibility to coordinate two high-level annual community events – the September 11th Observance Ceremony and Veterans Day Celebration.

Christina (Christy) Cantu, Scheduling Technician
Office of Curriculum & Student Learning
Ms. Christy Cantu joined the South Texas College family 17 years ago, as an Administrative Assistant and is currently as a Scheduling Technician with the Office of Curriculum & Student Learning. She is one of two scheduling technicians for the entire South Texas College district. As a result, Ms. Cantu has to work collaboratively with all department chairs and division deans to develop course schedules for each semester for all five South Texas College campuses. Essentially, Ms. Cantu helps schedule over 12,000 courses per academic year! Within this role, Ms. Cantu has to be vigilant of any errors and/or discrepancies when it comes to the course scheduling each semester.

Additionally, Ms. Cantu demonstrates commitment to the South Texas College mission by providing educational access and support for all students. She is a role model within in the office and throughout the College. Ms. Cantu is always willing to lend a hand to all faculty, staff, and administrators when needed.

Leonardo Castañeda, Academies Specialist
Academies & High School Projects Department
Mr. Leonardo Castañeda, Academies Specialist is truly devoted to furthering the mission of the Academies & High School Projects Department and the institution through his service, both internally and externally. Mr. Castañeda has been employed with South Texas College for the last seven years, with two of those years as an Academies Specialist at the Mid-Valley Campus. In his role, Mr. Castañeda works closely with the dual credit academy students, providing support with course registration, case management, and degree audits.

In addition, Mr. Castañeda has worked to implement innovative strategies to guide students towards academic success. Specifically, he has created the Academies Program Senior Exit Interview template that is being utilized at three campuses to collect data for the department. The Senior Exit Interview focuses on students’ feedback on the program operations and insight on necessary university information. Moreover, Mr. Castañeda has built a strong rapport with his Academy students, school district personnel, high school administrators, and parents. He strives to ensure that not only students but also parents and members of the community understand the value of an education and the positive impact it has for their futures.

Maria Isabel Echazarreta, Faculty Secretary
Physical Science Department
Ms. Maria Isabel Echazarreta has been with the Physical Science Department for almost two years. During this time, Ms. Echazarreta has demonstrated initiative and high level communication on a large project for the department. For instance, she worked with the Office of Public Relations & Marketing to arrange and finalize the graphics for the Physical Science Department’s promotional banner. Additionally, Ms. Echazarreta created and developed divisional flyers to promote the Math & Science program.

Furthermore, when it comes to leadership and commitment, Ms. Echazarreta continues to demonstrate her excellence. She works closely with the lab specialist to ensure that all work study employees are on task and answer any questions that they might have. She has also transitioned the department’s travel paper work from physical paper to online, saving college resources. Ms. Echazarreta takes care in reviewing departmental documents to ensure accuracy and completeness. In everything, she has great expectations of herself and the Physical Science Department.

Carlos Gonzalez, Science Lab Coordinator
Biology Department
During the last 15 years, Mr. Carlos Gonzalez has worked with the Biology Department as the Science Lab Coordinator. Mr. Gonzalez is passionate, kind, hardworking, and dependable. He has a genuine commitment to South Texas College and is always looking for additional ways to help the students, faculty, and staff. Mr. Gonzalez’s internal and external communication and relationship skills are mirrored through his team, not only by improving the productivity and professionalism of the Biology Department but also by instilling valuable work skills and ethics to those he supervises.

Erika Leal, Specialist
Office of Professional & Organizational Development
Ms. Erika Leal has been a member of the Office of Professional and Organizational Development (OPOD) since 2016. Before joining South Texas College, she worked for Region 1 for ten years and was previously employed by the College in the Developmental Studies division. Ms. Leal is instrumental to the OPOD team, as she thrives in making the processes for program chairs, faculty, and staff stress-free as they prepare for events such as STLA for Staff, STLA for Chairs, Faculty Preparation days, and College Wide Professional and Organizational Development days.

Ms. Leal is also a certified Emotional Quotation analyst and DiSC Behavior Styles analyst that she may help facilitate departmental customized trainings and customer service trainings. Moreover, she has been vital in the creation and development of the new OPOD tracking and record keeping software.

Norma Longoria, Faculty Secretary
History & Philosophy Department
Ms. Norma Longoria has been with the South Texas College family for over ten years as a faculty secretary. She is a valuable asset to the department and epitomizes the true spirit of South Texas College. With over ten years of experience and knowledge, Ms. Longoria shows commitment and leadership within the department. For instance, she provides support to help organize conferences and guest speakers for the department like Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Hispanic Heritage Month.

Furthermore, Ms. Longoria makes sure that all issues are resolved, determining innovative ways to improve the workload, and proactively starting on paperwork before the peak time arrives to ensure that all faculty are situated properly when it comes to course scheduling, travel paperwork, and/or NOE’s. She has excellent verbal and written communication skills that make it easy to understand complicated procedures. In addition, Ms. Longoria has a great working relationship with all the faculty in the History & Philosophy department, which contributes to the department’s collegiality and positive working environment.

Rosalba Ramirez, Faculty Secretary
Criminal Justice & Social Sciences Department
Over the course of five years, Ms. Rosalba Ramirez has demonstrated initiation, commitment, and leadership in all that she does as a faculty secretary. Ms. Ramirez is proactive in accomplishing all of the tasks needed to keep the Criminal Justice & Social Sciences department running smoothly. She always anticipates the needs of the department chair, faculty, and the department as a whole. Ms. Ramirez is known as a good role-model to others and assists in training other secretaries on the policies and procedures of the college. Her leadership skills have assisted her in being asked to present at a national conference regarding “What Department Chairs Need to Know about the Role of Secretaries and Administrative Assistances in the Effective and Efficient Functioning of Their Departments."

Moreover, Ms. Ramirez maintains ongoing communication with all key stakeholders regarding the status of assigned tasks and information requests. She keeps the department faculty informed regarding important meetings and crucial deadlines. Essentially, she is a great asset to the College and department.

Samuel Solis, Lab Assistant
Electrician Technology Program
Mr. Samuel Solis has been employed with South Texas College for over six years as an Electrician Technology Lab Assistant. Mr. Solis demonstrates great commitment to the department, developing original, practical strategies; new technology practices, lab preparations, systematic approaches for inventory, and strategies to improve student learning in the labs. Mr. Solis has also taken the initiative to assist with recruitment efforts at the Starr County Campus and has taken on the responsibilities of the lab assistant at the Technology Campus and the Pharr Teaching Center. Furthermore, Mr. Solis participates at the career and job fairs at the elementary schools for La Joya ISD.

As an ambassador for the college, Mr. Solis is committed to South Texas College and the Electrician Technology Program. Hence, he participates in on-campus and off-campus activities, such as Habitat for Humanity RGV, Buckner International, and Proyecto Azteca. He is efficient, productive, and organized, epitomizing the ideal employee.

Mari Vargas, Program Secretary
Physical Therapist Assistant & Occupational Therapy Assistant Programs
Over the course of the last 18 years, both the Physical Therapist Assistant & Occupational Therapy Assistant have undergone multiple time-consuming, rigorous, and stressful national accreditation processes. Just as the faculty commit extra time and energy to ensure all required standards are met and documented, Ms. Mari Vargas, Program Secretary is committed in her efforts to assist in any way possible. Ms. Vargas continuously contributes to both programs, providing effective recommendations for improved student recruitment and communication without hesitation.

Furthermore, each semester she participates in and represents the programs at area job fairs and community events. Ms. Vargas serves as the liaison to our therapy community, potential and current students and their families, the general public, licensing boards, and professional accreditation agencies. She is conscientious of her demeanor, attitude, and appearance both on and off campus, as students often recognize her even when in public.