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The Kolbe Connection

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The graduation of 19 students from The Kolbe School of Innovation and Professional Studies is a shared triumph and a history-making hero story. It’s a tale that prompts cheers and tears from team members who pour their hearts and souls into students and the building of a school. 

Within The Kolbe School’s first graduating cohort, 16 earned two-year degrees in Cybersecurity and three in Network Technology. They come from a varied population of individuals who are changing careers for one reason or another. Many have been out of school for years. For each, The Kolbe School’s 100% online Associates in Applied Science (AAS) degrees have the potential to change their lives. The chance to align passions with purpose.

Hear from One of the Cybersecurity Graduates

Jeremy Rodriguez, a fast-food worker and AAS graduate in Cybersecurity, is excited about his future now. Initially, he spotted the cyber program in the Houston Chronicle. 

Rodriguez said, “I already enjoyed computers and technology. And since the program was online, I liked that I could keep working and earning money.”

Rodriguez initially worried that the virtual aspect would mean inaccessible professors.

“But that wasn’t the case,” he added. “They did a great job of assisting me whenever I needed them.” 

The school secured a valuable internship for Rodriguez in the cybersecurity field. Soon, he discovered that the more he learned, the more psyched he was about cyber. 

Rodriguez said, “I want to do it long-term as a career and plan to transfer to UST’s B.A. in Global Cybersecurity program. It’s a growing field and is going to continue to grow. We’re like modern-day, high-tech internet police. Down the road, I can see myself on the policy, governance and risk compliance side of things.”

On The Building of The Kolbe School

Four years ago, the inspired idea of a slate of two-year degrees in technology won the UST Max Kolbe Innovation Award for its “imagineer,” Dean of Libraries Jim Piccininni. But the idea of a parallel college for AAS degrees at UST was an over-the-top stretch goal in need of a bold creator – an educator who was up to the enormous task ahead. That educator was then Associate Dean of Education Dr. Nicole McZeal Walters, who became dean of The Kolbe School. 

“We knew we wanted to ride the wave of technology,” Walters said. “So, I did my own market study on cybersecurity, electronic technology and networking. Then, with input from an advisory committee of tech experts, we developed curriculum and in-demand skills certificates students could earn. And we made all of UST’s existing resource support services available.” 

At the same time, the savvy dean identified a passionate team of professors and staff as bold as she was. Walter’s first hires were now Associate Dean of The Kolbe School Dr. Rebecca Dowden and Academic Coordinator Raquel Gonzalez.

Dowden recalled, “What we accomplished with our team of three was the work of an entire department: hiring, administrative, faculty advising, enrollment and all the rest. We were inspired and driven by our vision.”

Together, the trio moved mountains for students interested in a two-year degree from a premier Catholic university. Now, The Kolbe School has its own dedicated instructional designer, admissions counselor, full-time department chairs and an academic success coach. 

The Kolbe School developed additional in-demand AAS programs and currently offers the following:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Networking Technology
  • Electronic Technology
  • General Business
  • Drug & Alcohol Counseling
  • General Studies
  • Pragmatic Studies

Numbers Tell the Success Story

The school that started in 2019 with one student had 177 registered in fall 2022, and the number is steadily growing. Another important number that grew is The Kolbe School’s retention rate.

Doing God’s Work for Our Students

Looking ahead, Walters anticipates building more AAS programs – perhaps one in respiratory therapy or education to combat the national shortage of head start teachers. “Recently, The Kolbe School was approached by the national organization, AVANCE, to form a partnership,” Walters said. AVANCE is a social services organization in Houston, and they want to build a pipeline for their employees by offering scholarships to earn a two-year degree.”

In the meantime, Walters said she and her team are united in The Kolbe School vision. “It is all about serving a different population of students in an ethos of faith and culture. We love these students. Our two-year degrees are lifelines for people. We’re doing God’s work and devoted to helping them obtain the skills and knowledge they need to flourish and care for their families.”   

“It is all about serving a different population of students in an ethos of faith and culture. We love these students. Our two-year degrees are lifelines to people. We’re doing God’s work and devoted to helping them obtain the skills and knowledge they need to flourish and care for their families.”

Dr. Nicole McZeal Walters, dean of The Kolbe School of Innovation and Professional Studies

About the Author — Jamie Roark

AvatarJamie Roark is an experienced, Houston-based content creator & communications skills coach. Through her company, Simply Communicate USA, she especially enjoys helping Higher Education and healthcare organizations to tell stories that inform and influence.

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