Taking the College to the Community: Denise Orand

Aug 5, 2019Andrea Vasquez

No matter whom you talk to, everyone will have a different definition of "college."

Denise Orand, San Jacinto College director of adult education grants, understands that everyone needs a starting point. For some, that may be starting with learning English, taking basic courses to prepare for a degree path in a totally different career, or taking time to learn about college and community resources available to them. For those students, Orand is their champion, ensuring they have the same opportunities to access higher education no matter where they are in their journey.

Q: What does your role as director of adult education grants entail?

A: I manage a variety of grants funded by the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Texas Workforce Commission. One of our department's primary goals is to develop college and career readiness skills with nontraditional students, which can include beginning English-language learners to participants developing skills to advance their careers.

We collaborate with employers, other educational institutions, and community-based organizations to determine the needs of the communities we serve, then work with these collaborating partners to provide the services that are most beneficial to both our students and community members.

Many of these students would not transition to the College without the extra support provided by our adult education and literacy programs and collaborative partners. The Houston-Galveston Area Consortium for Adult Education and Literacy serves a very large portion of the state with an average of at least 20,000 adult education students per year participating in our programs. Through the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, many new opportunities have been offered to our adult education students to participate in workforce certifications and career pathways.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your current role?

A: I like that I am able to truly make a difference in the lives of our students and in our communities. Through our grants, we are able to take the College to the community by offering a variety of basic education courses and services at community sites, which include local school district and college campus sites and community-based organization spaces such as United Way.

Through our community collaborations and relationships, we are also able to bring the community to the College for special events and services.

Q: Because the College's adult education and literacy programs have been so successful, you were invited to serve as a member of the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program. What is this program, and what does it do?

A: The Skilled Immigrant Integration Program is a project designed by World Education Services Global Talent Bridge, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping international students and professionals achieve their educational and professional goals in the U.S. and Canada. It was created to assist those wanting to build sustainable networks to advance local skilled immigrant integration efforts.

The Texas Workforce Commission submitted a proposal to the World Education Services Global Talent Bridge and was approved to participate in this program as a state initiative for adult education and literacy providers. Because the College has a 15-30% success rate of our adult education and literacy students successfully completing certification courses in high-demand career fields in our area, I was asked to be the College's representative for this initiative.

Q: How will your participation in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program help expand resources for our adult education students?

A: By participating in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program, we have been given the opportunity for national and international collaboration with many experts in the adult education field. Through this collaboration, we are given access to resources, data, and information regarding how to best leverage what skilled immigrants may offer to fill employment gaps that may exist in our area.

Currently, we host job fairs, career integration information sessions, and financial literacy trainings. Our Transition Conference conducted at the College with Pasadena ISD brought more than 900 adult education students to the College at three different annual events.

We hope that the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program will allow us to add additional resources and new types of training and information sessions for our current and prospective adult education students. The more people we can serve in our community, the greater we all become.

Q: How do you see adult education at the College evolving and moving forward?

A: The possibilities for adult education are constantly increasing and a vital part of building a more skilled workforce to improve our community. By providing more adult education and literacy resources, we can help continue to build that workforce pipeline but also give more people the opportunity to see that education at any point in life is beneficial. Whether it's learning a new language, a new skill for a career change, or picking up where they left off in their educational journey, San Jacinto College is here for them when they're ready.