TSTC Automation and Controls Technology instructor Troy Powledge and senior enrollment coach Charla Foster returned to TSTC to help educate future generations. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Though college is a place enriched with possibilities, often students are eager to graduate and ready to begin their professional lives. But sometimes the possibilities that an alma mater offers are too good to leave behind.

At Texas State Technical College’s Marshall campus, TSTC graduates Charla Foster and Troy Powledge have discovered that the careers they were looking for were closer than they knew.

When Foster, who now works in enrollment at TSTC, had her first child at age 21, she could not help but feel that her dreams of going to college would never come to be. However, she took a chance and followed in her best friend’s footsteps by applying to the Environmental Health and Safety program at TSTC’s Marshall campus. 

Foster prospered from there, joining the college’s honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, managing the campus’ softball team at the time, the TSTC Stars, helping found the student ambassadors, and much more, all while pursuing her degree.

“I didn’t have a lot of parental support or role models, but I did have that support here at TSTC, which was my instructors and friends that came to school here,” Foster said.

Foster graduated in 2001 and found work as a paralegal. Her employers were so impressed with the knowledge that a TSTC education had given her that they paid for her to further it with paralegal studies.

Foster worked in the field of law for almost 20 years. But the more she grew in her career, the more demanding her work became, to the point where her quality of life began to slip. As a result, Foster returned to TSTC’s Marshall campus in 2021 to work in enrollment. 

Though she briefly held a position with the college as the statewide risk management coordinator, Foster’s true passion was for enrollment, leading to her being a senior enrollment coach today.

“I love TSTC,” she said. “I’m always volunteering and supporting and promoting and selling it everywhere I go just because I love it so much. It really is a piece of who I am.”

TSTC instructor Powledge had a bit of a rocky start when he first began attending TSTC at the Waco campus. However, he ended up dropping out and trying a different path.

“I had what I called ‘high school brain,’ and it said, ‘Just do the minimum to get by,’” Powledge said. “The minimum wasn’t enough.”

After finding that night school and working in electronics at a penitentiary were not fulfilling for him, Powledge decided to give TSTC another chance. He graduated at age 22 in 1986 with a degree in Electronics Technology and a spot on the dean’s list.

Through his work with two different companies after he graduated, Powledge discovered his true calling in automation. In 2000, he took his passion further and opened his own company, TCO Systems.

After 30 years, Powledge felt less and less driven to continue with his business. The solution was to close it and become an instructor in TSTC’s Automation and Controls Technology program, which had just been introduced to the Marshall campus six months prior.

“Every time I thought about teaching at TSTC and giving back to the younger generation, that one always felt really good,” Powledge said. “I describe it as feeling bright. It felt bright.”

Powledge has worked at TSTC’s Marshall campus for 3 1/2 years. He is grateful for the journey that TSTC set him on.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

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