Fort Bend County college leaders stand behind panel desks with American flag in background

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Representatives from various Fort Bend County cities, businesses, hospitals and colleges met for the 2023 State of Higher Education panel discussion at the Safari Texas Ranch on Friday, June 9.

Bryan Bowling, provost of Texas State Technical College’s Fort Bend County campus, represented the college on the panel.

He was joined by Madeline Burillo-Hopkins, vice-chancellor of workforce and president of Southwest College at Houston Community College, Betty McCrohan, president of Wharton County Junior College, and Jay Neal, associate vice president of academic affairs and COO of the University of Houston.

Lunch was served prior to the discussion, and Jim Rice, education division chair of the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce, thanked everyone for coming.

The panel kicked off with each panelist sharing information about recent accomplishments and upcoming expansions and events of their respective organizations. Bowling focused his remarks on how TSTC is working with other colleges to fill the educational needs in the community and county.

The first question posed was how mental health challenges of both students and staff are being handled and how the colleges are moving forward.

A common theme between each of the panelists was that mental health challenges are entering the spotlight more than they have in the past. Neal and McCrohan both talked about how there are resources for students to help with their mental health but getting students to engage is the tricky part. All, however, agreed that removing any stigmas surrounding mental health is key to moving forward.

“I believe that with every negative comes a positive,” Burillo-Hopkins said. “The positive in this case is that we are actually talking about mental health.”

Following the mental health discussion, a question was posed regarding how the colleges are looking at artificial intelligence and its uses and dangers. Each panelist noted the current skepticism and fear surrounding AI and its use.

“I believe that using AI will normalize, and it will become a useful tool,” Neal said.

That sentiment was shared among the leaders. Bowling said AI is like a genie out of the bottle and it cannot be put back in. Burillo-Hopkins agreed, adding that education about AI is going to be crucial for everyone who was in attendance.

“The technology is in its infancy,” Bowling said. “I think the ways in which AI will be used can’t even be imagined right now.”

Registration for TSTC’s fall semester is underway. For more information, go to

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