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TU connections help shape alumna’s career path

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Katie Neville Ahrens (BS ’01, MSF ’02) thrives in the fast pace of the trading floor. As a petroleum risk and compliance manager for QuikTrip, one of Oklahoma’s largest private companies, she helps guard against losses and unnecessary risk associated with commodities transactions. “With so much money and product moving all of the time, we want to help protect the company and our position by assessing the market and understanding the risk involved,” she said.

Though she couldn’t have envisioned the career path that would eventually take her to QuikTrip, Katie Ahrens traces it all back to the experiences she had and connections she made during her time at TU.

The Oklahoma City native chose TU because she liked its size and proximity to home. Ahrens majored in math as an undergraduate, a subject at which she excelled. She felt a business degree would complement the technical background she gained as a student in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences.

An internship on the trading floor at Williams cemented her desire to pursue a career in risk management. “It was an amazing work environment — fast paced, with a lot of smart people involved,” said Ahrens. She finished her graduate degree while interning in the trust department at a financial institution, a slower paced environment that contrasted sharply with her time at Williams. With few full-time job prospects in Tulsa, Ahrens moved to Kansas City to work for a small company that did brokerage work and advising for credit unions. “After about a year and a half, I wanted to get back into the trading and risk management side, and back to Tulsa,” she said.

Ahrens returned to Williams — and familiar territory — in risk control for the company’s power and natural gas trading group. When Williams sold a majority of its trading portfolio in 2008, she again relocated, this time to Houston with her husband, Seth (BS ’04). She took a position with an energy subsidiary of Bear Stearns, which was later acquired by JP Morgan.

The Houston chapter of TU’s Alumni Association kept Ahrens connected to the university she loved. “Having that network and being able to grow our community in Houston was important to me,” said Ahrens. “I still wanted to stay involved with TU even though we weren’t living in Tulsa.”

After five years in Houston, the couple began seeking new job prospects in hopes of returning to Tulsa. A friend told Ahrens about a rare opening at QuikTrip, which typically promotes from within. The position aligned with her experience and career goals. “For me to be able to do the job I want to do in a great environment and for a great company shows how much the relationships I’ve built have helped me throughout my career,” said Ahrens.

She also stayed active in the Alumni Association and earned a nomination to lead the group for a two-year term as president starting in 2015. “As part of the national board, you have a unique opportunity to see how things work from the inside out as opposed from the outside in,” she said. “This also is one way to give back and serve the university that has given so much to me.”

Under Ahrens’ leadership, the board is building a strategic plan for the Alumni Association to evaluate current activities and help shape the future of the organization. For the third year, chapters participated in a day of service to extend campus initiatives to communities across the country, which helps alumni stay connected to the university. The group is also working to provide opportunities for students and alumni to network with one another based on mutual career interests.

Ahrens says that while the TU alumni base may not be as large as those of state universities, it feels more like a family. “It doesn’t matter where you are or where you go — you’ll always have a member of your TU family nearby.”