Resilience in the face of adversity

Amanda Calhoun never imagined she would choose to major in energy management, but four years marked by valuable internship experience and lessons learned along the way have shown the resilient senior that she’s ready to conquer the industry when she graduates in May.

Growing up and attending high school in Broken Arrow, Amanda Calhoun was familiar with TU. “I visited during Tulsa Time and there was a seminar about the energy management program,” she said. “I’d never heard about it before, and it intrigued me. The program focused on applying classroom concepts through internships, and I appreciated a degree that was going to prepare me to work in the energy industry.”

Calhoun took the initiative to secure an operations internship with Direct Energy, an electricity and natural gas marketing company, for the summer after her freshman year. That experience laid the foundation for a land internship with Devon Energy the following summer. “I wanted to give land management a shot because I felt like it would be a natural fit for me,” said Calhoun, “and it was a fantastic opportunity.” Part-time jobs with Paladin Land Group LLC during the school year provided technical skills to complement her work in land management.

Though she accepted an offer to return to Devon after completing her junior year, a downturn in oil prices meant the company had to make cuts to its internship program. With just a couple of months to search and few prospects in sight, Calhoun got creative. “I cast my net broadly and looked everywhere,” she said.

A query on Indeed’s job board turned up an opportunity with the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands in Bismarck. Calhoun applied, thinking the job description sounded perfect.

TU connections extend throughout the U.S. and internationally, and North Dakota is no exception. Drew Combs (MEB ‘16), director of minerals management and also a student in TU’s online Master of Energy Business program, happened to be in charge of the hiring decision. “The way our interview process works, I don’t see the applications until they’ve already been vetted,” he said. “Amanda’s application was among the top three, and she was by far the best candidate.”

Combs then called Professor Tom Seng, who coordinates TU’s energy management program, for a reference. Calhoun had a phone interview and accepted an offer with just days to secure housing before packing her car to head north for the two-day drive to Bismarck.

Calhoun’s work with the department offered her an entirely new perspective on the industry. The department owns and manages about 3 million acres of land, much of it located in the heart of the Bakken Formation, one of the largest contiguous deposits of oil and natural gas in the U.S. Calhoun was in the minerals division and spent the summer working on projects like assisting with a land auction, helping with applications for lease assignments and analyzing trust fund allocations.

“A lot of the work we do just fit right into what Amanda brought to the table,” said Combs. “It was nice to have someone we didn’t have to train and who already knew what a spacing unit was.”

“My experience in North Dakota ultimately benefited me more than going back to the same company,” Calhoun said. “It taught me to be open and not be afraid to go out on a limb. Innovation is bred by necessity, and our energy management students have had to get creative. Whether it’s going to work for a state agency or in other segments of the energy industry, our students are doing a great job searching out different opportunities.”

Combs couldn’t have asked for a better outcome, either. “We would have given her a full-time job if she had already graduated,” he said. “My hope is to continue hiring TU students as interns since this worked out so well.”

Calhoun recently accepted a position in Tulsa-based Magellan Midstream’s professional development program and has already started working part-time for the company while completing her final semester at TU. She will transition to her full-time position following graduation.