The Houston trip grew out of a casual conversation between Zeshan Ismat and Dave Lehman ‘68. Zeshan noted how students from the eastern U.S. have almost no exposure to the energy industry, except for the generally bad rap it gets on environmental issues. She mused that our students would learn so much if only they could go to Houston and meet some of the players in the ‘oil patch’. This was the just the impetus Dave needed. He contacted some of his F&M friends and ExxonMobil contacts and suddenly a wonderful opportunity developed for 14 F&M students to spend a week in the Houston area. The week opened with a gala dinner for F&M geoscience alumni and the students in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. This was a wonderful setting for a marvelous dinner. Dinner alumni attendees included: Kevin and Christine Bradford ’92; Keith and Ann Conrad ’78; Christian George ’99; Cheryl and Paul Gucwa ’69; Marie and Phil Holbrook ’70; Beverly and Alan Huffman ’83; Sue and Marv Kauffman ’55; Patsy and Dave Lehman ’68; Clara and Angelo Okuma ’66; Jill Simons ’81; Amanda Simons; Steve Tavernier ’99; Jerry Wermund ’48; Anne and Tom Wild ’80 plus Carol de Wet, Zeshan Ismat and the 14 students. The next day the students and their guides (primarily Paul Gucwa, Dave Lehman and Steve Adams ‘95) began their exploration of the energy industry. Houston F&M geoscience alumni graciously hosted the students in their homes for the week of April 17-21.
After returning to F&M some of the students summarized how much the trip had meant to them. It is fascinating to see how their attitudes changed as the result of one week’s exposure to new ideas and concepts. Some of their responses are printed below. In addition, during senior exit interviews in the Department, the seniors who had been on the Houston trip all said that it was the single most significant excursion in their 4 years at F&M. The mix of science, economics, politics, and people on the trip showed the students how real life combines all of their liberal arts learning into a cohesive and dynamic set of skills and knowledge. The mix of serious and applied science, with big-time finance, and some fun, gave the students an entirely new perspective on the world outside of this nurturing place. Paul Riley ’04 put the trip in perspective when he said, “I now see how there is an entire cadre of students who proceeded me here (at F&M) who set the high standards and paved the way for us. I am indebted to them, and honored to be part of that group.”
Student Comments About the Trip
Although every aspect of the trip was great, I think the host families were the best. The Conrads, who hosted me, are the kindest people, and were extremely hospitable and entertaining. As for the events, the companies who let us visit and gave us lectures were also great – many of the topics covered were quite interesting (most notably, the seismics by PGS, the talk by Michael Economides, Steve Adam’s talk on the transition between F&M and the real world). Lastly, the field trips were quite amazing, especially the salt mine and the onshore drilling platform. Overall, I had a very good time. Wes Court ’04
The trip was amazing. I approached it with skepticism, waiting to see how it went, but there was nothing to be skeptical about, I only wish more people could have gotten the same experience! Hearing the use of geology and how the different companies addressed environmental issues really expanded my knowledge and exposed me to a variety of opinions. The salt dome was an amazing experience and really tied in to all we had learned earlier about salt domes and oil; it really helped me visualize the seismic data we’d seen and presentations we’d been given. Amanda Sahl ’05
The trip was amazing! The alumni were so thoughtful to have done this for us. Dave and Paul and Steve were awesome hosts and gave us more than we could have asked for. Going down to Houston, I thought of the oil industry as being kind of “evil”. But after all that we got to see, I have definitely changed my mind. In addition, it was really spectacular all of the things we were exposed to; going on an oil drilling rig, having dinner in a fancy museum, going into a salt mine, getting to see all the amazing technology that the oil industry has and much much more. It also made me realize what a great school F&M really is. First of all to have these amazing alumni who want to share their world with us, but also to have been exposed to so many things in our classes. Many of the things they showed us (technologically speaking) we had already done: GIS, thin sections, XRD . . .
It was an amazing trip and I feel sorry for those who didn’t come. Georgia Price ’04
The trip to Houston was such an amazing experience. It was very interesting to see all the geology that we have been learning in class applied to everyday work. I learned so much from visiting the different oil companies and the oil rig. I was able to understand so much more by experiencing it first hand. I never expected to learn as much as I did. The alum that hosted us in Houston were so wonderful. The F&M Geology department (Earth & Environment) is so tightly knit all the way back to its very 2nd Geology major graduate – whom we met in Houston. It is so nice to be a part of this family, and I hope that I will be able to do something s wonderful as this for future F&M geology majors. Thank you F&M alum – it was an awesome experience that I will never forget. Bryn Benford ‘05