Roughneck Camp Helps Retain Graduating Student Members

Did you know that SPE currently has 18,000 student members worldwide, and approximately a quarter of those are graduating seniors? How can SPE illustrate to each of them the value and benefit of continuing their SPE membership in their professional careers?  One answer that has proved successful for the SPE Gulf Coast Section (GCS) is the annual Young Professional (YP) Roughneck Camp. The camp is a 1-day conference devoted to networking and introducing new professionals, interns, and local college students to the industry.

Typically, the main presentation at Roughneck Camp consists of a senior professional giving an overview of his or her experiences within the industry and SPE. Side topics in the past have included pursuing different types of careers within the industry, traveling abroad, and graduate education while working.

Another regular topic focuses on the personal rewards of becoming involved in a professional organization. This can involve one speaker or a panel, and it allows the YP Board to show how SPE can help students manage their careers and enhance their resumes beyond college.

When planning Roughneck Camp, it is vital for the planning committee to realize that not every participant will be pursuing a petroleum engineering degree. Small classroom environments provide a great opportunity for networking and help promote the desired technical discussion. To accommodate this, YP Board members split into four to eight different classrooms (typically, with a ratio of 2–3 board members to 20–25 participants each) and cover a specific topic.


Every year, one classroom plays a game of Oilfield Pictionary, in which the group is divided into two teams for an enjoyable and competitive review of industry vocabulary. A complete list of possible teambuilding activities and needed materials can be found on the YP Board’s home page at:

This past year, the camp added a hands-on technical demonstration that allowed participants to fracture a gelatin reservoir through a straw well and peanut-butter-candy bottomhole assembly. The camp also taught cementing concepts, using Schlumberger-donated mud kits that the participants could take home. The key to organizing a successful camp is to be creative and promote interaction with the students as much as possible. It is important to remember that the purpose of Roughneck Camp is to demonstrate the value that students can derive from SPE as they move on in their careers. Look to the YP website for more information and different ideas from which to choose.

Roughneck Camp is a beneficial way to introduce students and incoming professionals to the industry and to encourage their continuing participation in SPE. The GCS YP Board welcomes other YP Boards to use any of the above-mentioned ideas to help create their own Roughneck Camps. The camp is a great instruction and orientation vehicle that has proved more successful each year. There are many ways in which SPE can help its graduating student members, but new methods are a key part of keeping that effort fresh and effective. Retaining student members will increase overall SPE membership and benefit the industry for years to come.

Gabrielle Guerre was 2007 Roughneck Camp Chairperson.