SPE Student Development Committee: Chairperson’s Insights

The SPE Student Development Committee (SDC) was born 40 years ago, although under a different name. While its name has changed, its mission has remained the same: to encourage students to develop and enjoy the advantages of SPE membership. The SDC, which is composed of SPE volunteers, recommends student programs to be initiated at the global society level and works with staff members to implement approved programs. The SDC encourages SPE sections to develop active student-relations programs with student chapters in their areas. Additionally, the SDC implements and monitors the Regional and International Student Paper Contests and the SPE Outstanding Student Chapter Program.

These are busy times. The number of student chapters worldwide has more than doubled over the last 10 years from approximately 80 to 171, and student membership has grown from some 2,900 to more than 16,700. The student chapter participation in the annual Outstanding Student Chapter contest has continued to grow, and each year it becomes increasingly difficult to choose a winner. Because student chapter programs are continuing to improve around the world, the SDC added the recognition level of regional finalist to the contest. Students often face difficulties obtaining travel visas to attend the paper contests. So this year, for the first time, the SDC will permit video-conference participation on the international level for regional winners unable to attend the competition. Support from the local SPE section is the key to student-chapter success. The SDC has created a list of best practices for improving student-chapter relations with their sponsoring SPE sections. For example, sections could

  • Encourage young professionals (YPs) to make campus presentations about career experiences
  • Provide members to give technical presentations to student chapters
  • Participate in student community and charitable activities
  • Arrange student field trips
  • aSponsor students to attend local technical-training seminars

The idea is to strengthen student/professional interactions and increase industry exposure and access for young people who will soon join the industry. Today, SPE provides many student networking opportunities. Students have a bulletin board, Young Professionals Network, on which they can post questions and ideas concerning the industry and receive input/e-mentoring from YPs. It can be accessed easily at

The opportunities in our industry abound for students who are ready to take the challenges. The prospects in the industry have become extremely diverse, and today’s generation is in a prime position to try many, maybe even all, of them. Probably the hardest question is, “Where do I start?”, followed by, “What exactly do I need to do to accomplish my goals?” While university provides a good foundation, there is plenty more to learn. Having a guide-book to point you in the right directions is invaluable if you want to learn the proper skills for your current job or the one to which you aspire. By creating these guidebooks/development programs, we have shortened dramatically the time it takes to make the transition from learning to becoming a revenue generator.

This is perhaps one of the biggest changes I have seen in the industry over the last 25 years. I believe that experience is a great teacher, but sometimes it is just a little slow. In today’s fast-paced industry, we are looking at our YPs to step into positions of authority sooner than ever. To maintain quality performance, companies have been forced to review the competencies required to perform various functions. Having a good competency map can vastly improve the programs companies use to develop their people. It also allows you to see whether the skills required for a particular job are things that you would enjoy. SPE already has some general competency matrices developed, and these are available on the above-mentioned website for some of the common engineering jobs like drilling, production, reservoir, and general and formation evaluation. Using competency programs can allow you to get up to functional speed faster than ever.

There are many professionals with a tremendous amount of experience who can be of great help to you. There are many reasons why people choose to be mentors, and they may and probably will be different for different generations. Courtesy and respect are paramount in your interactions. A mentor is essentially volunteering to share his or her experience with others. Your failure to plan or unwillingness to do the required background work could quickly wear out your relations with a mentor. If you will bring excitement and enthusiasm into the mix, it can energize the relationship and create a fruitful and lasting partnership that can benefit you and the industry for years to come.

SPE has always been very supportive of the work of the committee. It has been a great opportunity to be on the SDC over the last 4½ years. In this time, I have witnessed the growth of our students into young professionals in ways I could not have imagined when I started in the industry 25 years ago. I strongly encourage our student members to take full advantage of the services SPE can provide, including the networking opportunities with your sponsoring section or student chapter.

Students, it is up to you either to sit and watch developments or to take an active role in molding them! Help make the future bright. For more information on the SDC, please contact



Kevin Buhl has more than a quarter-century of industry experience. After holding various field-operations positions and working in formation evaluation for Halliburton, he chose to work as an instructor, coach, and mentor at the Halliburton Training Center in Texas for the company’s young professionals across the globe. Buhl has traveled extensively and has worked at various locations around the world for Halliburton. In addition, he is serving as chairperson for the SPE Student Development Committee. Buhl graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BS degree in chemical engineering, including a minor in petroleum engineering, in 1982. He is a member of the 25-Year Club of SPE.


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