Six students enrolled in the University of Houston’s Energy & Sustainability minor were recently selected for the Equinor Scholars Program, sponsored by international energy company Equinor. The company, formerly known as Statoil, sponsored student scholarships of $1,000 per semester and will also provide mentoring by Equinor employees.
Equinor has a history of partnership with the University through the UH Energy initiative. The scholarship program, designed by UH Energy and the Honors College, will provide scholarships, along with first-hand knowledge and advice from seasoned energy professionals.
The Equinor Scholars Program will also allow students in the Energy & Sustainability minor to learn more about Equinor’s vision of the future of the energy sector.
“Getting a well-rounded perspective on the energy industry is good to understand how the whole picture works,” said Sydnee Landry, scholarship winner and a senior environmental science major. “There are so many different sides to environmental issues besides just the science part.”
The E&S minor encouraged her to enter the sustainability industry, steering her toward environmental science and a graduate degree in industrial design, rather than her initial plan to major in chemical engineering. She liked the minor’s interdisciplinary approach to the economic and social aspects of technical-heavy energy issues.
“I realized that I don’t have to just do science,” Landry said. “This minor helped confirm that I can do the kinds of things that interest me like design but still contribute to moving toward a sustainable society.”
The minor, housed in the Honors College, is open to students from all majors, Honors and non-Honors alike. It explores issues shaping the energy industry and related issues of sustainability. The minor includes coursework from a variety of colleges on campus and encourages students to think critically about the energy and sustainability dynamic.
The minor attracts students with majors including engineering, geology and other natural science majors, as well as economics, political science and other fields in the humanities. The interdisciplinary nature of the minor bridges the gap between technical-heavy majors as well as those in humanities majors with a broad perspective of the political, environmental, and economic issues raised by the production and consumption of energy sources.
Rita Sirreh, academic advisor for the minor, said the curriculum is intended to give an overview of issues around energy and sustainability while expanding “soft” skills like problem-solving, communication and critical thinking that are essential for collaboration on industry issues.
“If you have those skills, even as the industry evolves you’re able to evolve with it and succeed,” Sirreh said.
In Houston’s energy-driven economy, the Energy & Sustainability minor is intended to help students stand out in the job market through an integrative approach that helps students broaden their focus at a time when innovation is key to the energy industry.
Scholarship winner Nirmal Patel, a senior finance major, said the minor has broadened his mindset about the industry beyond the business picture. He said it proved helpful as he interned with BP this summer.“I’m always telling students that this is an amazing minor,” Patel said, “if you plan on staying in Houston, chances are you’re probably going to be working for an oil and gas company or for a company that does business with oil and gas, so having this knowledge is extremely important.”