Education and SPE

Bill Bowers

by Bill Bowers, Exterran
2008-2009 SPE GCS Chairman


Education in its many forms has been a primary mission of SPE for the 50+ years of its existence as a professional society. Technical conferences and forums have long been a mainstay of the organization. Peer-reviewed technical papers resulting from these events offer an incredible learning and tech-transfer resource to SPE membership. Monthly and quarterly technical publications compile the best of these papers into a format that reaches a broad international audience. At the Section level, luncheon meetings and workshops provide a low-cost, high quality continuing education opportunity to members and the general public.

In addition to the technical training and continuing education opportunities provided to SPE membership and the petroleum industry at large, SPE and its Sections have a tradition of supporting students in grades K-12, Community Colleges, and Universities. This support comes in the form of funding to support scholarships, teacher training, science fairs, and other programs designed to encourage education in science, math, and engineering. Equally important as funding, the volunteer efforts of SPE Members are an invaluable resource in support of these initiatives.

Education and the Gulf Coast Section

The Gulf Coast Section Bylaws state that:

“The mission of the Section shall be the promotion of mutual cooperation in furthering the objectives of the Society of Petroleum Engineers International, Inc. This shall be accomplished by:

  • Providing forums that afford members the opportunity to upgrade and maintain professional competence.
  • Providing social interaction that increases member participation in Section activities as a whole, while striving to maintain the integrity of the Section.
  • Supporting programs in area primary and secondary schools to encourage students to develop their abilities in mathematics, science, and engineering.
  • Supporting engineering programs at the university level.
  • Enhancing the image of the Oil and Gas Industry by sponsoring community service programs.”

In addition to the diverse educational opportunities provided by our Study Groups and Committees, the Gulf Coast Section has a rich tradition of financial and volunteer support for education. The SPEC GCS petroleum engineering scholarship program provides four-year scholarships to qualified high school students who live within the Section. We fund Communities in Schools - Houston (CISH) Scholarships going to at-risk youth in any full-time university major. Magic Suitcase and Energy-4-me presentations, Science Fair judging, member-led student tours of OTC, support of UH Clear Lake’s Teacher Energy Workshops, and our high-school recruiting fairs are all examples of our volunteer efforts in support of education.

Historically, and under our current Bylaws, all of these initiatives fall under our Community Services Chair. Two years ago, under the leadership of Roger Hite, Chair of the GCS Board at that time, an ad hoc Education Committee was established to explore new and expanded opportunities for the GCS to further its support of education initiatives. The committee targeted the following areas:

  • Elementary School – Create a favorable impression and interest in math & science and oil & gas
  • Middle School – Math – Get through Algebra!
  • High School – Create industry interest and publicize scholarships
  • Junior/Community College – Address a previously untapped talent pool
  • University – Assist Faculty recruiting and retention, especially young and/or new faculty

A number of new programs have been established through the efforts of the ad hoc committee, including:

  • Houston Community College Energy Institute Petro-Tech Scholarships
  • Houston Consortium for the Advancement of Science and Engineering (HCASE) scholarships
  • Lone Star College Petroleum Engineering Bridge Scholarship
  • Supplemental Faculty Funding for Petroleum Engineering University programs
  • Endowment of UH Petroleum Engineering Professorship (Proposed)

These new programs, coupled with the expansion of the existing GCS Petroleum Engineering and CISH scholarships, have increased the Section’s ongoing educational budget to the range of $300,000 to $600,000, depending on attrition of scholarship recipients and approval of proposed educational initiatives. This is by far the largest portion of our annual budget than the expense associated with organizing lunch meetings and workshops. In addition to the sizeable budget, our educational initiatives have created the need for ongoing support and monitoring, currently provided by members of the ad hoc Education and Community Service committees.

Proposed Standing Education Committee

So that the GCS Board can provide the level of management support and responsible fiduciary oversight of the various educational initiatives of the Section, the Board has approved establishment of a new position. This new position, to be called Education Coordinator, will formalize and make permanent the functions performed by the ad hoc Education Committee for the past 2+ years. The Education Coordinator will lead a Committee of Champions made up of SPE GCS members, each of whom will be responsible for championing one of the various education initiatives of the GCS. It is proposed that the major funded education initiatives (and associated subcommittees) currently under the Community Services Chair will be moved under the Education Chair.

After this reorganization, the Education Coordinator will be responsible for the major funded educational initiatives in the Section. The Community Services Coordinator will be freed up to focus on volunteerism and expanded community service initiatives in support of our goal of enhancing the image of the oil and gas industry.

Membership Vote to Change Bylaws

This organizational change will require a change in the Bylaws of the SPE Gulf Coast Section. Such a change can only be accomplished through a vote of the membership. Accordingly, there will be a vote of the SPE Gulf Coast Section Membership at the March GCS General Meeting. The meeting will be Thursday, March 12, 2008 at the Petroleum Club of Houston, located at 800 Bell Street, on the 43rd floor of the ExxonMobil Building. The Membership vote will take place immediately following the normal meeting presentation. Members who wish to vote and have not paid to attend the General Meeting will be allowed entrance at no charge following the end of the scheduled presentation.

Proposed changes to the By-Laws are:

  • Establish a standing position on the GCS Board of Directors to be called Education Coordinator. Once approved, this position will be filled by appointment of the GCS Chair drawing both from names put forward by the GCS nominating committee and from Section Membership.
  • Change wording in the position description of the Section Treasurer that implies the requirement of an annual audit of Section accounting. An annual audit has been determined to be unnecessary, overly time consuming for paid and volunteer staff, and excessively costly for the Section. In the judgment of the GCS Executive Committee, an annual accounting review meets the fiduciary needs of the Section.

An outline of the charter of the proposed Education Committee, along with the current and proposed SPE GCS Bylaws can be found at

We hope that you will attend the March General Meeting and vote for these three changes to our By-Laws. A quorum of 50 members of the Section is required to vote on these changes. If you have questions about these proposals, please feel free to contact me, GCS Treasurer Mark Peavy, or ad hoc Education Committee Chair Stuart Scott.

Bill Bowers