Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Hitting the Ground Running: Oklahoma Energy Resources Board Scholarship Program Gives More Than Money

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Hitting the Ground Running: Oklahoma Energy Resources Board Scholarship Program Gives More Than Money

Article excerpt

Bryce Fugate is looking forward to starting his career in the oil and gas industry, but he couldn't afford a college degree on his own.

The Skiatook native is one of 174 students who recently received a scholarship from the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board to help pay for petroleum-related studies. The nonprofit organization awarded $484,000 for the 2014-2015 school year, the most since it began the scholarship program in 2007.

Fugate will be the first in his family to receive a college degree when he graduates from the University of Oklahoma in December of 2015. His parents make less-than-average salaries, so they can't pay for his entire tuition. The scholarship, which he has received consecutively since his sophomore year, allows him to focus on his coursework and plan campus activities, rather than worrying about finances, he said.

Yet the OERB's Petroleum Scholars program is more than just an oversized check. The goal is to help students develop soft skills they will need when they graduate, as well as make professional connections, said Carla Schaeperkoetter, education director at the OERB.

Though the money is a huge help, Fugate said, he appreciates the well-rounded nature of the program.

"It aims to not just give you money, but develop you as a future energy leader in Oklahoma," he said.

Eric Weidemann agreed. He received the scholarship while studying energy management at the University of Tulsa. He started working part time for Newfield Exploration in Tulsa in 2012, while still in school. He paid his own way through college, and the scholarship was crucial to paying a private university's tuition, he said. He currently works full time for the company as a landman.

Schaeperkoetter said the program was established in 2007, when the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma needed more qualified employees. The number of scholarship applicants has increased each year since then, in part because more students are majoring in petroleum engineering, geosciences and energy management, she said. …

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