Same education, different method

by | Apr 9, 2020 | Big Ideas, Spring 2020 | 0 comments

Having earned three degrees from Mines, Linda Battalora ’87, MS ’88, PhD ’14 has seen firsthand how petroleum engineering education has evolved over the years.

Now, as teaching professor and Ben L. Fryrear Endowed Chair for Innovation and Excellence, she’s helping her department further refine the training of future generations of petroleum engineers.

“We’re incorporating new topics required by industry and also addressing environmental, health, safety and sustainability issues,” Battalora said. The department now offers a minor in data analytics, as well as a “midstream” minor.

Battalora teaches a variety of courses at all levels, including introduction to the petroleum industry, reservoir fluid properties and field session. Her training and experience as a lawyer has been vital for courses on environmental law and sustainability, but she’s also brought that expertise into other classes for a well-rounded learning experience. “Everything we do as engineers is, in some shape or form, regulated,” Battalora said. “When I’m teaching tech topics, I’m also incorporating awareness of the regulatory framework in which students will be working.”

The way the department instructs students is also evolving, including offering online courses. “We’re also doing more project-based learning in our classes, and student feedback is very positive,” Battalora said. “They work in teams to solve open-ended problems, and they’re also addressing social, environmental, health, safety and sustainability issues.”

As a Fryrear Chair, Battalora is also working on increasing alumni engagement and bringing alumni into the classroom. While alumni have a long history of supporting Mines, more recently, graduates have looked to engage directly with current students, whether through Oredigger Camp, assisting in lab activities, teaching communication workshops or conducting mock interviews.

But even as Mines’ infrastructure has grown and student resources have expanded, Battalora still relishes meeting with students one-on-one. “I love it when my students come to see me,” she said. “After talking about course material, we digress and talk about current events—the future of the oil and gas industry, job opportunities.”

“I always encourage my students to think broadly about their careers,” Battalora said, “and remind them that they are in charge of their futures.”