The Energy Advisory Board takes the student experience to the next level

Phillip Jefferson (’17), President Renu Khator, and Kevin Mitchell
Phillip Jefferson (’17), President Renu Khator, and Kevin Mitchell, Executive Vice President and CFO of Phillips 66 and Energy Advisory Board member

By Joelle Carson

Phillip Jefferson (’17), a petroleum engineering major, saw major potential for collaboration with his fellow students early in his college career.

“I wanted to find a way for us, as students, to embrace the fact that we’re in the energy capital of the world on a larger scale,” he says. “We’re going to a university that is establishing itself as the energy university in the energy capitol of the world. How can we let the nation know that we’re really serious about it? That’s what drove my ambition to get the Energy Coalition started.”

The Energy Coalition is the largest student group on campus, comprising 34 student organizations and more than 5,300 members. Led by an Executive Board of the top student leaders, the Energy Coalition brings students together from different colleges and organizations who plan to pursue careers in the energy industry. Jefferson has since passed the torch as president, since he graduated in May 2017, but is still a champion for the group and energy initiatives at UH.

It’s no surprise that the Energy Coalition has collaborated with the University’s Energy Advisory Board, the University’s presidentially appointed volunteer board of experts and leaders in the energy industry. Board members are committed to advancing energy education and research, and access to these leaders has been especially beneficial for the Energy Coalition.

“One of our key focal points for the Annual UH Energy Banquet that we created and host is to engage alumni,” Jefferson explains, “and through the Energy Advisory Board, we’ve been able to have amazing speakers like Stephen Greenlee, the President of ExxonMobil Exploration Company. Speakers of that caliber have set a precedent, and that is incredibly motivating for all of us — and a big draw for alumni.”

A Growing Commitment to UH Students

In the coming school year, the Energy Advisory Board will become even more involved: Energy Coalition Executive Board members will each be paired with a member of the Board, who will act as a mentor and provide guidance for them as they work toward a career in energy.

That kind of access to top industry professionals is something that Jefferson believes can’t be found at any other university. “I believe that the Energy Advisory Board is probably the best example of one of the benefits that we have being in Houston, Texas,” he says. “No matter where a university is located or how much funding they have, only we can bring these top caliber, cream-of-the-crop true leaders of energy together from the biggest companies in the world on a regular basis — their headquarters are, for the most part, a 20-minute drive from campus.”

Jefferson is one of the students who has personally benefited from the Energy Advisory Board’s involvement. He recalls meeting Joseph Mills (’92), President and CEO of Samson Resources II, who was another speaker at an Energy Coalition banquet. Mills invited Jefferson to speak at a Houston Wildcatters event: “I was the first ever student speaker to take the podium at one of their events,” Jefferson recalls. “I had the opportunity to network and mingle with hundreds of executives across Houston. That would not have been possible if not for the Energy Advisory Board.”

“UH has always done more with less”

UH’s energy focus was instrumental in bringing Jefferson to the University — as well as President Renu Khator’s influence. “I will never forget the day I stumbled across Renu Khator’s 2012 President’s Report,” he recalls. “She was outlining all the growth happening at UH. This place, right in my backyard! UH is outpacing everybody else in the country, whether it’s royalty revenues from technology commercialization or average SAT score growth. But it’s more than that: UH has always done more with less, from innovative research to breaking racial barriers. I decided at that moment that I wanted to go to the University of Houston.”

Scholarships also made a “huge difference” in Jefferson’s UH experience, and again, alumni were directly involved: “One of the scholarships I was very grateful for was from the Engineering Alumni Association,” he says. He was also awarded a John Lienhard “Engines of our Ingenuity” scholarship, and received funds for housing due to his position as a resident advisor, among other scholarships. He graduated in May 2017 not only with a degree in petroleum engineering, but also a minor in marketing and a certificate in Corporate Entrepreneurship. “I wanted to take full advantage of the country’s best entrepreneurship program at the C. T. Bauer College of Business,” he says.

In Fall 2017, Jefferson will start his career at Phillips 66 as a KATALYST Associate, where he and other KATALYST Associates will immerse themselves in the entire value chain of the company’s commercial business for three years, before being placed into a primary area of focus within the commercial business. “I can’t imagine a better fit for me,” he says. His recruitment was the direct result of working with Energy Advisory Board member Kevin Mitchell, Executive Vice President and CFO of the company, whose team invited Jefferson and 30-40 of the most involved Energy Coalition members to tour their headquarters and participate in a training simulation.

Another perk of his new role? He’ll be back on campus soon, but this time, as a recruiter at the Energy Career Fair, which the Energy Coalition founded. “This place is so special.” he says. “I’m about as die-hard Coog as they come.”

To learn more about the Energy Advisory Board and energy-related programming, visit UH Energy. For more information about how to support energy initiatives at UH, contact the Office of Volunteer Relations at (713)-743-1085 or