The Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas Tech University has significantly revised the curriculum for the senior year. In response to industry, Texas Tech's petroleum industry advisory board, senior exit interviews, and surveys from recent graduates; the faculty have altered the senior course offering. The major concerns expressed centered on providing students with sufficient course work in both Reservoir / Formation Evaluation (RFE) and Drilling / Production Operations (DPO). Adding four additional courses would exceed the reasonable limits of a four year undergraduate BS degree. A 148 hour program would approach conventional MS degrees. The department decided to leverage existing low level master courses to allow seniors to select a RFE or DPO specialty. The goal is more depth and a little less breadth.

During their senior year, students elect to take four RFE or four DPO courses along with the other required senior petroleum courses. This has allowed an interesting dynamic in the two senior semester design sequence. Teams are formed with course background of both RFE and DPO courses. This has also changed the material covered during semesters four, five, and six (sophomore and junior semesters). Students will only have a minimum of coverage in either RFE or DPO courses in semester four-six. During these three semesters, the department significantly ramped up the petroleum material covered. Departments of Geology, Energy Commerce, and Industrial Engineering have provided petroleum related course improvements to further enhance the student outcomes.

The department has completed its first year of the new curriculum, and plans to share the results at the next SPE Annual meeting. These changes have been tracked using ABET methods to assess and improve the program.

The vision was to enhance undergraduate student understanding of the theory and equations taught by building concepts of procedure and construction. Designing procedures for oil field operations and evaluation is key to developing critical thinking. Concepts of largeness of scale of the industry, timing and logistics, and the ability to "critically think" about the reservoirs and fluids; all under conditions that are not observeable in their downhole "native" state are extremely difficult to convey through equations and computer program "black boxes." The faculty and industry advisory board noted a gradual movement of recent graduates to rely on "plug and chug" putting values in equations and computer black boxes prior to determining whether the numbers input are correct or accurate. Students were relying too much on the computer answer without ensuring the values represented a reasonable result. They often didn't question the magnitude or the significant figures (accuracy) of their answers. In addition to understanding magnitude and accuracy, students are taught the uncertainity that petroleum engineers must deal with is a critical distinction of the profession.

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