Wickman takes the helm at SJC School of Energy
New dean has extensive resume in oil and gas industry, education
- Barbara Wickman has a bachelor's degree from Princeton, a master's from Texas A&M and an MBA from the University of Denver.
- She has worked as a geologist and business adviser for Mobil Oil and operations director for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
- Wickman became a private business consultant in 2013, working with clients within the extractive industries.
- The new dean also served on the school board in Bayfield, Colo., for 10 years.
FARMINGTON — After more than a year without a dean, the San Juan College School of Energy has a new leader who brings extensive industry experience and an intense belief in the value of higher education.
In addition to a bachelor's degree in geology from Princeton University, Barbara Wickman has a master's degree in geology from Texas A&M and a master's of business administration from the University of Denver.
It was while working as a geologist for Mobil Oil in 1985 that Wickman decided to take night classes to pursue her MBA.
"I really loved geology, but I wanted to be more involved with people. I also wanted to look at the bigger picture and learn more about how business decisions are made," she said.
When Mobil closed its Denver office in 1992, Wickman went to work as a business adviser in the company's Dallas office, and in 1996 she began working as an operations director for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
"This was when coal bed methane was really taking off, and the Utes acquired operations of 54 coal bed methane drilling units. They were building their operations at that time," she said.
In 1999, Wickman became president and chief operating officer for Red Willow Production Co.. which was owned by the Southern Utes. She became a private business consultant in 2013, working with clients within the extractive industries.
During her time working with the oil and gas industry, Wickman found herself also drawn to education.
"I've always been very involved in education issues, and served on the Bayfield (Colorado) school board for 10 years," she said. "I increasingly saw the importance of students getting their secondary education."
Earlier this month, while leading a tour of the 65,000-square-foot School of Energy, Wickman pointed out learning labs such as the Well Control Program lab, which has a full-sized replica of a drilling floor that allows students to practice simulations of situations they might encounter if they were working on an actual drilling rig.
She pointed out another large learning area that contained specialized equipment.
"Here, the students can practice on real equipment they'd find in a gas processing plant and learn how that equipment works," she said. "Most of it was donated by our generous industry partners, and when students go to work, they will have trained on the actual equipment they'll be working on."
Much of the equipment, such as oil and gas separators that are used on well sites to process the raw product coming out of the ground into various gaseous and liquid components, are cut open and labeled so students can see the inner workings of the pieces.
Wickman explained that the School of Energy originated with partnerships with oil and gas companies such as Public Service of New Mexico, Arizona Public Service, BP, WPX, Dugan Productions and Merrion Oil and Gas, and said that these partnerships continue to be integral to the school's operations.
"It was thanks to the generosity of our industry partners that the school is even here," she said. "So we offer classrooms to the oil and gas companies free of charge for them to provide training to their employees, and they sometimes bring their own people in to provide some of the training."
Current programs under the School of Energy's umbrella include Industrial Maintenance Mechanic, Industrial Process Operator, Instrumentation and Controls Technology, Advanced Petroleum Production Operations, Occupational Safety, Commercial Driver's License Trucking and the Tribal Energy Management Institute.
Students who complete some of the programs receive an associate degree, but certificate programs and online options are also available.
Wickman said she would like to find ways to encourage more students to complete their degrees.
"Oil and gas is an evolutionary, progressive industry," she said. "We do see changes within the industry, but they're more gradual and more of a 'learn-on-the-job' nature. We look at a degree as providing a good foundation for students."
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Although Wickman has only been on the job for a few weeks and is still in orientation mode, she said she is excited to roll up her sleeves and begin contributing to the school and to the community, in general.
"When this position became available, I said, 'This feels like the right place to be.' All of my education and industry experiences have led me to this," she said. "I'm excited to be here, and excited by the energy and the sincere interest on campus from the students, the faculty and the administration."
Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.