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UW School of Energy Resources Recognizes First Two Graduates from Riverton, Jackson

December 2, 2011
Woman and man
Sabrina Forbis and Kyle McDonald

Sabrina Forbis from Riverton and Kyle McDonald of Jackson have earned their place in University of Wyoming history: They are the first UW students to receive bachelor's degrees in energy resource science offered by the School of Energy Resources.

"Sabrina and Kyle have been terrific students and we are extremely proud of them," School of Energy Resources Director Mark Northam says. "We especially recognize the entrepreneurial spirit they demonstrated in being the first to embrace this new curriculum."

In addition to significant energy research and outreach, the School of Energy Resource's mission includes creating a nationally competitive academic program to give UW students the tools to solve significant energy challenges, Northam adds. Nearly four dozen students are now enrolled, and a master's degree program is now in development.

"What we are building with our partners at the university and in the energy industry is something that gives great distinction to the University of Wyoming and an outstanding opportunity to its students," Northam says.

Forbis, 22, and McDonald, 24, came to the program in different ways. They both graduated during UW fall commencement Dec. 1-3.

Forbis became interested in the School of Energy resources after her younger brother told her about a presentation about the program he had seen in a high school energy class. At the time, she was a sophomore pursuing a degree in petroleum engineering.

McDonald was not sure what he wanted to study after transferring to UW from the University of Montana to take advantage of Wyoming's Hathaway Scholarship program. Energy resource science seemed like a good fit, he said.

Both say they enjoyed the well-rounded course requirements. For McDonald, the degree's focus was broad enough for him to discover an interest in water quality, while challenging him to think creatively in upper level science courses.

"Jackson is somewhat shielded from energy development," McDonald says. "I didn't really realize how big a role Wyoming played in the energy field. This program pushed me to understand that."

He has used his experience to recruit other students to the program. McDonald also plans to pursue more education in the area of water quality. He will start work on his master's degree next semester.

Forbis said she has already received an offer of a full-time job, but she plans to complete a bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering the next two years.

"I completed two summer internships with Encana Oil and Gas. When I got the offers, I thought I would be sitting behind a desk, running calculations," she says. While there was some of that, she was also able to get out into the field and do a variety of things. "I felt very well prepared for it."

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