Alumni Spotlight

Emilio Castillo, PhD Mineral Economics '21

Assistant Professor in Mineral Economics at the Mining Engineering Department – University of Chile

Hometown: I was born in Rancagua, Chile and I’m currently living in Santiago, Chile.

Why did you choose Mines, and more specifically, the Mineral Economics program?
EC: I have always been inclined to understand the relationship between society and natural resources. This has been common in my academic life since I started an undergraduate program in Mining Engineering in Chile. I had strong support from my former undergraduate advisor, Christian Moscoso, to follow a professional path in Mineral Economics. Focusing on this area gave the opportunity to work as a Policy Analyst and Research Coordinator in the Chilean Copper Commission, a technical unit of the Mining Ministry of Chile.

I decided to move forward in a specialization in Resource Economics and I was lucky to have a conversation with Prof. Rod Eggert when he came to Chile to teach a course in Metals Markets. He made my decision to go to Mines clearer. I was really interested in the program as it develops strong mathematical and quantitative skills, along with an overall school environment between natural resources, policies and society, which was supported by a Fulbright Scholarship to study in the U.S.

Tell us about your experience at Mines. What stands out in your mind?
EC: I was at Mines for 3 and a half years, from 2017 to 2020. When I remember my times at Mines, my mind usually remembers two things: walking home late during winter in the fresh air of Golden and going outside Mines Park to play with my son in Spring. These two mental images summarize my experience. In the very first years there were a lot of things to study, projects that needed to be done, interesting classes to attend and people to meet. I recall my class on Metals Markets with Dr. Eggert as probably the confirmation that I made the right choice by attending the PhD program at Mines. It opened up my understanding of the need to pursue research on minerals and policies to contribute to a proper management of resources.

The second part of my program was quite research oriented. After passing my qual and finishing my classes I started to spend more time working from home (which was in part due to the pandemic). I’m deeply grateful for the experience of having been part of the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), as it was an environment fully supportive to balance my research interests and the contribution towards a more sustainable use of minerals. Focusing on research is usually stressful as ideas and time are scarce to keep you constantly motivated. In that regard, the support that I had from my family is something that I always relate to Mines as well.

Tell us about your career path and your current role.
EC: After my thesis defense in December 2020, I came back to Chile to work in the government as a Research Coordinator in the Chilean Copper Commission, an advisory and technical service of the Ministry of Mining. During that time, I applied for a faculty position at University of Chile. I was accepted as an Assistant Professor in Mineral Economics for the Mining Engineering Department, starting in July 2021. I’m focusing my research and academic activities on the long-term availability of minerals, the policies and relationship with society and the main socio-economic impacts of mining operations.

Where do you most use your MinEc training and how did it prepare you for this job?
EC: I can say that quantitative skills and the research-focus of the program have been extremely useful in my current job. I also found it important to have had teaching experience as a Teaching Assistant for Principles of Economics. Research and teaching experience are both important for a faculty position and that created an advantage from my application. I am also thankful for the focus of policy-oriented classes that supported the analysis of policy alternatives while working in the Chilean Copper Commissions and are useful in the development of new projects in my new role as an Assistant Professor.

What are the biggest challenges that new graduates face in the marketplace in terms of building a successful career?
EC: The marketplace for economists is a fierce one. There are many candidates from several schools. However, MinEc graduates should take advantage of the high degree of specialization in Resources and Energy. This is a critical aspect as we have been trained to think about resources from every point of view, even our quantitative and mathematical skills have been honed in the context of these resources. In this sense, the biggest challenge is to show your versatility in the context of minerals and energy decisions, to make sure that you understand policy, economic and technical aspects.

Do you have anything else to add?
There were many people at Mines whom I was able to learn. I am extremely grateful to my advisor Dr. Roderick Eggert  and the entire Faculty of the Division of Economics and Business. My experience in the program would have not been the same without their guidance and encouragement. I really expect that future MEE graduates from will be able to make notorious social contributions.

Caleb Workman, BS Economics '21, MS Engineering Technology Management '21

Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO

Undergraduate degree: BS Economics, MS Engineering Technology Management 2021

Why did you choose Mines, and more specifically, the Mineral Economics program?
CW: Mines has a great reputation where I am from, and I wanted to go to a school that challenged me. I was an economics major and thought that the ETM program would be a great capstone to my education.

Tell us about your experience at Mines. What stands out in your mind?
CW: My experience at Mines was great. The academics were challenging, and the extracurricular activities were extremely rewarding. The faculty and staff were always helpful and supportive, making the experience all the more enjoyable.

Tell us about your career path and your current role.
CW: I just began my career as a Military Intelligence Officer in the United States Army. My first assignment is with an Infantry unit in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. I was also recently accepted into the Columbia School of Law as part of a deferral program and hopefully will be able to attend after my initial service. I would like to practice law (either intelligence or international law) in the military as a JAG and as a civilian eventually.

Where do you most use your ETM training and how did it prepare you for this job?
CW: While I haven’t directly used much of the technical skills so far, a lot of the leadership and management training from ETM has come in handy so far in my career..

What are the biggest challenges that new graduates face in the marketplace in terms of building a successful career?
CW: I would say finding a purpose. For me, I think it is important to find a job that serves a greater cause than just earning a living. It is important that I am impacting the lives of others and making a difference as part of my everyday work. So far, the Army has given me this chance by placing me in a role that will serve the country and its people.

Arturo L. Vasquez Cordano, PHD Mineral Economics, '11 MS Mineral Economics, '08

Arturo Vasquez Cordano

Director of Research at GĚRENS Graduate School, Lima, Peru
Former Vice Minister of Energy of Peru

Hometown: Lima, Peru. I lived in Golden, Colorado from 2007 to 2011 during my studies at Mines. I have wonderful memories from my days in Golden, I consider it my second hometown.

Undergraduate degree: BS, Economics, summa cum laude; Professional License in Economics; Diploma in Liberal Arts, Pontifical Catholic University of Peru

Why did you choose Mines, and more specifically, the Mineral Economics program?
AVC: I’ve always been attracted to math, social sciences and natural resources. Because of this interest, I started my professional career as an agricultural economist working for the Ministry of Agriculture of Peru. Then, I had the opportunity to work for the Peruvian Energy and Mining Regulatory Commission (Osinergmin), where I got the position of petroleum economist, thanks to José Gallardo, my former undergraduate advisor, who invited me to apply for the position when he was the Chief Economist at Osinergmin.

My experience analyzing national and international oil markets and its regulation helped me decide to look for a specialization in energy and natural resource economics. Then, luck appeared in front of me! As a part of my duties, in 2004 I had to organize an international seminar about petroleum economics for Osinergmin, and I had the chance to invite Prof. Carol Dahl, an international authority on the subject, as a keynote speaker. When I met Carol, she drew my attention to the Mineral Economics program at Mines, which was the perfect fit for my academic and professional interest. The program offered me the right balance between mineral and energy economics, finance, and quantitative methods, just what I wanted to study. Thanks to her advice, I left other options to study in Europe and the USA and applied to the Fulbright Program, which granted me a scholarship to study at Mines. I do not regret that decision.

Tell us about your experience at Mines. What stands out in your mind?
AVC: I studied at Mines from 2007 to 2011. It was a superb experience that has changed my career dramatically. I feel very fortunate to have studied during that period at Mines, since the MinEc program offered the right balance between natural resource and environmental economics, operations research methods, energy and mineral policy analysis, applied finance and management. Compared to other traditional PhD programs in the USA, Mines’ doctoral program trains students, not only to undertake an academic career path as a university professor or a researcher, but also to assume leading managerial and strategic positions in the government and the private sector.

Given its well-known reputation on earth, energy and environmental topics, Mines attracts smart people from different parts of the world, providing its students with a multicultural environment that fosters leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit. It opens the doors to brilliant career paths, since it provides students not only with a strong training in mathematics, quantitative methods, and finance, but also a deep understanding of the policy, economic and managerial issues governing the mineral and energy industries.

I remember with nostalgia and esteem the wonderful classes of Prof. Graham Davis, my thesis advisor and mentor during my time at Mines. He taught me the microeconomics governing mineral markets, the policy issues affecting the natural resources industries and how to understand the investment problems under uncertainty that affect the development of mineral and oil projects through the theory of real options. I enjoyed having discussions with him about several economic issues affecting the mineral and energy sectors such as the resource curse, the industrial development of the mining industries in less-developed countries, and real options applications to value mineral and oil assets. I also enjoyed my thesis advisory sessions with him, where we talked about how to design a regulatory framework to control mineral and energy pollution such as oil and tailings spills. This collaboration led us to write some peer-reviewed articles on the resource curse hypothesis, mineral policy, and international trade of mining products. I am thankful to Graham Davis for all his teachings and advice during my doctoral studies.

I also remember my classes with Prof. Alexandra Newman and Prof. Carol Dahl. Alexandra, apart from being an excellent instructor, was very kind and enthusiastic with her students. She continually fostered them to do research on real-world business problems related to the mining industry. She introduced me to the world of operations research. Through her classes, I was able to expand my knowledge on quantitative methods to a superior level. I still use her teachings in my professional practice.

Carol Dahl had a vast experience and a deep knowledge about energy markets and applied econometrics. Her classes included teachings about the real problems affecting oil markets, gas companies and electricity utilities. I helped her revise and correct the second edition of her bestselling book “International Energy Markets” and assisted her in preparing papers about energy demand estimation. She was very supportive during my graduate studies and my candidacy to the PhD degree.

I recall too the valuable classes that Prof. John Tilton and John Cuddington taught about mineral markets and policy. Both are leading experts on metal market analysis and commodity price forecasting. They always wanted to share their knowledge with the students and encourage them to go forward in learning about the mining industry. They helped me understand the functioning of international metals markets and the occurrence of super cycles in commodity prices.

Tell us about your career path and your current role.
AVC: After finishing my graduate studies at Mines in 2011, I went back to Peru to work for the Peruvian Government, at the Peruvian Energy and Mining Regulatory Commission (Osinergmin). I worked there as a Chief Economist and Manager of Regulatory Policy and Economics Analysis from 2011 to 2017. I led a team of 25 economists in charge of providing economic advice to the regulator’s board of directors and the general manager on issues related to electricity price regulation, energy demand forecast, the supervision of oil and gas facilities, public enforcement of industrial safety regulations for energy and mining companies, regulatory impact assessments (RIA) of energy policies, etc. I also led highly specialized research on energy and mineral economics and regulation, having published more than 15 working papers, and three peer-reviewed articles. I was also in charge of editing five books on the subject.

From 2013 to 2017, I was Vice President of the Commission of Free Competition at the Peruvian Antitrust and Consumer Protection Agency (Indecopi). There, I had the responsibility of directing economic and legal investigations against the formation of cartels and the prosecution of companies that infringe on the Peruvian competition law, committing dominance position abuse and other anticompetitive practices. I have been involved in investigations related to the oil and gas industries, fighting against cartels that set prices in the LPG and gasoline markets, as well as a big cartel of paper producers.

In 2017, I had the honor of serving as a Vice Minister of Energy of Peru at the Ministry of Energy and Mines, which is the most important position in the Peruvian Government related to the administration of public policies for the electricity, oil and gas industries. In that position, I had several responsibilities oriented to crafting energy policies for the development of the electricity markets and the hydrocarbons activities, as well as expanding the energy frontier by means of rural electrification and investments in public-private partnerships to expand energy infrastructure. I led a group of 300 people working in several divisions in charge of implementing policies and enforcing the laws applicable to the energy sector in Peru. During my tenure as a top public official of the Peruvian government, I represented my country in several international forums on energy topics and negotiated regional energy integration agreements with Colombia, Chile and Bolivia. I also provided humanitarian assistance to my fellow citizens during the climatic emergency of “El Niño Costero” phenomenon that destroyed several towns across the coast of Peru.

Currently, I collaborate with GĚRENS Graduate School, a brand new postgraduate school focused on mine management and the sustainability of natural resources industries. There, I am Director of Research and Associate Professor of Economics and Business. My responsibilities are related to lead and promote high-quality research regarding the economics, management and sustainability of the mining, energy and natural resource industries. I also teach classes of mineral economics, operations research and statistics, advanced mine project valuation and topics of finance in the Master in Mine Management Program.

I also collaborate with the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru as an Adjunct Professor of Economics, teaching classes of economic regulation and industrial organization in the Master’s in Economics Program. In addition, I’m an instructor of industrial organization, economic regulation, regulatory institutional design, and economic analysis of law in the professional extension programs organized by the telecom and the energy regulatory commissions of Peru (Osiptel and Osinergmin, respectively). Finally, I exercise a consulting practice regarding energy and mineral economics, management, project economic valuation, finance, as well as legal and regulatory affairs.

Where do you most use your MinEc training and how did it prepare you for this job?
AVC: Practically, I’ve used my MinEc training in all the jobs I’ve had in the last eight years. My training on energy economics helped me assume the role of policy maker when I served as a Vice Minister of Energy of Peru. It allowed me to quickly identify solutions to complex energy policy problems that the Peruvian Government needed to solve. My studies on energy policy and management helped me design the proposal of two important economic reforms: a) the electricity law reform, which was targeted to fix inefficiencies in the regulation of electricity prices, and b) the hydrocarbons law review, which aimed to encourage new investments to develop upstream exploration and oil production projects.

In academia, I use my research skills and my knowledge of energy and mineral economics learned in the Mines PhD program to lead the elaboration of specialized investigations on quantitative analysis and public policy regarding the mining and energy industries. This skill set has helped me teach several courses on economics at the graduate and undergraduate levels. The managerial and leadership abilities, as well as my technical training in economics that I obtained during my graduate studies helped me manage the Bureau of Regulatory Policy and Economic Analysis at Osinergmin for nearly seven years and serve as a Vice President of the Commission of Free Competition at Indecopi.

What are the biggest challenges that new graduates face in the marketplace in terms of building a successful career?
AVC: The world is in the middle of a significant economic transition that would change the ways markets operate and how society behaves. Topics such as climate change, the transition to an energy matrix with plenty of clean and renewable energy, the quest to put a man on Mars and the introduction of space mining, as well as the deep electrification of societies through the massive use of electric cars in the coming future are examples of dramatic technological changes and environmental issues that will reshape the economic landscape of the planet.

In this changing environment, new graduate students have big challenges to confront. However, they also have several opportunities for professional advancement. Graduate students in the next two decades need not only to develop new technical skills in their fields to learn how to manage the revolution that the economic transition will generate, but also to acquire soft skills for facing a multicultural world where people from different countries interact in complex work environments and where information technologies and managerial practices interact.

To create the “brain power” and the critical thinking that the future marketplace will require, graduate students must develop a cross-sectional way of thinking, blending several diverse bodies of knowledge such as economics, social and political sciences, math, environmental sciences, engineering, finance, and quantitative methods with leadership, strategic planning and managerial skills. I think graduate students need to have the right balance between hard technical knowledge and emotional intelligence to be successful professionals in the coming decades.

Do you have anything else to add?
I would like to thank my professors, classmates and friends from Mines for their valuable support and kindness during my graduate studies. They made my time at Mines a wonderful experience. I had the fortune of meeting wonderful people from different parts of the world during my PhD studies, many of whom I have a long-standing friendship with.

My gratitude also goes to the Fulbright program and the Institute of International Education, Osinergmin and the CAREC program of the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Peru. These sponsors provided me with financial assistance during my graduate studies at Mines. Finally, I would also like to thank my wife Rocio for her patience, love and support. She was beside me during my studies in the best and most difficult moments. She learned English during our time in Golden and obtained a LLM degree from Denver University at the same time; that perseverance and dedication deserves all my admiration. I believe we both were able to achieve our academic and personal goals because of the unique chance Mines gave us. Many thanks to Colorado School of Mines for giving us this extraordinary opportunity.



Kevin MabeChief Analytics Officer, Corus

Hometown: Denver, CO

Grad school: Georgia Tech, MS Economics

Why did you choose Mines, and more specifically, the Economics program?

KM: Mines started the Econ program the year I went to college there, 1994. What sold the program was the fact that at the time, it was the only Bachelor of Science in Economics west of the Mississippi River. The heavy concentration on math appealed to me. I come from a family of engineers and mathematics were in my genetics.

Tell me about your experience at Mines. What stands out?

KM: I appreciated the level of seriousness and rigor that the program (and college overall) offered. I joined Mines looking for a challenge and it provided just that. Looking back, the faculty stands out in that they were not only experts in their fields, but had a true interest to teach students their experiences and subject matter.

What did you do after Mines?

KM: After a few short stints at other jobs, I landed at Delta Air Lines in Atlanta, GA a few years after graduation, but after the Sept. 11 attacks, the airline industry went through its worst period in history. In 2005, I decided to head to graduate school at Georgia Tech for their Masters of Science program for Economics.

Post-graduation, I moved to Los Angeles for the Chief Economist position at Farmers Insurance. An opportunity opened up at Pfizer in New York City in 2009 in the Management Sciences department, essentially an internal analytics consultancy group. After heavy exploration into predictive modeling, I took a position with Amazon but left because of a mismatch in culture fit and overall career goals.

Now I’m at Corus. The common thread through this progression is deepening emphasis on analysis and especially how it can impact a business. The more I learned, the more I realized I needed to learn, and through further education and different positions in different industries, I’m able to cross-pollinate techniques, mindsets, and worldviews and apply it to any industry or research.

Tell me about your current role.

KM: I’m currently the Chief Analytics Officer of a Denver company called Corus. We’re trying to upend the traditional market research industry by instilling a heavy emphasis on strategy, technology, and statistical rigor. More locally, my role involves training our analytic talent to appropriately frame quantitative problems and then select the best tools and techniques to solve them. More broadly, my role involves a bit of ‘evangelism’ to teach and explain to our clients what true analysis is all about and why it’s important to demand rigor from their vendors and partners.

What are your top priorities/goals you hope to achieve?

KM: I won’t rest until “analysis” is demystified, dissected and disseminated in a manner tangible to everyone from the CEO all the way down. We take analysis seriously, and yet it does not have to be some kind of inaccessible black box or dark magic. In a world of bigger and bigger data, and shiny and sophisticated software, it’s remarkable how quickly the fundamentals of math and statistics are cast aside in favor of graphs with pretty colors posing as analysis. Visualizations are how you communicate robustly-found insights from real mathematical and statistical analysis, and so one major goal includes revealing to others how they must demand such rigor and ask the tough questions of what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Where do you most use your Economics training and how did it prepare you for this position?

KM: Economics is all about the allocation of scarce resources and using math and real science to quantify those tradeoffs. But even more fundamentally, it’s about uncovering the truth in a very messy field of study. The Economics training at Mines focused on the basic building blocks first and built from there, not unlike the grammar-first approach to learning a language. With these core concepts, you can not only build a coherent analysis and communicate the insights, you can also begin to see flaws in most of the typical “analysis” you see out there, and call into question whether the results truly resonate.

Any advice for current and prospective Economics students?

KM: Never lose focus on the fundamentals and always, always ask questions.

Do you have anything else to add?

KM: Colorado School of Mines is not an easy school. But I can without question say that if you put in the work, regardless of the program, you will gain the tools and frameworks of thinking so very uncommon in this world today.


Ricardo LaboVice Minister of Mines of Peru
 Lima, Peru
Grad school: Colorado School of Mines, MS Mineral Economics, 2004
Undergrad: Universidad del Pacifico, BS Economics, 2001

Why did you choose Mines, and more specifically, the MinEc program?

RLF:  As an economist involved in the mining sector, I felt the need to enhance my technical knowledge in mining. I’ve always heard good things about Mines and met some MinEc alumni. One of my mentors studied in the MinEc program in the 80s; she encouraged me to enroll in the program.

Tell me about your experience at Mines. What stands out in your mind?

RLF:  I have great memories from my days in Golden. The faculty is first class and there is a great group of international students. I still keep contact with some of my fellow students. While we haven’t seen one another in years, when we catch up, it’s as if no time has passed: that is real and strong friendship. Indeed, we’re like family and we try to look after each other. The diversity in gender, geography, experience and generation enriched the knowledge. The exchange of different experiences and cultures enhanced what we learned in class.

Tell me about Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines and your role there. 

RLF:  The Ministry of Energy and Mines is the maximum authority in the extractives sector in Peru. It’s in charge of creating the norms and the promotion of the mining sector in Peru. I see my main role as creating the appropriate environment and conditions so private investment can develop mines under the highest environmental and social standards and Peru can translate its mineral richness into development.

Where do you most use your MinEc training and how did it prepare you for this job? 

RLF:  It gave me the technical basis to combine my pure economic background with the mining sector. This knowledge was later complemented with a mining legal program from another institution. I think studying abroad helped me better understanding other cultures, which is indeed what I deal with today. Most mining investment in Peru is foreign.

What are the biggest challenges new graduates face in the marketplace in terms of building a successful career? 

RLF:  First, graduates must have very clear and strong values. Second, they must build their reputation every day. Third, do not minimize any opportunity that presents itself; one never knows what is behind the next door that will open. Fourth, graduates must look for excellence in whatever they do, but be pragmatic at the same time. Fifth, don’t forget that one deals with people, so treat them as you wish to be treated; and also teach them, remember that you were there at some point, and build your network. Finally, find balance between your work and personal life.

From a curricular perspective, identify key areas of excellence that MinEc should emphasize to better prepare graduates for the workplace. 

RLF:  Soft skills are key nowadays; introducing negotiation and leadership courses could add a lot of value to the program.

Do you have anything else to add?

RLF:  I’m very proud of my decision to study at Mines. Everywhere I go, the school is identified and recognized as very well reputed. I would like to come back and share my experience with faculty and current students.


Jesus SalazarCEO of Prosono
 Manassa, CO
Grad school: Colorado School of Mines, MS Engineering and Technology Management, 2001
Undergrad: Colorado School of Mines, BS Math and Computer Science, 1997 – 2000

Why did you choose Mines, and more specifically, the ETM program?

JJS:  I’ve always been drawn to math and science. When my high school counselor recommended that I look at a summer minority engineering program that Mines offered, I applied and got in. I loved my experience there and was intent on going to Mines for college. After a couple of internships at large companies, I found that I didn’t really understand the mechanics of business. I was lost in non-technical meetings because I didn’t understand the vocabulary or what people were getting at. I always knew I would stay close to technology, but thought it would give me a leg up to better understand how a business actually operates. The ETM program made perfect sense for me.

Tell me about your experience at Mines. What stands out in your mind?

JJS:  I loved my time at Mines. I made some great friends that I still hang out with today. I’ve always enjoyed being with smart and passionate people, and Mines has no shortage of that type of person.

Tell me about Prosono and your role there. 

JJS:  I am the CEO of Prosono, a company that I founded last year. There is a striking trend these days of people trying to positively impact their communities by becoming more selective in the products they purchase and companies they choose to work for. This has created new opportunities for businesses to resonate more deeply with their customers and employees. We help organizations find and take advantage of these opportunities. It is a mix of strategy, product development, innovation, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, and software development.

Where do you most use your ETM training and how did it prepare you for this job? 

JJS:  Initially, project management was my go-to. However, even today I still use technology strategy.  The world is moving quickly and knowing how to think in outcomes and rapid learning vs. thinking in outputs and following a detailed plan is something I still incorporate today.

What are the biggest challenges new graduates face in the marketplace in terms of building a successful career? 

JJS:  The biggest challenge is bringing the creativity and innovation required to keep pace in today’s world. As the fourth industrial revolution takes hold, old business models rooted in manufacturing best practices are dying and being replaced with something much more pliable and dynamic. The scientific method still applies, but its practice has become appropriate in places you never thought it would.

From a curricular perspective, identify key areas of excellence that ETM should emphasize to better prepare graduates for the workplace. 

JJS:  Innovation frameworks, LEAN Startup (lots of companies want their teams to behave like a small startup within their organization), how to create a culture that cherishes validated learning vs. just meeting deadlines and following instructions.

Congratulations on your recent appointment to the Mines Board of Trustees!

JJS:  I’m thrilled to be a part of the Colorado School of Mines Board of Trustees. I look forward to giving back to a place that has already given me so much.

Learn more about Salazar and Prosono


Mauricio GutierrezPresident and CEO of NRG Energy, Inc.
Grad school: MS, Petroleum Economics ’99, IFP; MS, Mineral Economics, CSM
Undergrad: BS, Industrial Engineering, Universidad Panamericana.

Hometown: I was born and raised in Mexico City, where I lived and worked for number of years until I was 27, then I went to grad school. As part of the Mines dual degree program, I did a year in Paris, then a year in the Golden, then ended up in Houston for a number of years. I’ve made Princeton, NJ my hometown for the past 13 years.

I remember Golden fondly. I was there two years ago and I enjoyed the smell of Coors, which we all get accustomed to when living in Golden. It brought back great memories.

I had a chance to meet some of the Mines students at Duke and it was great to interact with them. I was pleasantly surprised that we had a contingent of Mines students in the case competition at Duke Energy Week.

Why did you choose Mines, and more specifically, the Mineral Economics program?

It’s actually a funny story. Back then, I had already been involved pretty significantly in deregulation of the natural gas market in Mexico, so I got involved in econometric models. When we finished that process, I decided to pursue a graduate degree. Very quickly, I realized my passion was energy economics or applied economics, particularly in the energy sector. I made all the arrangements and was going to enroll at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Then, I met Carol Dahl. She’s a very well respected economist in econometric modeling. She talked to me about the dual degree program. I toured Mines, looked at the academic curriculum, and I was very impressed. I was particularly impressed with level of sophistication and the applicability of program. I remember having a conversation with Graham Davis about real option theory and applying real option on asset valuations, so I immediately got hooked. And, of course, the location is not too shabby. Spending a year in Paris, then a year in Colorado is everybody’s dream.

I knew that I was going to focus on the energy industry and economics was the right complement for my undergraduate degree. Most of the people that I know went directly to an MBA program and I wanted something more focused on the energy industry, with a high level of finance and economics. I was able to achieve that at Mines.

My undergrad was industrial engineering with a heavy emphasis on finance. So for me, this was a continuation of that in terms of applied economics. But of course, in industrial engineering, you have the foundation of electrical and mechanical engineering. I felt that I needed to expand my understanding of decision analysis, real options, econometric models, applied economics.

What stands out in your mind regarding your time at Mines?

First and foremost, it was the faculty. The professors, Michael Walls, Graham Davis, Rod Eggert, Carol Dahl, I remember all their names. They were all passionate about what they were doing. Not only did they have the patience and the aptitude to teach, but they are active in their respective fields outside of school. They’re very well recognized. The faculty makes all the difference in the world. It doesn’t hurt that my classes were in beautiful Colorado and Paris, but to me, the faculty is what stood out.

Where do you most use your Mineral Economics training and how did it prepare you for this position (and previous positions in the energy industry)?

I went into the business and my first area of focus was asset valuation. I was looking at power plants as real options right out of grad school. I hit the ground running after having Graham Davis as a professor. Very quickly, I went into trading, both at Dynegy in Houston, and then at NRG. I traded power and gas for a number of years before going into the management route. I became COO, and ultimately CEO a year ago.

The area that helped me was understanding the economics of projects, being able to quantify risk, and sensitize the value of assets within an uncertain framework. That equipped me with a set of skills and abilities I was able to immediately put to work as an analyst valuing generation assets. Over time, it changes. It allows me to think about the portfolio management/optimization, the optimal composition of portfolios, it always comes in handy with the valuation of assets, or projects. In my position as CEO, one of my main responsibilities is capital allocation. I have to decide from a number of projects, and perhaps all of them are good projects, but I have a limited amount of capital to deploy, so I have to prioritize what is the risk/reward on each project. I think back on my days in Golden and it helps me put it into a much better perspective.

What is your role at NRG Energy?

As president and CEO, I’m responsible for defining the long-term strategy of the company: the vision, mission, strategic objectives that we have. Part of that is also defining the culture that you want to have in a company. Of course, we have to live within our means, so when we allocate capital, we have to make sure that we prioritize all these projects, and that we do it in an efficient way.

I’m also the spokesperson for company, both with investors and stakeholders, who can be as varied as regulators, system operators, environmental and governmental agencies, and educational institutions. I have to be able to articulate the vision of company, not only defining it, but also implementing the strategy.

I’m fortunate to be in this position during a time of significant transformation in the electric sector with the amount of renewable generation that we’re seeing installed in the country, with the amount of innovation in new generating technology – like battery storage, rooftop solar, and fuel cell energy. This transformation is also about empowering customers at individual level, to understand where their electricity comes from, how it’s produced, and how much they want to use. It’s really about empowering customers with more information, not less information. Unfortunately, that’s been the norm in our industry. You just flip the switch, pay the retail rate and don’t ask questions. You just know that there’s a utility that provides energy/electricity. We’re trying to engage with consumers so we can better inform them of their options. Perhaps they want to install a solar panel on their roof or have a backup generator because they don’t want to run out of power, or maybe they want to have a smart home with appliances that turn on and off at right time of the day. That’s what we’re trying to do.

What is your vision for the company?

Our company is going through a significant transformation, which is the result of wanting a cleaner energy future. Our vision is to create a sustainable energy future and we will do that by providing reliable and cleaner energy for our customers. We believe that if we do that, we will create value for all our stakeholders. “Sustainable” is a powerful word, it’s not only having cleaner, faster, better, more reliable generation; it’s also in the context of a business model that can withstand very different commodity price cycles. That’s the objective of the company.

Not only are we optimizing the generation we have – which today is the largest competitive power company in U.S – we’re going into the renewable sector because it’s a significant opportunity to evolve from the traditional forms of generation, to new forms of generation. We’re doing that in a way that allows us to offer that electricity to our customers, and empowering them to make better choices.

For so long, consumers have taken what the electricity company gives them. You know it’s there and you have to pay your bill, or your electricity gets cut. Today, we’re trying to make it more palpable for individuals to interact with electricity. That means installing rooftop solar, putting electric car charging stations in your home, installing a backup generator or smart thermostats, connecting your refrigerator and HVAC together in a way that lets you use energy where you want. If you want to make a statement by having 100 percent renewable energy, we can work with you. Customers want that and we’re working hard as a company to provide it.

In your opinion, what is the future of energy in the U.S.?

For the past couple years, the big priority has been to decarbonize the grid. Everyone acknowledges climate change as a threat to our generation. Decarbonization is the response to ensure that we reduce the risk of climate change, With the outcome of the election, perhaps those efforts will slow down. It’s hard to tell, but from the remarks that have been made, I would think that climate change is not in the top of the Republicans priority list. Perhaps that could potentially slow down the implementation of renewable energy in the U.S., but on the other hand, this is driven primarily by the states. We have to see what is under state jurisdiction versus what’s under federal control. If I were a betting man, I’d say renewable energy might slow down somewhat and perhaps other forms of traditional generation that have a somewhat limited life, like coal and gas, they may get an extension.

What are the biggest challenges that new graduates face in the marketplace in terms of building a successful career?

  1. You have to have a solid academic foundation.
  2. Choose the industry wisely. If it ends up being the energy or oil and gas industry, you have to have an incredible amount of passion for the industry.
  3. Projection. You have to be able to communicate very complex problems into something that is easy to digest so people can understand easily.

If those are the three traits that employers are looking for, they also represent some of the key challenges. I see a lot of graduates that excel in one area, but they can’t do the other two. In the energy and power industry, the big challenge is that it’s an industry that is reinventing itself, so the old skills will not be needed for the new world. Making that transition can be difficult for professionals. On the other hand, because we’re in the middle of this massive transformation, it’s fertile ground for new students because this is the perfect time to get into an industry.

From a curricular perspective, identify key areas of excellence that MEE should emphasize to better prepare graduates for the workplace.

Mines does fantastic job in terms of risk management, asset valuation, and economics. Making the connection between theory and practice always goes a long way. One thing Mines could benefit from is that soft component. The students may be incredibly smart, but if they can’t articulate, it can be very difficult. Including communications skills and classes, ways to increase self-confidence, and helping students to better communicate and manage would be very beneficial.


Rosemary OjehExploration & Production Planning Manager, Hess Corporation, Houston, TX
Hometown: Nigeria
Grad school: MS ’05, Engineering Technology Management, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines
Undergrad: BS in Engineering, University of Ibadan

Why did you choose Mines, and more specifically, the ETM program?
I was interested in business, but I didn’t want a traditional MBA, so I did my research and found Mines’ ETM program. I wanted business knowledge to complement my engineering degree, and the ETM program was a perfect fit. I also asked my friends in the oil and gas industry, and they confirmed that Mines is an excellent school.

Tell me about your experience at Mines. What stands out in your mind?
Mines is a school where you don’t play around. You have to be focused on your academics. It’s a tough school but you learn a lot. People go to school for different experiences, and at Mines, you have all those experiences, plus the academics are top notch.

The quality of professors is outstanding. They don’t just teach you the book, they teach you things that are useful in the real world. Many of the classes we took used case studies from the real world, which prepares you for what you actually do. I remember some of them came from the business world and taught us based on their experiences. Professors Eggert, Walls, Heeley, all of them, they were the best. In the work I do, I use a lot of the principles I learned in ETM, things you would continue to apply in real life.

I’ve talked to friends who got a regular MBA and I wouldn’t change a thing, I’m really glad I went the Mines route. It’s a top-notch school.

Tell me about your job at Hess.
At Hess, I’m the planning manager for exploration, and I lead the planning and organization for the company. I work with senior management, the CEO, and the executive leadership team to help them with strategy, planning, budgeting, and coordinating leadership interactions.

We have a variety of business teams (exploration, planning, development) and we have a presence in many different countries, so how that information comes together and goes to/from the executive leadership team, is disseminated through planning and organization.

What type of projects do you work on?
Right now, we’re going through budget and plan process. Oil prices have crashed in the last two years – we went from $100/barrel to $45/barrel. Every oil company is having to do things differently. We have less money, so the question is, “How do we allocate our limited resources to the most value- added projects around the world? How do we stay afloat during this period of downturn?”

We’re optimizing our portfolio, trying to figure out the best time to start or end projects to preserve cash, so that’s one of the things I’m working on. We take input from businesses and talk about what projects they want to execute, we optimize it, present to senior management, look for the best scenario of strategy, then we communicate back to the business and allocate capital. In the past, when oil was at $100, we could do almost any project, as long as it was profitable. Now, we’re having to turn down even profitable projects because of cash constraints. So it’s a process, we’ve gotten very sophisticated. We call that our portfolio optimization project.

Here at Hess, we also have many, many Colorado School of Mines alumni.

How do you like Houston?
Houston is great, but it’s not Colorado. I miss Colorado. However, the food is great and the people are wonderful here in Houston.

How did your ETM training prepare you for your position at Hess?
Economics, strategy, finance, we did all of that in ETM, so that helped prepare me. But it’s not just what you learn in class, it’s the presentations and projects. Every single class I took at Mines, we had to write a report, we had to work in teams, we had to present, and that’s what you do in real life. Especially in planning, you’re either presenting to senior management or you’re presenting to businesses, there’s a lot of interaction. We did that in every subject in the ETM program, so it really helped prepare me for this role at Hess.

The ETM program also helped to instill work ethic. In this industry, everyone is focused on delivery. The planning and organization of any oil and gas company is not a 9 to 5 job. You work long hours. It can be taxing because there’s a lot to do. At Mines, I remember many nights where we studied late just to get ready for exams. That work ethic carried through; Mines prepared me for real life.

Do you have any advice for current and prospective ETM students?
Persevere. Go through the grind, the rigor, and you’ll come out stronger in the end. Life is not going to be any easier as you grow older. Go to Mines, do the hard work, it will pay off in the end.

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Alumni News

Andrew Gulley, PhD ’15 Mineral and Energy Economics, works as a mineral economist for the U.S. Geological Survey National Minerals Information Center and recently published “China, the United States, and competition for resources that enable emerging technologies” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Christian Marsh-Frydenlund, MS Engineering and Technology Management ’03, was promoted to associate at Dewberry, a privately held professional services firm in Denver, Colorado. She is part of the newly formed energy solutions group at Dewberry, a 2,000 person, $380 million family-owned professional services firm.

Mauricio Gutierrez, MS Mineral Economics ’99, was named President and CEO of NRG Energy in Princeton, New Jersey. NRG is the leading integrated power company in the U.S., built on the strength of the nation’s largest and most diverse competitive electric generation portfolio and leading retail electricity platform.

Ed LaFehr, MS Mineral Economics ’92, is President of Baytex Energy Corp, an oil and gas corporation based in Calgary, Alberta. The company is engaged in the acquisition, development and production of crude oil and natural gas in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin and in the Eagle Ford in the United States.


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