Local Chapter Activities

Presidents of local USAEE Chapters are encouraged to share information about your local events and activities by submitting write-ups with photographs of member participation.  Please contact the Editor for submission guidelines.


A Year of Growth for Rice University’s

USAEE Student Chapter (Houston, TX)

USAEE Rice University Student Chapter leaders in front of Rice’s James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy. [Left to right:] Megan Cline, Secretary; Viraj Sawant, Co-Treasurer; Mark Agerton, President; Nathalie Hinchey, Vice President; and Chandler Hillin, Co-Treasurer.


The 2015—2016 academic year has been an exciting time of growth for Rice University’s USAEE Student Chapter. Our chapter’s dozen or so members are Masters and PhD students in the Economics department, which sponsors the chapter along with Rice’s Center for Energy Studies at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy. This year the University started a new Masters in Energy Economics program, and the Masters students have been energetic participants and leaders in planning the chapter’s activities. The ability to partner with an active and supportive local USAEE chapter (Houston) has increased our chapter’s growth and relevance.

In the past, Rice’s student chapter was primarily composed of PhD students who attended Houston chapter luncheons and participated in USAEE and IAEE academic conferences. PhD students still attend lunches and present at several IAEE conferences each year; however, now, with new members who are more focused on industry and policy, we have begun planning field trips to local energy infrastructure sites. This has helped make classroom and research work more interesting and relevant for everyone. In the fall, we visited Centerpoint's Energy Technology Center in Houston, TX to learn about smart grids, residential demand-side management, and other new technologies impacting electricity transmission and distribution. This summer, we plan to visit the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum in Galveston, TX to learn about the technical challenges of offshore exploration and production.

The chapter is also sponsoring a speaker series in conjunction with the Masters in Energy Economics program. This spring we will hear from Rabah Arezki at the International Monetary Fund and Jay Apt at Carnegie Mellon University. The leadership team is already working with our faculty advisor to invite speakers for the coming year. Our members, like the broader USAEE and IAEE membership, are focusing on a mix of industry, policy, and academic areas, and we aim to have variety in our speakers in order to engage this range of interests. Ultimately, that makes our speaker series more interesting and engaging for all.

The support of the vibrant USAEE Houston Chapter has been one of our biggest assets. The Houston chapter generously invites us to attend its monthly lunches at a reduced ticket price. In addition to providing a chance to hear from knowledgeable speakers, the well-attended lunches are great opportunities for us to network with energy economics professionals in Houston who work in industry and think-tanks. We are working with the Houston chapter to have Rice Ph.D. students present their research during a luncheon each year. Both chapters see this as a valuable opportunity for an interchange of industry, policy, and academic perspectives. And, just as Houston invites Rice students to luncheons, Houston chapter members will be invited to our speaker series. The chapters have also been able to contribute to one others’ programming in other ways. Last fall, the Houston chapter held an energy careers panel at Rice, and Rice students helped the Houston chapter put together its winning bid for the 2017 USAEE conference. Students will continue to help out as the conference nears.

For students of energy economics at Rice University, being affiliated with USAEE and IAEE is a way to connect with a broader world of ideas and people in energy economics. Just like these broader organizations, our chapter’s members have a range of viewpoints and experiences. This diversity is a major strength: real-world experience and academic rigor complement each other, and the dialog makes each of us better energy economists. The past year has brought new enthusiasm, new members, and new collaborations with the Houston chapter, and we’re excited about continuing to build the excitement and growth next year!

--- Contributor: Mark Agerton, President, Rice University Student Chapter