Texas Tech University

Faculty Spotlight: Nikki Kantelis, Energy Commerce

Darla Vasquez

October 31, 2016


Nikki Kantelis, assistant professor of practice, teaches Energy Markets (ENCO 3365), Energy Analytics and Strategies (ENCO 4344) and Applied Business Economics (BECO 4310) in the Energy, Economics and Law Department at the Rawls College of Business. Her uncommon blend of experiences in the academic, business and social arenas creates a rich mixture of theoretical and practical considerations in the classroom.

Kantelis earned both a Bachelor and Master of Science in Economics from Colorado State University and an MBA in Quantitative Analysis from the Carlson School at the University of Minnesota.  She was recruited by BP, and upon graduation, joined its U.S. subsidiary as a planning analyst within the oil supply, trading and transportation organization.  During her tenure at BP, Kantelis moved upward through the company, holding positions of increasing responsibility and scope across the downstream in the oil supply and trading, retail marketing and pipelines business units.  In what was then a male dominated industry, Kantelis set a number of firsts for BP including being the first women manager of energy futures trading, the first American woman to hold a seat on the international oil trading desk in London and the first woman vice president of BP's pipeline company.  With a growing family and wanting a more accommodating work/life balance, she decided to leave BP and focus her attention on a number of different projects in the non-profit sector. She served on a number of boards and advisory councils, where she was able to bring her business acumen in support of causes in education, social services and conservation.

The energy commerce program has two concentrations - petroleum land management (PLM) and energy transaction analysis (ETA).  Kantelis teaches in the ETA concentration, focusing primarily on the midstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry and exposing students to coursework that will help them develop the necessary analytical skills required to compete for and be successful in a variety of energy company entry level analyst positions and beyond. Kantelis is uniquely suited for this role given her earlier industry career.

In Energy Markets (ENCO 3365), which all energy commerce students must complete, Kantelis shares her understanding and knowledge so that students become acquainted with the energy value chain from the well head to the retail gasoline pump.  Students complete energy markets with a solid foundation in the inter-relationships among the many and complex moving parts of the midstream/downstream sectors, but also have an opportunity to investigate what supply and demand factors influence global oil markets, price and how to measure and manage price risk.

"Prices are constantly changing and price discovery is transparent in the oil markets, allowing participants to modify behavior and adjust decision marking as conditions warrant.  Short-term operating decisions are driven by marginal economics, whereas long-term investments are based on full-cycle economics, "Kantelis said.  "An important feature of the energy markets class is that students must complete a 10-week crude oil futures trading project and employers are always impressed by graduates who are able to discuss the oil markets because of this project."

Building upon the Energy Markets foundation, in Energy Analytics and Strategies (ENCO 4344), Kantelis leads a greater examination of industry data analysis techniques, capital project evaluation and strategic development through case studies and hands-on practice.  Students examine the nature of strategy development in the energy sector, as well as learn about the components of strategy evaluation and implementation, including data sourcing and collection, economic evaluation tools and techniques, energy budgeting and forecasting, understanding the role of management judgment in the decision making process and learning to recognize the challenge firms face in decision-making with incomplete and imperfect information. In this ETA-track capstone course, students complete a natural gas futures trading project and a major industry merger project.  Kantelis is also the faculty advisor for the new Energy Commerce Commodity Trading Association.

Since the ETA track is brand new, Kantelis is leveraging off the solid reputation PLM already has in the industry to develop a new set of options for students.  Many industry leaders have given positive feedback about the new track Texas Tech is offering energy commerce students.

"The path TTU has taken in adding the mid-stream and downstream perspective is absolutely the right way," a representative from a major independent refining company said.

Phillips 66

Recently, Kantelis arranged a trip to Phillips 66 headquarters in Houston for twelve ENCO students, during which time the students participated in a crude oil supply simulation followed by a refinery plant tour.  Additionally, students visited an energy procurement consulting firm, where they learned about natural gas and electricity trading and risk management.

"An outing such as this is a win-win.  Energy commerce was able to showcase our students by allowing them to demonstrate how they can use their course work and critical thinking to solve real-world problems, while at the same time allowing those students to see real world applications of what they are learning in the classroom.  Phillips 66 was very impressed with the students' knowledge and understanding of markets and how the downstream business works.  Tech students have been invited to return next fall." Kantelis said.

"Employers are looking for graduates who have a solid foundation, are high achievers, are able to critically think and problem solve, are able to effectively communicate and are also good team players," Kantelis said. "The assumption by employers is that the foundational skill set is there upon graduation, but employers are interested in seeing that the student is able to apply that knowledge to solve problems and deliver results."

Students interested in energy commerce should understand there is an application process to enter the program. Students will work hard, learn a tremendous amount about the industry, and be well prepared for future success in the industry.  The energy commerce program has established and maintains strong relationships with industry partners - a tremendous benefit to students.  Additionally, the faculty in the department is unique in that they have numerous years of experience in the industry and know what it takes to succeed.

In additional to her energy commerce teaching responsibilities, Kantelis teaches Applied Business Economics.  In BECO 4310, Kantelis uses her background in both economics and business operations to help students understand how companies use economic analysis to make investment and operating decisions while effectively managing prices, costs, risks and the regulatory environment. She launched a BECO 4310 study abroad course during the summer of 2016, and its inaugural trip was to London and Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. Due to its success, another program is planned for the summer of 2017 with stopovers again in London and in Berlin, Germany.

Kantelis, like her colleagues, finds it rewarding to help students in their career search and particularly gratifying when students reach back to the program to say that they are using the skills they built in the program in their new positions.

"We all give advice, help students with industry networking and assist students wherever we can in their career planning. It is so fulfilling to watch and help students grasp a new idea, learn a new concept and use that knowledge to work through a problem.  I often have the opportunity to work with students on a special project, or with supplemental subject matter, after they have completed a class. Students frequently request that I look over their resumes, help them prepare for an interview or seek my advice on graduate school.  I feel privileged that students see me as a good resource," Kantelis said.

This supports the efforts outlined in the Rawls College of Business Strategic Plan. Learn more about the LEADER 2020 Strategic Plan and follow our progress on Twitter at #RawlsLeads.