Texas Tech University

Energy Commerce Student Wins Outstanding Graduate Award

Jacob Gordon

April 19, 2021


Ellarie Sutton, a senior energy commerce student who won the American Association of Professional Landmen 2021 Outstanding Graduate award, reflects on her journey from California to a May 2021 Texas Tech graduate.

Ellarie Sutton, a senior energy commerce student, has won the American Association of Professional Landmen (AAPL) 2021 Outstanding Graduate award. Sutton is the third Texas Tech University student to win the award and the first since 2003.

Each of the nine AAPL accredited undergraduate programs can nominate one student for the Outstanding Graduate award. Kellie Estes, the director of the Center for Energy Commerce, nominated Sutton because

“It was an easy decision to nominate Ellarie,” said Estes. “She's taken advantage of all the opportunities Texas Tech has to offer and has made the most of her four years here.”

Estes notes that the award committee looks for nominees who not only do well academically, but demonstrate proficiency and interest in the energy industries outside of the classroom.

“[Ellarie] has a thirst for knowledge, a desire to excel and a love for the energy industry,” said Estes. “She has the ability to have fun and enjoy what she's doing.”

Sutton, who was born and raised in California, only happened to visit the Texas Tech campus on a whim. She and her mom were on a cross-country road trip to visit college campuses and selected Lubbock as a convenient stopping point on their trip.

“We got into Lubbock around 9 PM,” said Sutton, “and my mom was like ‘Hey, there's this university here. Why don't you sign up for a tour?' I booked a tour for the next morning. When we showed up at 9 AM, they had a folder with my name on it and were so excited to see us.”

Sutton was surprised at the level of personalization given that she had scheduled the tour less than 12 hours before visiting the campus. Though Texas Tech was the first of 15 campuses Sutton and her mom visited, the people on the tour left a lasting impression on them both.

“Even after the road trip, both my mom and I knew Texas Tech was the spot where I needed to be.”

The concept of personalized connections with people is something Sutton values in nearly all aspects of her life. While Sutton may have originally decided on energy commerce because she felt it set herself up for a stable career, it was the size of the program that made her confident she made the right decision.

“What's really been so positive is how small the major is,” said Sutton. “Everyone knows each other, and I've become really good friends with a lot of people through classes. You're sitting with the same 40-50 people in like five classes every semester. You become really close because you're all going through some of the hardest classes in the Rawls together.”  

Sutton looked to strengthen those bonds with her fellow energy commerce classmates through her involvement with the Energy Commerce Association (ECA). Sutton joined ECA during her second year at Texas Tech and became the president of the organization during the Fall 2020 semester.

“ECA is the social part of the major. The events are great at making connections and you never know when that will come in handy. We're all going to work in the same industry, and it's a small industry.”

As Sutton progressed through the major, her instructors have seen the value of her ability to connect with her fellow students.

“I have been teaching at Rawls College for 10 years,” said Charles Frisbie, instructor of energy commerce, “and Ellarie is definitely one of the top students that I have been fortunate to have in class. Her people skills and ability to build relationships are superb, which are critical for someone entering the land profession.”

Sutton had the opportunity to utilize her people skills during her internship with Occidental Petroleum's land department during the summer of 2019.

“As a landman you have exposure to different departments internally,” said Sutton. “You're the point person for the feasibility of projects. Externally, I got to communicate with a lot of people too.”

One of those external opportunities came when Sutton was helping with a contract negotiation. After sending the contract to the landowner, Sutton was surprised when her phone rang with an unfamiliar number.

“I pick up, and the landowner is talking to me directly. He had some questions and wanted some clarifications. I was able to explain something I learned less than two months ago. That was so cool. I knew I wanted to keep doing this!”

Sutton's time at Occidental Petroleum helped crystalize the type of company culture she'd like to work in once she graduates in May 2021. Prior to her internship, Sutton thought she favored a super competitive culture. Now?

“I realized that the culture doesn't have to be that way for success to still come. Everyone at Oxy were friends and they knew each other on a personal level. They enjoyed being around each other. That's what I'm looking for.”

Sutton is hoping to find a company in Texas that values collaboration and support among its employees.

With less than one month left in her academic career, winning the AAPL 2021 Outstanding Graduate award is validation for Sutton that she's on the right path.

“For my parents and me, it confirmed that everything I'm doing is right. I took a chance on Texas Tech and energy commerce, and it worked out. I'm where I'm meant to be.”