Building a Future in Wind Energy
October 19, 2010
Just past the Lubbock city limits signs, white structures of monumental proportions cast long, narrow shadows on the smooth green expanses of West Texas farm and ranch land. In a state famous for producing in exaggerated magnitude, the colossal turbines meld seamlessly into the horizon.
Mark Meng believes that these turbines and the energy they produce is the immediate future of sustainable energy for the United States. The country's need to lower dependence on fossil fuels coupled with an emphasis in green technologies makes wind energy a more viable and lucrative option every day. And, considering the industry's exponential growth, he made a good choice in building his own future.
"There is wind energy everywhere," Meng said of the industry he studies and hopes to later find employment. "But Texas is home; I’ll always come back to Texas."
To prepare for his future in the wind energy industry, Meng chose Texas Tech University's Bachelor of General Studies (BGS). Because BGS students select three areas of concentration rather than a major and a minor, Meng was able to combine his interests in wind energy, community and urban studies, and environmental sciences to form an individualized degree program. One of about 600 BGS students, he quickly set himself apart from other members of the University College's growing degree program.
Meng is the first president of the University's Wind Energy Student Association (WESA) and plans to guide the organization from its current membership of about 12 to his two-year goal of number-one organization on campus. He believes the organization is the first of its kind, and involvement will be beneficial for both students and the wind energy industry.
"WESA will link the industry with qualified student professionals," Meng said of the future of the organization. By forming partnerships with wind energy companies across the United States, Meng hopes to connect students with employers for internships and jobs. "Industry leaders will know that Texas Tech pumps out qualified individuals who are highly marketable and sought after." Although the organization is in the initial stages of formation, it has seen membership growth from both traditional and non-traditional students and Meng believes more students will join when they see the benefits of membership demonstrated.
Meng's goals are extensive and in an initial conversation, one might not realize the depth of his potential or his absolute ability to accomplish them, but everyone notices his height. At a towering 6 feet 8 inches, Meng demands a presence in any room, and just a few minutes of dialogue reveals he is also clever, soft-spoken and careful with words.
Hailing from Plano, Texas, Meng's father works in the telecommunications industry and his mother works for a company that leads in testing and certification and is heavily invested into renewable resources including small and utility wind energy. She is responsible for his original interest in wind energy and subsequently, his application and attendance to Texas Tech University. Meng said one day, upon her return from work, his mother gave him a copy of an article she read on wind energy that praised its competitive salaries and remarkable potential for growth. After some additional research, Meng was hooked.
He said he chose Texas Tech because of the University's leading role in the wind energy industry.
"It is impressive for this university to be so on the ball in knowing what it needs to offer," Meng said. "To see that kind of confidence and to know that I came here and that when I leave, I'll go out wanted - that's a good feeling."
Meng explained that with the diversity of positions available in the wind energy industry, it is important that his training is flexible enough to allow him to go into any one of many different sectors.
"I chose the BGS because it is more tailored to my needs," Meng said. "I found if I tailored myself too uniquely to a specific job then I wouldn't be open to the entire industry and that's what I wanted," he clarified. "In the past, I've thought I had a lot to offer - I still think I have a lot to offer."
After he graduates, Meng plans to look for work in wind energy, and with his confidence and enthusiasm, it should not be difficult to find. Later, he hopes to begin work on his master's degree as well, but in the meantime, he will continue to build the Wind Energy Student Association and pursue his other passions. He enjoys his 1956 Ford Fairlane restoration project, his coin collection and traveling.
"I don't like to fly, but I like to go places. I feel like a sardine on the plane; they're getting smaller," he laughed. Despite his discomfort on airplanes as a result of his height, he recently flew to see his sister several times in Chicago, and visited his favorite city, Seattle. He described Seattle as his favorite place because of its beauty, perfect temperatures and fresh fish.
Meng's intelligence and drive is fascinating, and his enthusiasm for the world around him is infectious; he is passionate about the industry of wind and the potential it has to change the way the United States is powered. He plans to make a mark on Texas Tech University and the wind energy industry, but his description of himself and his goals are simple and succinct.
"I'm just like you, trying to get a good spot in the world," he described himself with certainty.