Networking in Alaska
September 8, 2015 - Tamara Williams
Two UNM Law School students had an all-expenses paid opportunity to learn, network and enjoy 20 hours of sunlight in Anchorage, Alaska this summer.
From July 16 – 18, Kelly Gould (’16) and Lance Hough (’16) attended the 61st Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute in Anchorage, courtesy of a scholarship from the Rocky Mountain Law Foundation.
The conference proved to be a premier opportunity for the two students pursuing Natural Resources & Environmental Law to network with industry professionals, see their professor in a totally different setting and role than in the classroom, and learn more about fields in natural resources law.
Both students have taken classes from Professor Alex Ritchie, who teaches oil and gas law and other natural resources courses. He served as the co-chair of the Oil and Gas Section of the conference. Anchorage celebrated its 100th birthday this summer, and they were also able to enjoy some of the festivities and take time to enjoy the beautiful state of Alaska for the first time.
Read about their experiences below.
Each of you was assigned a mentor prior to the conference. How did your mentoring experience go?
My mentor was awesome! He emailed me before the conference and we met at the newcomers’ breakfast on the first day. He also invited me to a dinner he had planned with friends and colleagues. It was a lot of fun and I was very grateful to my mentor for being so welcoming and engaged. He is an attorney in Albuquerque and I hope to keep in contact with him.
I met my mentor the evening before the conference. He is an attorney from Denver, one of the places where I would like to practice law. Upon asking for advice, he told me, “Stay focused on what you want to do.” Among other advice, that guidance was the most helpful. He and I are still in touch.
Which sessions made a special impact on you?
The oil and gas session was the most fun for me. I took Professor Ritchie’s oil and gas class last fall and it provided a great foundation. I felt that I could follow along during all the lectures and I was familiar with many of the issues that were brought up. This was exciting for me, especially as a student; I felt like I knew what was going on.
I enjoyed the session on The Past, Present, and Future of Petroleum Development in Mexico by Owen L. Anderson, a professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, because the Natural Resources Journal will be publishing an article this summer on Mexican petroleum policy. Moreover, this had a particularly special impact on me because, after Professor Alex Ritchie and I spoke with Professor Anderson, he submitted an article for the summer issue of the NRJ.
Professor Reed Benson also talked with Robert Keiter, a professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, about writing an introduction for the winter issue of the NRJ on National Parks. As the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the NRJ this year, I am very impressed and pleased that these highly-respected experts have submitted contributions.
Did you take advantage of any networking opportunities at the conference?
I was definitely inspired by many of the people I met at the conference. I feel much more comfortable with networking now than I did before the conference. I am very grateful I had the opportunity to meet many of amazing practitioners in this field. I got to meet and talk to leaders in the natural resources and public lands sectors. I also got to meet many amazing women who paved the way for women today.
I went to the Annual Institute in Vail last year. At that time, I was interested in natural resources but did not realize the tremendous networking value I had before me. This year, I was very engaged and met about as many people as possible. The contributions to the NRJ from Professor Anderson and Professor Keiter, resulting from connections with Professor Ritchie and Professor Benson, are a perfect display of the networking value. The Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation truly is a great way to learn more and become more involved in the natural resources community.
What was it like to see Professor Ritchie in his role as co-chair of the Oil and Gas Section of the conference?
It was nice to see Professor Ritchie in a different role. Each time I mentioned I was from New Mexico, people would immediately ask me if I knew Professor Ritchie. Everyone I spoke with thought very highly of Professor Ritchie. I already knew how hard he works as a professor, and the conference made me realize that he works equally hard in his other roles. I think having a professor who is engaged in foundations such as this one this really helps the law school. It gives the UNM Law School more credibility when it comes to our natural resources program.
The conference attendees praised Professor Ritchie so much! Although he did not present this year, he introduced several of the sessions. He was really well liked and well respected. As mentioned, Professor Ritchie really helped the NRJ by establishing a connection with Professor Anderson. His hard work and dedication was very evident at the Annual Institute.
What’s the big take-away for you about this conference?
Attending the 61st Annual Institute was a wonderful experience. Everyone was really welcoming and it was interesting to see all the different avenues available in the field of natural resources law. I am tremendously honored to be a recipient of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Scholarship and am very grateful to the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and to Professor Ritchie.
The conference was a huge motivator for me to pursue environmental and natural resources law, and it was a great opportunity for networking. It was exciting to see how many successful and enthusiastic people there are in the natural resources field.
I am still honing my career goal, but ultimately want to become more involved with water. Initially, I would like to work at a firm practicing environmental law to develop a broad base of understanding, then likely delve into water law in Colorado or New Mexico. I have been interested in water for a while and would like to eventually utilize my career to better the public.
Were you able to enjoy any sightseeing while you were in Alaska?
I had never been to Alaska. Anchorage is beautiful and there is so much nature to see within 20 miles. I rented a bike and biked along the coast one morning before the conference started. I also went to a park after the conference and saw two moose. It helped that it was light for 20 hours a day – you can really do a lot in 20 hours!
It was my first time in Alaska, too. I took an extra day and went fly-fishing with a guide on the Upper Kenai River. Although the salmon were not running, I caught rainbow trout and Dolly Varden trout. In addition, I saw several grizzly bears, moose, eagles, and more. I also took a long bike ride; I road 4 or 5 hours down the coast and into a rainforest park. I loved the long daylight hours and packed a lot in. I truly enjoyed the Annual Institute and Alaska, all thanks to the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation.