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Meet a Participant: Wendy Kussmann

Mathematics undergraduate evaluates validity of qualification identification system

Wendy Kussmann
Through her experience with the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship Program, Wendy Kussmann gained more direction for her goals after she graduates from college. She joined the DM Petroleum Operations division of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to provide real-time access to individual employee training needs using a SAP Human Capital Management system.

Searching for some direction for her future, Wendy Kussmann discovered the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) Program and got much more than direction; she got clarity.

“The first two years of college are exploratory, trying on different ‘hats’ to decide which to wear in the future,” she said. “By becoming a part of MLEF, I had the opportunity to expand my exploratory ideas and learn exactly which ‘hat’ I wish to wear in the future. I believe that having the ability to finally hone in on one's true passion is what makes this program a great opportunity for its interns.”

As an undergraduate at Northwestern State University (NSU), Kussmann is a double major, working towards both mathematics and mathematics education degrees. Her participation in MLEF, which is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education (ORISE), presented her with the opportunity to gain some real-life experience utilizing the skills she has gained from college. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE), MLEF expands STEM opportunities for minority and female students through 10-week summer internships. All eligible candidates are encouraged to apply for the program. ORISE is managed by ORAU for DOE.

For her project, Kussmann used a SAP Human Capital Management system to provide real-time access to individual employee training qualifications for the DM Petroleum Operations division of DOE's Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) Project Management Office. Because not all employees take their training at the same time, the SAP system would enable managers to track who needs to be trained and when. To accomplish this, she collaborated closely with her mentor, and the department head, Joseph Srofe.

“I am helping determine the validity of their [DM Petroleum Operations] qualification identification system by creating a communication, reporting and testing plan to ensure the validity of the data that is being captured,” she explained. “Ultimately, I am helping the company verify employees are qualified and skilled to perform their work via technical analysis, performance gap analysis and other diagnostic tests.”

Kussmann learned how to apply the statistical skills she has obtained from NSU to project management, while also gaining experience as help desk support. The division she was involved with communicates and educates all areas of the company to ensure SPR employees are properly trained on everything from safety issues to individual tasks, providing her with some experience teaching before she entered into her semester of student teaching.

She also had the opportunity to learn new technologies.

“I was unaware of the SAP system, but through MLEF, I learned much more about SAP and its architecture, as well as overall project management skills,” she said. “I have also learned much about the complex relationships between qualifications, jobs, people, positions and courses, and how they all interact.”

Overall, Kussmann believes the experience will be extremely beneficial to her future career goals. She had the opportunity to learn from many people throughout SPR and feels much more certain about where she plans to go with her life as she returns to NSU to complete her two bachelor's degrees.

“This experience has not only been a great opportunity for me, but it has also opened many doors and helped redefine my future goals,” Kussmann said. “Because of my positive experience with internships, I hope to become a liaison for internship programs to help students at the university level achieve the same opportunity.”