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Volume 71, Issue 5, Friday, August 26, 2005


Imaginary island hosts 3 Cougars

Shell Oil-sponsored Gourami program provides practical experience
in energy management

By Khayati Patal
The Daily Cougar

While most UH students spend their summers working, taking summer school courses and going on road trips, three business students -- Neda Bundalo, Anca Loghin and Elizabeth Nguyen -- spent the beginning of August running Gourami, an island in the Indian Ocean. 

Gourami suffers from political, social, economic and energy problems, but no overpopulation problems -- because it has no population. Gourami is an imaginary island created by the Shell Oil Company for its first Gourami Business Challenge.

"The program was created to give students hands-on experience and what it's like to work in energy," Shell Director of Attraction and Recruitment in America Cary Wilkins said. "What we're looking for is for students who are able to work in teams and working in unity."

The one-week program, held in Palm Springs, Calif., let students participate in one of three business groups: sales and marketing, exploration and production, and manufacturing. There are also subgroups inside the three main groups: accounting, financing, human resource and supply. 

Once students were divided into the groups, they worked with an assigned product or developed ideas to make the island safer and cleaner. Students were expected to integrate changes into the community using business and engineering strategies.

A Shell employee guided the students, helping them explore different tactics and monitor their developments through each activity.

At the end of the week, the students combined all their departments and merged all their ideas into one proposal they presented to Shell executives helping with the Gourami Business Challenge. 

But the program was not created for students to become competitive with each other.

"It was made very clear from the beginning that this program is not a competition," Wilkins said. "No awards or prizes were given to any of the participants."

UH is one of only 16 universities where Shell recruits students for its program. Five hundred students applied for the program, but only 46 were picked to participate. 

Shell officials anticipate holding two more Gourami Business Challenges. The location of the program is yet to be determined, but students can look forward to an eventful summer, Wilkins said.

"The program would be great for undergrad students and students working towards their master's," Bundalo said. "It's a week of hard work, but the experience is worth it."

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