UT Dallas - The LINK
September 2011        

Alumni Spotlight

 

Gas City provides a working natural gas system on which technicians learn to find gas leaks, check appliances and detect carbon monoxide.
Gas City provides a working natural gas system on which technicians learn to find gas leaks, check appliances and detect carbon monoxide.

Graduate school was a bit of a fog for Kelli Martin MA’95, as she slogged through classes in the evening and work as a manager for Gabberts furniture corporate during the day. But now, 16 years later, Martin still draws on the wisdom gleaned from those long nights in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies. “I learned great expertise about the real world,” she said. And Martin has based her career at Atmos Energy around this very idea.

As the director of technical training, Martin works to ensure that employees receive the preparation and guidance they need from the Charles K. Vaughan Center in Plano. Located just a few miles from UT Dallas, the Vaughan Center was designed by Atmos to improve and standardize training for employees, as well as increase safety and reliability.

Gas City, the Vaughan Center’s simulation of a typical community, allows Atmos Energy employees to study gas meters and service lines before they work on them in the field.

“We take it from what you can teach in the classroom to what is real,” explained Martin. “When it comes to what employees are going to confront in the field, especially when they need to use their hands, you’ve got to get them out of the classroom.”

On any given day, several groups of employees are schooled on meter reading, service and construction, corrosion and gas measurement. Then they put those concepts into practice in Gas City’s seven small but life-size houses, complete with an underground piping system on which to practice. To keep the experience realistic, Gas City is booby-trapped with fake poison ivy and speakers playing the loud bark of a menacing dog. “Whether it’s really hot outside or freezing or raining, we have to be able to respond to customers’ needs,” Martin explained. “This is why we developed Gas City. We want to give our people real-life field experience.”

Before joining Atmos, Martin spent 10 years as a group program manager for Microsoft. She and her husband, John BA’90, live in Richardson.

Atmos Energy Corp. recently honored its executive chairman, Robert W. Best, by creating a scholarship bearing his name. The $100,000 gift to UT Dallas will help students reach their academic goals by paying for a number of school-related expenses, including tuition, books and housing.

The flow lab allows employees to experiment with controlling gas pressure.
The flow lab allows employees to experiment with controlling gas pressure.

 

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