Geology alumna provides opportunities for students

Heckman emphasizes importance of alumni relations to college


Katherine Heckman

Katherine Heckman (front right) studies bedforms with other geology classmates during her junior year at Allegheny.

Katherine Heckman, ’07, is an exemplary model of what she believes alumni ought to represent: she spends time with students in the geology department, goes on field trips and offers the occasional internship connection; she volunteers with the Timothy Alden Council Executive Committee, a group involved with financial opportunities for Allegheny students, and she cares deeply about the value of her degree from Allegheny College.

In short, she believes that a healthy relationship between alumni and the alma mater constitutes a degree of reciprocity. She hopes to see this relationship strengthen particularly between Allegheny College and young alumni.

“If we can show alumni that they are an important part of a student’s experience, the more they will think of Allegheny when they are able to give financial contributions,” said Heckman. “My personal goal is to try to establish this feedback loop: when a student receives guidance, their next responsibility is to give guidance.”

Heckman is currently a senior geologist at EQT Corporation, an oil and natural gas production company. She credits her success to two people: Dr. Robert Schwartz, professor of geology at Allegheny, and Neal Alexandrowicz, ’99, an Allegheny alumnus who helped her prepare for the interview with EQT.

“I was able to connect with [Alexandrowicz] through the alumni network that Allegheny had… All I had to do was make one phone call to an alumnus and he gave me all the information that I could possibly ever need about EQT,” Heckman said.

A representative from EQT initially reached out to Schwartz to ask whether he knew any undergraduate students who would be fit for a position at the company. Schwartz deferred to Heckman, who he considered to be one of his strongest students.  Heckman made contact with the company immediately.

Heckman has remained in contact with Schwartz ever since and periodically returns to Allegheny to volunteer her time with the geology department. Schwartz and Heckman both understand the necessity of keeping the department up-to-date with current advances in geology.

“We collaborate on our thoughts all the time,” Schwartz said of his friendship with Heckman. “There are times I even discuss the curriculum with her. Those of us on the inside have to constantly think of upgrading our system. She has been an important source of communication for us to keep abreast of recent ongoing concerns in the oil and gas industry and preparing our students for that.”

Heckman also described her thoughts on an evolving curriculum.

“We need the departments to continuously change the curriculum to keep up with the current needs for the young professionals,” Heckman said. “The geology department is adding a professor position that focuses on energy, oil and gas exploration. Now I know as an alumna that the geology department understands what the job market needs from students.”

Heckman also keeps in close contact with Ron Cole, department chair of geology at Allegheny. Cole, with the help of Career Education, has helped Heckman bring interviews for internships at EQT to students in the geology department at Allegheny.

“She’s been a very loyal supporter of our students,” Cole said. “She has been on campus practically every year since she’s been at EQT interviewing students for internships and she’s been open to students contacting her, giving them advice, looking over resumes and such.”

Heckman understands that her relationship with the geology department is analogous to that of an athlete to his or her team. While a student at Allegheny, Heckman participated in track and field, her main event being the javelin toss. She also worked as a student trainer on the football team.

“From the beginning, I knew that was going to be a group that I was going to be very close with,” Heckman said of the track team. “Track is always thought of as an individual sport, but from day one, it was all about the team.”

This notion of a team is central to Heckman’s beliefs about the necessity of alumni involvement with Allegheny. In August of 2014, Heckman acted upon her ideology and joined the TACEC.

What I found through my experience was that, while I was not able to donate money, I was able to give back time and a chance to offer interviews for intern positions.

— Katherine Heckman

“The Timothy Alden Council Executive Committee is a leadership group of generous volunteers who partner with the College to increase participation and financial support to the Annual Fund…TACEC looks forward to working with all alumni to raise funds that help to ensure Allegheny remains among the best liberal arts colleges in the country,” reads the mission statement on TACEC’s website.

Heckman believes that there are certainly more ways to give back to her alma mater than through financial donations alone.

“What I found through my experience was that, while I was not able to donate money, I was able to give back time and a chance to offer interviews for intern positions,” Heckman said. “That is the type of thing I hope I can raise awareness of, keeping young professionals connected to Allegheny.”

Heckman also believes that Allegheny will benefit from a strong relationship between the athletic department and its alumni. She was proud of the fact that the department worked hard to develop her as a student-athlete, and regards her relationship with them as just as important as her connection with academic departments. She expressed her excitement to work with them in the future, and outlined a few ideas that she believes would improve alumni relations with the department.

“Little things, like having the head coach of a team send a monthly update to the old alumni, would go a long way,” Heckman said. “Some kind of online bulletin that allows alumni to congratulate a student on a job well done would be good. The bottom line is, I want to brag about all things Allegheny.”

Ultimately, Heckman is proud of her time at Allegheny. She believes that the strength of her degree is inextricably linked to the strength and integrity of Allegheny’s current programs.

“It’s not about winning or losing,” she said. “It’s about knowing that my degree will remain strong because Allegheny is admitting strong student athletes.”