A Co-op's Ambitious Project Helps Keep Talent Pipeline Flowing

Jan 27, 2022 1:00 PM ET

Marathon Petroleum’s Internship/Co-op program offers university students the opportunity to do meaningful work with real business impact that develops their skills in tangible ways. It’s often why so many of them return for multiple semesters.

Megan Loos, now a fulltime Project Engineer in Marathon Petroleum’s Logistics & Storage organization, is a great example of that. Before graduating from Ohio Northern University (ONU) in the spring of 2020, Loos crisscrossed the company’s operations, completing five co-ops at a variety of sites in Ohio and Illinois.

During her senior year at ONU – the latter half of which was impacted by COVID-19 restrictions – Loos came up with an idea to help herself and other co-ops more easily visualize how products flow through pipelines.

“During my field co-op in Martinsville, I learned how passionate the team was about community outreach,” Loos said. “They built their own tank models to use during outreach events, and I remember being so impressed by the demonstrations.”

That’s what inspired Megan to pursue the idea of creating a working model of a pipeline booster station and/or a tank farm with a manifold. With the Learning & Development (L&D) team agreeing it would be a helpful tool, she went to work.

“I brainstormed ideas of pipeline concepts I struggled to understand as a co-op and worked to incorporate them into a model,” explained Loos. “Ultimately, we decided to create two separate models – one that functioned as a booster station and one that operated as a receipt manifold connected to tankage.”

With the support of the L&D team, Loos was able to bring her vision to life. The clear piping used in the model helps the learners see how product flows through the system and colored water indicates different light products in the model.

In addition to visualization, it also helps co-ops and new hires build their vocabulary about industry-specific terms, such as booster stations, manifolds, meters and different types of valves/strainers. The L&D team has been able to use the model with new hires in energy isolation activities and to discuss project management concepts.

Co-sponsoring the project was Amy Pierce, the L&D Supervisor in Logistics and Storage Support Services at the time the project started. She’s also a graduate of ONU.

“I was honored to sponsor this project,” Pierce said. “Megan approached me with the idea and made the sponsorship process so easy with her project management and leadership skills. It was extra special for me that I recruited Megan as a co-op, then sponsored her capstone project, and now she’s rocking it fulltime at Marathon after graduating from ONU.”

Doubling as her senior project, Loos worked with other ONU seniors to complete the project, but not before COVID-19 sent her entire working group home.

“It definitely made things more difficult, but I was able to stay back and complete the project on time and within budget,” she said.

Reflecting on her five-time co-op experience, Loos posits the most valuable part was the amount of responsibility she was given, preparing her for the career she has now. It’s also “pretty exciting” to see the ONU Model being used today for multiple applications, including training co-ops following her lead.