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Tommy Jones

Biology & Spanish, 2008

PhD Natural Resources Studies/American Indian Studies (2016) at University of Arizona; Certificate in Administration and Management of American Indian Natural Resources (2016) at University of Arizona; Certificate in Native Nation Building (2016) at University of Arizona; Project Management Professional (2017) at Project Management Institute; MS Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (2011) at University of Hawaii at Hilo.


Energy Analyst / Project Monitor, Federal Contractor to Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs. Golden, Colorado.

Native Opportunities

Tommy Jones

Briefly describe your career path. 

Throughout my undergraduate, masters, and doctorate programs I participated in over ten internships across the country. Most of my internships were in Washington, DC where I was able gain exposure to both executive and legislative branches of federal government. This was absolutely beneficial to supplement my formal education. 

Zeroing in on energy during my Ph.D. program, I participated in a faculty exploratory grant that looked at the impacts that building large scale renewable energy projects within the state of Arizona would have on tribal lands. From there, I applied to a highly competitive summer internship at Sandia National Laboratories with the Tribal Energy Program. I made such a good impression with my Sandia boss and STEM leader Sandra Begay that she offered me a year-round internship for the program (while still completing my Ph.D.) 

From there I went on assignment to work in the Office of Indian Energy headquarters office in Washington, DC as an intern. All of this experience and ability to demonstrate my passion for the field helped when I graduated and was able to apply for a full time position. Formal education and professional development opportunities should go hand in hand.

Describe what an average day for you might be like.

My work focuses on two areas: research and grant management. My research includes contributions to showcasing the multiplier effect that DOE funding and technical assistance has on communities with respect to economic and environmental factors (which has been used by the White House and National Congress for American Indians). Most recently, I worked towards conducting an expert elicitation of tribal renewable energy experts of what they view as barriers to renewable energy development on tribal lands both in the lower 48 and Alaska. 

The grant work includes processing grant applications, invoices, award packages and being a point of contact for tribal representatives in completing their federally funded projects. It is quite exciting seeing all the tremendous work that is going on around Indian Country with respect to energy.

What advice would you give your college self about pursuing work in your current industry? 

Work hard! It pays off both figuratively and literally. Look for internships in the field you want to be in constantly. Embrace the positive impact that mentors can make in your life and career. Have fun! It is possible to have a social life and succeed academically and professionally. Get as much scholarship money as absolutely possible. It makes life a lot easier. 

Finally, spend more time with your parents. I have the best parents I could ever ask for and now I live 9 hours away from them. In college I was 30 minutes away and I miss that every single day. The industry you want to be in will work itself out with hard work and dedication, don’t miss out on the other things that are important in your life.

What is a lesson learned at OKCU that you have been able to apply to your career? 

The faculty and staff at OCU changed my life (Michael Jackson, Susan Barber, Mark Griffin, Don Skinner-Noble, and Mike Knopp to name a few). These people believed in me, believed I could chase my dreams, and helped me do so. They pushed me academically and made me think critically about larger issues outside of the classroom (or rowing boat!) The dedication they showed in helping students grow into contributing and thoughtful members of society laid the foundation for my life after OCU. I will be forever thankful for their leadership and commitment to seeing students succeed.

What is the most significant thing that’s happened to you since graduating? 

Getting a job in a field that I am passionate about is just as fulfilling as I had hoped. There have been so many people that have helped me and supported me getting here that I feel a duty to help others find their passion and encourage them to work towards it. The network of family, friends and mentors I have had truly shows me the important role that individuals can offer to others.

Getting a job in a field that I am passionate about is just as fulfilling as I had hoped.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to be able to contribute to meaningful change in Indian Country. My current focus is meant to address barriers that Native American communities face with meeting energy needs and to promote economic development through energy development. My goal is to spend my life improving conditions in Indian Country for all Native communities and to ensure that the issues I faced growing up in poverty are no longer prevalent throughout Indian Country. I want to ensure those who want energy have the ability to have energy. Personally, I hope to be able to have some form of leadership role within my own tribal affiliations and to promote effective policy on a national level.

What is your favorite OKCU memory? 

My time being on the rowing team at OCU is by far one of my fondest memories that I have. Rowing built great friendships, incredible work ethic, and our winning all the time was the best part! Hard work paid off.