Dream Big And Take Time For Tea

Professor Zeglin in classHis career with Chevron Phillips Chemical Company is impressive, including the latest added title to his resume: Executive President of Saudi Polymers Company in Saudi Arabia, an affiliate of Chevron Phillips Chemical. Mike Zeglin is experienced, well-traveled and well-educated, but he offers more than what reads on paper.

Despite managing a great deal of responsibility, and a demanding schedule, Zeglin remains approachable. As an active alum, he gives back to the university in many ways.

Since 2004, Zeglin has traveled back to Austin every semester to teach a class as part of the ChE Communications course. He came up with the idea while serving on the department’s External Advisory Council where he was intrigued by Professor D’Arcy Randall’s presentation to incorporate engineering ethics into coursework.

“I sought to share my experience in safety and risk assessment because nothing is more important than personal safety,” Zeglin said. “As a key leader on-site, I must ensure the right environment is in place to be safe and successful. At Chevron Phillips Chemical, we believe every employee has the right to go home safely every day.”

In his class, Zeglin teaches guidelines called the Tenets of Operation about working safely.  These guidelines used at Chevron Phillips Chemical have a universal application and can improve students’ decision making in the workplace, as well as in their daily lives.

He also gives advice on building business relationships, often from a multi-cultural perspective.  “During my time abroad, I have realized you must develop an understanding of the local culture to be successful,” he said.

With 14 nationalities and 27 languages present at Zeglin’s current work site in Saudi Arabia, bridging cultural barriers has been an important learning experience.

“It’s important to build personal and business relationships with managers at other companies in Saudi Arabia,” he said.  “A good relationship is the cornerstone to good business. In the Middle East, taking time to drink tea with a manager from another company facilitates business discussions and is an important part of the culture.”

Influencing students is something Zeglin reveres. “The best advice I give students is to know thyself,” he said.  “Know your strengths, work to maximize them, and, above all, dream big.”  His mentoring mindset was largely instilled by his former Professor John J. McKetta.

“Dr. McKetta was a great mentor and he continues to influence my life today,” he said.  “He taught me about hard work, discipline, and his rules of thumb to troubleshoot and problem solve. He inspired students to accomplish what others think impossible.”

In 1995 Zeglin donated to the McKetta Challenge, a ChE department fundraiser established when Dr. McKetta donated an amount equal to the sum of his paychecks from UT and asked alumni to match his gift.  “With that kind of leadership at UT, it’s difficult not to find a way to give back,” he said.

Zeglin says he has seen a return on the investment by the caliber of UT ChE graduates recruited by Chevron Phillips Chemical.  “A significant number of our engineers are UT graduates,” he said.  “The UT ChE program is one of the best in the US and the quality of students reflects the department’s ranking.  I have been recruiting engineers for a long time and the talent and skill level produced by the department seems to increase each year.”

To continue this success, Zeglin recently contributed to UT ChE’s current fundraiser, the Challenge for McKetta. The campaign is raising $25 million to secure programmatic excellence and renamed the department in honor of John McKetta.

Zeglin exemplifies the positive impact alumni can have on students. “Each of us is unique and has something to share that can make a difference in the university experience,” he said. “It’s an honor to be a UT graduate, and I’m just trying to do my part to sustain and enhance the experience for other students.”

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