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Nila Khan

Nila Khan is one of four employees in Xcel Energy's nuclear asset management division.

Higher power

Carlson School student Nila Khan takes an energetic approach to college and career

By Brian Lieb

Jan. 9, 2007

At one time, Nila Khan had different plans. But the summer before her first year of college, after already being admitted to the University of Minnesota's College of Liberal Arts, everything changed. "I was working at Xcel Energy's High Bridge generating plant in St. Paul and I loved every minute of it," she says. "I decided that business was right for me." Unfortunately, the Carlson School's application deadline was long past. So she changed her first-year schedule and worked to attain one of the highly competitive transfer admission spots. "It was pretty much the most exciting news in the world when I got my acceptance letter," she recalls. Now a junior majoring in marketing and finance, Khan still interns at Xcel as one of four employees in its nuclear asset management division. The group is responsible for oversight of the company's two nuclear power plants--facilities that produce roughly 12 percent of Xcel's total energy, enough to power more than 1.5 million homes. Khan analyzes a range of incoming data to see if the plants are meeting performance indicators.

"I just read manual after manual until I had a good understanding of the topics," Khan says. "Then once I figured something out, I would go to my supervisor and ask for something new."

If her job sounds impressive, particularly for someone who just finished her second year of college, it is. She is the first intern in the division, and while she initially performed typical intern work, she quickly expanded her duties. "I just read manual after manual until I had a good understanding of the topics," she says. "Then once I figured something out, I would go to my supervisor and ask for something new." Khan brings that same drive to campus activities. She is vice president of finance for her sorority and has been a University of Minnesota New Student Weekend leader. She was also recently named a Carlson School Ambassador. This select group of students plans and organizes special events and interacts with legislators, deans, corporate leaders and community members. For Khan, the most exciting part of serving as an ambassador is the opportunity to work with nontraditional incoming students. "I believe everyone deserves a chance at higher education," she says. Now just two years removed from her High Bridge days, Khan has wide-ranging interests but clear goals in mind. She expects to eventually return to the Carlson School for an MBA. After that, she would like to teach. "I have had some amazing professors throughout my experience at the University," she says, "and I want to be a part of that."

Republished from Carlson School, fall 2006, a publication by the Carlson School of Management. FURTHER READING Mr. Perseverance From international student to world leader U student named Rhodes Scholar Africa calling U student named top-10 college woman