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Undergraduate student Victoria Clark overcame self-doubt with hard work, determination and the encouragement she experienced within petroleum engineering. | Image: Nancy Luedke/Texas A&M Engineering

"Feeling like an imposter is more common than you might believe, but it's nothing. You can overcome it; you're stronger than you would ever think." - Victoria Clark '22.

Clark understands all too well the challenges and self-doubts that come with being an undergraduate student in engineering at Texas A&M University. And though she didn't always dream of being an engineer, she can’t imagine being anything else nowadays.

Prior to her senior year of high school, Clark thought she would go into accounting, a suitable major for her strong love of math. But that year, she toured the Texas A&M campus and immediately fell in love with the atmosphere, the people, the traditions and the color maroon. Since Texas A&M is renowned for engineering, and engineering involves lots of math, she took a leap of faith and chose it as her career path.

During the Entry to a Major process, she visited advisors in her top three department choices. Clark said all were very helpful, but the advisor from petroleum engineering stood out. He went "above and beyond" to provide her with everything she needed to make an informed decision. Additionally, he sent her to a function hosted by the student chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (TAMU SPE) where she met and chatted with several upperclassmen. Clark heard everything she needed to know about the major, internships, and the oil and gas industry — the good and the challenging. A few days later, she decided on petroleum engineering.

The hard part was making the grades to be accepted.

“I thought I was going to be an accountant, so I took microbiology in high school while my peers were taking classes like calculus AB/BC and physics AP,” Clark said. “When I took calculus and physics here, it was the first time I’d seen the material.”

Doubts gnawed at her confidence every week during her freshman year. Instead of quitting, Clark put together a support system. Her parents provided steady guidance, especially her mom, who had recently been through college to obtain a teaching degree. Clark’s roommates, now some of her closest friends, also assisted her through some rough patches. Yet her greatest assets were the hard work she put in and the many hours she spent in the Evans Library and Zachry Engineering Education Complex academic study halls with “really helpful” tutors.

Clark finished her freshman and sophomore years in good standing. The summer after her sophomore year, she earned an internship with Concho Resources. One summer of being out in the field, meeting petroleum engineers and excelling at the work she was given confirmed that her choice of major was a wise move.

"Getting out there, being involved and getting that internship really helped me overcome that imposter syndrome," said Clark. "It’s like my dad always tells me, ‘Keep plugging along. You’ve got this!’”

Through friends in other majors, Clark found out all disciplines are similarly tough and challenging, yet in her mind petroleum engineering is different, especially in attitude.

“This department encourages collaboration between the students and everyone,” Clark said. “It was the same with my internship. No one's trying to really compete with each other. They want each person to succeed equally to themselves, which I think is very cool.”

Success taught Clark that a love of math, hard work and a willingness to raise her hand and ask questions could work wonders against self-doubt. Now she’s come full circle and is re-embracing her finance ideas from high school. She enrolled in the Graham Petroleum Ventures Program, where she takes elective courses in the Mays Business School and learns from business leaders in the oil and gas industry to gain her Petroleum Ventures Certificate.

“It can't ever hurt to know the money side of a technical venture because that's a huge part of it,” said Clark. “That's why the oil and gas industry makes the decisions it does.”

Clark has stepped up and pushed herself in areas other than classes. She placed first in the Junior Division of the local Student Paper Contest, held by the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering. She took part in and then led the recruitment committee of the TAMU SPE and currently helps the petroleum engineering department give tours to interested students. While she’s quick to talk about the joys she hopes to experience as a petroleum engineer, such as working all over the world, her goal is to let others find their own path, just as she did.

“The important part isn't convincing someone to join petroleum,” said Clark. “It's helping people find what works best and what's going to be the best fit for them in the future.”