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Female student smiling and giving an Aggie thumb's up outdoors on the Texas A&M University campus.
Undergraduate student Courtney Gasser uses the same enthusiastic Aggie spirit that once startled her at Texas A&M to succeed in life. | Image: Nancy Luedke/Texas A&M Engineering

“That first experience, literally diving headfirst into Fish Camp, not knowing what's going on and having a bunch of people screaming in your face, was intimidating. People in Louisiana don't act like this. But it was really fun, and I ended up liking it.” – Courtney Gasser ’23

Gasser, an undergraduate student in the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University, has experienced many self-discoveries while in college. Now, she actively seeks personal growth moments.

A self-described engineering nerd, musician, entrepreneur and football fanatic, Gasser did not consider Texas A&M or petroleum engineering while attending high school in Slidell, Louisiana. She was more into chemistry and physics. That changed when she watched the Texas A&M football team beat Louisiana State University after seven overtimes.

“Aggies have stamina,” said Gasser. “The students were still standing. It was impressive, so I came to tour the school the spring semester of my senior year.”

Gasser had no doubts she would become an engineer but didn’t consider petroleum engineering until she spoke with current students and Cathy Sliva, associate professor of practice and the undergraduate program director.

“This department is literally the best of the best,” Gasser said. “You get to be part of the people who power human society. I took a picture of myself in front of the statue outside the Richardson building and posted right then I would come to Texas A&M.”

Female high-school student standing with parents next to statue of roughneck on Texas A&M campus
Gasser stood with her parents outside the Richardson building right before she posted she was coming to Texas A&M to study petroleum engineering. | Image: Courtesy of Courtney Gasser

Though Gasser is not shy, she did have to adjust herself to the friendliness of the people and students around campus. Howdy Week also startled her but made her feel welcomed. And answering an email from the student chapter of the International Association of Drilling Contractors on a whim ended up getting her on a rig tour before freshman classes even started. The impromptu trip taught her about the oil and gas industry and even more about how truly encouraging the students in petroleum engineering are.

“Being able to forge connections with upperclassmen and peers back then really helped me,” Gasser said. “They were my mentors, getting me adjusted to Texas A&M. We're still good friends now.”

Stellar grades qualified Gasser for Engineering Honors, the National Merit Scholarship, the President's Endowed Scholarship and the Nelson Scholarship. She had a firm grasp of math and science classes from high school but retook the courses at Texas A&M to gain a better understanding for more complex subjects to come, like differential equations. She views tough courses as a challenge and imagines herself succeeding, then makes that success happen with hard work.

Yet, the strength of her academics was offset by a problem Gasser began experiencing in high school: a severe case of test anxiety. When the condition started interfering with her studies, she tackled it head-on with resources she discovered at Texas A&M.

“I met with people on campus, like the Counseling and Psychological Services, to help me practice different techniques to manage my anxiety,” Gasser said.  “I knew that would be the biggest obstacle in my academic career. I'm still working on it, but It usually goes away pretty quickly nowadays.”

To keep stress at bay, Gasser has taken up music again, something she finds a pleasant escape. She even takes orchestra when her schedule permits. To Gasser’s surprise, many students in the university orchestras are in science and engineering, and she laughs along with her fellow STEM majors when the orchestra leader makes jokes about that.

Gasser sees herself as a future reservoir engineer, mainly because she enjoys analyzing data and can see herself calculating hydrocarbons in place, maximizing exploration and production assets, and predicting what can be extracted in the most economical way. She already understands the value of economics and entrepreneurship through her own clothing business, where she collects old, hard-to-come-by apparel, evaluates the actual value of the items, and resells them for a profit to help finance her education.

In 2020, Gasser attended a biweekly series of virtual summer webinars that allowed her to listen to oil and gas engineers, recruiters and supervisors and learn how geology, geophysics, petroleum engineering and mechanical engineering interrelate in many industry aspects. She secured an internship for the 2021 summer and, in a move straight out of Howdy Week, reached out to the other internees early so she could make connections before the job began.

Gasser is currently a member of two student chapters related to petroleum engineering, has done podcasts on her major as part of her Lambda Sigma Society service, and helps the petroleum engineering department’s undergraduate program talk to students who are interested in coming to Texas A&M. That way she can guide others to discover more about themselves and what they are capable of just as she did.

“I tell them it's going be okay, just research your professors, go to all the departmental events, join some clubs, etc.,” said Gasser. “Dive in headfirst, even if you're scared. If you learn to believe in yourself, anything is possible.”