Dawn Bissell

DawnStewartBissellTo be honest – it was boys. Not necessarily in the way that it sounds – but it really was boys.

My dad sent me to college to be a dentist. I didn’t want to be a dentist, so when organic chemistry tested my metal – I decided that I wasn’t cut out to be a dentist. But that same semester, I was taking physics with calculus class and met a boy in that class who invited me home to meet his parents. His father was a manager for Sun Oil Company and encouraged me to try geology. I took his advice and signed up for a geology course the next semester. However, the relationship with that boy did not make it to the end of the semester.

I knew that if I changed my major (which wouldn’t please my dad), I’d be a semester behind (which really wouldn’t please my dad), so I convinced the geology department chair to let me take physical and historical geology the same semester. Wow, geology was interesting! I could do it AND my new lab partner, another boy, was really cute.

I continued taking geology courses, declared it as my major and did well. Except for structural geology, but that cute lab partner came to my rescue, and I got through that class.

University of Southern Mississippi required a minor course of study as well as a major, and I discovered computer science (as it was called back then). Now that was an interesting subject – how cool! And this was with restricted lab hours and card punch machines. PC’s weren’t even on the radar yet. But I was afraid to tell my dad that I wanted to change my major yet again, so I continued on with my geology courses.

During the summers, I was able to work at the Naval Oceanographic Office (at what is now Stennis Space Center) debugging seismic programs used to map the floor of the Indian Ocean. Between watching the tests of the space shuttle engines and cleaning the science lab of a ship in dry dock in Boston harbor – it was a great summer job!

I finished all my requirements for graduation, but that cute lab partner was a year behind me (yes – he really did help me with structural geology – even though he’d not taken it yet.), so I decided, causing much angst for my father, to stay another year and finish the requirements for a computer science major.

When the fall semester came around and recruiters were coming to campus, a USM alum who worked for Conoco came for interviews. He was only interviewing masters’ candidates, but I reasoned I had the equivalent of two bachelors degrees, which had to be just as good and made an appointment for an interview. While he wasn’t interested in me as an explorer, he sent my resume to Conoco’s mapping and processing center in Ponca City, Oklahoma.

I interviewed with Conoco in Ponca City in January 1982. As soon as I graduated in May and married my cute lab partner in July, we moved to Oklahoma, and I began a wonderful career with Conoco. I started in processing and computer mapping. Conoco transferred me to South Texas to work the Lobo trend in the Corpus Christi office in 1984 – where I cut my teeth on development and exploration mapping. I was then transferred to Houston to work in a data analysis position.

I left Conoco shortly after my babies were born, but began consulting with a small independent as the kids started school. I still consult part time, mainly on the computer side of projects. But, you know, my cute lab partner and I will be married 27 years in July.

Dawn Stewart Bissell