Trailblazer Karissa Gayer is mapping her path in male-dominated fields

Trailblazer Karissa Gayer is mapping her path in male-dominated fields

Karissa Gayer operates surveying equipment while she stands near trees

May 03, 2022

By University Relations Student Journalist Josie Kidder

From a young age, Karissa Gayer has always loved the great outdoors. 

Any time she can, the new Vincennes University graduate is speeding around on her four-wheeler, exploring the terrain, going to recreational 3D bow and arrow shoots, and playing fetch with her German Shorthaired Pointer dog, Gracie.

Never wasting an opportunity to venture into the vast outdoors, Gayer knew she wanted to go into a career that mainly revolved around being outside in nature. 

Following her passion, the Tell City, Indiana native graduated in April 2022 with an associate degree in Surveying Technology and an associate degree in Architectural Studies Technology/CAD

VU is the only institution in Indiana that offers a degree in Surveying Technology, making VU the best choice for Gayer.

The program also boasts a 100 percent graduation placement rate.

“In my senior year of high school, I took a civil engineering and architecture class and fell in love with working on the computer and the design aspect," she says. "Just from working in the civil engineering environment, I knew I liked the work, but I wanted to be more active while doing it, and that's kind of where the surveying idea came into play. I wanted to be able to do the engineering and the fieldwork side of it and also knew that I wanted to design."

Although she loves the fieldwork in surveying technology, Gayer has a soft spot for designing houses, leading her to pursue a second associate degree in Architectural Studies.

“In architectural studies, we do a little bit of everything relating to the architecture industry. We start out doing residential manual drafting and learning every aspect of a residential building. Then we go into computer-aided drafting (CAD) based more on commercial drawings. We then learn all aspects of commercial drawings to develop an entire set of commercial building plans in two different programs,” Gayer says.

Gayer has enjoyed tremendous success in VU's Surveying Technology and Architectural Studies programs. 

She earned the Peggy Archer Surveying Technology scholarship, which is the top scholarship for the Indiana Society of Professional Land Surveyors (ISPLS), and the George S. Ridgway scholarship for architecture.

New career just ahead

With her exceptional skills and knowledge of the field, Gayer already has a job waiting for her. She recently secured a position as a survey technician at Morley in Newburgh, Indiana. The firm provides architecture, engineering, and surveying services.

“I will mainly be doing fieldwork and some post-processing on the computer," she says. "After working under them for six years, I plan to get professionally licensed.”

Although the surveying industry is primarily male, Gayer said that gender is insignificant when it comes to the amount of effort and dedication needed to thrive in the field.

“Even though there are not a lot of women in this field, I knew that with hard work and determination, I would succeed in this field of work. More often than not, I do not realize it is a male-dominant career,” Gayer says.

Mixing fun and business

Throughout her time at VU, Gayer immersed herself in the extensive resources and dynamic clubs offered on campus. She served as president of the Architecture Club and secretary of the Surveying Technology club. 

Both groups are essentially a network for students who want to get more hands-on experience in the field of study, create meaningful long-lasting friendships, and give back to the community.

“For the Architecture Club, we’ve done Christmas families where we went out and bought gifts. In the Surveying Club, we usually do unofficial surveys for people who reach out and want us to come to look at their property corners,” Gayer says.

Learning from the best

According to Gayer, Program Coordinator of Surveying Technology Jessica Hess was one of Gayer’s most encouraging and influential professors during her VU journey.

“Jess is always supportive of me and wants me to go above and beyond and to learn as much as possible. She’d always go out of her way to answer my millions of questions. She is also the only other female in the department, so I relate with her on that level too.”

One of Gayer's favorite VU learning experiences is the design that she created for her senior capstone project in a subdivision design and layout class.

"We got to create a full set of plans for a subdivision," she says. "We basically designed it from scratch. It was definitely time-consuming, but in the end, I felt like I learned a lot. It was a good experience.”