Eighteen-year-old Arden Robertson is unclassifiable. According to her age she is a freshman, at football games for ticket pull she is a senior, and her transcript confirms that she is a master’s degree candidate. Though she may be hard to define on paper, there is no questioning her belonging at Texas A&M University.
Robertson, a Florida native, skipped ninth grade, completed her high school and associate degrees, was accepted to the Texas A&M Business Honors program and earned the funds to cover out-of-state tuition, all before the age of 18.
“I came to Texas A&M because when I visited the campus it became apparent that the core values and traditions are practiced every day, and it was not just a nice sentiment,” she said. “I saw the core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service listed on banners throughout campus and how people carried themselves. Their actions matched their words.”
In the spring of 2014, with only one semester completed, Robertson participated in the Mays Business School career fair. Unlike most freshmen, she did not attend to practice her interviewing skills or to be offered an internship. Instead she went in hopes of finding a job. On the list of participating companies, none looked more appealing than NASA.
“I have always loved space and they would give me the opportunity to incorporate space, mathematics and accounting into my work,” she said.
The next day she was called and asked to apply for co-op at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program would accept 40 students from around the world, and out of those 40, only eight business majors would be selected. Of the eight chosen, she and Jess Sepe, a Marine veteran and a junior management major, were the only two from Texas A&M.
“Having an accounting degree and getting my master’s in MIS really set me apart from the rest of the applicants,” she said. “I am very grateful to A&M for giving me that opportunity.”
Robertson was required to participate in a two-day orientation. Upon arrival, she knew she was in the right place. “Driving in there is a long row of palm trees that remind me of my home in Florida, and the model planes above your head at the entrance is like Disney World for space lovers,” she said.
Once there, she was assigned to the International Space Station Branch in the resource management office. She was given a mentor and was immediately welcomed into the NASA community. One reason for her quick acceptance was the strong Aggie presence at the Johnson Space Center.
“There were so many Aggies with a real connection and bond. You could walk down the hall and ‘Whoop!” Robertson said. “I knew this was where I wanted to work.”
Though her acceptance came easily, the workload did not. She was responsible for the entire space station’s travel reports and budget, which accounted for more than a quarter of a million dollars. Her daily tasks included collecting variances, detecting and resolving anomalies to reduce spending.
“I was given the same workload as my mentor from the beginning,” she said. “They treated me like I already worked there. It was nice that they value you to that degree.”
Her main project was reviewing the Internal Task Agreements (ITAs). She helped with $82 million of ITA’s from multiple NASA centers and variety of International Space Station projects. When she was not working, she was volunteering with Pathways Interns Professional Events (PIPE), Pathways Across Centers (PAXC), and Habitat for Humanity Aerospace Games. She was apart of organizing and conducting lectures, participating in NASA tours, joint ventures spreading NASA lectures, and worked the Orion Launch Party event at Space Center Houston. On the weekends she would return to College Station for football games with her peers from NASA. “Everyone was interested in the spirit of Aggieland,” Robertson said.
At the end of her first tour she was required to demonstrate her findings and contributions in a presentation to upper management NASA and the Chief Financial Officer. She will return for her following two terms in the summers of 2015 and 2016.
She credits her freshman Business Honors classes for a lot of her success. “My classes offered real-world examples in enriching and engaging ways, and taught us that if we follow our passions, we will be able to succeed,” she said.
In between NASA tours, Robertson is involved in the Aggie Investment Club, Texas Runners Against Cancer, PPA Business and Texas Republicans. She also recently joined the Business Honors recruiting team, where she will help spread her knowledge to other prospective honors students.
“I think it is important to be a goal-oriented, proficient and multifaceted person, but do not be afraid to seek out advice from others,” Robertson advices.
She plans to graduate from Texas A&M in December 2016 with a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in MIS, then join NASA as a full-time employee.
ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.