Alumni Spotlight: Mary Youpel, House Committee on Natural Resources
M.S., Oceanography & Coastal Sciences, 2015
Master of Public Administration, 2016
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Mary Youpel is an LSU alumna who is making the most out of her coastal and environmental education. Youpel earned two master’s degrees at LSU: a Master of Science in oceanography and coastal sciences from the College of the Coast & Environment and a Master of Public Administration from the E. J. Ourso College of Business. Currently, she is putting her degrees to work in the House Committee on Natural Resources within the U.S. House of Representatives.
It is the job of the Committee on Natural Resources to develop specialized knowledge of the matters under their jurisdiction. She assists members in gathering and evaluating information, identifying issues, and recommending a course of action to the House. In addition, she serves the Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans by keeping up-to-date with issues related to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, as well as other fisheries and coastal issues.
“My master’s in oceanography has given me a really big leg up with so many different issues that the committee works on,” Youpel said, “Because at LSU you have everything. When you're studying natural resources or oceanographic resources, those are so integral to society in Louisiana. And, you can't say that about every state. In Louisiana is so important to understand how our natural resources are used.”
Youpel’s interest in science and public policy began at a young age. At seven years old, she read an article about manatees being hurt and killed by boaters off the coast of Florida and was moved to write to then-President Bill Clinton imploring him to help. So then, it seemed to be a natural extension of her education to earn two master’s degrees, one in public administration and one in oceanography and coastal sciences. In fact, her graduate thesis, “Coastal Restoration: Where Does Science Fit In?” provided an in-depth look at how politics, economic interests, and media coverage play more of a role in influencing public opinion than science and how scientists can garner support by appealing to people’s morals and values in addition to the validity of the facts.
Chris D’Elia, professor and dean of the College of the Coast & Environment, often attends congressional briefings as part of his work with the college and his volunteer experience on the board of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. He was also a formative part of Youpel’s college experience.
“Mary is an outstanding example of what students can accomplish with degrees from LSU. She is providing a tremendous service to our nation by using her knowledge of science and public policy to advise our nation’s elected officials about critical coastal and environmental issues,” D’Elia said.