While STEM fields may sometimes seem far removed from the political sphere, CSM alum James Tyree is using his environmental engineering knowledge to benefit important policy development.
Originally from Corpus Christi, Tyree graduated from Mines in 2007 with a B.S. in engineering with an environmental specialty and the McBride Honors minor in Public Affairs.
“There are too many lawyers and career politicians in politics,” Tyree expressed. “As a country, we are moving into dangerous territory where facts and science are being ignored to promote other agendas.”
Tyree was inspired to consider an engineer’s place in policy during a Washington D.C. trip through McBride.
The next summer, he served on Capitol Hill as an intern for Congressman Solomon Ortiz of Corpus Christi and helped out with a groundwater contamination project at a North Carolina Army Base.
“I used the knowledge I learned in my environmental engineering classes to explain to the Congressman how groundwater gets contaminated and how soldiers could get exposed to it,” he recalled.
He was hired by CH2M after graduation, that is, until his projects were defunded due to uncertainty caused by a congressional stalemate.
Tyree then returned to school at UT Austin to pursue master’s degrees in environmental engineering and public affairs. While the degree led to consulting work with Burns &McDonnell, Tyree will be re-entering the policy sphere in Washington DC next month through a program called the Presidential Management Fellows Program. He will be a policy advisor to the EPA administrator.
Tyree strongly encourages graduates to consider this opportunity.
Tyree also emphasized the importance of getting some “real world” experience before diving into an advanced degree program.
“Maybe you still don’t know what you want to do,” Tyree said. “Get a job for a couple of years and get paid. If it is something you like, get a Masters’ degree in it. If you hate your job, quit and go back to school. It’s a win-win.”
Ultimately, Tyree underscores that now is the time for STEM to find its way into politics.
“Even if you do not plan to make policy your job, become civically engaged in your community. Join a neighborhood association or a city advisory board. Do it when you are young. Don’t wait until you are old.”