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Between witnessing the Paris Agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP 21 and being one of Lord Dooley’s spokespeople, Mae Bowen’s (16C) time as an Emory Environmental Sciences (ENVS) Major was unique and impactful, laying the foundations for an inspiring career in environmental law, communications, and advocacy.
Growing up on the Florida Gulf Coast, Bowen saw firsthand the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, which affected her community and illustrated just how important environmental policy was in everyday life. This interest in environmental advocacy came to the forefront during Bowen’s time at Emory, highlighted by policy classes from former ENVS faculty members Dr. Tracy Yandle and Professor Daniel Rochberg. As a teacher’s assistant for Dr. Eri Saikawa, she had the opportunity to be a part of Emory’s first Climate Talks delegation at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“I had the incredible opportunity to witness the Paris Agreement come to fruition and see lawyers, scientists, and policy experts at work,” she says, “This experience helped me realize that law was the right path for me, as the work done by lawyers in the negotiations appealed to me and drew on my strengths.”
This realization has propelled Bowen through many jobs in environmental law, culminating at her current position as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, where she sues “polluters on behalf of the United States in federal court under statutes like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Oil Pollution Act, and the Superfund law,” and works with the attorneys who held BP accountable for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that first inspired her to take action.
The journey to trial attorney was a long process, and one that began with important internships during her four years at Emory. During her first summer as a college student, Bowen interned in the press office at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and during her second summer, she interned at the Carter Center in the communications office. Both of these experiences gave her valuable insights into the worlds of government work and nonprofit operations, both of which she built upon through a remote internship with the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa during her junior year. All of this built towards an amazing opportunity to intern for the White House during her final summer at Emory, where she served as a content writer for the Office of Digital Strategy during the Obama Administration.
Gaining professional experience early in her ENVS career was crucial to landing these amazing opportunities and jobs down the line, as the connections Bowen made at her internships helped her become more embedded in the field. Meaningful mentorships with Drs. Yandle and Saikawa and other Emory professors also helped to kickstart her work in environmental law, a pursuit which led her to attend law school at New York University after graduating from the Emory College of Arts and Sciences.
At NYU, she interned at the United Nations International Law Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, at the Natural Resources Defense Council, at the Department of Justice, and finally at the State Department. Bowen’s extensive experience and interest in litigation led her to clerk for a federal trial judge after graduating from NYU Law. Combining this experience with all her others, she presently litigates on behalf of federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Interior,
and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in their efforts to protect public health and the environment through enforcement of the nation’s pollution laws.
As Bowen continues her work in environmental law, we are all grateful to have someone from Emory leading in the fight for change. Throughout her career at Emory and beyond, Bowen has shown a keen eye for opportunity and interest, becoming a significant player in the field that first inspired her to get involved in environmental science.
*Disclaimer: Quotes reflect the personal views of the speaker(s) and not that of the federal government.