Sea Grant Knauss Fellow to serve in Sen. Hyde-Smith’s Office

By: Melissa Schneider / Published: Jan 02,  2019


Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium’s 2019 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow Sandra Cutts has been placed in Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s office after a week of interviews in legislative offices on Capitol Hill in December.

Cutts, a University of Alabama at Birmingham doctoral candidate, is one of 60 students selected for the national fellowship and one of 14 placed in legislative offices. She will begin her fellowship in February and work with Sen. Hyde-Smith’s team for one year.

“I look forward to having a Sea Grant Fellow join my staff,” Hyde-Smith said. “Sandra Cutts will have an opportunity to provide input in legislative and policy matters related to preserving Mississippi’s abundant natural resources.” 

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium endorsed Cutts' application for the highly competitive Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program. She was the only applicant in Alabama or Mississippi to be selected as a fellow.

Since 1979, the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship has placed more than 1,200 early-career professionals in the government offices and agencies in Washington, D.C., to work as science advisers. The 2019 fellows will become the 40th class of the fellowship program.

“Sandra will take with her a strong science background in environmental engineering and very relevant work experiences,” LaDon Swann, director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, said. “I was most impressed with Sandra’s desire to return to Alabama after her fellowship to continue her work in Alabama’s rural communities. It is rare for a fellow to know early in their career how great the needs and opportunities are for Southern rural areas. I believe her placement in Sen. Hyde-Smith’s office is a perfect match, and I am confident she will contribute to addressing the needs of Mississippi and the nation while gaining experience and knowledge she will use throughout her career.”

As a Ph.D. student in environmental engineering, Cutts studies properties that face redevelopment or reuse issues because they contain (or are perceived to contain) pollutants or contaminants. She is looking at redeveloped sites for trends and characteristics that could ultimately encourage stakeholder investment in cleaning up these sites, known as brownfields.

Cutts also provides environmental information to communities and works with them on related efforts.

“I am excited to be part of the 2019 Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship program,” she said. “Having Southern values and working on environmentally related legislation with the Mississippi team supporting Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith will allow me to address issues in the Southern region and problems impacting the nation.”

In addition to her coursework, she has been an intern with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site. She also performed environmental research in Africa, where she investigated the use of solar panels in Saharan areas.

“I look forward to the challenges ahead and the opportunities to sincerely work with Congress, communities, and other constituents on environmental legislation,” Cutts said.


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