Dr. Maria A. Reyes is a first-generation immigrant from Mexico. She came to the United States after the 1984 San Juanico Fire (a liquid petroleum gas tank explosion) and the 1985 earthquake. Right after high school, she left to serve in the U.S. military. As a non-citizen, all she could do is serve under support and supply jobs, randomly ending up as a petroleum supply specialist.
She started her higher education in the military and graduated from Auburn University with a Ph.D. in Public Administration and Public Policy. As a professor in that field, she taught federal and Texas state government classes for eight years at Texas A&M International University. The focus of her classes was the development of personal responsibility in governance and civic activism, grounded in power dynamics. Understanding the role of the Railroad Commission of Texas was essential to understanding power dynamics in the struggle for environmental protection and environmental justice.
Her research is interdisciplinary, but her interest in civic activism brought her back to the topic of oil. In helping an ex-compliance officer set up a business for landowners to identify whether the oil company is following regulations for the extraction of oil on their land, she discovered discrepancies between the RRC's intended purpose and regulatory responsibilities, and the actual actions of the commission. She found Commission Shift and was inspired to use her passion for civic activism, her policy analysis knowledge, and her research skills, to become part of the solution in making government responsive to all peoples. At Commission Shift she seeks to advance better safeguards to protect Texas land and water resources.