Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Rupert
Renowned naturalist John Muir famously said, “You should never go to Alaska as a young man because you’ll never be satisfied with any other place as long as you live.” Those words must have resonated with Ryan Rupert. He said farewell to the Lone Star state as a newly-graduated Longhorn in 2008 to live, work and play in Alaska following a summer internship in the northern and westernmost U.S. state once called The Last Frontier.
Ryan, born and raised in Plano, Texas, easily swapped the hot temps of his home state for the subarctic climate of Alaska. “I have always loved the outdoors and Alaska instantly captured my heart. Whitewater rafting and cross-country skiing sunk their claws into me, and I was hooked!”
Alaska is a great fit for Ryan from a career perspective, too. He earned two Bachelor of Science degrees from The University of Texas at Austin- one in the field of petroleum engineering in May 2008, the other in geological/geophysical engineering in August of the same year. He has spent the past 12 years working as a petroleum engineer for the global energy company BP in Anchorage before transitioning to Hilcorp which recently bought out all of BP’s interests in Alaska. He describes his job as producing the natural gas that heats the homes in Alaska although it’s a good bet that there are numerous intricacies to the job that defy the modest description.
When Ryan arrived on the Forty Acres in the fall semester of 2003, he set about to find part-time employment. For the next five years, Ryan would be a part of Team RecSports, working for the Outdoor Recreation program, a great match for an outdoor enthusiast. The Outdoor Center in Gregory Gym became his workplace as well as his home away from home. He candidly admits to routinely arriving early for shifts to grab a power nap on a rental sleeping bag! Ryan’s dedication to the job earned him the Thomas W. Dison Endowed Scholarship in 2007 to recognize his exemplary work ethic.
Ryan relished his job at the Outdoor Center renting outdoor gear and encouraging participants to discover the outdoors. To top it off, he says, “the hours were amazing! Not early, not late, not on weekends. I mean it was great!” He also made a lot of friends on the job. “Those friendships have lasted,” he says. A few of them still get together and, although they all live in different states, they go on annual rafting trips. Together they’ve “been all over the place” including the Grand Canyon and even met up in Alaska once.
Volunteerism seems second nature to Ryan. He’s deeply involved in two non-profit organizations-Texas 4000 and Habitat for Humanity. He serves as the Alaska scholarship coordinator for Texas 4000, whose mission is to cultivate student leaders and engage communities in the fight against cancer. Its cornerstone event is an annual 4,000+ mile ride from Austin to Anchorage. As a member of the Texas Exes alumni association, Ryan helps organize a big finish-line celebration for the riders each year. “We try to be a beacon for them at the end of their journey,” he says. To that end, the Texas Exes lay out a big banquet and cater to their every need. The cyclists “just want to get back to life because they’ve been ‘go, go, go’ for 70 days!” Quite simply, he says, they look forward to a hot meal, preferably Mexican food, and the opportunity to do laundry and plug into Wi-Fi. “They’re awesome and inspirational!”
The Habitat for Humanity in Anchorage, whose mission is to help families build and improve places to call home, has found a loyal ally in Ryan. He has served on the organization’s board of directors for several years and as president for the past two years. “It’s a cool organization that’s doing some sustainable stuff to make the community better,” he says, explaining that the organization helps families who need a hand up not a hand out by partnering with them to secure affordable housing. Habitat volunteers teach them about home financing and involve them in the actual home building process where they earn the “sweat equity” they’re required to accrue.
“I get a lot of joy when the team succeeds, whatever team that is. Whether that’s at work or with Habitat. Standing with a group of folks after we’ve completed a house or leading a bunch of folks on a backcountry trip, especially a backcountry rafting trip, brings me a bunch of joy to share with others,” he says.
On the home front, Ryan and his wife, Steph, recently became first-time parents to their daughter Skye. Steph, who hails from Australia, is also an engineer. Ryan likes to say her work as a project engineer is above ground, while his is below ground. Their family is rounded out with a Siberian Husky dog named Zora.