On the week of Sunday, December 5, 60 current and recently-finished graduate students from across the country’s coastal and Great Lake states visited Washington, DC to match with marine policy offices across the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. After an intense week of pitches from different offices, a number of networking events, and an average of 15 interviews across two and a half days, these individuals can now switch their minds towards what aspects of marine policy they hope to take on beginning in February 2017.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Sea Grant Office offers the John A. Knauss marine policy fellowship on an annual basis, and offers “a unique educational and professional experience to graduate students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources.” John Knauss, was an oceanographer and a NOAA administrator, but the fellowship name particularly reflects his critical role in the founding of Sea Grant via the National Sea Grant College Program and Act 50 years ago.
The fellowship has reflected the need to sustain our marine resources by supporting science-based management and smart policy. Legislative fellows experience this mission through their work as legislative fellows in the offices of individual representatives or senators, or congressional committees. While many executive branch fellows are concentrated within NOAA, the complicated nature of coastal and ocean stewardship provides opportunities across different agencies to experience federal policy and its implementation. These agencies have included everything from the Department of the Interior to the White House.
While different fellows have varying day-to-day duties for their host offices, they are united by a common experience and appreciation for the nuanced policy environment where ocean meets Washington (after all the Potomac River is tidal all the way up to DC). This past year at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), I have worked on issues ranging from the management of the Marine Transportation System to the coordination of federal R&D for areas like nearshore processes and coastal resilience. I have gotten invaluable exposure to many levels of USACE and beyond – gaining exposure to activities in the form of attending Research Area Review Group meetings to decide research priorities, supporting preparation for a Congressional hearing, and even participating in the Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction of the White House’s National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability.
In addition to crossing paths through work and social event, fellows are encouraged to participate in a number of professional development activities to ensure they get the most out of their time in DC. Besides attending organized events regarding science communication, the workings of Congress, meeting facilitation, or project management, each fellow also gets his or her own discretionary budget to pursue opportunities such as intensive trainings or travel to international scientific conferences.
Though we’re only now starting 2017, if you’re in graduate school and the above experience sounds interesting to you it’s already time to think about 2018. To start in February 2018 in DC, applications must be submitted by February 10, 2017. If you haven’t already met your state’s Sea Grant program for other elements of your coastal work, be sure to engage with them as you work on this process. They are a great program that takes the responsibility of connecting science and coastal stakeholders head-on. Each Sea Grant program can send up to six fellows to the national competition level, so be sure to have your application sharp from the start.
As with any application, this one involves recommendation letters, your transcripts and CV. In addition to these standard elements, a personal statement should tell the story of how your graduate experience might be right to support working on federal policy (as well as how federal policy might enhance your own future scientific work and career).
Many of us in ASBPA work on coastal issues because we have a passion for them. Smart policy helps ensure that we can be smart coastal operators, managers, researchers, and technicians. So if you’re currently a graduate student, don’t only think about how you can engage with the Coastal Summit this year, consider the Knauss Fellowship to think about how you might personally engage with national coastal policy in 2018 and beyond.
More information is available at: http://seagrant.noaa.gov/fundingfellowships/knaussfellowship