Dr. Stuart Levenbach
White House Office of Management and Budget
Interviewed by Lesa Jeanpierre, NOAA
Stuart Levenbach, policy analyst with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), defines knowing exactly what you want to the letter. The Michigan native showed early interest in ecology and policy and earned Bachelor’s degrees in both Biology and Political Science at the University of Michigan. After managing a tree nursery as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana, Stuart returned to the United States for a Ph.D. in Marine Ecology; though his program was intently research-focused, he never gave up on combining technical knowledge with applied policy. In 2007, he won a spot as a Sea Grant Knauss Fellow and worked on the Senate Commerce Committee with Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. Stuart's best fellowship memories were of the enthusiastic discussions that he and his Knauss colleagues had: “I felt like I was intellectually at home. We could sit around and talk about policy all day and I never got tired of it. It was just a lot of fun to be with people who were like-minded and engage in debate and discourse.
Today, with OMB, Stuart actively uses his Knauss-gained savvy: he’s reviewed Federal regulations ranging from hydraulic fracturing on public lands, access of snowmobiles to Yellowstone National Park, reducing sea vessel speeds to safeguard endangered North Atlantic Right Whales, and setting catch limits in the New England groundfish fishery. His legislative experience comes into play during multi-layered negotiating with individuals and agencies—neutral, yet balanced policy-making are essential as are strong interpersonal skills and conflict-free dialogues with those who hold opposing points of view.
Stuart started in OMB as a budget examiner for NOAA and later shifted to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, where he manages the interagency review of rules issued by NOAA and the Interior Department. His work has taught him that OMB does much more than just budgets—their advice provides direction to many decisions and helps shape the priorities of the Administration. Stuart describes it neatly: “Being in OMB is a little bit like being behind the mirror. The way the Executive Office of the President is set up, you have a lot of policy counsels and OMB is the part where they try to coordinate all of the information. It’s a great place in terms of getting a very wide, very broad, view of what goes on in government.” Naturally, Stuart credits the Knauss fellowship with finding opportunities to study policy after his concentrated studies in science. He advises others who are interested in pursuing the fellowship to strengthen their skills equally in science, policy and interpersonal communication, as a Fellow who is confident, trusted by colleagues and who well represents their respective organization will be highly sought after.
Stuart loves spending lots of time with his four-year-old son; sometimes they’ll take a kick net down to a local stream and observe aquatic wildlife, like insects and fish. They also watch “The Muppets” together and no matter the episode, he will be a fan if Captain Link Hogthrob from “Pigs In Space” is in it. His favorite movie is “The Natural” starring Robert Redford, because the movie illustrates the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity and thrive. Stuart is a great example of how the Sea Grant Knauss fellowship allows a student to forge the career of his dreams and share his knowledge in the service of the country.
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