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Knauss Fellowship: Follow the Careers of Two S.C. Sea Grant Knauss Fellows

Knauss Fellowship: Follow the Careers of Two S.C. Sea Grant Knauss Fellows

Two different paths to the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

By Joey Holleman and Susan Ferris Hill, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium


M. Grant Cunningham and Elizabeth Day-Miller symbolize the diverse paths possible to earning a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. They both worked for the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium in 1988, Cunningham as a graduate student intern in the Charleston office, and Day-Miller as a marine extension agent based in Georgetown. Then their routes diverged.


Cunningham was chosen as a Knauss fellow in 1989 directly from his internship. During his fellowship year in Washington, D.C., Cunningham served on the staff of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on National Ocean Policy Study, chaired by Senator Ernest F. Hollings. Cunningham prepared statements, organized hearings and helped draft legisla­tion. After the fellowship, he was hired to continue his work as a professional staffer on the committee in 1990. 

As a graduate student at Clemson University in 1987, Cunningham was introduced to coastal issues when he helped gather information for the publication South Carolina Public Beach & Coastal Access Guide. Image: Grace Beahm.

“As a Knauss fellow, I got a better grasp of the philosophy behind the development of the coastal zone man­agement program,” Cunningham says. “I became more knowledgeable about policy development and understood more about the program’s ‘carrot and stick’ approach.”


In 1991, Cunningham returned to South Carolina for a new position at Clemson University: research associate and director of the South Carolina Rural Recreation Development Project, a start-up program working with rural communities to develop full-time recreational programs and services. After earning his doctorate in 1995, he’s now an associate professor with Clemson’s College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. He is still involved with coastal planning, as well as outdoor recreation resource manage­ment, community development and travel and tourism.


“I’ve been teaching 21 years, and I have made so many connections—local, state, federal and non-profit groups. When I have taken my stu­dents to various meetings on the coast, they are amazed by all the connections I have. That’s what Sea Grant did for me. It helped me make those connections.” 

When Elizabeth Day-Miller was a Knauss fellow in 1999, she was an anomaly with a work history more focused on education rather than science, and her career since has melded teaching and scientific research. Image: Elizabeth Day-Miller.

Day-Miller’s journey to her Knauss fellowship took a decade longer, years she spent gaining experience as an environmental educator and earning her Ph.D. in marine science at the University of South Carolina. She wasn’t sure she was the right fit for the Knauss program, with its research and policy focus.


“I was definitely an anomaly for the Knauss fellowship program,” Day-Miller says. “Maybe I opened doors for people to be more involved in that way.”


During her fellowship, Day-Miller worked with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences. She thought more atten­tion needed to be paid to helping teachers and scientists understand each other. “Teachers would learn a lot by working with scientists, and scientists would learn a lot by working with teachers,” Day-Miller says. “We needed to bring them together.”


Day-Miller wasn’t the only one thinking that way. Those conversa­tions at NSF led to the establishment of the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE). The COSEE network, with a goal of fostering collaboration among research scientists and educators, grew to include 12 regional centers through­out the country. 

The emphasis on science education with a lab or research focus has taken hold at events such as the STEM Festival in Charleston, S.C., which draws thousands of eager youngsters each year. Image: Grace Beahm.

After her Knauss fellowship, Day-Miller moved on to a program analyst position with the National Sea Grant College Program. She developed expertise in writing proposals, design­ing projects, developing curricula and evaluating proposals. Now she helps others with those tasks through her Bridgewater, Va.-based consulting company.


“I had the opportunity to support and influence many of the education initiatives that came out of NOAA,” she says. “And all of that grew out of my Ph.D. work funded by S.C. Sea Grant and my work as a Knauss fellow.”

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