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Knauss Fellowship: Building Capacity, Connections, and Marine Research and Policy Careers

Knauss Fellowship: Building Capacity, Connections, and Marine Research and Policy Careers

A second generation of state-based fellowships brings the Knauss concept back to the other Washington

By Eric Scigliano, Washington Sea Grant

The impact of the Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship extends far beyond the thousand-plus students who’ve received fellowships and the federal agencies and congressional offices that have nurtured and benefited from their talents. Since it was launched in 1979, the Knauss program’s success has inspired other fellowships that have extended the concept to Sea Grant programs in states across the nation, including the other Washington, the one with mountains and salmon.

Washington Sea Grant’s own Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellowship does at the state level what the Knauss Fellowship does at the national, immersing graduate students in real-world, in-state marine policymaking. Washington Sea Grant director Penny Dalton has a special connection to both fellowship programs, and to a third. She started out in 1985 as a Knauss fellow in the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. In 1999, as director of NOAA Fisheries, she oversaw the creation of the Sea Grant/NOAA Fisheries Graduate Fellowship. And in 2009, as Washington Sea Grant’s director, one of her first priorities was to launch the Hershman Fellowship. 

That last was named after a recently departed colleague at the University of Washington, Marc Hershman. Like the University of Rhode Island’s Dean John A. Knauss, Hershman played a wide range of important marine policy and education roles, and like Knauss he was widely admired, even revered, by his students and colleagues. As Dalton recalls, "One of Marc's greatest legacies will be the generations of amazing ocean leaders that he mentored."

Katie Wrubel, 2013 Hershman fellow with Washington Sea Grant, working with the Makah Tribe and The Nature Conservancy on ocean policy issues in Neah Bay, WA. Wrubel was hired by the Tribe as a natural resource policy analyst following her fellowship. Image: Katie Wrubel.

A lawyer by training, Hershman founded and edited the Coastal Management Journal, cofounded the Marine Affairs and Policy Association, presided over the Coastal Governance Study Group, founded Seattle’s waterfront Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center, and directed UW’s School of Marine Affairs. Dalton met Hershman when he served on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in the early 2000s and came to admire his academic leadership as well his policy contributions. Following up on the Commission recommendations, Hershman had deployed a team of students to explore ocean-policy needs and options on Washington’s long-neglected ocean coast, guiding them through the policy development process. This eventually led to Washington State’s involvement in marine spatial planning, a process that continues to evolve today. 

Hershman died in 2008, the year before the launch of the namesake fellowship, although “he was very involved in the fellowship design and process,” says Dalton. Most of the 29 Hershman fellows so far have served in Washington State agencies, from the Ecology and Natural Resources to the Parks and Military Affairs departments. Many have gone on to staff positions at those agencies. “I am sure all new graduates have concerns regarding the transition from academia to the real world,” one past fellow, Heather Gibbs, told WSG. “This fellowship allowed me to easily bridge these two realms.”

It’s taken others to realms they never imagined. Katie Wrubel went straight from a Hershman posting with the Nature Conservancy to an ocean-policy job with the Makah Tribe at the far corner of Washington’s wild Olympic Peninsula. Another fellow, Michael Chang, is now serving with the tribe and Conservancy, focusing on how ocean acidification will affect the marine resources on which the Makah deeply depend. He has already completed an online document on vessel traffic in the Salish Sea and is thrilled to be out on the Makah Reservation working directly with the Tribe. He’s discovered an unexpected boon at the remote reservation: spotty cellphone service. “It’s nice to go out there and get disconnected.”

Find more information on the Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellowship

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