In my Knauss fellowship so far, one of the most meaningful pieces of advice I’ve heard is to “think of your career as a journey, not a destination.” As the fall begins and my fellowship rounds the corner into the back nine, so to speak, I’ve shifted the way I think about my career journey. I’ve been in my feelings a lot lately about what my next steps will be after January, a familiar feeling for Knauss fellows, as we browse USAjobs.gov and subscribe to job digests from various job boards, patiently waiting for the precise second that our direct hiring authority privilege kicks in. In this time, I’ve been refining the language I use to describe myself and my accomplishments. I’m reflecting on the past and the stories beneath the single-line additions to my résumé meant to represent my capability. For instance, my master’s degree is one entry on my résumé, but how do I share what sparked my desire to pursue environmental policy as a career path?
Category: Academia to Government
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program (Sea Grant) is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2024 class of the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program. The 85 early-career professionals selected will be placed in federal government offices throughout Washington, D.C., and join the over 1,600 individuals who have participated in the program since its inception in 1979.
By: Spring Gaines. Recently, I had the unique opportunity to take a winding tour of one of the most symbolic sites in Washington, D.C.—The Capitol Dome. While climbing the almost 300 steps leading up to an eye-level view of Brumidi and Cox’s work with the Rotunda frieze, the Apotheosis of George Washington and beyond, I was reminded of something I told my best friend when she asked what it is like as a Gulf Coast girl walking around this city, “It’s not the distance; it’s the incline.”
By: Michelle Nguyen. I stand there in the Hawk’s Nest launch viewing area right outside of Vandenberg Space Force Base near Lompoc, CA, watching as NOAA’s JPSS-2 satellite, atop an Atlas V rocket, successfully joins its Joint Polar Satellite System comrades in orbit. While my eyes are trained on the ascending rocket, I can’t help but think “How did I, an invertebrate physiologist by training, end up at a satellite launch?!”
By: Michaela Margida. If you type the title of this article into a Google search, as I did nearly a year ago when I was first placed in U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s office as a Legislative Knauss Fellow, you’ll find that there are over 27 pages of results. I read the first 30 or so search results before realizing that confidence probably wasn’t something I’d get through an academic approach.
By: María Mercedes Carruthers Ferrero. “FEMA flexible” is a phrase I have heard many times throughout my Knauss Fellowship. I have learned that the mindset alluded to by this phrase is not only key to achieving community resilience, but to personal and professional success.
By: Marina Cucuzza. In my work on climate and fisheries issues at the national scale as a Knauss fellow, I am often reminded of the lessons learned from years working with fishers and fishing communities in Maine and in other coastal places. During my Knauss fellowship, I have been able to see firsthand how public input is critical in shaping policy and decision-making.
By: Kenneth Erickson. What makes a fisheries biologist qualified to communicate with Congress about satellites and space policy? The same skills that make a successful graduate student: good time management, effective communication and the ability to process and distill complex information.
By: Clea Harrelson. “Who is that?” was a constant refrain in my head for the first few months of my Knauss fellowship. The feeling of being overwhelmed that comes with the beginning of any new job is often described as a “crush”, but for me, it was more accurately a sensation of being untethered, floating in interagency space. Who are all these people, what do they do, and how do they relate to my work?
From professional development plans to interpersonal skills, how the Knauss Fellowship offers unexpected and lifelong lessons
By: Kaitlyn Lowder. As a Knauss fellow who just finished up her fellowship year, I can confidently say I had the opportunity to gain the experience that I envisioned and more. Yet, reflecting on this past year, there is an aspect to this fellowship that I had not expected but now cannot imagine advancing my career without: a wealth of professional development experiences that are simply not prioritized in academia.
By: Bryan Keller. There are plenty of fish in the sea and some of them taste really good. That is how the saying goes, right? Fisheries management is the reason why plenty of fish continue to be in the sea. But, without fisheries science, fisheries management would not be successful. Transitioning from the world of academia to the world of policy, I saw the important connection between these two fields first-hand.
By: Taylor Goelz. In honor of National Mentoring Month, I wanted to add my two cents to the #WomenInSTEM mentorship conversation and use my Knauss Blog to highlight the female mentors that have made a difference in my life and journey. These women, among many others that I’ve interacted with over the years, exemplify the type of mentor that I will strive to be going forward in my career.
By: Lauren Bonatakis. When I decided to quit my full-time, benefitted job to move to a new state for a year of service with AmeriCorps on a whim, it was a surprise to those who know me best. It was also one of the best decisions I have made.
By: Michelle Harris. There’s a common joke that geographers “know where it’s at” – but for this geographer, a sense of direction is not something I’m inherently adept at. No matter how much I plan, there is always an unexpected turn somewhere along the way to be laughed about later. When comparing this to my life roadmap, it is because of fateful turns that this “lost geographer” ended up becoming a Knauss fellow.
By: Grace Roskar. From a summer internship in North Carolina to policy work in D.C., graduate school in Florida, and a research cruise in the Southeast, the variety of experiences I had and the people I met over the years are what influenced my journey to the fellowship.
By: Naomi Lewandowski. For nearly 10 years, I’ve made career choices based on one very sacred metric: would my eight-year-old self be proud of me? As I navigated college, temporary lab jobs, and graduate school, I held this metric dear. However, after becoming a Knauss fellow, and starting down an unexpected and, potentially, brand new career track, it’s been more difficult to figure out what my eight-year-old self would think.
By: Rachel Hager. I’m a Knauss marine policy fellow at NOAA because of a poster. Seven years ago, I saw one small poster pinned to a brown cork board in the hallway of a research center in Maryland. I decided to apply for the Knauss fellowship as an inland fellow from Utah because I kept thinking about that poster.
By: Cheyenne Stienbarger. Before we begin, there is something you must know about me. I like organization and need to have a plan, whether it’s a plan for the trip to the grocery store, for the year, or for the next five years. I live to plan. Spoiler alert: you just can’t plan for some things. I discovered the Knauss Fellowship at a critical point in my graduate career where I was uncertain as to what my next steps would be. My decision to pursue the fellowship was not a frivolous one, but it also wasn’t part of my original plan.
By: Kat Montgomery. Did you know that most of the salmon you see in grocery stores and restaurants comes from a fish farm? In fact, aquaculture, which is the farming of fish, shellfish and seaweed in fresh or saltwater, produces about half of the world’s seafood supply. I became interested in aquaculture sort of by accident, and that newfound interest led me to my current position as a Legislative Knauss Fellow.
By: Amanda Dwyer. One of the Knauss Fellowship’s most exciting opportunities is to explore areas of marine science that are outside your academic field of expertise. With my placement at the NOAA Marine Debris Program, I am working to support NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) Zero Waste Initiative to promote zero waste efforts in the organization’s daily operations and events.
By Katharine Egan
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the wet lab on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster watching a video feed from the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that I helped to deploy. The pilot guided the ROV into shallower waters, and I was quick to identify the corals as these depths. I thought about what I was doing this time last year: sitting in front of my laptop using math to find coral reefs just like these for my Master’s thesis research. More specifically, I was using spatial predictive modeling to produce maps showing the potential location of star corals, which can help researchers identify where important reef habitat is located. This year, I didn’t have to predict where the star corals were located, instead I was identifying them as they came across the video feed from the ROV.
By Zac Cannizzo
“Not for you. You just don’t have the mind for science.” The words of my 8th grade science teacher when I asked to be placed in Biology for my freshman year. It hurt. I always liked science, and I loved biology. Some of my earliest memories are watching Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures. From a young age, I wanted to be a biologist. But, I guess it wasn’t for me. I guess I’m not smart enough. I guess maybe I need to do something else. I just don’t have the mind for science.
Two years. I believed her for two years.
By: Andie Chan. I pressed my SCUBA mask to my face as I back rolled off a small catamaran into the warm tropical waters of the Florida Keys. It was my first time SCUBA diving for my Ph.D. research, and I was eager to prove myself. I was starting a project on increasing our understanding of the reproduction and population sizes of pillar corals using genetic techniques, so I needed to collect small pieces of tissue from multiple colonies to bring back to the lab at Penn State. Fortunately, pillar corals at this dive site in Key Largo were conspicuous and prevalent. I swam along a 60 meter stretch of upward-reaching colonies that looked almost furry with their tentacles moving in the current. With great care, I took a small amount of tissue from several colonies to minimize wounding these animals – many of which were likely hundreds of years old.
In the academic world, communication comes in the form of peer-reviewed papers, theses or dissertations, seminar talks, conference talks, and posters. All long format and so deep into the science that you’re no longer certain what language they’re speaking. So, what do you do when you’ve been trained in those styles of communication for the past five years and you begin a communications position in the federal government as part of the Knauss fellowship program for a climate modeling program?
I hit Submit. I felt anxious. I felt nervous. But, I also felt excited.
I had just taken a leap from my comfort zone to a world of unknown.
Four months later, I found myself in tears as I read “Good News! You have been selected as a Finalist for a 2019 Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship.” I was going to transition from academia to the world of policy in Washington, DC.
And I was terrified.
Growing up as an army kid, home was just wherever the military decided to stick my family, never a place I lived. But, as I was walking home from my third day as a Hollings Scholar at NOAA’s Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) in Pearl Harbor, HI, it hit me that this strange new place actually “felt” like home, it was something deep in my bones. Now, I am not typically one for signs from the heavens or one to put much stock in ‘feelings’, but I can tell you that this moment was life altering and set me on a path to one day make it back there.
For the past five years, my typical field day was spent waist deep in marsh mud wielding the tools I needed for success: sunscreen, bug spray (lots of it), and a GPS. My work day as an environmental scientist and salt marsh ecologist is a very different world from the one I recently jumped into as a Knauss Fellow in NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, the nation’s nautical chart makers.
If someone told me a year back that I’d roll out of bed, wear formal clothing I’d never owned previously, and walk into work (with my own desk and everything), I would have laughed my loudest! Prior to 2019 I was the typical graduate student, living the lab life in my jeans and sneakers, and never having heard of the Knauss Fellowship. How did I end up here?