Interdiscplinary SMEA experience provides perfect pathway into the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

By Maggie Allen

The 2017 Science on a Sphere User’s Collaborative Network Workshop was hosted at the Detroit Zoo, so we were able to feed giraffes during a networking break. This picture also features my supervisor, Deputy Director of Deputy Director of K-12 & Informal Education, Christos Michalopoulos (far right), and Bob Hansen, National Outreach Coordinator.

The Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship is a unique, unparalleled experience for SMEA graduates. The exciting year began for me in December 2016 during Placement Week, which consisted of 12-15 interviews in 3 days and 4 networking happy hours across D.C. Although it was probably one of the most hectic weeks in my life, it was also extremely invaluable.

Volunteering at the Hurricane Awareness Tour at Ronald Reagan National Airport with four other Knauss Fellows: Sasha Doss, Emily Argo, Adrian Mahoney, and Emily Parker.

In the end, the interviews provide an opportunity to find your best fit. That’s ultimately why I chose NOAA Education, and why they chose me. I knew I wanted to do something with education, but I was also interested in social justice and climate resiliency, so that NOAA office seemed like the best place for me.

In front of the NOAA’s Lockheed WP-3D Orion “Hurricane Hunter”.

I was right–NOAA Education is full of passionate, committed people, even with these tough political times. I have been able to work on things that would not be possible outside of D.C, such as assisting with and attending Hill briefings with the Education Director. I also provide programmatic support for the NOAA Education Council; coordinate a network of 25 aquariums called the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers (CELC); helped organize the Science on a Sphere (SOS) User’s Collaborative Network Meeting in Detroit, MI; review environmental education grants; write stories for social media and the website; and assist with outreach events. Overall, it seems like the Fellowship allows each of us to work on what we are most passionate about and gain an unprecedented understanding of the Federal Government and environmental policy.

I have been able to apply so many of my skills I have learned both in SMEA and beyond, such as using my social science background to think about education evaluation and communication techniques, my marine science knowledge when helping with outreach events, and seeing firsthand how the policy process works at the Federal Level (thanks, Nives!) I advise any SMEA student to apply for the Knauss Fellowship, even if they are hesitant about moving to D.C. or working in the Federal Government. It can really take you anywhere you want to go, and your office will connect you to a variety of organizations around the country. Overall, this Fellowship is once again reaffirming my belief that an interdisplinary understanding of environmental issues is the best way to approach and hopefully solve these “wicked problems.”