After Graduation – what’s next for SMEA’s newest graduates

By Danielle Edelman

The freshly-minted SMEA class of 2017 is incredibly diverse, and their plans for the future reflect the incredible pool of talent they represent. Two recent grads share their post-SMEA destinations. 


Grace Ferrara

Grace has worked for the National Marine Fisheries Service since Summer 2016. She has recently been selected for the prestigious Knauss Fellowship in Washington, D.C., which begins in February of next year.

1)     What is your next destination after SMEA?

I will be working at NMFS in Seattle as a contractor through December and then heading to D.C. for the John D. Knauss Fellowship through NOAA Sea Grant! I started my current job with NMFS as a Pathways Intern last summer with the Protected Resources Division, mostly working on Southern Resident killer whale recovery projects. My internship has been an incredibly rewarding experience and I highly recommend it to SMEA students interested in working for the federal government!

2)     What made you decide to pursue this opportunity?

I heard about the Knauss shortly before starting SMEA and thought it sounded really cool! I had done research in college as a Biology major and realized that that wasn’t for me, so coming into SMEA I was more interested in resource management and policy. My coursework at SMEA reaffirmed those goals and set me on my path toward the Knauss! What better place to start a career in marine policy than in our nation’s capital at the highest level of our government, right?

3)     How do you think will your SMEA degree help you in this position?

The SMEA curriculum itself helped me develop a perspective and way of thinking about marine policy issues that I think will be valuable in working through some of the challenges that I will face in my job. As far as subject matter expertise goes, I focused pretty heavily on environmental law and policy in my electives at SMEA and I think that knowledge has given me a good head start in the field of resource management. When I was selecting my classes as a first-year, those just sounded the most interesting to me. As it turns out, the things that I learned in those classes have already served me well in my job at NMFS. I think that’s probably because the classes I was interested in reflected the career I wanted to have. My advice to incoming SMEA students would be to choose what sounds interesting and then follow the path that takes you down.

4)     How does this next step fit in with your overall career goals?

Being a Knauss fellow opens many doors to working in the federal government. I am hoping to have the opportunity to demonstrate the skills that I have gained at SMEA and do lots of networking to secure a permanent position within NOAA!


Timothy Lee

Tim is poised to begin his PhD at East Carolina University. He plans to continue his research into coastal management, which he began with his Master’s thesis on shoreline armoring.

1)     What is your next destination after SMEA?

I will be starting a PhD program in Biology at East Carolina University.

2)     What made you decide to pursue this opportunity?

I enjoy teaching as much as research; therefore, my ambition is to become a faculty specializing in marine sciences after my doctoral degree.

3)     How do you think will your SMEA degree help you in this position?

I believe I have acquired greater understanding of the intertwined roles of social and life sciences from my experiences in SMEA. This understanding will be valuable for my doctoral research since I am potentially interested in interdisciplinary work and collaboration with stakeholders to better manage our coastlines.

4)     How does this next step fit in with your overall career goals?

After completing my doctoral degree, I hope to pursue a post-doctoral position which I hope will lead me to a tenure-track faculty position that specializes in improving coastal management and integrates both social and natural scientific components. I also believe I will gain valuable training as a researcher/mentor/teacher through my doctoral program.