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A Career Dream Come True

12:00 pm, Tue February 13, 2024 – Learn about Jessica Collier's experience with the NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

“The different opportunities are immense and immeasurable.”

This was how Jessica Collier, a member of the 2018 Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship class and current coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) chose to describe life as a Knauss Fellow.

The prestigious Knauss Fellowship provides graduate students with an interest in ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes studies the opportunity to be involved with marine and freshwater policy at a variety of federal agencies throughout Washington, D.C. Host agencies allow fellows to participate in day-to-day operations and network with professionals in the marine science field. The year-long paid fellowship provides students with countless opportunities to learn more about marine and freshwater policy and the operations of federal agencies. Ohio Sea Grant works with selected students like Collier to ensure that the experience is fulfilling for everyone involved. Collier and the knowledge gained with her fellowship are a prime example of the potential for career growth the program offers.

two people posing in front of a banner that reads "National Wildlife Refuge System"

Jessica Collier, Knauss Fellowship Program class of 2018, working at the USFWS National Wildlife Expo alongside Fish and Wildlife biologist Chris Darnell on Capitol Hill in 2018.

As an ecology graduate student from The University of Toledo, Collier initially felt unprepared to tackle a policy related fellowship. “(Policy) was this scary thought for me because I didn’t think I could contribute,” she recalled.

Collier quickly learned through the atmosphere of the Knauss Fellowship that she could make a difference regardless of her policy experience. The infectious, high-energy atmosphere of fellow cohort members and program staff offered an environment perfect for growth and collaboration.

Collier credits the Knauss Fellowship as part of the reason she has her current position, the Great Lakes Coastal Restoration and Partnerships Coordinator for USFWS at the Green Bay, Wisconsin field office. During her fellowship, Knauss was matched with USFWS, a “dream come true.” Her time with the agency brought many transformational experiences and connections who would later alert her about a job opening in the Great Lakes Coastal Program.

The Knauss Fellowship gave Collier a multitude of experiences, including time on Capitol Hill developing policy and contributing to Capitol Hill Ocean Week. One of Collier’s favorite memories from the field involved building an oyster reef in Charleston, South Carolina. The project was a community effort, fueled by oyster donations from local restaurants and school groups, she recounted. Building the reef in the mud of Charleston was a messy but rewarding job for Collier — the building process was so vigorous that one of her boots ended up stuck in mud while transporting oysters to the project site.

“Being able to see all the partners involved in the planning process and the actual implementation of boots-on-the-ground building was really incredible,” Collier said. This experience only grew her love for the USFWS’s mission and the Knauss Fellowship, she said, even though she would leave the muddy oyster reef missing a boot.

Being open-minded throughout the Fellowship’s duration is Collier’s biggest piece of advice to future finalists. “It changed my career path,” she said. “It gave me new experiences I would not get anywhere else that have really set me up for success.”

When asked what she thinks makes the Knauss Fellowship unique, Collier smiled. “That breadth of opportunity and what you could get placed in is unlike any other graduate school opportunity,” she said. “That aspect is unlike anything most of us have the opportunity to see.”

For more about the Knauss Fellowship program, visit Applications are due annually in February.

ARTICLE TITLE: A Career Dream Come True PUBLISHED: 12:00 pm, Tue February 13, 2024 | MODIFIED: 1:29 pm, Wed February 14, 2024
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Trinity Raber
Authored By: Trinity Raber
Communications Intern, Ohio Sea Grant College Program  FIND MORE TAGGED as EDUCATIONAL, FEATURED